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After disasters, now is the perfect time to go to Hawaii!

Author: Jeanne Cooper

Publication: The San Francisco Chronicle

Fall has always been relatively fallow for Hawaii tourism: The kids are in school, the holidays are coming. In response, rates fall too — and the travel industry tries to entice visitors with special multi-island events like the ongoing Hawaii Food and Wine Festival or the recent Aloha Festivals.

But this autumn has seen an unusual flurry of deals in airfare and lodgings — some valid through spring, excepting the winter holidays — along with empty places on tours and activities in the islands. The bargains and lack of crowds appear to result from the drop in bookings that began in summer, when tourism officials believe viral images of volcanic activity in a remote area unnecessarily frightened prospective travelers.

In Maui’s tony Wailea resort, Fairmont Kea Lani hotel is advertising discounts of 30 percent off through Dec. 24, plus complimentary breakfast, via its #AlwaysKeaLani social media campaign. Destination Residences Hawaii condos and homes in Wailea offer advance-purchase discounts of up to 45 percent off, plus free rental cars with five-night bookings.

On Hawaii Island, where the lava stopped flowing weeks ago and most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park reopened Sept. 22, Volcano Village is still eerily quiet. Kilauea Lodge, a restaurant and inn that also suffered a drastic drop in business during the eruption, now offers diners happy hour specials from 2 to 5 p.m. and travelers discounts of some $60 to $70 off nightly rates.

Gail Armand, co-owner of Mahinui Rainforest Weddings, operates a vacation-rental treehouse in Volcano that before the eruption — some 30-plus miles away — was booked 95 percent of the time. Now her Airbnb schedule shows scattered openings through December, and many more after that. “All the lodgings up here are uncrowded, which makes it easy to plan last-minute travel,” she notes.

Hawaiian, Alaska and United airlines are also making last-minute travel easier and cheaper than before, routinely offering round-trip fares from under $400 to $500 from the Bay Area (and even less from Los Angeles). Those booking spur-of- the-moment trips to Kona have found next-day fares as low as $536, while even some holiday travelers have reported notices that Alaska Airlines has lowered their fares.

The carriers have a special incentive to nail down spring reservations now: Southwest Airlines plans to begin flights to Honolulu from Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento and San Diego as soon as possible — perhaps even before the end of the year — and then from Los Angeles shortly after.

The budget airline is also preparing to compete with Hawaiian Airlines on interisland routes to Kauai, Maui and Hawaii Island (Kona), although no schedule has been set for either trans-Pacific or local flights.

Former Chronicle Travel editor Jeanne Cooper is co-author of “Frommer’s Hawaii 2019” guidebook. Email:


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