Not only do I love Hawaii and Alaska Airlines, but I love big waves. When I was in Maui for whale season last year, there was a 40-60 foot swell at Jaws, the world-famous big wave surfing hot-spot, which I tried to get to (but had to miss because of wind conditions).
So, I was thrilled when I received notification of a really cool Alaska Airlines sale to Hawaii where they are discounting travel based on wave height. Here’s how it works:
The bigger the waves, the more you’ll save on flights to and from Lihue, Kona, Maui, and Honolulu for travel between November 4-20, 2019.
Discount amounts are determined by the predicted heights of upcoming swells from Surfline. How much will you save? If the maximum swell height is:
0 to 10ft = 10% off
11 to 15ft = 15% off
16 to 20ft = 20% off
21ft or more = 30% off
The deal ends on November 8th and you’ll need to use code SURFLINE15 to access the reduced fares (currently at 15% off based on 12.9 foot swells).
Whale season on Maui runs from December 15th-May 15th every year. During this time, Maui has the largest concentration of humpback whales on the planet, which makes this already incredible destination a can’t-miss.
Last week, I went to Maui for the second time during whale season. Although Kauai is currently my favorite Hawaiian island, Maui offers a better chance to see the whales (who are in town to give birth and mate before journeying back up to Alaska).
There are two main resort/hotel areas on Maui — Ka’anapali on the northwest coast, and Wailea on the southwest coast. On my last trip to Maui, I stayed exclusively in Ka’anapali. This trip, I split my time between Ka’anapli and Wailea, and wanted to review the pro’s and con’s of staying in both.
Ka’anapali is home to a number of resorts, including Marriott, Hyatt, Westin, and Sheraton. The Westin actually has 3 resorts in Maui and, thanks to a friend redeeming points, I spent the first 3 nights at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa Ka’anapali.
The property is gorgeous, the staff is warm, and there is a pool with a (really fun!) water slide.
But my absolutely favorite part of staying here was that you can see whales breaching pretty much any time you look out at the ocean. Seriously. I’m emphasizing that last part because words can’t express how amazing it is.
From Ka’anapali, you can see the islands of Moloka’i and Lanai, and there were a lot more breaches looking towards Lanai (this is apparently because the water is more shallow, which attracts more whales).
Despite being able to see whales from the beach, I decided to go on a whale watching tour, which left from Lahaina. Lahaina (which is where a lot of the whale tours leave from) is located 10-15 minutes away from Ka’anapli, and about 30-45 minutes away from Wailea.
Ka’anapali is also a super cute area, with shops, and outdoor mall, and beautiful beaches. The biggest con here is that, during whale season, the waves are very strong and it’s difficult to actually swim in the ocean water by Ka’anapli.
After 3 nights in Ka’anaplai, we switched hotels and headed down to the Grand Wailea, a massive Waldorf Astoria property located on the beach between the Four Season and Marriott. I used a free Hilton weekend night from my Hilton American Express card to book the first night, and was able to get 25% off my second night using Hilton’s price match guarantee.
Wailea is home to the fanciest hotels on the island, including Grand Wailea itself, the Ritz Carlton, Fairmont, Andaz, and Four Seasons. Staying in both Ka’anapli and Wailea, which are only about 45-minute apart, actually felt like completely separate vacations. In Wailea, you have a different view, looking out to the south side of Lanai and to and island called Kaho’olawe.
Although Wailea was beautiful, in my 3 days there, I didn’t see a single whale breach from the hotel (even with an ocean-view room). I think I saw one while eating lunch on the way to the airport, but I’m not 100% sure. If I had stayed in Wailea the entire time and didn’t take a whale boat tour, I wouldn’t have even known it was whale season.
Verdict: Even though I had an amazing time in Wailea, I would recommend staying in Ka’anapli during whale season. The opportunity to see dozens of whales breach each hour is too great to pass up, and the proximity to the whale watching tours makes this spot super convenient.
I get it, airplanes sometimes have issues mid-air (which is nothing any traveler really wants to hear).
That said, some Air Canada passengers had a pretty rough experience on Christmas Eve this year when a flight headed from Vancouver to Hawaii was turned around halfway to Hawaii due to a mechanical issue that was “not an emergency.”
The passengers eventually ended up in Hawaii 15 hours after originally scheduled and, in an attempt to make up for it, Air Canada offered these passengers $10 in food vouchers.
If you’re visiting Kauai, hopefully you’ve done your research and know that the island is about more than pristine beaches and tropical tans. Kauai, perhaps more than any other Hawaiian island, is filled with stunningly beautiful landscapes that you’d miss by spending your entire day sipping drinks by the pool.
Aside from the beach, the most popular attraction on Kauai is the Nā Pali Coast State Park, which is best viewed by helicopter (more on that in a future post). But a day trip that should not be missed is visiting Waimea Canyon State Park on Kauai’s west coast.
How to get there
Getting to Waimea Canyon State Park is an easy drive. In full disclosure, I am a city kid and had not driven for 3 years before my recent trip to Kauai. I was nervous to drive, but my traveling buddy enjoys drinking a lot, and since I’m still focused on fitness while I travel, I agreed to take over some of the driving responsibilities while he imbibed.
With that as a background, getting to Waimea Canyon State Park is fairly pain-free. Because of how mountainous Kauai gets in the center of the island, the only way to get to Waimea Canyon is to take Hawaii Route 50 along the southern coast of the island up to Waimea Canyon Drive (the road is also known as Hawaii State Road 550 and there will be prominent signs for the turn-off). From there, it’s a straight shoot up, with various lookout points along the way and hikes for those who are more adventurous.
The southern route access makes it a bit harder for those staying on Princeville to visit, but for those staying in the southern portion of the island (particularly Poipu), you can expect a drive of around 20-30 minutes from beach to the top of Waimea Canyon.
What to expect
There are 3 reasons to visit Waimea Canyon State Park: views, hikes, and views.
To be honest, I did a short hike while in the state park and wasn’t impressed. But I also gave up within 20 minutes and might have missed a stunning vista.
But even without hiking, you can experience the amazing views which can be roughly compared to a smaller Grand Canyon. In fact, there are many bus services offering tours up to Waimea Canyon, and a lot of them are marketed towards seniors with limited mobility. The vistas aren’t from the parking lots, which have plenty of space for all the cars and buses making stops
Something that’s also great about Waimea Canyon State Park is that the weather is much cooler because of the rise in elevation. Of course, if you go to Hawaii you aren’t necessarily looking for cooler weather, but if you’re feeling exhausted from the Hawaiian sun, it’s sometimes nice to get a break while still being outside. Note that the altitude (about 3,600 feet up) can take a bit out of you as well, so be sure to bring plenty of water.
Because of the ease of access to Waimea Canyon State Park by road, it serves the perfect day trip in Kauai. From experience, you can wake up, go to the beach, drive to Waimea Canyon State Park, and still have enough time to go back to the beach for a few hours of prime sunshine before sunset.