Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hawaiian Holiday

While in California, our plan is to travel to destinations that are more convenient from this home base. With that in mind, we headed to Hawaii in October. We'd visited Oahu in 2010, with a day trip to the big island. This time we flew directly from LA to Maui and later from Maui to Kauai. We were eager to explore new places before revisiting any islands. We chose activities and places to stop by referring to excellent guide books to Hawaii: Maui Revealed and The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook (and some recommendations from friends, too).

Maui is the larger of the two islands with greater distances between what we wanted to see. We decided to stay in three different places to avoid back tracking too much. Once we had our rental car, we did some exploring in Lahaina before checking in at our rental condo. First stop, McGregor Point and Lighthouse. I seem to remember saying "is that it?" After seeing so many lighthouses in New England, this was not very impressive. I prefer the driftwood decorated with leis as a welcome to Hawaii.

Hawaii, the Aloha State, is known for its rainbows. I had hoped to see at least one per day. That didn't happen, but we did see quite a few.

Banyan Tree Park is very aptly named - one tree provides shade for all the benches under it and takes up the whole block. Sadly for all concerned, some homeless make this park their home.

street view of Banyan Tree Park

all one tree!

Shave Ice (like a snow cone with flavored syrup poured on top) is extremely popular here, but I'll take ice cream instead any day, especially coconut macadamia fudge. Won't find this on the mainland and oh, so delicious

We also welcomed ourselves to Hawaii with Mai Tais at our first night's dinner. We were very lucky with our choice of restaurant - very good.

highly recommend

boarding the shuttle out to the sub

Tom and I are not fans of snorkeling, having tried it twice. I have a lot of trouble ignoring the "Darth Vader" sound of my breathing. We opted for a submarine excursion which took us to a reef and a shipwreck where we were able to see fish swim by without getting wet ourselves.


going below
everybody gets a porthole

We had a guide on board to explain what we were looking at and help us spot different fish.


view of sub and wreck (souvenir postcard)

We didn't see anything quite like this. I think there must have been underwater lights somehow involved. Still pretty.

The experience would have been even better if a very young child had not decided to cry hysterically.

We actually fit two excursions into one day by going kayaking in the afternoon. We had the guide all to ourselves. Not sure we really needed him, but he was entertaining anyway. He seems to be struggling with the idea of being an adult. (Age estimate: 35) He comes to Maui, buys a car and "lives like the locals." Does this mean he thinks the locals don't have jobs? This is the first year he has actually worked while in Hawaii. He will eventually go back to northern California because he loves the winter sports too much to live in Hawaii year round. The water was perfectly calm making paddling easy and stress-free. We saw some sea turtles pop their heads out of the water, but it was too early for whale sightings. We also watched our guide climb aboard a boat tied to a mooring and then jump into the ocean! I had no desire to hop into the water from the kayak. It was certainly warm enough, but I didn't want to test whether I was able to get back in the boat!

off the western coast of Maui

More views of western Maui:

multiple people are hanging up there!
sunset from our condo's balcony

starting the road to Hana
Our guidebooks had coordinating apps for phones which we downloaded. We drove the well known "Road to Hana" making many stops along the way recommended by the app. It told us what we should be looking out for by way of GPS. Once we started the drive, there was no regular cell service. The app also relayed stories from Hawaiian legend and history and played some traditional music. It was so much better than trying to read from a book along the way. We could both be looking out the windows the whole time.

To teach is to Love

To learn is to Respect
looks like someone needs caffeine already!

wish people obeyed this everywhere

We saw lots of flowers and plants that were not familiar to us.

The silversword grows near Haleakala and is is planted in protected gardens to keep it safe from becoming someone's souvenir.

We were searching for what the app called "rainbow eucalyptus" and were frustrated not to find it. These trees with the colorful bark fit the description, but the label said "painted gum". Checking with google later, I was glad to know we actually did find them - they're the same thing!

The road was advertised as being narrow and winding with lots of one lane bridges. All that was true, but whether it was scary or difficult to navigate is a matter of perspective. Having driven in Switzerland, Sicily and Norway, this road seemed very tame in comparison.

 We stopped for scenic views either inland or of the ocean.

