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Archive for February, 2012

24 Hours in New York City

When you’re standing on the top of the Empire State Building, looking over the edge at the tiny yellow cabs and the endless miles of twinkling lights, the only thing you could possibly say is wow.

24 hours in New York City will never be enough. One week, one month…. Heck, one year is hardly enough. However, if you only have 24 hours and you want to see as much as physically possible, it can be done. But be prepared – you will be exhausted, your feet will be sore and the memory card of your camera will be full. You have been warned.

The first thing you need to do is cross your fingers for a nice day. New York can provide some stellar clear blue sky days – regardless of the air temperature, the weather can generally be pretty amazing. It’s this kind of day you need to hope for in order to make the most of the typical tourist spots.

Make sure you’re awake bright and early to explore all the city has to offer. The Top of the Rock viewing platform is the best place to see the city in the early light. Head up to the top and enjoy the view that stretches beyond the eye can see. Once you’ve absorbed the view, head across to Times Square to check out the electric center. If you’re lucky you might even witness a taping of Good Morning America!

(c) Samantha McConnell

Top of the Rock Viewing Platform (c) Samantha McConnell

Times Square would be a good place to grab a bite to eat for breakfast – whether you choose a restaurant, a diner or a street vendor, the atmosphere of Times Square in the morning is hard to replicate anywhere else.

The Statue of Liberty looks amazing in the mid-morning sun. Take a subway down to Battery Park City, jump aboard the ferry and enjoy the views of the Manhattan Skyline as the boat heads towards Liberty Island. From October 2012 the statue will be reopened to the public so you can climb those stairs and check out the views from her crown once again. The boat also makes a stop at Ellis Island which was the gateway for many millions of immigrants to the United States from 1892 – 1934. The island now hosts the museum of immigration which shows the story of the settlement of New York, and the rest of America. For anyone interested in history this is a great place to stop.

Statue of Liberty (c) Samantha McConnell

Once you’re safely back in Manhattan, head over to the World Trade Center site where you can pick up a pass to check out the memorial pools and the 9/11 memorial visitors center. This part of town is certainly worth a look for anyone visiting New York City.

From the Financial District, jump on the subway and head up to West Village, one of Manhattan’s best neighborhoods. Grab some lunch on one of Bleeker Street’s eateries and stop by the famous Magnolia’s Bakery to grab a cupcake before heading up to Central Park.

Get off the subway towards the bottom of the park so you can explore the main attractions. Start by wandering past the zoo as you’re able to see the playful seals from the outside without having to go in, then wander up the east side towards the Alice in Wonderland statue. Once you’ve marveled at the detail of the statue, head west, past the famous boathouse restaurant, beau bridge and around to Bethesda Terrace. If you’re a fan of The Beatles, continue heading west to see Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon memorial, and just outside the Central Park gates, The Dakota, where the famous musician was killed. The final place I would recommend checking out in Central Park would be Shakespeare’s Garden and Belvedere Castle. Climb right to the top of the Castle and take in the view over the lake. The garden is particularly impressive over the spring and summer months, however in the winter you could probably give it a miss.

Central Park (c) Samantha McConnell

It’s here where you’ll have to make a pretty tough decision. It’s as hard as the chicken or the beef, the red or the blue, the art or the history. If you walk east you’ll come across the Metropolitan Museum of Art – the building is a landmark in its own right and the collection of art housed within its walls is breathtaking. If you walk west you’ll be able to explore the National History Museum which is a complete experience on its own. The National History Museum closes at 5.45 each day and the Metropolitan Museum closes at 5.30, except on Friday and Saturday when it stays open until 9pm, so if you wish to check out these museums make sure you are aware of the time.

The Upper East and West sides of Manhattan house a great many restaurants, so I recommend stopping along either side for some dinner before heading to the theater district. New York is the epicenter for theater. You can find all styles of theater, music, art and dance within this city. The TXTS booth under the red steps has discounted tickets daily for selected Broadway and Off-Broadway performances and many theaters sell tickets at a discounted rate before the performance.

After you’ve enjoyed your theater experience, head over to the Empire State Building via Times Square. Times Square is quite a different experience at night, and one that shouldn’t be missed! The view from the building that once was New York’s tallest building is best taken in at night and it is quite spectacular. Make sure you have something warm to wear at the top! It’s not exactly like a sunny trip to Hawaii up there!

