Thursday, February 13, 2014

Maui - our best vacation ever!

Lahaina Welcome Sign

Maui….the ultimate Anniversary Vacation!

Amy and I went to Maui in late January to celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary!  This was a surprise Christmas gift I gave to Amy.  She has been wanting to go to Hawaii since our 20th Anniversary and we were finally in a place to take the trip.

Flight Out
So on Tuesday, January 28th, Amy and I got on a noon flight to Maui.  The flight is eight hours, and there is a four hour time difference between Maui and Dallas.  We arrived just after 4 pm local time to a wet and rainy afternoon.  We got our luggage and our jeep rental, and we were off to the Westin Resort just outside of Lahaina on the west side of the island.

Wind Mills along the mountain

The drive is a beautiful scenic trip along Highway 30.  It is a slow drive with the ocean on your left and the mountains on your right.  I was surprised to see all wind generators along one of the mountains, I did not think they would want to change the view like that! 

As we got closer to our hotel, you could see the signs of civilization as we got into Lahaina.  It is a six red light town!  The resort was nestled among seven or eight other resorts, with a beautiful golf course shared in the middle.

The resort entryway is beautiful - with a waterfall, a pond full of fish and a few flamingos.  Our recently renovated room was cozy and had a view of the pond and palm trees.  We could sneak a peak of the ocean, but our room was a bit too low to see a full ocean view.  We took a short walk along the seashore and grabbed a quick bite at the local shopping center and called it a night.

Flamingo's in the Hotel Pond
Pool Area

View from our room

Wednesday began with a wonderful breakfast at the hotel.  They had a huge spread at the buffet.  Amy had the traditional eggs, bacon and pancakes, and I fell in love with all the local fruit!  I discovered papayas and I was in love!  I do not think I have ever had them before.  I must have eaten a pound of them! 

After breakfast we headed to downtown Lahaina where we had reservations for a whale-watching tour with Pacific Whale Foundation!  The docks are right behind the famous Banyan tree. 


This is a very old tree that spreads itself across the entire park.  


As soon as we began we immediately saw whales playing all around, blowing water out their spout, and showing off their jumping and splashing capabilities.  

Spinner Dolphins

The boat captain found a spot with dolphins.  We saw a large group of spinner dolphins - there must have been 30 or 40 of them playing in the sea.  I have never heard of them, but they like to jump straight up out of the water and spin around.  They swam along the side of the boat and in front of the bow - diving in and out of the water.  The fascinating site was seeing the dolphins swim on their backs since they had very light colored bellies.  It was amazing to see the various colors.  

We got our fill of whale sightings and certainly got our money’s worth.  We took over 200 pictures of whales and dolphins trying to capture the action of the great animals.

After the tour we spent some time checking out the local shops.  We got a bite to eat at a local diner and then found some great macadamia nut ice cream!  

Amy on the Waterfront in Lahaina

Later that afternoon it started to rain which is common on the island in the winter.  We saw several rainbows - there were double rainbows and in the mountains you could see a complete rainbow end-to-end.  It was a beautiful site.

Dinner was a nice relaxing meal at the Lahaina Fish Company overlooking the ocean.  Most of the restaurants were open air - the weather was just perfect night or day.  This was a nice relaxing dinner with a quiet romantic atmosphere.

Thursday started out with a traditional breakfast at another resort restaurant called Cast Away.  It was a small restaurant with a few more affordable options.  I had more local fruit and Amy got some pancakes.  Our plan was to take a ride on the Sugar Train.  It is a local train that runs 8-10 miles with three stops.  After sharing our plans with the hostess - she said we should save our money and take a drive along the west side of the island.  She gave us a map, pointed out a few key stops, and we were off!

 So we headed out in the jeep and took the top off.  We had to be back for our reservation at 5:00, so we have plenty of time to just drive.  The drive was simply amazing - we went through Kaanapali and then Kapalua.  The drive was on a small, windy road with lots of scenic stops.  We found one area filled with surfers trying to catch waves and other areas of beaches that were so remote no one was on them.

We discovered that we drove past the famous “blow hole” in Kapalua so we had to backtrack to find it.  The blow hole was a hole in the rock just off the beach.  As the waves came in, it created pressure along the rock and then the water blew straight up like a geyser.  We did not venture all the way down the hill to stand on the rock, but we did get some great pictures.

