I still remember my first Christmas here on Maui. Having lived with seasons all my life, I admit it was strange not having cold weather and snow in December. But eventually you get used to ‘no snow’, poinsettias growing in flower beds, fresh tree-ripened fruit year-round and year-round beach weather. And just because we don’t have miserable weather this time of year, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the pre-Christmas spirit of things.
December 9 –Lighting of the Ulupalakua Christmas Treeat Maui’s own upcountry winery – Maui Wine. 4:30-8:30pm. Enjoy family fun activities, live music, an outdoor movie (The Grinch) in the cool crisp air of Haleakala. They will also be hosting a wine tasting. On a side note, wine tastings are no longer complimentary at Maui Wine – however, I’m told the quality and servings have improved.
December 10 – 6th Annual Maui Mompreneur Showcase & Supply Drive – craft fair held 9am-2pm at the Maui Seaside Hotel ballroom. They will also be collecting school supplies for Kahului Elementary School which last week had a fire destroying five classrooms.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday our family drove to Wailuku to check out the historically significant Iao Valley State Park with its Iao needle and the stream.
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.
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!
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
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.
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!
It’s spring and the Wailea Community Association has sent out their latest newsletter concerning spring activities in Wailea!
Here are some highlights!
Restaurant Week Wailea is next week! Twice a year a number of restaurants offer a 3 course prix-fixe menu (prices vary between $29-$59/person plus drinks, tax and tip). It’s a great way to try out a new restaurant at a reasonable price. This year there are 21 restaurants participating. Check here for the list of restaurants and menus! You do NOT need a ticket or coupon, but reservations are recommended!
The Wailea Film Festival is coming! This year it takes place June 21-25, 2017. This is theater under the stars! What a great place to watch a movie, mingle with some stars and take in some special events. For more information, check out their website. Films have not yet been announced, so do check back on their website for more info!
A new farmer’s market at the Shops at Wailea! It will take place every 2nd and 4th Wednesday, starting June 28th 4-6pm. Look for ‘The Market’ on the main floor in the courtyard at the Shops. Remember, the first hour of parking is free at the Shops, after that make sure you pick up a parking validation from one of the many shops and restaurants.
A few weeks ago a friend asked me to provide the piano accompaniment at a wedding at Kula Botanical Gardens. In fact, my very first wedding on Maui. You know how you go through ‘wedding-periods’ where everyone you know or their kids are getting married? We’ve been in a wedding drought, or perhaps it’s just that ‘our’ weddings have been too far away for us to attend.
Years ago before moving to Maui I played piano professionally. While I dabbled a bit in teaching piano, my real love was in piano accompanying. I accompanied at recitals, competitions, concerts, played at weddings and background music at dinners… I loved it. Since moving to Maui I haven’t really had many opportunities to play piano. I do play at church from time to time and have accompanied for some school choir concerts, but… I’ve found other things to keep busy with I guess. Like our condos…
The wedding was held at Kula Botanical Gardens, a beautiful 8 acre property on the slopes of Haleakala.
One friend played flute while another sang, I borrowed a keyboard and was quite proud of myself to be able to figure out cables and speakers. No, I’m not about to becoming the new Maui wedding pianist, but it was fun morning and I’m glad we got to do this.
If you haven’t been to Kula Botanical Gardens – go check it out! It’s located at approximately 3600 ft elevation, just past the Kula Country Farm stand, just after you’ve turned left to head towards Haleakala National Park.
A little teaser… they also have a small coffee farm. Their coffee is grown at 3600 ft, which is apparently the highest altitude coffee is grown within the US. According to the owner (Warren) their plants actually don’t grow in dirt, but in a mixture of volcanic ash and organic matter.
Other upcountry things to check out…
On our way home we stopped at the Kula Country farm stand for some fresh strawberries. Then a little pitstop at La Provence for some baked goodies (next time I’ll go earlier, they were somewhat sold out).
Another option, if you are looking for the cultural story (and not the dinner), is the Ulalena – which is like a musical and indoors in a theatre. I highly recommend it – it is very good.