New York by night (c) Samantha McConnell

At this point you are likely to be exhausted. If you’re not, I suggest finding one of the many bars to check out. If you’re in the mood for a drink or two, head down to the recently renovated 40/40 Club by Madison Square Park. This all-American sports bar and lounge is owned by the king of hip hop, Jay-Z and is worth a look, especially if you’re into design!

Once you’ve finished your drink I suggest you stumble home and sleep off your jam-packed day in the greatest city in the world – New York City!

Gallery

Shh..don’t tell anyone yet…let the Bill get passed!!!

A specter haunts vacation rentals by owner in the state of Hawaii. The problem is a pressing one.

In January of this year, two bills were introduced to the Hawaiian legislature that could effectively end the practice of vacation rentals by owner as we know it, and turn the industry in Hawaii on its head.

The first Bill, Senate Bill 2089 calls for any non-resident of Hawaii who rents out their vacation rental accommodation to employ a property manager who has been approved by the real estate commission. The second, House Bill 1707, requires that any non-resident property owner in Hawaii who rents their housing short-term must do so through a licensed real estate salesperson or broker. The middleman must then collect all applicable taxes for the rental of the property or the owner is penalized.

One proponent of the measure evidently sent an email to fellow Realtors and property managers celebrating the possibility of 1707’s passage. The email is telling:

I didn’t have time yesterday to provide written testimony but they passed the initial Bill with a complete affirmative vote from the House…The Bill will require all mainland owners who rent their homes or condos out to have a licensed Realtor on island …ie …Bayer …vinson… Berndt…this way the State can make sure everyone is paying their GET and TAT… yee hahhhhlll! But don’t tell anyone yet…let the Bill get passed! !…then we can get some $$$…unless they find a cheap Broker who will represent them for cheap…

But it was too early to celebrate a victory. Concerned homeowners mobilized and took action. At a public hearing on February 23, thanks in large part to the testimony from vacation rental owners that pay their taxes on time and employ local Hawaiians to maintain their homes, HB 1707 was “deferred”. A temporary victory for vacation rentals by owner in Hawaii, but it would be premature to start dancing the Hula just yet.

The ending of HB 1707 is not an outright win, as that first Bill – SB 2089 – still awaits its hearing. If proponents have it their way, on Tuesday, February 28th, SB 2089 would again interject a middleman into already established private rental businesses in Hawaii.

Tuesday’s hearing will again bring proponents of this bill out into the open, revealing the powerful Realtors interests that gave birth to these bills. Many vacation rental owners who would be adversely affected by this bill are not aware that it is out there. If owners do not push back, SB 2089 could pass.

To Submit testimony online, click here and hit the blue Submit Testimony button.

To ensure the CPN Committee receives the testimony it is essential to duplicate the message to cpntestimony@capitol.hawaii.gov by 10:00 am Hawaiian Time on Monday Feb 27.

Meanwhile, many are challenging the constitutionality of the bills. Attorneys and constitutional scholars point to the targeting of non-residents of Hawaii as blatantly discriminatory and unconstitutional. Gregory Kugle, representing the Hawaii Vacation Rental by Owners Association, authored a widely distributed letter in opposition to the bill on these grounds.

The technology of the Internet has made do-it-yourself solutions more popular than ever. It is no surprise that vacation rentals by owner has grown into such a huge industry, one that continues to threaten management companies that have traditionally acted as intermediaries, charging large sums of money and taking up to 50% commission plus other fees on rental transactions.

Individual owners have long complained that this arrangement is deeply unfavorable to them. With a simple Internet connection, many have taken the responsibility of management upon themselves.

SB 2089 can be viewed in this light. If it passes on Tuesday, the old way of business will enjoy a revival while the fate of vacation rentals by owner in Hawaii will likely take a nose-dive. Many homeowners familiar with the bill say that the stakes are too high and they will sell if it passes.

