Thursday, June 9, 2016

Travel Diary: Maui - May 2016: Part One

I am switching up the format of the blog to reflect the fact that I keep procrastinating writing on it, because I've made it so complicated for myself. It is just going to be plain text now, without links or photos most of the time, in the hopes that I will write more often. I have a big backlog of things to write about, and since I don't know if there is anyone reading this anyway, I might as well keep it simple for myself. On to the travel diary:

My first impression of Maui as I arrived at the airport, was not a favorable one. Granted, I was extremely tired, (due to the lady in the seats across from me in the airplane who snore THE ENTIRE FLIGHT!!!!) but the airport is very rundown. I liked that it is mostly open-air: very tropical feeling. But everything needs to be updated and remodeled. It looked like it hasn't been touched since the 80s. Why people? You are a tourist destination! You should invest in your tourist infrastructure. The airport did have lots of good shops, though. Not a lot of restaurants: just junk food.

I picked up my rental car and headed to the AirBnB I had reserved. It was easy to find and easy to get to. It was in a shabby neighborhood, and the house was kind of shabby, but it had a nice yard. The parking area was narrow and getting in and out was a little harrowing. My room was plain but cozy and had everything I needed. It would have been fine except for the bugs. During my stay, I saw a cockroach and tons of other bugs. Yuck!

For a late lunch, I used my Fodor's travel guide to choose a restaurant that was touted as a tiki bar/restaurant, called South Shore Tiki Lounge. I was a little underwhelmed by this place because it wasn't very tiki, in my opinion. But the waitress was very nice and my food was good. I sat on the deck under some pretty plumeria trees and watched all the birds. There were picnic tables, plastic cutlery and paper plates. My food was simple but good, but I think they milked the whole tiki idea without it being very tiki. For instance, I ordered the "tiki fries" which were actually just regular fries! Haha. This restaurant was completely outdoors, and was situated in a touristy outdoor mall with lots of other restaurants and a bunch of shops selling touristy souvenirs. I would end up coming back to this mall twice for other restaurants during my trip. For dinner, I went to Humuhumu, the Hawaiian restaurant at the Grand Wailea Resort, in Wailea. Wailea was my favorite part of Maui because it was all new looking and nicely maintained. It had the biggest concentration of good beaches, with accessible parking and some shade, lots of shops (which I didn't actually go to because of my knee injury), and beautiful hotels with nice restaurants. I must have still been really tired because I don't remember much about this hotel or the restaurant. I think the food was good. I wanted to go here because the Grand Wailea was one of the biggest, most lavish resorts with huge landscaped grounds. The restaurant was in a grass hut-style outdoor structure that looked out onto the beach. (Photos below).

The next morning, I woke up refreshed and found that the house was host to zillions of local birds and a family of wild chickens! Although the rooster woke me at around 5:30 or 6 a.m every day, it was still cool to have chickens in the backyard. I enjoyed seeing the rooster's amazing irridescent colors, they brown, skinny hens, and the pale adolescent chickens. Very cool. I just wish they were tamer and would have let me approach them, but they just ran "like chickens" at my approach! haha

I set out fairly early on Wednesday to Hana. I wanted to make sure I was back in Kihei (my home base) by dark because I heard the drive to Hana was slightly perilous. On the way there, I stopped in Paia for water, bug spray, postcards, and flowered hair elastics, plus some snacks. It was a small town with a few cute shops and restaurants. The drive to Hana was very scenic! There were roadside waterfalls, lots of rock formations and very tropical foliage. As I climbed higher and higher into the mountains, the air felt thinner and clearer, the weather turned cooler and more humid, and there were frequents light rains and mists. It was intermittently overcast. The road was narrow and two-laned, and there were many twists and turns that were a little scary to navigate: you never knew if there was a wide vehicle or a crazy person about to speed around the bend and slam right into you. There was almost always a back-up of cars trailing each other, and there was always that impatient driver who sped to pass me as soon as he was able. I didn't stop along the way, but did slow occasionally to get a roadside photograph. It was very pretty and I'm glad I did it, but it wasn't something I would want to repeat.
Cold Plunge Pool at the Travaasa Hana Spa in Hana, Maui

Entryway to the Travaasa Hana Spa in Hana

The Travaasa Hana Resort in Hana

Serene lounge area at the Travaasa Hana Spa
I arrived late morning at the Travaasa Hana spa and resort for my appointment. It suddenly appeared before me, just sitting at the side of the road in Hana (which is not much of a town), and I passed it and had to turn back to it. There was convenient roadside parking at the foot of a gentle hill. I didn't see the ocean: I think it was far below. The resort was simple and rustic but pretty. There were not many people in the ladies' locker room, of which I was glad. I took a few photos of the grounds, and then it was time for my treatment. A middle-aged lady gave me a back facial that felt very nice, but I didn't see any lasting results. My treatment was held in a pool-side room that was simple but pretty. The pool was lovely (though I didn't go in - it was "that time of the month"). After my treatment, I picked up a few things in the spa shop, and had lunch by the pool at the resort restaurant which was a short walk from the spa. I had a salad with beets, and guacamole with some oily fresh-made vegetable chips. It was nice.
Relaxing on the grounds at Travaasa Hana

The deck at the spa restaurant: Travaasa Hana
After lunch, I made the return trip to Kihei and made it home by mid-afternoon. I think it was a little over 2 hours each way. I toyed with the idea of going back the opposite way around the island (to the southwest, instead of northwest), but apparently the road is virtually un-passable to regular cars, so I ended up just retracing my steps back to the AirBnB.

