Friday, March 22, 2019

Exploring Kula and Haleakala

Welcome back to my Maui recaps!  One of the first recommendations I received when asking for advice in Maui was to go to Surfing Goat Dairy.  I had no idea what it was, but it sounded cool!  We ended up building a whole day out of Surfing Goat and the surrounding areas as well as a trip up nearby Haleakala to see the crater.

Our first stop of the day was Surfing Goat Dairy, which was about an hour from our hotel in Kapalua.  We pulled up and parked besides some baby goats and started walking the grounds.  They have a gift shop, a small kitchen, and a few picnic tables in the guest area.  We signed up for the first tour of the day and met the resident cat, Emma!  Yes, that's her on top of the pergola in the photo below.  On the tour, we learned all about the history of the dairy's name, the goats, the milking process, and even got to feed them.  The tour ended with samples of a few of their goat cheese, and luckily, Hawaii is a full-pasteurization state, so I could try everything!
Our next stop of the day was right down the road at Ocean Organic Vodka.  We toured their grounds and learned all about how they make their vodka from sugar cane on their plantation and water from thousands of miles down in the Pacific Ocean.  Unfortunately, I couldn't try the vodka and rum (Mike said it was good!), but I did get a sample a bunch of the fresh sugar cane.
After our first two tours, we were ready for lunch and drove a couple of miles to the middle of the town of Kula to try Kula Bistro.  They had everything from Italian to Hawaiian to seafood, so we tried a little bit of everything: Kula pork eggrolls, mac and cheese with shrimp, and penne alla vodka with shrimp and scallops.  Everything was absolutely amazing!
Next on the list was Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm, just up the mountain in Kula.  We honestly didn't spend a lot of time there, as we were already a little "toured-out" after the goat farm and distillery, but we walked the gardens and through the gift shop for a $3 per person admission at the gate.  It was really pretty and definitely worth a short stop if you happen to be in the area.
And our last adventure was to drive up to 10,023 feet through Haleakala National Park.  We did have a pay a $25 admission fee per car, but it was so worth it.  The switchbacks all the way up the mountain were amazing, and we only got a little nervous right at the top when our Jeep started to overheat.  We think it was just the depleted oxygen levels, and luckily, it was fine all the way back down.  We seriously went on one of the coldest days of the year.  There were 50-60mph sustained winds at the top and with the wind chill, it was hovering around 20 degrees.  We walked around for a few minutes at the top and honestly tried not to blow away or get wind burn!  It was such an amazing view, and you could see all the way over to the Big Island.
This was a perfect day trip to make the most of the central part of Maui.  What was crazy is that the following day, snow covered all of Haleakala, almost all the way down to the lavender farm.  It had never snowed that low in elevation before, but don't worry, we were still loving the mid-70s weather at sea level!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Road to Hana

I'm so excited to share one of our favorite days in Maui with y'all today!  The afternoon we landed in Hawaii, we took a scenic drive up to our hotel and went to bed early so that we could be up before the sun to start the Road to Hana.  For those who might not know, the Road to Hana is a 50ish-mile road along the northeast side of Maui with winding roads, amazing views, and tons of banana bread (clearly my priorities are in order).  It takes almost a full-day to drive to Hana and back, especially because you will definitely want to stop at every lookout you see!  

When I asked for Maui recommendations, Road to Hana was definitely the adventure I received the most recommendations for: where to stop for the best views, where to eat, where to swim, and how to make the most of the day.  The tip we received most often was to start early, and with jet lag, waking up at 6:00am to start our drive felt like we were sleeping in!  If you're from the mainland, I would definitely suggest Road to Hana as an early trip day to take advantage of that jet lag!

The Hana Highway technically begins near the airport in Kahului but really starts to get scenic about 8 miles up the road in Paia.  From our hotel in Kapalua, it took just over an hour to get to Paia.  For the most part, places open on the Hana Highway no earlier than 8:00am.  I plotted out the opening times of each place we wanted to go to along with how many miles each spot was from the previous since I had heard that cell service can be spotty on that side of the island.  You can scroll all the way to the bottom of this post to see a full list of the places we stopped, along with a list of how far they are from one another in case you're headed on a trip to Maui and want to replicate our journey!

