July 2: Day 6

After passing out at the latest hour yet during the trip we still woke up fairly early so we got out of bed and headed down to the breakfast buffet to grab some food. It was a very extensive buffet filled with everything you could want including an omelet-to-order bar. This was the first of many times during the trip that I would eat waffles with coconut syrup. Mmmm mmm.

After breakfast we headed over to the beach to spend some time under the sun. Well, the sun was very bright so we investigated renting a little cabana—turned out they were all reserved (shocking on the Sunday of July 4th wkd!) Fortunately we lucked and someone canceled a reservation for a beach umbrella right when we were at the rental desk.

An overly friendly young dude spent five minutes digging a hole in the sand for the umbrella. Since you can charge everything to the room we had no cash to tip him. Despite his insistance that we not worry about it, we said we’d get him back later. Of course we never found him again so if you’re ever at the Sheration in Maui, give the blonde 24 year old dude a fiver for us. You’ll know him when you see him.

After a few hours at the beach and some pool time, we grabbed lunch and drinks at one of the two pool-side bars.

We sat next to two guys that we dubbed the “super friendly, super cool dudes”. (You have to say it really fast.) They were around 30—give or take a few years—and had just arrived for a wedding. We watched them sweet-talk these two older 50something tourist women. We saw the SFSCDs each of our next two days there continuing to spread their super friendly, super cool vibes to all that would listen. We never saw them with anyone else though. Maybe the wedding was just a story to pick up old ladies.

After a morning and afternoon in the sun (and drinking) we headed back and got cleaned up to go out for dinner and whatnots in Lahaina. The cab dropped us off in the old town and we immediately found a happy hour at an empty restaurant. I pulled out my camera to get a picture of Liz’s bling and the bartender asked if we wanted our picture taken. I’m sure she thought it was strange that we said no.

Shopping and silliness through the town.

This is the largest Banyan Tree in the United States...they are really proud of it in Lahaina:

A restaurant called Kimo’s had a really long wait for dinner but there was a table at the oceanside bar where we could wait. We got on the list and headed in. There was a decent local musician playing but the drinks were kinda bad.

We drank something pink first:

Then we had the “Backscratcher” which Liz loved:

We had a table next to the water for dinner. High waves splashed the end of the table. I can’t imagine what it would be like during rough surf.

With reservations the next early morning for a snorkeling boat trip, we decided to head back to the hotel and crash.


July 1: Day 5

The morning was busy. James and I woke up, ate breakfast, did some laundry, packed our things, and left our beloved Cliffhouse in Huelo. We were both sad to leave the beautiful, private house we'd called home for the past four days, but it was time to move to the other side of the island.

Traffic was miserable leading into Lahaina. Bumper-to-bumper-stop-and-go...we get enough of that crap in LA, we weren't prepared for it on Maui! Thankfully, once we passed through that little town, it took only minutes for us to arrive at the Sheraton Maui Resort on Ka'anapali Beach.

Upon arrival at the Sheraton, we were lei'ed by the valet workers. We checked into our room and unpacked. Minutes later, room service delivered a complimentary bottle of champagne. Everyone loves honeymooners!

James and I explored the hotel, admiring the views of Ka'anapali Beach and Black Rock. The Sheraton's grounds were covered with plumeria trees, which I adore. A perfect yellow flower fell off one of the trees and landed right in front of me, so I snagged it to wear in my hair. It seemed like the perfect accent for the outfit I had chosen to wear that night at the Old Lahaina Luau.

We expected the luau to be cheesy, but we felt like we had to go to a luau on our first visit to Hawaii. Thankfully, the ridiculously overpriced luau included beverages, so at least I got some Mai Tais and other assorted fruity beverages out of the deal. I approached the luau apprehensively. I don't really care for Polynesian food, and I am not the biggest fan of pork. Also, I was concerned that I would have a hard time eating a pig that had just been roasted right before my eyes. Turns out the pig is roasted underground, so you don't really get to see him roast. Some people watched the Hawaiians dig the pig out of the ground, but I passed on that.

As we walked into the luau, we saw Christians! It was the same group! We laughed uncontrollably as employees in traditional Hawaiian garb offered us Mai Tais lei'ed us again. Two times in one day!

We were escorted to our table, where we discovered, much to our dismay, that we would be sitting with six other people. This might not have bothered us, but our tablemates were all annoying and bizarre. First off, we met an older couple who introduced themselves right away as "Mack and Pearl." Mack had a southern accent, which he (incorrectly) assumed we would easily identify as being from North Carolina. Uh, hello? Why the heck would he think we'd know that? There was nothing really wrong with Mack and Pearl, except Pearl's smile was too big and forced, and Mack addressed James or I by name every time he spoke to us. Let me give you an example.

