Island gems will take you away from the crowds

Guests can encounter the Hawaiian green sea turtle at the Fairmont Orchid.
Guests can encounter the Hawaiian green sea turtle at the Fairmont Orchid.

It's no secret that summer is one of Hawaii's most popular travel seasons, attracting not only an increased number of visitors from the continental U.S. but also more international arrivals. Two long-time travel agents who specialize in Hawaii offered some expert advice about where summer travelers might encounter fewer crowds.

"The best place to go during the high season is the Big Island," said Susan Tanzman, president of Martin's Travel and Tours in Los Angeles. "The hotels there are not right on top of each other, so you're not looking next door right at another property, [and] you feel like you're in the middle of the jungle."

One of Tanzman's favorite properties for clients planning a summertime Hawaii vacation, which often means folks traveling as a family, is the Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island's western Kohala Coast.

"It's so family-friendly," she said. "The way the pool is designed, even with a lot of children, you're never bumping into people because of the layout, and it's open 24 hours."

The Fairmont Orchid also offers guests a chance to encounter one of the Aloha State's most memorable inhabitants: the honu, or Hawaiian green sea turtle.

"They are probably one of the only hotels that has a whole family of sea turtles that swim and play right in front of the beach at the hotel," Tanzman said. "So you don't have to spend money to go out on a lot of expensive excursions, because you actually get to swim with sea turtles right there at the property."

For Paula Takamori, the owner of Travel to Paradise on Oahu, the Makena Beach & Golf Resort on Maui's southern coast is a great place for travelers looking to escape during Hawaii's peak season.

"Makena is a standalone property with a great beach that doesn't have any resort fees or parking fees, which is highly unusual these days," she said. "And it's just a few minutes down the road from all the other stuff you might want to do [in Wailea], but it's in such a nice spot."

Makena Beach State Park in Maui is just a stone’s throw from the Makena Beach & Golf Resort.
Makena Beach State Park in Maui is just a stone’s throw from the Makena Beach & Golf Resort. Photo Credit: Tor Johnson/HTA

Travelers interested in off-the-beaten-path activity options that are also great for kids will want to look into the Big Island's often-overlooked Ocean Rider Sea Horse Farm.

"It's the only place in the world where sea horses are grown in captivity," Tanzman said. "And I would say about 99% of travel agents don't even know it exists, [and] at the end of the tour, everybody — kids and adults — puts their hands in these vats, and the sea horse comes and wraps its tail around your finger, and you are literally holding a sea horse."

Takamori also likes to encourage clients to learn more about Hawaii's heritage and culture through the state's historical buildings and museums.

"Here on Oahu, people can go to Iolani Palace, or there's the Kauai Museum in Lihue," she said. "The Tsunami Museum is terrific on the Big Island or even Imiloa, the science and astronomy museum in Hilo. I like to recommend those because that history of the Islands is fascinating, and I think visitors really do find it interesting."

Takamori, who said summer airfares to the Islands haven't dropped much year over year, also offered some advice to travelers looking for at least a little break on the cost of a ticket to Hawaii during the peak season.

"I try to tell people to stay away from Saturday travel because it's just wicked, probably because so many people are forced to travel that day," she said. "If you can come midweek, Monday through Thursday, you're certainly always going to get a better buy."

And travelers looking to increase diversity on their Hawaii vacation this summer without losing any time traveling between islands, which has become more expensive recently, may want to look into something Mark Noennig, Apple Vacations' executive vice president and general manager, calls an "intraisland vacation."

"We're suggesting that people try to do multistays within the same island," Noennig said, noting that Apple has seen multi-island vacations decrease year over year.

"Obviously, if you compare Princeville [on Kauai's north shore] with the other sides of the island, it's a big difference," he added. "We really have been pushing that more and have seen some success with travel agents [because] it offers the ability to do a multiplace stay but not spend all the additional money and time it takes to get between islands."

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI