Hawaii Flag

Having not been to Hawaii since 2012, it was time to go back. This time, it was just me and Alex for a nice, relaxed vacation with no schedules to keep or other people to please. Knowing that September was going to be a stressful month dealing with things like birthdays and weddings, I planned a vacation to Maui back in May. Maui is where we originally got engaged about five years ago, so I thought it’d be a good choice for both the excitement provided and the price paid. I didn’t want to spend too much money, and it was just the two of us, so I decided on the Days Inn in Kihei. It was a great hotel option, even though it was extremely cheap. The hotel was right on the beach and was just as nice as any other hotel we’ve stayed at on Maui. Every day was a beach day, since we could just walk down from the hotel room and go for a swim or hang out in the shade of a palm tree.

0918161549We flew out of LAX on a Sunday morning. Instead of dealing with a shuttle service and having to be ready to go by 5am, I decided to find a cheap parking lot near the hotel. We went with the 105 Airport Parking just off Sepulveda. The price was actually cheaper for the week than if we paid for a shuttle, including the gas to go to/from the airport. It was also a good choice because I didn’t want to leave my truck parked in our Condo’s parking lot for 6 days, who knows if they’d tow it or whatever since they started enforcing our parking rules properly. We got to the airport and through security only about 20 minutes before boarding. I feel like that was perfect timing, as we didn’t have to sit around waiting to board the plane for very long, yet we didn’t feel rushed. We landed in Kahului (OGG) sometime after 11am local time, and walked to the rental car pickup location. There were shuttles provided, but it was a very short walk and since we’re trying to stay healthy, even on vacation, it just made more sense to take an 8 minute walk, especially after sitting on the plane for 5 hours. I signed up for the cheapest car available when I reserved it back in May. After checking in, the lady informed me I was getting the “Manager’s Special” and that ended up being a Nissan Quest, which is a minivan. I was disappointed, since I was expecting a tiny econo-box, but she said everyone wanted those little cars lately and the van was what I was getting. By then, it was only just after 12pm, but Alex and I were hungry. Our first stop was the local Costco, just outside of the airport. I thought it might be smart to just pick up some muffins to eat for breakfast each day. $8.32 and a dozen blueberry and apple crumble muffins later, we headed to our favorite lunch stop: Subway. Sure, we were in Hawaii, and should eat local food, but it was the first thing we saw that wasn’t McDonald’s, and so I chose it. We’d have the rest of the week to spend extra on lunches and dinners. After lunch, I drove us to Kihei. Apparently, the speed limit signs on Maui are merely a suggestion, since everybody was swooping around me while I was already going 10mph over the posted limit. Had an easy and successful check in at the Days Inn, and we promptly headed to the beach for some swimming. The water was ridiculously warm and inviting, and I spent most of the rest of the day in and out of it riding the small shore break like a sea lion, followed with dinner at Amigo’s in Kihei.

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The next day was a planned beach day, but after hanging out on the beach all afternoon the day we got to the island, I changed our plan and we did the road to Hana instead. It’s quite an interesting experience in a minivan. Also, the term minivan is misleading, as it still seemed significantly larger than all the other cars on the road. We made it to Hana around lunch time, and just before Hana there was a roadside group of food shacks. We had ourselves some pulled Kalua pork sandwiches and a can of Pepsi for lunch. It was pretty good, but the BBQ sauce left something to be desired. The price for the food was actually quite reasonable, considering we were 40 miles down a tiny, twisting road that sometimes only allowed traffic in one direction at a time. Watch out for the idiots who stop in the “No stopping any time” areas, usually on the narrow bridges, so they can get a picture without having to walk a few hundred feet from a safe parking spot. We stopped at Hana Bay and checked out the local boat launch and docks before continuing around the southern “back-side” portion of the island. I don’t remember that road being as bad as it was, but I hadn’t been on it since my first trip to Hawaii back in 2002, way before this blog existed. At some points it was sketchy as hell, but once we caught up to a tour bus, everything seemed more reasonable. If this big-ass bus can do it, we can definitely do it in our minivan. Nothing is marked well along that road, and so we didn’t get to see much that was listed on the map, since we had no idea if we were even close. I did see some cool windows in the lava rock and stopped to take some pictures, but otherwise it was pretty desolate. That south end of the island was very, very windy, and I almost lost my hat! After that, since there is no road connecting the Pilani highway to Kihei directly, we had to actually loop back through Kahului to get to Kihei. Oprah owns some ranch land that has a private road connecting the two, but she won’t share. Hansen Road is about the best you’ll get, and that only saves you having to go with the main highway traffic through Kahului for a couple of miles. Eventually we made it back to the hotel, and spent the rest of the day at the beach before a nice burger dinner at Stewz Maui Burgers.

