Monday, December 12, 2011

Hawaii Part 4 - Maui

Our last week of our honeymoon we spent in Maui. It was beautiful.

We stayed at Lokelani Condominiums in A205. We weren't too impressed with the room, it was pretty outdated and the bed was rock hard, but the view was awesome. The management was really nice about getting us a memory foam mattress topper which made the bed okay, so I would recommend the Lokelani just not A205.

Our first night in Maui we went down to Ka'anapali beach and Black Rock to watch the torch lighting ceremony. We also had some drinks at the Hula Grill.
Our first day in Maui we slept in and spent the late morning walking around Old Lahania Town. Front street is lined with lots of little shops, although we were a bit disappointed to realize most of them are chain stores at this point. It also has this HUGE Banyan Tree that covers an entire park. It takes you a while to realize it's one big tree. For lunch we walked down the street and grabbed a bite at Aloha Mixed Plate. You can guess what we had to eat. :) It was pretty tasty, but the coolest part was that Jeremy had been waiting to take me here ever since he was here 3 years ago. It was nice that we finally got to eat here together. The rest of the day we spent in the water somewhere and just relaxing on the beach. We also did some grocery shopping for our week here and spent $7 on a half gallon of milk. Yep $7, insane! That night we ate dinner at the Maui Brewing Company. We sampled almost all their beers, but none were that spectacular.

Over the next few days we did so many awesome things on Maui. One day we took a SNUBA trip with Friendly Charters. We were supposed to go out to Molokai, but the winds were really bad and the waves pretty rough, so instead they took us to a different location. We were pretty bummed that we couldn't go to Molokai, but at our new location we did see lots of turtles. SNUBA is kinda like SCUBA but without having the tank on your back and without having to be certified. The take floats on a raft above your head, and you get to go down about 15 to 20 feet. Jeremy and I did really well and it was a pretty cool experience that I would recommend. Though I don't think I'm likely to SCUBA anytime soon.

That afternoon we spent some time at Big Beach. It really is a huge beautiful beach on the south side of Maui. Because we were staying on the west coast, the drive back to the condo was about an hour or more, but it was worth the drive over there to check out a different part of the island. If there is one thing I realized about Maui, it's that Maui is big, and it takes a while to drive anywhere. We also realized that it is not as warm as everyone says. In general the weather was beautiful, but not so hot that it made you want to jump into the fairly chilly water.

On Tuesday night we went to the Westin Luau. It was a tough choice but we chose this one because they had table service instead of a buffet and they had 5 fire dancers. The show did not disappoint. The food was good, drinks plenty, and we had front row seats. Jeremy called way in advance and booked reserved seating for us. He also told them it was our honeymoon and that we wanted front row seats. It must have worked because we had the best seats in the house! The most awkward part of the luau was when they did the wedding dance. They told everyone in the audience who was newly married or celebrating an anniversary to get up and dance. Jeremy really really wanted to dance, so we did, but we were the only ones! I know people say some luau's are cheezy and touristy, but we had such a good time. After the show we walked along the beach. It was perfect.
Our next day on Maui we woke up early and did the Road to Hana. It took us about 9 hours round trip. This may horrify some, but we stopped a lot along the way and really enjoyed ourselves. If you are going to do this drive, make sure you have a whole day, or more! The first hike we tried to do was the Mile 6 hike to the four waterfalls. However, the water was raging so much that we couldn't even make it across the first creek. The hike down that way was nice though, and we are looking forward to doing the hike next time we go to Maui. Along the road we followed the sights listed in the Maui Revealed guidebook starting on page 80. As you read how many stops there are, you can understand why the drive took us so long. We saw some awesome waterfalls and took some great hikes. The first one we did was up the Punalau stream to Punalau falls (page 83). The rocks were pretty slippery because the water was flowing a bit, but the hike was fun and the waterfall at the end was beautiful.

We continued along the way and stopped for the most amazing banana bread at the "Halfway to Hana" roadside stand. I know the book says there is better banana bread on the west coast, but it is wrong! This banana bread is the best. Do not miss it. Between mile 22 and 23 we stopped at Pua'a Ka'a State Park. On the advice of the guide book we took the small awkward trail on the right side of the falls. It was super muddy but really really cool. After walking up and around the first falls, we walked along the water diversion ditch (which was pretty high off the ground) and along what looked like it could be a log flume ride at disneyland. We finally came to the upper falls. It was really pretty and a short careful walk down you could get right to the pond that lead to the diversion ditch system. The reason this falls is so nice is because the water hasn't yet been diverted. At this point I was feeling a little bummed that we hadn't swam in a waterfall, like we had done when we were in costa rica. I felt the water with my toe, freezing. But I looked at Jeremy and said, hold the camera. I stripped down to my bathing suit and dove it. It was exhilarating. We both jumped in a few more times before heading back down the trail. Along the way back down it started to pour. We took cover under a tunneled section of the trail and waited out the rain. By the time we got back to the car we were covered in mud, but it was well worth it. And we were able to wash off at the lower pond.

We continued along the drive stopping for lunch at one of the road side areas. After lunch we decided to check out Maui Cave Adventures and take a walk through a lava tube. This tube was much bigger and longer than the Thurston Lava Tube on Hawaii and is very cool. The owner had known about the lava tube for some time and as soon as the property came up for sale, he jumped on the opportunity to buy the property and open up the cave to visitors. It's a $12 self guided tour and they provide the flashlights. Not only is the cave very interesting, but the information along the cave is very informative. The pictures I have don't do it justice but if you are in the area, I highly recommend stopping here. And yes, they do take credit card.

