Maui, Hawaii

Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

What’s new on Maui?

Here are a few of the new things happening around the island.

Nakalele Blowhole News

On Sunday morning I saw an article about Maui’s sweetheart rock having crumbled into the ocean. Of course, that’s not the actual name of the rock – I don’t know what it is, but it’s located on West Maui by the Nakalele Blowhole. I always intended to go check out but never did make it there. Too bad.

Maui Whale Day and Parade are back!

It’s back on! The popular Maui Whale Day and Parade are back this year on February 8th. The parade takes place from 9-10AM between Kamaole 1 beach and Kalama Park, then to be followed by various events at Kalama Park from 10AM-3PM. Live music and hula, a keiki (kids) carnival, educational booths and vendors.

Jake Shimabukuro is coming to town!

A number of years ago we went to see/hear Jake Shimabukuro, Oahu ukulele genius, in concert here on Maui. He’s coming to Maui March 14th. If you are on Maui, get your tickets!

Wailea Village Shopping

Have you checked out the long awaited new Wailea shopping area next to Manolis (just above the Shops at Wailea)? It’s called Wailea Village and when they started building it, they were marketing it as high end shopping. Specifically of interest is the Paper Garden (a cute stationery store), Akamai Coffee’s second store location (the first is across from Times in Central Kihei). But the one place I want to check out is Maui artist Philip Sabado’s store and studio. Four years ago when we remodeled our Palms at Wailea condo, I found a Philip Sabado art rug which was at the time being sold at a framing store in Kahului (Mr Sabado’s son worked there). To this day I love that area rug. It’s bright and colorful and truly unique (compared to the typical blah Home Depot rug). I bought Sig one of his Hawaiian shirts for Christmas. I’ll have to talk him into wearing it (it’s pink). It’s really nice.

Palms at Wailea #503 living room
The living room with the Phillip Sabado art rug
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Malasadas

Our family likes to celebrate special days with freshly made warm malasadas. One of us recently celebrated a birthday, so I got up early to pick up a dozen from a local diner.

My kid didn’t want a birthday cake, so I stuck a candle in one of the cream-filled malasadas. A good compromise, though I still would have liked chocolate cake.

What are malasadas?

Malasadas are a Portuguese donut – essentially they are large donut-holes: deep-fried yeast balls, coated with sugar, sometimes cinnamon, and sometimes filled with custard or guava jam.

In Kihei there are two places to pick up malasadas. Our go-to place is the Home Maid Cafe in Azeka Plaza. They open at 6AM and will make either ‘sugar’ or ‘cream-filled’ malasadas to order before 10AM. The Sugar Beach Bakery in North Kihei also sell them, but I believe they stop making them at 9AM.

Early morning malasadas pick up at the Home Maid Cafe in Kihei. There are always several roosters to entertain in the parking lot.

Our family always gets a dozen (for about $15), half and half (half cream-filled and half sugar). It used to be the kids preferred the sugar ones, now it seems they prefer the cream (custard really) malasadas. There’s motivation to come get them!

Note: best to eat these fresh and warm. Once they cool they just aren’t as good.

What’s the Portuguese connection?

Did you know, in the 1800s sugar cane plantations on Hawaii were in need of workers. Plantation owners started bringing immigrants from around the world to Hawaii to work. Some of these immigrants came from Portugal, while others came from China, Japan and the Philippines. Here is an interesting article about this sugar cane immigration. These immigrants brought many of their own cultural traditions, beliefs, foods to Maui.

On Maui, you can check out the Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens at the beginning of Iao Valley (before you get to the State Park). While the gardens themselves are in disrepair, the signs tell the interesting Maui-specific story.

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Maui author Toby Neal

This past weekend my favorite local author Toby Neal held a book signing at Barnes and Noble in Kahului. Naturally I had to go.

I came across Toby Neal’s mystery romance novels a few years ago at the Kihei public library. I have loved reading these mysteries, set in the Hawaiian islands in many places I have been to. It makes it just so much more personal.

I met her a few years ago quite by accident and had the opportunity to chat with her. Since then I’ve followed her on facebook and when she’s blogged over the years. And I’ve read all her books on my kindle (many are ‘free’ if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited).

This past year she published her memoir Freckled – A Memoir of Growing up Wild in Hawaii. It is Toby’s incredible story of growing up as the daughter of hippy surfers on the island of Kauai, spending much of her childhood either homeless or living off the grid. It also touches on some of Hawaii’s social issues. I highly recommend it!

