Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Welcome to Maui 48 Hour Tour

Aloha Friends!

Today we're talking about the things you could do in a little over 48 hours in Maui.  I recently had friends visiting Hawaii for the first time and had lots of fun planning what we could do that would be a good introduction and taste of Maui.   They could enjoy different parts of the island for their first few days without having to make any plans - just enjoying the adventure....and I did too.

Arrival
I like to to pick people up at the airport.   If you've never been to Hawaii before, you may have an image in your mind of an arrival in paradise, complete with palm trees, tropical breezes, live music and a fresh flower lei.  Palm trees and breezes are a given.   Some days there is arrival music too.   In reality, if you'd like a lei greeting at the airport, you often have to arrange it yourself   How unfun is that?    

When I go to pick up friends or family at the airport, I park the car and meet them in baggage claim with a fresh lei.   I pick out leis different than the standard purple orchid lei, since odds are that my visitors might get one of those later on, at a hotel or a luau.   Tuberose leis smell amazing.   And while everyone looks exhausted standing at the baggage claim and is dreading the wait at the car rental desk, you've got a lei around your neck and a smile on your face.   You already look and feel like you're on vacation, even if you're still wearing structured pants and shoes.  

Break into that luggage.   Trade your shoes for slippahs (flip flops) and get ready to jump in Maui!

Our next stop is Iao Valley State Monument.     It's a quick ride from the Kahului airport, it's lush and green complete with a waterfall.   You can get out, stretch your legs, soak in a view that doesn't involve the ocean,  and get ready for the 45 minute drive to Lahaina.  




So we're sipping on Passion Orange juice and cruising the highway, listening to some island jams on the radio - on the way we stopped at the scenic overlook past Ma'alaea.    It's still late whale season, would we see any?    It was our lucky  day.    Even if whale season is over, it's a great spot to pull over and look at the ocean...it's what you came here for, after all.

The time difference is real.   It's only early afternoon or evening in Hawaii and you feel like you've been up for days, staying awake until 8pm is going to take willpower.   So let's go have some  pau hana (literally, work's done) drinks by the water.

Dirty Banana....so ono

I really like Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina.   It's right along the water, super casual, the drinks are cold and the food is tasty, fast and at a good value.    No need to change clothes or shower, just roll into town, find a place to park and grab a Dirty Banana or Mai Tai  from the bar.   By the time dinner and cocktails are done and the sun has gone down, it's time to head home.    

Full Day 1

You like to hike and explore?   Let's get muddy, wet and climb waterfalls, shall we?   You'll really feel like you're in Hawaii.    We headed over to the other side on the beginning of the road to Hana to do the Bamboo Forest hike.   Some guidebooks mention it, some don't, and none of them call it Bamboo Forest - but that's how the hike was introduced to me, so it will always be that way.  

Waterfall #4
After the hike, we rolled down to the Twin Falls Farm Stand for some smoothies and coconut candy.   I  had never checked out the falls there, so we walked around the grounds while enjoying our treats.   Getting ready to head back to Paia for lunch, we stopped at Ho'okipa Beach to check out the big waves, kite surfers and to see if there were any sea turtles sunning themselves.    It was an epic day for honus - there were 20 on the beach!

All the honus

After that, we're sunned and hungry - it's time for some lunch at Milagros in Paia.    The ahi burrito is my favorite, along with a happy hour margarita with a  li hing mui rim.  

On our way out the door in morning, my friends suggested we stop at Goodwill to look for some Aloha wear - they were going to be in Hawaii for 2 weeks, why not get something new for their stay.   Poppin' tags was a success, and we all walked out the door with something to show for our efforts.   I am now the proud owner of an insulated mason-jar style mug that says Let the Shenanigans Begin. As a friend on Facebook reminded me "Jenni, didn't the shenanigans start a long time ago?"   Yes.   But they begin again each day in my heart.

Then we reached a crossroads.   We were full from lunch, but 24 hours in Hawaii had elapsed and my friends haven't had shave ice yet.  Not an option.  Off to the new Ululani's location in Wailuku introduce them to the wonders of shave ice.   There's always room for shave ice.  Always.

