Saturday, February 16, 2013

Maui Vacation - Day 8

Coming Home

Our flight wouldn't leave until 1:30, so we had time to eat an unhurried breakfast, pack, and leave in plenty of time. It was a good thing we gave ourselves lots of time, though; traffic between the Honua Kai and Kahului Airport was thick and slow. We still had time to fill the rental car with gas, return it, and shuttle back to the airport without real worries. Since the route to the rental car agency took us right by the terminal, I let out Chris and left the bags with her. The shuttle would be much easier unencumbered.

Check-in and security were uneventful, even with the added step of putting our bags through the agricultural department’s scanners. The ticketing agent gave us the door code for the Hawaiian Airlines lounge, and we took advantage of the comfortable seats, free soft drinks, and peace of the lounge for about 20 minutes.

We boarded, toasted our trip with guava-juice mimosas, and settled in for the 5-hour flight back to San Francisco. As on the flight out, everything went smoothly, and the first class service was delightful.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Maui Vacation - Day 7

On our last full day we were in no hurry. We had an unrushed breakfast, put on our hiking clothes and headed north again. We hiked about 5 miles at an abandoned golf course that has been converted to hiking trails. There were about a dozen geocaches along the trail, and we found almost all of them.

As we hiked, it rained off and on. We were able to get under cover during the heavier bursts. The views of the mountains and ocean were beautiful, and we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

Back at the resort, I checked in for our flight. I couldn’t resist the temptation to upgrade to first class again. We were on vacation, after all.

After a late lunch, we headed to the “solitude” pool again. We couldn’t find a shaded lounge, but there were a couple of “deluxe” lounges available for rent. These lounges have collapsible canopies that keep the sun and wind off. Since it was late in the day, I was able to rent one for half price – only $20. It was well worth it.

The canopy did such a good job of deflecting the wind we were soon overheating in the sun. I went for a quick swim. The water was quite refreshing, and I didn’t need to stay in long.

About 4:30, we returned to our room to get ready for our dinner at the Lahaina Grill. We gave ourselves plenty of time to get there, because we had seen how hard it could be to find parking in Lahaina. As luck would have it, there was an inexpensive lot just a short walk from the Grill. We had time to enjoy another gorgeous sunset before our reservation time.

Dinner was a real treat. The service was impeccable and the food superb. We split a 14-oz steak that was perfectly cooked and seasoned. The vegetables on the side were fresh and cooked just enough. We were able to resist the temptation of dessert.

While we were eating, a troupe of Chinese dragon dancers wove through the tables celebrating Chinese new year. It was quite loud, but fun, and we were soon back to enjoying our food.

After dinner we drove back to the Honua Kai where we each enjoyed a last glass of wine at Duke’s.

Before bed, we planned our timetable for the next day to make sure we would be on time for our flight home.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Maui Vacation - Day 6

We awoke at 5:15am and were on the road at 5:30. Our destination was the photo location we scouted the previous day. We weren't encouraged by the weather; it was raining and overcast during the very dark drive along the north shore of Maui. We got to our location 30 minutes before sunrise and waited in the car as more rain fell. We had seen only one other car on the 20-mile drive.

15 minutes later, as the sky was starting to brighten, the rain stopped. We set up on our vista point and were rewarded with a very dramatic dawn with dark clouds above us and fluffy pink ones on the horizons. We both took photos as the sun rose. When it disappeared behind the overcast, we packed our gear back to the car. Just as we drove off, the rain started again. What luck!

We were back at the Honua Kai by 8:00. I cooked eggs for breakfast. Afterward we prepared for our whale-watching outing, leaving about 9:45.

We arrived in downtown Lahaina well before our check-in time at Pacific Whale Foundation. It took a while to find a place where we could park for more than 3 hours. We perused several of the shops along Front Street and finally checked in at 10:30 for our 11:30 tour. We rented a pair of binoculars for the trip.

As we waited to board, a staff member announced that Pacific Whale Foundation members got priority boarding. I couldn’t remember if I had joined or not. It turns out I hadn’t, but I could do so right there. One of the benefits of membership is a 50% discount on a tour, which we applied to the one we were about to take. The net cost of the membership after applying that discount was a refund on our credit card. Talk about value…

The whale watch was great. We saw more than a dozen humpback whales – some as close as 30 feet away from the boat. The boat can’t approach closer than 100 yards to the whales, but there’s no limit on how close to the boat the whales can swim. When the whales “mug” the boat like that, it has to just drift until the whales are more than 100 yards away. We saw whales blow mist into the air, swim at the surface, splash their pectoral fins onto the water, dive, and even breach.