One homeowner I spoke with from California ended the conversation by saying:

I know most of the management companies on the East side of the Big Island, and I wouldn’t trust any of them with my house or my money. To me, this is the realtors wanting this legislation. I just don’t think it will work the way they think it will. Two realtors [I know of] (one of them a vacation rental property manager), has lost one home to foreclosure and the other one had to file for bankruptcy. My help on the island had her realtor’s license, but I think she let it expire. What I don’t get, is that I would have to give up the handling of the rent completely and it would go through a management company in Hawaii. I think I will sell before I do that.

If SB 2089 passes, it may be Hawaii that loses in the end.

A Hawaiian resort before bill SB2089

A Hawaiian resort before bill SB2089

Think of it as it was before and after!

A Hawaiian resort after bill SB2089

... and after bill SB2089

Do you own a property in Hawaii?

What is your position on SB 2089 and HB 1707 ?

What if every state adopts the same practice to force all out-of-state residents to employ a broker for running vacation rental business?

 

 

Does the SB 2089 sound unconstitutional to you?

Attorney’s letter to Senator Baker from Hawaii Vacation Rental Association

 

 

 

No more Aloha in the Aloha state if you are a vacation rental owner outside the islands!

New Hawaiian Bills set to change the vacation rental landscape

Sometimes you hear about a Bill being pushed that you can’t believe could really come into effect. It’s too farfetched, seems rather silly or you can’t see how that particular Bill would benefit anyone.

This was my reaction when we heard about the two Bills currently pending before Hawaii Legislature. The first Bill, SB 2089 states that any person, who is not a resident of Hawaii, yet rents their second home in Hawaii as a vacation rental accommodation must employ a property manager which has been approved by the real estate commission. The second, HB 1707, requires any non-resident owners of a property in Hawaii who rents their housing as a short-term rental must rent the property through a licensed real estate salesperson or broker who must collect all applicable taxes for the rental of the property.

Essentially this means anyone who does not live in Hawaii, yet owns a property within the state which they rent out on a short-term basis (less than 30 days) will be required to give up managing their own property. This new law will include all “non-resident” owners, regardless of whether they’ve followed the laws and paid their taxes. It will become illegal to manage the property independently, and the property must be rented through a realtor or property manager who will collect all your rental money for you.

Naturally property owners in Hawaii are less than thrilled. This new law will signal a huge financial loss to property owners who have to surrender often time up to 40% – 70% of their gross revenue. It’s not uncommon for Property Management companies operating in the state of Hawaii to set steep fees as high as 35-50% of rental income plus many other fees meaning homeowners only receive a small percentage of the money made from each rental period. Many property owners have already begun a petition to oppose the Bill, are writing to the House representatives and are trying to make the government see that there are other ways for the state of Hawaii to collect tax revenues. Click here to sign a petition and join the forces!

While some vacation owners are claiming this Bill is a result of the “war against vacation rental owners” which has been raging for a few years, many residents of Hawaii are against these Bills just as much as non-resident property owners. Many residents have raised concerns that they will be indirectly harmed as a result of these new laws, believing the property value of Hawaiian housing will plummet. With the projected financial loss non-resident owners will face, it is likely many will be forced to sell, and throwing the real estate market into turmoil.

It is interesting to note that the Hawaiian Association of Realtors and The Hawaiian Real Estate Commission have both spoken out against these Bills saying they are indeed overkill and that there are already laws in place regarding the collection of taxes.

One disgruntled property owner laid it out very clearly, saying the only people to benefit from this Bill will be the Property Rental Managers who will create a monopoly in the vacation rental market.

“If you are an investor, say a Hawaiian who lives on Oahu but has a vacation rental on Maui your rights as an owner are about to be abridged. If you are an investor from the US mainland or a foreign investor you also lose as it will now cost 30 to 45% more to have your rental property. If you are a Hawaiian developer and hope to sell your finished properties to investors, your offering now makes less sense to investors which will cost you sales, increase the time you take to sell your property and make you think twice about starting a project in the first place. If you own Hawaiian real estate you will also notice a further softening in your values as the removal of many investors from the equation will hurt all property values ( as if the last few years weren’t hard enough). If you are a Hawaiian tax payer these Bills will have very little upside but they will definitely hurt the economy. And lastly, if you are a consumer and the cost of a vacation rental has now increased you also suffer so you may shorten your stay or you may vacation elsewhere. Once again, who wins? Oh yes, the Rental Property Manager.”

