Highlights of our trip to Maui and O‘ahu 2005
"First stop: Kahana, Maui"
This trip was slated for February 24 through March 5, 2005. As usual, we planned everything online a la carte. No package deals for us. There is so much more freedom when it comes to choices of accommodations this way and it is not really all that much more in cost. Besides, you will never find a low package price on a rental house or condo.
Our first four nights were in Kahana at the Valley Isle Resort. The next three nights were on the Hana side of the island in a small, private cottage (called Koali Ranch Cottage) near the town of Kipahulu. The last two nights were then over on O‘ahu in Waikiki at the Waikiki Grand.
The Valley Isle and Waikiki Grand are individually owned condominiums rented by their owners through brokers. The Koali Ranch Cottage is a single-room house that is privately owned and offered as a rental through an online broker. Links for all of these can be found on the respective island pages.
As this first picture indicates, it was raining in Kahana. It rained alot here. The prevailing winds brought a small strip of rain right over the mountains and dumped it on us everyday. However, with just a few minutes-drive down to Ka‘anapali and Lahaina, we had clear skies and great weather. With a quick drive up to Kapalua, it was still cloudy but no rain. So all was not lost.
We came to Maui at this particular time of year for one single reason: humpback whales. It is peak season for them right now. They start coming to the Hawai‘ian waters around December and all will be gone by May or June. This season's first humpback siting was October 23 right here by Maui.
This photo was taken right from our balcony at the Valley Isle Resort. This condo sits right next to the water and our 12th floor room had a commanding view of the Pailolo Channel. As a matter of fact, that is the island of Moloka‘i in the background of the photo.
It's really tough to actually catch these gentle giants coming out of the water since you really never know exactly where they will be breaching the surface next. On top of that my digital camera seems to have a long delay from the time the shutter button is pressed until the shutter actually sequences. Hence, only the whale's splash-down was captured.
The whales seemed to display their playful spirit in measured starts and stops. So if we happened to be in the room and saw some splashes, we made sure to seat our selves on the lanai for 20 to 30 minutes to catch their "show".
Although we had a great view here, our best viewing was from the lanai of our cottage on the other side of the island. We actually got to see a little competition between a lone whale and a member of a passing pod. When one breached and splashed, the other responded in kind. It was a very interesting exchange. And although we were about one-half mile from the whales, we could still hear the slap on the water of the whale's body. My video camera was even able to record the sound.
"The Feast at Lele"
My wife and I planned to do at least one lu‘au on this trip. We looked closely at a few offerings and almost booked the Old Lahaina Lu‘au. But because of our short amount of time here and all of the destinations we planned to explore it was decided not to do a lu‘au since we might be too tired to spend an evening being herded like cattle and having food slopped on our trays as we walked through a buffet line. It is even more fun trying to find enough elbow room at a bench table so you can enjoy eating your food.
Then I read about The Feast at Lele. They serve a four-course dinner that lets you experience the dishes of four Pacific island groups: Hawai‘i, Aotearoa, Tahiti and Samoa.
This is NOT your father's lu‘au!
They have tableside service at your own private table and a show that highlights each island's dance. It was perfect! I figured it would be just like going out for dinner and getting a show to boot. So I made the reservation as a surprise for my wife.
When they opened and began seating, we were greeted with a real flower lei and a fairly potent Mai-Tai. You are then escorted to your table. The dining area as well as the stage is all out in the open next to the beach (soon to be under the stars) with a great view of the ‘Au‘au Channel and the sun setting behind Lana‘i in the background.
Would you believe that we — just your everyday Jane and Joe Citizen — were seated front row, center-stage? It was the best table in the house. However, the entire dining area was terraced so those further back still had a good view of the stage. I was told that seating was done according to time of reservation and since I made mine two months in advance, I guess we were top of the list. My wife loved it.
The food was very delicious and I found it intriguing to be trying things I had never eaten before: Cooked taro leaf (tasted like spinach); pohole fern shoots (tasted like asparagus); and breadfruit (tasted like sweet potato). They even served poi that I actually enjoyed. However, it was a three-finger poi (a little runny).
Their semi-open bar was very generous as well. A good selection of domestic and some import bottle beer, mixed tropical drinks and a good selection of wines-by-the-glass were included. All of this with a waiter to serve you.
The show was spectacular and we had a great evening. The initial sticker-shock may dissuade you. But if you can look past the cost and just look at all you get, it really is a great overall deal. Definitely on our to-do list upon our return to this island.
Look for more details on my Maui page in the near future.
"The Road to Hana!"
We did The Road to Hana again! But this time we planned it right. We booked our stay over in Kipahulu (just past Hana) for three nights so that we could explore everything along this road with more detail. And did we ever!
We were armed with the current edition of Maui Revealed by Wizard Publications. We had read it well and marked the pages.
