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Best places to go and things to do in Hawaii -- from the locals

Everyone loves insider travel tips. Looking for the best place in Hawaii for a romantic getaway or where to find the best luau? Readers of Hawaii Magazine have spoken -- and they’re sharing their local secrets.

The magazine's March issue features Readers Choice Awards for 2016 -- winners and runners-up -- in a whopping 98 categories in a 39-page spread.

I can’t list all the "best of" winners here, but here are some visitors should know:

Best luxury hotel or resort: St. Regis Princeville Resort. Along Kauai’s North Shore, the  Forbes Travel Guide four-star resort offers breathtaking views of Hanalei Bay.

Best mid-range hotel or resort: Sheraton Maui Resort. This hotel boasts an envious setting along famous Kaanapali Beach.

Best budget hotel: Kaanapali Beach Hotel, Maui. Seeing a pattern here? Curiously, the KBH (as it’s known locally) also finished third in the “mid-range” category. And, it -- deservedly, in my opinion -- earned first place in both “best hotel for aloha spirit” and “best hotel staff.”

Best hotel or resort for families: Aulani: A Disney Resort & Spa. Located in West Oahu, Aulani is far from the abundant hotels and condos of Waikiki.

Best hotel or resort for a romantic getaway: Travaasa Hana. With bungalows overlooking the ocean near the end of Maui’s Hana Highway, this is a wonderfully remote place for an escape.

Best bed & breakfast or inn: Shipman House, Hilo. Hawaii Island’s big resorts are all on the other (Kona) side of the island, but Hilo is a great base for exploring less-visited natural wonders. And, it’s much closer to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, too.

Best restaurant ($61-plus per person): Mama’s Fish House. A perennial favorite in Paia, on Maui’s North Shore, Mama’s also secured first place for “best seafood” and “best romantic restaurant.”

Best Hawaiian food: Ono Hawaiian Foods, Honolulu. This family-run eatery is nothing fancy, but the locals love it -- and that’s always a good recommendation.

Best restaurant for breakfast: The Gazebo Restaurant Napili, Maui. What could be better than dining oceanside while enjoying macadamia nut pancakes?

Best shaved ice stand/store: Matsumoto’s Shave Ice, Haleiwa. The lines may be shorter elsewhere, but there’s good reason why this mainstay on Oahu’s North Shore has been drawing crowds for decades.

Best live show: “Ha: Breath of Life.” This early evening show at Oahu’s Polynesian Cultural Center is truly inspiring -- and there’s an optional luau to boot.

Best beach for hanging around: Kaanapali Beach, Maui. It’s no wonder why such popular hotels are located along this three-mile stretch of sand; it’s truly a special spot just a few miles north of Lahaina.

Best golf course: The Bay and Plantation Courses at Kapalua Resort. Located in tony Kapalua on the northwest tip of Maui, these courses offer a great excuse for golfers who miss an easy putt: the unforgettable ocean vistas.

Best snorkeling/scuba rental or instruction: Snorkel Bob’s. With locations on Kauai, the Big Island, Maui and Oahu, this business can get guests in the water -- and eye to eye with colorful marine life -- throughout the state.

Best Hawaii-grown coffee brand: Kauai Coffee. Their blue bags are ubiquitous on the islands. If you’re on Kauai, the coffee plantation offers guided and self-guided tours -- and  they’re free.

Best Hawaii-made liquor: Ocean Vodka, Maui. Sold in distinctive, light blue bottles, the vodka is made from organic sugar cane. Tours of the distillery and farm cost $10.

Want more of the best? Single copies of the March issue can be purchased by calling Hawaii Magazine at (800) 788-4230.


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