Maui Trip – Day 4

So today was the big day of the whale watching trip.  I was definitely excited as getting out on a boat on the water is one of my favorite things.   And it helped that Matt & Sonja’s parents had generously offered to pay for the whole trip, which was no small amount considering we ended up having around 100 people and two large boats!  Many thanks to them…

We got up and down to the lobby by around 9.  Drove on into Lahaina with Phillip and Dana.   Lahaina is the place that has a monstrous banyan tree in their downtown.  Pretty impressive.  What I couldn’t figure out was if it had largely been helped by man, or if it somehow managed to grow that way on it’s own.  It has a ton of trunks that grow vertically for like 20 or 30 feet and then connect into another section that goes down to the ground.  Doesn’t seem like it could grow like that on it’s own.  But I digress.

Everyone got to the dock and we proceeded to load up the boats.  They are owned by Trilogy and apparently Sonja’s family has been going on trips on them for something like 30 years.  Anyway, they were great, definitely recommend them.  We headed out of the harbor slowly, and then took off to about a couple miles out.  It was a beautiful sunny day, probably around 75 degrees at this point.   I could definitely see whales in different places a ways out.   We then cut the motor and just sat there.  I was talking with Dana and she said she hadn’t seen any whales yet, which surprised me as I had seen them like crazy the day before.  Anyway, no sooner had she said that than a whale proceeded to jump very close to us and create a tremendous splash!  She sure had seen one now.  He proceeded to jump a couple more times and then took off.   Then a couple started breaching close to us.  We followed them around for quite a while (slowly).  They were staying at the surface and appeared to be 3 of them.  One was laying on it’s back and picking up it’s flipper and slapping it on the surface.  At our closest we probably were about 150 feet away, so they seemed monstrous.   Here’s a picture I took:

Okay, not really.  For some reason regular cameras always seem to shrink things tremendously.  Here’s a photo I took for real.  Yes they seemed super close, and yes, it’s the tiny little black dot you can barely see.  Oh well, guess I need to invest in a telephoto lens.

The guys who were running the boat actually told us a lot about the whales.  They were actually super friendly, and a lot of fun.  I think I would be about 10x nicer than I am if I had their job.  Anyway, they explained, and this was news to me, that these were humpback whales and that they come down each Dec-Apr from Alaska and hang out in the channel between Maui, Lanai & Molokai (which all used to be one island by the way).   They breed, have calves, and then great ready to head back to Alaska where they spend the rest of the year eating (kind of the reverse of what we were doing, gorging in hawaii, starving ourselves before to get in beach shape).    So it sounds like if you want to see whales, it’s pretty much guaranteed if you go to Maui during this time.  What was interesting to learn to me is that Lahaina was founded as a whale hunting location, and that Humpbacks were almost hunted to extinction from there.  Ironic that the city’s living has come from whales twice now, both from killing them, and now as a tourist industry.  I definitely prefer the latter.

Well we hung out for a couple hours on the boat.  Was tremendous fun, but was time to head back in.  I could have stayed out all day long, but I guess all good things must come to an end.  We were walking back to the car to head back to the hotel, when I saw a place selling shaved ice.  If you haven’t had shaved ice before, it’s much better than a snow cone.  It’s like having the softest snow you’ve seen with sweetness added.   I later saw that the place I got it at, Local Boys West, is highly rated in the guide book I’ve got.  So that was serendipitous.   We got back to the hotel in time for, you guessed it, lunch in the room.