Mack: So where you from James?
James: We live in Hermosa Beach in California
Mack: And what to you do for a living James?
James: I'm a copywriter.
Mack: James, how long have you and Liz been on Maui?

Anyway, they were just weird. We also had a bizarre, overly friendly couple from Canada, and a dysfunctional mother-daughter duo from California. The girl, who was approximately 14 years old, proceeded to berate her mother or snootily rant about her year-round private school in Tahoe until, blissfully, she fell asleep with her head on the table.

The food at the luau was not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be, and we liked seeing the hula dances and hearing Hawaiian folktales. Unfortunately, we were sitting a little bit too far away to fully enjoy the show, but as always, we entertained each other and had fun anyway.

When we left the luau, we returned back to the hotel and discovered that our key wouldn't open the door. We went to the front desk, and they gave us two new keys. We returned to the room, and the keys still didn't work. This went on and on for entirely too long. I made the best of the situation by twirling around in my skirt and pretending I knew how to hula.

Someone from maintenance finally showed up and replaced the entire doorknob/lock system. We were irritated that is took 40 minutes to get into our room. The blow was softened-after complaining, the hotel gave us 2500 Starwood preferred bonus points and also agreed not to charge us the resort fees for any of our stay.


June 30: Day 4

We woke up and caught sunrise in the hot tub again to start what would turn out to be the first of two very long yet incredible days on the trip. (The second doesn’t come until we visit the Big Island later in the trip). Our agenda for the day was to be the infamous “Road To Hana” that snakes along the northwest rainforest coast of the island.

Since our house was actually just off the start of the Hana Highway (milemarker 2, to be exact), we had a head start over all the tourgroups that make the trek from the east and south Maui resorts that are about 90 minutes away.

So we filled a backpack with some trusty guidebooks, snacks and water, put on our bathing suites in case we were inclined to swim in any waterfall pools, and drove up the gravel road to the Hana Highway. It was nearly 8AM and it took us a while to turn left—indicating that we were far from the first ones setting out this day.

A mile or two down the road we encountered the first of MANY spots where cars are pulled to the side of the road—a sure sign that a waterfall is nearby. If there’s a tourvan—it’s a guarantee of one. Of course you’ll always find cars where the guidebooks note you should pull over and hike into the jungle. In a few cases someone without a book probably stopped randomly and you’ll see people parking and wandering aimlessly because they’re assuming that they’re missing something. For the most part, the waterfalls are neither high nor wide—we’re not talking about Yosemite here. But each one has it’s own little charm and usually includes a pool for easy swimming at the bottom. We stopped many times in the first few miles and saw countless waterfalls, wild roosters, and untamed jungle. We didn’t swim in any waterfall pools because each one either already had some people there or just didn’t feel right for one reason or another. With so many there was always a sense of “we’ll do it at the next one”

At one stop we realized we had a stowaway on the car from the house. Liz named the little gecko Petunia. We imagine she's eating bugs at a new home somewhere between Pali Uli and Hana.
We stopped at a little village of Ke'anae set against the surreal backdrop of huge waves breaking over lava rocks. It was here that we met an old chainsmoking Hawaiian woman selling necklaces that convinced us to buy homemade macadamia nut brittle from her daughter. She told us it would be like crack if we just tried a sample so we did and much like crack the first bit is free and then you’re hooked. We bought a bag for three dollars. It was beyond good and tasted like it came out of the oven the night before. The whole bag was gone a couple miles down the road and we wished we had bought more. Every time we saw packaged "local" brittle for sale on the rest of the trip, we didn’t bother because there was absolutely no way it could be as good or as fresh.
As you drive along you find yourself seeing the same people at each stop. There was a young couple driving a yellow jeep. There was an older couple in a Pontiac. And then there were the Christians. We saw this southern church group of septuagenarian women and their handful of men that hadn’t passed on over and over and over again. They were easy to escape because they never really ventured past the road’s edge when viewing a site but since they were so loud and excited they became our comical adversaries for the day—and the rest of our stay in Hawai’i. Everytime we saw them, either Liz or I would say “Christians!” in the same way that Jerry would cry “Newman!” on Seinfeld.

Shortly before Hana we visited the first black sand beach of the trip. But with six—yes, six—warning signs about the conditions, we stayed out of the water. The only people swimming in the apparently deadly surf filled with man-o-war, jellyfish, and probably sharks with frickin’ lasers, were the locals. Maybe all the signs were just there to keep tourists out of their ocean.

