A Snowbird’s Guide to Hawaii

Hawaii - Canadian Snowbird Guide
Photo Credit: Dronepicr

Hawaii has long been a favourite with Canadian snowbirds, particularly from Western Canada, due to its proximity in the central Pacific Ocean.  America’s 50th State, Hawaii is the most northerly of the Polynesian islands and comprises 8 major islands along with hundreds of smaller volcanic islands. 

It is a true paradise on earth, offering dramatic scenery, extensive rainforests, warm ocean waters and public beaches, along with a perfect year-round tropical climate.  

There is a wide variety of accommodations in Hawaii, in particular on the islands of Oahu and Maui, including condos, planned vacation communities, rental homes and beach cottages.  

Snowbirds will have to consider the costs of wintering in Hawaii, as Hawaii has a much higher cost of living than many other destinations.  Long term rentals in winter tend to be more expensive than in other places as the destination is in high demand from tourists as well as snowbirds.  

Unless you are renting in Honolulu or Waikiki, you will also need to rent a car for your stay to get around and explore whichever island you have chosen. And of course, whichever island you call home base, you will want to island hop to explore some of the others while you are there!

Hawaii is approximately 5 hours by plane from the Pacific Coast of North America. There are direct flights from Vancouver and Calgary as well as connecting flights from other points in Canada and the U.S. There are also seasonal nonstop flights from Toronto.  

Oahu

Oahu is the 3rd largest island and is home to over 60% of Hawaii’s population. Honolulu is the state capital and its largest city, home to world-renowned Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbour and Diamond Head state monument. The island’s North Shore features dramatic scenery where much of the television series “Lost “was filmed and where you can see surfers tackle 60 ft. waves. 

Waikiki Beach is a gorgeous crescent shaped beach with many luxury hotels located along its shores.  It is located right in Honolulu and the city surrounds the beach, offering many condo and apartment rentals within walking distance. 

Honolulu has a lively restaurant and bar scene featuring Asian fusion, Hawaiian and Polynesian cuisine.  There’s lots for snowbirds to see and do including the USS Arizona museum, Pearl Harbour and hiking Diamond Head.  

The city offers upscale shopping and dining and has all the amenities of a large, American city set against a backdrop of towering mountains and constant rainbows. Several golf courses are nearby.

Kailua is a smaller beach town located just 30 minutes from downtown Honolulu but on the windward shore. It is a sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle of Honolulu, a sleepy seaside community with one of the world’s best beaches.

The town features boutiques and restaurants but the main attraction is the beach and watersports. 

Snowbirds can rent condos, houses and cabins in Kailua.

Makaha Beach Park is a surfer’s dream, located on Oahu’s Western shores. In winter, the surf can become considerable, and only suitable for experienced surfers and swimmers.  Watching the surfers can be an endless source of entertainment. 

There are condos, studios, gated communities and houses to rent in the area. The area is a short drive from Honolulu. 

Oahu’s famous North Shore has been the location for many TV shows and films.  It is incredibly beautiful and is the site of world class surfing competitions.  The massive waves rolling in from the north in winter are a sight to behold!

Although a generally laid back, seaside community, the area has become very popular with daily visitors. Casual restaurants and bars can be found along the coast. If you are wintering on Oahu, a trip to the North Shore is a must.

Hawaii - the Big Island 

The Big Island is so-named because it is the largest island in the archipelago. The island is home to Wailuku River State Park and the dramatic Rainbow Falls with its mysterious mists. The Boiling Pots lava rock pools are an endless source of fascination. In the south, Volcanoes National Park features two active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. The interior also has large cattle ranches and plantations.

The island is filled with natural wonders and offers snowbirds much to explore, see and do. 

Go horseback riding, explore in an AV, and try hiking or snorkelling.  The island also has many wonderful golf courses. 

Condos, apartments and homes can be found for long term rentals. Flights are available into Kona.

Hilo is a small town on the Big Island (Hawaii) a true nature lover’s paradise with lush gardens, rainforests and volcanoes that is popular among snowbirds. The town also hosts a market twice a week. The frequent warm rainfall ensures magnificent gardens and greenery.

Pahoa will make you wonder if you’ve arrived back in the Old West.  Raised wooden sidewalks, wooden storefronts and old buildings are home to galleries, craft markets, restaurants and boutiques.  The quaint town is a favourite with snowbirds and other visitors and is near some major papaya plantations.

The Kona & Kailua district stretches for about 60 miles along the West coast of the Big Island near the Kona International Airport.  Discover the gentle Manta Rays when you snorkel or scuba dive here in calm, clear waters on this sheltered coast.  Deep sea fishing is also a popular pastime. 

There are several resort areas and national parks, as well as shops & restaurants in historic Kailua Village. 

Maui

Beautiful Maui has been attracting Canadian snowbirds for decades.  There is an abundance of condos and apartments and hotels along its Western shores which are home to beautiful beaches.

Watersports of all kinds abound and there’s also great deep sea fishing. Exploring the island is a must, especially the famous scenic drive to the village of Hana – but this is not for the feint of heart!  You can take a guided tour or drive yourself on the Hana Highway where you will witness some of the most dramatic scenery anywhere in the world. 

Maui is also a top whale watching spot where visitors can take boat tours in the spring when the whales are nearby.

Another excursion is to the Haleakala volcanic bowl - a huge crater that covers a large part of the island of Maui. From up at the top, you have spectacular views of the island and surreal landscapes. 

The island has stunning golf courses and watersports of all kinds. Fly in and out of Maui at Kahului airport.

Ka’anapali Beach is one of the most popular tourism areas on Maui – three miles of sandy beach and lots of choices of condos, hotels, resorts and efficiency units to rent, along with lots of shopping and restaurants.

Lahaina is a charming old town near the beaches of Ka’anapali and Kapalua that attracts visitors year-round to its many restaurants, boutiques and bars.  The town was once the capital of Hawaii before it was moved to Honolulu and Lahaina’s historic Front Street dates back to the 1800s. 

Kapalua is a former private estate - a pineapple plantation - on the northwest shores of Maui and is home to several fabulous golf courses, resorts and condos. A golfer’s paradise, the area is recognized as one of the best golf resorts in the world. 

Sunny Kihei is the driest spot on Maui, located on the Southwest shores where you will find broad sandy beaches stretching for miles. Surfing, kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving and swimming in the ocean will pass the time…..and you will likely spot some whales as well. 

The area is also a National Wildlife Conservation Area where rare birds can be spotted. The Maui Ocean Center is in nearby Maalaea.

Canadian snowbirds will find more affordable accommodations here in the form of cottages, condos, small hotels and there’s lots of good shopping, restaurants, a farmer’s market and a lively nightlife.

Kauai

Kauai is largely one big tropical rainforest, an absolute delight for nature lovers. Dubbed the “Garden Island” Kauai is geographically rich, boasting rainforest, waterfalls, desert, wetlands, beaches and mountains.

Not to be missed is Waimea Canyon which rivals the Grand Canyon for spectacular views and is actually referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. 

Kayaking, snorkelling, hiking and helicopter tours are favourites with visitors here. Getting to Kauai is relatively easy….there are some direct flights from U.S. cities or you can easily take a short hop flight from Maui or Honolulu.
 
Princeville is a vast planned vacation community on the north shore of the island of Kauai featuring two championship golf courses, condos and homes that can be rented. Princeville is located in an area where there were extensive sugar plantations and cattle ranches. Enjoy zip lining, horseback riding or hiking the nearby. 

The communities of Wailua, Kapa’a and Kilauea also offer rental accommodation for snowbirds on Kauai.