Last stop of the day was to pull off at airport beach in Ka'anapali to crash on the sand and enjoy the sunset.  

Full Day 2

Time to get out on the water!   We headed out  with the Pacific Whale Foundation on their Lana'i Snorkel and Dolphin Watch half-day  trip.   Not even halfway to Lana'i, we see a mother and calf humpback whale who were enjoying an extended stay before heading back to the chilly waters of Alaska.   The dolphins were bow-riding the boat, we saw bottle-nose dolphins on the way over to Lana'i and Hawaiian spinner dolphins on the return trip.    The snorkeling off the cost of Lana'i was beautiful and the boat even had a slide.    Did we slide?  Of course!    A bbq lunch and mai tais on the cruise back to Lahaina Harbor put us in a relaxed mood for the afternoon.

Proof that we saw dolphins
 
We enjoyed the shade of the Banyan Tree, looked at the crafts, and checked out some of the shops.   And we might have had more shave ice.

So many flavors, so little time.

And then to rest, shower, and prepare our stomachs for an exceptional meal at Japengo.    Everything on the menu is great, from the curry dusted calamari for a starter to the malasadas for dessert.  



What do you think?    What are the first things you'd like to do when you come to Maui?
Do you have a favorite restaurant or site that you like to share with visitors?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

National Parking: World War II Valor in the Pacific - Pearl Harbor

Never Forget

World War II is a defining moment in our US History.  As our WWII veterans pass on, that history goes from stories told in person to something that is just in the history books.     World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Oahu, Hawaii, still has the living history:  veterans come to the monument to share their stories.   

I had the privilege to meet and hear the story of Delton Walling, who served on the USS Pennsylvania.  His military story starts before he even enlisted.  He had a bad finger from boxing and when asked how he would be able to get into the Navy, the doctor said to cut it off.   And he did.  

 I was there a few days before the 73rd anniversary of D Day in December.   Almost all of the USS Arizona survivors were coming.   But all is a small number  - the remaining survivors are all in their 90s.   Our tour guide for the day knew the veterans who visit and return annually by name and gets emotional when she speaks of them.

My grandfather served in the military during WWII in Europe.  He passed away before I was born, but as my mom and I were taking the boat over to the USS Arizona, she shared his story.   

So we don't forget.     

Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Pictures 

Mighty Mo - the USS Missouri

All sunken ships in the Harbor have a marking at the surface
The USS Arizona also has some visible smoke stacks

USS Arizona Memoria

USS Bowfin Submarine


Have you been to Pearl Harbor?

If you love our National Parks,  you might enjoy:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lanterns of Hong Kong

Hong Kong was extra festive the first week of March coming off of all the Chinese New Year celebrations.  I loved seeing all the lanterns lit up at night!

Note to self:  Plan all future trips to Asia just after the new year


Star Ferry Terminal 

Star  Ferry Terminal 

Star Ferry Terminal 

Hong Kong Observation Wheel

Holywood Park 

Holywood Park 

Aboard the Aqua Luna

Where have you celebrated Chinese New Year?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Aloha Sunday Update

Happy Aloha Sunday to you!


Lucky Cat agrees that it's a great day

I spent the first week of March on vacation in Hong Kong and it was awesome!   I think this trip was the shortest from thinking of it to getting on a plane than any other international trip that I've taken.  I thought about it in late December, bought my tickets in early January and was on a plane on February 28th.    Just so you know, airfare to Hong Kong was cheaper than the airfare I'm looking at to fly to Milwaukee or Chicago in June to hang with my family.   That's the price you pay for living on an island in the middle of the Pacific.     

Hong Kong is very easy to navigate as an independent traveler, great public transportation, signs in English and Cantonese,  and so much good food.   If you've never been to Asia, Hong  Kong would be a good first-timer trip to get your feet wet.    It was also very festive since we arrived shortly after the Chinese New Year.   

Every celebration should have giant lanterns
In the past week while sleeping either 6 hours or 12 hours a night, depending on the day, I've read some good articles and posts that I'll share with you.  

As someone who likes to explore my own city / state / island as well as traveling internationally, I enjoyed reading this post on Landlopers:  Travel doesn't have to be  complicated to be life-changing. Travel is personal:  what you like, where you live, what you can afford.   Every experience makes you a richer person.  

