We had breakfast again in the hotel room and then headed out to return the rental car and check in for our flight to Maui on Hawaiian Airlines. We checked in and boarded the plane right on time. Believe it or not, the Honolulu to Kahului (Maui) flight is one of the busiest air routes in the world, averaging 600+ flights a week in 2007. What helps make this possible is the cheap cost of the flight (our tickets were $50 each) and the fact that the flight is just over 20 mins, the shortest commercial flight I’ve been on.
We got our rental car and headed into Kihei guided by our trusty Garmin, which took us right to the condo, the Aston Maui Hill. After we checked in, we took a quick swim at the condo pool, then got dressed for our obligatory luau. I mean, did you really expect us to visit Hawaii and not go to a luau? After reading about 100 reviews on TripAdvisor.com, we decided on the Royal Lahaina Luau, and decided to spring for the “VIP package” which basically gets you a few hours of open bar before the luau, seats right next to the stage and first crack at the buffet.
We got there right about 4:30 and were served some drinks by their friendly bartender, Richard, which we watched the World Series. I must admit, the Royal Lahaina puts on a very good show. The food was good and the Kalua pork was actually some of the best shredded pork I’ve ever had! The show itself was not “cheesy” at all and the performers and musicians seemed to genuinely enjoy what they were doing. I got a great video of the best part of the night – the fire dancer. Here is one on youtube (it’s not mine, however). You can read about day 7 to see why….
We booked our helicopter ride with Air Maui on the morning of the first day full we would be there, as my parents weren’t interested in doing one. Our flight was scheduled for 8:00 AM and we got there at 7:30 to check in (as recommended), which took all of three minutes. So what do you do with twenty seven minutes to kill? Play around with your Canon SD1000, of course! You know, changing things like the sounds…the splash screen when you turn on the camera…going in to the “format SD card” menu just so you can back out of it without ACCIDENTALLY FORMATTING THE SD CARD! Yup, I went in, accidentally moved the cursor over to “ok” and hit “enter” before you can say “All our pictures of Oahu gone”. I knew instantly what I had done, but there was a glimmer of hope inside me that thought our trusty Canon would take pity on my stupidity and not really erase all of the last seven day’s worth of vacation photos. But of course, when I switched the camera to “view pictures” mode, all I saw was something similar to this:
(Warning: boring, non-Maui related, technical paragraph below!)
Nice one. Due to nothing but sheer boredom inside the lobby of a heliport, I had erased about 200 irreplaceable pictures. Being somewhat of a technical person and a very low-level computer geek, I at least knew that despite the SD1000 telling us that there were no pictures on the card, there were. You see, whenever you format an SD card or disk – any disk – you don’t really delete everything on it. You just tell the computer, camera…whatever, that the space on the disk can be written over, that it’s fair game to store fresh data on. So armed with this information, I immediately took the SD card out of the Canon and went on the hunt for a disposable camera. Tip: the one thing you never want to do should you ever find yourself with a formatted SD card full of vacation pictures is to give up and start fresh with the same card. There is always hope, so take the card out and use a new one!
We boarded right at 8 AM and luckily got the front seat of the helicopter. As we listened to the Magnum, PI theme, we take off and head out over Maui harbor and westward over the north coast into the mountains of Maui. We were very lucky in that it was a perfectly clear day and we had an excellent view of the wall of tears, among other Maui waterfalls. The helicopter went all around the northwest corner of Maui, then down the western coast and finally back to Kahului airport. A lot of people say that half an hour is too short, but for us the tour was perfect. Unfortunately, the photos from the trip are a little grainy, because they were shot with a Fuji 35MM disposable camera.
That afternoon, we went back to the condo and met with the concierge to see what we could fit into our remaining three days on Maui. We decided on parasailing for today, which was set for 2 PM, so we headed out right away. We parked at a beach just south of Kaanapali and found the West Maui Parasailing office – a guy under an umbrella with a laptop and a perfect view of the ocean…not too shabby, huh? They take you out to the twelve seat boat in a little inflatable raft, and the boat itself was very nice. We’d never been parasailing (though I had been paragliding) and I was a little apprehensive because I hate heights! But this was fine. They suit you up, then let you go very gradually. Before you know it, you’re being pulled behind the boat which eventually looks about as big as a matchbox car. Its so quiet and peaceful up there that there is a total calming effect. Even if you hate heights, you’d like this. There really is no sensation that you’re 300 feet over the the rock-hard surface of the ocean, just a great feeling of flying.
After the parasailing, we walked north to Kaanapali beach, which was once rated one of the best beaches in the world a few years back and hung out there for a while. On the way back to Kihei, we stopped in Old Lahaina and walked around its many shops then got some great sunset pictures. We did a little gift buying then headed back to the condo and made dinner there.
We set aside the entire day of Saturday to drive to Hana. Hana is a very little town on the eastern side of Maui. There isn’t much to do there, but its attraction is the drive itself: a two lane highway with over 600 turns and 56 one lane bridges. The road to Hana is the modern day incarnation of a trail that was made hundreds of years ago, which follows the coastline. The road is primarily made up of hairpin turns that hug the coastline, where you can’t see what is around the corner, and one lane bridges in between those: it’s definitely not for everyone. We set out on the road at about 8 AM.
