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Expert advice

Download This Game-Changing App Before Planning Your Next Trip to Hawaii

One Owner shares the Hawaii travel tip that made her time in the Islands memorable

Irene C
Aerial view of Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii.

A few summers ago, my two teenage sons and I packed our carry-on bags and took flight for our first Hawaiian vacation.   

We took a direct flight from Boston to Honolulu. Twelve hours is no picnic when your teenager has a growth spurt in the last eight months of trip planning and is suddenly 6'2" tall. (Consider extended legroom seats when flying that far.) 

Thankfully, the service on Hawaii Airlines got the Aloha spirit pumping right away, and when the wheels touched the tarmac in Oahu we were already relaxed.

Hilton Grand Vacations Owner and Explorer, Irene, posing by a koi pond at Hilton Hawaiian Village on Oahu in Hawaii.    

We stayed at Grand Waikikian by Hilton Grand Vacations, which is a fantastic hotel in Hilton Hawaiian Village®. My kids loved the coy ponds, parrots, sculptures scattered across the property and especially the pond on the beach. Night views of the city were to die for, and the fireworks on the beach kicked off the festivities of our trip.  

When we arrived, I stopped by the concierge desk and accepted an invitation for a member portfolio review for the following day, and I'm so glad I did. 

In our brief and friendly conversation with the Sales Executive, I learned two very useful pieces of information. 

First, when planning a trip to Hawaii, be aware of Japan’s major holidays. We visited in mid-August, at the tail end of the (major) Japanese holiday Obon. It typically makes for a heavy travel week for families. Most local attractions and sites were crowded, so we were determined to spend our days on the road. 

The second tip was to upload a self-driving tour app called Shaka Guide, and that handy app was a lifesaver for the rest of our trip.

Downtown Honolulu lighting up the night sky with its city lights on Oahu in Hawaii.    

It's a phone app that's easy to upload. Then simply pick the island you're on, and the time you have available for your road trip, and then choose a tour. 

It’s that easy.

There is a fee for each tour your choose, but the prices are very reasonable. Shaka Guide is a smart app that syncs with your car audio system, and it takes you on an exploration trip at your own pace in the comfort of your rental car, with the company you choose. 

There are no tour buses, no large tour groups, and you get to decide when and where you stop.  

Overhead shot of healthy lunch with fresh greens and green juice.    

Your GPS guides you as you drive from one stunning sight to another, while you enjoy a professional narration about Hawaiian history, culture, religion and places of interest. 

It even gives you a heads up about upcoming sites, such as beaches or restaurants, and you can make stops that interest you, taking your time to explore as long as you like. Once you're ready to move on, the tour picks up right where you left off.   

It was so enjoyable that even my teenagers took out their earbuds to listen and explore. We took several Shaka self-driving tours on Oahu that week, and we'll take the same approach on The Big Island. 

Read 6 Can't-Miss Outdoor Tours to Book on the Big Island for more Hawaii vacation travel tips. 

Hilton Grand Vacations Explorer Irene C.

Irene C

Irene made her home at Hilton Grand Vacations at Tuscany Village in 2016, but her heart is in Hawaii. Her favorite travel memory is a trip to Kings' Land by Hilton Grand Vacations and exploring Volcanoes National Park while listening to Shaka Guide, a self-guided audio tour. 

Irene travels with her partner and two teenage boys. As a foodie and culture seeker, you'll find her in oceanfront accommodations within walking distance to fine dining, shopping, nightlife with live music and cultural experiences. Irene, a regular on TripAdvisor, says she enjoys inspiring fellow travelers with her stories. 

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