Saturday, August 31, 2019

Hawaiian Vacation: First stop, Maui

This year Dan and I skipped our annual summer trip. He will be traveling to Europe with his brother and father instead - first time leaving North America for his brother! And since I am taking a break from teaching, I was able to join my family for part of their tour of Hawaii. My mother often talks of retiring to Hawaii, watches Hawaii Life on HGTV, but she hadn't visited since a brief family stopover to Waikiki over 20 years ago, of which she has fond memories. So my sister planned a 3-week visit to 4 islands, culminating in Oahu. My brother couldn’t go because of work, but I went for the first 10 days to Maui and Kauai. Then my cousins decided to join, making us a party of 6. The original plan was a week plus in Maui, but the fires spooked me, and then my mother decided she wanted to go to Kauai too, so we were in Maui for just five nights - definitely not enough, but large group travel requires compromise. This was my second trip to Maui, my parents' first, my sister's maybe second (she went on a cruise of the islands with friends when she was a teen and doesn't remember where they went), and my cousins' third. 
Tuesday, August 13
I was in a shared Lyft en route to meet my family at SFO when sister texted that our father forgot his backpack at home (with his iPad, reading glasses, water bottle, lunch, and hat). No time go back for it. Luckily he had packed a second hat. Our nonstop United flight sat at the gate for about 45 minutes until we finally got a spot on the runway and took off. My cousins flew from LAX and arrived a few hours ahead of us. Instead of shuttle vans, there's now a tram system at OGG to the rental cars. No line at Dollar/Thrifty, and it was self-serve for the vehicle - so odd! First time for me. I suggested the white minivan over the black (gets too hot), though my sister seemed skeptical. She figured out how to drive it - she was the driver the entire trip - and we were off! Picked up my cousins from Da Kitchen, where they had gone for lunch, and headed for West Maui. There must have been an accident on the road, because it was stop-and-stop for quite awhile. Didn't keep track of time, but we finally arrived at Foodland in Lahaina. Oooh was it hot outside! Picked up coffee, pineapple, poke, brown rice, furikake, taro chips, banana bread, dairy, and other foodstuffs, then onto Kapalua Bay Villas. Ah, breezes! My first time renting a resort condo (32B2 and 32B3 through Aloha Vacation Villas), and the views were stunning. Hardly any provisions in the kitchens though, not even oil! Just PAM spray, and those little tiny packets of salt and pepper. (I had been spoiled by truffle salt at the bungalow in Puako on the Big Island back in April.) We figured out room arrangements, enjoyed the sunset, had a light dinner, went for a short walk around the grounds, and went to bed.
Wednesday, August 14
Everyone was up early because of the time change so we got to see the sunrise colors. Drove to Mala Wharf for our snorkel trip to Lana’i with Captain Steve’s. There were doughnuts, granola bars, and fresh fruit at check-in, and my mother was swooning over the papaya. We hadn’t seen any at Foodland; Lynn (crew) suggested we try Times supermarket. There was another couple who had been on many previous boat trips and said Captain Steve’s is the best, plus a family of 4 from San Diego area, so a small group. Boarded the boat, saw some turtles near shore. Smooth ride to beautiful corals and clear water at our first snorkel spot, plus a couple turtles and some fishies. The water temperature was perfect, and the waves were not too strong. My mom struggled with the snorkel mask, and my sister was super patient (while I just took off to explore). Eventually she got in with her goggles and was able to see some fish. My dad isn’t a strong swimmer and refused to get in the water. After snorkeling, we saw loads of spinner dolphins, including lil’ babies. I’ve never seen so many. It was like they were putting on a show. Incredible. We saw some of the Lana’i coastline, then went to a second snorkel spot, not far from the first. (Surf was too rough on the other side of the island.) My sister managed to get my dad in the water, but he was so nervous that I don’t think he saw any fish. A big boat with loads of people arrived at the same spot, the wind kicked up, so instead of staying for lunch we took off again. (Macadamia nut cookies to tide us over.) Then we saw a pod of spotted dolphins, who put on another spectacular show. Eventually stopped for lunch, which was a giant spread of veggies, deli meats, tuna salad - make your own sammiches - delicious! Mom and daughter of the other family were feeling queasy from the bumpy ride, but our party was okay. I had taken Zofran (rx), my cousin had taken Bonine, and my dad - who is prone to seasickness - had a scopopaline patch (rx). Overall a great boat trip! I decided on the boat trip to just enjoy the experience instead of trying to take photos, but my sister did take a pic of me.

Aboard Captain Steve's

After returning to shore, we went to Times for more groceries, including papaya and apple bananas. My sister, dad, and I checked out the Kapalua Coastal Trail and saw a rainbow. It started raining as soon as we got back to the condo. More rainbows, dinner in the condo, sunset and bedtime.

