Maui, Hawaii

Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

Four things that will make or break your vacation rental business

It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven years since we dove head-first into the vacation rental business, buying four condos in five months. At the time we knew rather little about what we were doing. Sure we had been long-term rental landlords for years, so we knew about property management. But vacation rentals are a completely different ball game. There are many lessons learned in the past seven years.

We were fortunate to have several people guide us as we entered the world of vacation rentals. The owners of Kihei Surfside and Sugar Beach each gave me an information download over lunch of what they had learned in years of vacation renting. The first year we worked closely with a vacation rental company at Kihei Surfside – they were a great resource. Very importantly we were fortunate to retain a fantastic cleaning lady from day one who has brought her expertise and knowledge to our business.

Four things will make or break your vacation rental business

Cleanliness and Maintenance

Guests want the condo to be clean and they want it to be well-maintained. This is really a no-brainer. But did you know the majority of condo owners live off-island? Both cleanliness and maintenance slip big-time when you don’t have a hands-on on-island owner to check and stay on top of things. As on-island owners we walk into our condos between all bookings. Our wonderful cleaner Cindy has been cleaning our condos for seven years now. She is a perfectionist and together with Beth (an amazing artist – we have a number of her paintings hanging in our condos) does her best to keep our condos in top shape given the time constraints she works within. Sig (my husband) is our maintenance man – also a perfectionist he enjoys going into the condos and making little (or big) improvements, tinkering with things to get them ‘just right’ for the next guest. If you stay at one of our condos and something needs fixing, please call him and if urgent, he will take care of it within the day, or add it to his ‘to-do list’ for the next check-out.

Sig & Cara Birkholz
Cara & Sig – owners of Maui Oceanview Condos

Good Communication

In today’s online world we expect quick and good communication. I try – I really do try to respond to your inquiries as quickly as possible. Sometimes life happens, but do know that I am on it.

Integrity

Isn’t this key with everything in life? Please read our reviews (on this website, our web listings and our guestbook entries). They speak for themselves.

Do we have it all together? Does anyone ever? We do try our best with our vacation rental business and hope that you have a wonderful vacation when you stay at one of our condos!

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Happy 7 year anniversary to us!

Seven years ago today we purchased our first two condos. Sugar Beach 104 and Kihei Surfside 405. We had just sold our dairy farm and moved to Maui with hopes of getting into the vacation rental business. What a life-changing move that was. As we adjusted to island-living Sig dove headfirst into real estate and spent countless hours researching properties in South Kihei, reading online, checking out open houses, talking with realtors etc. Hard to believe that we are now celebrating our 7 year anniversary!

Sugar Beach 104
Sugar Beach Resort aerial
Sugar Beach Resort aerial

When we bought Sugar Beach 104, it had recently reopened after being closed for an extensive building remodel for a year. There were many distressed properties and the timing was good. As a family with young children we liked the ground floor location (no stairs or elevator to deal with) and that the kids could spill out onto the lawn just off the lanai, giving more living space. We tackled a renovation head-on: new bathroom, new flooring (out with the suspicious carpet and old tile), new sofa and luxurious Averte shades. We removed the popcorn ceiling and repainted all the walls. We took careful inventory of all everything in the condo, replacing sheets and towels, pots and pans, small appliances and TVs as needed. It was fun putting our own stamp on the condo, and then listing it on VRBO to rent it out.

Since then we’ve tackled several additional projects – with any rental property there is always something that needs fixing or replacing.

Kihei Surfside 405
aerial2
Kihei Surfside aerial

Kihei Surfside 405 was an entirely different operation. We were fortunate to purchase that condo from hands-on owners Cynthia and Bill. Unlike our Sugar Beach condo, they passed on a full roster of bookings. They took the time to sit down with us and pass on their condo rental knowledge they had gathered from years of experience. I still remember that lunch at Gannons, furiously taking notes. I appreciate the time they took to teach this newby the ropes. Their condo needed little work – we replaced some of the art work (they took some of their favorites) and checked an inventory list to make sure we had everything needed.

Of course, since purchasing Kihei Surfside 405 in September 2010 we’ve done several remodels. In 2012 we replaced the kitchen cabinets and repainted. Then in 2015 the entire building was shut down for five months for extensive exterior work. We took the opportunity to replace the carpeting, blinds and sofa. Every year we take an inventory and replace items on an as-needed basis. Most recently we’ve added a Vitamix and replaced the TV.

Happy 7 year anniversary to us!

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Drowning on Maui

Drowning on Maui – what an upbeat topic, I know. No, there is unfortunately no pun intended. This is just a public service announcement, reminding you about the dangers of snorkeling and water activities. Not just here on Maui – anywhere really.