Koi Pond, Grand Wailea Resort, Maui

Grand Wailea Resort, Maui

Grand Wailea Resort, Maui

Grand Wailea Resort, Maui

Grand Wailea Resort, Maui

Humuhumu Restaurant at the Grand Wailea Resort, Maui
Wednesday night back in Kihei, I ate dinner somewhere obviously, but I don't remember where, and I failed to write it down - so those memories are lost forever! :(

On Thursday, I awoke at 5:30 am to the sound of the crowing yard rooster. I drove around for a bit looking for a nice breakfast place, but the ones recommended by my Fodor's guide (which was from four years ago) had all closed. I ended up going to Starbucks just for something. Then I drove up north, through some more narrow roads, to Lahaina. My plan was to go to Front Street for some souvenir shopping, hang on the beach for a while, and then be there for the luau I had booked for that night. Front Street is a touristy destination with a large assortment of shops and restaurants fronting the shore. I liked it a lot. It was pretty and the shops were nice. I loaded up on pain killers for my knee and spent a few hours walking around. I was especially excited to see they had a Dole Whip storefront there! I thought those were only available at Disney World!!! Of course, I had one and it was delicious! I also stopped in at the Lush store, which I shouldn't have done because there are Lush stores near my home. But I was good and only bought a few things. I took my Dole Whip and walked to the park that had the giant Banyan tree, and a spot called The Birthing Rock, which I learned about by eavesdropping on a school field trip. Apparently, the rock was an historically popular place for native Hawaiian women to give birth because at the spot, both sea water and fresh water, via a stream, met and that was considered a healthy place to have a baby. I sat there for about an hour and just relaxed.
The Birthing Rock in Lahaina
The park along Front Street in Lahaina

View from the Park of Front Street in Lahaina

The shore along Front Street in Lahaina

Shopping along Front Street

The narrow strip of beach along Front St in Lahaina
For lunch, I walked over to Kimo's On the Waterfront, which was right there on Front Street, and recommended by Fodor's. It was a nice location on the water, and the food was okay. The service was very good and the prices were also good. After lunch, I drove to Kahekili Beach in Lahaina to just hang out by the sand. I was fortunate to find a shady spot under a tree and I spent a lovely two hours just lazing. Then it was time to drive to the luau.
Kahekili Beach in Lahaina

Lots of birds hung out on the beaches hoping to get food scraps from the sunbathers.
This was the first of two luaus that I booked for my trip. I chose Old Lahaina Luau because Fodor's recommended it as the most authentic. Unlike most of the other luaus I researched, this one is held in a free-standing building of its own, instead of in a hotel. I got there early and changed into my nice, sexy maxi dress in the (very prettily decorated) ladies' room. Since I was early, I was able to park very near to the entrance. I checked in and then waited about half an hour before they opened the doors and seated everyone. The tables were all communal tables, so I would be seated with strangers - Yikes! I really liked the layout of the place. It was right on the beach so you saw the beautiful sunset as the evening progressed. I got a nice lei, and the seats were comfortable.
Dancing and drumming at the Old Lahaina Luau
Everything was very pretty and tropical looking. The waiters were all attractive young Hawaiian men. (Eye Candy!). I took some time to walk around, drinking my non-alcoholic fruit punch (because of the pain killers that I was taking, I did not drink any alchohol during my trip), and I bought a hand-carved tiki statue for $40. There were crafts people there selling their wares, and hula lessons, which I did not take part in because of my knee. When it was time to be seated for the show, I saw that the rest of the people were there at my table. It was an Asian family at the end, and then a middle-aged mom, her teenaged daughter, and another young girl who was a family friend. I sat right next to these three ladies. The family friend was not very interesting, the mom was talkative and kind of a "Debbie Downer" but I really liked her teenaged daughter and enjoyed talking with her the whole night. For some reason, I felt instant love for that girl! So it was very pleasant to have them as table mates. The Asian family didn't really talk to anybody except themselves.
The buffet dinner at the Old Lahaina Luau
Our waiter was cute and he flirted with me all night. The show was wonderful! The music, narration (telling the origin story and a little history of Hawaii and Maui, in particular), and the dances were fantastic. It was all so lovely to watch in front of the setting sun, right on the beach. The food was buffet style, and it was good, and there was plenty. It wasn't displayed particularly attractively, but it was good and I had my fill. The desserts were the best part!!! Our waiter brought trays of mini dessert bites, and they were all amazingly delicious, tropical and unnusual. At the end, I said goodbye to my table mates, generously tipped out waiter, who did a great job taking care of us, and left for the slightly spooky, dark ride along the narrow, twisting road back to Kihei, and I felt very satisfied that this had been a lovely day.
Buildings at the Old Lahaina Luau

Old Lahaina Luau

Old Lahaina Luau

On Friday, I got up early (thank you, Yard Rooster!), and just had the leftover banana bread slice (that they gave us at the luau the night before) for breakfast. It was delicious! Banana bread is a big thing on Maui, I guess because of lots of banana trees? Then I set out on the drive north up the coast to Kapalua for my mani/pedi appointment at Spa Montage at the Kapalua Resort. Kapalua is another of the fancier resort towns, and the drive up was very pretty. It took about two hours, driving through Lahaina and the narrow, twisty cliffside roads, and up into an area that is often referred to as "upcountry."
To be continued.....