Travel Weekly's Hawaii E-letter: Feb. 16, 2004

THE FAIRMONT ORCHID HAWAII on the Big Island is offering travel agents $50 cash for bookings of five nights or more in April. The bonus is not applicable to discounted or group rate bookings, and is valid only for stays during the month of April for reservations made now through April 29. To book, call (800) 845-9905 or log onto www.fairmont.com.

THE OLD KONA SURF HOTEL will soon have a new life as the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa, offering clients a four-diamond option south of Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. A $45 million renovation to the tired property began Jan. 8; completion is anticipated by this fall. Situated 15 minutes from the Keahole-Kona International Airport on an ancient lava flow on the southern shore of Keauhou Bay, the 530-room hotel sits on 22 oceanfront-acres near an area where Manta Rays gather. It will feature a full-service spa and fitness center; tennis courts; jogging paths; two restaurants; a business center; complete catering and convention services; a wedding chapel; a children's play center; and a "fantasy pool" with a 200-foot lava tube waterslide. Renovation plans include restructuring the hotel entrance to open the view to the ocean and enhance the arrival experience, a new front desk area and refurbishment of the 1.5-acre luau gardens; the wedding chapel, gazebo and grounds will be improved, and a new spa and pool will be installed. Guest rooms and meetings rooms also will be renovated. For information, call (888) 488-3535 or visit www.sheratonkeauhou.com.

SUPERSTAR HAWAII TRANSIT SERVICE will add six MCI Renaissance motorcoaches, expanding its fleet to 25 by May. The coaches feature easy entry and exit, CD/DVD/PA/video capability and 58 reclining seats with footrests, individual lighting and temperature controls. There's also a lavatory on board. Two of the coaches also have wheelchair lifts. For schedules, view www.superstarhawaii.com.

CALENDAR OF EVENTS: Maui has several exciting events in the coming months. Look for the Ocean Arts Festival March 13 and 14 in Lahaina, a celebration of the annual migration of Pacific Humpback Whales. A festival in Banyan Tree Park features musicians and hula dancers, marine-related activities, a touch pool for kids and ocean-themed art. Admission is free, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Also, plan ahead for the International Festival of Canoes May 15 to 30 on Maui. Master carvers from across the Pacific create real canoes from wood logs during the two-week event in Lahaina, held daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors can take Outrigger canoe rides, watch parades, and enjoy island food and music. Admission is free. Visit www.MauiCanoeFest.com for details.

THE WESTIN KAANAPALI RESORT VILLAS ON MAUI, Starwood's first vacation ownership property in Hawaii, is now open as a timeshare condominium property and for transitory accommodations. Oceanview one- and two-bedroom villas come with fully-equipped kitchens, a washer and dryer, private balconies and televisions with DVD players. Guests can enjoy privileges at two other Sheraton hotel properties nearby. Two bedroom villas sleep up to eight guests. To book, call (808) 667-3200 or log onto www.starwood.com.

FAIR WIND CRUISES is offering whale watching excursions through March 15. The 60-foot catamaran sails along Kona's southern coast on the Big Island. During the three-hour tour, guests learn about humpback whales, as well as Hawaii's connection to the animals through creation chants. Cruises are available Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays at 2 p.m. Rates are $45 for adults and $35 for children, and include snacks and juices. For details, call (800) 677-9461 or visit www.fair-wind.com.

UNITED VACATIONS teamed with Aston Hotels and Resorts in Hawaii to offer a two-for-one luau certificate, a coupon booklet worth more than $700 in savings on island activities, and free meals and activities for kids under 12. Accommodations at the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel on Oahu start from $809 per person, including air fare from Los Angeles or San Francisco, daily "Breakfast on the Beach." Valid for Wednesday or Thursday departures through March 4. Book through VAX VacationAccess or by calling (800) 328-6877.

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