We hung out in the room a bit, and then on down to the beach.  I decided it was time to try some snorkeling while Heather preferred hanging out on the beach.  So we went on up to Black Rock which is good snorkeling.  Black Rock is a big lava outcropping with cliffs and is actually a famous place for locals to jump off the cliffs into the ocean as a representation of the jumping off point into the next life.  It  juts quite a ways out into the ocean.  I proceeded to snorkel along the south side of the rocks.  You immediately see lots of fish and some of them seem generally curious about you (you also see lots of other snorkelers btw).   It was getting a bit later and I debated heading around the furthest edge of the rocks to the ones that face the open sea, but ended up deciding to go for it and was glad that I did.  While the water is much deeper, and currents are stronger, the reef and coral is much more extensive here.  I proceeded to swim among the reef and fish for a while.  I then saw another snorkeler diving and as this was only my 3rd time snorkeling, didn’t really realize you could do this.  I gave it a try though and works just fine.  Is a fine way to get deeper and closer to the fish and coral.  While I was diving I could hear all these loud crackling or popping noises.    Apparently this is caused by tiny shrimp cracking their claws (sounds fishy to me).  In addition, I could hear what seemed to unmistakably be whales talking to each other.  I later got confirmation from a local that this was in fact what I was hearing!  Pretty amazing.  The sound is definitely haunting.  Anyway, decided was time to wrap up and head back in.  I didn’t realize that there were turtles close, but I’d find out about that later.   I thought I’d just snorkel all the way back to the hotel, but realized you can walk much faster than snorkeling, or at lease I can anyway.  I imagine expert swimmers may be quicker.

So it was back to the room and time to head out on the town–a night for just me and Heather in the big city of Lahaina (which was about 5 miles south from the hotel).  I had been jonesing for some real Hawaiian food, and fortunately Gerald had recommended a place called Aloha Mixed Plate.  It was starting to rain, but when you’re in Hawaii and it’s 80 degrees, rain takes on a whole different aspect.  Which is to say, it’s actually pleasant.  So we sat outside and shared the one covered table with another table.  We started talking with the couple and turns out they were from Montana!  And not just Montana, but from Lakeside.  They didn’t recognize my parents names, but probably would recognize them in person since my folks used to live so closed to them.  Heather asked them what the secret is to a happy marriage, and they said they had made a decision about 20 years ago to move away from Seattle and instead focus on quality of life, rather than trying to make it big.  Seems like a pretty good ethos, though if you can do it and still manage to travel to Hawaii regularly (as they do) not sure that you’re giving up to much.  Anyway, they were a super nice couple and it was nice meeting them…  as to dinner, I proceeded to order the Loco Moco and the full mixed plate which includes about 1/4 of a pig.  Loved the Loco Moco, but was less crazy about the pork.

Now that dinner was over, we decided to head into the Lahaina downtown and do some shopping.  Think of Lahaina as the fisherman’s wharf of SF.  So it’s where all the tourists go and there’s lots of cheesy stores, but also some cool ones.  We were shopping for some new trunks for me and hit 3 or 4 spots and of course couldn’t find anyway.  I was going to give up, but then stopped at a small shop where the owner was super friendly and of course the last pair I tried on were great.  Amazing how you always find stuff in the last place you look 😉

After that we walked through a number of stores.  We stopped in one art gallery where the photographer takes pictures with a special development process that makes the pictures glow with a special light.   Think the Thomas Kincaid of photographers.  Only what this guy does, is he makes like 100 prints of a picture.  Then as fewer and fewer remain, the cost keeps going up.  They had one in the studio that only had one print left.  Cost was $400,000!  Pretty ridiculous.  I mean come on, yes these are pretty pictures, but I could take close to as pretty of a picture.  I need to figure out their development process.

We then stopped by a store to get the requisite chocolate covered Macadamia nuts to bring back with us as gifts (they won’t let you on the plane without them), and then called it a night!

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Maui Trip – Day 3

Got up a bit late in the morning.  Contemplated heading down to the beach, sleeping in later, or watching some TV, but Heather went down to the gym to workout, so I felt compelled to do something.  So went for a jog on the beach.  I got to say two things, 1) I’m out of shape, and 2) it’s much tougher to run in the heat.  But still was fun to see the beach/ocean.   I made it back to the room and Heather was back.  She proceeded to make me do a hundred pushups and a hundred situps.   She’s a good personal trainer!

