October Family Travel Ideas

 Posted by on October 5, 2011  Comments Off
Oct 052011

October  is a wonderful time of year for quick family getaways, particularly over the upcoming Columbus Day weekend.  Here in New England the evenings are chilly but the days are warm and the leaves are ablaze.   As a result, it is no surprise that our email is overflowing with great family travel offers, contests and inspiration for October family travel fun.  Here are some of the best ones that have come our way recently:

Four Seasons Luxury Family Vacation Contest

Family travel experts  Poshbrood, Luxury Travel Mom, and Ciao Bambino have partnered with Four Seasons to offer three unbelievable luxury family giveaways!  Over the next two weeks they will be giving away  Ski, Beach, and City vacations — to the Four Seasons Resort Vail, Four Seasons Resort Nevis, and Four Seasons Hotel Boston!

The full details for this contest are available at the Ciao Bambino blog or you can go straight to their Facebook Four Seasons contest page to enter.  Each of these luxury family vacations includes 4 nights deluxe accommodations for a family of 4 and some really special family friendly extras like an in-room visit from the ice cream man in Boston or a day’s use of a family beach house complete with a butler in Nevis.  This contest is open until October 17th so don’t miss out.

Columbus Day Weekend in Vermont

Vermont's fall foliage was on full display over Columbus Day weekend

Vermont's fall foliage was on full display over Columbus Day weekend

Columbus Day Weekend is one of our favorite times to visit Vermont, as the foliage is usually at its peak.  This year, we all know that Vermont was hit hard by flooding from Hurricane Irene, but, the leaves are still there, most roads are passable  and these hardy New Englanders are bouncing back in time for families to enjoy the 3-day Columbus Day weekend running October 8-10.  Sugarbush ski resort in Warren VT is hosting its annual Community Weekend complete with free lift rides, pumpkin carving and live music performances.  The area is offering a wide range of bed and breakfast and condo lodging packages, some starting as low as $45 a night.

The Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Vermont is also offering its AutumnFest packages through Columbus Day weekend.  These include condo lodging, use of the pool, FunZone, mini golf and an additional night free when three nights are booked.   There is lots to do outdoors in the fall at Smugglers’  including hiking, ziplines, Segway tours, canoes and kayaks.  

If you are looking for a Vermont Inn or B&B experience over Columbus Day weekend, or during the winter, consider the wonderful Vermont Inn Keepers who provided amazing support for their communities during the worst of the flooding.  They took in neighbors whose homes were underwater and served as centers of relief efforts in their towns.  Vermont counts on tourism dollars so do your part and have a great weekend!

Fall Family Beach and Poolside Getaways

A-Bay at sunset

Sunset at A-bay on the Big Island of Hawaii is a great place for a quick evening swim

The Hilton Waikoloa Village, a 62-acre oceanfront resort on the Big Island of Hawaii, transforms families into a team of explorers with Pacific adventures and the discoveries of a lifetime via their Ocean Explorer Family Escape. Available now through Dec. 31, 2011, starting from $264 per room, per night for a four-night stay for two adults and two children, the Ocean Explorer package welcomes kids with backpacks filled with essential exploring gear such as an underwater camera and ocean fish guide card for use in the snorkeling lagoon, coloring book & Dol-fun activity book, dolphin key chain and keepsake Rubbah Slippah magnets and more. Two adult and two children explorers also receive a daily full breakfast buffet and a one-time Ocean Sports glass bottom boat cruise of Anaeho’omalu Bay. The swimming and snorkeling are great at A-Bay too!

