Maui, Hawaii

Category: Maui to-do

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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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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Spring Activities in Wailea

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!

WaileaThe 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.

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A wedding at Kula Botanical Gardens

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.

Kula Botanical Gardens
the beautiful view from Kula Botanical Gardens

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…
Kula Botanical Gardens
cute entrance to La Provence

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).

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The Grand Wailea Luau

We have had family visiting which is always fun! They wanted to go to a luau, so I put my research cap on to figure out which of Maui’s luaus we should attend.

There are several – in Wailea there are two, offered at the Wailea Marriott and Grand Wailea. On the West side there are several in Lahaina and Kaanapali: the Old Lahaina Luau, Feast of Lele, Drums of the Pacific and Royal Lahaina Luau (Hyatt).

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.

luau
sunset at the Grand Wailea luau

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.

luau
Uncovering the imu pit with the roast pig

 

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How about some windsurfing lessons?

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.

windsurfing lessonsThe 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.

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Beautiful Makawao Forest Reserve Hike

Makawao Forest Reserve
Map of the trail system. We walked from the parking lot to the first picnic bench on the right side of the trail loop (and back). Looking forward to exploring more.

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.

Makawao Forest Reserve
I attempted to take a vertical panorama shot of this tree. I guess you’ll just have to go see for yourself. The forest is beautiful!
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.

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Changes to Haleakala Sunrise viewing and Waihee Trail Closure

haleakalaUPDATE: the Haleakala National Park website has this great FAQ section.

Have you driven up Haleakala for sunrise? Confession, in 6 1/2 years of living here I have not drive to the summit for a Haleakala sunrise. A couple reasons for this. I am not that interested in taking a 2 1/2 hour drive in the dark from Kihei, only to find out Haleakala is clouded in. Also, I am told it is complete mayhem up there, often with no places to park. No thanks.

Apparently others are similarly concerned. This past year the National Park Service held several town hall meetings, surveying Maui County residents on how best to address the crowded and overrun sunrises. Here is what they came up with (Maui Now article with much more info).

Beginning February 1st, 2017 everyone wishing to enter the national park for a Haleakala sunrise must make advance reservations. Check out this website, choose your date and pay $1.50. Print out your confirmation and bring it along with your photo ID. Also, you will need to purchase admission to Haleakala National Park ($20 for a several day re-entry or $25 for an annual pass).

Starting February 1st the national park is allowing only 150 vehicles plus one tour bus to enter the park for sunrise (between 3-7am), which will guarantee parking for all. Please remember to be respectful of the fragile vegetation (stay on the path) and any cultural activities taking place.

Note: as of now this reservation can be made up to 60 days in advance and is non-transferable. Reservations cannot be made at the national park gate, so please make sure you do this BEFORE you drive.

If you plan to enter the park AFTER 7AM you will not need a reservation. Then you just drive up and purchase admission or use your National Park pass.

Personally, my favorite time to drive up Haleakala is during the day to admire the amazing crater valley and take in the view. There are several hikes you can do (just be aware of the 10,000 foot elevation and thinner oxygen levels). I also love driving up at night to go stargazing (I have found the best viewing to be at a pull-out at about 6000 ft, just before you enter the forest before the national park gate). If the moon is small and the mountain is not clouded in, do try it! The stars are amazing. You’ll need to wait until about an hour after sunset for the stars to start popping. Unlike sunrise, there are very few cars at night.

Waihee Ridge Trail closure

The popular scenic Waihee Ridge Trail is temporarily closed from January 3-February 28th for some much-needed maintenance. For more information, please check this MauiNow article. Do check before you go in March that the trail has really re-opened, as everywhere, there can be unexpected delays.

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Maui geocaching

Did you get into the Pokemon Go craze this past summer? I am apparently behind the times. This summer I downloaded the geocaching app on my phone to try some Maui geocaching. I know, this app has been around for years and some of you won’t believe I am new to the game. On the other hand, some of you probably haven’t heard of geocaching either. No worries, you aren’t alone.

duckpond
A duck pond? in Kihei?

Geocaching is a real-world treasure-hunting game using GPS coordinates and an app on your phone. You choose which cache you want to find, follow the directions on the app to get close, read the hint and then look for a physical cache. Some caches have small trinkets that you can exchange, others just a log to mark your find. Check out the geocaching website for much more information!  I think it’s a lot of fun – you’re going on an adventure right in your back yard!

where in Kihei is this path?
where in Kihei is this path?

Kihei (and Maui) have a number of free geocaches. But if you sign up for their premium account (yes, I did – after all, it’s ‘educational’ for the kids), there are a whole bunch here in Kihei alone. Since downloading the app this June, our family has knocked out a few of the local geocaches. It’s been fun doing this with the kids. It makes going for a walk a lot more interesting. My hope is that they will become more aware of their surroundings as we do this, looking for treasure of their own! Hey, I can dream!

We found one at a duck pond in Central Kihei, one in a rock wall, one on a guard rail, another with a great sunset view near Keawakapu beach. We have also had a few ‘no finds’. Sometimes caches are discovered by ‘muggles’, people who are not aware of the game, who toss them because they think they are trash.

Caution

You do need data on your phone to go geocaching. If you have a Canadian phone plan, check on that. It may be a really expensive hobby to do while traveling in the US thanks to roaming charges. We have Tmobile with unlimited data in 100+ countries, so we were good to give it a go while traveling this summer.

keawakapu
Now THAT is a nice reward for finding a geocache!
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