Part of the reason I chose Hong Kong for my most recent vacation was to eat.  So much good food.   Like this pear soup from Tim Ho Wan in the Hong Kong MTR station.  


Speaking of food...look at all these amazing street food dishes from around the world.

And then there was this on BBC Travel:  50 Reasons to #LoveTheWorld.   What's your reason?

Going a completely different direction...this post on Huffpost Women about consent.    The author uses the question, "Hey, would you like a cup of tea?" to show how people twist the concept of consent when it comes to sex.    If someone said "no, I don't want any tea" would you spend the next 30 minutes trying to convince them that they  did, in fact, want a cup of tea?  Probably not.  No still means no.    

A blind therapy dog that smiles.   Yes.

Work / life balance.  Google's CFO put in his notice after pondering questions posed by his wife: When is it our time?  When is it your time?  When is it my time?     It may be too soon for you (and for sure for me) to retire, but it is my responsibility to create the balance, I want in my life.   No matter how much you love your job or the company you work for, they aren't responsible for creating the balance.  You are.  And if you think casual Friday is work / life balance, listen to this TED talk.      
Hawaii doesn't celebrate daylight savings time, so it's already Monday on the East Coast.   Anyway...

Have a great week!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Whales for Days

Whales!

It's Whale Season!

Our winter visitors, the Humpback Whales, are back in Hawaii.   It's that magical time of year when the whales swim 2,000+ miles from the chilly, food rich waters of Alaska to enjoy the warm Aloha of Hawaii for mating and calving.     Whale season runs from November through April.  It's peak season right now.   The guides call it whale soup or whale popcorn, because they are everywhere.   And it's awesome.



Getting a good picture of a whale is a combination of good luck and clicking at the right time.  
I suppose a lightening fast shutter or burst mode doesn't hurt either.

A lot of my whale pictures look like this...

A whale was there, I promise

I went on two different trips this past week.   I would highly recommend them both.     First, was the Discover Molokini snorkel trip from Trilogy Excursions.   You start the day with coffee and cinnamon rolls, cruise to Molokini, snorkel, eat lunch, bask in the sun, and sail back with mai tais.   This time of year, there is the added bonus of, you guessed it, whales.    I didn't take an underwater camera to Molokini, just wanting to soak in the moment, so you'll just have to imagine brightly colored fishes of all shapes and colors.  

I'll have a mai tai.   Maybe two.

A lovely morning for a photo safari
I also went on a Whale Photo Safari with the Pacific Whale Foundation.    This is a small group raft trip with serious photographers in mind.    My camera was probably the smallest on board.  I saw some of the pictures from the staff photographer on board - absolutely amazing.  You could see the baleen in the whale's mouth.    

Boats can only approach whales up to a certain distance, but if the whale chooses to swim closer, or, ahem, come right up behind the raft, that's just fine.   We lucked out with amazing whale action all morning including mother and baby whales and crazy competition pod action. Competition pods are groups of bachelors vying for the attention of a lovely lady whale.    There's a lot of breaching, fighting and fin slapping.   Must be how those bachelors show their worth.  

Baby whale learning how to breach
Well hello there friend

This makes three whale excursions so far this season, and I will probably go again.   It never gets old.

Have you been on a whale watch?    Where did you go?
Where's your favorite place to see animals in their natural habitat? 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Makena State Park to the End of the Road

Aloha!

Happy February to you.    If you're a new year's resolution kind of person, I hope you made it through January with flying colors.   If you avoided the gym for the month of January because you didn't want to fight with all those resolutionists, I hope your favorite treadmill and elliptical are waiting for you this month.  

Yesterday I celebrated our Maui winter visitors, the Humpback whales.


Ok.   That picture isn't of a whale.  
Yesterday was the Pacific Whale Foundation Run & Walk for the Whales.   If I'm going to run (or walk quickly) for something, whales are a good a reason.     The run is a part of the 35th annual Whale Festival.   Here's how I'm celebrating whales for three weekends in a row.