After that we got back on the road where the signs that say falling rock were - very true!  We saw rocks in the road that could have stopped a car in its tracks if you were not paying attention.  Construction crews were out removing the larger fallen rocks from the roads.  Many of the bridges were one lane and you had to be careful driving around the blind corners and tight turns.  As we made our way to Kahakuloa the roads narrowed down to one lane only.  

Kahakuloa from Above
We were told we had to stop by and see Aunt Lorraine.  This was a great suggestion.  She had an assortment of homemade pies, banana bread and handmade coconut chips.  We had some of the coconut pie and it was the best I had ever had.  Nice and cool with coconut chips in every bite.  We also had some of her famous banana bread and it was also very good.  

One of the cyclists we saw on the road had also stopped in to take a break.  He was a nice guy from Washington State who was also planning to make the whole trip around the same path we were on.

One lane roads......
With our fill of desserts we got back to the road, stopping at more scenic turnouts and taking more pictures.  We stopped at a local fruit stand and learned about the Mendoza family in Waihee - a very rich family who owned a large piece of property on that side of the island.  The proprietor of the fruit stand was making fresh coconut candy and I picked up some fresh cut papayas to take along the route. 

Civilization started to show back up as we ventured into Wailuku on the way to Kahului.  Fortunately the roads got better and wider.  We went on back to the airport and traded in the jeep for a silver convertible mustang.  The jeep had a funny smell from someone else leaving seashells in the car and the heat of the sun made the smell even worse!  The mustang was certainly a nice change given our next adventure.

We got back to the hotel and cleaned up for our dinner cruise.  The cruise was out of Lahaina and it began with a peaceful ride along the shoreline.  

Dinner Sunset View

The sunset was beautiful as it started to hide behind the other island.  We met Tom and Laura from Houston; they were recently married and he owned a house on the island.  They had some great stories to share and they gave us some ideas for the next day’s trip.  Dinner was served as the sky turned dark.  

The boat turned around just in front of our hotel and the night started to turn cool and breezy on the boat. The ride back was filled with a one-man band singing classic songs for everyone to sing along with, or you could dance up on the bow of the boat. We headed back to the hotel, watched a movie and called it a day.

First Sunrise
Friday began with an early 5 am departure from the hotel heading up to Haleakala Summit.  It is not very far away but the drive is very slow.  Mount Haleakala is where the sun rises up through the clouds at 10,000 feet.  The temperature was about 40 degrees at that height.  The drive was along the side of the mountain with many tight turns and steep inclines.  It was dark, so we could not really see anything but the road ahead and the city lights far below us.

Second Sunrise
The sunrise was well worth the early morning drive.  We shared the view with about 100 other tourists.  The sunrise is different because we were above the clouds, so instead of the seeing the sunrise above the earth, it was a sunrise above the clouds.  We got a bonus because as the sun rose, it went back into the clouds and reappeared again as it rose above the second set of clouds.  They called this a double sunrise. 

The local park guide sang the morning praises as the sun began to rise.  This is a local tradition done to give thanks.  We did not opt to take the bikes down the mountain as many tourists do.  I hear it is a really fun excursion but we chose to take off to Hana.

As we headed down the mountain we decided to take the back way around the island to Hana.  It started out on Highway 31 towards the southern remote part of the island.  After the local winery there was nothing but ocean views on our right, mountains on the left, lots of cattle crossing guards and some very treacherous roads that need some attention. 

We saw a lot of "One Lane Bridge" signs

We needed the jeep!

The area was very isolated - there we very few homes and no businesses.  We only saw a handful of cars and a few farm trucks.  The roads progressively got worse and turned to dirt as you got farther and farther away from civilization. 

Black Beach

As we got close to Kipahulu civilization began to return.  We were at the end of the traditional “Road to Hana” so this is where our adventure began.  We made multiple stops as we saw lots of waterfalls, steep cliffs, and beautiful mountain views.  We saw the black beaches on the southern side of the island.  It is obvious why this area is so sparse.  There is not much to do but enjoy the drive and there weren’t any beaches.  We did see the red beaches just before Hana and some of the locals were out enjoying the day there.