We then made lunch in the room, trying to make sure to use up all of our groceries, even though it’s living life a bit ghetto style.

Then went on down to the beach and rented a little cabana thing on the beach, through the Westin.  I got to say, that if you’ve never done this before, it is well worth the money.  You get a padded seat and a cover that you can adjust to block the sun, or move back to get some rays.  Was really great.  I brought something to read, but just ended up sitting there looking out into the ocean.  And then proceeded to see a big splash way out in the channel between Maui and Lanai?  I wondered what in the world could that be, did something fall into the water?   I then saw another splash about 10 minutes later out of the corner of my eye.  I was starting to wonder if I was seeing things when all of sudden a big whale jumped out of the water not too far out and came crashing back into the water.  Oh, so that explains the splashes.   I continued to see whales all over the place, both jumping and coming up for air, but more on that later… btw, here was my view from the cabana (pardon my foot):

So around 4:30 we wrapped up and headed back up to the room.  We then got ready to go Duke’s, which was about 15 minutes north.  I kind of have a thing for Duke’s stemming back to when I was in Oahu and Ron and I were sitting in Duke’s on Waikiki beach ordering shrimp cocktails and fruity drinks.  I’d have to put that in my top 5 happiest places to be on earth.  So anyway, Heather being her thoughtful self figured out there was a Duke’s by us and made reservations.   Turns out it’s a new one, part of a pretty amazing new condo community.  Don’t remember the name, but if I was going to Maui again, I’d definitely want to stay there.   Anyway, Duke’s itself was awesome, totally open air environment (see below).  No shrimp cocktail on the menu  😦   Was a great dinner though.  Heather got vegetables and fish wrapped in bamboo that were steamed, and I got the teriyaki skewers, all which were good.  Then an apple crisp desert (to be healthy), and so ends another great night in paradise…

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Maui Trip – Day 2

So woke up for my first morning in Maui.  It for some reason feels good that folks have already been at work for a while in SF and NY, while all you’ve got accomplished for the morning is that you’ve opened your eyes.

I had the unfortunate pleasure of having to get a work presentation done for our bank credit line renewal.  There’s nothing as painful as knowing that the sun, beach and waves are just outside your door, yet you’ve got to stay inside and work.  And nothing makes that worse than finding out that work from others that you thought you could use really sucks and you’ve actually got to create from scratch.  Arrgh.  So while Heather went and worked out in the Westin gym, and then hung out by the pool, I was in the room working away.   I wrapped up around 1 and then headed down briefly to the pool.  I decided I may as well get more tasks done, so went to the salon at the Westin for a haircut.  The lady was nice enough, a native from Hawaii.  She seemed pretty laid back and I thought the cut probably wouldn’t be that good, but I (and more importantly Heather) actually ended up liking it.

So after that I finally got to lay out by the pool and relax.  But not for too long as we now had to get ready for a meet and greet that Matt and Sonja were hosting for all the wedding attendees.  So we showered, and started heading over.  We decided to stop at the Whaler’s village first and do a little shopping.  I bought a tee-shirt that I ended up seeing on about 10 other people during the week (frick!) and then got some nice flip flops since I lost my others.

So now it was around 6pm, so we headed on to the Whaler where Matt was staying.  Matt had a good plan, him and a couple of the groomsmen had rented the 2 bed penthouse overlooking the ocean.   The views were really spectacular and we got to watch the sunset into Lanai, though we were pretty busy visiting.  I think the idea of a pre-wedding get together’s a great idea, gives you more time to visit and get to know other people in the wedding, though it’s tougher if you don’t have a destination wedding.  Definitely met some cool people from Pittsburgh, DC, the bay area and even Norway (some of Sonja’s family was from there).  It’s interesting, but Norway’s pretty much on the other side of the world from Hawaii, at least on an east/west basis.   So while they were coming from the snow and cold, still impressive to come from so far away.

