Snorkeling adventure at Maui’s Molokini Crater and Turtle Town

We asked Instagrammer michaeldizon to take us along as he and his wife Niki and kids Jake and Liam explored the Hawaiian Islands in December. Here’s their trip report:

Snorkeling is one of those activities that everyone in our family could do. With two kids in tow (one 8 and the other 11), it was a great way to kick off our stay in Maui. Quicksilver was easy to find in the Harbor. After signing a waiver form, we boarded their boat and enjoyed a continental breakfast while receiving instructions from the crew about safety and how to put on the equipment.


Our first stop was Molokini Crater, which was roughly a 20-minute boat ride from the harbor. The water was cool and clear – perfect conditions for snorkeling. Donning the snorkel mask and fins make you superhuman; not only can you breathe underwater, but you get more power out of your kicks when you swim. To make it easier, we put on flotation devices around our waists, which made our one-hour stay at the crater less strenuous.


And one hour was the perfect amount of time for us. At that point we boarded the boat and were ready to go to our second location, Turtle Town. En route, the crew served a buffet-style lunch of pulled-pork sandwiches, potato salad and drinks. Afterward, a crew member passed out home-baked chocolate chip cookies, which was a nice treat and gave us the energy we needed for our last stop.

Turtle Town was less deep than Molokini Crater, and that allowed us to get closer to the coral and see the underwater life. Like its name suggests, it’s a popular spot for turtles, but we weren’t so lucky that day and didn’t encounter any. Nonetheless, it’s a beautiful spot where the world underwater is just as colorful and vibrant as it is above the surface.


Aloha Friday – Step Up Your Stay at Starwood Resorts in Hawaii (Mexico & the Caribbean too)

We are in the final booking week of Sunsational Savings at all Starwood Resorts!

Book by July 22 and travel July 1-December 15, 2013 and bask in the splendor of Starwood Resorts on the sun-drenched beaches of Mexico, the Caribbean and the Hawaiian Islands. Apple Vacations offers the most convenient and affordable ways to get there.

Apple Vacations is celebrating Starwood with a host of exclusive value-added extras like guaranteed room upgrades, complimentary breakfasts, food and beverage credits, spa discounts and more!

Click here for specific resort details.

And check out our Pinterest board featuring Starwood Resorts here.








Kaanapali Beach Hotel – a great choice for families in Maui

I wrote a resort review of The Kaanapali Beach Hotel. But, I also wanted to highlight why Kaanapali Beach Hotel is an excellent choice for family vacations.  Kaanapali Beach Hotel is a beautiful beach-front location. One of the best views and most picturesque beaches you can find, perfect for swimming and close to snorkeling.  But they also offer value, convenience, cultural activities and entertainment to keep families happy from the moment they arrive until it is time to depart.

Ka`anapali Beach Hotel

Ka`anapali Beach Hotel

When I go on vacation, especially with my son, I like for our family to experience the local culture, food and traditions. I especially like for us all to learn something new about each place we visit. In Hawaii, a stay at Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel, will be a must for my family!

Kaanapali Beach Hotel offers a great program for children. It is an interactive family experience. Upon arrival, children 12 and under receive an Aloha passport with their Hawaiian Name and what it means.  Then, during their stay, children complete various activities throughout the resort.  Kids receive a makana (gift) for each completed activity. This creates fun for the entire family, and children get to take home their rewards. The resort employs full-time Hawaiian “Culture Advisors” (Alaka̕i) right on property. Children can learn about the history, language and traditions of Hawaii right within the resort.

In addition to the miles of amazing beaches and fun pools to keep the family happy,  Kaanapali Beach Hotel also offers daily Hawaiian activities including free lei making,  free hula lessons and free ukulele lessons. They also offer a complimentary welcome breakfast, complimentary Hawaiian Entertainment & Hula Show in the Tiki Courtyard, and Kids 5 and under eat free at the Tiki restaurant.  All of this will help the budget while keeping the family entertained.

Upon departure from resort, Kaanapali Beach Hotel offers a complimentary Kukui Lei Ceremony. Kukui Nut Tree is the State Tree. “Kukui” means Enlightenment. Kukui Nut Lei is part of the employee uniforms.  The staff explain why the Kukui nut is so important to the Hawaiian people then they sing and present a departure gift of a kukui nut lei’.

Kaanapali Beach Hotel was the only Hawaii hotel voted in “Top 10 Family Hotels” by Trip Advisor. Make sure you look into Kaanapali Beach Hotel, for your next stay in Hawaii.


Hot Wedding Destinations in 2013


Considering a destination wedding in 2013? These 5 romantic spots are ideal for tying the knot in style!

1. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The Caribbean islands are blessed with all the trappings for a spectacular destination wedding: powder-fine sand, crystal-clear waters and romantic resorts aplenty. But lately the tropic sun seems to shine brightest on the resort area of Punta Cana, thanks to new direct flights from wallet-friendly airlines AirTran and Frontier, it makes getting to this breathtaking (and affordable) stretch of paradise a cinch. The plethora of choices extends to lodging as well. No matter your style, there’s a resort for you: All-inclusive ease!  Resorts in this popular wedding locale come with staff planners to handle the work and packages that make pricing a breeze.

Travel Tip — Welcome your guest! Leave a gift bag in each room full of goodies for your guest. Don’t forget suntan lotion and trinkets to remind them of your wedding destination when they’re back at home.

2. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Fiestas don’t get any more authentic than in Puerto Vallarta. It’s the perfect spot to welcome guests with icy margaritas and exchange “I do’s” as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean. Sheltered by the jungled landscapes of the Sierra Madre Mountains to the east with romantic views of the Pacific to the west, Vallarta provides an exotic blend of cosmopolitan culture, Mexican flavor and nature at her best. Vallarta is home to Banderas Bay, where you can enjoy the thrill of whales up close from December through April. Vallarta is divided into two general areas: Puerto Vallarta to the south and Riviera Nayarit to the north.

3. Montego Bay, Jamaica

Exchange vows on this island paradise where reggae, romance and the Caribbean sun come together. Pioneers of the all-inclusive vacation concept, you won’t find an island that does it better. For many, it’s positively addictive. The country’s pulsating heartbeat is embodied by soulful cuisine, lively reggae and generous smiles from locals who love to show off their country. Getting married here is so simple that more visitors than Jamaicans are wed on the island every year.

Travel Tip – Planning an off-season wedding or honeymoon (May – Dec) can help you save big on hotels & other costs. Jamaica’s tropical climate does not vary from season to season so marry in the “off-season” and save!

4. Maui, Hawaii – U.S.A.

Maui is a hassle-free place to make a tropical wedding a reality. Both independent wedding planners and onsite coordinators at big resorts can pave the way to I do. There are countless reasons brides and grooms flock to this ever-popular Hawaiian isle. For starters, everything about it seems to cater to couples seeking one romantic experience after another (think unlimited sunsets and picture-perfect beaches). Although Maui’s certain to exceed your expectations as a tropical paradise, its unique inland offerings will give you the opportunity to turn a fantastic beach vacation into an unforgettable adventure. Plus, with direct flights from the mainland, the island is easily accessible for wedding guests.

5. Riviera Maya, Mexico

This 112-mile stretch of coastal paradise, with its white sand beaches fronting turquoise waters, tropical jungles and ancient Mayan ruins, provides the perfect setting for your fairy-tale wedding and heavenly honeymoon.

Travel Tip – While a tropical climate might be great for your tan, it can wreak havoc on big, fluffy satin dresses. Consider lighter-weight fabrics, a shorter hemline or a strapless gown to keep you cool on your wedding day.


An all-inclusive resort in Hawaii? Yes!

We’re often asked if there are any all-inclusive hotels or resorts in Hawaii, and our answer is always the same: eh, not really. There are hotels with meal plans or breakfasts included, for example, but they are not the traditional all-inclusive resorts you would find in Mexico or the Caribbean.  There are several reasons why: There are tons of incredible restaurants in Hawaii, usually only a short walk or drive from your hotel. Plus, Hawaii vacationers tend to spend a lot of time off property, either exploring the islands on their own or on an Amstar excursion. It just wouldn’t be worth paying for an all-inclusive vacation if you were going to be out adventuring most of the day.

That all changed, though, with the June 30th opening of Travaasa Hana, formerly the Hotel Hana Maui. Travaasa Hana has made its Sea Ranch Cottages all-inclusive. All food, non-alcoholic beverages, choice of daily activity or spa treatment, gratuities and service charges, as well as all resort activities and cultural events are included.

Travaasa Hana is a handsome reward for finishing the infamous Road to Hana.  The Hana Highway is a popular destination in Maui – a 68-mile drive bordered by the ocean on one side and spectacular hidden waterfalls on the other. Wikipedia says there are 620 curves along the Hana Highway, but if you’ve ever taken the drive yourself you know there have to be thousands more.

I had the pleasure of staying in a Sea Ranch Cottage in 2009, while in Maui for a business trip.  By the time we wearily pulled into Hana, the hotel was an oasis of calm, peace and serenity, especially after all the hairpin turns along the ocean. The resort grounds are gorgeous, sloping down a hill toward the Pacific Ocean. The bellmen and front desk couldn’t have been more welcoming – it seemed that, despite seeing that amazing vista each day, they still remembered what a special location they were lucky enough to work in.

