Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Maui Christmas Day 8: Bikini Bellinis & Double Rainbows

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday morning, we got up and made sure we were all packed and ready to check out by 10:00 AM. With the resort at 100% capacity, there were no late check outs available, so we had some time to kill before our 3:30 PM flight home.

As if in a final, glorious farewell, that morning we were greeted with a massive and full rainbow just outside of our window. This is one of those moments that photographs will never do justice to how magical it was.

Heading a few establishments down, we opted for brunch at Duke’s, another beach front restaurant at a nearby condominium resort. The food was AMAZING. I had a Bikini Bellini with Applewood smoked bacon and homestyle potatoes while Todd went for the incredible banana and macadamia nut pancakes. A perfect last meal, and I highly recommended if you are in the area.

We had extra time before our flight, but all of the activities we were interested in and in the proximity of the airport were closed on Sunday. I suggest planning ahead to avoid a similar scenario, as the Kahului Airport is not the most thrilling to kill time at.

Searching for dinner in the koi pond

Overall, it was a wonderful trip. I think everyone should take a nice week-long time out, especially during a traditionally hectic time like the holiday season, to just relax, connect with nature and/or your loved ones, and disconnect from the hustle and hurry of your day-to-day. Fly Hawaiian Airlines if you can. They treat you like you are on vacation from the moment you step on the plane. Their premium seating is FANTASTIC—we had our own little alcove with enormous leg room and it was fairly secluded; not quite first class, but certainly a major upgrade from economy. They also provided warm sandwiches on par with Starbucks paninis and those Hawaiian Sweet Maui Onion chips for meals, with complimentary rum punch. It’s like the Happy Hour just continued on the plane! I would say certainly a step up from traditional plane food I've had in the past on other airlines.

Things on our list for next time:

  • Hidden petroglyphs and village ruins over on the Hana side
  • Makena Beach
  • Bamboo Forest
  • Makawao
  • Koki Beach

Until then, Aloha!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Maui Christmas Day 7: Dragon's Teeth & Labyrinths

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday was our last full day on the island. We started with a beach adventure at our resort—Todd rented some snorkeling gear from the activities counter, and I accompanied him into the water with Orangina II for her maiden sea voyage.

Lei washing up on shore. It seemed like a metaphor.

The ocean in front of our place is usually very calm with minimal waves and clear water, which makes it ideal for swimming. Combined with the reef just yards from shore, it's also ideal for snorkeling. Despite my paralyzing fear of sea life, I braved the depths in my innertube, holding onto Todd’s ankle as he propelled us around while looking at the fish swimming below. I only had one panic attack during this excursion so we will consider this a win, though I may not be eager to get out there again any time soon.

We wrapped up the afternoon in the swimming pool, taking Orangina for one last spin and hitting the waterslide, saying our final farewells.

It seemed as if the island knew we were leaving. We had been keeping an eye out for whales all week (mostly so I could avoid them!), which during this time of year can be seen easily from the safety of the shore or our balcony. We had spotted a few blowholes spouting periodically, but no breaches or exciting displays so far. Having almost given up, we were amazed to see what we called a “Pod Party” as we were cleaning up after our beach day. Whales were frolicking and splashing and breaching for hours, and in a huge group! It was fascinating to watch, again I must emphasize from the safety of our balcony. You could not have paid me to be on a boat during this episode.

An early dinner/late lunch brought us back to Pailolo, the beachside bar and restaurant, where I had literally the best burger of my life. I highly suggest the Trophy Burger at this establishment, which comes on a pretzel bun with super tasty French fries. The kitchen is in a food truck parked next to the bar, and as we know in San Francisco, food trucks are often the best suppliers of tasty delights, and they certainly did not disappoint. Far superior to Cheeseburger in Paradise this time around.

For sunset, we decided on one last adventure and headed out to see the Dragon’s Teeth at Kapalua, which are lava rock formations along the ocean. 

Technically called Makaluapuna Point, these interesting formations were created when lava flowing into the ocean were opposed with waves and wind, cooling into shapes that resemble dragon's teeth. 