For West Coast  families looking for something fun with a Halloween theme, the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay in San Diego is offering poolside monster mash hula hoop contests, pumpkin painting, trick-or-treat bag decorating and more. Back by popular demand are hair-raising waterslides (with eerie fog and enhanced with haunted music, ghostly sounds and spooky lighting) and spider-webbed pool cabanas and creepy cocktails for adults add to the fun. Come nightfall, families can trick-or-treat around the property then enjoy a spirited family movie at the pool.  The program is offered over two weekends – Oct. 23-24 and Oct. 29-30.  They are offering a special, spine-chilling non-refundable getaway rate of $169 per night  for the weekend of Oct. 29-30. 
And don’t forget that just across the bay, families can enjoy more frightening fun at SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular. The park gets into the spirit with a silly and spooky Pirates 4-D movie experience, The Search for Captain Lucky’s Treasure walk-through adventure, gobs of ghoulish goodies for trick-or-treaters around the park, a children’s costume parade and an enchanting underwater Halloween Fantasea

Make Some Memories

Just because the teens, tweens and kids are back to school doesn’t mean that family travel fun is done.   Check the calendar. With long weekends for Columbus and Veterans Days and maybe school conferences or  Thanksgiving breaks there are lots of opportunites for some quick family travel getaways at great prices.  And don’t forget to enter the Four Seasons Luxury Family Travel Giveway!
Sep 202010

     When we visited Hawaii’s Big Island we spent a lot of time outdoors (see our Top 10 must do list of Hawaii Big Island activities here).  Hawaii is truly a land still being created and we were constantly amazed at the abilityof stunning plants to thrive in what appeared to be barren volcanic soil.  We thought you’d enjoy a look back at the colors and contrasts of life in the volcano zone.

     The active volcanic areas such as the Halema`uma`u crater at the Kīlauea summit and the ocean entry, where new lava pours into the sea, feature large smoking plumes of sulfur-laden gas that create a pretty hostile area for any kind of flora or fauna.

A smoldering Halema`uma`u crater on the summit of the Kīlauea volcano

     Amazingly however, plant life quickly establishes itself and works to transform the landscape.  Examples of the powers that the island’s plant life have to re-emerge after the lava cools were abundant.  Along the Devastation Trail, the cinder field left from a 1959 eruption is showing signs of new life.

The Devastation Trail shows the results of a major eruption

      But amid the cinders, new life takes hold and blooms.

Amid the cinders life renews

      Along the Chain of Craters Road, which offers access a number of trails and lava viewing overlooks, the lava fields show signs of new life.  Even in the East Rift Area, where the flows are active, the plant life returns quickly.

The lava ocean entry in the East Rift Zone

Green emerges in the most barren areas

     In older volcanic areas, such as dormant Mauna Kea which last erupted 4,500 years ago, a wide range of vegetation has returned including some very rare plants like the Silversword.

Silversword at 9,200 feet altitude near the Mauna Kea Visitor Center

     Finally, in rainy areas where volcanic activity occurred in the distant past, ferns and large trees return to stand next to ancient lava trees.

Lush ferns at Lava Tree Monument

      We felt like we were in Jurassic Park!

Lava Trees are left behind when lava cools around a live tree

     Hawaii’s Big Island is a wonderful family vacation for teens and tweens.  The challenges of hiking, snorkeling and exploring the island assure they will never get bored.  We highly recommend making the trip.

    We included a link to this post in the Delicious Baby Photo Friday round-up.  Stop by over there for more fun family travel photos.

Hamakua Coast: Breathtaking Views

 Posted by on December 30, 2009  Comments Off
Dec 302009

     The Hamakua Coast is generally defined as covering the northern section of the island above Hilo, along the Mamalahoa Highway (also known as Highway 19) to Waimea.  As we were planning to stay on the east side of the island for several days we used the day of our drive from Kohala to Hilo to take in the breaktaking views along the way.  This is another in our series on Top 10 Big Island of Hawaii Activities for families travelling with teens and tweens.  Click the link to see the rest!

Hamakua Coast Offers Glimpse of Old Hawaii

     The coast was once covered in sugar cane plantations but all that remains today are stands of wild sugar cane by the side of the road.  Much of the area has a remote, wild feel to it with steep cliffs providing beautiful views of rugged coastline.  We did not have the time to visit the remote but famed Waipio Valley but did find time for the following stops:

  • The Parker Ranch just 10 miles away from Kohala but a world apart from the resorts covers over 40% of the island.  Although we didn’t stop to do the official ranch tour,  just driving through the Ranch and the town of Waimea gave us a look at a vast, lush agricultural landscape that was starkly different from the lavascapes we had left behind. 