This past week there were two instances of visitors drowning while snorkeling at the reef just off Keawakapu Beach in South Kihei. No, there weren’t any sharks involved (to my knowledge). From what I’ve read in the media, both victims were snorkeling with their spouses (having a buddy system is very good). In both instances, one spouse returned to shore safely, then realized their partner wasn’t with them. Both victims (one on Friday, another on Saturday) were brought to shore and received CPR from other beachgoers until emergency services got there. Our condolences to the families.

Here are the two articles, one happened Thursday, the second Friday. Both visitors were in their 50s, no mention of them having had pre-existing health conditions.

Is drowning common? Well…. yes this is paradise, but it’s not Disney, and unfortunately that means stuff does happen…. from what I see in the news, it’s usually people cliff diving or the more middle-aged (and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all) people snorkeling. Cliff diving, well, ’nuff said….. but many don’t realize that snorkeling is actually a strenuous activity, especially for those who aren’t good swimmers or maybe aren’t as healthy as they wish they were.

Should you avoid the water altogether? Probably not. But do be careful and know your limits. Please be cognizant of your ability. Never swim alone – always go with a buddy and stay with a buddy. What an awful way to end your vacation.

More ocean tips

Here is an ocean safety video released in 2015 by Maui County. I believe it is on a loop at the airport and also airs regularly on the Maui Visitor Channel (channel 7).

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Kapalua’s Dragon’s Teeth

Dragons Teeth
entering the mouth of the dragon

We recently went for a drive up to Lahaina and Kapalua. One of my favorite things to do there is to check out Dragon’s Teeth. It is also known as Makaluapuna Point. This is a rock formation formed by a lava flow on Maui. The rock has a somewhat different composition than say the lava flow at La Perousse, and has been weathered by the ocean.

I was commenting to my family that it looks like it’s had some additional weathering from the elements since we were there last a year ago or so. I was also disappointed that someone had etched their names into one of the teeth. Really? Why destroy the natural beauty of this place?

Dragons Teeth
this is the entrance to the burial ground. Please be respectful and stay out.

Please be aware that you pass a native Hawaiian burial ground on the way to the formation, so please do stay on the path (the burial ground is gated off on the right – please do not trespass).

To access Dragon’s Teeth, drive through Kapalua and turn left on Office Road (the exit for the Ritz Carlton). At the end of Office Road hang a right and park. Then head down the golf course (there is a marked path on the right side) towards the ocean. It leads you right to the rock formation, which, in case you were wondering, kind of looks like a mouth full of teeth when you first enter it. You will want to wear decent shoes for this walk and really watch your step.

Dragons Teeth

Bring your beach gear

While you can’t access the ocean from the rock formation, popular DT Flemings Beach is just to the right of it in front of the Ritz. You can access it from the same parking lot by taking the trail in front of the Ritz, however there is better access if you head on back to the main road, turn left and take the next exit.

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Iao Valley is finally reopened

Almost a year ago popular tourist destination Iao Valley State Park experienced heavy flooding, washing away some of the trail system, a portion of the parking lot and damaging people’s homes and yards. As a result, the entire area has been blocked off for nearly a year as the State worked to stabilize the area again. While their efforts are not yet complete, the State recently re-opened the park on a temporary basis while they wait for some further permitting to be approved. Yes, the State Park will close again in the next few months to continue the work.

Iao Valley
the new Iao stream bed – last September’s flooding changed the course of this stream, washing away much of the area.

Yesterday our family drove to Wailuku to check out the historically significant Iao Valley State Park with its Iao needle and the stream.

The Iao Needle

This is the location where in the late 1780s Kamehameha I from Big Island conquered Maui, the beginning of a series of wars to unite the Hawaiian Islands under himself. The battle is said to have been particularly brutal with many casualties on both sides. When in the valley you can imagine the fighting and how the screams must have echoed in the narrow canyon.

While there, do read the signs for more information about the historical significance. This site is sacred to many native Hawaiians, so please do be respectful of your surroundings while there.

 

It is a gated State park (7am-6pm) and they charge $5/vehicle for parking. The foot trail is significantly shorter since the flooding, with the lower loop through the forest cut off/washed away. You can still cross the bridge and climb the stairs to the Iao Needle lookout and it looks like they are working on restoring the native plants area, though there wasn’t much taro growing yesterday.

Second Wettest Place in Hawaii

This area, particularly the head of the valley (Pu’u Kukui peak) is the State’s second wettest area with an average of 386 inches of rain a year (the wettest is on Kauai). Contrast that to Kihei’s average 8-11 inches of rain a year. Our drinking water in Kihei is piped over from this valley. In true form, it started pouring rain shortly after we had finished our walk.

For additional things to do, check out the Kepaniwai Park & Heritage Center is just down the road (free admission) which pays tribute to the different nations of immigrants who came to Maui to work in the sugar cane fields. We haven’t stopped in a number of years, at the time it needed some TLC but was still interesting.

