Maui, Hawaii

Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

I just love those purple jacaranda trees!

If you’ve driven upcountry Maui, you probably will know what I’m referring to: those beautiful purple flowering jacaranda trees.

Jacaranda trees are actually not endemic to Hawaii but are native to South America. If you go for an upcountry drive, they are just starting to bloom. They are so beautiful.

Maui’s only paint party place, Island Art Party, is located here in Azeka Shopping Center in Kihei. Yesterday’s paint theme was ‘upcountry drive’ which included some of the beautiful purple blooms. I’ve been eyeing up this painting for some time now and lucky me, my friend suggested we go painting.

If you’ve never gone to one of these paint parties, no worries. It is a fun social event, where they give you step by step instructions on how to paint the painting (everyone paints the same thing). Worst case, you throw out the painting when you’re done. Best case, you have an amazing souvenir of your stay on Maui.

Here are a few pictures of my painting. I’m about 90% happy with it. But I had a fantastic evening!

Do check out their website for their event calendar. Island Art Party has new owners and is currently waiting for their liquor license (no alcoholic beverages available at this time). They are hoping it’s a matter of weeks. On the walls and unused tables you can admire upcoming art projects.

Island Art Party
Upcoming art projects – isn’t that sunset sail one (3rd from right on bottom) amazing?

Seabury Craft Fair

If you are on Maui around Mother’s Day, do check out Seabury Hall’s annual Craft Fair on Saturday, May 11th (the day before Mother’s Day). It’s a fantastic craft fair with juried crafts, a wonderful food section, kids games etc. But in my opinion the best thing about this craft fair – it’s the setting: beautiful bicoastal views, white tents under purple blooming jacaranda trees on a beautiful college prep campus. Don’t miss it! Parking across the road at the rodeo grounds is free, admission is $5.

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Waihou Spring Hike

Last weekend we went on a family hike. One of my favorite hikes on Maui is the Waihou Spring Trail in Olinda. I should qualify, usually we just do the 1 mile loop in the pine forest and call it a day. It’s an easy stroll and generally not busy at all. There is an off-shoot from the loop leading to the Waihou Spring Trail which we always walk down. But – there’s always a but – then you get to a danger sign, warning you of certain death.

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The experimental pine forest

The thing about hiking upcountry Maui is that it very often rains up there, so the switchback trail to the springs is often wet. This past Sunday however it was dry. Add to that, we had family along that are generally more adventurous than we are, so we thought – well, why not. Down a series of switchbacks we carefully walked to the bottom of the gorge where we found a sweet waterfall with caves behind it. And a rooster. Don’t ask me what the rooster was doing in the middle of nowhere at the bottom of the gorge. I didn’t see any chickens around. I can only presume he got lost, or accidentally went down there. Who knows. The hike out of the gorge was steep, but we all made it back out and lived to tell the tale! I would not recommend this hike if it’s wet.

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You’ve been warned – I would not go down this trail unless it’s completely dry. It’s a steep one.

Where is the Waihou Spring Trail

This trail is located upcountry Maui. To get there, drive up to Makawao. Turn right onto Baldwin and just follow the road up the mountain. The road will get narrower and narrower. Slow down, take your time and enjoy the views and watch for traffic. Eventually you pass the Maui Bird Conservation Center (to your left) and enter into a pine forest. You will shortly see parking on the right side. It will take you about an hour to get here from Kihei.

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the waterfall at Waihou Spring
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My favorite restaurant

We recently went out for lunch for my birthday. I love celebrating birthdays. My favorite lunch restaurant is this wonderful place called Gannons.

Unless you are a golfer, it is possible that Gannons is off your radar. It is located in the club house of the Emerald and Gold Golf Courses in Wailea. You come up their long private driveway, past two of the nicer golf courses on Maui to an impressive white stucco building. There is ample parking (though sometimes you have to walk a little). Then you come in the doors, across a large courtyard and the restaurant is on the left (across from the pro shop).

Gannons

Gannons is one of two restaurants belonging to Bev Gannon – the other being the Hali’imaile General Store (also worth checking out).

Why is this place my favorite restaurant? Three reasons really:

  • the amazing restaurant space
  • the wonderful food
  • the beautiful view across the golf course at the ocean and Molokini

You just can’t beat it.

Gannons is open for lunch, happy hour and dinner. Brunch/lunch items range from $15 to $28 or so. Happy hour is also great with 20+ entree items, priced from $13-18 (they are smaller portions, so you may want to share a couple depending on your appetite). You do need to specify that you are here for happy hour at the Red Bar. Basically you want to sit at any table with an orange candle (otherwise you order from the dinner menu which is much pricier). I’m sure dinner is lovely – but quite pricey. And really, part of the attraction is the view, so come and eat during the day!

