Score cheap fun in the sun

Use these tricks to scout out last-minute beach deals before they get washed away.

Take the road less traveled
travel bargains hawaii

Big Island, Hawaii

Hawaii has a couple of perennial tourist hotspots: Maui and Kauai. Yet some of the state's lesser-visited locales are similarly blessed with perfect temperatures and stunning beaches.

So while hotels in the popular Hawaiian islands are packed in the early spring, those on the beautiful Big Island have rooms to spare. Occupancy rates on Big Island in March and April have been 10% to 20% lower than on Maui in recent years, says Smith Travel Research, and last year average daily rates were almost 30% less.

Why go: Are 266 miles of pristine beach not enough? The elevation and lack of lights on Big Island (it has the highest mountain in the state) make it a gem for stargazing.

"For the best star show, drive to a dark area like the old airport up by Hawi," says travel agent Betty Cox. Those craving a more active adventure can take a tour to the top of the dormant Mauna Kea volcano or visit the W.M. Keck Observatory, which boasts the world's largest optical and infrared telescopes.

The northeast side of the island is known for lush vegetation and periodic rain showers; other areas are usually sunny.

Sample deal: Airfare to Hawaii is perpetually expensive, but you may be able to find a package deal where the hotel and flight won't cost much more than the flight alone. A three-night package via Pleasant Holidays at the three-star Royal Kona Resort from L.A. starts at $587 in March -- vs. $434 for flights in that period.

  @Money - Last updated March 01 2013 09:30 AM ET
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