There are lots of places you can visit upcountry--Haleakala, Makawao old town, zip-lining, Surfin' Goat Dairy--and they are all fun. I chose these particular stops, because they are all off Kula Hwy and within a relatively short distance from each other. Plus, it is Saturday and the Upcountry Farmers Market is a great place to see what kind of growing goes on upcountry.
FIRST STOP, UPCOUNTRY FARMERS MARKET
Google Maps tells me it will take 39 minutes from the condo to get there. The Farmers Market is open 7 am to 11 am on Saturdays.
Looks like a farmers market, right? Only, besides your basic mainlander veggies, these farmers grow papayas, mangos, and adorable little bananas.
With thanks to these two gentleman, I think I have found the perfect career change for my husband... Lava Rock Gardens.
Next stop, Ali'i Kula Lavender
Lots of lavender.
There is an entrance fee of $3.00 per person. There is also a gift shop, a walking tour, and lovely views of the ocean down below. This is a fun place to take your small child or grandchild for a few picturesque photos of your little person among the lavender and other plant life. And, even if you do not have a child, this peaceful place has plenty of spots where you can take selfies of you and your companions among the lavender or standing above the beautiful valley and ocean below.
So, who's hungry? We are only 20 minutes further up Kula Hwy from some great food!
Ulupalakua Ranch for Lunch
This is a real cattle ranch, but we are here for the food. Ulupalakua's grill serves beef, venison, lamb, and elk burgers, plate lunches (with beef, venison, lamb or elk steak), and a special of the day, which is usually something from the smoker (as in, the thing that you use to slow cook meat). Today, the special is a pulled pork sandwich.
And it is very tasty!!
Across the street from Ulupalakua Ranch Store and Grill is Maui Wine, where you can do wine tasting. I can't think of a prettier location to enjoy wine tasting.
The stretch of Kula Hwy between the lavender farm and the ranch has multiple turnouts where you can stop and take pictures of the valley and ocean below. It is a beautiful drive and even if you do not take a single picture, it is a view you are not likely to forget!
And so ends our upcountry day trip!
Well, except for the hour it takes to get back to Kihei.
And Happy Spring Break! Well, for us, at least.
We still have a teenager at home who is willing to spend a week on Maui with us, which is great, because he is always the catalyst for trying something new. And this year, he wanted to spend a day on Lanai! So welcome to my post on Lanai!!
We picked up tickets at the booth in the Lahaina harbor (telephone a day ahead to reserve your tickets) and boarded the lovely Maui-Lanai Passenger Ferry.
Aloha, West Maui Mountains! We spied several whale fins and whale spouts along the way as well, but, alas, no spinner dolphins.
As we pulled into Lanai, there was a lot of snorkeling activity to the left of us in Manele Harbor. Look closely and you can see a sea of pool noodles...
Right next door is Lanai's pride and joy--Hulupoe Bay.
Notice how this beautiful beach is empty? Spring Break in Lanai is pretty much for the Four Seasons crowd only (you can see the green rooftops of the Four Seasons buildings in the top right corner of the picture). I could have spent all day just here on this beach and some people do take the ferry just to do that very thing. Besides the beach itself, there were picnic tables in shaded grassy areas and well-kept restrooms. Apparently, we are to thank island owner, Larry Ellison, for the beach's excellent facilities.
However, we did not come just for the beach!
We came to check out the island, and for this, we needed a jeep and a local who could "talk story." We spent the day with our new best friend from Lanai, Mikee, who rents jeeps and whose circle of acquaintance on Lanai is a veritable Who's Who of Lanai politics and business. My husband did the driving, and Mikee had non-stop stories for us.
Our first stop was Lanai's top tourist attraction, the Cat Sanctuary.
You can pet happy kitties to your heart's content (which is exactly what our son did).
Next, we stopped in downtown Lanai City. A lovely little square of businesses ranging from grocery store, to Lanai District Court, to an artist gallery. The trees are Cook Island Pines imported by George Munro, the overseer of Lanai's ranching operations in the early 1900s. Lanai has been used for cattle ranching, sugar cane farming, and as a pineapple plantation. Along our trip, we saw deer, sheep, and wild turkeys--all part of Lanai's history. Today, one of the bigger activities for the locals on Lanai is deer hunting--they (the deer and the hunters) are EVERYWHERE!
The town's central park is named after Lanai's most famous business concern--Dole Pineapple. This rock marker is apparently all that is left of pineapples on the island.
Back on the road, we hit the Garden of the Gods (which Mikee lovingly referred to as Lanai's rock garden).
The ocean and sky make a picturesque contrast to the island's red dirt. In the far background of the picture below is the island of Molokai, which is twice as big as Lanai (but even less inhabited).
Then we hit shipwreck beach, where a wrecked ship really is beached, but its origin story varies, depending on who you talk to.
Shipwreck Beach is full of tide pools, so I picked out the handsomest sea creature for this blog...
Our trip ended back at Hulupoe Bay, where my two men checked out the entire stretch of beach, and I stared out at the Pacific Ocean, tired, covered in red dirt, and fully satisfied with my day in Lanai.
