I looked at my last post date in this blog and can't believe that it has been that long! Like you, life as we knew it basically stopped in March 2020. It is good to be back!
So, in case you are wondering whether it is really possible to visit Maui during the pandemic, here is proof of happy mainlanders getting ready to enjoy a sunset dinner at Humble Market Kitchin at Marriott's Wailea Beach Resort.
And proof of sea turtles welcoming mainlanders back to Maui.
Fishermen still fishing and the sun still setting...
And Mama's Fish House is still serving the best fish in a perfect tropical setting...and did I mention sunsets already?
So, how do you get to Maui during the pandemic?
1. Hawaii has made it very simple. The best place to start the process is to get a nice overview of Hawaii's travel policies at this website: https://Hawaiicovid19.com/travel/
2. The next step is to create an account at the Hawaii Safe Travels website. https://travel.hawaii.gov/#/
You will type in your travel dates and flight information, to start with. You will also need to upload a current picture of yourself (with plenty of Aloha).
Covid-19 Test and Negative Result
Not more than 72 hours before your flight departure, you need to get tested for Covid-19. Many of the airlines flying to Hawaii have made this a fairly painless process, by partnering with one or more of the Hawaii-approved testing companies. Check with your airline to see what it has to offer.
Flying Alaska Airlines? Awesome!
We live on the west coast, so we always fly Alaska Airlines, and Alaska has made the testing procedure super easy. In Portland, Oregon, where we live, Alaska has partnered with Carbon Health (Hawaii-approved), and Carbon Health has a pop-up testing station just outside the Alaska ticket counter. You sign up for a testing time during the 72-hour window and we had our results back within 2 hours! If you are taking Alaska Airlines, be sure to go to Alaska's website and click on the Pre-Travel Testing menu.
Once you have the negative test result documentation, save it in pdf form and upload it onto your Hawaii Safe Travels account. Also, print a copy of the pdf test result for your flight.
24 hours (or less) before your flight
Log into your Hawaii Safe Travels account and complete the health questionnaire.
If you did everything correctly, you should get an email with a QR code, which you will need when you arrive in Hawaii. Make sure you have the QR code before your flight departs!!
If you don't have your QR code or you have questions that only Hawaii can answer, you can give Hawaii's travel division a call at:
1-800-GOHAWAII at 1-800-464-2924
Did I mention that we love Alaska Airlines? Alaska does all the pre-travel checking before you get on your flight, a representative tapes a nifty band to your wrist, and voila! You don't have to go through the line at the Maui airport, which checks each passenger's QR code, test results, and ID. (It was kind of a long line for the passengers arriving on other airlines).
Every travel book, travel agency, concierge, and frequent Maui visitor will tell you that you need to travel the Road to Hana at least once while on Maui. And yes, you really get a taste of the Hawaii you dreamed of after watching "South Pacific" too many times. And yes, I have taken the Road to Hana twice, so far be it from me to suggest that you don't need to go! But, if the thought of carsickness brought on by 4-6 hours of driving curves is too much for you, may I suggest a hike instead?
This is Waikamoi Ridge Trail, which is located at about mile marker no. 9.5 on Hana Highway. To get there, you have to endure about 3 miles of Road to Hana's signature hairpin turns, and if you aren't paying attention, you will miss the parking lot...
It is not a large lot.
But I digress. Even getting to mile marker 9.5 takes quite a bit of time, so I thought it best to fuel up at Sugar Beach Bake Shop first.
It's located at the opposite end of Kihei Rd from the condo, so it's a perfect stop when you are headed toward pretty much anywhere else on the island. Malasadas are best eaten hot and fresh. They are little balls of doughy heaven!
Well, as long as I'm getting malasadas, I may as well get banana bread, right?
Back to the Hike
And you know a hike is going to be good when it begins with this message...
I thoroughly enjoyed the 1 1/2 miles of picture taking, although my shoes accumulated a lot of mud working up the tree root path.
A montage of my hike.
No Hawaii hike is complete without a view of the ocean!
Anything involving the Road to Hana is best experienced in the morning, before the crowds show up. One of the reasons I love this hike is that it is located amongst the trees, making it a cooler hike. But bring water anyway! Cool is a relative term on Maui.
I cannot think of a better walk in the morning than a walk along a beautiful Hawaiian beach. The only thing that could be better is a walk along many beautiful Hawaiian beaches! Welcome Wailea Beach Walk!!!
Our walk does not start in Wailea, but on beautiful Kam III beach. The entrance is at the south end of the beach.
The lone palm tree marks the spot.
Well, actually it is the little blue hiker guy sign that marks the spot . . .
There are some beautiful sunset photo-taking spots at the beginning of the trail! Our trail takes us first to Kihei Surfside Resort.
I love the little blue hiker signs that dot the edge of the grass here. The trail follows the edge of the resort to beautiful and award-winning Keawakapu Beach. Actually, if all you do is walk Keawakapu Beach, you will go home satisfied! Below is entering the beach from Mana Kai Maui Resort.
And this is at the other end of the beach...
Next on our walk is Mokapu, which fronts Andaz Resort in Wailea.
At the far end of Mokapu Beach is the official start of the paved Wailea Beach Walk.
I took this photo of Ulua Beach from the paved walkway. Ulua Beach fronts Wailea Elua Village (condos, not a resort)
Wailea Beach Walk between Wailea Elua Village and Wailea Mariott. About 2 miles into the walk, we come to the Grand Wailea's little church and it looks like they are getting ready for a wedding.
After the Grand Wailea, the path takes us to the Four Seasons.
This next picture is one of my favorite spots on the trail. The ocean view at Wailea Point.
And here we are at the end, Fairmont Kea Lani. The walk is a little more than 3 miles one way. Fabulous!!!
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 email@example.com 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.