The tour was over about 1:30 and we drove back to the Honua Kai, where we ate lunch while watching a slide show of our whale watch photos on the TV. Chris walked up the road to a little shopping center. She looked at clothes and knick-knacks, buying only a clove-and-cinnamon box. While Chris was gone, I relaxed in the room.

At 6:15 we walked out to the beach, just missing the sunset. We then staked out a couple of barstools at Duke’s where I had a “Tropical Itch” and Chris had a Cosmopolitan. Both drinks were quite good. By 7:15 we were back at the room. We heated up the leftovers from Mala. It was warmer than usual for the evening and the wind was pretty calm, so we were able to enjoy our dinner on the balcony.

After dinner we watched “Benny and Joon” and went to bed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Maui Vacation - Day 5

We slept in again, not getting out of bed until about 7:15. After another workout in the fitness center, we ate a leisurely breakfast and talked about how to spend our day. We decided on a drive north along the coastal road that follows the north shore of the island.

Along the drive we stopped at the Nakalele Blowhole. We saw some pretty impressive plumes. We continued on stopping at a few more overlooks. One of them had a perfect view to the east for sunrise photos. We marked it on our GPS and planned to return the next day before dawn.

We ended our outbound trip at the village of Kahakuloa which lies along a one-lane, county-maintained road. The pride of the village is Julia’s Banana Bread. We bought a small loaf and headed back. We stopped at the supermarket near our hotel to replenish beer, wine, milk, and sunscreen. The prices were about the same as the Safeway where we originally shopped. 

After another lunch on our balcony, we rested in the room for a while. About 2:30, we headed down to the pool “reserved for quiet enjoyment” – i.e., take your kids to one of the other pools. We read our books until 4:00. The breeze almost made it chilly, but the sunshine helped keep us warm enough.

Back at the room, we had a cocktail and then cleaned up for dinner. Our meal was at Mala Ocean Tavern about 3 miles south. We arrived in the neighborhood of Mala about 45 minutes before our reservation. We checked out some nearby shops and then ended up back at our car just in time to enjoy a lovely sunset. Shortly before 7:00, we checked in at the restaurant.

Mala is a tiny place with tightly-packed tables inside and some outdoor seating (also tightly packed). We waited at the bar for our table and chatted with a couple from Reno – finally someone not from California. When we were shown to our table, we found ourselves almost elbow-to-elbow with the couples on either side of us. It was impossible to hold a private conversation. However, the service was excellent, and the food was good. The portions were so large, we ended up taking half our meal back to the resort.

When we returned from dinner, I cancelled our reservation for the next night. We would eat our leftovers from Mala instead.

We finished the day by watching the rest of “Pleasantville”.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Maui Vacation - Day 4

We woke up on our own time this morning. I had set an alarm for 8:00 just in case, but we were both ready to get up just after 7:00. We spent 30 minutes in the fitness center, then showered and had breakfast in the room.

At 9:30 we drove the short distance to Zensations Spa just north of the Java Jazz restaurant we’d enjoyed a few nights before. There we both had amazing 60-minute Lomi Lomi massages – a type neither of us had experienced before. The heavy pressure and long strokes of the massage were just what we needed. We left the spa relaxed and happy.

We had an early lunch on our balcony – I had my leftover ribs. The sun was out and the sky was clear, so we headed to the lounge chairs and soaked in the sun (through 45 sunscreen) while we read and listened to music.

After about an hour, we went for a short walk on the beach and then returned to our sunny spot. About 2:30 we moved to a shadier spot just in case the sunscreen wasn't quite enough protection. We returned to the room about 4:00.

At 6:15 we went to Duke’s where we each had a Margarita. We then walked to Java Jazz for dinner. There were no tables, so we sat at the bar. Chris had a fancy burrito called a “Fantapano” and I had a hamburger. Both were very good.

The live music started late at nearly 8:00. This time it was a trio of men in their 60’s with two acoustic guitars and an electric base. They introduced themselves as “Old and In the Way.” They sang covers of songs by the Kinks, The Beatles, and other bands from the late 60’s and early 70’s. We listened for a while before walking back to the resort.

Back at the room we watched half of “Pleasantville” before going to bed.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Maui Vacation - Day 3

Once again we arose at 6:00am. This time we had a more leisurely time. We had breakfast in our room before setting out once again for Haleakala. We had reserved a ziplining tour through We had driven past our meeting place the day before, so we were pretty sure we could get there.

