Hawaii Take Two - Maui Wowee!

I have more photos here

I know that title is a cliche.  I just like the way it sounds.

Is there any place more beautiful and magical than Hawaii?  There is a reason so many tourists will flock to a remote island in the middle of the Pacific.  Now that I have left, I am already making my plans to return.  Returning isn't easy.  The trip is long and the stay is expensive.

I suppose Hawaii's cost and distance is part of what makes it so special.  If it were accessible, if you could easily travel there often and cheaply, it would be just another tropical island.  Hawaii is like anything rare and precious.  We value it more because we can't easily have it.  Then again, some people end up moving there and are just as happy to be there full time and not just as a special vacation.  That's not something I could easily do.  I couldn't just pack up my stuff and move thousands of miles away from my friends and family and life here on the east coast.

It was a full and happy week for me in Maui.  There were some glitches with the weather and with Kevin's health, but I think it was a good vacation overall.

Day 1 - We didn't have the most auspicious start.  We printed our boarding passes ahead of time and were ready to check in and drop our bags.  We waited on the security line, but when the agent checked our boarding passes, mine wouldn't scan.  Our printer was low on ink and the code wasn't completely visible.  The agent said once we printed new passes we could go through the fast check-in line.  We left the line and printed our boarding passes at the kiosk.  We went to the back of the main security line and the agents standing at the back of it said to go to the fast check line.  When we went to the fast check line, the agents there said we couldn't do that unless we were accompanied by airport employees.  It was back to waiting on the main security line.  What a pain.  Fortunately it wasn't any longer than any typical line and we were through security in plenty of time.

We had extra comfort seats for our flight and I was looking forward to it.  The last time we flew comfort on Hawaiian Airlines we had so much legroom that I could get up and go to the bathroom without disturbing Kevin. All of the entertainment was free.  It was almost as good as first class.  This trip it wasn't as good as I remembered.  I had to pay for the good movies and there was less legroom than I remembered.  Still, it was better than the regular Economy seats.

After a grueling ten hours we arrived in Honolulu and made our connection to Maui. As we flew into Maui I could see a lovely coastal road at the base of the mountains.  I wondered if it was part of the Road to Hana. It all looked beautiful and I was extra excited when we landed. After our transportation disaster in Kauai two years ago, we learned our lesson and rented a car at the airport.  We got our car and Kevin asked me to drive.  At first I wasn't thrilled because I hate driving in strange places.  I decided to just embrace the adventure.  We had a GPS.  How lost could we get?

Once I was behind the wheel, I was happy to be driving.  That road I saw from the air wasn't the Road to Hana, but Route 30, the road I would drive to Lahaina.  It was a beautiful drive and I felt perfectly comfortable taking the car on that road.  We were in Lahaina well before sunset.

We checked into our beautiful hotel, The Plantation Inn.  It sat on a rather unattractive commercial street, but that street terminated at the ocean as well as the beautiful Front Street.  Lahaina is an old whaling town and still retains some of its historical charm.  The hotel also has a small, but charming pool courtyard and the mountains are visible from there.  Our room was spacious and pretty with an enormous lanai (we could have hosted a party on that terrace).  We definitely made the right choice with hotels.

It was on a rather bland commercial street, but the ocean was right at the end of the block.

The neighbors have a cat who discovered he could mooch breakfast and cuddles from the hotel guests, so he was always hanging around.
We spent the evening walking along Front Street and had dinner at a casual restaurant on the strip called Captain Jacks The downside of dining in Lahaina is that it is a party town and the restaurants are crowded and filled with bustling bar scenes.  It's hard to have a quiet dinner if you don't want to spend major cash.

We did our best to stay awake for a reasonable bedtime and combat jet lag, and looked forward to starting our first full day.

Day 2 - We concentrated all our efforts in Lahaina that day.  It's a charming town.  It was a former whaling village and also former state capital.  It's main road, Front Street, is filled with shops and galleries.  In some ways, it reminded me of Chincoteague, but more upscale with more stuff and bigger.  We walked the north of our hotel to the end of the business district for part of the day and then spent the other half of the day looking south of our hotel.  We found our favorite lunch spot for the week, The Lahaina Luna Cafe.  

One of the places we visited was the shop of ukulele maker Ken Potts. He had a handful of instruments in his shop, but they were all impressive.  He had a tenor ukulele, a six-string ukulele, and this unusual eight-string ukulele that had the richest sound of any stringed instrument I ever heard.  He is a master craftsman who works with local woods.  You don't have to play one to be impressed.

When we had enough walking we returned to the hotel and I spent some time in the pool before dinner.