I do recommend making reservations, particularly for happy hour.

Gannons
Sig and I waiting for my birthday lunch at Gannons

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New Car Rental Facility at OGG

It’s finally time – time to unveil the new car rental facility at Kahului Airport (OGG) here on Maui! Work began 3 years ago in April 2016 and according to the Maui News article construction is now complete. The new facility is scheduled to open May 15th. It’s been a long time coming.

Most airports I’ve traveled to have those handy car rental facilities that you walk to directly from the terminal. Currently here on Maui you catch a shuttle which then takes you to an off-site rental car location – it’s just a short 2 minute drive at most. It’s been fine. But on the off chance you can’t get the car you want at your agency, you then have to walk a ways to the next car rental company to see if they have one.

The new car rental facility is very lovely looking. Honestly, they have added some neat Hawaiian features to the building, I think it looks great. But the best part about the new facility are the two old-style sugar cane train trams that take you from the arrivals area to the new rental car facility. The old sugar cane plantation days may have come and gone here on Maui, but it’s a neat nod to the island’s history. I’ve also seen an old-style clock at the rental car terminal. I just may need to check it out next time I pick up friends/family from the airport.

By the way, no, you don’t have to take the tram. If you’re going to departures, it’s not that far a walk – just across the street. And you could just walk from arrivals too. In fact, after the long flight, it may feel great to get out and stretch a bit. Depending on the time of day, sleepy kids and amount of luggage you have with you.

Kahului car rental
the new ‘sugar cane train’-style tram cars (photo taken in September 2018)

Maui’s sugar cane history

Sugar Cane plays a significant role in Maui’s history since it’s commercial introduction to the island in 1848. Several sugar cane plantations and mills popped up around the island. Owners brought in workers from China, Japan, Puerto Rico, Korea, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia and Scandinavia. It was a hard life, but these people settled, started families and their descendants make up a significant portion of the island’s population today. Check out the Maui Sugar Museum across from the last remaining (now abandoned) Sugar Factory in Kahului. The last sugar cane crop was harvested in December 2016.

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It’s Winter!

For the past few weeks we’ve been hearing about winter stories on the US mainland and Canada. My cousin in Edmonton looked up the temperature in Antarctica and told me Edmonton had matching temperatures the other day (one day I would love to go on a cruise to Antarctica – not for the temperature, but just to SEE it, even just from a distance).

Here on Maui we heard about your suffering and decided to join the club. Well, not that we had anything to do with it. There is some sort of low pressure system to the north of us bringing cool temperatures and strong winds. This morning the temperature was a frosty 60F (roughly 15.5 Celsius). Those of you who know me know that I hate heat (I know, I live on Maui – what am I doing?). I am cold. I am actually wearing a hoody and have closed the windows in an effort to preserve heat.

Maui County has closed the South Maui (Kihei) beach parks because of danger of large swell. North Shore beach parks have also been closed. Apparently we are expecting waves up to 60 ft (that would be on the North shore, not in Kihei). Today is a good day to stay inside or go shopping.

Haleakala National Park is closed due to high gusts of wind (up to 80 mph). Also apparently it’s snowing with a forecast of up to 3 inches. Remember your rental car does NOT have decent tires, please don’t drive up there. There are no emergency services, snow plows, salt/sand trucks. Plus there will be local families eager to see snow – some for the first time 🙂

We aren’t going to die.

Yes, this is unusual, even for Maui winter. But we aren’t going to die. We aren’t even going to freeze. Since we don’t have a furnace, we’ll just dress a little warmer. If you are on Maui, please stay out of the ocean until the storm dies down and waters have stopped churning. Remember, stay out of the ocean if it is brown or murky. This is particularly when sharks come out to feed. Plus you could get a nasty infection from run-off in the water.

I’m sure the weather will go back to normal and warm up soon. At least that’s what we’re hoping for!

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I Survived Costco

Let me preface this post by saying this – nearly everyone on Maui has a Costco card. Our store is considered one of the busiest in the US, with both locals and tourists stocking up on groceries, liquor and gas at this discount warehouse store.

Maui Costco my spot in the Costco gas line

Yesterday afternoon was my Costco-time. I’d been running errands all morning, and now it was finally time to hit Costco. When I got there just after 2pm, there was not a parking spot to be had. None. I don’t actually remember that happening before. Usually at least the unpopular stalls on the other side of the drainage area or in back by the gas station entrance are at least still open. But not yesterday. Everyone and their dog and their neighbors’ dogs was at Costco. I kid, I don’t recall seeing a single dog in Costco, but it was just a little nuts. I do suspect, based on the groups of adults shopping in the store, that a few airplanes’ worth of tourists were in the store. But who knows.

