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Missy Kaleohano is no stranger to girlfriend getaways. So when her friends were in search of something fun to do together on Hawaii Island, she proposed taking a group horseback ride through the rolling hills of Waimea. Though some of Kaleohano’s friends considered themselves novice horse riders, the animals were calm and experienced and the scenery green and beautiful. By the end of the ride, they all felt invigorated and accomplished.
“Girlfriend getaways on Hawaii Island promote a sense of discovery and shared adventure,” said Kaleohano, who is the marketing manager at the Big Island Visitors Bureau. “It’s truly an experience to be able to soak in Hawaii Island’s gorgeous and dramatic scenery with friends.”
These types of gal pal-only vacations have soared in popularity in the last decade. A survey from AAA and Aspire Marketing found that 24 percent of female Americans have taken a girlfriend getaway in the past three years, and 39 percent plan on taking one in the next three years. Seventy percent of women cited the desire to bond with friends or family as their main motivation behind taking a girlfriend getaway, and 65 percent said they wanted to take a break from daily concerns.
Girlfriend getaways aren’t limited to single college students in pursuit of a golden tan. Women of all ages take these trips to reconnect with friends and female relatives and to celebrate events such as birthdays or bachelorette parties.
Donna Kimura, marketing director for the Big Island Visitors Bureau, said Hawaii Island, with its sundry climate and endless activities, is the perfect location for such a getaway. She likes to take her girlfriends to the eastern side of the island.
“With Hilo, Pahoa and Volcano in the region, this side of the island offers many options for shopping, history and farmers markets, as well as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park,” said Kimura. “Friends from out of town usually appreciate a stop at places such as Big Island Candies [in Hilo] and Akatsuka Orchids [in Volcano] to get gifts for friends at home.”
For the more adventurous of women vacationing together, Kaleohano recommends viewing the stars on a Mauna Kea Volcano tour, swimming with manta rays in Kona, snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay and seeing the island’s diverse landscape via helicopter. Interesting educational stops include Imiloa Astronomy Center; Lyman Museum and Mission House; and Pacific Tsunami Museum.
Foodies can visit Hilo Coffee Mill and Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut’s visitor center, also in Hilo, for their fill of delicious samples. Kimura also recommends that gal pals grab dinner by the ocean at Hilo Bay Cafe and try fresh saimin — a uniquely Asian-inspired Hawaiian soup and noodle dish — at Nori’s Saimin & Snacks. They can also satisfy their sweet tooth with strawberry mochi from Two Ladies Kitchen, less than two miles away.
Where to StayHawaii Island offers a variety of resorts and hotels to accommodate any type of female travel group, from fans of fine dining to flora and fauna enthusiasts.
Kaleohano recommends Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, in the heart of Kailua-Kona village, for women who want to learn about the culture and history of the region.
The hotels and condominiums of Waikoloa Beach Resort on the Kohala Coast stand within close proximity of premier shopping, golf, dining and ocean sports — fitting for gals with an extensive range of interests.
Lady yogis and travelers seeking inner calm can find residence at the Kalani Oceanside Retreat in Pahoa, which offers retreats and workshops focused on yoga, nature and wellness.
For home-away-from-home accommodations in a peaceful rainforest community, Kimura recommends one of the bed-and-breakfasts in Volcano Village, near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Have a soft spot for luxury, but feeling the restrictions of a budget? Kaleohano suggests the current Stay and Dine package at the oceanfront condo rentals of Mauna Lani Point in Waimea. A fifth night free and a $200 dining certificate to Ruth’s Chris Steak House make for an enticing deal. The offer is good until Dec. 20.
“Hawaii Island has a way of bringing people closer together — on a scenic drive to the next town; in appreciating the island’s beauty; and through its unique markets, festivals, restaurants and shopping,” said Kaleohano.