According to Tripadvisor, the Old Lahaina Luau ranks best. However, if you are staying in Kihei or Wailea, that’s a good 45-60 minute drive away if traffic is moving. That highway between Maalaea and Lahaina can get really backed up, and it’s just one lane each direction, so if there’s an accident, you could be a lot longer. Add the drive to the fact that drinks are included in the ticket price, you’ve got to figure that many drivers will have been drinking as you drive back to your condo (Maui County has strict don’t drink and drive rules, btw).
Grand Wailea luau
We let our visiting family choose, and they chose the Grand Wailea luau. Perfect. We got our tickets online at Costco.com (just do a luau search and it comes up). They email you confirmation numbers for each ticket, then you call the Grand Wailea and make the reservations. Children tickets (12 and under) you get a discounted rate directly at the Grand Wailea when you make reservations.
The food was good, show was fun, yes, there’s an imu pit with a pig roasting in it. Is it the most authentic experience? No. But in truth, none of the luaus are authentic. Authentic would be a feast with friends and family, not a commercial event. But, it’s fun and a nice way to spend an evening.
This past week the kids had a break from formal book learning and instead were out and about on Maui, experiencing and trying new things. One of the options was windsurfing lessons. The company the school contracted with is HST Windsurfing and Kitesurfing. This company offers private lessons but also does group lessons and kids camps in the summer months.
The lessons take place at Kanaha Beach Park which is right behind Kahului airport. To get there, you loop around the airport and then turn at the car rental facility. Just keep driving past the new cellphone waiting area and turn right at the T intersection. Then you take the third (and final) turn before the gate and drive all the way in to the right. When you have reservations, that’s where they meet you. Note, you do need to make reservations!
What do you need?
You will need a swim suit, sunscreen, water and a snack. They provide the rest. They have large beginner boards and small sails (they have other gear for the more advanced). They also provide wetsuit shirts (this time of year the water is a little cold, for us Maui people at least), water shoes and all beginners (kids especially) wear life jackets.
The instructor-student ratio was good (1/3). The instructors were right in the water with them. What particularly impressed me was that the instructors knew all the kids’ names by the beginning of day two of the camp.
Most of the kids in our group had not windsurfed before. I was amazed to see them on the board, learning to catch the wind, steer and manoeuver (clearly not windsurfing terms – I know nothing about this either).
Other things to know
Kanaha Beach is located on Maui’s North Shore and this area is popular with wind and kite surfers. There is also a homeless encampment on one end of this beach park though we couldn’t see them from where the kids were surfing. As always just use common sense.
We’ve been meaning to go hiking in the Makawao Forest Reserve. This past weekend we finally made it there. Compared to the Olinda hike, this is quite an extensive trail system and is actually set up for mountain bikers. Some of the trails are strictly for bikers, so do pay attention to the signs.
The hike itself is a 6.5 mile loop in the forest. We didn’t go nearly that far, but hiked past the two sets of ramp areas for bikes and then through the ravine. I really enjoy seeing this different (non beach) side of Maui. There are tall pine trees and beautiful trees with stripped bark.
This trail is covered with leaves and often wet. Do bring sturdy shoes, slippahs are not appropriate here.
Getting to the Makawao Forest Reserve is a little adventurous.
From Kihei you are looking at about a 50 minute drive. Driving on Makawao Ave (from the Haleakala Hwy), go straight through the 4 way stop with Baldwin and then take your first right after the church and cemetery. Pass the Piiholo Ranch Ziplines and when you come to a Y intersection, turn left (Waiahiwi Rd). The road gets narrower, windy and there are very few signs. There will be a few ‘no outlet’ signs. Eventually you turn right onto Kahakapao Road (don’t go straight onto private Piiholo Ranch property). Eventually you get to park gates (open 7am-7pm). Now the road is quite narrow with some pretty good ‘dips’ in the road (they are marked, slow down). Pull into the second parking lot on the right (after the horse trailer parking lot). It’s a fairly large parking lot with good signage.
Bring your own snacks and water along. There is a port-o-potty.
Do not leave any valuables in your car.
If you are interested in mountain biking it, there are a few bike rental places on Maui – Krank Cycle is likely easiest as it is right in Makawao.