By about 1PM we reached Hana—which after the spectacular drive is notable only for being unremarkable. There’s a small harbor with a beach, (apparently the sand is red—it didn’t look special to us,) a luxury hotel with restaurant and another restaurant where all the tourvans stop. The hotel restaurant seemed pricy for lunch so we went to the tourist stop—with bad $13 hamburgers we should have just gone to the hotel. And just as we were leaving…Christians!

We continued past Hana to the Ohe’o Gulch—which is actually part of Haleakala National Park where we watched the sunrise 10,000 feet higher the morning before. This is also the end of the road for all the tourvans and almost anyone that makes the trek. It’s a cool spot where a series of seven waterfalls carved a gulch into the lava mountainside until pouring right into the ocean. After each waterfall is a fairly large pool and while it was great to see there were far too many people swimming in them for us to have a desire to join in. Lots of kids were jumping off the rocks into the pools 40 feet below—again fun to watch but not for Liz or I.

At this point you have an option. You can either turn around or drive back the way you came through all 600 curves. Or you can continue and drive all the way around the Haleakala volcano. Of course the 10 miles of road after Ohe’o Gulch is somewhat sketchy and actually banned by rental car contracts…but what the hell, we came this far, right?

For about two miles the road was REALLY bad. I even became quite nervous. It’s unpaved and only one car wide and carved into the edge of a cliff with no guardrail. But…sketchy road means very few people—and that made it worth it. In the middle of the two mile bad section is a little place to pull over where the guidebooks note to be the last waterfall. Since we hadn’t swam we decided to at least check it out. This Alelele Falls was by far the best we had seen all day. It drops from about 80 feet into a huge pool with rock cliffs on three sides. When we got there only a lone couple were there. We took their picture under the waterfall, and they were kind enough to take ours. The water was kinda cold but it felt great. Yay! We waited til the last chance but actually swam in a waterfall pool! The couple took off and we had the entire place to ourselves…first time that had happened. It was great.

After getting past the harrowing two-mile cliff section the road straightens out (but remains dirt) and cuts through very dry ranch coast making an insanely stark contrast the rainforest we were in only an hour earlier. We discovered an incredible church in the middle of no where that made us think of the church in the Guns N Roses video.

Eventually we stumbled into the little roadhouse shop called Kaupo Store. I the honor fruit stands were the true hippy Hawai’i. I was wrong. This place sold four things. Snacks, soda, beer, and antique cameras. That’s right, antique cameras…there was an entire wall of the things in this little store that seemed like it could have been airlifted in from the old west with the addition of a re-use/recycle sign added in the front. Weird.

At some point during the 30 miles of barren yet beautiful ranchland the road pavement started again and we eventually returned to civilization. We grabbed dinner near home and finally got back to the house at around 9PM—13 hours after we left. Needless to say, we crashed early.


June 29: Day 3

In light of the day's itinerary, drinking wine and champagne after dinner at Mama's last night was probably not the brightest idea we've ever had. Day 3 began painfully early. The alarm rang at 3:30 A.M. We threw on clothes, brushed our teeth, and climbed into the car. It took nearly two hours to make our way to the top of Mauna Haleakala.

Haleakala (Hah-lay-ah-kah-lah) is a 10,000 foot tall sleeping volcano on the eastern side of Maui. In Hawaiian, the word means "House of the Sun." Every year, more than one million people trek to the crater overlook area in Haleakala National Park to watch the sunrise.

Prior to that morning, I had been looking forward to making this pilgrimage as much as James had. But at 3:30 in the morning, nursing a splitting wine-hangover headache, all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed. So, as best I could on that curvy, dark, nauseating ride up, up, up Haleakala, I slept. But not before swallowing some advil and water.

I awoke at the gates to Haleakala National Park when James was paying the entrance fee. I felt slightly perkier after napping, and my headache had subsided. We followed a chain of cars to the parking area at the crater overlook, located at an elevation of 9,470 feet. Our excitement grew as a slight glow in the sky became visible in the distance.

We scurried out of the car past hundreds and hundreds of other people to claim a spot from which we could watch the sunrise. My excitement quickly faded as the cold, biting wind ripped through the three thin layers I was wearing. The temperature at 9,470 feet, at 5 :35 A.M., was 51 degrees before the wind chill. I don't know what the temperature actually was after factoring in the wind, but I can tell you that it felt as cold as winter in Boston.

James and I cuddled, as wind whipped tears ran down my face. I almost went back to the car. I was so miserably cold I could hardly breathe let alone stand. Fortunately, at that moment, my husband (that still sounds weird!) told me there were only 8 minutes left until sunrise. We reasoned that we could stand anything for 8 minutes. So we huddled together, watching the sky and taking pictures to distract each other from the bitter cold.