Our first stop of the day was Ho'okipa Beach Park to watch the surfers, kite boarders, and try to spot sea turtles.  There weren't any turtles, but the view was amazing!
Since we had been awake for a couple hours already without coffee, and we knew our next stop would be a hike at Twin Falls, we popped into Jaws Country Store for a quick coffee and pastry.  The passion fruit danish was amazing!
At the trailhead of Twin Falls was the best fruit stand truck.  Not only did I get a bunch of candied coconut and pineapple, but you could also pick your own pineapple and have them cut it to drink from.  The coconut water was delicious and the perfect snack for our walk to the falls.  Keep in mind (since I was 25 weeks pregnant), any walks/hikes you see listed here are something that anyone could do.  I definitely didn't venture too far from my comfort zone, though I definitely did a ton of research before the trip to see which sites would be the best payoff for the littlest effort - haha!
Back in the car, our next memorable stop was Kenae Road, down a hill to amazing lava beaches and the most well-known banana bread stand.  Over the trip, we taste-tested 5 different banana breads, and this one was definitely the winner.  You got a whole mini loaf, and it was still warm.  The views on Kenae Road from the beaches were amazing, too.
Zigging and zagging on Hana Highway, most bridges were one lane with awesome views in either direction.  Though, please, don't be that person who blocks the entire road to stop and take a photo as you're driving.  The photo below was taken as we were driving, so, I promise, it is possible!
Seriously, so much of this drive included food, and I loved every minute of it.  Coconut Glen's was at the top of my list because they make an assortment of coconut milk ice creams with no dairy.  The lemongrass and ginger one that I had was so delicious!
One of my absolute favorite stops of the day was our next one to the Waianapanapa picnic grounds and state beach.  Seriously, it was amazing for so many reasons!  There were adorably sweet feral cats all over the picnic area, and it was just a short walk down the hill to the black sand beach.  I really wish the photos did it just justice!  The sand was so smooth, and it was a great place to swim.
By this point, we were getting pretty hungry, so we took the suggestion of a friend to go to Bradduh Hutts BBQ, right in Hana - yes, we had made it!!  The lunch spot was basically a food truck and tent set up in someone's front lawn, and obviously, there was a cat there, too.  We ordered a couple different things to try: barbecue chicken plate lunch and shrimp pasta - both were delicious. 
We decided to keep driving through Hana, all the way around the island, instead of backtracking to Paia.  From our experience talking to people there, it seems like people are evenly split, whether they choose to drive back the way they came or continue on.  We wanted to keep seeing new sites, and even though the area south of Hana was much less populated (and the roads aren't paved as well), it's definitely worth it, especially if you're in a Jeep or larger vehicle.  We didn't need to use four wheel drive once, just FYI. 
One of our final stops was at Palapala Ho’omau Church where Charles Lindbergh's grave was.  The views at the overlook were amazing, too. 
You can definitely tell that the terrain is much different south of Hana, but we enjoyed the drive and are glad we did it this way.  From what we've heard, the roads around Hana can become pretty crowded as the day goes on, and continuing on, instead of backtracking, we barely saw another car.  The one piece of driving advice I can give you on Road to Hana is if someone is clearly driving faster than you and catches up to you, just let them pass.  You'll be less stressed, and the person behind you will be less frustrated!  Also, beware of tour buses - they drive crazy!!
Stops on the Road to Hana (mileage in parentheses denote distance from previous location):

  • Ho'okipa Beach Park and Lookout (1.5 mi from Paia)
  • Jaws Country Store (6.3 mi, opens at 7:00am)
  • Twin Falls fruit stand, waterfall, and trails (3.7 mi, opens at 8:00am)
  • Ka Haku Smoke Shack chicken and banana bread (8.2 mi, chicken ready at 10:00am)
  • Garden of Eden Arboretum - $15 per person (0.3 mi, 8:00am-4:00pm)
  • Kenae Road for lava beaches and Aunt Sandy's banana bread (6 mi)
  • Swimming at Ching's Pond (0.5 mi)
  • Halfway to Hana store (0.5 mi)
  • Wailua Valley State Wayside stairs (1.5 mi)
  • Coconut Glen's coconut milk ice cream (8.7 mi)
  • Waianapanapa black sand beach (5 mi)
  • Hana Tropicals flower shop - they'll ship their orchids back to the mainland! (1.6 mi)
  • Kaihalulu red sand beach (1.7 mi)
  • Bradduh Hutts BBQ (0.6 mi)
  • Hamoa Beach (2.7 mi)
  • Ohe’o Gulch Seven Sacred Pools (7.3 mi)
  • Charles Lindbergh's grave at Palapala Ho’omau Church (1.4 mi)
  • Drive back to the airport along Route 37 (52 mi)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Maui Babymoon: Where We Stayed

Three weeks ago, Mike and I flew to Maui for our last trip "just the two of us."  Shortly after we found out we were expecting, we realized we hadn't gone on a real vacation in almost two years (when we went to Oahu).  We've had dreams of going to London, Cuba, and Central America, but since our time was limited (traveling in the winter before I can't fly anymore) and with the Zika risk, we decided on Hawaii as the perfect spot.  The weather was amazing (even though they were having a "cold snap" - hahaha), and we could choose to either relax or be active as much as we wanted. 