Our Shaka guide from the app told us to slow down. See that hole across the road? That's the opening to a cave. I had to go explore although Tom declined since the opening was so low. One of the few advantages of being shorter. The inside wasn't really anything special, but it was fun to do except scraping my back on the way out when I stood up too soon.

Tom leads us into what seemed like a jungle in search of waterfalls. Although the app was a huge help, it wasn't perfect. There was not always clear information about how far we'd need to hike to reach a particular waterfall. Just about one year earlier, we had visited Plitvice Lakes in Croatia which has an amazing number of waterfalls. Since the waterfalls we saw on Maui were all being compared to Plitvice, perhaps unfairly, they were less impressive.

We did not get as up close and personal with all the waterfalls, but we did traverse a stream by walking across a board and later stepping on rocks. I figured I'd probably slip off the rocks so just went ahead and stepped in the shallow water. There was no grace involved and I am glad there is also no video.

Some waterfalls were visible from the road.

black sand beach

Finally we were getting close to our destination town, Hana. We were supposed to check in to our accommodations by 6:00 pm and call if we'd be late. Once we started driving, we had no cell service. Calling was not an option. We arrived shortly before 6:00 and were disappointed that the proprietor did not have the air conditioner running in our room! After an active day in hot and humid weather, no AC was not pleasant. There was actually a sign in the room that said if we left the AC running when we went out, it would be turned off! We took our chances when we left for dinner and were glad that it was still working when we returned.

There are very few restaurants in Hana. Most tourists drive there and go back in the same day. We were glad to be able to take our time and relax. The highlight of our casual dinner was coconut cream pie with coconut ice cream! Yum!

We did not linger the next morning and went directly to have breakfast at the Barefoot Cafe, right on the beach at Hana Bay.

no orange juice, but passion fruit instead

goodbye Hana, we're on the road again
Rather than heading back to central Maui the way we'd come, we continued to drive along the southeastern coast. Our Shaka guide had plenty more recommendations and stories for us.

finding free range cows was a surprise

Finally we made it to the less frequented of the Haleakala National Park visitor centers. From there, we headed to the Pipiwai Trail which would lead us to more waterfalls with the last being over 400 feet high!

Pipiwai Trail

that's tall bamboo!

Makahiku Falls - only 200 feet

some of the seven scared pools

Installing the raised walkways was obviously a very good idea. It was clear that at times the ground is very muddy. Wasn't too bad the day we were there although it did rain lightly.
almost there....

Waimoku Falls - 400 feet
Luckily, there were no pictures taken of us at the end of this hike! The drizzle, heat and humidity made for two very wet hikers. Showers would have to wait... we still had miles left to drive.


definitely free range!

Varied topography of Maui:

notice width of the road

Finally, we arrived at our B&B and I was delighted with the Hawaiian appliqued quilt on the bed. It looked hand sewn!

hiding here for protection from the wind and driving rain
Not all plans worked out like we hoped. We went to bed early to be as ready as possible for the 2:00am alarm. We were going to see the sun rise over the crater at Haleaka National Park - some 10,00 feet elevation. We opted to arrange for a van to pick us up since it was going to be a 2-3 hour drive to the viewing area. Preparing for the winter temperature and wind, we donned all our layers and met our driver. Of course, we already knew it was raining...hard. He offered us the possibility of skipping the trip and not getting charged. We had no schedule flexibility since we were leaving for Kauai the next day. He thought he'd be able to get us above the clouds so we got in and off we went. We picked up another couple and continued on. Our driver made the best of an unfortunate situation. He told us stories and information about the volcano as we went. When we arrived at Haleaka, it had not stopped raining. No other tour groups came. The rangers didn't even open the restrooms! We did eventually get out of the vehicle to the face east in case there was anything to see.

taken with a flash
is it getting brighter?

Haleakala National Park, sunrise, October 24, 2017
By the time we made it down to the sign at the park entrance, it wasn't raining, but still all clouds. We learned that power was out in many areas. Even with a reservation for a supposedly amazing breakfast following sunrise (included with the tour price), that wasn't going to happen because the restaurant didn't open - no power. Our driver found another and we waited there for quite a long time since it must have been one of few open. Breakfast was nothing special. Another guide at the restaurant mentioned that 40% of the time there is no view at sunrise! It really seems that there is a lot of luck involved depending on the weather. It can be amazing or it can be a very expensive way to start your day in the dark. I don't know if we'll go back to Maui, but I think it would be hard to convince me to try again.