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Tuesday was the only day that we had anything planned that couldn’t be rescheduled. I booked a boat and snorkeling tour with Blue Water Rafting. They launch out of the Kihei boat ramp, which was conveniently located about 8-10 minutes away from our hotel by foot. That was nice because we didn’t need to deal with parking the van at the boat ramp, we just walked along the shore past a couple of hotels until we were at the ramp. Alex and I have been on a boat tour like this before. Back in 2010, we went on a ride with Captain Zodiac on the Big Island and loved it. Hoping to catch that magic again, I booked us on the 4 hr. Kanaio Coast Tour since we did Molokini with my sister back in 2011, and were not that impressed. (If you book a tour with them, let them know I sent you, maybe I’ll get a discount or something next time 🙂 We were able to make it down a little way past La Peruse Bay to see some pretty cool lava tubes, but because of weather conditions, we weren’t able to do the entire Kanaio Coast. Since there was plenty of time left, Captain Shane and his first mate, Travis, took us to Molokini instead. They let us snorkel the backside of the crater first, which is usually for more experienced snorkelers and divers. While it was pretty cool to be over such deep water, and see all the fish right up near the surface, I felt like it wasn’t as exciting as snorkeling in shallow water. After a few minutes of that, we drove around to the interior of the crater, where most of the other snorkelers are. We got anchored and were allowed to snorkel some more. I decided I didn’t really want to do much more snorkeling, so I just jumped in the water and swam around without fins. I just like being in the water.It was still a great snorkel trip, and I really do suggest you try something like this in the islands, no matter which one you are on. It’s definitely worth the cost of admission. After a simple sandwich lunch, we headed back to the boat launch area. We said our goodbyes, and walked back to the hotel to plan the rest of our day. We decided while on the boat ride that we should have dinner at Bubba Gump’s in Lahaina. It was great, I had the fried chicken and Alex had her normal Shrimper’s Heaven. The waiter was very friendly and quite a character. He told us about how he was moving back to the mainland in November, and had just came back from a 3-week vacation there to get his life all set up. BG is always a good choice for dinner, even though it’s a chain, and we can’t usually go somewhere that has one without going at least once!

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Wednesday we headed up to Haleakala to do some hiking. I wanted to take Alex up to the summit, where I was originally going to propose to her before that got clouded out. We decided against trying to beat the sunrise and just took our time getting up there. It was as spectacular as I remember it being. We could see for miles in all directions, above the clouds. Along the road on the way up, there was a hitch hiker in the “hiker pick-up” area. I thought, hey, I have a minivan with plenty of space, why not? So we picked up Dr. Ryan and he rode with us to the top of the mountain so he could start his 2-day hike. He had a huge backpack full of gear and was ready for it. I saw him getting information from the desk in the visitor center at the bottom of the park road, so I kind of knew what I was getting into. Alex was very surprised that I was stopping to let some stranger into our vehicle. It was great to learn about him and what he does, and we didn’t get murdered! After going to the summit, and trying to do a hike, after about a mile of boring rock and endless sandy trail, we gave up and headed back up to the car. We drove down the mountain a way and tried again on a different trail. It ended up being very misty and eventually the trail got so wet that Alex lost her footing and fell. I decided we didn’t need another broken arm, and we turned around and finished our day at the park. After an hour driving down the mountain we stopped at the Kula Lodge, which is where I proposed to Alex in 2011. The outdoor seating was closed, so we got stuck in the stuffy, warm dining room. They also did not have their pizza guy there that day, so I had to settle for a cheeseburger. It was ok, nothing too special, and I felt a little gypped. We finished up and headed back to Kihei, where we spent some more time at the deserted beach because it was raining. I didn’t care that it was raining, the water was just as warm. Finally, to make up for the failure at the Kula Lodge, we had some pizza for dinner at Manoli’s in Wailea. It was not the greatest pizza ever, but good enough to have the leftovers for lunch on Thursday.

0922161818_hdrThursday was our last full day on the island, and we decided to just be lazy. Since we already had lunch, we just stuck around the hotel and beach for the whole day. I think we spent at least four hours just floating in the ocean. Not much else was done that day, but we did have dinner at Outback. I have no regrets, it was definitely worth the visit, even with the screaming children sitting at the table next to us. We got back to the hotel in time to watch a beautiful sunset, with about a million other people. It made finding parking difficult at the hotel because everyone wanted to see the sunset, but finally I got a spot. I ended up going out later that night and moving the van to a different spot because I felt it was going to get door dinged in the location I originally put it in. One good thing about minivans is that they have sliding rear doors, so you can fit pretty much anywhere and still squeeze out of the van. The people next to you might be a bit miffed though…

Friday was going home day. Our flight was scheduled to leave the island at 1:25pm local time. Since our bodies were still on California time, it was easy to get up quite early and enjoy some time at the ABC store to get our gift shopping done. After that we visited the Kealia Boardwalk near the massive Kealia Pond. We got to see tons of baby fish flapping around in the shallows digging for food in the mud, as well as quite a few birds hanging out doing their own thing. Eventually, though, we had to head back to the airport, return the car and wait for our plane to take us home. It’s always a sad day when you have to head back to the mainland, but at least we had a fun week while we were there. Next time, most of our debt will be paid off, and we will have a higher budget to use, maybe even enough time off to take a two week trip.

One can dream…

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