Off & Away goes international

Off & Away the recently launched luxury travel auction site is offering up its first international destination. On June 7, 2010, the site will send a stay at La Amada in Cancun under the virtual gavel. Other upcoming auctions include the Andaz in New York (June 9, 2010), Turtle Bay in Hawaii (June 9, 2010) and the Alexis in Seattle (June 10, 2010).

The greatest concentration of luxury deals on Off & Away so far appears to be in New York, so if you’re looking to take a trip out here, putting in a bid might not be a bad idea.

NY is being auctioned off right now. Only 1 hour left. Did you know that we’ve had auctions go for as little as $20? than a minute ago via HootSuite

Strangely, Off & Away rewards valiant losing efforts. According to the rules:

  • If you’re outbid, apply up to 110% of your used bids towards another room
  • Select from any of our 50,000 partner hotels at the Web’s best published rates

Hawaii delights with a 10-day international film extravaganza

For ten glorious days (which began yesterday), Hawaii will host its international film festival until October 25. The film line-up is chock full of Asian films as well as other international cinema delights.

This year’s centerpiece films on opening, mid-festival, and closing nights demonstrate the diverse films that make up this year’s deep line-up. The one I’d like to see is “Red Cliff” – a John Woo film that is based on the famous Chinese novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms.” You can watch the Red Cliff trailer below.

The Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) started as a project of the East-West Center at the University of Hawai`i Manoa campus in Honolulu in 1981. Back then, only seven films were screened from six countries to an audience of 5,000. Today, HIFF is the premiere cinematic event in the Pacific that has had more than one dozen screening sites on six Hawaiian Islands and draws an audience of 80,000 or more from around the state, the nation and throughout the world.
HIFF is unique in discovering features, documentaries and shorts from Asia made by Asians, films about the Pacific made by Pacific Islanders, and films made by Hawai`i filmmakers that present Hawai`i in a culturally accurate way. The film festival also conducts seminars, workshops, special award presentation receptions with top Asian, Pacific and North American filmmakers.

Most of the films will be playing at the Dole Cannery Theaters in downtown Honolulu. For a complete film listing or to order tickets in advance, visit the HIFF website.

Tweet yourself to Hawaii!

Talk about a sweet tweet deal: Marriott Resorts Hawaii is running a social media contest where 25 lucky winners will receive all-expense paid trips for two to a designated Marriott resort on Kauai, Oahu, Maui, or Hawaii’s Big Island.

You can enter the contest via Twitter, Facebook, and email. The winners are announced on Twitter, so you’ll need to sign up to follow @MarriottHawaii to see if you win.

Here is what the lucky winners will receive:

  • Roundtrip for two on Hawaiian Airlines from any of its ten U.S. West Coast gateway cities: Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.
  • A five-night stay at one of Marriott resorts in Hawaii: JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa, Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club, Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa or Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.
  • Rental car, courtesy of Hertz.
  • $100 per day resort dining credit.
  • Access to fun activities and attractions on all islands.
  • Please note: All trips must be completed by December 20, 2009. Winners will be announced on Facebook and Twitter, and also will be notified by email. Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize, or a new winner will be randomly selected.

If that’s tweeting sweetness, here’s an even sweeter deal: Submit a video on why you love Hawaii for a chance to win a TweetUp Trip for TWELVE! To enter this contest, submit your YouTube video link to by December 20, 2009. The public will be asked to judge their favorite from a selection of finalists. The one with the most votes will receive:

  • Roundtrip for winner and 11 friends/family, courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines from any of its U.S. West Coast gateway cities
  • Seven-night stay at any two Marriott resorts in Hawaii
  • One luau dinner and show
  • A commemorative Hawaii state quarter
  • A keepsake group photo
  • 25,000 Marriott Rewards Points for the winner

The winner will be selected in January.

I’m loving all these “tweet” trip giveaways! You all know I’m from Hawaii, so it wouldn’t be right for me to enter, but I’m rooting for you all to join me in my tropical paradise!

