Should you stay in Ka’anapali or Wailea during whale season on Maui?

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’anapli

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.

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Sunset from outside my hotel in Ka’anapli. If you look closely at the horizon (towards the right), you can see a whale breaching.

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.

Wailea

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.

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View from my room at the Grand Wailea.

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.

Is it worth upgrading to business class on United’s direct flight between San Francisco and Tahiti?


As a member, you now get better savings when you book direct.

United recently started direct service between San Francisco, California and Tahiti, French Polynesia (airport code: PPT).

Earlier this month, I took advantage of the flight, and was able to snag an incredible deal for both flight and 4 nights in an over-water bungalow.

I was able to fly economy over and business back, so wanted to share my experiences in case you’re considering taking the same flight, and don’t know whether the upgrade to business class is worth it. (Unfortunately, I lost some of the pictures I took, so you’ll have to rely on my account below!).

The verdict: It depends.

As a lawyer, “it depends” or “maybe” is perhaps my favorite response to any question. But it’s especially true here.

Economy service, particularly is you are in Economy Plus, is decent. The flight is roughly 8 hours each way, which can be difficult for a business class flight — practically speaking, it meant that after dinner service, there was about 3.5 hours to sleep before breakfast service started. While United offers you the opportunity to skip breakfast (you can tell them before you fall asleep), I’ve found that even with an eye mask and ear plus, I can’t sleep through the smell of cooked food.

On the flight over, you’ll leave SFO in the early afternoon and arrive in PPT at around 8pm, which means that you’ll be sleeping soon after you land, anyway. I did this leg in economy, and am glad I did.

On the way back, you’ll leave at night and land in SFO early in the morning, which means you may benefit more from a bed (particularly if you want to go into work the next morning).

I was a little nervous about the 2-2-2 business setup on the business flight, but the new Polaris seats were really comfortable, and I love the Saks Fifth Avenue products. While I haven’t confirmed this, I think the new SFO to PPT route is pretty coveted and that the flight attendants working it were assigned to the routes based on seniority, so you can expect some pretty great service on the flight.

If your only (reasonable) option for flying to Tahiti is on economy, don’t let that deter you. But if you have the means or found a great deal in business, it’s definitely a nice way to treat yo’ self.

Drug-sniffing dog overdoses on ecstasy while screening passengers boarding EDM party cruise ship

A drug-sniffing K-9 working for the Brevard County Sherrif’s Office in Florida was given an anti-overdose medication after falling ill while screening passengers boarding Holy Ship! — an electronic dance music (EDM) party taking place on the Nowegian Epic.

According to a report by Newsweek, the dog (Jake), “started having some problems with balance and had some type of seizure incident of some sort, was showing effects of having inhaled some substance. They administered the Narcan and got [him] to the vet.”

Jake is expected to make a full recovery and one man was arrested related to the incident.

Air Canada flight turns back halfway to Hawaii, compensates passengers with $10 food vouchers

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.

However, according to Dr. Gabor Lukacs, the founder and coordinator of Air Passenger Rights,  passengers on the flight could be eligible for damages worth thousands of dollars, in accordance with Canada’s Carriage By Air Act.

“Passengers still have to prove they’ve suffered losses, but they are liable for up to $8,700,” he said.

Since the plane was halfway to Hawaii, I’m wondering why they couldn’t fix the mechanical issues there.

Definitely not a pleasant way to fly, but hopefully these individuals enjoyed an amazing Christmas on Maui (particularly since it’s whale season!).

United announces new non-stop flights from San Francisco to New Delhi, Melbourne, and Toronto

This morning, United announced new service from San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The new flights are:

  • San Francisco to New Delhi, India (flight times are difficult though, with arrival in New Delhi at 12:45am and the return leaving New Delhi at 4am).
  • San Francisco to Melbourne, Australia
  • San Francisco to Toronto, Canada

United also announced additional flights and/or year-round service for their Seoul, Auckland, Tahiti, and Amsterdam routes.

United hypes this big announcement and I was hoping for direct flights to Guam, South America, and Africa, as Toronto is already well-serviced by Air Canada, there are currently direct flights between LAX and Melbourne, and there’s already non-stop service from SFO to Mumbai.

That said, will likely try out at least one of these new routes! Will you?

How to save 25% on almost every Hilton booking

If you’re paying full price for a room in the Hilton portfolio (which includes Waldorf Astoria and Conrad), you’re likely paying too much.

That’s because Hilton has a Price Match Guarantee: if you can find the same room for a lower price than what is listed on Hilton.com, Hilton will not only match the lower price, but will beat it by 25%.

The way it used to work was that you’d first need to book the hotel, and then you’d need to send Hilton proof of the lower-price offering. From there, Hilton would review the proof you submitted and then send you its determination as to whether you qualified for the discounted rate. Because you’d often need to book a non-refundable hotel room first, this system wasn’t ideal.

But earlier this year, Hilton began allowing customers to call in advance and get approval on the spot before booking the hotel room. Since discovering this, I’ve booked a number of Hilton stays (and have looked into dozens more) and have almost always found a room that’s cheaper than Hilton.com.

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to get a your hotel room for 25% off:

Step 1: Go to TripAdvisor.com and look up the Hilton property you’d like to stay at

Most people know that TripAdvisor is a great site for looking up hotel reviews, but it now also wants to be the website you use to book your stay. When looking up hotels on TripAdvisor, you’ll see a list of almost a dozen websites (sometimes all at different prices), and the list almost always will include the price you’d pay at Hilton.com.

Step 2: Find a room that has a lower price than what’s listed for Hilton.com

Remember: all it takes is one website where the price is lower than what’s listed on Hilton.com.

Usually, you’ll find that almost every price will match what’s on Hilton.com, but in my experience the last few months, there’s usually one or two random sites listed through TripAdvisor that have a lower price.

Note that the room you book needs to be the exact same as the room you’d be booking through Hilton.com (as an example, if the lower price you find is for a room with a king bed and the only price listed on Hilton.com is for a twin bed, you wouldn’t be able to qualify for this promotion).

Step 3: Call Hilton and ask for the price match + 25% discount

This step is the hardest — you’ll need to call Hilton at 1-800-445-8667, tell them that you’d like to book a room, and that you’ve found a lower price listed on another site.

My impression is that Hilton doesn’t like giving this discount out, so they take around 30-45 minutes to check the website, get internal approval, and offer you a lower rate, which you need to book right then, on the call.

Also, I’ve had a Hilton representative deny my lower fare + 25% off claim, only to call back and have it approved, so be ready to put in some leg work here.

Step 4: Book and get ready for you trip!

Have you used the Hilton Price Match Guarantee? Let me know in the comments.

Black Friday deal: buy $100 hotels.com gift cards for only $80

I’m not a big Black Friday shopper — in fact, this may be the first Black Friday where I’ve purchased anything in years.

That said, there’s a great deal at BJ’s where you can purchase $100 gift cards for hotels.com for only $80/piece. You can find the deal by clicking this link.

This equates to an automatic 20% savings on any hotel that you book through the site. This is in addition to the 10% discount you get by being a hotels.com rewards member (after 10 stays, you get 10% of the value you spent towards all of those stays towards a future reservation). Additionally, if you have a Capital One Venture card, you get an additional 10% off purchases booked on hotels.com, meaning that you can get as much as 40% off any booking through the site by taking advantage of these deals.

Although I wasn’t a BJ’s member before, it only cost $10 for an annual online membership.