Great Maui Sunset

~Guest Post by Flynn~ 

Maui – Aloha!

Our first stop in Maui was the Ritz Carlton Kapalua Resort, another American Express Platinum card-booked hotel. If you haven’t already, I would read Brian’s post about the American Express Platinum card and consider applying if you’re a frequent traveler. We did just that for this honeymoon and it (with the $450 annual fee) has more than paid for itself.

The Ritz was $299 per night using the American Express Platinum Fine Hotels and Resorts rate, which included breakfast, a room category upgrade, and $100 credit. This hotel is quite secluded in the north part of Maui and is a golfer’s paradise. There are two courses on the property, the Plantation and the Bay course. My husband played the Plantation course where the Hyundai Tournament of Champions was played less than two weeks earlier for you golf fans. If you play after 1:00 p.m. during twilight hours, greens fees are much discounted, as well as if you’re a Ritz guest. The Ritz breakfast buffet was excellent and included daily with the American Express rate. There are a few fitness classes that are free; others are $20, which I did not think was worth the extra money.

Golf at the Ritz Carlton

The Ritz is on a small beach that is five minutes away by foot or they have a golf cart to take you down to it. All beaches in Hawaii are public, but the hotels can still bring down towels and chairs to guests. The pool scene at the Ritz was great, three pools with at least two Jacuzzis dotted around the edges, fresh water available, sunscreen, and aloe at all pool locations. As a tip, I would not get caught paying $30 for valet when you can pay half that to self park the rental car just a 3-5 minute walk away from the property.

Our next hotel stop was the Fairmont Kea Lani Resort in Wailea, the resort area of Maui that is south of Kapalua. We were there for two nights with an American Express Platinum rate and were upgraded to an ocean view suite. All rooms at the Fairmont are suites or villas; we had a spacious suite with a honeymoon dessert waiting for us in our room. Again an amazing breakfast buffet that got pretty crowded in the early hours but was filling and free! There are a few restaurants in the hotel that are very expensive, but we learned to fill up on a late breakfast and then eat dinner in the lobby lounge. This dining option has a reverse happy hour that begins at 9:00 p.m. making drinks $8 and flatbread pizzas $9. Normally they are twice that during normal hours! Our first night we left the property and ate at Sansei Sushi, recommended by the locals. This place at 10:00 p.m. has 50% off all sushi and free karaoke. We had great sushi, sake, and laughed watching locals sing during our dinner.

Sign along the road to Hana

Our last property was in Hana at the end of the famous Road to Hana. We left Wailea and the Fairmont after noon to do the drive. This was ideal as there were no more tour buses on the road and we could take our time on the winding route. We used the travel book Maui Revealed and it became our bible, especially for Hana. I would splurge and buy the book’s app for $8 because if you see a site you like you click directions and then your iPhone will direct you there. Along the Road to Hana I would definitely go find the Venus pools and do the Pipiwai hike to Waimoku Falls (4 miles RT) in the Haleakala National Park ($10 per car).

We probably took a leisurely 2-3 hours to get to Hana by car from Wailea. There we stayed at Travaasa Hana, the main large property in Hana. This last stop was nothing like our earlier stays and the property itself was a big disappointment. The town of Hana and the people are amazing, but the rate and service at this properly made it a complete rip off. The hotel offers lodging only rates or all inclusive rates. We were told that because the meals are so outrageously priced to do the all-inclusive rate, which includes three meals and $125 credit per person per day. We used our credit on a massage that paid for most of it and the meals were excellent, but totally overpriced. A glass of juice was $5-$7 dollars and a few slices of pineapple was $7. Main dinner entrees of fish and steak were $42-48 per plate.

The main problem was the room quality for the price paid, the bed was uncomfortable, the décor was dated, the outlets, toilet, and light were broken. When we asked to move they said we had to pay more so we just stayed in our garden view suite because this was already the most expensive room at $1100 per night. I only write this to save your cost in Hana. Take that money and stay three nights at the St Regis in Princeville for the same cost with your butler. We also joined iPrefer, the boutique hotel loyalty program and it didn’t get us anything. I wouldn’t recommend either in the future. If you do go to Hana there is a great market called Hana Fresh, there is local yoga at the Hana School and a Thai place right next to the school. Do the drive, rent a condo and see those places. Do not stay at Travaasa Hana; you are throwing away your money!

I hope this lengthy post helps you book a trip to Hawaii. As we planned our honeymoon for 8 months and spoke to many past travelers, we wanted to share our intel and experience. We had an amazing time and loved both islands.

Flynn’s Hawaii Honeymoon Tips: Fly through Oakland en route to Hawaii, get an American Express Platinum card if you are a frequent traveler, take advantage of hotel loyalty programs, if you just got married let them know because there are benefits abound, always ask the local staff where to eat over paying an arm and a leg at the hotel dining options, get the Maui Revealed app for your phone, and stay at the St. Regis if you can in Kauai!!!

