Friday, July 29, 2016

Maui Trip Tips and Tricks

This year I turned the big 4-0 and my husband and I took off for a little R & R alone.  After our more recent road tip, we were ready to leave the children in very capable hands for 6 days. Maui was our destination of choice for a real vacation. We had always wanted to go to Hawaii having never been before, and we decided that it was too expensive for us to take the family.

Getting There
Maui is one of the islands that had direct flights from Arizona so that also made the long flight less daunting, and cost-co offered a pretty decent package deal with airfare, hotel, and car rental. At the airport we were given a great 'deal' to upgrade our sedan to an open top jeep (yes please). After some debate we had the price dropped to an extra $100 total for the week and it was the best spent $100 of the trip.

We had a few choices on where to stay and we opted for a condo with a kitchen, right on the beach, in Lahaina.

We were able to cook some of our dinners and eat them pool side, walking out the gates of the hotel onto the beach to watch the sun drop.

Lahaina is also a great place for shopping and touristy stuff.  Many of the Luas are in Lahaina and there are a few good places to eat as well.  A short drive gets you to the Safeway for supplies, and a short walk lands you at the harbor where all the dinner cruises, snorkeling adventures, and pretty much anything on the water happens.

Lahaina is on the dry-side of the island and offers the islands amazing views of the sunsets.  It is nestled between the mountains and the shoreline.  We slept with the curtains open and had an amazing view to wake up to each morning.  Coupled with our fabulous sunset each night and it really couldn't have been a better location. If Ka'anapali is a resort town, Lahaina is a beach town. Accessing the actual beach can be tricky if you dont know where you are going.  If you are just visiting the town for some good food and the beautiful sunset, park where you can find a spot, and then head over to the harbor.  On the south side of the harbor you will find beach access. You can walk this beach for quite a ways as you pass just a few condos, many more beach houses, and even a little park. If you come at sunset you can even take a peak at the Feast of Lele Luau.

Things to Do
There are a ton of free things to do on the Island!  Our base camp, Lahaina was just a short drive from places like the upscale shops at Whalers Village, the Blowhole at Pipoa Point, and Honolua Bay.  The blowhole was fun but be sure you dont get too close.  People die there 'all the time' according to one local we spoke with. The hole call suck you in! The bay we just happened to discover along the way and it was amazing!

Honolua bay is great for snorkeling, swimming and even paddle board yoga.  I think one of the coolest things about The Bay is that it is accessible through a little rainforest path. 

If you are a water-fall lover you will have to take the road to Hana.  Hana is a sleepy little town on the East side of the island towards the bottom. It is a a curvy road filled with switch backs (I read there are 617 of them) and it carries you down the coast and in and out of rain forests.  Single lane bridges and hairpin turns make the trip slow, but also enable you incredible glimpses of waterfalls.  Be prepared to stop anywhere you can park along the road.  Hop out and look for paths back to the waterfalls. We found two amazing falls with great swimming holes and I was able to cross something off my bucket list!

As you continue south along the road you come to arboretums (which we skipped) and little fruit and snack stands (also skipped).  We packed our lunch and ate it at the Wal'anapanapa Wayside Park. This park has black lava beaches and trails that run along the coast.  We took one trail thinking it was a loop and turned back after a mile. We weren't disappointed thought! Succulents grow right out of the sharp black lava rack and it is striking in its beauty. The park was jammed packed with tourists so it was nice to get away from the crowds and explore. There is an awesome pirate cave to walk through at the beach so be sure to check that out. I have a few more photos of that beach, more waterfalls, the beautiful succulents, and the cave on my Instagram feed.

Tip: Wear good shoes! I was shocked at the number of folks wearing flip-flops. My fit-bit tracked us at over 20K steps that day (that is over 9 miles) and we wouldn't have gotten to the most beautiful places without good shoes. I had a pair of keens and my husband had a pair of speedo shoes and our feet were happy all day. We were able to cross slippery rocks and easily enter and exit the water as we wanted.

After Hana, you can continue South on the Hana Highway to the pools at Ohe'o Gulch.  About three miles before the park there is a wonderful waterfall, swimming holes and accessible with just a short hike. They also had a stand selling 'jungle jewelry' for amazingly cheep prices so we did a little souvenir shopping after our swim.  It was good that we did our souvenir shopping cheep because admission to the National Park was $20 a car.  The Haleakala National Park runs all the way from the crater to the coast so Ohe'o Gulch is actually National Park Land.  The admission tickets was good also at the crater which is accessible from the center of the island, but we didn't have time to see that. The admission price was understandable when you got going on the hike.  We took the Pipiwei trail to Waimoku Falls which is 2 miles in and 4 miles round trip. The trail takes you through the rainforest, along the Seven Sacred Pools, and into the bamboo forest.

The bamboo forest was spectacular. The trail ends at the Waimoku falls, which is impressive, but like the Drive to Hana, the journey to the falls in worthy the effort alone.

We were feeling brave, and had upgraded at the last minute to an open top jeep, so we continued south from the National State Park.  The road south of Kipahulu is not recommended for tourists, but the locals we spoke with all suggested we take it. We clarified with the Park Ranger that the road was open and accessible for us and he since we were in a Jeep he suggested we take the less populated south road.