At this point we were pretty much to Hana and decided that next time we come back we want to spend at least one night here. There are so many things to do in the area. Around now it was close to 3pm and we made the decision to visit the Maui Winery and skip the Seven Sacred Pools. We also had to skip the black and red sand beaches, and lots more waterfalls. Like I said, lots to do up here. So we continued our drive around the other side of the island. The rental car company tells you that they are not responsible if you drive over here, but the roads really aren't that bad at all and we had a standard compact car. In fact, the roads we were on in costa rica were much worse. We did arrive at the Maui Winery just before it closed, but it was so packed with tour buses that it really wasn't that exciting. Visit the one on Hawaii, skip this one.

The next day we had scheduled a bike tour with Haleakela Bike Company. Because it is a sunrise tour at the top of Haleakela we had to be at the bike company at 3am. Yes am. And it was on the east side of the island, where we currently were. So that night we made the decision to get a hotel room in Wailuku which is north center of the island. If we would have gone back to our condo we would have spent an addition al 3 hours driving back and forth. Just didn't seem worth it to us. So we grabbed a room and ate dinner at this cute italian restaurant across the street.

The next morning we woke up early, so early that I'm pretty sure it was still considered the night before. We drove over to Pa'ia and met up with the Haleakela Bike Company. They fitted us with bikes, helmets, backpacks, and rain gear and we started the drive up the volcano. It's about and hour up to the top. Because the moon was just right we were fortunate enough to see a moonbow. Yes a moonbow, and no, before this trip too hadn't heard of such a thing. But they are real and pretty neat. We got up to the top around 5am, about 45 minutes before sunrise. It was freezing! Fortunately we had carried around our winter coats with us the entire trip just for this moment. We took the small trail to the right off the parking lot and found a great spot to watch sunrise. As the sun started to illuminate the sky, it was really awesome to watch the island unfold below us.


The most beautiful sight was just as the disk of the sun pierced through the clouds. The most beautiful sunrise ever. I was so memorized I tried convincing Jeremy that we should go back the next day. It was really a perfect moment that I will forever remember.


After watching sunrise we hopped back into the truck and started down the mountain just until we were outside the park gates. The park won't allow the companies to ride bikes inside the park, so they drop you off just below the 7,000 foot mark. They gave us a map and we were off. I really like this bike company because it is a self guided tour and you just have to be back by 4pm. Considering it was only 6am, we had a lot of time on the bikes. Turns out even with stopping for breakfast we still were back to the shop by 11am, but it was an awesome ride. I highly highly recommend doing the sunrise bike combo.

Before we headed back to the condo we stopped at a lavendar farm and the surfing goat cheese farm. Both were pretty interesting little side trips.

That night we went back to Old Lahania Town and had dinner at a small hole in the wall place called Mala. The inside wasn't much but the outside tables were nice and the food was delicious! I don't know if it would have been worth the price if we were sitting inside, but the outside atmosphere and the amazing food made the cost doable. Plus, we just used the excuse "well, we are on our honeymoon." That night we walked back down Front Street for a while and came across these wood carvers. We watched them for a few moments and then we decided to pick out something for ourselves. They had these little unfinished turtles that you could choose from and then they would finish carving them in front of you. It was really special to watch this guy carve this turtleish shaped piece of wood into a turtle. If we wouldn't have watched him with our own eyes, we would have swore it was made in China.

Our final full day in Maui we took a drive around the west coast. We followed the guide book again and stopped at a few interesting sites, but by far the most interesting was the Nakalele Blowhole. To get to the blowhole we stopped about 1/2 a mile before the main parking lot and walked there along the "Acid Warzone Hike." (p. 192) This was very cool. Because the ocean spray is so dramatic here the volcanic landscape has been literally pulverized and blown away. Everything looks like it is covered in a gray ash and you can clearly see the toll the sea has taken on the boulders. After walking through the war zone we came to the Nakalele Blowhole. The path through this way drops you off right next to the blowhole. As we found out, sometimes it doesn't blow much, and other times it can blow up to 50 feet in the air. But it's not the spray from the blowhole that will get you soaked, it's the waves lingering off the coast waiting until you aren't paying attention to surprise you with their power. We were soaked by the time we left. Here is a video I made of the blowhole. The sudden darkness is me quickly covering the camera to protect it from the sea spray coming from the left of us.

video

After the blowhole we continued around the coast stopping for some banana bread at Julia's. It was pretty good, but nowhere near as good as "half way to hana" bread. Though they do have this oddly addicting candied coconut and this lilikoi butter which we brought back with us.

On our way back to our condo, we stopped at the Iao Valley. What is so neat about Hawaii is that all of the islands exhibit so many different climates all within minutes of each other. The Iao Valley is so lush and green and yet just on the other side of Hana it looks like a desert. Crazy.

As we woke on our last day in Maui, and the last day of our honeymoon, we spent some time to reflect on the wonderful time we had here. We packed up our stuff and headed out to do one last hike before we left. Unfortunately the hike we wanted to do, the Waihe'e Valley Trail (hanging bridges hike), was closed and it had been for the last few months (since September 2011) due to a disagreement between land owners. The hike looks beautiful and I hope that they all resolve their differences soon so it can be reopened. Instead we did part of the Waihe'e Ridge Trail where there are some beautiful views about 1/2 a mile in. Since we were about to catch our flight home we could only do about 1.5 miles, but next time we will finish the 4 mile loop.

What an amazing honeymoon. We are so lucky that we were able to take a full 3 weeks off work to experience this wonderful place and spend the first weeks of our marriage in Hawaii. We will be back!

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