Christmas in Hawaii: 5 steps to surviving the holidays alone on an island

As a New Englander, it’s hard to imagine Christmas without snow and bitter cold. Almost. There’s something to be said for a “white Christmas”, but there’s also something to be said for Mai Tai’s on the beach in Hawaii. There’s nothing like pine trees draped in snow; then again, there’s something great about a Christmas tree standing between two palm trees and tiki torches.

When I first told people I was going to Hawaii for Christmas I was flooded with concerned responses.

“By yourself?”
“Are you suuuuure?”

My response to each question was a resounding “Yes.” I was going to Hawaii – L’anai to be exact – for 10 days, part of which would spend on hotel reviews and the other half would be a much-needed vacation. It was an end of the year gift to myself on a Hawaiian island so small, most people don’t even know it exists.

I arrived on L’anai via ferry from Maui and was immediately escorted by hotel shuttle to the Four Seasons L’anai, Manele Bay. There are three hotels on the island: two Four Seasons hotels, and one 10-room inn, Hotel L’anai. Within seconds I realized why everyone was so intrigued by my solo travel plans to Hawaii: there is no “party of one” here. Amid the honeymooners and families – and one huge corporate event – there was me. I suddenly became determined to rid everyone of the stigma associated with traveling alone. I’m not depressed, dumped or recently divorced – I just want a vacation.

So, how does a solo traveler enjoy the holidays alone on one of the most secluded and romantic islands in the states? Easy.1. Don’t think of it as ‘alone’, think of it as ‘on holiday without everyone else.’ Back home they are layered in scarves and mittens, fighting over who sits where around the dinner table, and packing in last-minute shopping at the overcrowded malls. You’re sitting on a beach with a cocktail and someone else is do the cooking (tip: The Ocean Grill at Four Season’s Manele Bay makes a great burger!). Enjoy.

2. Request a corner room or room far away from the center of the hotel. This will ensure a little more quiet and you won’t be in the middle of honeymoon and family vacation traffic. If possible, get a room with a balcony. Some of my best moments so far on this trip have been enjoying a morning cup of coffee on my balcony at Manele Bay watching the sunrise over the Hawaiian islands.

3. Choose a hotel with plenty of on-site options and connections to the community. At some point, you’ll want more than the beach. On L’anai, the Four Seasons has two resorts: a beach resort (Manele) and a mountain resort (Koele). Guests of either hotel have access to the other hotel and its activities. I’ve been horseback riding through the mountains, hiking on some of the most beautiful trails, and attended an art show, all thanks to the connections of the hotel.

4. Make friends with the locals. Cliche as it may seem, making friends with the locals can be the difference between feeling sorry for yourself and belting out Journey’s “Separate Ways” and an all-night karaoke bar (not that I’ve done that, mind you). While on L’anai, make sure you stop by Hotel L’anai for their live band every Friday night. It’s the best on the island, and because you’re family when you walk in, you can spend all night at your table just enjoying the music (and likely sharing a glass of wine with the owners). Tip: Stay for dinner and order the truffled mac-and-cheese, venison or filet. The comfort food of this grill won’t let you down.

5. Find a volunteer opportunity and donate your time. No matter where you choose to spend your holiday, there’s a soup kitchen, senior center or shelter that needs your support. Ask the hotel for a local volunteer group contact, or connect with the visitors center in the area to learn about volunteer opportunities. This year, I’ll be handing out “wish gifts” to children on L’anai and serving breakfast Christmas morning at the local senior center. There’s no gift greater than a smile you receive from those you’re helping. Their gratitude will make you forget you’re flying solo for the holidays – in fact, you’ll feel as if you’ve just inherited a family.

Lastly, don’t forget to unwrap something for yourself on Christmas morning. As one friend once said to me, “Even if it’s a new toothbrush, it counts as something to open!” Wrap a small gift to yourself and tuck it your suitcase. Whether it’s a scarf you purchased on your last trip, a pair of earrings you forgot you owned, or a new book you’ve been waiting to read, you’ll find a simple joy in unwrapping a present to yourself. And in the event you forget to give yourself a gift, never fear: at least you have a new toothbrush.

Aloha from Hawaii!