After we decided on a location, we started researching on what parts of the island to stay.  For the most part, we found six resort areas: Kapalua, Ka'anapali, Lahaina (all on the leeward - western - side of the island), Kihei, Wailea (on the southern beaches), and Paia (northern, at the start of the Road to Hana).  Needless to say, we were a little overwhelmed.  Luckily, some of our best friends had just planned their honeymoon with an amazing travel agent (I had no idea they still existed!!) and gave us her information.  With only a few weeks to plan, she gave us a ton of ideas, and we decided to split our time between the Kapalua and Wailea areas.  The island of Maui isn't too big (Kapalua and Wailea are just over an hour from one another), but with only one road to really get to any given place, it was nice to not have to drive too far to explore each part of the island while we stayed there.  Like when we were on Oahu, we wanted to drive every road on the island and really feel like we did everything (which we did!).

Ritz-Carlton Kapalua: We stayed our first five nights at the Ritz up in Kapalua.  One of our main goals of being on Maui was to play the Plantation Course (which we snuck in right before they closed for a 9-month renovation), and this allowed us to be right there and also play Kapalua's Bay Course.  I absolutely love how all of the hotels on the Hawaiian islands are so open and airy, especially the main lobbies and restaurants.  This one also had an awesome koi pond out front!
When we arrived in our room, we had the sweetest chocolate-covered surprise.  Way to my heart right there!  The Ritz also has a bunch of great restaurant options from a breakfast buffet with pool and ocean views to the cutest little coffee shop (with amazing brown butter donuts), to a beach bar with over-the-top shakes and delicious burgers.  There is definitely something for everyone.
If you're looking to leave the resort to eat, there are a few great options less than five minutes from the resort, in the Kapalua area.  We received some fantastic recommendations from our bartender at The Pour House on one of our first evenings.  Our favorite was definitely the Whale Watcher's happy hour at The Sea House.  What we found interesting is that happy hours on Maui start as early as 2pm, so we enjoyed their happy hour more as a late lunch and ordered almost one of everything (see photo below).  Other recommendations were received were: The Gazebo for breakfast, Kitchen 5315 for dinner, and Cane & Canoe for any meal of the day.
Now for Kapalua golf: it is absolutely unmatched.  Not only is the Plantation Course consistently the #1 golf course on all of Hawaii, there is also a PGA TOUR event played there each January, and it's ranked in the top 50 public golf courses in the country every year.  It was built on an old pineapple field and actually uses the same irrigation system that the farm once did.  You also have ocean views from every one of the 18 holes.
Plantation's sister course, Bay, does not have the same prestige as Plantation but was equally as beautiful.  We played it in 40 mph winds, during a crazy winter storm, but we had the best time.  Many of the views are equally as spectacular as Plantation, and I really liked the trickiness of the fairways and sloping greens.  At both golf courses, we received a discount for being resort guests - so that was definitely a bonus, too!
Fairmont Kea Lana: After our five nights in Kapalua, we headed south to the Wailea resort area.  All of the resorts are beautiful in Wailea, and honestly, we chose Fairmont because it was the least expensive option - haha!  Seriously, having a travel agent is amazing.  We arrived to an upgraded suite and the absolute sweetest babymoon package, complete with tons of snacks and an adorable gift for Baby Boy.  The patio outside was huge with a full ocean view, facing south, towards Makena Point. 
Another bonus of booking through a travel agent were the deals.  She got us free breakfast each morning at the Fairmont, and it was delicious.  If you ever go, make sure you get some of their signature pineapple coconut bread (more like pound cake!).

Between the two hotels, we liked the pools and outside dining better at the Fairmont.  Both were fantastic, but the pool complex at the Fairmont was bigger, had a water slide, and even a swim-up pool bar. 
We would absolutely stay at both places again and recommend them to all of you.  If you have any questions about where to stay in Maui, please let me know!

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