Maui, Hawaii

Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

It’s Pumpkin Patch time

Can you believe we are halfway through October? That means it’s pumpkin patch time. Did you know, Maui has a pumpkin patch? It’s cute!

pumpkin patch

The best part about it – you drive 45 minutes upcountry, enjoy bi-coastal views and cool off while you’re at it!pumpkin patch

Even if you aren’t here this fall to enjoy the pumpkin patch, you can still drive upcountry to enjoy Kula Country Farms which has a great farm stand.
pumpkin patch

pumpkin patch

pumpkin patch

Comment »

Coming in 2018…. an increase in the transient accommodations tax

I’ve had many a discussion with our kids about taxes and why one has to pay them. Yes, we all like to complain about taxes, but in truth, if noone paid tax, we’d have to find another way to fund the basics we all want to have taken care of for us.

Yes, even in paradise (or should I say especially in paradise) we pay our share of taxes. State lawmakers have been struggling to find a way to pay for Oahu’s light rail transit system especially since costs spiraled out of control. Yes, it turns out it has been a bit of a boondoggle. Opinions range from ‘shut the whole thing down’ to ‘raise taxes’ and various versions in between. After failing to deal with it in the spring legislative session, lawmakers came together in August for a special session specifically to deal with the light rail transit system.

Did I mention, this rail system is only on Oahu? Sigh. Oahu is smaller than Maui but with a population of over a million, and it is known for its traffic congestion. In fact, one of their highways is in parts 6 lanes across. I don’t begrudge them a transit solution. I guess I just wish our guests’ tax dollars went towards funding one of the many special projects we need done here on Maui instead.

The end result of the special session is an increase in the State’s transient accommodation tax (TAT) from 9.25% to 10.25% effective January 1, 2018. This is Hawaii’s version of a hotel tax and applies also to all vacation rentals. Just FYI, time shares pay a higher percentage still.

In addition to the TAT, you also pay general excise tax (GET) on everything purchased in Hawaii (all goods, services, and yes, also your vacation rental). The GET is 4.167%. So the new total tax goes from 13.417% to 14.417%.

How much will this really affect you? If your vacation rental is $1000/night, the added tax works out to $10.

In the overall scheme of things, it could be worse (lawmakers had been discussing increasing the TAT by 5 points instead of the 1 we got). I suppose we should be thankful.

So remember, should you make it to Oahu – go ride their light rail transit system! Once it’s finally completed, that is. Current estimated completion date is sometime in 2025. Maybe.

Can you avoid paying the tax?

All legal vacation rentals in Hawaii by law have to submit both taxes (the TAT and GET) to the government. By law they need to post their tax IDs on all their advertising (look for it). If you come across a landlord or property manager not charging the tax, be very careful. Chances are great this is a scam – an illegal rental (which could be shut down at any time) or a con-man trying to get your money. Wouldn’t that be an awful way to start your vacation – arriving on Maui with no place to stay!

Comment »

October’s events on Maui

Can you believe it’s already October? This year continues to fly by. Here are a few October’s events to check out if you are here this month.

October's events
the pumpkin patch at Kula Country Farms is open
Kula Country Farms

Their annual pumpkin patch is open again! They also have a small corn maze and farm-style mini-golf course. Check out their facebook page for more details. They are usually closed on Sunday – not sure about the schedule during pumpkin season. This is also a great opportunity to buy yummy locally grown fruit and vegetables!

95th Annual Maui County Fair

This year’s fair is October 5-8 at the fair grounds in Kahului. It starts off with the annual parade Thursday late afternoon, and then is open Thursday and Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday all day/evening. The orchid show is supposed to be amazing. And then of course there are rides, food and much more…

Moonlight Mele Concert

This Hawaiian music concert is hosted by the Maui Historical Society at the Bailey House Museum in Wailuku. Admission is only $5 per person, children 12 and under are free.

12th Annual Ukulele Festival

October 14-15 at the Maui Arts and Cultural Festival. I have friends who go every year – it sounds like a lot of fun!

Maui Marathon

This takes place October 15th. Watch out for runners on the road between Kahului and Kaanapali!

Halloween Haunted House of Horror

This must be a new event – starting October 20th and running through Halloween in the old Hard Rock Cafe space at the Outlets of Maui in Lahaina. Don’t forget to get your parking validated when you buy something at the Outlets!

Halloween in Lahaina

This is an annual event that takes place on Front Street in Lahaina. Yes, there are shuttle buses that run between Kihei and Lahaina, so look into that and get your tickets  (for the bus) early. The event itself is free.

Comment »

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!

Comment »

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!

Comment »

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).

Comment »

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.

Comment »

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.

Comment »

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!

Comment »

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!

Comment »
1 2 3 67