We started getting hungry for some dinner around 9pm, so we headed on out.  We thought we’d try walking on to Duke’s so proceeded to the Sheraton and then on across the golf course.  After walking around 15 minutes, and realizing we’re only half way, we decided it was better idea to head back to the hotel and get room service, which we did.  We had a cobb salad, shrimp cocktail, and their mud pie, and it was great.  Unfortunately, we didn’t realize at the time, but somewhere on the way back Heather dropped her phone, but more on that later…

We wrapped up the night by watching the movie “The Other Guys” with Mark Wahlberg and Will Farrell.  It was okay, but I really wasn’t that amused by it.  I wonder if being in Hawaii reduces the entertainment value of movies?   If you’ve got paradise around you, why do you need to watch a movie to escape your reality?  Tough to know if that’s the case as that was the only movie we watched while there.  Oh, and there was a full moon out for the evening, so I’ll leave you with a picture of that…

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Maui Trip – Day 1

Okay, so here’s the detailed summary of our trip, with commentary and photos, day 1…

Feb 16 Wednesday:

We took super shuttle from Heather’s over to the Oakland airport.  Got up at 4 am! Were fortunate enough to get a direct flight from Oak to Maui on Alaska and the tickets were only $440 each.   I always prefer the direct flights.  The flight itself was pretty smooth, though a little bumpy on the descent, you fly over the island a bit and then circle back to land heading back east.  Everybody on the plane was in a good mood, it must be great being a flight attendant on the way over to Hawaii, not so much on the way back.  The airport at Maui is pretty small, and I instantly realized Maui is much less populated than Oahu.  Kahulai which is the big town on the island has no tall buildings, though come to find out does have a Costco.  Learned later that the whole island has a little over 100k people.

Rented a car at Alamo and Heather proceeded to get in an argument with them.  She booked 5 nights at the Westin and 2 nights at the Ritz through Expedia (she’s always wanted to stay at the Ritz).  Expedia messed up the car rental, so Alamo said we’d have to return after 5 days, resign paperwork, but could keep the same car.  Which is about a 2 hour round trip exercise.  Don’t understand why we can’t just fax in a signature or something.  Anyway, I didn’t want to sit there fighting with them about it so just headed out.

I had the bright idea to stop at Safeway to stock up on groceries.  Figured we could save over room service.  They say prices in Hawaii are tough, which after rolling out of Safeway with a $200 bill, I’d have to agree.  Not so sure we’ll be saving off of room service…

Checkin at the Westin was at 4, so decided to drive on up to the Iao needle which is a short drive out of Kahulai.   The fauna is awesome on the drive, you instantly realize you’re in Hawaii from all of the trees, flowers, bushes, etc.  The Iao valley is part of the western volcano on Maui and is basically a large caldera.  The sides of the valley shoot up almost vertically and are covered in green.  The Iao needle is basically how it sounds, a narrow finger of rock.  Reminds me of a Zion National Park, though everything here is green instead of the red of Zion.   As we were in a hurry to get on to the room, we didn’t get out of the car, but I would definitely want to do a hike in the valley, it really looked awesome.  It’s funny, we were probably about 5 miles from the hotel, if only we could have driven straight through the mountain.  Instead we had to go out and around the south part of the island which took close to an hour.