I decided to hit the gas station first. At $2.79/gallon this is the cheapest place to fill up on island. After putting in my time in line, I did find a spot close to old Kmart. My list wasn’t long. I needed a new blender for one of our condos plus a few groceries.

Considering all the cars in the parking lot, it wasn’t too horrible. The main traffic jams were caused around the sample ladies and of course by tourists not familiar with our store’s layout. And then ‘those’ people who insist on going against the flow of traffic (you know who you are).

I do have to give Costco employees credit. No matter how crazy the parking lot, how bad the jam-ups in the grocery department, they always have the right number of stalls open (usually ALL) and the lines move quickly and smoothly. All the check-out stalls were open, with no more than 2 or 3 shoppers per line. Thanks Cos

What are my favorite things to buy at Costco?

I love my Costco coffee – more specifically Kauai Coffee. Sig has been to this coffee farm several times on the island of Kauai. And did you know, often you can get this coffee in Western Canada Costco stores also.

Pineapples. They used to carry Maui Gold (which are amazing). A year or two ago they switched to Dole. Hint – yes you do judge a pineapple by its color (yellow) and smell (if it doesn’t smell ripe, find one that does).

Chocolate Mac Nuts – my favorites are the Mauna Loa brand macadamia nuts (we visited their factory on Big Island a few years ago).

This is also a great place for dairy, meat, some seafood, alcohol…

What is Costco

Costco is a members-only discount warehouse store. You do need to be a member to shop and buy gas at Costco. The membership cost is $35 annually. If you do not have a membership and there is no store near where you live, just skip this. I don’t know that I would bother. Also, please note that everything sold at Costco is in HUGE sizes. If you are just here for a week, shopping at Costco will leave you with many leftovers and a lot of waste.

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A trip to the Maui Ocean Center

When we first moved to Maui over eight years ago, our family held annual passes to the Maui Ocean Center. Over the years we have loved coming here to visit the fish. Our family’s favorites are the octopus, lion fish and the sharks and rays.

a shark and ulua swimming past the window

As our children got older and life got busier, we stopped coming as often. This past week we had family visiting and decided it was time – time to go visit the fish again!

If you have snorkeled in Hawaii, you will know many fish in our reefs are endemic to Hawaii. Endemic meaning, only found in Hawaiian waters. Most famous of these endemic fish is perhaps the humu-humu-nuku-nuku-apua’a fish, also known as the Hawaiian trigger fish.

The Maui Ocean Center is a small aquarium featuring only fish and sea creatures found in Hawaiian waters. The Living Reef building showcases fish seen while snorkeling our reefs. The Open Ocean with acrylic ‘glass’ tunnel holds a 750,000 gallon tank with a collection of sharks, rays and ulua. Twice a day a naturalist scuba dives in the tank for a question and answer session about the animals in the tank. It is really cool.

the naturalist telling us about the ray

There is also a turtle lagoon and most recently a large area focused on native history and Kaho’olawe (the ‘forbidden’ island in the distance past Molokini).

New humpback whale exhibit

Coming soon – maybe in February now! The Maui Ocean Center has been working on its the new humpback whale exhibit. I am very curious about the new white dome which will feature a 3D humpback whale experience.

If you’ve never been to the Maui Ocean Center – check it out. The best deal is to pre-purchase your tickets on the website. If coming as a family, make sure you select the family pass option for best rate.

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New Year’s Eve Whale Watch

It has been a few years since I went on a whale watch. I must say, the last one was epic and I’ve just been afraid no other whale watch would measure up. Nonetheless, my parents visited over Christmas and I decided to treat them to a whale watch. If nothing else, I figured it would be a treat to see Maui from the water.

I booked a 2 hour whale watch with the Pacific Whale Foundation departing out of Ma’alaea Harbor. There are several options, including rafts that depart right out of Kihei Boat Harbor, but I figured sitting higher up (second deck) of a boat, you’d likely see better.

I chose the 9AM morning departure on New Year’s Eve. Mornings are always calmer, but I knew we weren’t up for a 7AM departure, so 9AM was just fine.

It was a beautiful day at sea, blue skies but somehow the sun managed to find clouds to hide behind so we weren’t roasting too badly. We saw 6 whales and my parents loved it. One of our favorite parts was when they lowered the underwater microphone and we could hear the whale song from whales within a several mile radius. So cool and unique.

Was it as epic as the whale watch 6 years ago? Well no – that one was in prime whale season (Feb/March) and likely a once in a life time experience. But I really enjoyed the whale watch nonetheless.

Why a whale watch vs watching from shore?

