On a similar note...
On a similar note...
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The geographical diversity of the United States means there’s always another national park to explore. If you've already checked off parks in your area, consider some of these more far-flung options. Alaska and Hawaii are home to some of the most thrilling national parks in the world — from the snow-covered caps of Denali in Alaska to the surreal landscape at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island.
If a trip to explore Alaska's or Hawaii’s national parks is in your future, you can save money by using hotel points to pay for your accommodations. Here are a few great places to stay around some of the best national parks in our 49th and 50th states.
Denali National Park and Preserve
Denali National Park is smack in the middle of Alaska, completely landlocked, and centers around Denali, the tallest mountain in North America. If you have always wanted to explore the taiga and tundra you learned about in high school, this park is for you. These Fairbanks hotels are about 2 hours from the park:
Hyatt Place Fairbanks
This great new Hyatt Place in Fairbanks is accepting reservations starting Nov. 24. The pet-friendly hotel has an indoor pool and offers on-site parking. As of mid-September, the number of points you’ll need to book a room wasn’t stated on the website. But considering that Hyatt’s other two Alaska hotels, Hyatt Place Anchorage-Midtown and Hyatt House Anchorage, start at just 12,000 World of Hyatt points per night, expect this Fairbanks property to be a good value as well.
SpringHill Suites Fairbanks
Located in downtown Fairbanks, this SpringHill Suites is not the most modern, but can serve nicely as a base for exploring the Alaskan wilderness. There’s an indoor pool and whirlpool, and your breakfast and on-site parking are free. At this Category 4 Marriott property, a night will cost you 20,000 to 30,000 Bonvoy points.
Hampton Inn & Suites Fairbanks
This is an older Hampton Inn & Suites, but it still makes for a good option to use your Hilton Honors points. It has an indoor pool and offers free breakfast, parking and airport shuttle.
For dates we checked, the nightly rate was 25,000 points. But search for your specific dates, as Hilton uses dynamic pricing.
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Fairbanks
This basic Holiday Inn Express in downtown Fairbanks offers no thrills or frills, but it's a good choice nonetheless. There’s a heated indoor pool, and parking is complimentary. It also offers a free local area shuttle you can use to explore your surroundings.
You will need 17,500 IHG points for every night you book at this hotel.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Located in the southern part of Alaska, Kenai Fjords National Park encompasses the largest ice field in the United States, with fjords that were carved by glaciers moving down the mountains. You can see bears, moose, seals and both humpback whales and orcas. The nearest hotels of interest to loyalty program members are mostly in Anchorage, about 125 miles from the park. Here are some home base hotels for points collectors who are up for a big adventure.
Hyatt Place Anchorage-Midtown
This gorgeous Hyatt Place in Anchorage has excellent shared areas — for when social distancing is no longer necessary — as well as outdoor space and an indoor pool. Rooms have a fresh minimalist style, and many suites come with spacious bathrooms and living areas. The hotel is pet friendly and offers free parking and breakfast.
You'll need 12,000 World of Hyatt points per night to stay at this hotel.
Four Points by Sheraton Anchorage Downtown
This Four Points in downtown Anchorage is on the newer side, so it still looks pretty pristine. It’s located near the historic downtown district, making it a perfect choice if you want to explore the city as well as the park. On-site parking is complimentary.
The nightly rate is 20,000 to 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, as this is a Category 4 hotel.
» Learn more: The 5 best ways to rack up Marriott Bonvoy points
Home2 Suites by Hilton Anchorage/Midtown
One of the best things about Home2 Suites rooms is that they have a fully equipped kitchenette with a full-size fridge and microwave, so you can keep stocked on all your preferred drinks and snacks to refresh after a full day at the park. Hot breakfast, parking and airport shuttle are all free at this pet-friendly hotel.
The cost for random dates we checked is 33,000 points, but because Hilton uses dynamic pricing for award nights, your dates could cost more or less.
Holiday Inn Express Anchorage
Though older and a little worn around the edges, this Holiday Inn Express’ biggest strength is its location convenient to the airport, Fish Creek Park and a good selection of casual dining options. It offers free hot breakfast, complimentary parking and an indoor heated pool. Airport shuttle service is also offered for free.
The rate for this hotel is 17,500 IHG points per night.
Haleakala National Park
With one of the world's most spectacular sunrises (you'll need a reservation), Haleakala park is a can’t-miss for visitors to the Hawaiian island of Maui. On the drive, you move from a subtropical rainforest to the surreal summit of a volcano. Stargazing, rugged mountain hiking,and ranger-guided tours are a few of the activities that await.
