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December 31, 1989|JERRY HULSE

Although old Hawaii with its grass shacks is but a melancholy memory, it's still possible to escape the pressure cooker by jetting to remote spots on these islands. I used to have a romance going with the legendary Waiohai, the little resort at Poipu--on the island of Kauai. This was before the developers trashed it and replaced it with a major hotel. Still, there are pockets in paradise. A new 144-page guide, "The Islands of Hawaii," contains information on accommodations, activities, entertainment, tours. Clues to hideaways on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai and the Big Island. For a free copy, telephone toll-free (800) 356-3377.

New York Inns: More than 100 country inns/B&Bs spread across New York state are named in a new guide with listings by region. Takes in areas from Albion to Windham. A map in the centerfold to assist motorists. At the back of the guide there's a listing of tourist agencies that offer additional information on accommodations, activities, attractions. Sells for $2. Contact Branys, P.O. Box 862, Canandaigua, N.Y. 14424.

Bahamas Hideaway: Shauna Pickett-Gordon of Los Angeles took our advice and vacationed at Nettie Symonette's Casuarinas Hotel in the Bahamas. "Just returned after 10 days. Can't imagine spending money on Las Vegas-style resorts in Nassau and missing the real Bahamas. Nettie and her family made us feel welcome in a special way, recommending places to dine, offering advice on tours. The hotel has both regular and housekeeping units. Nettie grows her own vegetables, herbs. The hotel's Round House Restaurant serves a variety of native dishes at reasonable prices--about 60% of what you'd pay in the casino hotels in Nassau. The other restaurant, Albion's, serves conch-snapper-grouper-beans 'n' rice specialties. Nettie's was a real treat."

Casuarinas Hotel, P.O. Box N4016, Nassau, Bahamas.

Cancun: The Hotel Cancun Beach Club in Mexico has come up with a post-holiday package. Four days, three nights: $302, including taxes. Includes a junior suite for two, daily breakfast/dinner, unlimited drinks, free tennis. Offer is good through Jan. 25. After this you get the same deal through April 15 for $346.

Contact your travel agent or Hotel Cancun Beach Club, Cancun, Mexico.

Mediterranean Escape: "A sea view from every apartment" is promised when you book holiday space with The French Experience, specialists providing vacation rentals throughout France. One-bedroom apartments along the Provencal coast between St. Tropez and Le Lavandou are priced from $455 to $725 a week, mid-April till mid-September. (Two-week minimums required July/August.) In Paris, The French Experience books studio/one-bedroom apartments on both the Left and Right banks of the Seine. Six-night rentals from $534. The French Experience, 370 Lexington Ave., New York 10017.

Heart's Hideaway: A note from C.D. of Redondo Beach: "A couple of years ago you wrote about a romantic Italian village south of Naples and a resort that's built into a cliff. Do you still have the address?" Write to Hotel San Pietro, 84017 Positano, Italy. Overlooks the Tyrhenian Sea on the Amalfi Drive. Only a short hydrofoil ride from Capri. Rooms are cleverly hidden among the ledges of a cliff that drops straight away to the sea. No two alike. Great spot for honeymooners. So is Positano. I rate it among my favorite places in Europe. This is also the village that enchanted John Steinbeck.

San Francisco: Following October's big shake, San Francisco is back wooing vacationers. Particularly in Japantown. A new folder describes Japanese shops, restaurants, hotels. Eighteen categories ranging from art galleries to travel services. Imported items include furniture, folk crafts, jewelry, books, tapes, toys. Hotels include the 125-room Kyoto Inn and the 218-room Miyako. Both Western and Japanese accommodations. For a free copy of the Japantown folder, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to the Japan Center, 1520 Webster St., San Francisco 94115.

Reader Recommendations

California--Elena Allen, Laguna Hills: "Village Inn Bed & Breakfast, 407 El Camino Real, Arroyo Grande 93420. Rates: $85/$125. Best B&B I've ever stayed in. Great food, wonderful hospitality."

California--John McTaggart, Rancho Palos Verdes: "The Kaleidoscope Inn, 130 E. Dana St., Nipomo, Calif. 93444. This place has a special charm. Ideal for people who are planning to stay in the Santa Maria/San Luis Obispo area. Rates: $65/$70."

California--Jack D. Whitehead, San Marino: "Just returned from an outstanding weekend at John Gardiner's Rancho Valencia Resort, the fabulous tennis ranch that opened last July at Rancho Santa Fe. Beautifully landscaped, lovely cottages in Spanish architecture and Southwest decor. Food deliciously prepared. We loved it! Daily rates start at $295 for two, which includes breakfast, court time. Rancho Valencia Resort, P.O. Box 9126, Rancho Santa Fe 92067. Telephone toll-free (800) 548-3664."

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