    Parker Ranch

    Parker Ranch

  • Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park  stands in tribute to 20 children and adults that were camping at the park in 1946 and lost their lives to a devasting tusnami.  This is a great lunch spot as picnic tables overlook the lava tidepools and crashing waves.
Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park

Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park

  • Pepeekeo Scenic Drive about 5 miles North of Hilo.  This 4 mile drive allows a chance to get off the main highway and travel a winding local road over one lane bridges and rain forest. 

     Akaka Falls, which is discussed in a separate post is also nearby.  Give yourself enough time to really enjoy this part of the island, it is definitely more than a drive by.

Dec 302009

As a young volcanic island, Hawaii’s Big Island offers a wide range of beaches and sands of many different colors.  Frequently these beaches are hidden away in small coves and often the sand can be gritty and sharp.  For our teen and tween, who have been raised going to the Jersey Shore, a trip to the beach means soft sugar sand and waves for body surfing all day.  If this sounds like your travelling companions then Hapuna Beach is the place to go.  This is another in our series on the Top 10 Big Island of Hawaii activities for families travelling with teens and tweens.  Click the link to see the rest!

Hapuna Beach Worth the Drive

On the Big Island, ocean front hotels and resorts do not necessarily include direct access to a beach.  Many hotels and condos are situated on lava cliffs which are beautiful but don’t offer much in the way of a real beach experience.   Unless you are staying in one of the few resorts that are directly on a good beach, you owe it to your teens to get in the car and take the drive to Hapuna Beach.

The half-mile long crescent beach is everything you expect from a beach on a tropical island!  The sand itself is truly white and the slope into the water is so gentle that you can go out over 100 feet to body surf or just enjoy the waves.  We were told there is good snorkeling at the north end of the beach, past the hotel, but we had so much fun in the waves we never got that far.

This is a state beach so you won’t find any waitresses bringing you drinks with umbrellas in them.   There is however, a great little snack bar where we got burgers for lunch and shaved ice for dessert.  The beach also offers lifeguards, showers, bathrooms and picnic tables in shaded areas overlooking the beach.  We went during the week and had no problem with crowds, although it is likely to fill up more on the weekends when local people have a chance to enjoy their island’s beautiful beach!

A word to the wise

A word to the wise, as with any Big Island beach pay attention to rip tide warnings.  We were at Hapuna late in August and the waves were perfect.  However, when winter storms rage off shore and the waves go above 3 ft., conditions can become dangerous.

Akaka Falls – A Walk in the Rain Forest

 Posted by on December 29, 2009  Comments Off
Dec 292009

     The Big Island offers a wide range of opportunities to view waterfalls, although the time of year and the amount of recent rain can really impact how impressive they look. We were in Hawaii in the late stages of a rather extended drought so some waterfalls were a little thin. Access to falls can vary from drive-by pull overs to hikes through the rain forest. This is another in our series on Top 10 Activities for families with teens and tweens on the Big Island of Hawaii. Click the link for info on the other 9!

Waterfall Walks Near Hilo

     Since we stayed several days on the east side of the island, we visited waterfalls that were short drives from Hilo.   Akaka Falls, located 11 miles North of Hilo, near the small town of Homomu.  Akaka Falls State Park offers a dramatic 442 ft waterfall (twice the height of Niagra Falls) accessed via a short hike on a paved trail.  

View of Akaka Falls on the big Island of Hawaii reached on walk with teens and tweens

Akaka Falls in the afternoon sunlight

     Leaving the parking area, the trail splits with the shorter path to the falls going down the left fork.  We opted for the longer stroll to the right which took us over a couple of rolling hills through forests of ferns, flowers and rain forest trees and provided a view of 100 ft tall Kahuna Falls, on the way to the main event at Akaka Falls.  The longer loop is less crowded and affords more of a rain forest experience if you have the time.  It also provided our growing kids the opportunity to demonstrate that their legs and knees are in better shape than mom’s and dad’s as they repeatedly, but good naturedly, had to wait for us to catch up to their energetic strides!

