After visiting Oahu and the Big Island, all that remained for this visit to the Aloha State were a few days on Maui. The short flight from KOA to OGG was over almost as soon as it began. In no time, we were in the rental car and on our way (have I mentioned how much I love not checking luggage? ). I made a quick call to the Maui Ocean Club to see if we might get checked in early. If not we would be exploring the island. It turned out the room was available, so off to Kaanapali we went . Highway 30 is a lovely drive with the ocean on one side and the west Maui Mountains on the other. Those of you who have made the drive know what I mean. Sadly, for those who haven’t I don’t have any photographs to demonstrate.
The room at the Ocean Club was quite nice, although a bit small compared to the rooms earlier in the trip. Not that it mattered. Time in the room was not a priority. The view, however, was great.
We spent the late morning and early afternoon exploring the area around the hotel and along the beach at least as far as Whalers Village. I was a little disappointed to discover the beach in front of the Marriott Vacation Club property is barely existent. From the beach walk, the sand slopes quickly into the ocean with almost no beach to speak of. To find the best part of Kaanapali Beach, one must walk about half a mile north to the Sheraton, a couple of hotels beyond the nearby Shops at Whalers Village.
The afternoon included a short drive to Lahaina. We wandered along the main tourist street past the Lahaina Banyan Court Park, poking in and out of shops. From a very young age, I’ve been a great admirer of banyan trees. I remember climbing one on Lord Howe Island over 40 years ago, and still sometimes have a desire to scamper up into the branches. Though I’m wise enough now not to act on that desire, I always enjoy walking amongst the trunks of these amazing trees. Naturally, in addition to the tree, I also photographed the Old Lahaina Courthouse on the edge of the park.
Having been in Hawaii for more than a week, the souvenir shops held little appeal as most carry the same array of
junk trinkets, though I did keep my eye out for a postcard to mail from Wailuku, the Maui County seat.
Early evening found us on the grounds of the Sheraton for the Maui Nui Luau at Black Rock. Rather than buy the full luau package, we opted to arrive after dinner to enjoy the show and have a few mai tais (I think it was only a few. Each. Maybe ). Choosing to forego dinner cut the price by about two-thirds, a decision I don’t regret in the least. I have no doubt the food was good, I just couldn’t justify spending so much on relatively uninspiring fare (my previous luau experience may have influenced me ). Now unlimited drinks and a show, that’s a different story.
Oh, did I mention that we arrived at the luau just before sunset?
As it turns out, most of the luau shows along the beach at Kaanapali are easy to watch from afar. We happened to be passing by the Hyatt the next night as the fire knife dancers were performing, so we stopped to watch for a short time (but I’m getting ahead of myself).
Thursday morning meant another snorkeling trip, this time to Molokini. Molokini is a partially submerged volcanic crater which forms a perfect crescent, and is one of the most popular snorkeling spots in the state. We were up early as we needed to make the 30 minute drive to Maalaea Harbor for a 7:30 check in. We breakfasted aboard the boat as it began the 10 mile trip to Molokini. The crater is now a marine sanctuary and is teeming with life—coral, fish, sea urchins, and the occasional reef shark (I didn’t see any). Visibility is superb up to a depth of 150 feet. The above water portion is home to numerous sea birds, most notable on our visit, the Great Frigatebird.
I chose to pay the extra fee to try snuba. Snuba is a cross between snorkeling and scuba using a standard scuba tank which floats on a raft at the surface. A hose connects to a scuba regulator allowing the diver to spend 30 minutes or so at depths up to 12 feet below the surface. Twice before I’ve been scuba diving with a licensed dive master (once at the Great Barrier Reef , and once off the coast of Key Largo ). This was my first experience with snuba. I can heartily recommend it. Anyone who might be interested in scuba diving should give snuba a try. Being tethered to the raft can reassure some. If there is a need to resurface (difficulty with water in your mask, can’t equalize the pressure in your ears, just want to breathe fresh air for a moment) pull yourself along the air hose and grab onto your raft. Once all is good, it’s back underwater. Scuba is a bit more complicated with buoyancy vests and remembering to stop every 10 feet or so as you ascend. Those are not issues with snuba. You cannot dive as deep with snuba, but you do get most of the other experiences associated with scuba diving.