We decided the best way to recover was a good nap and then decide how to spend the rest of the day - and there was still a lot of day ahead of us. We had originally planned on going back to Haleakala to hike around the crater, but with roads closed and what was really a island-wide power outage (no traffic lights), that wasn't going to happen either. We opted to go see the Iao Valley (where the battle that eventually conquered Maui and united the Hawaiian islands took place) which was close to our B&B. Oh, bridge closed. Not going there.  


We happened upon a small cultural park that had memorials for the various cultures that came to Hawaii. Their cultures have had a significant and lasting impact.



Puerto Rico


Our host at the B&B suggested we visit the aquarium. Nice idea, but no go! We finally gave up and went back to the B&B to watch the Disney film, Moana. We'd never seen it and it was quite fun. We also found an open grocery store and picked up provisions for a wine and cheese dinner back at the B&B. We weren't in the mood for another long wait outside one of the few open restaurants. When buying the wine, I was asked what my birthdate was. I thought the cashier was kidding until I looked at her grim face. OK, seriously, you think I'm under 21? She didn't check my ID, she believed me. It was also time to pack for our flight to Kauai. Breakfast at the B&B was fabulous with the highlight for me being banana macadamia nut pancakes with coconut syrup! Delicious!  There were other syrup choices, but why bother? (Can you tell I like coconut?) Watch out Kauai, here we come!

After our short flight to Kauai, we were ready to make a stop for lunch. A little "hole in the wall" place was recommended to us. Luckily, Pam was home at the time because I'd forgotten to include the name or address in my notes. Phew, we made it to Hamura Saimin for a tasty lunch and fun experience. We timed it just right, getting a seat immediately, but later there were people standing around the perimeter of the room waiting for a seat.

Saimin is local casual fare always with noodles and broth. The other ingredients are chosen from a short list. We also "had" to try the lillikoi (passion fruit) chiffon pie. It was definitely a bonus to eat where the locals eat. Thanks, Pam.

Another friend, Lynn, told me about Kapaia Stitchery which was a highlight of Kauai when she was here. They have an amazing number of fabrics and of course, lots of "aloha" fabrics that I wouldn't find on the mainland. I bought a kit to make an applique pillow - they even customized the fabric for me because I didn't like the kits they had already assembled! Wow!

Since Kauai is so small, we stayed at the same hotel the entire time. Kapa'a was a great location - central to many of the places we planned to visit. Our hotel room may have needed some updating, but there was a laundry room at the facility where we could wash our sweaty clothes and we were also right on the ocean. Beautiful spot. Throughout our stay, the sun put on quite a show for us.




Would you go to the Sistine Chapel and not look up? The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook likens visiting Kauai and not taking a helicopter tour to not looking up at the Sistine Chapel ceiling. We took the advice and booked a tour with Blue Hawaiian. Not at all scary and well worth it. I only wished it was longer. 

front seat next to pilot, Sean

our reflection in pilot's instrument panel

Seating assignments by weight and by luck. We liked being in the front - definitely the best view. 

up, up and away we go!

Hawaiian Airline plane at Lihu'e Airport


plenty of waterfalls visible from the air

Hurricane Iniki (name means strong and piercing wind) hit Kauai in 1992. It stripped many trees bare and their dead trunks still stand.

Waimea Canyon wall

Most of the pilot's work was done with one thumb. There were loads of controls, but the thumb was most important. It was so cool to have this seat to view Kauai from above. 
another helicopter touring the canyon


another helicopter landing

Definitely recommend a helicopter tour here. There are many places that are difficult to see any other way. 

Later the same day, we joined a food tour. Our bellies were about to be full, as well as our day! This tour was primarily cuisine which has been imported or adapted by ethnic groups that came and stayed. The group met at Paco's Tacos - they advertise that they have the best tacos. They were good, but I haven't had a lot of fish tacos so I'm not a good judge.



