Bummahs! Nothing worse after all that planning and anticipation to show up in Hawaii and find that the "cozy beach cottage" turns out to be a moldy shack held up by termites. Sure, this photo is a joke but you can guard against disappointment by following a few guidelines:
1. Use the Internet and make sure to examine photos. Places that show a lot of pictures of nearby sites, rather than the rental itself, should send up a red flag. The Internet also gives you a record of what's been said, when dealing with the landlord/management. VRBO.com and awayfromhome.com are two good sites with lots of listings.
2. After initial contacts, call the actual place in Hawaii. This is a good way to get a read on "the aloha." If you only get a disembodied voice or an 800 number, that's a sign of poor management. Most people in Hawaii are friendly and honest; if someone doesn't have time to talk to you, that's an indication of something to hide or lack of caring about the rental.
3. Ask the right questions: Questions will vary according to what's important to you. Is the rental quiet (TV's, traffic, barking dogs, Zumba classes)? How recently was the room renovated or built? Is there mold or mildew smells, bedbug history (which are more prevalent in the Tropics)? What floor is the room on (top floor is preferrable)? Ask about the specific locale: location to other units, proximity to the beach, stores, pool. What are the amenities? How large? Don't be afraid to ask. If someone is impatient, or doesn't know, that's a sign of problems when you arrive.
4. If you have friends you can stand, you will get a much better deal by sharing a larger more expensive unit than renting a smaller unit for yourself.
5. Use the listings in No Worries Hawaii, a Vacation Planning Guide for Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island. You'll find good rental agents (who will treat you like the client), specific rentals and resorts, and a complete rundown on the vacation locales in Hawaii, i.e., luxury resort strips, rural beach cottages, mid-range family hotels on the beach, mountain retreats, quaint towns, etc.
6. Ask friends where they have stayed; once you've zeroed in on a place, use the Internet to read reviews. Tipadvisor is a good place to check out reviews. Read them with a grain of salt. Someone may love a place, or hate it, for a reasons that are not in line with your likes.