Two women in the cockpit at Original Glider Rides on Oahu. // (C) 2009 Oahu Visitors Bureau
Whenever clients ask travel agent Lu Maggiora to line up a girlfriends getaway, the first word out of her mouth is Oahu. In fact, the San Ramon, Calif.-based Maggiora considers the island a tropical New York City, calling it the Big Pineapple because of its wealth of shopping, dining, spa and entertainment options.
“Gals can do it all on Oahu,” said Maggiora, part of the Vacation Discounters team. “They can have both city and country experiences, all in the atmosphere of tropical breezes and sandy beaches.
Travel agents have been finding great success selling Oahu as a memorable destination for gal pals, said Oahu Visitors Bureau travel industry sales director Stacey Alford.
“Trips have taken on a deeper, more relationship-driven purpose in recent years,” Alford said. “That includes trips shared by female friends, mothers and daughters, college buddies or women celebrating a bachelorette party. There will always be a niche market for girlfriend getaways, because it’s an ideal time for bonding experiences, heart-to-hearts and relaxation.”
While Oahu provides plenty of opportunities for massages, mai tais, sunset cruises and other traditional pastimes, it also invites gal pals on extraordinary exploits.
“My girlfriend getaway clients range from twenty-somethings to baby boomers,” said Maggiora. “They may start out saying they just want to get away from their workaday worlds to relax in the sun and maybe visit a spa, but once they hear about all that the island has to offer, they’re ready to spice up their journey.”
That’s when savvy agents can swing into action. Kim Taber of El Dorado Hills Travel in El Dorado Hills, Calif., has planned many girlfriend getaways to Oahu.
“Once, four gals who were runners thought it would be a good excuse to travel to Oahu and take part in the Honolulu Marathon together,” said Taber. “It worked out well for them. Since they were active, I also booked them on a Twogood Kayaks trip to the Mokulua Islands in Kailua Bay, off the windward side of the island. They loved it.”
Paula Hobble, an agent with Focus on Travel in Beaverton, Ore., likes to tell culinary-minded women about Hawaii Food Tours. A vanload of gourmands rolls from place to place, discovering eateries that visitors might never find on their own.
“I recommend the company’s Hole-in-the-Wall option, because it lets the ladies try cuisine that’s outside their comfort zone, like Hawaiian plate lunches, Vietnamese rolls and Japanese bento boxes,” said Hobble. “It’s the perfect size of tour for a group of girlfriends.”
Looking skyward, agents can enhance the ladies’ escape by suggesting a flight in a bubble-topped sailplane with Soar Hawaii, providing unique perspectives on the beautiful scenery below. For the ultimate aerial thrill, they can take the plunge over Oahu’s North Shore with Skydive Hawaii, providing mutual memories that they’ll talk about for the rest of the trip and well beyond.
Taber considers Bike Hawaii a sure bet for girlfriends who want to explore the island on terra firma. Along with two-wheeled junkets on paved roads and mountain trails, the firm leads clients on kayaking, hiking and sail-and-snorkel adventures.
When it comes to watersports, women rarely turn down a lesson with the off-duty Honolulu firefighters of Hawaiian Fire Surf School. Not only do the guides provide the gals with a bit of eye candy, but they do a great job of teaching Hawaii’s sport of kings. Agents can further enhance the girlfriends’ itinerary by booking them with Wild Side Specialty Tours’ intimate eco-friendly cruises that allow guests to swim with wild dolphins.
For artistically inclined clients, Hobble likes to indulge their passions at Shangri La, the 1937 estate of heiress Doris Duke. The home itself is architecturally significant, and the interior boasts an impressive collection of Islamic works.
For women with a big shopping list, Maggiora suggests what she calls “the holy trinity” of Oahu shopping: the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, an island-style flea market where bartering and bantering with salespeople is part of the fun; Waikele Outlet Mall, home of 50 premium retailers offering reduced rates; and the Honolulu-based Ala Moana Center, a shopper’s mecca with 290 stores, kiosks and dining establishments in an open-air setting.
When it comes to accommodations for a girlfriend getaway, Hobble opts for safe, centrally located lodgings in Waikiki. Often, she said, the ladies like to share suites or accommodations with multiple bedrooms and kitchens.
“Sometimes I book a condo with two or three bedrooms so my clients can spend the most time together,” said Hobble. “The Aston Waikiki Sunset lists some great prices for the budget-minded.”
The inventory at Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach Walk can also be configured for two- and three-bedroom accommodations, she noted.
No matter what the itinerary, Maggiora recommends that agents booking girlfriend getaways get in touch with their hotel’s sales staff ahead of time.
“It’s particularly good if there’s a special occasion like a birthday to celebrate,” she said. “A nice little welcome amenity is a great way to kick off a trip with the gals, and it reminds them that you — their travel consultant — are thinking of them during their one-of-a-kind trip with the girls.”