Archive for May, 2010

Hip Hip Kihei!

May 10, 2010

Maui draws a diverse group of tourists – newlyweds, families with small children, and lots of old folks on tour buses.  This is no surprise though, since the destination has something for everyone (tons of water activities, beautiful scenery, endless beaches, amazing resorts, whales).  Maui is the 2nd largest Hawaiian island at 727sq miles, but most people don’t realize just how expansive it really is – there are essentially no roads cutting through the 2 mountains on each end, so you’ll need to circumnavigate Mt. Haleakala if you’re exploring the entire northeast, and the West Maui mountains in you’re up near Ka’anapali on the west side.

That is why choosing your home base is so important!

When you start researching Maui you’ll notice that there are many wonderful places in which to plant your suitcase.  Wailea is a landscaped paradise for honeymooners, and Lahaina has the family amenities like safe turtle beaches and luau’s.  It’s likely you’ll want to do at least one boat activity, which will leave from Maalaea Harbor in the south, and you’ll want to drive the Road to Hana in the northeast.  Being that we knew we’d be all over the island exploring all of these areas, we chose a central location for our base – Kihei.

Choose your home base wisely, or you'll have a very long ride home from Hana...or Ka'anapali.

Kihei isn’t the sexiest of Maui towns – it has a lot of strip malls and traffic. But, it also has some of the best restaurants on the entire island (in fairness, so does Lahaina, but that town is on the west coast, a major haul from the Road to Hana).  Wailea is…well, just pretty and landscaped. It’s mainly comprised of resorts and golf courses, but you’ll know when you cross over from Kihei into Wailea (see: landscaping).  We researched hotels on and private condos on (there are tons of timeshares in Kihei), and found a very reasonable one-bedroom in a low-rise complex with a pool (oh, and a lanai – a standard feature in Hawaii) right across from a beach.  It was also within walking distance to a dozen eateries, a few bars, convenience & grocery stores and a delectable ice cream parlor.   It was perfect for us when we didn’t want to drive to dinner (see: Fred’s Mexican next door to our condo) or just got sick of being in our rental car all day (see: Road to Hana).

If you’re spending more than just a few days on Maui – and you should – you might want to consider a central location like Kihei.

Some restaurant suggestions (even if you don’t stay in Kihei, you should go for a meal or two):

Kihei Cafe for breakfast – come early and come hungry.  Maui is an early-to-rise kind of place, FYI.

Pita Paradise for fresh fish and mediterranean dishes. Get the skewers with the fresh catch of the day.

Cafe O’Lei for the mahi mahi with papaya and mango salsa.

Cafe O'Lei serves up some "delishes fishes dishes"

Oh…and ABC Stores to stock up on chocolate-covered macadamia nuts and pineapple wine (actually, skip the pineapple wine – it’s gross).

Maui's finest Pineapple wine. I was suckered into this one. Sorry gotta try harder. Grapes work well in wine. Try that.


Underwater Cameras Suck

May 5, 2010

Well, the disposable ones do (I mean you, Kodak!). Seriously though, we were actually snorkeling in crystal clear water with visibility of 100+ feet, and this is what we got (James was the photographer):

The "best" of the bunch...

There's a turtle in there somewhere. Really! mean you can't see the two turtles near this large coral mass? I swear they were awesome!

Definitely a turtle! I think?

I am sure you can buy a nice digital camera with a clear waterproof case and all, but I think I snorkel once every two years, so is it too much to ask for a disposable camera with a range of more than 4 feet?

I heart snorkeling?

Which Island(s)?

May 3, 2010

Probably the largest dilemma (and I use that word lightly) about going to Hawaii is choosing which islands to visit on your trip.  If you have a few weeks or more, you could probably see them all, but most Americans take vacations in 1-2 week increments (sad, right?). We had nine nights to spend in paradise, and decided to split that time between two of the eight major islands. Eight?  So says Wikipedia!  Most people are familiar with Oahu (home of state capital Honolulu & Pearl Harbor); The Big Island of Hawaii; Maui; and Kauai.  There are also some smaller neighboring islands like Molokai, Lanai, and Ni’ihau (never heard of Ni’ihau?  I bet if you’re an experienced SCUBA diver you have).

Even though the islands are fairly close and some are just a ferryride away from others, each land mass is very unique and even has its own nickname (i.e. Kauai is the garden isle, Molokai is the friendly isle, etc).  Depending on what you’d like to get out of your trip to Hawaii, there’s something for you.  Actually, you just can’t go wrong – even if you picked the islands out of a hat you’d still have a great vacation.

So how did we choose?  We asked around!  We received dozens of recommendations from friends (Hanalei! Snorkeling at Black Rock! Road to Hana! Ka’Napali! Na Pali Coast!), and we researched online in the TripAdvisor message boards (well, james did that). We ultimately decided the whales and water sports in Maui and landscapes of Kauai would be our priorities.

We stopped in Maui first for whales, and then Kauai for mind-blowing landscapes.

After deciding which islands we’d visit, we promptly bought the Maui Revealed and Kauai Revealed guidebooks – sworn upon by almost everyone “in the know.”  This series of books is written by locals and gives you tips you won’t find in Frommer’s or Lonely Planet (but I bought that one too, just in case).  The Revealed books got us in a little bit of trouble, but what’s a vacation without a little bit of near death experience surprise?

Oh, you want to hear THAT story?  Well, I’m still recovering.