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Outdoor Movie in Wailea

Gannons Skyfall eventDo you enjoy an outdoor movie? I love the ambiance of sitting outside – watching the movie, checking out the stars and enjoying the cooler evening temperatures.

Gannon’s, the clubhouse restaurant at the Wailea Gold and Emerald Golf Courses, is hosting another Movie under the Stars event on Saturday August 19th at 8PM. It’s a James Bond event – they will be showing Skyfall. Movie night takes place on their lower lawn. Tickets are $7/person and can be purchased at the door. Tickets include a chair (usually you have to bring your own low-back chair to these sorts of events).

Do bring a light sweater or a beach towel to wrap up in, just in case you get a little chilly.

It sounds like this is a different location than the Maui Film Festival movies which are shown on the golf course’s driving range. This outdoor movie is said to be shown on the ‘lower lawn’ at Gannons. Come early and I’m sure they will point you in the right direction.

They will be serving $5 Bond Martinis at Gannon’s Red Bar beforehand. If you haven’t checked out Gannon’s Red Bar, do have a look at their happy hour menu which has been expanded in the past year or two.

Gannon's Happy HourGannon’s Red Bar

We just had dinner at the Red Bar last week. While Gannon’s dinner menu is quite pricey (for that matter, most dinner menus on Maui are pricey), the Red Bar happy hour menu (3-8pm) is quite reasonable ($6-$14 range). Do tell the seating hostess that you are here for happy hour and (as of the writing of this blog post) they will seat you at a table with a red/orange candle (as opposed to the white candles).

My favorites on the happy hour menu? The volcano fries are amazing!

Have fun!

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What is your favorite Maui coffee?

Maui coffee
coffee beans courtesy of Olinda Organic Farms

Have you sampled your way through Maui coffees? We have a number of coffee growers and roasters here on Maui, and I suggest that when here you give them a try. After all, Starbucks will still be there when you get back home. But in the mean time, you may discover a new favorite coffee, and you’ll have fun searching for it while on vacation!

Yesterday was the 9th annual Statewide Cupping Competition. I have never made it to one of these, though I think – as a coffee lover, that would be really cool to go see. This year’s took place at the Maui Tropical Plantation here on Maui.

This year’s winner in the creative category is a local coffee grower/roaster in Olinda – Olinda Organic Farm. I just checked out their website, looks like they may only sell at certain Farmer’s Markets, but do contact them and see what they say.

Which Maui Coffees to try

I’ve written about coffees in the past, if you type coffee in the search bar on my blog, you’ll come across a number of them. I love Maui Oma’s coffee, if for no other reason than the name (Oma means Grandma in German). Grandma’s Coffee House up in Keokea on the way to the Ulupalakua Ranch has some great home grown/roasted coffee (with delicious deserts to go with it). Kula Botanical Gardens is a new one I discovered this spring – though it was quite a dark roast (I prefer medium).

Costco carries some nice local roasts, though likely not as fresh as the ones you’d get directly from the roaster – my current favorite at Costco is by Kauai Coffee Company. My husband Sig was at their farm on Kauai this past May and brought home a bag of their freshly roasted beans (so delicious). Interestingly this past spring Costco in Western Canada was carrying this coffee also. I discovered this when visiting my cousins in Edmonton!

I’m curious – which is your favorite Maui coffee? Where did you buy it? I’m always interested in trying something new!

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Sushi and Poke

Maui is of course known for its fish – both raw and cooked. I will not pretend that I know much about sushi and poke at all. Let’s just say – I just enjoy eating it.

Sushi you’ve heard of, but what is poke? Poke is raw marinated fish (usually ahi). If you don’t mind the texture of raw fish or have shellfish allergies, do try it. It is absolutely amazing.

Here are some of my favorite places for raw fish…

sushi and poke
Koiso sushi platter
Koiso Sushi Bar

Our neighbors invited me to join them at Koiso Sushi Bar a few weeks ago. This is a tiny restaurant that seats less than 20 people in Kihei’s Dolphin Plaza (same building as Pizza Hut). You must make reservations usually several weeks ahead of time.

I could not tell you what this platter is called – but I loved the selection and it was really good. Thank you to our neighbors for a lovely dinner treat!

sushi and poke
The Miso Phat sushi bar has a cool vibe
Miso Phat Sushi

This is a new sushi bar in Central Kihei that according to social media is very good. I wasn’t sure what to order and got the poke bowl (poke and rice). While not my favorite poke (I prefer more sauce), the ahi was incredibly fresh. Wow.