We stopped at Java Jazz for coffee for Chris and were on our way. The Monday morning traffic was heavier than it had been the day before, but most of it was heading into Lahaina, not away from it as we were.

We made it to Aventure Eco-Tours well ahead of our 9:00 check-in time. We killed time until then and then signed away our right to any sort of recourse should we become injured or killed on our morning’s outing. Fortunately, we would have no need to regret those waivers.

There were only four of us on the tour – us and a couple name Lowrie and Preethi. They were from – wait for it – California. In fact, from Mountain View. It was their first time zip lining and Preethi was pretty nervous.

There were some pretty big differences between this zip line tour and the one Chris and I went on in Whistler 3 years before:
  • The harnesses had no shoulder straps. We wouldn’t be flipping upside down on this tour. 
  • The launch platforms in Whistler had steps that gradually put tension on the line. Here, there was either a sheer drop or a steep ramp. 
  • Whistler’s lines had an elaborate braking system that slowed us down and brought us to the platform. Here, there were just solid Hawaiian guides to coach us and grab hold of us as we reached the entry ramp on the landing platform. On a few of the lines, there was a simple friction brake. 
We quickly adjusted to the differences. We had five zip crossings and a cable bridge right out of “Indiana Jones.” The last line was long and steep and had a bizarre and nerve-wracking ending. Instead of landing on a platform, we zipped right past it, coasted back out over the ravine, and then coasted back over the platform. There one of the guides grabbed a foot or two to bring us to a stop. Then he rolled a ladder under us. We climbed to the top of the ladder where he unhooked us. The worst part for me was the ladder. I hate shaky ladders.


We had a blast! It was just as exciting and fun as we had hoped it would be. We enjoyed talking with Lowrie and Preethi and promised to send them copies of the pictures we took. We took both stills and video. 

After the tour, we bought a CD of photos and a hoodie from the tour company. We took another trip to the top of Haleakala and then drove back to our hotel, arriving around 2:30. We ate sandwiches for lunch and then headed to the pool. Unfortunately, there was a heavy mist falling. It made for a lovely bright rainbow clearly visible from our room, but it chased us indoors after about 45 minutes.

We managed to relax in the room as the rainbow got bigger and brighter. At 5:45, we started getting ready for dinner. We easily made it to Duke’s on time for our 6:45 reservation. Chris had the seafood risotto and I ordered BBQ Ribs. We split a salad. Both of the main courses were delicious. We ended up brining a little bit of the risotto and half the ribs back to the room for a later meal.

After dinner we watched “Fargo” in the room. We went to bed around 10:15.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Maui Vacation - Day 2

Thanks to the early bedtime, we awoke a couple of minutes before our alarm went off at 6:00am. We put on our heaviest clothes, grabbed Clif Bars, water bottles, healthy snacks, and the camera gear and were out the door at 6:30.

The first order of business was coffee. There was a coffee maker in the room, but no travel mugs. Google maps told us there was a coffee shop across the road called “Java Jazz”. We drove through a deserted and dark parking lot to the only open place in a nice-looking strip center. A young man out front asked if we were there for breakfast, and we replied “Just coffee.”

The coffee was self-serve, but the restaurant deserved a closer look. There were eclectic decorations everywhere we looked. We were in a hurry this morning, but we’d probably come back for food and more of the atmosphere another time. I paid for the coffee (less than $4 for 2!) and we hit the road south.

Our destination was Holeakala National Park – a 2-hour drive away. We’d be too late for sunrise, but we were hoping to beat the crowds. There was little traffic at that hour, and we made it to the summit visitor center by 9:16 (slowed by a stop at the lower visitor center). As we hoped, there was little traffic going up the hairpin road to the crater. We did see lots of bicyclists coasting down in the other lane. We hoped to avoid dealing with them later.

We walked out to one overlook on the way up and were blown away (figuratively) by the scenery and nearly blown away (literally) by the strong wind. At the summit visitor’s center, we walked the short distance to a nearby peak. Views into the crater were stunning. There were clouds below us on the other side of the crater, but the sky was clear and the air was crystalline. We could see Mona Loa 80 miles away and Mona Kea 100 miles away – both on the Big Island.

On our drive back down, we passed one group of cyclists who were on the side of the road posing for a final photo. We stopped for gas ($4.099/gallon) and drove back to our resort. Traffic was still lighter than on our trip from the airport the day before.