Unfortunately for Maui, Toby and her photographer husband Mike Neal moved to California a few years ago to take care of an aging family member. This person has since passed away, and I keep hoping they will move back to the islands. Maybe one day.

She has a couple murder mystery series. I overheard her telling another reader that her personal favorite is ‘Unsound‘. It’s been a while since I read this one, but it takes place in Haleakala crater valley. Have you ever driven up Haleakala (Maui’s dormant 10,000 foot volcano) and gazed into the crater valley? Did you know you can day hike but also camp (in designated huts)?

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Upcountry drive

It’s been oddly stormy weather here over Christmas, with Kihei even getting rain showers. So we yesterda opted to go for an upcountry drive.

Here are a few pictures for your enjoyment.

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park

This is a small upcountry memorial park dedicated to a Maui resident who was interestingly involved in the 1911 Chinese revolution, overthrowing the monarchy. The fish taking a bite out of the roof cracked me up. And this well fed rooster definitely stole the show. I know I just turkey for Christmas dinner but…. I couldn’t stop admiring the size of his thighs.

Ulupalakua General Store and Maui Wine

Next up we stopped at Ulupalakua General Store for some homemade burgers from their own meat. I tried the elk, the rest of the family enjoyed the beef burger. There’s just something about an outdoor grill and eating burgers upcountry at a picnic table.

The restroom is across the way past Maui Wine. We stopped in the Maui Wine building where they have an interesting history display of the ranch. The story on this plaque struck my funny bone. I love history – it’s full of interesting stories.

Captain Mackee was at the time the owner of what is now Ulupalakua Ranch

Maui Wine has changed the way it runs the tasting room. You can still go for complimentary tours (we have yet to go on one, our timing is always off), but tastings run $12-$16 for a flight of wines and they have pupus (cheese and charcuterie boards are available for purchase too). They have expanded the seating area and the gift shop, it is quite lovely. Old Jail tastings are $40. Do check the website for more information.

Grandma’s Coffee House

Next we stopped in at Grandma’s Coffee House for take-out coffee and desert. They grow their own coffee and have a nice display case of homemade treats. Their lunches are also excellent.

Finally, we headed back towards Kihei, driving through rain showers and sunny patches and past this amazing poinsettia hedge right along Kula Hwy.

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Maui for Christmas

Christmas is the busiest time of year here, with many visitors choosing to come to Maui for Christmas.

Here are some tips when planning your Christmas vacation.

Book your condo early.

Did you know, three of our five condos are already booked for Christmas next year? Don’t despair – many condos on Maui still available for December 2020. However, the planners plan, and in order to have good selection to choose from, start the process about 9-12 months in advance. DO check the cancellation policy and do purchase trip cancellation insurance.

Book your rental car early.

Seriously? Yes. Car rental agencies on Maui always run out of cars late December/early January. This is despite the fact that they ship in extra cars (you can often see them lined up in fields near the airport). Do not plan on ‘just getting a rental at the airport’ this time of year as you may end up out of luck. This happened to our Palms at Wailea guests a number of Christmases ago.

Rental car rates do fluctuate wildly throughout the year. Book something now and then check back regularly to see if you can get a better price (see this blog post for details. It’s from 2015 but the principles still apply).

Line up your flights.

I’m not sure when the best time to buy flights is as we never travel over Christmas. However, from what I’ve been told, airlines usually release seats about 300-330 days in advance. I have seen airlines have seat sales closer to peak times (though I don’t remember noticing Christmas seat sales). I often shake my head thinking there is no way people will find a hotel or condo last minute to match up with the good airline prices. You could take your chances and wait and see if there are last minute deals and hope you can line them up with your condo rental (condo rental dates are typically inflexible), but personally I’d not leave my flights up to chance. You could end up with a beautiful rental and very expensive last-minute flights to get to it.

Then, sit back, enjoy knowing you will be on Maui for Christmas next year, and enjoy this Christmas!

It’s a little different….

When we first moved to Maui over nine years ago, we were prepared for different. After all, Maui for Christmas is just going to be different from ‘freezing rain and cold for Christmas’ which we always had on the West Coast. I remember being in awe of poinsettias planted in outdoor flower beds. And palm tree trunks wrapped in Christmas lights. And a distinct lack of Christmas lights on homes (power is expensive at 35 c/kwh so many just don’t decorate with lights). And having to run our air-conditioning at Christmas.

I’ve gotten used to the lack of a white Christmas. In fact, I love sitting on our lanai for our traditional Christmas Eve pupus (appetizers), with the railing wrapped with Christmas lights.

