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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Budget-Friendly Maui

Last month I was invited to a meet and greet with the Maui Visitors Center and several reps from the area. I was thrilled to learn more about Maui, Moloka'i and Lana'i. These three islands are not as crowded as Oahu and are pretty unique and totally embody everything you expect Hawaii to be. Most of us know that Hawaii can be pretty expensive and I know there are tons of travelers who have it on their wish list, but think they can never make it there because they are on a budget. What I learned was, with a little planning, it can easily be done. Today we'll talk about Maui and next we'll talk about the other two islands.

What to do in Maui
When in Hawaii, you want to do what the locals do, because those are the most cultural, fun and also affordable. When you get there, turn the radio dial to 93.5 FM (which also streams online, so you could listen even before you reach Maui). Not only will you get to hear some great local music, but this is also where they will announce community calendar events. Make sure you add the Maui Arts & Cultural Center to your vacation schedule. They offer free events and entertainment for the locals and tourists throughout the year. Those with a rental car should also make the road to Hana trip. With just the investment in gas, you'll be able to see some of the most beautiful scenery. All beaches in Hawaii are public, so bring your swimsuit and towel, so you can jump out and explore the beach and waves whenever the mood strikes.

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You know by now how much I love food and Hawaii has some of the best seafood and other cuisine I've actually had on my travels. If you also have an inner foodie, it's worth the splurge to visit Maui in August for the Food and Wine Festival. You'll be able to sample some of the most delicious foods from amazing area chefs. Go budget and only spend a little more on a few great restaurants that you wouldn't be able to dine in otherwise by visiting in May or November for Restaurant Week. These weeks are so popular that visitors plan far in advance to make sure they travel during that time. Three-course prix fixe menus run $29, $39 and $49 and this next week (November 9-15) has 23 resort restaurants in Wailea participating. A portion of your dining total also goes to benefit the Maui Food Bank.

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How else can you save on dining? Hawaii has some fantastic farmers' markets, and since the weather is great the majority of the year, they are open year-round. Purchasing locally-grown fruits and veggies helps you save money, try new things and support the locals. If you have a kitchen in your accommodation - which I highly recommend - you can use these to make salads and side dishes. Fruit is also a quick and easy breakfast. Dine out for less by hitting up restaurant happy hours. This is a great way to try several different dishes instead of just one, do it on a budget and maybe indulge in a little Hawaiian cocktail. Grab restaurant-quality meals without the sit-down experience at the food trucks in Maui.
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See the beautiful Maui landscape from above, with a zipline adventure. Pi'iholo Ranch Adventures offers multiple line canopy tours for adults and older children. It's a fun way to spend several hours. If heights aren't really your thing, look into their horseback riding tours. Indulge someone else in your party by booking a zipline and waterfall hiking combo where your zipline tour ends with a swim in a waterfall and lunch. Don't forget your camera!

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Realistically, we all can't stay at the Ritz Carlton, though we'd like to and they include a bunch of activities in their nightly rates, which makes it more of a value. If you want to experience the incredible service of this luxury hotel, without going broke, there's a great way to do it. Take the Coastal Trail to Kapalua Bay and park for free at DT Flemings Beach. After you have soaked up some sun, throw on a beach cover-up or a sundress and walk over to the Ritz's Beach House for an upscale oceanview lunch. This casual restaurant serves of Hawaiian favorites with outstanding service. You can expect to spend $20-25 per person, which is pretty great considering the amazing view and that you spent no money enjoying the beach. You'll feel even better knowing that the Ritz Carlton does more than its share to help the environment and preserve the gorgeous Hawaii landscape.

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So, where can you stay? There are actually some beautiful and comfortable Maui resorts that cater to the budget traveler. Be aware that budget-friendly for Hawaii is a bit more than budget-friendly elsewhere, so you may need to save a little more before you plan your trip. Ka'anapali Beach Hotel doesn't offer all those extras that are hardly ever used, like a monster pool or fitness room. Instead, if offers daily breakfast, oceanfront views and complimentary activities for all ages from a modest $174/night. Parents and their kids can take part in the Aloha Passports for Kids. 12 years and under receive their passports and can get stamps and rewards by doing different activities where they will learn about the culture of Hawaii. The hotel offers more for families and just the adults, including ukulele lessons and a nightly hula show. Think of all the money you can save when many of your activities can be found right on the resort grounds.

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Go all-inclusive with Travaasa Maui in Hana. While you can also pay a la carte, it just makes more sense to book your stay for 3+ nights where you will receive three meals per day, a $125 spa credit, a free flight from Maui's Kahului Airport with shuttle service from Hana Airport to the resort. Need a rental car for the day or your entire trip? Travaasa has partnered with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to help you out. Your beautiful room and delicious meals are not the only things to make this resort worth the $600 per night rate (a la carte rates start at $350/night). All your activities are included. Travaasa offers many complimentary tours and hikes, nightly Hawaiian entertainment, yoga and archery. I realize this doesn't scream budget-friendly at all, but for a a short escape from the real world that includes a ton of romantic and relaxing activities, this might be just the place to splurge.

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If Travaasa is way out of your price range, and believe me, I totally understand if it is, since many of us only have $1,800 for our entire vacation, then you might want to check into Napili Kai Beach Resort. The resort's motto is "We don't nickel and dime our guests." Room rates start at $280/night and starting August 23rd they are offering a 7th night free through the end of the year. Now through October 17, book three nights and the third night is free in certain rooms where the pool is not available (the beach is rightthere.) There is never a resort fee, even though they offer countless activities for guests. Go snorkeling for free with complimentary beach gear. Enjoy nightly entertainment, including Polynesian song and dance performed by the children of Napili Kai Foundation. Kids eat free, mid-morning refreshments, hula lessons, bocce ball, weekly Mai Tai parties and so much more. You get free Wi-Fi and boarding pass printing in the lobby, plus most rooms include kitchenettes, so you can save even more, which is perfect for families. There are even laundry facilities with complimentary detergent, so you can pack light and avoid baggage fees. Score!

Have you been to Maui? What are your favorite ways to save?

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