So if this Bill is serving no one but the Rental Property Manager, how has it managed to get so much consideration? What will the short and long-term implications be? Are there any benefits to these laws?

If each non-resident property in Hawaii is being maintained by a property manager, this would give the advantage of homeowners knowing their vacation home is in good hands and being well maintained. The house manager will be able to meet the guests renting the property out, will be able to tend to broken cupboards and burst water pipes. You will be able to rest assured your guests and your property are being well looked after. As the property manager will be professionally trained in this line of work they may also be more responsible when it comes to cleanliness, standard of presentation and professional conduct. They will also have experience dealing with angry and possibly unreasonable guests.

However, it must be kept in mind that individual owners are generally more pro-active about their own business, however management companies have no preferences about renting your unit or the one next door. This generally means the vacation rental performance results suffer somewhat.

As a personal example here, I had my property under a property management company for four years. When I realised I was paying more in maintenance costs than I was making I knew something had to change. I took over managing the property personally and increased occupancy by 95%. I went from having the house occupied once every three months, to having it rented out every single weekend. On top of that I was much more aware of any damages or maintenance jobs that needed attention, whereas under the care of the management company, they managed to let “small mishaps” like holes in the walls slide.

My point here is that it should be a choice whether you hire a property manager to oversee your property or manage it yourself. If I had, by law, been forced to have my second home managed by a property manager, it would no longer have been financially viable to own a second home.
If you’ve purchased a rental property, rent it out as a vacation rental and pay your taxes as legally required shouldn’t you to free to manage your property as you see fit? Or should you have to employ a property manager to take control of your rental.

What is your opinion on these Bills? Do you think it will cause the real estate market to slump, or do you think it’s for the best of Hawaii’s tourism industry?

Why you should visit Alabama

I’ve got some sort of fascination with Alabama. I’m not sure what it is that makes me crave this Southern lifestyle, and I’m not sure why I honed in specifically on Alabama. But I did. And now it’s become so much of a preoccupation that I plan on spending next Thanksgiving somewhere in Alabama, possibly pretending I’m an Azalea girl – those Southern Belles.

There’s a lot more to Alabama than you may realize, and there is certainly a reason it has been referred to as ‘Alabama the Beautiful’ (Don’t believe me? Check out the photo below!) Alabama has stunning sandy beaches, serene mountain lakes, breathtaking waterfalls and sprawling plains. There are museums, historic sites, Mardi Gras celebrations and Shakespeare performances that will blow your mind.

 

If I’ve not yet convinced you to give Alabama a chance, do read on…

Civil Rights History

Okay, so we all know how important the civil rights history of America is. Hey, I learned about it all through my schooling years in New Zealand, therefore it’s got to be important! Alabama was where much of the Civil Rights Movement begun. It’s where Martin Luther King Jr. began his campaigns; it’s where Rosa Parks sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and it is where the Selma to Montgomery March took place. With all these historical events that took place here, it’s no wonder the State is filled with Civil Rights museums, tours and memorials. In Selma you can take part in the annual bridge crossing to commemorate the 165 protest march, you can tour the National Voting Rights Museum and the Brown Chapel where Martin Luther King Jr launched the voting rights movement.

In Montgomery, the state capital you can immerse yourselves in the stories of the activists at the Civil Rights Memorial Center. You can tour the State Capitol building, The Rosa Parks Museum, Martin Luther King’s home during the Civil Rights Movement, and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor. Tuskegee and Birmingham also have numerous memorials and museums including the jail cell Martin Luther King Jr. was held in when he wrote “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

While you’re in the history mode, why not check out some of the other historical sites around the state? Alabama Constitution Village in Huntsville is a great place to visit to understand what a working village was like in the early 1800’s. They have a confectionary shop, a bakery with freshly baked bread being prepared over an open fire, post office, print shop and cabinetmaker’s shop. You can even watch the villagers busy on their daily tasks. While you’re in Huntsville be sure to check out the Twickenham Historic District and Guided Walking Tour. Twickenham is Alabama’s largest antebellum district. It features houses in the Federal, Italianate, classical and Greek revival architectural style. Some of the homes in the district are open to the public as house museums.