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Planning for Christmas dinner

Our family loves Christmas. The kids look forward to their school break and of course presents. I do a lot of Christmas baking (I have to store it in my bedroom if I want to ensure it lasts more than a week – ha!), Sig does the Christmas shopping (and wrapping). I plan a Christmas dinner (usually turkey). And then of course there are all the other Christmas activities surrounding this time of year: Christmas concerts, parties, school events…. and tourists!

at a recent upcountry holiday event

Did you know, the holidays are the busiest time of year on Maui? The first two weeks of December are generally calm, and then all of a sudden – right around now – you go grocery shopping at Safeway and realize, it’s high season! Families of tourists shopping for groceries, many more cars on the road, difficulties turning left at intersections….

I’m not complaining. Visitors to our island are our bread and butter.

I thought for today’s blog post, I’d post some Christmas dinner ideas – on the off chance that you are here this Christmas (or planning for next year)…

Yes, some restaurants are open for Christmas dinner. They will mainly have buffet or pre-set menus to order from. If you plan to eat out, do make reservations NOW (many, though not all, use OpenTable for reservations).

If you can’t get a reservation (or prefer not to pay that kind of money), some grocery stores offer pre-made take-out dinners. Check with Whole Foods (Kahului) to preorder your meal. Unsure if local grocery stores (Safeway, Times or Foodland offer anything this year).

Guess what, if you are staying at one of our condos, you could also just plan to eat in. Throw something on the BBQ, or head to one of the beach parks for a sunset picnic (that would be my choice).

Our favorite restaurants in South Maui

Here are a few of our favorite restaurants. Note, almost everywhere on Maui lunches are significantly less expensive than dinner. And at lunch you can enjoy oceanviews which disappear after dark.

  • Gannon’s – lunch or happy hour with a view
  • Mulligans – Irish pub with a view
  • Maui Brewing Company – fun atmosphere
  • Nalu’s – I dream of their ahi tuna sandwich
  • Fabiani’s – I dream of their bakery case. However, also a great Italian restaurant
  • Pita Paradise – fresh fish
  • 5 Palms – amazing oceanfront setting

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Sunset atop Haleakala

I love watching sunset, watching the colors change. But there’s nothing quite like watching it at the beach. Except perhaps from atop the highest mountain.

Yesterday we dropped our turkeys off at an upcountry imu (here’s a link to last year’s imu roast for lots more info!) and then continued up the mountain. We got there just before sunset which was great as it allowed us to see the crater valley which is spectacular in itself. I almost think it’s better in the morning though, when the sun really shows off all the different colors in the valley.

Haleakala’s crater valley

We had passed through some clouds on our way up to the summit (10,023 feet elevation), but it cleared up just past the National Park gates (yes, this is a national park – 3 day entrance fee starting in 2020 is $30, an annual pass is $50).

a silversword plant – these are endangered and grow only on Maui. A step on their root system will kill them, so don’t get close.

Sunrise viewing is hugely popular on Haleakala, so much so that a few years ago the park instituted a reservation system. If you want to go see sunrise, make sure two months prior you go online and buy a ticket. Tickets are cheap – only $1.50/car (however, you ALSO need to purchase or have along your national park pass to enter the park). But they are day-specific, so you do need to go on that day (this limits the total number of cars to 150, which is the number of parking stalls up there). They do release a few additional tickets two days prior, so that’s always an option also. Note, park wardens will not allow you into the park between 3-7AM without this special ticket.

I’ve never driven up for sunrise. I would prefer to see if it’s cloudy or clear before I drive all that way (rather than taking my chances leaving at 3AM to get to the summit in time for a possible sunrise).

Yesterday the top parking lot was full, but there were plenty of parking spaces in the crater parking lot.

Stargazing with cows

We stayed at the summit until it was quite dark and then drove back down the mountain. Just past the national park gate and forest, we encountered cows on the road. Yes, there are signs warning of cows, do watch for them as they like to munch grass right next to the road. In fact, I’ve come across cows lying on the road in the evening (which is nice and warm from the sun).

We parked in a pull-out near some cows, turned off the car and stood next to it, gazing up at the stars. It was so dark, we couldn’t see the cows, just hear them snorting and munching their grass. As you know, we used to own a dairy farm, so we loved that. It was a beautiful evening.

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Kula Lodge

I had an errand to run today near Kula Lodge. Kula Lodge is at the 3200 ft elevation. As you drive up our volcano (Haleakala), you will find that the roads get narrower, the speed limits drop and the views become increasingly spectacular.

