Hawaii: You Go Girl!

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Adrenaline-driven gal pal getaways in Hawaii.

Gal pal getaways are one of the hottest segments of the travel industry, growing like morning glory vines on a backyard fence. The experience of traveling with same-sex peers is quite different—often much more relaxing and rejuvenating—than traveling with family members or spouses. What travel agents and tour operators are picking up on is the safe, non-judgmental fun women have with other women and how packaging this concept has met a growing demand over the past decade.

According to a recent survey of 1,500 women by L.A.-based Impulse Research, nearly 50 percent of the women asked had taken an all-female trip in the past three years and that 88 percent had plans for another or would like to go on a no-men-allowed getaway.

What may be fueling this booming travel niche is up for easy speculation. Certainly more women are working and have disposable incomes. Women of the present generation tend to be active and adventurous and pop culture phenoms such as the “Sex and the City” books, television and film productions, keep a steady glint of glamour on these friendships, if not promote them as life-making bonds.

“Girlfriend vacations comprised a major part of my business, at least before last fall,” says Karen Satzman, master travel planner at the Travel Store, based in Beverly Hills, and an expert in travel to Mexico, Europe and Hawaii. “I was sending women to the Greek Isles, Europe and on cruises. They had discretionary income and really knew how to treat themselves. And one element I always made sure of in the itinerary was some kind of spa experience.”

Guilt-free gal pal adventures run the gamut—from kayaking in Costa Rica or sailing in the Caribbean, to hiking Kilimanjaro. Closer to home, the islands of Hawaii present a paradise of endless options when it comes to dropping, flopping and bopping about for a therapeutic tropical tune-up with like-minded souls on holiday.

surf’s up
In Hawaii, one of the top items on such a Hawaii-bound bucket list is likely to be “learn to surf.” “Girls Only” surf clinics are thriving on the islands, giving many a woman who would not dare to get on a board, the comfort and confidence to attempt this sport without fear of ridicule or danger.

North Shore Surf Girls on Oahu’s famed North Shore offers surfing lessons taught by women to female groups of three or more for $49 each for an hour ($74.95 for two hours, all including board, rash guard, surf shirts and land instruction). Private lessons run $109.95 for an hour. Make it a hassle-free, 4-hour afternoon with visits to turtle sanctuaries, shrimp plate trucks and famed shaved ice stops and spend $189.95 each (minimum two people).

The Haleiwa Town location of the school makes it most convenient for guests staying at the Turtle Bay Resort, but it is not uncommon for students to drive in from Waikiki.

“One thing about visiting Oahu is that you simply have to visit the North Shore so we get students from all over the island. They love learning from female instructors, who seem to be willing to explain the ‘why’ part of the moves as well as the ‘what,’” says North Shore Surf Girls’ owner Carol Philips. “When women learn from women and in a group of women, they seem to be much more comfortable, much less intimidated by the sport and willing to get up on that board and try.”

The average lesson is two hours, Philips says, and that should be enough time for a student in relatively fit shape to stand up on the board and move with the waves.

“It’s a very Zen sport, really, when it’s just you and the water. And when these women finally get up on that board, it is really an ‘aha!’ moment,” she says.

Travel agents can book these lessons through hawaiifun.org, a site that allows agents to earn 15 percent commissions off direct bookings with participating affiliates or earn $7 per Gold Discount Card—which provides 10-25 percent off retail prices for clients—they sell to clients (agent.hawaiifun.org).