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Hawaii beyond the guide books: 7 truths to save an island golf trip

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

MAUI, Hawaii - Most Hawaii guide books treat vacationers like they couldn't out common-sense Paris Hilton, let alone a fifth grader. If you don't know that you should pack extra sun screen or that you'll probably want to bring a bathing suit to Hawaii, well, there's a better than 50-50 chance you'll never be able to find your local airport anyways, so that guide book perusing is likely futile.

Challenge at Manele
You'll want to island hop to experience courses like little Lanai's Challenge at Manele.
Challenge at ManeleMaui BeachLuau - HawaiiMaui - Pacific Ocean Cliffs

For those vacationers who have a firm grasp on the fact that ATMs are a good way to get money on the road and don't need to be told that they should lock their hotel room door at night, it's time for a more advanced course in Hawaii vacation info. Don't worry, we're not talking AP Calculus - or even something as taxing as computing your score on Kapalua Golf Resort's Plantation Course.

Instead, this is just the stuff you wished those glossy guide books would tell you but never do. Because they're too busy explaining the exotic custom of tipping.

Hawaii is a place that begs for some explanation, too. For while it isn't nearly as elitist a getaway as Sen. Barack Obama's opponents would have you believe, Hawaii's not like the other 49 states either. Or, at least, the continental 48.

Everyone knows that Alaska is wackier than Tom Cruise and Lindsay Lohan put together.

Hawaii is just different. Often in a good way. The roads are as good a place as any to start.

1). Hawaii's highways aren't regular highways: One of the common mistakes first-time visitors to Hawaii make is way underestimating the time it takes to get places. Just because something is 40 miles away doesn't mean it's going to take you 40 minutes of drive time.

On Maui - the most popular Hawaii island getaway at the moment - the speed limits seldom go above 40 mph on even the major roads. And you probably wouldn't even want them to be much higher, with the "major" roads here often being one lane going in each direction, winding around curves, with views of the ocean to further distract.

This isn't the vacation where you want to be rolling out of bed and rushing to the golf course in a mad flurry. Leave any road rage tendencies back at home, and you'll be much happier. Because no one in Hawaii (especially the car puttering along in front of you in that one lane) cares how fast you think you need to get somewhere.

2). Island Hop: You may be certain that you want a completely relaxing Hawaiian golf vacation, one where you plop your bags down at one resort on the first day and don't leave until the end of the trip. But chances are, you'll get a little bored. Or curious. And probably both.

Consider that the average Hawaiian vacation lasts seven to 10 days. Factor in the fact that even Maui can seem a little small after five. But, most of all, remember how long it takes to get to Hawaii. Even if you happen to live in Los Angeles, it's a six-hour flight. Most vacationers are connecting at least once and spending 10 or more hours in the air.

Unless you have more time on your hands than the former director of Fannie Mae, you will not be making that many trips to Hawaii. So, make any one you do get count and island hop. Take one of those quick flights, or, better yet, if you're in Maui, it's a little over an hour ferry ride to the little island that's turned into a big luxury attraction - Lanai.

There are two ultra luxe Four Seasons resorts here, and two golf courses you'll never forget - one each on the ocean and up on the mountain - on this island with a population of under 3,200, and that's about it.

3). Skip the Luau: This sounds like Hawaii blasphemy, and it's not easy to do. You'll be bombarded with ads for these traditional dinner dance festival celebrations from the moment you get off the plane. Beware: Some are almost as cheesy as a night at Chuck E. Cheese.

Even if you do pick a good, authentic-leaning luau (the Old Lahaina Luau in central Maui is a top choice), you're likely to leave disappointed. The buffet-style food isn't bad, and many of the dancers in grass skirts are skilled, but this isn't going to be one of the things you never forget.

The best luaus like Old Lahaina can still feel like commercial productions where they're just trying to get through it for unoriginal tourists.

And with your Hawaii time precious, there's no need to waste an early evening and night.

4). A rental car is not optional: Unless you plan to never leave the grounds of the resort you're staying at - and that's no kind of Hawaii vacation - you'll save money and tons of precious time by getting your own wheels.

Taxis are expensive on the islands and will quickly add up to more than the rental fees if you're traveling from courses like Wailea Golf Club's Gold course to Ka'anapali Kai.

5). Plan for Island prices: Everything is more expensive in Hawaii, even more expensive than you think. Natives talk about the price of a gallon of milk here like people back in the lower 48 moan about the wallet dent of a gallon of gas. Remember, you're on a bunch of islands in the middle of the Pacific.

There's no easy semi-truck delivery fleet bringing in the staples. Budget accordingly.

6). Become a morning person: It doesn't matter if you work the graveyard shift in the morgue back home or absolutely loved eating dinner every night at 11 p.m. on that Madrid trip, in Hawaii, you want to play a farmer on vacation.

Even on Maui, the cool, hip island, it's awfully quiet after 10 p.m. In a place like Kauai - the honeymoon mecca with showcase golf at Princeville Golf & Country Club, you'll want to rise with the roosters. Those beaches look absolutely striking at sunrise and sunset - not so much at midnight.

7). Talk to someone with Hawaii experience: No matter how you read about Hawaii, there's no substitute for getting to pick the brain of someone who's been there that you trust. I likely never would have went to Lanai on my first Hawaii trip if Tim Hurja, who runs Hawaii Golf Central, a golf course and hotel trip packaging company, hadn't continually raved about it as an unforgettable Maui side trip.

Whether it's an expert like Hurja or a friend with similar tastes who has already been (you don't want to consult the guy who always picks a restaurant you hate for dinner), talk before you book.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Hawaii

    Ed Newman wrote on: Oct 9, 2008

    Great tips. I've been to Hawaii twice and am returning in May. All 7 of these tips are valuable.


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