We didn't have to walk far before arriving at the next stop, Kauai Juice Co. They use locally sourced produce and press them into interesting juice blends. We were able to sample about eight flavors available that day. They all had some herbs or spices mixed in. This was definitely not my favorite stop of the day. I thought all the flavors were a bit weak or watery. We were all to choose one flavor for a free bottle to take along. I didn't want any, but took one so as not to insult the shop owner or tour guide. I drank some of it over the next few days, but not all.
very tasty!
Next stop was for Santa Maria style barbecue beef sandwiches. The Santa Maria area of California is known for it now, but it originated with the Mexicans. The beef is slow cooked over a wood fire, always with the same kind of wood. The owners of Paniolo had to experiment with the wood available on Kauai to find what is closest to what they would have used in California.

meat being cooked at outdoor grill where man is standing

Our next stop was at a market, not a restaurant. One of the owners came out and explained how early he arrives in the morning to start preparing rice. Laborers buy their lunches before going to work and students also stop for either breakfast or to buy lunch on their way to school. He typically sells out of the most popular items every day. 

We were offered an assortment of items they sell from edamame, a couple varieties of poke (marinated ahi tuna chunks), shrimp, octopus, etc. Everything I tasted was delicious, but I passed on the octopus. 

Luckily, the servings were small and we had some time between the latter stops to give us a little time to digest. 

Next we stopped at a Japanese influenced restaurant for their local burgers and a bit of sushi. Their truffle burger is definitely in the running for the best burger we've ever eaten.

Finally, it was time for our last stop on the tour. Coincidentally, I had already made a dinner reservation at this restaurant for the following evening. The head chef spoke to us - I was surprised how young he is.
extremely tender pork with beets flavoring the noodles

Room left for dessert? Of course! It was light and delicious. 

We thoroughly enjoyed the tour. The food was varied and plentiful, but it could be improved by adding tastes of local fruit and vegetables. It was definitely both lunch and dinner!

The restaurant kitchen is in a separate building between the pool and the dining room. The chef explained that often people come to the window looking for towels!
cool bar decor at the restaurant
The restaurant was open air and right on the beach. Look what we found outside!


Since we missed sunrise on Maui, Tom decided to get up early and was rewarded with some of the pictures I shared above. My reward was him walking back to Pono Market and buying some provisions for our day. He bought some of the traditional musubi for breakfast and also some of the delicious poke to take with us on our road trip.

Once again, we used the Shaka app to guide us to recommended sights. First, Wailua Falls.

Vendors know people will stop to view the majestic falls and take pictures. They're ready to sell some wares. I loved these bowls, but I restrained myself.  How could I get it back to California and what was I going to do with it anyway? There was also a vendor selling warm breads from the back of her van. I did indulge in some pineapple coconut bread which we enjoyed the next morning. Yum!

We continued on towards Waimea Canyon seeing plenty of beautiful scenery along the way.

First views of the canyon. We know it'll get better because we saw it from the sky earlier.

Red Dirt waterfall - color coordinated clothing was not premeditated

Because Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, the volcanic rock has had millions of years to transform into dirt. It's red because of the large amount of iron oxide in the soil. Remember Hurricane Iniki that killed so many trees? A small silk-screening business was literally covered with this red dirt that as it happens, does not come out when washed. Turning a bad situation into something good, the business decided not to view their inventory as ruined, but gave birth to something new, red dirt shirts! They were in all souvenir shops, but we managed to come home without any. I just like their story.


I saw these "stealth" containers for bringing alcohol where it is prohibited. Wow. I may be a prude, but I do not approve.  No purchase made. 


We happened upon a Hawaiian man who was dressed in local garb. He told us stories about the life of a local Hawaiian describing his clothes and tools. He was actually arrested for doing this a few years back. We don't remember the exact charge, but they were clearly trying to discourage him from doing this (and earning money doing it). Representing himself, his defense was that he is a citizen of the Hawaiian nation, not the USA. He insisted the judge show him the authority of the court by providing articles of annexation. They couldn't produce anything, eventually dropped the charges and he continues. Good for him! He was highly entertaining. (Tom asked him if he would accept US dollars and he was happy to take it!)

waterfall in the canyon
we flew threw there yesterday

While in this part of the island, we opted to take a hike along the Pihea Trail. "If you only do one hike while visiting the canyon area, this is the one you want." Sounded like a good recommendation.

The phone app we were using described it as "relatively flat". We obviously have a very different idea of what flat means.

relatively flat?