Red Beach

Coconut Ice Cream Stand - all plant based!
We stopped in Hana, ate at the local restaurant and rested for a bit.  We got back on the road and saw more waterfalls and scenic stops.  We did stop at a few of the local shops and stands along the way.  The best stop was the coconut ice cream stand.  There we got a bowl of vegan coconut ice cream.  This was a delicious treat - it was served in a real coconut shell with a wooden spoon.

Conquering the Mountain.....well of, the rock!

The road to Hana also had many one lane bridges and blind turns.  You could tell when the locals were driving because they went very fast and had little time for us tourists blocking their way!

The weather started to turn to light rain so we limited our stops.  As we got closer to Kahului the sun came back out.  We stopped near Pauwela where we walked the beach and saw some surfers.  We got a little wet when an unexpected wave hit the rock and splashed up on the beach.  This was funny to the locals as they laughed with us. It was like the funny videos you see on TV where the tourist gets surprised by the unexpected waves coming in. 

We headed back to the hotel, grabbed some pizza, and watched a movie.  It was a long day so early bedtime was in order.

Saturday was a peaceful day back at Lahaina.  We started the day with a couple’s massage.  We visited more shops and that is where we found our matching outfits for the Luau that evening.  I know it is quirky to have matching outfits - but we loved it.  We went back to the hotel, cleaned up, got our matching outfits on and headed to the Old Lahaina Luau.  We weren’t sure if there was going to be a Luau though.  It rained hard for a few hours beforehand, but as the gates started to open - the rain moved on. We had a beautiful evening before us.

At the luau there was a pig in the ground cooking, coconut opening demonstrations, and fishing net lessons. The luau was a series of local dancing and stories.  The dancers were great and it was very educational to hear the old stories.  The food was good and there were plenty of desserts to eat.

Running Path 

Sunday started out with a nice eight mile run for me into town.  It was great running along the ocean trail and - because it was early - it was very quiet and peaceful.  

When I returned, we headed to town for a quick breakfast and then Mass at the downtown Maria Lanakila Catholic Church.  

The church had tall vaulted ceilings, their windows open and the priest even wore a Lei.  The church was beautifully filled with local artistry, statues and paintings

We then drove over to Kihei where there were lots of beach parks and shops.  We ended up stopping in Makena and eating at Cheese Burger in Paradise.  They had the “big game” on and we enjoyed the upbeat game atmosphere, although we soon lost interest in the game.  After the halftime show, we drove back towards the hotel - making several stops on the highway to view the active whales in the ocean.  We did stop at Leoda’s pie shop just before Lahaina and we had coconut pie and peanut butter chocolate pie.  Although I am not a big dessert fan anymore - these where simply irresistible delicacies!

Full breach whale splash

This was off Hwy 30

After we got back to the resort we headed down to the Jacuzzi.  Just one problem, ours was broken!  So we ventured over to the neighboring hotel to use theirs - we snuck in quietly and found it!  We met some folks from Denver and they were crying over the game.  We had some great laughs with them.  That evening we ate a light meal on the beach near the hotel.

Monday was our last day of the trip.  We decided to head to the beach in front of the resort.  We had yet to spend time on the beach just laying around and soaking up the sun.  I got brave and ventured i to the cold water.  If you have never been on a Pacific Ocean beach you are in for a huge shock.  The waves are very strong, nothing like the Gulf of Mexico.  The waves can knock you over in an instant, and the currents can cause you to quickly lose your footing. 

Braving the waters....

Looking for shells was a challenge.  You had to go waist-deep in the water to find them and then fight the waves as they try and pound you into the sand.  The waves won a few times, but I did find some great shells and coral fragments to bring home. 

We cleaned up and packed our bags, then headed back to Lahaina for lunch.  Before we left we bought a few photographs from a local photographer on the beach.  He had some great photos for us to hang on the walls at the house to remind us of the great memories made on the island.  In Lahaina, we stopped and had some deep dish pizza at Lahaina pizza.   We also met an old friend of mine from our hometown of Jacksonville, TX.  I had not seen Kathy in over 28 years, but it was just like old times.  We left Lahaina and slowly made our way back to the airport making a few last minute stops along the way.

Last Night at Hotel

The airport was bustling as the last few flights were leaving the island.  It was a long flight back and the plane was not very sleep-friendly, but none of that mattered because we had the trip of a lifetime!

No comments:

Post a Comment