In this picture you can see the dive master and the other snuba divers in the distance (and of course my air tank raft floating at the surface).
More photographs, some from Molokini, can be found in the photo album Underwater Hawaii.
Lunch aboard the boat included grilled chicken, veggie-burgers, or Kalua pork sandwiches. I’ll let iahflyr guess which one I chose . Shortly after noon, we were back on land and off to explore more of Maui. I thought it might be worth visiting the Wailea Beach Marriott, if for no other reason than to stop in for some refreshments . I decided to try a beer from the Maui Brewing Company, their Bikini Blonde Ale, which turned out to be my favorite of the trip.
While the Maui Ocean Club is a great property, for a short stay like ours, visiting a Marriott Vacation Club almost doesn’t make sense. We didn’t cook in our room or at any of the many grills located on the grounds. We didn’t swim in the wonderful pool, and the only time we ventured into the ocean from the beach, we headed over to the Sheraton (where they have a much nicer beach). When I return to Maui, I will probably stay at the Wailea Beach Marriott. It’s a beautiful property, and despite some of the mixed reviews I’ve read on Insiders, it looks to be a place I would enjoy.
From Wailea, we headed into Kahului and Wailuku so I could mail my postcard from Maui County. Lest regular readers of my blog think I forgot to take any courthouse photos, I offer this as evidence to the contrary.
As the day waned, we returned to the Maui Ocean Club. Dinner in Lahaina and a nighttime stroll along the beach walk with a last stop for “prescription meds” rounded out the day . As mentioned earlier, we watched part of the Drums of the Pacific luau show at the neighboring Hyatt Resort.
I left the schedule for the final day in Hawaii wide open. With an overnight flight to the mainland, we had over 10 hours to while away however we wanted. After breakfast by the sea at the MVC, we drove beyond Kapalua as far as highway 30 goes. Following the advice of kharada46, when we stopped at the Nakalele Blowhole, proper footwear was in order. The climb down was moderately arduous as was the return, but nothing most folks can’t manage.
Morning shifted to afternoon and we still had time for one more visit to the beach, so we returned to the Sheraton to swim and snorkel around Black Rock. The snorkeling from that part of the beach is almost as good as at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Big Island. Almost. After an hour or so in the water, we grabbed a couple drinks at the pool bar so we could get our parking validated (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it ). We made one last stop at the Marriott Maui Ocean Club where we used the hospitality room to change clothes before bidding farewell to west Maui.
Before leaving home for this trip, I remembered reading about a tiki bar in Kihei called the South Shore Tiki Lounge, so with a couple hours of daylight remaining, we went searching. Even with Google Maps, it was tricky to find, but persistence paid off. Though still a bit early for dinner, we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and now seemed a good a time as any for a meal to go with our classic tiki cocktails (is it possible to go to a tiki bar without ordering drinks? ).
We whiled away the last couple hours in an around Kahului picking up a couple of last minute souvenirs and gifts before returning the rental car and getting ready for our overnight flight back to the mainland.
While we explored west Maui reasonably well, there are still several areas of the island to visit on a future trip. I had hoped to make the drive to Hana. I also would have liked to get to the top of Haleakala. I did see part of the southern shore near Wailea, but there is more to do there as well. These places give me a reason to come back to Maui (like I need an excuse, right?).
Many folks rank Maui as their favorite island, and while I enjoyed Maui very much, it can’t compete (in my opinion) with the lush beauty of Kauai or the diverse landscapes of the Big Island. (As a side note, my last visit to Kauai was 2004). In all fairness, it is hard to choose a favorite island because each has beautiful and wonderful things to see. If I had to choose, I think I’d still put Kauai at the top (maybe I should visit soon again so I can be sure ). At least for this trip, I enjoyed the Big Island best. Some of that may have been influenced by the amazing Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Regardless, the overall trip was fantastic and not one I’ll soon forget.
With a couple stray threads to tie up, look for a brief blog entry in the coming days to wrap things up and add a few final thoughts from this incredible island vacation.