Oahu’s Best Beaches

It’s time to take a trip around the ever-famous island of Oahu for a beach bopping bonanza (I couldn’t help myself with the alliteration)! There are so many worthy beaches on this small but populated island that I’ll be breaking down my favorite beaches all the way around. There are seven of ’em (there was no way I could narrow down the list), so let’s get started.

Magic Island: Your visit to Honolulu wouldn’t be complete without a picnic at the ever-tranquil, always crowded, and aptly named Magic Island. It’s really not an island; rather, this is a beach park with a long stretch of man-made beach with tranquil waters that are protected by a man-made reef. Outside the reef are some of Ala Moana’s best surf breaks — namely Courts, Concessions, Big Rights, and Marine Land. Whether you’re visiting the Magic Island during the week or on the weekend, you’re sure to catch a scent of the kalbi or burgers on a barbecue grill, and the sight of at least a half dozen stand-up paddlers exercising their shoulders inside the reef pool.

Waikiki Beach: The beach itself is packed with tanning tourists, and the waters are jammed with beginner and local surfers, but there’s something uniquely Hawaiian about the “scene” around Waikiki Beach. This is quintessential Hawaii, and to not spend at least some time people watching or wading in its tranquil waters is like saying you’ve never been to Hawaii at all. Be sure to snap a shot of the Duke statue in front of Queens Break while you’re at it.
Diamond Head: It windsurfing is your thing, the Diamond Head is your haven. From atop Cliffs, you can see the snake-like swell for miles and watch the surfers and windsurfers catching their rides of the day. Head down the paved ramp to the beach, and claim a plot of sand for yourself. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot the beach’s frequent visitors — Hawaiian monk seals, who enjoy sunbathing by day. A word of caution, the beach can get a bit windy, and it’s not wise to park it under the rocky cliff, as rock slides are common.

Sandy Beach: The popular video of Barack Obama bodysurfing at Sandy Beach makes the waves here seem manageable, but proceed with caution: many amateurs have broken necks in the shorebreak at Sandy’s and the rip currents on any given day are not to be taken lightly! Sandy’s can draw majorly local crowds especially on the weekends. It is well-known as a high school hangout spot, but the scene here is just part of its appeal. The flat, open green is perfect for flying kites, and it’s an ideal place to barbecue or just chill out.

Lanikai Beach: This list would be incomplete without a shout out to perhaps the state’s most famous beach, Lanikai, just east of Kailua. Lanikai Beach has long been named as one of the world’s top ten most beautiful beaches — and deservedly so. The sand here is so white and fine, you might wonder whether you’re walking on a cloud, and the water is so calm and crystal clear that you can see your little pinky toe. It’s really a sight to behold.

Ehukai Beach: While Ehukai Beach itself isn’t anything too special, when winter rolls around, the pounding surf makes this the place to be. That’s because Ehukai is home to none other than the one of the world’s most famous surf breaks: the Banzai Pipeline. If you get here on a good day — or when a surf contest is being held (usually in December), you’ll be completely shocked and pleasantly surprised by the population of onlookers. Every foot of sand is claimed by hot surfers, bikini babes, and other attractive people. It’s really the place to be — but only in the winter months. If you for some reason miss the swell, head just a mile west and check out the turtles at Laniakea Beach.

Makaha Beach: If you’re brave enough to venture way out to the wild west of Oahu, your trip would not be complete without at least a brief stop at the beautful Makaha Beach. Perhaps the least crowded of all the beaches on this list, Makaha (the Hawaiian word for “fierce”), is also the most authentically Hawaiian beach of the bunch. The Keaulana family and Rell Sunn made this beach famous, and the place remains steeped in history and legend.

Layover: Honolulu

So, you’ve landed in the middle of the Pacific ocean on a tiny paradise island called Oahu. You’ve got a few hours to kill before catching the next plane across the other half of the Pacific (too bad you can’t stay longer!). What do you do?

