Destination: Hawaii

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     When I think of Hawaii, I think of an island. I knew that there were multiple islands but for some reason until I decided to critique vacation spots in Hawaii the other islands were not important. Once I began my journey of searching for great deals, and great spots to visit, however I realized that there is much more than just the main island. There are in fact 8 main islands including Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and Molokai, Lana ‘I, Niihau, and Kahoolawe. In addition to that there is an assortment of smaller islands, atolls, and reefs as well as Islets. In total Hawaii claims over 130 islands, atolls, Islets, and reefs for a total of over 6,000 sq. miles of land.

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     Even though we all know that these islands are the result of volcanic activity, and in fact have active volcano’s, I know I was not aware that they have on average 3-4 eruptions a year and are prone to Tsunamis. With all that being said, these islands are some of the most beautiful in the world. The most complicated part of my research so far has been attempting to select the best places to visit.

     Even though it was a bit more complicated than I anticipated when I started this travel spot project, I decided to include more in depth information on several of the bigger and smaller islands that I found to be the most interesting, hoping to assists you guys reading my blog in choosing where to spend your holiday. Most of the travel sights offer 1, 2 or at most 3 island tours, so understanding what you will see as well as what you will miss out on at other sites is important. Knowing the facts will allow you the paying traveler to decide where the best place for you to visit is.

OAHU

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     The first island I researched was Oahu. Oahu houses the state capital, is the most populated, and is the home of both Pearl Harbor and the birthplace of big wave surfing.  My research also showed that this particular island has some of the most premier snorkeling of any island. This island has most of the basics that travelers expect out of an island vacation. Surfing, swimming, snorkeling, shopping, and some historical sights, can all be found on the island Oahu.

     Hanuama Bay Nature Preserve is the place to go for snorkeling. It cost $1.00 to park your car and $7.50 per person over the age of 12 to enjoy. If you have children under 12 admittance is free. If your family is looking for an awesome adventure in snorkeling but on a budget this is the place to go. Not only is it inexpensive, it appears to be the best place to snorkel in all of Hawaii.

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    For those of you who are young or young at heart there are several surfing schools that offer everything from a week long surfing camp that includes accommodations for $1895.00 per person, to beginner surfing lessons that cost from $88.00 to $120.00 per session, and they include use of the surf board. After all the north shore is located on the island Oahu and is where big wave surfing was born. There is not a better place to learn to surf, and from my research there are many experienced teachers that you can find on this island

     For those of you who are history buffs, or just want to visit a truly historical sight there is Pearl Harbor.  One of the most complete sites that I found for touring Pearl Harbor is located at http://www.pearlharboroahu.com/ This site has several packages making it easy to fit an informative, historical, and amazing tour into most budgets.

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     The site boasts the Battleships of World War II for $74.99 per person.  This tour includes the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, Historic World War II narration, USS Arizona Memorial, USS Missouri Battleship, Historic Honolulu City Tour, and Punchbowl National Cemetery tour. The second package is called The Complete Pearl Harbor Tour and cost $119.99 per person. It includes all of the above in addition to the USS Bowfin Submarine, and Pacific Aviation Museum. The final package they offer is called Battleships of WWII from Kapalu. It is a rather expensive tour as it cost $389.99 per person; however it is an exclusive aerial tour in a private plan in addition to the USS Arizona Memorial, Battleship Missouri, Downtown Honolulu city tour, and Molokai Sea cliffs.

     One of the more different experiences I found to do in Oahu is the Atlantis Submarine tour. They have short tours, long tours, and even dinner tours. At first glance the prices may seem to those like me on a budget to be fairly expensive, however when you take into consideration that you are actually in a submarine with huge windows, looking out at some of the most beautiful coral reefs and ocean life in the world, the price doesn’t seem as expensive  any more.  This is the only submarine tour in Hawaii and certainly one of the must do’s if going to Oahu for your holiday.

     Oahu is in my opinion one of the better islands to visit if you have children, are active and physically fit, interested in experiencing an important WWII site, or if you are single and looking to enjoy a wide variety of experiences. This island has the best snorkeling and surfing sites in all of Hawaii. It offers a unique historical experience, and who can forget the opportunity to go for a submarine ride. Another thing to consider is that this is one of the most populated islands and people from all over come to visit, giving each visitor a unique opportunity to meet others from all over the world.