We made sandwiches for lunch and ate them on our balcony. We then changed into or bathing suits, slathered on sunscreen, and found a couple of lounges near one of the pools. After about 45 minutes of listening to music and reading, we felt raindrops. We stowed the electronics and prepared to wait it out or run for cover.

We had a respite from the rain after about 15 minutes, but it didn’t last long. Shortly it started pouring, and we went back to our room. An hour later, the sun was out and we found another pair of lounges and read until nearly 5:00 before escaping the wind back to our room.

We relaxed there and then got cleaned up for dinner, and then headed to Duke’s for a cocktail. Chris had a Lava Flow and I had a Kona Red Ale. We chatted with Allan and Nancy, who had taken the barstools next to us. They were an older couple from Sacramento. It seems everyone here is from California.

About 6:45 we walked over to Java Jazz, where we were seated right away. Among the eclectic d├ęcor were thousands of Polaroid photos of past patrons, toy trucks, mock shrines to previous presidents, and a chandelier made of about a hundred empty liquor bottles. The menu had a number of tasty-looking main courses. Chris chose the seafood special – ono with shrimp and scallops. I had caramelized salmon. Both were delicious. For dessert, we had the house specialty: a huge serving of tiramisu.

While we ate, we enjoyed the live music provided by a young woman with a nice voice who accompanied herself on acoustic guitar. She sang covers of songs ranging from 90’s indie rock to The Beatles “Black Bird”. On the way out, Chris gave her a tip, mistakenly putting the bill into the singer’s drink instead of the tip jar. Oops.

Back at the room, we finished “Wall-E” and then went to bed.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Maui Vacation - Day 1

San Jose to Lahaina

We woke to our alarm at 4:45, showered, dressed and took care of those last-minute packing tasks that always linger. Bruce picked us up promptly at 6:00am, swaths of frost still evident on his car windows. We were to the airport, checked in, bags checked, and through security 35 minutes later. First class check-in and security lines save a lot of time.

We boarded on time and enjoyed the service in the first class cabin – guava juice, brunch, snacks, and comfort during the five and a half hour flight. Chris watched “The Descendents” during part of the flight. I listened to an old “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” podcast, read, and slept.

Our bags were some of the first ones to drop onto the carousel at Kahului Airport, and we were quickly off to the Alamo shuttle. Fifteen minutes later we were packing up our less than pristine Mazda M3 sedan and heading into bumper-to-bumper traffic.

We arrived at the Honua Kai Resort about 2:00. A helpful staff member told us we needed to check in at the north tower, and we drove another 5 minutes to get there. Our room was ready. We unloaded the car and gave it to the valet. We were surprised by the strong breeze and frequent gusts of what the locals invariably refer to as “the trade winds.”

In our room on the sixth floor, we were a little disappointed at the view. Our windows faced inland toward the highway we drove in on. Beyond that, though, is a nice mountain capped with clouds. If we stood on our balcony, we could catch a glimpse of the ocean.

We unpacked our bags and explored the one-bedroom suite. Everything we needed for cooking, in-room entertainment, sleeping, etc. We were hungry, so we headed out to find a light, late lunch and a grocery store.

The concierge recommended Whaler’s Village for nice restaurants and shops, and she gave us a map. However, we overestimated the scale of the map and drove past the exit without realizing it. We detoured into downtown Lahaina, but it was packed and parking was scarce. We eventually turned around and headed back north.

We pulled into a shopping center with a Safeway store and were delighted to see a restaurant. We had a nice lunch of pork quesadillas and Caesar salad at Lahaina Surf Club and Grille. We then spent a painful amount on 5 days’ groceries at the Safeway. Even the local beer was overpriced.

Back at the Honua Kai, we put the groceries away and headed out to explore the resort. We took a couple of pictures on the beach and then went to Duke’s (the on-site restaurant) and – finally – had the mai tais that marked the official start to our Hawaiian vacation.

Rob and Michelle, the couple next to us at the bar received some lovely-looking drinks. They informed us the drinks are called “lava flows”. They were red and white and looked delicious. We’ll order some of those next time. Rob and Michelle are from Turlock, CA.

We made plans to come back to Duke’s for dinner and went back to our room about 5:30. We were exhausted from our travels and still full from our “light” lunch and the drinks. Instead of going back out for dinner, we had snacks in the room and tried to find something to keep us awake on TV. We finally settled on “Wall-E” (which we brought with us). Halfway through, we could no longer keep our eyes open and went to bed at 9:15pm.