You have to walk through the edge of a golf course near the Ritz Carlton to get there, but the view is well worth it. 

Sunset in my shades

Tortuga rocks!

It sort of feels like stepping into an ancient, enormous dragon mouth! I kept envisioning stories of the dragon coming back to life when the sun hits a particular rock in a specific way, which only happens every 1000 years or so. Maybe I should shop that idea to Netflix!

Maybe when the sun shines through this hole and hits a rock on the opposite end in a certain way, the dragon will come to life?!

On the top of the hill, there is a huge labyrinth overlooking the sea, which, to Todd’s chagrin, I insisted on walking in its entirety. I guess the most interesting photos of a rock labyrinth don't include your wife walking around in it. 


Monday, December 18, 2017

Maui Christmas Day 6: Abandoned Piers & Pirate Bars

Friday, December 8, 2017

With so much adventuring under our belts, we opted for a lazy day on Friday. We spent another leisurely morning on the balcony having breakfast and drinking coffee, keeping an eye out for whales spouting in the distance. We were even fortunate enough to see a massive sea turtle pop its back and head out of the waves near our beach, immediately drawing all of the snorkelers to it like a magnet. We had a prime viewing position from the tree tops, but next time I will be sure to bring some binoculars!

For Happy Hour, we went down to the beachside bar, Pailolo Bar & Grill, and got some $5 Mai Tais (hello!!) and some snack mix to go. 

They serve you in plastic cups so you can wander the property and enjoy the facilities, and we stopped by the North Koi Pond to see a cultural hula show put on by some of the local dancers, mostly younger children and teens. The tiny girls, maybe 5 or 6 years old and dressed in pink hula skirts, were especially adorable. Front and center was a young man (maybe 9 or 10?) who looked absolutely bored and unimpressed the entire time. It was a great way to enjoy our happy hour fare.

With sunset approaching, we decided to head down to an abandoned pier in Lahaina to take some photos and enjoy the view. 

The pier was near a cemetery with a small homeless encampment nearby, as well as a boat launch where a group of young adventurers were bringing in their boat and cleaning it after a day on the water. 

Despite the crumbling structure, a couple local fisherman went around the fencing and walked right out to the end of the pier to cast their lines. I thought they were pretty brave!

You really can’t beat a Maui sunset.

After the sun had gone down, we wandered the main strip along the beach in search of a place to have dinner. We settled on Captain Jack’s Island Grill, a Pirate themed restaurant perched on the second story above a row of souvenir shops near the Banyan Tree. It was fairly touristy, but provided a good enough menu and we were able to overlook an event taking place in the park below us while we ate. 

With our bellies full, we made our way into the park to check out the event, which was some kind of fundraiser for Women Helping Women with a silent auction, vendor booths, and children on stage playing ukuleles and singing Christmas carols. 

On our way back, we saw the Holiday Sugar Cane Train stationed just across from our resort, all lit up with sparkly lights, full of kids enjoying hot cocoa and a visit from Santa. We stopped across the street to take some photos and send the train off with a wave.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Maui Christmas Day 5: Hippie Town, Abandoned School, Baldwin Beach, Iao Valley

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thursday we had a full day planned and left early to see some sights in central Maui near the airport area and Kahului. Our first stop brought us to the hippie surf town of Paia.

Stupa in Paia

We did some shopping and I FINALLY found a store that sells local dog and pet supplies. Do you know how hard this was to find? I was searching literally the whole time we had been in Maui and we stumbled upon it by accident! I was so excited! I loaded up on some gifts for our pup friends and we enjoyed some local coffee at Paia Bay Coffee, which is a darling little establishment hidden off the main road where you feel like you are submerged in a private jungle. Clearly a place the locals frequent, you feel you are getting a real flavor for the town. I would have loved to post up with my laptop and just sit there writing for the afternoon.

But adventures were to be had! After our brief respite, we continued on our way, stopping to examine an abandoned mill before making our way to Old Maui High School. 