Maui Coast

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~Guest Post by Flynn~ 

Brian and James were nice enough to ask me to share a post about my recent honeymoon. My husband and I went to Hawaii for two weeks with a quick stop in San Francisco en route and had an amazing time. I hope some of my hotel, flight, and travel experiences may help anyone interested in going to Kauai or Maui in the near future!

San Francisco Stop En Route

We spent the first night of our trip at the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill to break up the trip and see some friends. We had drinks at the Top of the Mark, the amazing rooftop bar at the neighboring Intercontinental Hotel. Then we had a fabulous Italian dinner at Venticello on Nob Hill. The cable cars still drive by there at night and the owner was very pleasant. Excellent squid ink risotto and black kale salad to start!

This Fairmont property has a great city location within walking distance to the Embarcadero and other neighborhoods of San Francisco. If you plan to stay at a Fairmont property, make sure you sign up for their complimentary Presidents Club program. It is a program that gets you free benefits during your stay, as well as allows you earn credit for future free hotel stays. Some common benefits are free WiFi, newspaper, phone calls, shoe shine, and complimentary gym entry (the San Francisco property charges $15 for non-club members and had a steam/sauna/full work out equipment). Certain properties give you free golf clubs to use, free workout clothes so you don’t have to pack your own, and bikes if available at the hotel. You also often receive 10% off spa treatments, which essentially covers some of gratuity on a massage or facial.  To sign up and learn more see use this link to Fairmont’s website.

Beautiful sunset in Kauai

Next Stop Kauai – Aloha!

The next day we flew from San Francisco to Kauai; United has direct flights landing at noon. We were delayed 90 minutes out of SFO, so in the future I would fly through nearby Oakland en route to Hawaii. This tip was provided by a local Hawaiian I met who said the fog always delays flights in and out of San Francisco but spares Oakland.

In Kauai, we stayed at the Grand Hyatt in Poipu, the southern part of the island, for our first four nights. The Grand Hyatt is on Shipwreck’s beach and is a massive property. We used points to stay for four nights for free by using our Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa points and transferring them to Hyatt. This was a tip I learned from the famous TripBadger, Brian. It was 20,000 per night and we had a very spacious room with a view of the ocean, private lanai, and large bathroom.

We told Hyatt that it was our honeymoon and included our Hyatt Gold number when booking. As honeymooners, we received the following: bottle of sparkling wine in the room, free dessert at any restaurant with dinner purchase, free beachfront or lagoon pool cabana for the day ($50-75 daily rental rate), and 15% off the spa. They really provide a nice experience for honeymooners, and if you do go, we highly recommend the Hyatt. We had spa access with our rate (not sure how we got this) so we would use that private pool, steam, sauna and showers daily. They had fruit, granola, and juices every morning (tip for some free breakfast nibbles).

Our view at the St. Regis

After spending four nights here we drove north to the Princeville St Regis overlooking Hanalei Bay. This is my most favorite Hawaiian hotel if not hotel ever! We booked this with our American Express Platinum card at amazing rate, only $408 per night. We were greeted with fresh water, leis and upon check in the hotel staff immediately knew that we were to receive Platinum card benefits. We were upgraded to one of their 50 suites that included butler service. This is a luxurious benefit through the St. Regis where your room is given a butler who can attend to any need 24 hours per day. They provide complimentary French press coffee or tea at any hour, free pressing, shoe shine, and local intel on the island. They hand you their card with an email ending in an “At Your Service” address and you can email them from the beach to draw your bath, also they will pack and unpack you during your stay. As this was compliments of our Platinum card upgrade we were thrilled! I didn’t need to be unpacked, but our first morning there we did call for the French press coffee that was so tasty and strong. Our butler, Andrew, was so nice and helped us learn about local beaches for surfing.

Aside from the butler service, the hotel is amazing and the view of Hanalei Bay is breathtaking. The north shore winters have large surf swells so by 8:00 a.m. there were 10-20 professional-appearing surfers in the water each morning. The Platinum card included free buffet breakfast every morning (valued at $80 per day). The buffet is decadent and has anything you can imagine: waffle bar with fixings, tropical fruits, omelet bar, baked goods, cereal, smoked salmon, and local dishes. It is so filling you do not need lunch if you eat late in the morning! This was hands down our best deal through American Express at only $408 per night. Without the Platinum card and paying for breakfast, the upgrade, and butler, I imagine the rate would be double what we paid!

After six nights in Kauai, we flew to Maui direct on Hawaiian Airlines.  Check back next week for part two and an overview of our stay on Maui. Aloha!

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