If you know what to watch for from shore, then watching from the beach or your oceanfront condo’s lanai can be fun and satisfying. However, if you’ve never gone whale watching, book a trip on a whale watch where you will have a marine biologist explain all about humpback whales, their behavior and help you see the whales. Plus, with any luck you’ll see whales much closer than from shore.

Happy New Year

I happened to be at our Kihei Surfside condo at sunset on New Year’s Eve. I sat on one of the stone benches right next to the water, watching and waiting for sunset to happen. Unfortunately there was a thin band of clouds just at the horizon, so the sun sunk behind the clouds rather than the horizon. However, just after it had sunk, a whale breached in the distance, just to the left of the sunset. It was an epic way to end out 2018!

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Have you been to the Iao Valley?

It’s been a while since we last drove to the Iao Valley. This is the wettest accessible part of Maui, with the wettest part at the far end of the valley (Pu’u Kukui) averaging 386 inches of rain/year. Compare that to Kihei’s 8-13 inches/year.

A few years ago there was a severe flood in the valley, washing away a portion of the park and parking lot. It has since been re-built/reinforced.

Iao Valley itself carries great historical significance to Hawaiians. It is a valley leading into a collapsed and extinct volcano. It was a special place for the Hawaiian ali’i (royalty). The valley was also the site of one of Maui’s bloodiest battles in 1790 between the ruler of Hawai’i Island (Kamehameha the Great) and the people of Maui (led by Kalanikupule). Ultimately Kamehameha succeeded in his quest to unify all the Hawaiian islands under his rule.

The Iao Valley is a state park with paid parking. To get there, drive into old town Wailuku. Pass the old church and the Bailey Museum (I highly recommend checking the museum out) and continue up the mountain. Soon the road splits in two, you take the right road which dips down into the valley, and then follow it to the end where you will come to the paid parking lot. Parking is $5. You can walk up stairs to a lookout and also walk a short loop through the rain forest to the Iao Stream where you can often see locals enjoying the water.

For some this valley and the water in the stream hold spiritual significance, so do be respectful.

Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens

Just before you reach the Iao needle parking lot, there is a turnoff to the Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens. If you have time, stop here and check it out. It celebrates some of the cultures of Maui’s immigrants (specifically Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Portuguese and New Englanders). There is also a nice picnic area with numerous pavilions and bathrooms. Unfortunately this garden has been neglected and fallen into severe disrepair. However, the plaques are interesting to read and tell of Maui’s history.

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Tin Roof take-out lunch

What is your favorite take-out food? Are you a fast-food kind of person, or do you prefer better quality? Sometimes our lives are so busy, we don’t have time to sit down and eat a decent meal. Maui’s own Top Chef Sheldon Simeon’s Tin Roof restaurant is the answer to that problem when on Maui.

Sheldon Simeon had already had a few other restaurants going on Maui – Star Noodle in Lahaina, and then a restaurant at the Andaz -when he started his own mom and pop shop, Tin Roof, over 2 years ago. It’s simple good quality take-out food at affordable prices.

Tin Roof is located in a Kahului strip mall along Dairy Road. They are open only between 10AM and 2PM. There are several restaurants in this strip mall, so know that parking is difficult to find. It’s probably easiest to send one person in to grab the food while the others stay in the car and circle around the block.

To reiterate, the Tin Roof is a take-out place with only a few seats should you need to wait for your food. It’s tight and crowded inside. Again, it’s easiest when only one person runs in to grab the food. But trust me, the food is amazing.

Here is how best to order lunch. Go on their website (super easy on your phone) and check out their menu. There are a 4-5 entrees and a chefs special, a few add-ons, and some ‘other grinds’ (grinds being food). Select what you want, additional options (such as rice, add-ons etc), add to cart, select the time you want to pick up and pay right on your phone. Then at your designated time, go to their restaurant and pick it up from the counter. Yum!

Yesterday I picked up an order of mochiko chicken on hapa (half white half brown) rice with an add-on of pickled onions. My $10.42 meal was ready to pick up when I got there.

By the way, this summer Sheldon Simeon opened another restaurant at the Shops at Wailea ~ Lineage. It’s located at the top of the shops, next to the grocery store, close to Lulu Lemon and Louis Vuitton.

Rachel Ray’s U’i Gallery

While in the neighborhood I stopped at my acquaintance Rachel’s art gallery – the U’i Gallery – which is right next door to Tin Roof. I needed a few more of her beautiful calendars and mugs! If you’re shopping for souvenirs or gifts, do check it out! Rachel’s younger daughter Kahalau was diagnosed with cancer a year ago. Since then they have been fighting for her life. They have been working on a reduced schedule, but I believe are open daily from 11-2 or so. 

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