Checked in at the Westin.   The rooms themselves at the Westin are not that impressive, though they do have their Heavenly bed.   The main attraction is their large fountain with Flamigos, Koi & parrots; very large pool; and being on the Kaanapali beach.   We headed up to the room, and I of course had to get everything unpacked and put away first thing.  We then headed down to the “adult” pool which sounds scandalous but just means no kids under 16.   Hung out for a while and then Phillip and Dana joined us.   I don’t know why it’s so fun, but for some reason it’s always great to charge stuff to your room.  It’s really no different than paying by credit card, but for some reason just feels easier…

Headed over to Whaler’s village and the Hula Grill for dinner with Dana and Phillip.  The food is pretty good, but the best thing is their red chili sauce.  You really could probably just have that and bread and be perfectly happy with dinner.   Heather and I split food, we had scallop and lobster potstickers, ahi tuna mini-tacos, and macademia crusted ahi ahi.  All very good, but definitely thought the potstickers the best.  We then shared a massive chocolate ice cream cake thing.  Definitely not a good start to maintaining our beach physique!  But all-in-all a nice start to the trip…

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Maui Trip – Short Version

Here’s the short version of our trip to Maui, for those who are in a hurry!

The trip was Wed Feb 16 to Wed Feb23.   Part of the reason for the trip was Heather’s friend Matt’s wedding to Sonja.  We spent a lot of time with Matt’s sister Dana and her boyfriend Phillip, who you’ll see mentioned throughout.

Here’s summary by day:

F16 We: flew in to Kahulai, rented a car.  Went by Safeway to stock up on food for the week.  Stopped by the Iao needle.  Drove on over to Kaanapuli, checked in at the Westin and hung out at the pool for a couple hours.  Then grabbed dinner at Hula Grill with Dana and Phillip.

F17 Th: Had to wrap up some work items, so was in the room for several hours while Heather worked out and went to the pool with Dana and Phillip.  Got a haircut at the Westin.  Then hung out at the pool for the rest of the afternoon.   Went to a wedding meet and greet at the Whaler for the evening.  Tried walking to Duke’s for dinner but decided was too far and ended up getting room service and watching The Other Guys.

F18 Fr: Went for a jog on the beach while Heather hit the gym.  Had lunch in the room and then rented a cabana on the beach for the afternoon.   Back to the room and then on to Duke’s for dinner, which is just north of Kaanapali.

F19 Sa: Got up (vacation) early, drove down with Phillip and Dana to Lahaina.  We had 2 large boats for all the wedding attendees.   Headed out and proceeded to see tons of humpback whales, closest about 150 feet.    Grabbed a sno ice in Lahaina.  Back to the hotel, and then out to the beach for some snorkeling.  Went around BlackRock.  Hung out on the beach for a while, and then headed to Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina for dinner.  Walked around Lahaina for the evening, did some shopping and then called it a night.

F20 Su: Got up late.  Talked with Heather for a bit, and then did a quick trip to the beach before rushing back to the room to get ready for the wedding.   Rode the shuttle to south of Lahaina to what was formerly a plantation located on the ocean.   Enjoyed Matt & Sonja’s outdoor wedding with the whale’s jumping in the background.   Dinner was at table’s under the stars.

F21 Mo: Packed up the room.  Went down to wedding party brunch.  Then checked out of the Westin, and drove a few minutes north and checked into the Ritz.   Did work for a couple hours.  Then laid in a hammock for a bit and then walked down to the dragon’s teeth lava and saw the spot where Pat died.  Very sad.  Went back to the room and made it a night for Heather with room service Pizza & Bachelorette.

F22 Tu: Drove back to Kaanapali.  Took a paddle boarding lesson and then tried surfing.   Headed back to the Ritz and hung out in the room.  Went down to the pool and hung out for a little while.  Then got dinner at Sansei Sushi, and called it a night.

F23 We: I decided we’d drive around the north side of the island back to the airport.   Stopped by Honolua bay for a quick picture, then hiked down to the Nakalele blowhole.   Stopped by Julie’s stand in Kahakuluo and got some of the world’s best banana bread.  Flew home and arrived in cold and rainy SF 😦

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Hello world!

I wanted to provide highlights of our recent Maui trip, so decided to create a blog!  Killing two birds with one stone.

Btw, the image above is a pic from my cell phone from the Highlands Inn at Big Sur.  Definitely one of my top 5 happy places in the world…

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