Friday, January 27, 2006

Maui 2006

This will be a bit different from the usual tirades. Yes, this will be a special tirade... It will be different in that it won't just be a day-by-day account of our 2006 Hawaii trip. The reason? The trip itself was different this time. We didn't spend a lot of time or trouble to get there. We didn't spend a lot of money whilst there - at least no more than we had to. We didn't do a whole lot, but we did do some things. And finally, we only went to one island, instead of the usual two, and sometimes more.

The trip to and from was as nice and easy as a trip to Hawaii can be - we only stopped once in Houston, then came directly to Maui. Same going back.

We stayed at the Renaissance Wailea. It's a wonderful resort hotel, with all the amenities you can imagine. Unfortunately, it's slightly dated, and there are rumors that it will be turned into condos. This would be a sad development since we'd surely return some day. The Renaissance upgraded us to an oceanview room where we could hear the singing from the place’s restaurant as well as the drums of the local luau. They also gave us some free ice cream, and unlimited coffee and soft drink refills.

Not that we'd ever pay for such a thing as staying at this fancy schmancy joint. Those Marriott Rewards Points take some time to accumulate, but they sure pay off well. I should also mention here that the air, as usual, was based on NW frequent flyer miles. So our costs were mostly the rental car and meals.

Speaking of keeping the costs down, we did something for the first time. We attended a timeshare presentation. It was at the old Maui Marriott in Kaanapali, a place where we’ve stayed in the past when it was a normal hotel, and it was actually a very informative and interesting ninety minutes. Not that we would ever, ever seriously consider such a thing... but we got $150 in gift certificates to be spent on meals at our hotel out of the deal.

There was one other costly item. It really wasn’t that bad – fifty bucks each, and well worth it. It was Warren and Annabelle's Magic Show, back in West Maui/Lahaina again. Debbie and I don’t get out for these kinds of things much, but this was highly recommended. And with good reason - what a great show! Warren's magical skills are unsurpassed (how did he do some of those things?), and he was extremely funny as well. I, in turn, will now strongly recommend this show to anyone coming to Maui.

As usual, we ate well. It didn’t take too much to use our $150 credit, but the food at the Renaissance’s Palm Court dinner buffet was great. The famous onion rings at the resort’s lunch place, the Maui Onion were also yummy, but they did me in. Maybe it’s because one serving was about 8 pounds. Other joints we haunted:

A Saigon Café: Thai/Vietnamese place frequented by locals. Very good food and lots of local color.
Prince Court: In the Maui Prince Hotel, this was our fanciest, most expensive, and generally best meal. The $28 Entertainment Book discount was like a pebble off Mount Everest. But it sure tasted good.
Aloha Mixed Plate: Another place frequented by the locals. With authentic Hawaiian food. It included a lot of food found at the typical luau, but without the entertainment and high prices.
South Shore Tiki Lounge: Another local place, but more of a bar, with food as an afterthought. Food is never an afterthought to Debbie or I. They had a singer who was very good however.
Bada Bing: Very good Italian food. Entertainment Coupon helped here too.
Bamboo Grill: Yet another local joint. I loved the Thai food, but Debbie didn’t think the place was very clean, and didn’t enjoy the experience. Maybe it was because the chef came out to have a smoke in his best dirty white t-shirt.

Other food stuff: Not a whole lot of other restaurants for 11 days there. We had a fridge in our room, so we had milk and cereal as well as lots of fruit for breakfast, and lunchmeat/cheese sandwiches and chips for lunches. The chips and the bakery were not the best ideas.

Two of our three most exciting activities were whale watching and hiking. In the past, we’ve paid good money to go on whale-watching boats. This time we could watch the whales right from the shore. And they were very close by. We could even see them from our lanai. It was pretty amazing stuff. Some would slap their tails on the water multiple times. We even saw complete breaches, which I thought were rare: on different occasions, Debbie and I both saw the whales jump completely out of the water. What a sight!

The other activity that I’m willing to discuss is the hiking. Debbie and I walked every day. There is a 1.5 mile (each way) walkway along the ocean to connect all the resort hotels in Wailea. If we did nothing else, we did that walk. It also made for great people and whale watching. But the big hikes were really big. We did three:

1) Lahaina Pali trail. It heads up the west Maui mountains and back. We could've gone to the other end, but then would've had to arrange for transportation back. It was 5.75 miles, but the 1600 elevation climb over rocky terrain was extremely tough. And coming back down in the afternoon heat wasn't any easier. Took 2 1/2 hours to get up there and 1 hour 50 minutes to come back down. But what views! It wore us out, but what a hike!
2) Waile'e Ridge Trail. It was almost as difficult as the Lahaina Pali Trail, but we didn't have to contend with as many rocks, and there was a bit more shade. This one was also on West Maui, but on the cooler/wetter part. The views were unsurpassed the whole way. The valley below was unbelievable. We hiked the 4.75 mile, 1500 foot elevation climb in about 4 hours. Once again, coming down the steep hills was almost as challenging as going up.
3) Pipiwai Trail. This was our third and last Major Hike, and it was a very nice one. About 4 miles round trip, and about 600 to 800 feet up, it was easier than the others. At the end of the trail was Waikomo Falls, which cascaded hundreds of feet down. There were other falls and many pools as well. It was another beautiful place here in paradise. The hike took about 4 hours. Probably the hardest part about this one, however, was the drive to and from it. Located at Oheo Gulch near Hana, the driving round trip was over five hours. But, as I like to say, the joy is in the journey.

Other slightly less exciting activities included driving around the larger east end of the island twice. You wouldn't think that a simple drive around an island (well, most of it) would be such an adventure. But the "Road to Hana" is justifiably one of the most famous drives in the world. The beauty of the many waterfalls and ocean and mountain vistas did not disappoint. We had lunch in Hana (there really isn't all that much there - it's the journey that's important) and then drove on to Oheo Gulch. This was formerly known as the Seven Sacred Pools – until someone figured out that there’s not seven pools, and they’re not sacred. We kept going around the south end of the island, thereby violating our rental agreement because the road is rough and somewhat scary. Now we're worried that the rental car police will come after us. The south end is spectacular in it's own way, but much dryer. All in all it took us 9 hours to drive the 100 to 150 miles that first time. Debbie was ill afterwards. It must have been the stressful hike the day before combined with the rough road on the trip. The second round trip was counter-clockwise, and we didn’t stop hardly at all, except for the Pipiwai Trail.

One day we drove to upcountry Maui and walked through the Kula Botanical Gardens, and also stopped at Sunrise Market and Protea Farm. That was a nice, easy day.

We did some exploring in the areas south of the Renaissance - Makena, Big Beach, Le Perouse Bay, etc. This is the area that I run to almost every morning. And speaking of running, I did a lot there, especially on that deserted road down through the lava flow to the dead end that feels like the end of the world. It was exciting, mostly because it was extremely dark. Dark enough to be hit by a bicyclist coming down a hill at me. That happened there last time, but this time I had my headlamp for protection and vision.

I also did a bit of snorkeling and swam in the cool ocean after each day’s run.

The rest was active relaxation. Reading, watching the waves, watching the sunsets, etc, etc. That was the best part.


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Anonymous said...

Hmm... Glad you enjoyed the entertainment at the Tiki Lounge. The food may have seemed an afterthought - but did you try it???
Signed - The guy who takes a lot of pride in the menu and food of the Tiki Lounge (whose roots were originally just a restaurant far before we had a liquor licence).
E-mail me sometime...

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