Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Maui - April 2013 - Top Attractions

My long overdue posts (#1 of 3) of the adventures of Stu, Chrissy, Rob & Carryn in Maui.

Summer is over and to quote the Lords of North - Winter is Coming. And generally I am cool with it. But if there is one thing I really can't stand it is the dust and dryness of Edmonton come April. All of the crud that they put on the streets to make it drivable goes everywhere and the whole city turns a washed-out brown. When you blow your nose, it the same color as the dead landscape. Even with spring and the knowledge that tree buds are forming it is the most depressing time of year for me. 

So when Rob and Carryn tossed out the idea to join them on a holiday to Hawaii in late March to Early April we jumped at it. They had arranged all the accommodations for us on Maui, so all we had to do was show up at the condo in Kihei.

Prior to the trip Chrissy researched all the best places and sites with friends who had previously traveled to Maui and scanned multiple books, including the invaluable Maui Revealed. Our first night on the island Rob and I had multiple drinks while the ladies picked out some of the highlights to hit for our 10 day trip.
Below are some of the highlights, or what I would refer to as the top attractions that we visited (in no particular order) on the island.

Typical logo on T-Shirts
The Road To Hana

Everybody talks about the Road to Hana. As soon as you land at the airport you see people walking around with shirts describing how they survived the experience. Everything I read about the trip made it sound like a white knuckle trip with multiple switchbacks, straight drops into the ocean, dangerous locals passing tourists with no abandon, or basically: a death trap. With all of the hype I actually got terribly nervous as the driver as we headed out to attack the route early in the morning.

The trip started surprisingly easy as we zipped along the highway through Paia between the forest and Ocean. I was making great time (as I tend to do in rental vehicles). Watching the mile markers we soon came to our first excursion for the day: Twin Falls

After a nice walk through the rainforest we came upon the falls.

While not overly fantastic in size it was a nice walk and I enjoyed being in the cavernous space around the falls and listening to the water crash down.

(Pro-Tip: If you are planning on doing the Road to Hana skip past the Twin Falls and come back and visit on a solo trip to the falls. You will want all of your time for the later parts of the trip.)

Back on the road I tensed up a bit as the lanes got tighter as they eventually defaulted to the occasional oneway bridge. Thankfully we left early enough in the morning and for the most part were 'with' traffic as opposed to 'against' it. So with some deft navigating by Rob, we were actually moving along quite well. I was again starting to relax enjoying the multiple waterfalls, mesmerising swaying bamboo trees, and beautiful views of chasms along the road.

Every once in awhile we would stop for a picture or to get our bearings and then I made a crucial mistake. I looked over the edge of a sharp corner drop and saw this.

Look closely and you will see multiple cars in the woods. My nerves and high stress kicked back in. At the end of the day I am just a simple prairie boy.  I prefer roads that go on straight for miles.

As we got nearer to our goal we came across another cool little excursion: Hana Lava Tube
However while walking to the caves we were faced with a choice.

So, of course we did the maze. Unfortunately for Chrissy there were no diamonds in the maze. Maybe she would have better luck in the lava tubes.

The cave/tubes were pretty cool. Nearly all of our pictures didn't turn out so I'm re-posting a cool shot of the 'Hershey Kisses" stalagmites from the tour companies website.

Next stop Hana, which was highly unremarkable. But, now that we had reached our fated destination we had to decide how to return. Would we take the same route that we just did or would we push on to the south side of the island where the travel books didn't recommend going and many of the rental vehicles don't offer insurance to goto? After an excruciatingly long wait at a BBQ food truck I finally quit waffling and we decided to proceed South.

With the decision to go South and some of our general stops along the way we were getting tight for time.  So much to Chrissy's chagrin we raced past the Seven Sacred Pools. We continued on what was now a one lane dirt road. The road was tight and we had to hit the horn to let others know we were there before coming around switchbacks.

Amazingly the landscape of the island changed completely within a short distance. We soon found ourselves out of the jungle and along barren landscapes and rocky shores.

Finally we hit a real highway again and I could relax the rest of the loop back to our condo. All in all I thought the trip was extremely memorable and I am glad we did the full loop as we got to see so much contrast of the island.  Plus, by going clockwise we were always on the land side (as opposed to beach cliff) of the highway when meeting other vehicles.

Whale Watching

One of the reasons that we probably ended up getting such a fantastic deal on flights and lodging was that it was nearing the end of whale season. Undeterred we signed up to go whale watching with the Pacific Whale Foundation with some heavy caveats that we may not see anything. With a bit of self delusion, I told myself that I would be happy solely with a boat ride.

After comically spilling wine all over the deck we were informed that there was a competition pod spotted a few miles out. We raced out and ended up with quite a show.

Right when we were turning around to leave I spotted a whale actually jumping out of the water. I noticed it right away and made some form of sound that alerted everyone else. It was awesome.

Banyan Tree

On one of our many daytrips we ventured to Lahaina to see what the town offered. While a very nice place, it didn't really impress me much. But there was one exception: The Banyan Tree. The tree was planted in 1873 at the height of 8 feet tall. Today it is over 60 feet tall and it covers well over 200 feet shading about 2/3rds of an acre.

I have never seen a plant like it before. The tree grows by the roots that hang from its branches. These roots hang down, and when enough of them reach the soil, they thicken and provide another trunk to support the tree’s mass. It grows upwards, downwards and outwards.

All of these branches and trunks are one tree

Iao Needle

Just a really nice park with some easy hikes and lush vegetation. Great relaxing spot to take some pictures.

Maui Ocean Centre

Even though we are surrounded by water Christina still wanted to goto the aquarium. I wasn't too keen on the idea but ended up enjoying it quite a bit.

I especially liked the walk-through tank that included hammerhead sharks and giant rays.

Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm

We ended up exploring pretty much the whole island with the exception of the peak of the Haleakala volcano. On the north face of the volcano with the clouds rolling Chrissy and I found a unique vantage point and a fantastic multi-sense treat. The farm has over 40 types of lavender within its 55,000 plants. Needless to say with all of that lavender (and other flowers) it smelled great on the hill.

Hawaiian Luau

As any good tourist on their first trip to Hawaii, Christina and I took in a Luau. Nearing sunset Rob and Carryn dropped us off at the Marriot Hotel for a traditional Polynesian feast.

The food was good, the show was entertaining and I am glad that we went. However, I don't know if I need to attend another Luau anytime again.

Mama's Fish House

Everyone that has ever been to Mama's Fish House will tell you that you absolutely have to go. It was pretty near the top of Chrissy's list for things to do on the trip. So, within the first 24 hours on the island we booked our sunset dining experience for later in the week.

I think the girls were pretty excited for the evening as they got all fancied up. Rob and myself tried to look respectable and strategized about how much booze we could order (Mama's is expensive) and what a tip should be for valet parking (we are sophisticated).

When we arrived I was taken aback by just how beautiful the place was. The setting along the beach, the comfortable design of the building, and the great aesthetics genuinely surprised me. Usually, all that stuff just passes right over me.

So excited!
The meal was outstanding. We had great service, freshly caught fish (they even tell you the name of the fisherman in some cases), and all the plates were presented so well it seemed a shame to actually consume it.

There was a lot of hype going in but it was all warranted.

If we ever find ourselves in Maui again we will be back to Mama's.
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