 

Image from Wikipedia

 

Water Activities

Southern Alabama is placed immediately beside the water with 50 miles of sparkling Gulf Coast Shoreline. Throughout the state, there is also 77,000 miles of rivers, streams and lakes for canoeing, boating, fishing and swimming. Along with the crystal colored-ocean and golden beaches along the Gulf Shores, Alabama is also home to a number of waterparks including Waterville U.S.A, The Wharf, Water World and Alabama Adventure. Dauphin Island is only a 50 minute drive from Mobile and is a stunning location for vacationing or even for a day trip.

Natural Wonders

Photographs do not do justice to the natural beauty of Alabama and there are numerous ways you can enjoy these natural wonders for yourself. Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur is home to many different species of fish, amphibians and reptiles, songbirds and mammals. Ten species housed within the refuge are listed as endangered or threatened species. This is a great area to explore if you’re looking to get amongst nature and witness some of Mother Nature’s breathtaking beauty.

Image from Wikipedia

Of course, the Wildlife Refuge is not the only place in Alabama capable of making a nature lover sigh in amazement. Desoto State Park offers incredible views of rivers, mountains and waterfalls, Weeks Bay Reserve near Mobile offers a true look into the scenery around Alabama, Noccalula Falls park features a botanical garden, 100-foot waterfalls, numerous hiking trails and includes a pioneer village which is fascinating for anyone who, like me, is interested in history.

While you’re exploring Alabama’s natural wonders, take a scenic drive through Talladega. It only takes an hour and covers 26 miles but the beauty of the Appalachian foothills is something you won’t forget in a hurry.

Something a bit different

Like anywhere you visit, Alabama has some unique, one-of-a-kind experience attractions that are well worth a visit.  If you happen to pass through Scottsboro in Northern Alabama, be sure to stop by the Unclaimed Baggage Center. This is the place where all the contents of lost luggage turns up after no one claims it. Here you can find everything from clothing, electronics, jewelry, musical instruments and whatever little knick-knacks travelers carry on their adventures.

If you want something truly different, check out the Boll Weevil Monument in Enterprise. Alabama is the only state in America that has a monument dedicated to a pest. The Boll Weevil’s are the insects that killed off the cotton industry. So why celebrate it? Losing the cotton industry meant farmers had to look for a new way to make their money and resulted in them planting more profitable crops.

If you’re down Mobile way, be sure to check out the USS Alabama Battleship. The area has been made into a memorial park and you are able to walk the decks of the battleship, explore a World War II submarine, check out combat aircrafts, an original plane used by the Tuskegee Airmen, see tanks and visit a Vietnam River Patrol Boat. For a war geek like myself, this is the kind of place I could truly spend hours.

Photo from Wikipedia

Mardi Gras

This is pretty self-explanatory. If you like to party make sure you check out Mobile. Mobile is known as celebrating the first American Mardi Gras in 1703. To date the celebrations lasts for almost three weeks. The streets are filled with the sound of marching bands, bright-colored floats and plenty of masked revelers wearing satin and sequins. Mobile is home to America’s Family Mardi Gras making it a great place to celebrate with the whole family.

Mardi Gras is a major holiday in parts of Europe, so when Mobile was populated by a French colony they decided to observe their traditional holiday beginning a tradition which continues all over America to date. It wasn’t until over 100 years later in 1857 when some members of the Mobile community travelled to New Orleans and helped with the formation of their Mardi Gras society. The Civil War brought the celebrations to an end in Mobile, and the city was discouraged. It wasn’t until 1866 that one man decided to raise the spirits of the citizens of Mobile. He dressed up and decorated a coal wagon before holding a one float parade through the streets of Mobile. Naturally, the citizens were excited and Mardi Gras was reborn. This man, Joe Cain, now has his own remembrance day, which is also known as ‘the people’s day’ and falls just before Ash Wednesday. On this day the people of Mobile participate in the Joe Cain Procession and parade and celebrate the man who revived the spirit of Mobile.

With this history in mind, be sure to check out the Mobile City’s Mardi Gras celebration schedules and plan you’re next trip to Alabama to join in the festivities!

As you can see, there is a lot more to Alabama than you may first realize, and I’ve only grazed the surface! There is a rich Southern history in this state which needs to be experienced. The food is exceptional, the scenery is breathtaking, and the attractions and unique and fun to experience. Each town in Alabama offers something a little different, but whatever your preferences, be it nature, history, partying, eating, or spending time at the beach, you’ll find it in Alabama the Beautiful.