Rainbow from the Kapalua Bay Trail

Rainbow at Kapalua Bay Villas
Sunset at Kapalua Bay Villas
Thursday, August 15
I had a phone interview at 7 am, then we packed up for the Road to Hana. I didn’t want to do this excursion, since we were staying in West Maui, making it such a long drive, but my sister thought my mother would really enjoy the scenery, so I said I would be a good sport. In Paia, we missed the turn for the gas station, which led us to a fruit stand with papayas, apple bananas, and sugar cane. My mother bought SO MUCH FRUIT and was very pleased. I was concerned she had bought too much. My sister had downloaded the Shaka app for the drive. I found the narrator extremely hokey, and we quickly noticed he kept saying not to stop yet, as there would be better sights along the way. This became a joke during our journey, and when there were gaps in the audio, we’d ask where’s Shaka? At one point my cousin said when I hear Shaka, I don’t hear anything else. Ha! The stops we made (that I can remember): rainbow eucalyptus trees, black sand beach, coconut ice cream, red sand beach, late lunch at the food trucks in Hana, (where I couldn’t find a water fountain, so walked to the gas station and bought a cup of ice), and Oheo Gulch. It was too late the hike the Pipiwai Trail by the time we got there. My sister decided not to turn around, even though I told her the road would get dicey, which it did, but the questionable stretches seemed much shorter than I remember from 2013, and then it was paved and a very smooth ride. Everyone said the landscape was gorgeous, and we saw the sunset, so my sister was right. We put the papayas in paper bags with bananas in the hopes of speeding up the ripening process. No cleavers in the condo for the sugar cane though.

Pretty bay on the Road to Hana
Road to Hana

'Ohe'o Gulch
Friday, August 16
I was interested in the Sense of Place program at the Ritz, and somehow my sister convinced everyone to go, so we walked the Coastal Trail for most of the way. There was one other family and a couple of gentlemen, making the theater mostly empty. Clifford gave an informative introduction, we watched the documentary, and he answered questions after the film. Overall I'd recommend if you're interested in a brief history of the Hawaiian people. I thought there’d be a walking tour to visit some sites during the program, but we explored Makaluapuna Point on our own afterward, including the labyrinth, Turns out the family was from Boston, where my sister lives, and they have acquaintances in common - small world! They recommended the free fire show at Banyan Tree, and a few other restos to try. We walked back to the condo for lunch, and my sister made a reservation for Tiki Hour at Banyan Tree that night and lunch at Star Noodle the next day. Then my sister, mom, and I took walked along the Coastal Trail to Kapalua Bay, first getting lost near a swimming hole off the rocks. (We didn’t jump in but kinda wish we had.) I had been to Kapalua Bay in 2013, and it was still lovely. Saw loads of fish and turtles eating along the rocks. Our entire group walked along the coastal trail again to Banyan Tree for Tiki Hour, where we ordered one of each of the half-off pupus. I also had a glass of the Moet champagne, also half off during Tiki Hour. But it turns out it’s $33/glass - yikes! But it’s the Ritz, I guess. The Hawaiian bread was scrumptious, and sunset was pretty, though I thought the view from our condo was actually better. We stayed for the brief fire show, then called the KBV shuttle for a ride back. Listened to the live music in the Ritz lobby while we waited. The days go by quickly!
Saturday, August 17
After breakfast we walked to Kapalua Bay again, this time with beach chairs from the condo. Swam with the fishies and turtles, and I saw an eel. Everyone went in the water except my dad. And my mom saw the turtle - yay! After showering and packing up all our warm layers, plus blankets, and food for a picnic dinner, we drove to Star Noodle for lunch. What a scene! The Pan-Asian food was pretty good, though I found the taro dumplings disappointing. Then we headed up to Haleakala. My cousins told us about their mountain biking excursion the last time they visited. Didn’t appeal to me, but they said it was fun. Stopped at the visitor center for a map and postcards, then we hiked part of the Sliding Sands trail. My mom didn’t realize the trail was in full sun, and was very concerned. I had given her a hat, but she gets panicky without shade. We walked down the crater for maybe 30 minutes, and saw the cutest pooch named Indie who posed so nicely! Then headed back up to the trailhead and tried to figure out where to set up to view the sunset. We decided to drive up the short path to the summit, which we should have done sooner, because the parking lot was jam-packed. My sister thought she could get into a spot that I was sure she wouldn’t fit into, but she managed to park it, mostly. Sunset was beautiful (way better than sunrise, and not nearly as cold). My mom and cousin were happy to have the blankets. Long drive home, but my sister said it was fine. What a trouper.


Sunset at Haleakalā

Cloud cityscape
Sunday, August 18
One last morning swim at Kapalua Bay before packing up. It was crowded this time! We were supposed to have late check-out, but our code didn’t work upon our return from the beach. I didn’t bring my phone either, as I had decided this trip to enjoy the moment instead of trying to document it with photos. Luckily my cousin got back to their unit before noon, and I was able to call from his phone, and the situation was sorted relatively quickly. [They never apologized though. We also had an issue with the a/c in the living room when we arrived. The point person said he’d call back the next day, and we got a note that it was fixed, although it was still quite warm. My sister called again, they sent someone who had never dealt with this kind of a/c unit, and had to FaceTime his supervisor through the whole process. It did get a few degrees cooler, but I don’t think my sister was entirely satisfied. She was on the sofa bed in the living room and does NOT like heat.]
After packing up, we stopped at the Honolua Store for what we thought would be a quick lunch before heading to the airport. There was a lengthy back-and-forth on the price of the poke, the mushroom burger  was not served with mushrooms…eventually our whole meal was comped, but wow! Quite an experience. Dropped off the car, went through security, and then we were on our way to Kauai, with sugar cane in tow. Five nights is way too short for Maui, which my mom may finally understand now...