The dive to Hana is filled with things to do: there are all kinds of waterfalls and scenic beaches to stop at. So much, in fact, that if you stop at everything you want to see, you’d never make it to Hana. So we were pretty selective about our stops: the lava tubes, the black sand beach, some impromptu Thai food and the occasional waterfall. We made it to Hana by 2:30 PM and stopped in the Hasegawa General Store, which is Hana’s (smaller) version of Holiday Mart: selling anything and everything under one roof. Plumbing supplies next to the produce, hardware next to baked goods, t-shirts and souvenirs next to the freezer bin – you get the idea. They even had their own bumper stickers that read: NEW YORK – TOKYO – PARIS – HANA. Yes, a general store with a sense of humor…
Just past Hana is a section of the Haleakala National Park called the Seven Pools. Sometime in the 80′s, tour operators started calling them the “Seven Sacred Pools”, presumably in order to attract more tourists. According to the park, though, “there are far more than seven pools” and they aren’t “sacred” at all. Sacred or not, we pressed on from Hana and found ourselves arriving there at 3 PM where we had our picnic lunch. We made the brief walk down to the pools and spent about an hour there swimming in one of the largest ones. The water was cold, but felt great after all day in the car. As we headed back, it got dark very soon, so we ended up doing most of the trip home in the dark, which a lot of people recommend against, but we were fine. We stopped at Zippy’s on the way home for dinner, then went to bed early as we had to wake up in just a few hours…
Our concierge told us that to make the sunrise at the summit of Haleakala crater, we’d need to leave no later than 3 AM. Well, we woke up at quarter till three, left at quarter after and made it with plenty of time. I had put in a bunch of destinations into our Garmin before we left and the crater summit was on of them. When we left, the physical distance from Kihei to the summit was 5 miles, but the arrival time was just under two hours. Wha!?! Thats because to get to the summit, you need to drive north almost all the way to Kahului, then southeast towards the base of the crater, which takes about an hour. From there, you enter a series of switchbacks up the volcano that takes you up to the top, which takes about another hour, especially in the dark of night.
We got to the top at about 5:15 AM and couldn’t see a thing besides other cars containing confused people. No one was really super excited to go out and search, as the car was reading a temperature of 38 degrees outside and the wind was whipping past our car. Eventually, we saw the faint hints of purplish blue behind us and made our way up to the summit, which turned out to contain a shelter which we could have been waiting in the whole time! About 15 minutes later we were rewarded with the spectacular site of a sunrise from 10,000 ft. above sea level. The only thing that I’ve ever seen before that compares to this is on overnight flights where you can see the sun come up from above the clouds. But this was definitely cool and worth the early morning ride, once in your life anyway. We took a ton of pictures along with the other hundred people there and then made our way back down the crater for breakfast at the Kula Lodge.
At 8:30 we were scheduled for a zip line tour at Haleakala with Eco Tours, which we made just in time after stuffing ourselves with the great macadamia nut pancakes at the Kula Lodge. I had done a zip line tour in Costa Rica in 2003 but this was a first for everyone else. The tour featured five zip line crossings and a suspension bridge and everyone in our group enjoyed it very much. We even managed to get some videos of all of us crossing various lines. We headed home to watch the Packers defeat the Vikings (well we wanted to see that happen, anyway) and got hungry for some bratwurst during said game. After the game, Pili and I drove to one of the Kihei beaches near our condo and laid out in the sun for a few hours, then picked up some brats and beer on the way home. We had a ceviche with some ceviche mix that we brought, then went to the condo pool and swam until the sunset where we again got some amazing pictures right from the pool deck. That night we had a great dinner – freshly cooked brats straight off the condo BBQ.
For our last day on Maui, we decided to do one of the many half day snorkeling excursions offered on Maui. We ended up going with a company called Pacific Whale Foundation on their boat the Ocean Voyager, along with about a hundred others. They served us a small breakfast on the way out to Molokini, a semi-submerged crater just off the coast of Maui. The southern, exposed end of the crater makes a perfect shelter for fish and coral to thrive in and is the most popular snorkeling spot on Maui. The boat left at 7 AM and we made it to the crater just after 8. Unfortunately, the water was so choppy there that the captain pulled everyone out after 45 mins on order to find somewhere calmer.
We sailed up the coast, almost up to Lahaina and moored about 100 yards off the coast. There, we were promised to see turtles and sure enough, we saw one about half an hour later. We were allowed to snorkel up to and hour and fifteen minutes there, at which time they would have lunch for us when we got out. I stayed the full time with my mom who was having a great time snorkeling. The lunch was nice and they even had free booze as no one would be snorkeling anymore. On the way back, we had a few bottle-nosed dolphins following us and even swam just in front of the boat for a few minutes along with us, matching the boat’s speed.
We managed to get a late check out time at the condo, so we went home and packed just after the snorkeling trip. After we squeezed all four suitcases into our rental car, we headed out to do some last minute gift shopping on the way to the airport. We returned the rental car and made it to the airport with time to grab a drink at the bar with my parents, who had to head back to Honolulu for their overnight flight to LAX. Luckily, we managed to score a direct flight from Maui to Dallas, but unluckily we were back in coach. We didn’t really mind, however, as we were both so exhausted that we both slept almost the entire way, albeit a little more uncomfortably than we would have in the front of the plane. Both our flights were pretty uneventful and we made it home the next morning on time. Home again, until next time….