 

Washington Wine Tours

While some people prefer to spend their vacation time on the beach or hitting the ski slopes, others prefer to spend their time touring wineries and sampling fine wine. I’m no wine expert. I haven’t studied the different types of grapes and harvesting methods, but I do know some of the wine that comes out of Washington State is pretty spectacular.

50 years ago, Washington State was not an area people would head to if they were interested in visiting wineries. In fact, 50 years ago there were no wineries in Washington State that were serious about making high quality table wine. In half a century, the region has flipped 360 degrees and has become the second most celebrated fine wine producing region in the United States. The number of wineries in the region has increased dramatically, and the Washington State Wine Commission has said a new winery opens every two weeks!

If you’re planning a trip around the wineries of Washington State, it definitely pays to do some planning. Ninety-nine percent of the wine grape production takes part in Eastern Washington, in the Columbia Valley to be exact. This is also the part of Washington that produces some of the most popular and finest cabernet sauvignons in America.

The best way to tour the wineries is to choose one region and make this area your focus. There are hundreds of wineries throughout the state; the best way to experience them all is by planning return trips and conquering small chunks of the region at a time. As the largest chunk of wine grape production is in Columbia Valley, this would be a good place to start. Columbia Valley was the second AVA in the Washington State (authorized in 1984) and it now encompasses seven of Washington States wine regions. It has over 16,000 vineyards and 100 wineries and covers 18,000 square miles and 11 million acres!

Featured by Wine Peeps as their ‘Best Winery for 2011’, Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville is a winery that should not be missed. Chateau Ste. Michelle runs winery tours and tastings for novices and wine experts, to help you gain an understanding and appreciation for wine making. It is, in fact, an art and a science! While you’re at Chateau Ste. Michelle be sure to check out their wine and food classes, various special events including their summer concert series and their chef dinners. The service here is also impeccable which makes the experience that much better.

Also situated in Woodinville is Columbia Winery. This winery became the first premium winery in Washington State in the early 1960s and continues to craft highly-acclaimed wines. Columbia Winery is situated directly across the Street from Chateau Ste. Michelle. The winery offers a glass of Columbia wine and a hot flatbread pizza which are very popular, however the flatbreads are only offered Wednesday – Sunday. You can also participate in a wine tasting with a knowledgeable wine educator who will guide you through five of their premium wines. This tasting is only $5 per person, however many will say the wine is ‘sub-par’ compared to what you get in the area. The service at this winery also leaves a lot to be desired, however it’s worth popping in to see the exquisite grounds and tasting some flatbread!

If you head deeper into the Columbia Valley, head to Anelare Tasting Studio in Kennewick. The tasting room is open Thursday to Sunday and other times by appointment. This award winning wine is named Anelare as it is the Italian word for ‘desire’ and ‘yearn for’. Most Anelare wines are not available in stores, so to visit the tasting studio is one of the only ways to sample this delight. The tasting studio was opened in 2009. You can taste wines at the bar for $10 per guest which is refundable with wine purchase or you can participate in a formal sit down tasting in the private room. This experience is $15 per person and the wine is paired with antipasti. Guests are also treated to a discussion about the wine and the history of Anelare.

Of course this is only three of hundreds of wineries in the Columbia Valley. Some wineries include accommodation, some purely sell wine while others have full restaurants for you to enjoy.

Have you been on a winery tour of Washington State before? What was your favorite winery?

Aloha Hawaii!

As winter has settled in in the Northern Hemisphere, my mind has regularly drifted to the tropical beaches of Hawaii. There is nothing like the crystal blue water, the lush rainforests and the beautiful golden beaches that cover the eight major Hawaiian Islands. As I walk past the snow piled on the pavement I can’t help but think about my swimsuit, buried in the bottom of my drawers, and how great it would be to escape these icy temperatures and head to paradise.