Well, if you’re smart, you’ll head to the ticket counter and find a way to stay longer — maybe even forever. If you don’t have that luxury, and you really must board that future plane, here are some possibilities.

Short layovers of 2 hours or less:

The Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is situated on the western edge of the city, bordering Honolulu and Pearl City. Aside from Pearl Harbor, one of the island’s most popular sights, everything worth seeing is unfortunately over 15 minutes away by car. Add the city’s almost constant highway traffic, and you’ll likely be sitting in a cab to get to your destination only to turn back around.

If you’re stopping through HNL for 2 hours or less, you should stay in the airport. There are plenty of gift shops worth browsing for Hawaii-made knick-knacks and souvenirs. I would grab a bit to eat at one of the airports finer restaurants. I say finer with great hesitation, as there is a major shortage of decent food at the Honolulu airport. However, here’s the short list of restaurants that are worth checking out.

  • Stinger Ray’s: The only place with a restaurant-like feel to it, Stinger Ray’s served affordable and edible food from sun up to sun down. An review suggests the chili ‘n cheese fries and clam chowder were actually quite good, while Claire Walter over at CulinaryColorado says the caeser salad is salty, but the nachos are tolerable. Prices are reasonable and food is served on plates with little umbrella tents, not platters, for a little island touch.
  • City Deli: Another sit-down place that is a healthy option is City Deli. Sandwiches and salads made to order, so you know you’re getting something fresh, if not a bit standard.
  • Chow Mein Express: It may be the only Chinese food served at the restaurant and, while it’s not the most authentic, the food at Chow Mein is tolerable. The fried rice, orange chicken, or beef and broccoli are good bets.

None of these places have the best atmosphere, but there is a very pleasant, green courtyard with benches on the ground floor of the airport near the central concourse that would be worth taking your meal in, reading a book or just having some down time before your next flight.

Longer layovers of 4 hours or more:

If you have a healthy chunk of time before your next flight, get outta HNL and hit the road! Put on some shorts and “slippers” (we don’t call them “flip-flops”!) and flag a cab. Here are a few cool options that are close enough to Honolulu that will renew your energy and give you a taste of island life.

  • The Arizona Memorial or the Battleship Missouri: The famous floating memorial that is situated over the sunken U.S.S. Arizona is a really stellar sight, and just a 10 minute jaunt from the airport. On December 7, 1941, the Arizona sank in battle, taking 1,100 sailors with it. In 1961, a solemn white monument was erected above the midsection of the ship. The deck of the Arizona lies now six feet below the surface of Pearl Harbor and is clearly visible from the monument. The shuttle launch from the shore to the monument takes about 20 minutes round trip. Free guided tours are offered 8am-3pm daily. There are often very long lines to visit the floating memorial, so if you don’t have time to wait, head across the parking lot and visit the Battleship Missouri Memorial, which will give you a good taste of the events that took place in Pearl Harbor over 60 years ago.
  • La Mariana Sailing Club: Just over 10 minutes from the airport is a unique sailing club where you can be merry and enjoy a mai tai as you admire the sailing boats moored in the Ke’ehi Lagoon. A South Seas fantasy island in an almost impossible to find location (50 Sand Island Access Road; #808.848.2800), this local watering hole is a throwback to the Trader Vic’s days. The food is standard: salads, burgers, Chicken Parmigiana and the like, but the decor is the draw: a tacky mishmash of fishnet, glass floats and shell chandeliers adorns the sprawling room. A reed fence is all that separates you from the ocean, and a huge live tree grows in the middle of it all.

Other tips:
If you’re dying for some fresh air and to escape the sound of airplane engines, head outside the security gates and to the Starbucks that is situated in a nice courtyard by the United Airlines check-in. There are also plenty of hard but airy benches to sit on and take in the tropical sun and air.

Plan your next layover with Gadling’s Layover Guides.