The school was the first coed high school on the island, opening in 1913 and abandoned since 1972. This didn’t particularly float Todd’s urban exploration boat, as it’s been abandoned for so long there are no artifacts left, just a gutted skeleton of buildings. But for me, a much less daring explorer, this was just the right pace. 

I couldn’t help but imagine attending school here. Visions of students carrying books and backpacks paraded past my eyes like ghosts as I walked the crumbling corridors. Despite being recessed down a long and lonely road now overgrown with vegetation, I imagined how hard it must be to focus on your studies with a view of the ocean from your classroom window.

With our exploring complete, we headed out to Baldwin Beach Park. 

I had read many reviews online marking this beach as one of the loveliest on the island, and one that locals prefer. I always love to get a feel for local culture instead of just tourist resort life, plus I’m always on the quest for the most perfect beaches (Blue Beach in Vieques, Puerto Rico, sets the bar exceptionally high). Despite a reputation for some seedy characters, the photos of the beach and local flavor were enough to entice me for the afternoon.

Baldwin Beach did not disappoint. If the waves hadn’t been so aggressive, this would have given Blue Beach a run for its money. The water is an unbelievable shade of turquoise with a huge stretch of gorgeous golden sand. There aren’t any amenities, but that makes it feel more like a local spot and less of a tourist attraction (no umbrellas for rent, even). There is a lifeguard and plenty of natural shade, and the beach itself has tons of room to spread out.

There were indeed a few questionable characters, especially loitering at the edge of the parking lot and perhaps completing some clandestine transactions near the restrooms, but I’m no stranger to unsavory characters and I never felt uncomfortable (I mean, no thanks on the heroin, but I didn’t feel like anyone was targeting me or anything, and they kept to themselves). Maybe don’t leave your belongings out of eyesight, but I wouldn’t do that even at our resort, so not an issue at all for me. If you've ever spent time in a big city like San Francisco or Seattle, this is pretty normal.

There were plenty of families enjoying the beach, some surfers and boogie boarders, and quite a few local dogs enjoying the waves. One dog in particular was especially fond of Frisbee, barking at his owner until she threw the disc into the ocean. He would dive right in, jumping with the waves like an old pro, swimming out to retrieve the toy and bring it back so proudly. The farther the better! Hours of visual entertainment here.

We spent our time down on the far end at the portion called Baby Beach, which is somewhat calmer as it is protected by a reef barrier. I’m not a swimmer, so I spent my time in the shallows of the waves, hunting for interesting shells and keeping an eye out for sea turtles. I hear they frequent this beach and visitors almost trip over them as they sun themselves on the sand, but no such luck for us.

Other bonuses to this beach include the large covered picnic area, complete with barbecues, plus multiple water spigots where you can rinse your feet, and one even set up with a hose to rinse sand off whatever else. The bathrooms aren’t the cleanest you’ve ever seen, but are on par with most public beaches I’ve been to (Stinson, Huntington, etc.) and have hooks in the stalls to make changing convenient.

Once we were cleaned up, we headed back towards Kapului to stop for an early dinner at the highly rated restaurant, Da Kitchen, where we enjoyed some truly tasty burgers. The meat was especially excellent, but the water they gave us was almost undrinkable; it tasted just like pool water.

Our last adventure of the day took us to Iao Valley National Park. We arrived an hour before closing so we hustled through to get different vantage points of the Iao Needle at sunset.

Settled between the mountain peaks in a tropical oasis, the paths are paved and easily accessible, with great views from a high bridge over the river as well as from a curated garden below, and a hut at the very top of the trail. 

Definitely easy to do within an hour, and we got some spectacular photos. Highly recommend as an activity, but bring some bug spray/long sleeves.

On the way back to the Westin, we stopped at Island Cream Co. for a dessert to cap off the day. They have their own patented recipe somewhere between ice cream and gelato, with some seriously amazing flavors. I could have tried them all! I ended up with a fruity palate of passion fruit and pineapple guava, while Todd went for the chocolate macadamia and coffee route. Another spot I would highly recommend! I could have gone back to this place every day and been in flavor heaven!