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


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


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 ( 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'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?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

All The Fun Things You Could Do In Maui (Part 1)

Aloha Friends,

Well, we made it!  2014 is almost in the history books and it is time to embark on the new year.   That means that it's reflection time.   So I made you a list of all kinds of fun things you could do in Maui based on my personal experience over the past year or so.   Some  of them are date specific - if you aren't here the weekend of the Maui Onion Festival, you're going to miss the onion eating contest.   That's just the way it is.   You can get the same feeling at home by trying to eat as many pieces of onion as you can in 60 seconds.

When you come to Hawaii on vacation, you don't have time to do all the things.  You think you do, but it's a lie. Part of the magic of Maui is the ability to unwind, disconnect, and enjoy the beauty wherever you find it:  on the beach, on a canoe, on a catamaran, on top of Haleakala.   There is a saying here on Maui "Slow down, this ain't the mainland."

That means that you can't do everything.   And that's ok.

As you may know, I love food.   All the places you can eat are not on the list.
That's a whole different list.
It really is.  
You can read it here.  

Fun Things (Part 1)

Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm
Upcountry Maui is beautiful.   Visiting the lavender farm can be a part of your upcountry adventure. The grounds and gardens are amazing.   Try a lavender cookie or scone.   If you keep driving up Waipoli road after visiting the farm, you'll run into different trail heads where you can hike through redwood forests.  It's an entirely different side of Maui than the beaches.

Blue 'Aina Reef Cleanup
Help keep our beaches, harbors, and reefs clean while supporting local non-profits and getting out on the water?   It's a win all around.      When I went, we cleaned up around the harbor in Lahaina and then out at Black Rock in Ka'anapali.    For more information on upcoming Blue 'Aina sails, visit the Sail Trilogy Blog.

Chinese New Year Celebration, Lahaina
This starts at the Wo Hing Museum with music, dancers, lanterns and of course, dragons.   Then they go down Front Street and stop at all the shops so that they can "feed" the dragons for good luck.

Coffee Tasting at Maui Grown Coffee
If coffee is your thing, you can support local here and have a tasting of their different coffees.    They also provide maps if you want to drive up to the farm where they grow their beans.   My family has become fans, and I send them coffee when I send my periodic gifts of aloha.

Driving the wild western coast of Maui
When you look at a map of Maui, you might think, "Oh, wouldn't it be so much quicker to get to the airport if I drove around the coast of west Maui from Kapalua to Wailuku?"   The answer, by the way, is no.    Not nearly as famous as the road to Hana, this road is just as windy.  And you can also be rewarded with banana bread and coconut candy, just like on the Hana side.  The highway has narrow one lane stretches.   The kind where we had three cars going uphill and there were three cars going downhill...and we had to ask all the cars going downhill to back up since there was nowhere for us uphill folk to go.    It's a beautiful drive.   Will I do it again?   I don't know.

Empty Bowl Project
Star Noodle held their third annual Empty Bowl Project event in April.    You can buy a handmade ceramic bowl for a donation to the Maui food bank and you also get a coupon for ramen or soba noodles.  

Ferry to Lana'i
Technically a Maui activity, since you have to start here :)
Lana'i used to be the pineapple island and was owned by Dole.   There aren't many places to stay on Lana'i, so many people go on day trips, either by ferry or on a snorkel trip.  It's smaller and less developed than Maui - has an entirely different feel.    From the ferry landing on Lana'i, you can walk to one beach - other than that, you need to have a plan.   I was visiting friends, so we checked out the Four Seasons, went to brunch at Blue Ginger Cafe, and then went four-wheeling down to the beach.

Why hello, Lana'i!

Friday Town Parties
Maui does town parties.    The party rotates from Wailuku to Lahaina to Makawao to Kihei.   The Lahaina parties are on the second Friday of the month.   I've only been to the Lahaina parties, but they all involve entertainment, activities and food stands benefiting local organizations.

Classic Car Night at the Lahaina Town Party

Flight Seeing
If you're island hopping while on Maui, consider taking Mokulele.    Get to your destination while enjoying a whole different view of the islands.    If you're going to Honolulu, fly out of the Kapalua (West Maui) airport and enjoy views like this of Moloka'i from the air.

More fun to come in future posts.
If Maui is on your bucket list, I hope that 2015 is your year!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Almost Halfway to Hana - The Keanae Peninsula, Maui

Aloha Friends!

I hope you had a fun Thanksgiving with your family and friends.   I'm on week two of my Hawaii staycation.   My mom, aunt and sister all came to escape the cold in Illinois and Colorado.   We spent our time enjoying the island of Maui from one end to the other:  Haleakala, upcountry sights, the road to Hana, whale watching, beach time and all the shave ice we could eat.  

Last Tuesday, more that a  year after moving to Maui, I finally drove the entire road to Hana.   It's considered an iconic drive (I believe my sister found a review that called it the crown jewel of roadtrips....that's pretty high praise) and it was a fun day with my family.     At the end of October, I drove almost halfway to Hana:  to the Keanae Peninsula.    It was a sunny afternoon, and the color of the ocean and the way that the waves crash onto the rocks...well you can see for yourself below.  The natural beauty of Maui never dissapoints.      

And now off to my next adventure, a quick two night trip to Oahu.    Big city, here we come!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

It Feels Like Fall: The Waihou Spring Trail, Maui

Aloha Friends!

Hopefully you had a fun Halloween, with just the amount of shenanigans that you enjoy.    It's been years since I've been able to dress up at work, but since Lahaina takes Halloween very seriously, there was absolutely nothing wrong with us dressing up like scary dolls and asking all our co-workers if they wanted to be our friends....for eternity.   

The trade winds are back, so the heat of August and September has abated a little bit.   When you drive into upcountry Maui, the temperature drops in a most pleasant way.    It was in the low 70's at the trail head, compared to to the low 90s when I left the west side of Maui.     Hiking the Waihou Springs Trail felt like hiking back in Colorado or in Wisconsin - the smell of pine in the air, needles underfoot, and a crisp breeze.    It's the closest we're coming to fall here in Maui, as far as I can tell.  

This hike isn't very long.    You may have to jump across the creek depending on the water flow (or use a downed tree, like I did).    The spring trail switch backs down into the valley and on the way down, you can hear the waterfall and if you turn uphill, you can see it.    I was hoping at the bottom of the spring trail that I would see the full waterfall, but that was not the case.   


How to get to the trail head:   From Makawao, take Olinda Road up to mile marker 11.9 where there is parking and a sign for the Tree Growth Research Area.   You'll walk through the gate and be on the trail.

It's hard to believe the November 3, 2014 is my one year Mauiversary.    The year has gone by so fast!    When I arrived, it was 2am - after 12+ hours of flight delays.     On the drive to the hotel, I knew the ocean was there, but I couldn't see it.

This was one of the first pictures I after arriving here on the Valley Isle.  

Maui No Ka Oi


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