After what seemed like days as my teeth chattered and my fingers and ears ached from the cold, the sun finally began to creep over the horizon. The view was breathtaking, over the top of the crater and a layer of clouds so thick below us, we felt like we were watching the sunrise from another planet. It was a sunrise like no other I have ever seen, and it was definitely worth freezing our little buns off for, and it was well worth the hype.

As the sun rose, so did the temperature. Before further exploration of the crater or journeying to the top of the summit, we went back to the car and BLASTED the heat for a good ten minutes. By the time we finally felt warm enough to venture back outside, the air had become tolerably warmer.

For the amount of time and energy people put in to getting up early and driving to the top of a mountain, you'd think more of them would stick around after sunrise to see what else the area has to offer. But apparently, people would rather hurry back down the mountain for breakfast or to go back to sleep. So, James and I had the crater and summit areas essentially to ourselves, after sharing the most amazing sunrise of our lives with 800+ perfect strangers.

We spent the morning exploring the National Park. Maybe it was the altitude. Maybe it was the lack of sleep. Maybe it was because we're newlyweds on our honeymoon. Maybe it's because we're just plain nuts. Whatever the reason, we spent hours goofing around, doing flips, and tap-dancing together on top of the summit, figuratively (and probably literally as close as we'll ever get) on the top of the world.

When we had finally had our fill of Haleakala, we were ravenous. We ate a delicious late breakfast. We then went wine tasting at the Tedeschi Winery. Being the California wine snobs that we are, and also hating almost all sweet wines, we weren't too keen on anything the Tedeschis were pouring.

After a long drive to the other side of the island, we made a stop at the Safeway in Airport Town for some groceries. We spent the rest of the day relaxing at our private house, Pali Uli. James cooked burgers on the grill, we swam in the pool, and relaxed in the hottub at sunset. Exhausted after our early morning adventure, we went to bed early in preparation for another early morning start on day 4.


June 28: Day 2

Still suffering the results of jetlag we woke up at 5AM. Fortunately, this also happens to be when the hot tub heater kicks in and we jumped in to catch the sunrise over the Pacific. After that experience, no complaints about jetlag!

We hung out at the house for much of the morning and just relaxed. Liz started fueling her addiction to Brain Age on the Nintendo DS. We learned she’s better than me at pretty much every test except anything to do with spatial relations, but I digress…

Later that afternoon we headed back to Paia and strolled the shops. We were dressed very well for out dinner at Mama’s Fish House—one of the nicest restaurants on the island. Four different shop owners complimented us on how good we looked, with special note of Liz’s dress. After lots of browsing and little buying we headed over to Mama’s for a fantasic dinner by the water. I had Mahi Mahi stuffed with crab that was to die for and Liz ordered swordfish—apparently it’s a rare catch in Hawai’i. You know the fish is fresh at Mama’s because the menu notes which fisherman caught it and where the caught it from the day before.

After dinner we picked up some wine and champagne and headed back to our cliff-side hideaway to celebrate until we fell asleep…again early.

June 27: Day 1

Got up early today so that we could get to Logan to catch our 7:50 flight. It was definitely a smart plan to take two days to decompress after the wedding before heading to Hawai’i. All the excitement finally caught up with me yesterday and I started to not feel well. After downing some airborne and popping a few dayquils, I feel OK today.The same day we bought our plane tickets in March I submitted for us to have a one-way upgrade to first class. On the day of the wedding our upgrade finally cleared. First class was decent for the 2+ hour trip from Logan to Chicago. It was beyond nice for our 9+ hour trip to Maui. Especially after not feeling great on Monday our upgrade minimized the hassles of a plane ride. We had mimosas all morning and red wine all afternoon.
We got to Kahului (Liz and I later decided to call this “Airport Town” because we weren’t sure how to pronounce it) around 3PM and picked up our car and headed Huelo where we would be staying for the first four nights of our trip. Huelo is less a town than it is a street off of the infamous Hana Highway. For a while we were stuck in traffic, but that quickly cleared and we arrived at our house on the Pali Uli estate at around 4:30. The house is beyond nice. It sits on the edge of a cliff with a view down the canyon of the pacific. From each of our three porches we could see a spectacular 200 foot waterfall which could only be accessed from within the estate. Our house had a detached bedroom and a private pool along with a hot tub at the edge of one of the cliff-side porches. It truly was paradise. The shower was outdoors in the rainforest and geckos and huge friendly frogs hanged out every time we used it.After the very long day of traveling we went to the nearby (25 mins away is nearby in remote northern maui) hippy town of Paia and picked up a pizza and brought it back to the house. We ate it, turned on some music, and with the 6 hour time change working against us, fell asleep at an obscenely early hour.