The day trip is not inexpensive. A round trip ticket on the ferry is $60. We were lucky to rent a Jeep for a little over $100 for the day (and also managed to snag Mikee as our tour guide for the day--he didn't charge for his time, but donations to the kids' group that he works with were greatly appreciated). Contact Mikee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 808-565-7373.
Merry Christmas from Maui!
There's nothing like a Christmas tree among the palm trees, right?! The Shops at Wailea had some understated, strategically placed, Christmas decor that I wanted to use in this blog post. Hence the above pic, and the pic below.
The lone reindeer in the tropics!
Now to snorkeling...
We just returned from Maui and had some pretty good chuckles at snorkeling novices (I still count myself among them, so no shame here).
Snorkeling is one of those things that, depending on your first experience, you can love or hate. I take that back, you can also be like me, and if the water is just the right temperature and the right level of calm, and you are curious about what the other snorkelers are seeing, you enjoy it for 20-30 minutes.
But back to first experience with snorkeling:
1. Buy, don't rent. Did you know Costco tends to sell decent snorkel gear in the spring--even at stores that are nowhere near water? We pack our snorkel gear with us when we come to the island and replace the gear back at home as necessary. The advantage of this is that we always have decent gear on island that hasn't cost us a small fortune.
2. Go with an experienced snorkeler your first time. There's a lot of cumbersome equipment in snorkel gear! It's good to have someone who can help you get that equipment all figured out. More importantly, you need someone to show you how to get in and out of the water in a manner that works for humans. Although it works for ducks, walking forward into the waves with flipper feet is not very effective for humans...
3. Pick a beginner spot to snorkel. Think calm waters, morning. and rock. Ask at the dive shops for their list of good beginner spots. These are two of my favorite spots:
Honolua Bay (birds eye view on left and shore side on right) north of Kapalua. This is my favorite spot when the water is calm. SO MANY FISH!! Go early, though, because the word is out on this spot and it gets really crowded (even boat tours show up there now)!
Ulua Bay on the right side. This is also a place you need to get to early, but it is a great place for a first snorkel experience. The right side of the beach has a great reef area with calm water in the morning and plenty of fish and turtles (although they tend to hang out at the bottom of the reef). It's a popular spot for beginning scuba divers, too.
One word on Molokini: This is always listed as a beginner spot. Molokini was my second snorkel experience and it was intimidating for me to be out in the middle of the ocean (yes, you are inside the crater). Plus, I didn't see that many fish, in comparison to other places I have snorkeled. I vote closer to shore for beginning snorkel experiences.
In a previous blog, I mentioned a few of my favorite dining spots. There were some glaring omissions, which I need to add:
MISO PHAT is almost always our first dinner on Maui. The TNT Roll is a must. It is a small dining spot so go early unless you want to wait outside for a bit. It's another one of those places that has become pretty popular--and deservedly so--because it is not outrageously expensive and has great sushi.
SANSEI SEAFOOD RESTAURANT & SUSHI is another great sushi place at a relatively inexpensive price. You can make reservations here, which means you can avoid the long line that starts a little before 5 pm.
NALUS SOUTH SHORE GRILL is a fairly new Kihei spot that has good food at a good price. On Saturday and Wednesday nights, Nalus has dinner shows, which we haven't attended yet, but the Wednesday show is on my list of things to do.
In the short time that we have offered our condo as a vacation rental, I have learned that many people do not come to the island for non-stop activities, but for a quiet place, far away from daily stresses and sometimes far away from a particularly painful experience. Hawaiians talk about the Mana of their islands and I am convinced that there is a particularly powerful spirit here that can help one rehabilitate, rejuvenate, and find renewed power to go back to the hard things that life throws at us.
It was from a personal family tragedy, actually, that we decided to find our own place on Maui. It has become my own personal refuge--somewhat hard to reach at times--that gives me a place to relax, look out over the immensity and power of the water that surrounds me, make time for the spiritual, cry a few tears of sadness, and fill my cup, as it were, with extra peace and inner strength to meet the coming challenges.
For those of you who are in desperate need of peace, I recommend this beautiful place. And, if not here, find your place of refuge and retreat, make the time to visit that place, and respect its importance in replenishing your cup with peace and inner strength.
People ask me what else is on Maui but the beach. Really?! You want more than the beach?! As it happens, the beach is not the only attraction on Maui. Here is a list, in no particular order, of activities our family has enjoyed over the years (web addresses included):
A quick walk to the right and across the street is Kamaole III Park, aka Kam III Beach. It is no coincidence that we bought a condo right across from Kam III. Let's check it out:
The lifeguard station.
When our kids were young, this made me feel a lot less anxious about letting the kids jump in the surf.
We were just there recently and watched the lifeguard protect not only humans, but a green turtle that was getting a little too much love from some beach goers.
Kam III has a huge grassy area that is often the site of birthday parties with inflated playgrounds, barbecues, impromptu field games, and sunset watching.
Okay, not much of a playground, but hey, it is a swing set and kids like it when they've had enough of the sand.
You knew this was coming, right? Sunset at Kam III Beach. We love this beach!!