My poke bowl at Miso Phat sushi – incredibly fresh ahi
sushi and poke
The deli section at Makawao’s Rodeo General Store
Rodeo General Store (Makawao)

This is a take-out deli on Baldwin Avenue. While I’ve had sandwiches there before (which are great), this was my second time trying their poke bowl. They only have a few kinds (on my day they had two), but it is truly great! Your choice of brown or white rice. Very reasonably priced.

Curious to try poke but not ready to commit? Go to Foodland. This is my favorite grocery store place to get poke. They will let you sample a few of their selections (and they have lots).

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Movies under the Stars at the Maui Film Festival

movie
My phone’s slightly blurry view of the screen. You should have seen the stars (after the rain). It was a truly beautiful setting

This was my first time at the Maui Film Festival. I’ve been meaning to go ever since we moved to Maui seven years ago. I enjoy watching movies under the stars. But you know how it goes – there are family commitments, it’s late in the evening (once it’s dark enough to watch an outdoor movie), I’ve been unsure about parking etc…. so I’ve never gone.

Last night I joined neighbors in going. Tickets can be bought online – mine was $25. Of course, had I pre-planned and bought these a few weeks ago, it would have been cheaper, but in retrospect $25 isn’t a bad deal. It covered my parking, the shuttle bus and two movies under the stars.

I grabbed one of my low beach chairs, a jacket with hoodie (and at last minute a towel), drove to Wailea and parked on the lawn with the streetlights. I’m sure you’ve seen it, across the street from the new Wailea Marriott, kitty corner from the Monkeypod Restaurant. I’ve always wondered why it had a driveway and street lights in the middle of a nicely manicured lawn. Well, turns out it’s an overflow parking lot for Wailea events. From there I caught a shuttle bus to the Wailea Gold and Emerald Golf Course’s driving range (this is next to Gannon’s). There set out on the lawn was a large screen and hundreds of movie goers in their chairs.

movies under the stars
In retrospect, this rainbow on the way to the Maui Film Festival was trying to tell me something. It was a great evening despite the short rain!

Turns out, last night was the first time in their 18 year history that it rained during a movie. It wasn’t too bad, and eventually stopped. I was thankful for my jacket and towel to keep the worst of the rain off.

The movies we saw were Dean (with Kevin Kline) and Class Rank. I enjoyed them both and would see them again.

Note: not all Maui Film Festival movies are shown at the Celestial Cinema (aka the driving range). A number of them are also shown at the Castle Theater (Maui Arts and Cultural Center) and one (free) evening takes place on Wailea Beach (between the Four Seasons and Grand Wailea).

Would I go again? Yes – it was a fun evening! Would I bring the kids? It depends on the movie – I would check the trailers. Last night was definitely an adult crowd.

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Sig’s favorite upcountry drive

My hunny loves to go for an upcountry drive. In fact, we used to go about four times a year – every time we had company visiting us. Finally I stopped going – it’s a beautiful day trip. It’s just – well, it takes up a good chunk of my day 🙂

Today we went for his favorite upcountry drive as a family. It was drizzling as we left our house – that seemed a bit ominous since our ultimate destination, Ulupalakua Ranch is just 3 or 4 miles above Kihei/Wailea. And sure enough, it rained lightly for the majority of our day. But it was still a beautiful drive and fun family day!

upcountry drive
agapanthus in bloom at Maui’s winery

We drove from Kihei to Kahului, taking Hansen Road by the old Sugar Cane Factory to Hana Hwy and then continuing up Haleakala Hwy (which becomes Kula Hwy). We drove all the way to Grandma’s Coffee House where we took a little detour to a side road to drive by Oprah’s house (well, one of them I’m sure). Then back down to Grandma’s Coffee, a little detour to where Oprah’s private road down to Kihei starts (no, you can’t drive it – there are several locked gates). Then we continued to Ulupalakua Ranch

Our destinations….
upcountry drive
the Ulupalakua General Store – our favorite lunch destination

Ulupalakua Ranch‘s General Store is one of our favorite places to eat. They grill burgers to order made from their own meat. There’s something about eating fresh burgers at Ulupalakua.

Then we walked across the street to Maui Winery. Two reasons – the bathrooms are over there (the burgers were a little juicy) and a wine tasting. I picked up a case of their Mele red wine. They have a brand new wine – the Kula which according to their website is a rose white wine. It was really good. Be sure to check out ‘The King’s Room’ in the tasting house which tells some of the 150+ year history of this famous Maui ranch.

upcountry drive
agapanthus bloom bursting out of its bud

Next we headed back to Grandma’s Coffee House for some coffees and carrot cake. They roast their own coffee, make great sandwiches and have delicious baking.

This time we passed Kula Field’s farm stand, turned left on Oma’opio Road (a VERY winding road) and slowly followed it down to the Surfing Goat Dairy and Ocean Vodka (right next door).

Curious – go for a drive! See a part of Maui you didn’t think you’d find!

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