The Sea Ranch Cottages were exactly what we needed. No clocks, no TV, but a back porch with comfy chairs and a front-row view of the ocean. Who needs television when you can watch the 24/7 ocean?  It felt like we were at the End of the World, and it was wonderful.

That night, we had dinner at Ka’uiki, the hotel’s main restaurant. Ka’uiki’s menu focuses on in-season local items, and that dinner ranks as one of my top 10 dining experiences. Likewise, breakfast was simple, fresh and healthy.

We were only lucky enough to have time for one night in Hana, but would have gladly stayed until they threw us out. In addition to the great dining, the hotel also focuses on guest experience, which our schedule didn’t permit us to try. There are open-air yoga classes, culinary instruction, meditation lessons and more ocean adventures than you can imagine.

The new all-inclusive plan at the Sea Ranch Cottages is a perfect excuse to check out for a few days. Because once you finally make it to the End of the World, you naturally want to linger there as long as possible.

Maui Travel Tips

Maui Sunset

I love going to Maui because of the fantastic beaches and great weather. Maui has great variety of restaurants, shopping and sightseeing.  You can do as much or as little as you want.  There are accommodations from moderate to luxury – so there is something for everyone.  And it’s very easy to drive around the island because there is only one main road, so you can’t get lost. Here are some of my travel tips for those interested in visiting this beautiful Hawaiian island.

Recently, I toured the up-country where I visited a lavender farm.  We had tea & scones made with lavender, it was delicious!  We also visited the Tedeshy Winery. We tasted great wines and learned about its very interesting history.  If you get a chance to be driving around Maui, don’t be surprised if you feel the urge to stop and take in the spectacular views or see kite surfers flying overhead!

Lavender Farm

Here is a very useful tip for visiting Haleakala – you must bring a jacket or sweatshirt because it gets chilly up at the top. There are many roads that offer lookout points to stop and admire the incredible scenery.  We had the opportunity to take some really great photos. The Ka’anapali area has a long side walk where you can walk along the beach from the one end to the other.

We stayed at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa. You always know what to expect from Westin, but I especially like the fact that this resort has a pool for adults only. The main pool has a slide big enough for adults and plenty of room to swim without getting splashed. The rooms are modern with flat screen TV’s, they have heavenly beds and impressive showers that will relax you right away!  If you want to relax more, you can enjoy the spa facilities that are state of the art. This hotel is in a great location! It’s in the center of Ka’anapali and next door to Whaler shopping village. This is a great area to grab a bite to eat, pick out a souvenir and or a unique Hawaii must have!

We also had a chance to visit the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. There is some great snorkeling available here! There’s also a nightly torch lighting ceremony that’s so much fun.  The pool bar gives great views of the ceremony and it is a great gathering place to view any sunset.  This resort is very deluxe but has a much more laid back feel to it.

Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort & Villas

We also checked out the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas (which are condo accommodations). This property felt more like a resort than a condo.  There is a daily maid service, there are no resort fees, there’s a grocery store on site, and there are exchange privileges between other Starwood properties.

While I was taking a stroll along the beach I stopped at the Royal Lahaina Resort. It’s the home of the Mai Tai – yum.  I love stopping here and having a delicious Mai Tai while viewing their beautiful landscape.

In my opinion the Ka’anapali Beach Club is the most authentic Hawaiian hotel. Don’t be surprised if walking along and you hear the employees singing Hawaiian songs!

One of the newest properties in this area is Honua Kai Resort & Spa. This is at the northern end of Ka’anapali. They have one, two & three bedroom suites. These luxury units have all the newest appliances.  Luxury accommodations and resort amenities at very affordable prices! This property has a Duke’s Beach House restaurant. The food is great here and a perfect place to hang out for the night. This is a great property for family reunions and friends traveling together. They have room service, daily maid service, three swimming pools, two spa fitness centers and a concierge also children’s program and gourmet market.

Finally I checked out the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa. This is a tropical paradise! Whatever entrance you use, you see something fun! I had a chance to see penguins, yes penguins in Hawaii, and flamingos. The pool draws you in with amazing waterfalls. I attended a Luau at the Hyatt which had a mixture of all ages, couples, families, honeymooners and people celebrating their anniversary. The show really gets the audience involved.

Overall, this was an amazing trip to Maui. I visited 7 resorts and always ready to go back. I recommend everyone getting a chance to experience one of these hotels firsthand.

Hawaii, Yes You Can!