The road south was rugged in places and less maintained than the earlier stretches of the 37 but we loved it.  We were able to see the change in the island from rainforest, to almost a high desert, to lava land, all while driving along the side of the ocean. It was breathtaking in its beauty.  The total trip around the island too us about 12 hours and that included a quick stop at Walmart to grab more water before returning to Lahaina. We left about 645 so were got back just in time to watch the sunset.

We sat through a timeshare proposal which was only mildly distasteful in order to get free passage on the whale foundation boat for a snorkeling eco adventure done by the Pacific Whale Foundation.  All of the crew are actual college educated, some at the masters level.  They are highly knowledgeable about not just boating but sea-life.  We had a great crew!  The boat took us around Lanai to the cliff side where we snorkeled for a few hours. We were served a light breakfast, lunch and drinks on the boat and even encounter a huge pod of spinner dolphins. The dolphins themselves were worth the sea sickness.  My recommendation - take some dramamine with you! Getting sick at sea was rotten and really put a damper on the whole excursion!

A note about booking your excursions.  Check the weather and plan accordingly. We had hoped to do the drive to Hana earlier in the week because it was our #1 thing to do - but the weather was bad the few days before we arrived. We had rain before us and rain forecasted for the day after we left, but beautiful weather while we were on the island. That meant that all the roads were a little soggy, the snorkeling wasn't going to be clear for a few days, and the people that had been on the island for a few days already while it was raining were itching to get in a boat or helicopter and start seeing the island. On Monday, the only available snorkeling tour was on Thursday and we were not able to get our 'first choice' boat and tour to see the sea turtles. We still got a great trip, sea sickness aside, but if you are serious about doing something then check the weather and book for the right day early. Give yourself a few days after a rain before trying to snorkel too. Murky water means you can see much and also is the only real time you need to worry about sharks.

One evening we took in a show - The Ulalena show in Lahina.  We got 2:1 tickets through our concierge and we were so glad we went! The show gave us a little glimpse into the culture of the island and provided a nice relaxing night. The Maui Theater is very small so you dont' need to upgrade your seats. There isn't a bad seat in the entire place. The show was just over an hour and we were out in time to see the sunset and grab some dinner. I was really glad we did that rather than the Lua.  The resort we were staying at was next door to the Lua and we snuck a few glances. It was not nearly as impressive as the show we had seen.  The academic in me was itching to know more about Hawaii culture and history so we did a little reading after the show.  I highly recommend reading up on the island before you come.

Where to Eat
In your own kitchen.  Hawaii isn't know for its fabulous food. There are a few local dishes like Kahula Pork tacos or Loco Moco (a burger toped with an egg and smothered in gravy served over rice), and of course get some shaved ice. Lahaina has a shaved ice stand across from the harbor and you can grab a humongous shaved ice to eat while you walk the beach at sunset.

Lucky for us Lahaina town has "The Best Burger" in Maui 12 years in row.  This awesome dinner called The Cool Cat Cafe even has gluten free buns (you can't see it but I really did a happy dance).  We ate there twice. They also have good happy hour drinks and specialize in their burgers and shakes (which they can make in for the 21 over crowd).  They have a little air hockey table inside and a few arcade games to keep the 21 and younger crow happy too. We did a little research before we went and we asked around to all the locals and found Aloha Mixed Plate - the food was mediocre.  It was nice that they actually had parking. They provide the food also for one of the Luaus - think about paying hundreds of dollars for mediocre food!  We also tried Malo, a greek-type place, and they had some pretty good gluten free flatbread. We hit Safeway a few times and tried very hard not to over buy.  We got some fruit and breakfast foods as well as stuff for a few dinners.  Our resort had a grill and we kept meals very un-complicated.  We generally only at one meal out each day.

Two of our favorite meals were in Paia.

Mama's Fish House has been around forever and had amazing (and expensive!) seafood.  Turn after you see the fishing boat on the left and if it doesn't look right you turned just a little too soon.

It is off the highway and down the road from town but there is a reason everyone recommends it.  They have a little private beach, valet parking, and you can still go in your bathing suit.


Another gem in Paia is Charleys. We stopped there for breakfast and for $25 got a breakfast burrito and a Huevos Rancheros. The servings were HUGE and the meal was excellent. It is more of a western style saloon that plays classic rock music. It felt a little out of place but the food was dynamite.

What to Pack
Are you ready to get the suitcase out?  Leave your jeans and sneakers at home.  Really. I didn't even bring socks. I am a total jeans and t-shirt sort of girl but I am glad I saved some space in the suitcase. It is humid here so you don't want tight stuff.  Bring a sundress or two, a pair of shorts, sunscreen, a few tank tops or t-shirts, swim suit and cover up, flip flops, water/hiking shoes, hat, snorkel set, and maybe a sweater or hoodie if you tend to get chili. I brought two nice pair of sandals too and that was a waste. Bring a backpack for hiking and towels unless your hotel provides them (we called before hand to be sure). Everyone is casual here so pack accordingly.

Hawaii is a magical place. On the North and East side of the island everywhere you turn you see shocking beauty. Keep in mind that I am not a photographer and I took all these photos with my iPhone! The beauty here is such a visible reminder of God's great love for us, and His enormous creative power. To be surrounded by such varied beauty gives us a glimpse of His majesty and is a great example of how diverse the nature of beauty actually is. Beauty does not come in just one form and neither does God's love for us.  There is something for everyone and God's love is for everyone too.  For more photos of the trip and other "normal life adventures in parenting" follow me on Instagram @parenting_with_peer_review.

Safe and  Happy travels and Mahalo for stopping by!

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