Due to packing limitations, we did not bring our hiking sticks. Tom helped pull me up the larger steps and his shoulder was my stick coming down the big steps. Thanks, Tom! The trail was also a bit muddy - made for some slippery spots. 
We were supposed to have to put in some work and then be rewarded by a view some 4,000 feet below with the valley and ocean in view. Unfortunately, the cloud cover (which also makes Kauai the rainiest place on earth), did not cooperate.

not exactly the awesome view we were hoping for

We eventually turned around without going to the end, but we got a pretty glimpse on the way back. The clouds were moving quickly - this did not last. 

 More scenery on our way back to Kapa'a

rainbows are another benefit of frequent rain
I like the leis on the cowboys

one lane bridge - local courtesy is 5-7 cars

nice, calm place to paddle

At dinner time, we headed back to Oasis and the chef worked some more of his magic. The waitress suggested a Mai Tai because their bartenders make if differently than the traditional. The ingredient list includes three kinds of rum, fresh lime juice, macadamia nut milk, almond milk and lillikoi puree. With the description, we gave it a try and it was absolutely delicious. If anyone is motivated to try it and figures out the proportions, please make me one! 

One more day on Kauai and we decided to follow the app's tour of the north shore. There had been heavy rain and wind overnight. We hoped there would be heavy surf and folks out showing off their surfing skills.  

taro field

Kilauea Lighthouse
we didn't go any closer to the lighthouse

always together

The nene (or Hawaiian goose) is the Hawaiian state bird. They mate for life and we are told they cry when they can't see their partner.  


They say that the nene is the state bird, but to consider just Kauai, I think it would have to be the chicken/rooster. They are roaming free everywhere you look: wandering around outside our hotel and pestering us during breakfast on the patio (annoying), and walking around parking lots of various lookout points and along the edge of beaches. The same hurricane that killed so many trees also destroyed the chicken houses on chicken farms. So far, the result is chickens and roosters roaming free range. There does not seem to be any attempt to catch them or limit their reproduction. I think the people of Kauai are going to have to come up with a better solution sooner or later. 

why did the chicken cross the road?

the chicks were cute, but....that means more chickens

Hawaiian beauty

Moloa'a Beach

Does this look like a good place to be shipwrecked? This is where Gilligan's Island was filmed. (If you're too young to know that show, you can look it up.)

Moloa'a Beach

We learned this is a Brazilian cardinal. Not sure how it got to Kauai - that's a long flight!

Maniniholo Cave - the remains of an old lava tube and evidence of Kauai's volcanic history.

Maniniholo Cave

We've seen plenty of churches in our travels. Making a quick stop at one in the little town of Hanalei seemed appropriate.

pretty stained glass looked different than any I'd seen before

In Hanalei, we also sampled Hawaii's number 1 comfort food! Wow. Glad we stopped here before leaving Hawaii.

our selections

Left: Lau Lau (pork with taro leaves) and Kalua Pork and cabbage
Right: BBQ mix of beef, chicken and short ribs
Both accompanied by much too much rice and awful macaroni salad (which I didn't even taste - think macaroni and mayo only)

Lappert's (where we tasted ice cream in Lahaina, Maui) had a branch in Hanapepe too. Sadly, no coconut macadamia fudge ice cream, but they did make very tasty iced coffee treats. 

We did finally see some surfers. We stayed to watch for a bit, but none of them were particularly skilled. I give them credit for trying - that's more than I will do! 

We had one more night in Kapa'a and took the recommendation of our food tour guide and went to JO2, her favorite on Kauai. It did not disappoint. As you can see, the presentation was lovely. No room for dessert.

ono ceviche with coconut
poached scallop ravioli

rack of lamb

Our flight back to LA was in the afternoon. With a little extra time, we took advantage of the bikes the hotel had and took a short spin along the path beside the ocean. I hadn't been on a bike with only one gear and foot brakes in probably more than 40 years! It felt strange, but was fun anyway. 

Can you guess which bike is mine?

At the airport, we had to have all bags scanned (checked and carry-on) because we were going back to the mainland. No fresh fruit allowed. I did have an apple in my carry-on which I planned on eating on my flight. It was confiscated and I was not happy! I asked them if they at least gave the contraband to the homeless. They said they do, but I think that was just to make me go away. They had quite a pile of apples and oranges.

We had a great time exploring Maui and Kauai.What a beautiful place. Another trip to Hawaii? Who knows? There is still the big island that deserves a closer look.

Mahalo = thank you