Aloha! I had to include this extra sunset picture. It was taken on a really rainy day near one of the Wailea golf courses, and no, this picture was not edited in any way. Wow.
Okay, enough of sunsets.
Let's talk food. More importantly, let's talk carbs. We don't come to Hawaii to start a diet. Here are some of my favorites:
This is my first stop of the day. We walk to Wailea and hit Honolulu Coffee at the Wailea Shops, because it's a nice walk and because it's a lovely quiet place to start the day.
We take walks every day so that I can justify banana mac nut french toast at Kihei Caffe. Please do not be alarmed by its appearance. They make awesome breakfast food!!
See the line of people? Yeah, that's 8 am on a weekend.
I am not yet done with carbs. These two next places, Ululani's and Sugar Beach Bake Shop are right next to each other, which makes for a dangerous combination. Ululani's has the best shave ice on the island and Sugar Beach Bake Shop has the best bakery items on the island (that's only my opinion, though; other people's opinions may differ). Think really fine shave ice with loads of delicious syrups, malasadas, key lime pie, coconut cream pie, banana cream pie, banana bread, and carrot cake, to name a few.
It's not all carbs, though. Maui actually has protein items as well.
Any trip to Lahaina includes a trip to Aloha Mixed Plate. It's a great outdoor spot right on the beach at the north end of Lahaina--a welcome difference after you've walked about busy Front Street. I have a partiality for teriyaki chicken plate lunch, but everything is good here and decently priced! They recently remodeled so that the entire patio area is covered, so you can enjoy the ambience even when a dose of rain comes along.
AND HERE ARE MY FAVORITE FISH SPOTS--ONE INEXPENSIVE, ONE NOT SO MUCH.
Coconuts Fish Cafe has 2 locations in Kihei now, and one is just down the street from our condo! Best. Fish. Tacos. Ever. Enough said.
Monkeypod Kitchen is my go-to for macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi. I hear there are many great menu items here--all I care about is the mahi mahi. It's a Wailea restaurant, which means it is not inexpensive. It is one of the restaurants not along the beach but up by the golf course in a rather non-descript strip mall. By the way, it is not the only good restaurant located in a non-descript Wailea strip mall. Manolis has good pizza and Matteo's has excellent Italian food and boasts the largest wine list on the island.
Never turn your nose up at strip malls on Maui. Some of the best places to eat are located in rather bland settings.
We came by Ulupalakua Ranch a few years ago after taking the back route from Hana to upcountry Maui (note on Hana: don't take the back route if you have a thing about shear cliffs, hairpin curves, and extremely narrow roads). This is a working ranch that also happens to make some great burgers and brisket (although I've noticed that the brisket is more a special than a regular menu item). This part of upcountry has really beautiful views of the ocean below. If you are in the mood for a drive to upcountry Maui, I would definitely recommend this spot!
Not far from our condo is Five Palms in the Mana Kai Maui resort. If you look up the reviews on this place, most say something like, "not that great of food for the price." I agree. I come here for the view, which is gorgeous at sunset, and because it is right on Keawakapu Beach, which is a beautiful and relatively uncrowded beach!
Keawakapu Beach at Mana Kai Maui resort
Sunset on the patio at Five Palms restaurant.
Those are some of my favorite eating establishments on the island.
Our condo is on the southwest side of the island, which means we watch gorgeous sunsets every night. The one above was taken at Kam III Beach, which is a favorite place for us to walk down for sunset pictures.
Like this one . . .
And this one.
For about a half hour after sunset, this is our view of Ken.
Our son has his own way of enjoying Maui sunsets.
The funny thing about an island sunset is that even the water senses it is time to quiet down, relax, and say goodnight. And Maui sunsets epitomize everything that makes Maui my personal prescription for combating stress. Aloha Sun. Until tomorrow...
Are you like me and are a little skeptical of a vacation in Hawaii in the dead of winter? I mean, how warm could it possibly be in January?! Well, we just got back from a quick trip to Maui and Maui in January is FABULOUS!
Yup. That sun and sky look pretty much like they do in March, May, July, October, and November. And the temperature over our four-day stay ranged from 80-83 degrees, which is pretty much what it is every other time of year. It was a little cooler at night, which made for a little less bed covers-kicking while sleeping.
January does bring out a more seasoned sunset-watching crowd (as in, these vacationers know when to carry their chairs out for the full sunset spectacle) across the street at Kam III Beach Park. We took time out from work on our last evening to take our beach chairs down to the grassy area of Kam III and celebrate the Maui sunset with fellow sunset revelers. One reason I love Maui Kamaole so much is its perfect location across the street from this beautiful park.
So, you may be wondering what work brought us to Maui in January.
That would be this new large flat screen tv that Ken said was a necessity for any man to fully enjoy a vacation. I have to say. I like his thinking on this.
Of course, we weren't just there to buy a tv. This was our first trip to the condo since purchasing it, so we came to give it a good inspection, repair anything that needed repairing, and replace anything that needed replacing. There's something about having a gorgeous view of the ocean right in front of you while you are doing housework that makes housework not so bad!
We did manage to leave the condo long enough for the one thing I could not possibly leave Maui without...
And yes, it is just as good in January as any other time of year!