A view of Kahuna Falls on the way to Akaka Falls on the Big Island of Hawaii

A view of Kahuna Falls on the way to Akaka Falls

Rainbow Falls, A Short Trip from Downtown Hilo

     We also stopped by Rainbow Falls in the Wailuku River State Park , which is just outside of Hilo.  The 80 ft falls drop in front of a lava cave and  into some pretty pools but after Akaka Falls it was sort of a let down.  We continued down the road in search of the “boiling pots”, a series of active pools connected by underground lava tubes.  However, these were not too active due to the drought so we were soon on our way.  This is a nice side trip if you are heading this way en route to the Saddle Road but may not be worth making a special  trip to visit unless your family really loves waterfalls.

Hilo Family Travel Tips

Sea Turtles and more at A-Bay

 Posted by on December 28, 2009  Comments Off
Dec 282009

     Anaeho’omalu Bay (locally known as A-Bay) near the Waikola Marriott is a protected beach known for its traditional royal fish ponds, lava rock tide pools and frequent  sea turtle sightings.   We found the sand here too gritty for sunbathing comfort (bring beach shoes if you go), but since it has public access and was walking distance from our condo  it was a great place for a quick sunset dip and our teen and tween found the sea turtles to be intriguing.   This is another in our posting about the 10 Top  Big Island of Hawaii adventures for families with teens and tweens.  Click the link for the full list.

A-Bay at sunset

A-bay is a great place for a sunset swim, particularly if you are staying in the nearby condos or hotel

Sea Turtles Frequent A-Bay

     Green Sea turtles, know locally as Honu, are an ancient and threatened species that can be seen at different locations throughout the island.  Unlike many wild animals, the Honu are peaceful and are willing to let you watch them from a respectful distance (i.e. 20 feet or more) for as long as you want.   To keep them healthy it is important not to touch them or bother them when they are resting.  

Sea Turtles rest on Big Island of Hawaii Beaches

Sea Turtles are often seen resting on the beach, but give them some space

     As mentioned in our earlier posts, the Honu will often pull up on the beach at the Place of Refuge and can be seen in the waters near Kealakekua Bay.   However, A-bay in the Kohala Coast Waikola resort area was our favortie sea turtle viewing location.   The turtles here will rest in the tidal pools, floating in the gentle tide of this protected Bay.   Several times while swimming near shore we had sea turtles approach us and swim along side.  

A Coastal Stroll

     When you lose interest in the turtles there is a beautiful, rustic coastal path along the several tidal coves that connect the Marriott to the Hilton.  There are also side paths out to the street that provide coastal access to the various condo complexes in the area.

Dec 262009

       This is another in our Top 10 Activities on the Big Island of Hawaii discussions.  Please click the link for more info on the rest.   

View of a single petroglyph on the Big Island of Hawaii

A typical petroglyph

Petroglyphs – a look into the past

     Although there are several locations where you can see petroglyphs on the Big Island the largest is the Puakõ Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve, located just north of the Fairmont Orchid Hotel.   There are about 1,200 petroglyphs in the main area which is accessed via the 1.5 mile roundtrip Malama Trail.  The first part of the trail winds through a scrubby Keawe tree  forest, past a lava cave, and then up a hill and out across an open lava field. 

Landscape on the hike to Hawaii Big Island Petroglyph preserve

The scrub forest reminds us of old Hawaii

     Although there are some individual petroglyphs along the way the actual petroglyph field at the end of the trail is amazing.  Some of the  images are estimated to be as much as 1,000 years old.  It is a very special, uncrowded place that reminds you that these islands belonged to the Hawaiian people long before the tourists invaded.

The Big Island Hawaii Petroglyph Field contains over 1,000 figures

The Petroglyph Field contains over 1,000 figures

     Be careful near the ruins and do not attempt to make rubbings as this damages the fragile petroglyphs.  Wear solid toe shoes and bring water as the lava can be rough and it can get hot particularly in the areas that are not shaded.   The best time to take photos is late afternoon.

More petroglyphs on Big Island Hawaii Hike

More petroglyphs

     Other locations where petroglyphs can be see include an area near the Kings Shops in the Waikoloa Resort area and off the Chain of Craters Road in Volcanos National Park.

Waikoloa Family Travel Tips