We then stopped at the Hana Cassette Guide stand located at the Shell Service Station on Route 380 in Kahului and picked up the current CD version of the narrated self-paced tour. We bought our food and drinks and we were on our way!
Our first leg of exploration started in Kahului at 10:00AM. By 5:00PM we had just finished at Garden of Eden and decided to break-off our exploration for the day and go find our cottage. The last thing we wanted to do was to try and find it after dark. Although we had made it about 3/4 of the way to Hana on our first day, it was slightly incomplete since we skipped some of the sites in the book that were much too far to hike or seemed less interesting.
The next day we back-tracked and restarted. One of the best experiences along this beautiful coast happened this day. In the book, it is told of a special waterfall above the falls at Pua‘a Ka‘a State Park. We hiked up to the falls (very low volume flow) in the park where everybody else was hanging out. We then followed the path described in the book further uphill. We crossed a viaduct (it was a little intimidating) and followed the ditch upstream. We then crossed another viaduct (which was over an even deeper ravine) and hiked several hundred yards. No luck. We turned back.
These viaducts are part of the East Maui Irrigation ditch system that diverts, collects, and channels the rain falling on this side of the island all the way over to the sugarcane fields in the central portion of the island. This is why the waterfalls are just a trickle right now all along this side of the island. But with heavier rain, the ditch system would allow more water to flow its normal course.
While back-tracking, we discovered our mistake. We went straight when we should have turned. A short hike uphill and we were rewarded with the quintessential tropical paradise scene: A waterfall flowing into a large, rounded pool with lush tropical foliage all around (check my Maui page in the near future for more photos). This waterfall was above the ditch system, hence, its flow was heavy much unlike the falls downstream in the Park.
The real kicker was that we had this place all to ourselves. We hung out here for an hour or so and not another single person ventured our way.
And just in case you're wondering, we did not swim in the pool. Why? Because leptospirosis is a bacteria found on the islands and is known to have killed people who swam in infected waters. It enters the body through open wounds, eyes, nose, and, of course, even your mouth. Although risk of infection is low, we did not feel like taking any chances.
We literally spent three days exploring from Kahului to all the way past Pools of `Ohe`o along the Hana Coast. Unfortunately, there was still so much more to see for which we just did not have the time. Maybe next time.
"Koali Ranch Cottage"
We rented this wonderful cottage for three nights. It's an unassuming single-room house that sits right along Highway 31 just before Kipahulu (that's the semi-single lane highway in the foreground of the picture). The best feature of this place is its commanding view of the Pacific Ocean from its large lanai. On a somewhat clear morning (meaning: not much vog coming from Kilauea), a good view of the shadowy outlines of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island can be had (we saw it once). But the real treat was sitting here watching the sunrise to the left and the sunsets to the right and slightly behind the island. And, since your selection of restaurants is very slim in Hana, we ate dinner every night on our lanai enjoying the cool ocean breeze, the sound of the not-too-distant surf, the gekos sounding, and the cows mooing. It was perfect.
This house sits a couple hundred feet above the ocean with nothing but open pasture land (with a herd of cows) stretching about one-quarter mile down to the jagged rocks along the coast. Everyday was perfect with no rain (vog offen obscured the Big Island from view) during our stay and, as mentioned earlier, it was here that we had the best whale watching experience ever.
Even with being so close to the highway, because of the low speed limit, vehicle traffic was unnoticed. Actually, even with being about one-quarter mile from the water, you could still hear the crashing surf, especially at night when most all else was quiet. "Most" excludes the gekos and the cows, however, they were not to the point of annoyance.
Check my Maui page for the view from the lanai.
"Pools of ‘Ohe‘o"
This is Makahiku Falls inside ‘Ohe‘o Gulch which is part of Haleakalā National Park at Kipahulu. As you can see, the falls are almost dry. Even the famous Wailua Falls just before the park was dry as were most of the falls along the Hana Coast. Just our luck!
Iao (pronounced: ee-ow) means cloud supreme. And everytime we have visited Iao Valley previously it was exactly as its namesake: cloudy. We had attempted a few times while we were staying in Kahana this trip. No luck. Everytime it was covered in clouds. Even on previous trips to this island we had nothing but clouds.
But this time was a little different. As we were driving towards Kahului along Hwy 36 from Hana to catch our flight to O‘ahu, I saw that Iao Valley had no clouds over it. Perfect! We had an hour to kill so we made a beeline towards it.
We finally got to see Iao Valley in the sunshine! This was a real treat since I was really starting to wonder just how often the sun showed itself here considering the number of times we had been here previously. The sunlight definitely highlighted the beauty of the valley as we have never seen before. Our whirlwind tour of the park was the perfect way to end this trip to this island.
We found Elvis! He's at Lulu's in Waikiki. Okay. I know. It's just an Elvis tiki. But I really thought it looked good and would make a good picture. So I extended my arm and angled the camera just right and snapped another of my-wife-hates-these self-portraits!
Return to my main Hawai`i page.