Westin Maui Resort & Spa Ka'anapali
Located on a stunning stretch of golden-sand beach in Maui’s Ka'anapali Resort area, this Westin offers a heavenly escape less than two hours from the park. From the outdoor areas to the lobby to the rooms, every detail captures the spirit of aloha. The hotel's five pools, two waterslides, cascading waterfalls and swim-through grotto create the perfect aquatic paradise for relaxing between park visits.
The nightly rate for this resort is 50,000 to 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
Grand Wailea Waldorf Astoria Resort
Maui’s Wailea resort area is a little closer to Haleakala park than Kaanapali — about an hour and a half by car — and home to a truly stunning escape for any traveler sitting on a massive stash of Hilton Honors points. A Waldorf Astoria property, the Grand Wailea has everything you would expect from a top-tier luxury resort: two massive pools, waterslides, a 50,000-square-foot spa — the biggest in Hawaii — and multiple on-site options for dining and shopping.
For dates we checked, the nightly rate was a gasp-inducing 288,000 Hilton Honors points. But do your own searches for different dates because Hilton’s dynamic pricing means you might be able to do better.
» Learn more: Hilton Honors: The complete guide
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Not one but two active volcanoes stretch from either end of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. The drive here features wonderful views of the volcanic craters, or you can venture farther down to the sea on the Chain of Craters road. With over 123,000 acres of designated wilderness, hiking trails abound. You might even get lucky and see an eruption — the last one was in 2018.
Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa Keauhou Bay
Perched on the lava-rock-laced coast on the sunny side of the Big Island, this Sheraton is about an hour and a half from the park. Though it’s not the most modern or luxurious hotel on the island, the sprawling oceanfront pool offers stunning ocean views, and the clean rooms are on par with what you’d expect from a Sheraton.
As a Marriott Category 5 hotel, the nightly rate is 30,000 to 40,000 Bonvoy points.
Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo DoubleTree by Hilton
Less than 40 minutes from the park, this DoubleTree offers to-die-for views of Hilo Bay from its oceanfront rooms and stunning views of the dormant volcano Mauna Kea from its inland-facing rooms. There’s lots of space to lounge around the small but nice pool. The on-site restaurant features local fare in a casual setting and an expansive bar.
We found award nights starting at 40,000 Hilton Honors points, but your dates may vary.
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Kailua-Kona
The Holiday Inn Express in Kailua-Kona puts an emphasis on convenience. It’s a 5-minute walk from bustling Kailua Village, with myriad options for dining and shopping. The pool is nothing special, and the views are mostly of a parking lot. But the rooms are bigger and nicer than you’d expect. And Holiday Inn Express’ famous free breakfast will fortify you for a day of exploring the park, about a two-hour drive away.
The nightly rate is 40,000 IHG points to stay at this hotel.
» Learn more: IHG Rewards: More value for the frugal traveler
Tips for visiting national parks
Operating hours, entry requirements and restrictions for each park can change unexpectedly. So check the National Park Service website when planning your trip. Research areas near your hotel to learn about other sites you could add to your trip, especially state parks.
For example, while on the Big Island of Hawaii, you can visit Mauna Kea for some of the most eerily lunar landscapes on Earth. Once you come down from this impressive 13,803-foot volcano, head to beautiful Akaka Falls State Park or the Rainbow Falls for an easy hike or a picnic. See the black volcanic sand at Punaluu or the unreal green sands at Papakolea Beach.
When visiting Maui, why not drive the beautifully scenic Hana Highway that winds around the lower part of the island? For another dose of stunning beaches, go to Kaihalulu Beach to see its red sands, or sink your toes into the golden sands of Makena State Park. The pools at Oheo are a great area to take in a bamboo forest and waterfalls, and even go for a swim. The Nakalele Blowhole on the southern coast is another place to visit. With plenty of intra-island flights, you can easily see more than one Hawaiian island.
When it comes to visiting Alaska, there’s lots more to explore than just Denali and Kenai Fjords. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a great place to see local fauna. Chugach State Park offers amazing lake and glacier views, as well as countless recreational activities — all accessible from Anchorage.
When near Fairbanks, both the Museum of the North and Pioneer Park are worth a visit, as is the Ice Museum.
With some luck, you may get a glimpse of the Northern Lights on your Alaska trip. Check the Aurora Forecast by the University of Alaska Fairbanks to gauge your chances of seeing this elusive geomagnetic phenomena.
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