For dinner we headed to the docks for a sunset cruise with the Pacific Whale Foundation.   Unfortunately the whales already migrated north, so we were only able to view the landscape and a handful of dolphins. It was a beautiful view though.  As we pulled away from the shore, we could see a beautiful rainbow in the mountains.  The sunset over the island of Lanai across the way was equally impressive.  The dinner itself was a bit better than mediocre.  We had a good salad and a good dessert, but my steak was overcooked and Kevin didn't like his shrimp.  The side dish was an interesting dish of mashed purple sweet potatoes with coconut.  Kevin didn't like that at all.

Early to bed for our next advenutre that was starting early the next day.

Day 3 -We had a van tour scheduled for a drive down the Road to Hana.  This is a road on the east coast of Maui that is known for winding roads and spectacular views of the ocean and filled with waterfalls.  There isn't much civilization along this road.  There is one way in to the area and one way out.  It eventually lead to the town of Hana, where the residents enjoy their isolation away from the tourists and Americanization of Hawaiian culture (although the town looks pretty Americanized to me).

The day turned out to be problematic.  First the driver for the tour company we scheduled the trip with had a death in the family and couldn't do the tour, so they subcontracted a guy who normally does only private tours.  He vehicle was small and the 6 of us were squeezed in there pretty tight.  It rained pretty hard for most of the day.  We were unable to stop and really enjoy the waterfalls.  On normal days it might be possible to swim, but the weather and the water conditions made that impossible.  The winding road triggered Kevin's dizzy spells and he was sick the whole time.

We did see some beautiful spots.  We did see some waterfalls.  Our guide was knowledgeable about the flora on the road and told us which trees were native and which were brought in from other areas and which were considered invasive.  We were lucky to have a break in the rain when we reached Wai'anapanapa State Park.  It has a beautiful black sand beach.  I saw black sand beaches on the Big Island on my last trip, but those were rock beaches.  Wai'anapanapa is actual smooth black sand.  There is also a small lava tube on the beach (not as big as the one at Volcanoes National Park).

We were given an hour to explore.  I spent some time walking along the magnificent lava formation cliffs, but it started raining again.  I had a wet hike back to the van.

We stopped by a beach that was surrounded by red cliffs.  The sand at that beach is regular sand colored, but if you walk down the beach to the adjacent shoreline, you see the sand is red.  The red sand flows away from one beach and forms another.

Once we returned to our hotel, Kevin was able to recover.  We ate dinner in our hotel that night.  The Plantation Inn has a beautiful French restaurant called Gerard's.  We had a lovely dinner on their front porch.

Day 4 - Kevin wisely opted to stay behind while I went on a hike.  My guide, Lily, picked me up in the morning and we started off back on the Road to Hana.  We didn't go too far in though.  The preserve where we went hiking was at the start of it.  The purpose of this hike was to view and swim in waterfalls, but the rains from the previous day made some of the streams impossible to cross and some of the pools too dangerous for swimming.  We were able to swim in one waterfall though.  It was a fun hike.  Lily spent a lot of time talking about the plant life and pointing out what plants were edible.  We even ate the flesh from the pod of a cacao tree.  It tasted like a sour mango rather than like chocolate.  (The raw seeds don't have their distinct chocolatey flavor yet either, so don't try to eat them.)

That evening we went to our first Lu'Au at Old Lahaina Lu'Au.  It was a lot of fun.  As soon as we arrived they served mai tais as we waited on line to enter.  Performers gave dance lessons.  We watched them take the pig from the pit.  The buffet was excellent.  I enjoyed the pig, but they had delicious beef and chicken dishes too.  The drinks flowed freely.  I think they flowed a bit too freely.  I started nodding off during the entertainment.  We watched various dances and rituals.  I learned that Queen Liliuokalani was a musician and she was the one who wrote the famous Aloha Oe. (I think that is a more well-known fact than I give it credit for and I just didn't know it.)

Day 5 - Kevin decided to sit this one out as well.  I took a snorkel cruise to Molokini Crater.  This is a volcanic formation that sits between Maui and Kahoʻolawe.  It has clear underwater visibility, so it is a great snorkel spot.  It is also a bird sanctuary and I spotted many interesting shore birds.  I had to drive a bit out of my way to find the boat (I should have done more research because similar cruises leave right from the Lahaina docks), but I made it on time.  

I bought an underwater camera so I could get some photos (see the link at the top of this post).  The views were spectacular so I'm glad I had some evidence this time.  Some of the best views in Hawaii are underwater.  We spent an hour swimming around Molokini and then got back on the boat for lunch. 