This weekend:  Run for the Whales
Next weekend:  Whale Photo Safari
Weekend after next:  World Whale Day Parade

That's a lot of celebrating.

After running slower than a whale can swim, I decided I would go to the end of south Maui  for no other reason than I haven't been there yet.     I've been to the top of Maui, Haleakala.   I've driven the entire west coast.   I've driven the road to Hana.   In 15 months time, almost to the day, I had not driven to the end of the road in Makena.

The farthest I'd been was to the beach by the Makena Beach and Golf Resort.  

First stop:  Big Beach

There are two parking lots for Big Beach at Makena State Park.   I  parked at the second one.    There were other cars in the lot, but as you can see from this picture, it's called Big Beach for a reason.   Plenty of room for everyone without tripping over anyone.

It's SO big!
I forgot to bring my snorkel gear.  Next time I won't make that mistake.   People were all up in the water seeing cool things.    Even from shore, I saw some sea life.

Why hello, sea urchin


Second Stop:  La Perouse Bay in the Ahihi-Kina'u Natural Area Reserve

If you keep driving on Makena Alanui Drive, the road will narrow, you might see some fresh coconut stands on the side of the road, and then you'll enter the Ahihi-Kina'u Natural Area Reserve.   Keep going.     You'll pass a two mile stretch of lava rock where no stopping or parking is allowed, though there was definitely some stopping going on as the landscape is so dramatic that a quick photo out the car window seemed to be the trend.

Again, I was sad that I didn't have my snorkel set.   The water is so clear that I could see the bright yellow fish swimming at the edge of the reef from my place standing on the lava rocks.  


If you look back towards the mountains, it's all lava rock.   



Colorado is 104,185 square miles.   In contrast, Maui is 727 square miles.  
I feel like I've seen quite a bit of Maui so far, but I keep finding new places to visit and explore.  
And that makes me happy.


Football is not really  my thing, so I probably won't  be watching the game this afternoon.   I've already watched the cuteness that is the Budweiser puppy commercial.    Whatever you do, have fun!




Sunday, January 4, 2015

All the Fun Things You Could Do in Maui (Part 2): The Hiking Edition

I took my first hike of 2015 yesterday.    I went back to one I'd done before here on the west side of Maui, the Ohai Trail.   It's 1.2 miles and not too strenuous.  The drive there is beautiful along the undeveloped coast.  

Views on the Ohai Trail

How do I pick my hikes?   Some are word of mouth when I hike with friends.   I also have two books that I enjoy:  Maui Revealed and Maui Trailblazer.  The latter book focuses on hikes, drives, snorkeling and surfing and provides good detail about the trails/trailheads.    There aren't a lot of roads on Maui, so if you want to see more of the island than what you can see from a scenic pull out, hiking is the way to go.    And the best feeling when hiking in Hawaii?   You're in the tropics and there are NO SNAKES!    

If you're planning to hike, you might want to bring more than your rubber slippahs (flip flops).....just sayin'. Some trails really require hiking boots or sturdy tennis shoes.   For others water shoes with traction (Teva, Keen, etc) are fine.    Don't forget your hat, sunscreen, snacks, water and if you're planning to swim or play in waterfalls, your swimsuit and something waterproof for your keys and phone.        

Hikes to Consider in Maui


West Side of Maui
Ohai Trail
Kapalua Coastal Trail (ok...so this one you could do in your slippahs...walking along the beaches and boardwalks of Kapalua)
Olowalu Valley  (start or finish by having lunch at Leoda's Pie Shop)
Lahaina Pali Trail

Lahaina Pali Trail

Central and Upcountry Maui
Iao Valley State Monument
Sliding Sands  at Haleakala National Park
The hikes at the top of Waipoli Road (past Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm) such as the Waiakoa Trail (before you leave the pavement) or the Boundary Trail (after the gravel road starts)
Waihou Spring Trail
Bamboo Forest (this is a favorite with friends and co-workers since you can swim in, climb up and jump off water falls...it's also unmarked...look for cars parked on the side of the road by mile marker 6.5 on the road to Hana)

Bamboo Forest

Happy Hiking!



Looking for Fun Things Part 1?   Here you go.
Do you have a favorite Maui hike?

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