The Kula Lodge is the highest sit-down restaurant on Maui with an outdoor pizza oven and stunning bi-coastal views. This is also home to the Curtis Cost Gallery – his Maui scenery paintings are just spectacular. You can also stay at the Kula Lodge, though we’ve never done it.

One of my favorite things to do (though I haven’t done it for a while), is to kick off an evening of stargazing with pizza at the Kula Lodge. It’s time we did that again.

The poinsettia hedge in the parking lot is starting to bloom. It is mid-November. Where did the year go?

Kula Marketplace

As I was a bit early, I stopped at the Kula Marketplace gift shop to look around. Always on the look out for new Made in Maui products and goodies. Today I found a few: a new to me hotsauce by Volcano Spice using Maui grown scorpion peppers. I love the HI Spice Smoke Scorpion sauce, so I’ll have to taste-test these two. I love the color.

I also found these coasters which I thought would make fun Christmas presents.

Kula Lodge
Christmas coasters

I may have mentioned a time or two how much I love upcountry Maui. I don’t know what I love more – the scenery and the views, or cooling off from Kihei’s heat!

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Ocean Vodka’s fy gin

A few weeks ago my husband Sig took friends visiting from Germany for his favorite upcountry drive. He came home with a bottle of Ocean Vodka’s fy gin.

As of right now there is no information about this new fy gin online, so yesterday I stopped at Ocean Vodka to ask a few questions. Really, I should have signed up for the tour, but I was in a rush, so I asked one of the gift shop ladies for a little more information. I am really not a gin connaisseur but the main thing I gleaned from what she told me is that it is infused with lavender, lime, and ginger. The company is continuing on with their cool blue bottle concept.

I also found this info on Tripadvisor from someone who obviously HAS been on the tour:

The gin is called „fy“ which is taken from the local (pidGIN ) language for „five“. There are five botanicals that are responsible for the taste, the bottle is a very well transparent designed „container“ that has five sides and it is the distillery‘s fifth product. It gets five out of five points from me…

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g60633-d13147941-r717497568-The_Hawaii_Sea_Spirits_Organic_Farm_and_Distillery-Kula_Maui_Hawaii.html

Hawaii Sea Spirits

fy gin
Entrance sign to the organic farm and distillery

Disclaimer: everyone I know refers to this farm as Ocean Vodka. However, the correct name for the organic farm and distillery is Hawaii Sea Spirits. Their first product was Ocean Vodka which is sold in its iconic blue bottle. They also make three types of Kula rum and now fy gin. All products are made from organic sugar cane grown right here on Maui.

I highly recommend stopping by their property and going for a tour. Their vodka and rums are available at stores around the island and even on the mainland. Fy gin is for now only available in their own store on property.

Upcountry Drive

Sig’s favorite upcountry drive includes: Ocean Vodka and the Surfing Hawaii Goat Farm next door. Then a drive up windy Omaopio Road to Kula Hwy where you pass the Kula Farms farm stand (yum). Then on to Ulupalakua Ranch’s General Store for a fresh Maui-grown burger. After lunch, a stop at the winery across the street (the rest room is just behind it, so you’re walking right by anyway).

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Special Edition Black Pearl beer

A few months ago I came across a special edition beer from the Maui Brewing Company – Black Pearl. The other day they had a picture of it on their facebook page – it’s back! I had to go pick it up. Check this article for more information on Black Pearl.

Maui Brewing Company
the special edition Black Pearl

I admit – I am not a beer drinker. In fact, I know very little about beer, except that I like dark beer. My go-to drink is usually a glass of merlot. But this beer is delicious.

I picked up a bottle of Black Pearl yesterday. It comes in a 750 ml bottle for $30, you can pick it up right in their pub. In fact, you can sample it before buying it right at the bar. As she was ringing up my bottle, the bar tender asked if I wanted to sample it vs the Coconut Porter. She said the Black Pearl was made from the Coconut Porter, which is then aged in a number of different barrels. Again, if you know more about beer, I apologize. But go check it out!

Maui Brewing Company

Have you been to the Maui Brewing Company? There are two locations on Maui. The original location in Kahana and the ‘new’ brewery with restaurant here in Kihei. If you haven’t been to the Kihei location, go. It is a really neat building that won an architectural design award. You can take brewery tours, sample any one of their 30+ beers on tap, play games on their outdoor patio and dine in their restaurant.

Maui Brewing Company
a glass of Coconut Porter
Maui Brewing Company
Special pizza of the day – brussel sprout bacon. Different and delicious
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