When I imagine my Hawaiian escape, I want a mixture of culture, scenery, sun, sand, surf and of course nature. I don’t want it to be over populated with tourists but I want it to be relaxing, and suitable for children. Naturally my choice is Kauai, the Garden Isle and the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. I like the idea of tropical flowers and vegetation, the rainforest and the canyon. Plus, the island has some truly stunning beaches that can’t be overlooked.  If I was to head to Kauai, Hawaii tomorrow, my ‘holiday to-do list’ would look something like this…

 

Take a boat to Na Pali

Na Pali is a fifteen-mile stretch of coastline on the northwest side of Kauai. Much of the coast is inaccessible due to its sheer cliffs which rise as high as 4,000 feet above the ocean. I would take a boat to check out this magnificent spot, however if you’re more of an active person, hiking is also an excellent way of getting there. The hikes are particularly amazing, and it is definitely worth going a little bit further to reach the waterfall which is particularly breathtaking. Some of Kauai’s best snorkeling is found around the Na Pali Coast also, so this is a great opportunity to see some amazing tropical fish and maybe even a Hawaiian green sea turtle, if you’re lucky! This stunning area of Hawaii is certainly not to be missed – pictures do not do it justice

 

Kalalau Trail

 

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay is the largest bay on the north shore of Kauai and is thought of as one of the best beaches in Hawaii. The picturesque beach is nearly two miles long, shaped like a crescent moon and is surrounded by mountains.  The bay is a great place to go surfing (particularly in the winter months), body boarding, paddle boarding, fishing, sailing and swimming.

 

Visit Hanapepe Art Galleries

Hanapepe, which has also been touted Kauai’s “Art Colony”, is a mecca for art studios and galleries. It’s easy to spend many days wandering the rows upon rows of galleries and enjoying the local art work. If you’re in Hanapepe on a Friday night, check out the art night called Hanapepe Art Walk which is held over a two-block stretch of Hanapepe Road.  It is these art nights that revived Hanapepe over a decade ago, and helped create Hanapepe to be the art and cultural center that is has become.  If you’re looking for a piece of artwork to buy, this is also a great opportunity to support the local community.

 

Wild Hawaiian Goats

 

See Waimea Canyon

Waimean Canyon on the West Side of Kauai is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. While it’s not as big as the Grand Canyon, it certainly is as breathtaking. The canyon is approximately ten miles long and 3,000 feet deep and was initially formed by a collapse of the volcano that created Kauai as well as the steady process of erosion from heavy rainfalls. The Waimea Canyon State Park is great for a day trip as it encompasses 1,866 acres of wilderness to explore with numerous hiking treks. If you’re looking for a bit of adventure, why not see the river from the bottom of the canyon, and kayak down the river. Whether you’re seeing the Waimea Canyon from the top or the bottom, don’t forget your camera, you’re bound to get some stellar shots!

 

Hike to the top of Sleeping Giant Mountain

As with Na Pali if you want to take the ‘easy route’, drive to the top and walk for ten minutes to reach the summit. If you’re feeling extra energetic, give the hike ago, it’ll make reaching the top that much more satisfying! The Sleeping Giant is a mountain ridge in the Nounou Forest Reserve. The mountain, which is officially known as Nounou Mountain, received its nickname due to the traditional Hawaiian legend about a giant who overate at a party in his honor that when he laid down to rest, he never woke up. The hiking trails lead right up to the highest point of the ridge which could also be the giants “forehead”.

 

Kalalau Beach

What’s on your Hawaii to-do list? If you’re planning on checking out this tropical oasis out, be sure to check out our vacation rentals on the islands!

Tax Breaks, and Your Place: Benefits of Renting Your Second Home

©chispita_666

Did you know that if you rent out your second home for fewer than 14 days a year, then it is not considered a rental property? Did you know that the money you collect by renting for fewer than 14 days a year is tax-free?


That’s right. It’s known as the “Masters Provision,” named after the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia where the Masters Tournament takes place each year. Homeowners around this sprawling, green golf course have caught on early that they can rent out their homes and collect a pretty penny from visitors attending the tournament, and simply pocket the money – tax-free. But you don’t have to have a house in Augusta, Georgia to do this. And you don’t have to rent out your second home for such a minimal amount of time to make a big profit.


Check out this article written by Lauren Baier Kim of the Wall Street Journal to learn how taxes work for vacation rentals. For an in-depth look at taxes for second homes, refer to what the IRS says regarding the Rental of Vacation Homes.

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