We headed back to the west side of the island to Turtle Reef where the famed sea turtles are known to hang out.  The turtles were shy that day.  I only saw one before I gave up and went back to the boat.  Some of the other folks on the boat say they saw two or three.  The most interesting thing about the turtle I saw was that he had a shark bite on his shell.  The visibility wasn't as good at Turtle Reef as it was at Molokini, so I didn't save the photos I took.

Some of us got frustrated and decided to stop snorkeling and just go swimming.  The guides had encouraged us to rent wetsuits to protect against the sun as well as the colder water at Molokini.  By the end of the time at Turtle Reef, I ditched the wetsuit and the snorkel gear and just enjoyed taking a dive off the boat and swimming around.  For some reason the water seemed warmer when I did that.

I had been vigilant about avoiding the sun for most of the week, but got a bit fried on the ride back.  I was enjoying the air and sunshine on the upper deck and kept neglecting to go below deck for more sunscreen.  I was rather pink.  That didn't stop me from spending my afternoon back at the hotel at Baby Beach in Lahaina.  It's a calm, shady, and quiet beach about a 15 minute walk from the center of town.   The water is calm (no surf), shallow, and warm.  I was able to swim laps (although I had to route around the reefs) away from the shore and back.  I felt so fried despite adding more sunscreen.  Kevin wanted to take a walk before dinner but I made him wait until I felt the sun was down enough.

We had dinner at a restaurant at the end of our street, Lahaina Grill.  I think it was the most expensive restaurant in town.  It was a bit noisy, but we had the most entertaining server.  This guy was one of those servers who likes to put on a show.  The food was excellent.  Kevin had to wait a long time for his chicken, so they brought us a complimentary piece of pie in compensation.  Kevin felt it wasn't enough dessert, so we went out for ice cream.  I decided the pie was enough.

Day 6 - How disappointing was it to have it rain on our last full day?  I optimistically took rented some snorkel gear, took the car and tried to drive to the famous nearby Kaanapali Beach.  Even with the rain I couldn't find parking.  There are some spaces in local garages for "Beach Access" and they are free, but there are not many of them and they were all taken.  The beachfront is taken up by hotels.  Those hotels all have paid parking.  I thought I might be able to pay for parking at the Kaanapali Beach Resort, which is a sister property to The Plantation Inn.  Unfortunately hotels will not allow beach parking in their lots.  I guess hotels want to keep as much of the beach to themselves as possible.  I learned later on that there is a bus that goes from Lahaina to Kaanapali, but it was too late then.  It rained most of the morning anyway.

The Plantation Inn has a laundry room, so that's where we spent some of our morning.  It's always good to have less laundry to do at home when you come home from vacaction.

There was enough of a break in the rain for me to take my snorkel to Baby Beach.  There wasn't much to see there, but there were a few interesting fish.  I think I saw more than I expected to.

In the late afternoon we took a short drive into the mountains for some horseback riding.  We went to Lahaina Stables and met with our guide Alison.  When she gave us our waivers she included a helmet waiver.  I think she was surprised when we told her we wanted helmets.   We were introduced to our horses.  My horse was a dark bay named Willy.  I was told he was a good horse, but he would always want his head and I would have to work to keep him from eating on the trails.

I didn't find him to be too problematic.  I just rode him on contact for the entire ride.  There were times when I would let him eat and he seemed surprised and reluctant.  The ride was surprisingly grueling for an all-levels ride.  We had to deal with some steep mountain terrain.  We were rewarded with a beautiful view though.  All week long I was at the level of the ocean, looking up into the mountains.  This day I was up in the mountains looking down at the ocean.

After the ride they gave us champagne and chocolate.  What could be better than horses, champagne, and chocolate in one afternoon?

For dinner that night we went to Fleetwoods, a restaurant owned by Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac.  It's a popular tourist spot, but the food is some of the best in Maui.  They have three levels.  The bottom level is a gift shop.  The middle level is a lounge with a bar and live music (Mick Fleetwood plays there with his current band most Tuesday nights).  The main restaurant is on the rooftop.  It would be a beautiful view, but it's too dark to see the water at night.  Still, it's the highest spot in town and has a majestic feel to it.  We had another excellent meal there.

Day 7 - Time to say goodbye.  That's always sad.  I really would love to come back here some day.  I love The Plantation Inn and I love Lahaina.  There are so many things to see on Maui too that we missed (we never made it to Haleakala for example).  The inn has a discount for returning guests, so we should take advantage of it.  We had no issues getting home.  We hardly used our car all week.  We used it to get to and from the airport and I used it four other times.  They rental agency gave us a discount since we used so little in mileage and gas.  We were lucky that everything we needed was in walking distance or else our tours had hotel pickups.  The flights were fine.  We made it back to New York around 6AM the next morning.  All I wanted to do was sleep.

Aloha Hawaii.  Thanks again for another great trip.


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