     If I was traveling with my children who are twins who are 12, this would be the island I would pick. It seems to have many more activities to keep children entertained then some of the other islands I have researched at this point. There is only so many days one can spend on the beach with children before they get tired of the sun, sand, and ocean, and yearn for something different to keep boredom at bay, after all each vacation we take should be an adventure.

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Finding a travel package

     Well I spent several days researching all the package options available and found most of them to be sorely lacking. Very few including the more popular websites had any packages at all. One of the places that I checked was Tours of Scotland. They were not terrible, however they were not impressive either. They offer 3 types of holidays budget, deluxe and first class. Once you select your option for travel dates, length of time, and choice of budget, deluxe or first class you will be directed to another screen that offers several packages.

     None of the packages tell you what motel or hotel you are staying in, instead they leave you with the impression that they will be chosen based upon the type of package you have chosen. You visit the same areas whether you purchase the budget or first class. Even what is included in the package is vague, for example they state that continental “or” buffet breakfast is included. Lets face it, there is a big difference between a doughnut, or box of cereal, and a buffet filled with eggs, cheese, sausage, bacon, fruits, grits, and pancakes. Image

Overall I was very disappointed in this travel site, I expected more out of a site that is top in search rankings and appears in multiple ads on other sites.

     The second package option that I looked into was called Holiday Scotland. I included a link because I am more impressed with their site, as well as the fact that they offer custom holidays that include everything from self guided, and partially or wholly guided. They not only offer much more information, complete with pictures, but they also won the 2012 Best Small Tour Operator award. 

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     They offer wildlife spotting holidays, Scottish Island holidays, and the traditional tourist sites that the other more mundane sites offer such as generic highlands, Glasgow, and Iverness. Another couple of interesting offerings they make is touring scottland by train and the Scottish Seafood Trail holiday.

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This is the only website that I have found that has actual packages that are not found on other sites. Packages that are inclusive, exciting, and cater to specific likes. Other sites may allow you to self-cater and if you have lots of time, and internet savy, you might be able to discover a logical and cost effective way to take in some or all of these sites, however from my own experience this site will save you time.

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Finally they offer the chance to sleep in a castle, a light house or even a private island.

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Castles

Castles

The clans assembly prior to the parade of clan...

The clans assembly prior to the parade of clans at the opening ceremonies of the 2005 Tacoma Highland Games. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Can you imagine spending 1 or more nights in this lovely place? For many years I have yearned to visit Scotland, to view the Highland Games in August, and to experience the atmosphere that is uniquely theirs.  Spending the night in a castle would make anyone feel like a prince or princess.

The Highland Games are held every year in the summer. There are many locations to choose from where 1 can attend them, as they are held in castle court yards, small towns and villages across the land. A chance to see and feel the culture, and  unique games.

There are many ways to visit Scotland. One can choose to stay in the most elaborate castles, or a self catering cottage. There are self tours and guided tours. Myself I like the idea of a self tour. This gives more freedom to change the itinerary to suit me. If I visit an area and decide I want to spend more time exploring I can. If I want to stop and visit an area that I am passing through I can. I like the idea of visiting both popular and little known areas of interest on my trips. Others may decide that they want more of an established routine, one where they are guided to the best or most popular places, with guides who are knowledgeable.

One must also do their homework before making a decision on location/locations, self or guided tour, as well as how much they want to spend on their trip. One way to do some homework is to go to the official Scotland tour site at http://www.visitscotland.com/ another way is to use travel sites to check flights, hotels, and package prices. When I planned my trip, there were very few packages offered by any major travel company, and those that I did find were not inexpensive. I recommend using the official Scotland tour site, spending the time to look at the areas of interest, narrowing them down to a reasonable number that will fit into the time line you will be in Scotland, and finally going through the extensive list of castles, motels, hotels, and self catering cottages that are offered on the site. You will spend time and effort, but your trip will be much more enjoyable, and you will most likely save money.

English: Peel Regional Police Pipe Band at the...

English: Peel Regional Police Pipe Band at the 2010 Glengarry Highland Games (Photo credit: Wikipedia)