Maui, Hawaii

Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

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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Family style Christmas recitals on Maui

I love this time of year – getting together with friends and family, the lights, decorations and all the Christmas music, reliving memories. Yesterday we attended two family style Christmas recitals. I know – it seems like a little much, but both were held in really neat locations and we went to support family and friends.

Keawala’i Church in Makena

The first was a local piano teacher’s piano recital held at the historic Keawala’i Congregational Church in Makena. If you have the opportunity to attend a church service or a concert at this church, do. This church was built in the mid-1800s (exact date unclear to me) out of coral and wood. Nowadays we know not to even step on the reef, but back then people sometimes used coral as a building material. The walls are a foot or more thick and white washed, and there are beautiful native wood floors. The church itself is quite plain, and yet just beautiful. Decorations consisted of two Christmas trees and poinsettias – plain but beautiful. Outside the church you can find a small cemetery (please be respectful) with a beautiful view of the ocean. Check here for an interesting history of the church.

This is an operating church and no, it is not open to visitors during non-service hours. If you stop by when it’s closed, just admire from the road.

The Grand Wailea Resort

In the evening we attended another concert in an entirely different setting, the Grand Wailea hotel lobby. A friend and his neighborhood ukulele band (mainly retirees) performed various Christmas and Hawaiian songs with a few other audience favorites thrown in. It was a family style Christmas concert – our friend is one of the higher ups at the Grand Wailea performing for his employees and friends, another employee danced hula to several of the songs. The band recruited members of the audience to play tambourin now and then. It was overall a lovely evening.

The setting in the Grand Wailea is of course beautiful. Totally different than at the church, the Grand Wailea hotel is one of the fancy hotels here in Wailea and decorated to the nines. If you have the opportunity, do wander through the hotel grounds. Check out the giant ginger bread chair in the lobby, the beautiful decorations and (my favorite) the more than 7 miles of Christmas lights wrapped around trees in the driveway.

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December 2018 Happenings

Is it just me or has this year just flown by? This weekend we enjoyed our Thanksgiving meal with friends, disappeared the fall decorations and set up the Christmas tree. The kids are protesting that it’s too early to  have Christmas decorations set up, and yet… I have 13 cups of pureed pumpkin (the lovely pumpkin our Palms at Wailea guests left behind a few weeks ago is now waiting to be baked into muffins and loaves). And…. here is the real kicker, Sig and I attended a Christmas choir concert today. The concert was lovely – I sure enjoyed it. It was the Maui Choral Arts Association‘s annual Peace on Earth Christmas concert in the Castle Theater at the MACC. The MACC is the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Kahului, location to many concerts on Maui. They have both an indoor and outdoor venue.

Looking for something non-beachy to do in the next few weeks. I just had a quick glance at Calendar Maui and here are a few things that struck me as interesting.

 

Lee Brice in concert – November 28th

Hawaii International Film Festival – November 29th – December 2nd (Castle Theater at the MACC)

4th Annual Maui Songwriters Festival – November 29th -December 1st

Holiday Pops Featuring Henry Kapono by the Maui Pops Orchestra – December 2nd

Elf the Musical – now through December 12 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku

Maui Jim Maui Classic Basketball – December 14/15th hosted by Oregon State

The Messiah – December 15/16th at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku

Steven Tyler in concert – December 27th at the MACC

 

Of course, you could also ‘just’ chill at the beach! Whatever you do, we hope you have a wonderful Maui stay!

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Imu roast for Thanksgiving!

We were fortunate to be able to participate in an imu again this year. An imu is an underground oven, a traditional Hawaii style of cooking. For much more information and ‘how to’, check out this link. When you go to a luau, typically a whole pig is roasted in an imu and unearthed during a special ceremony. One of the schools built an imu as a fundraiser – a few parents, teachers and the kids did all the work, while I happy bought my tickets, dropped off my prepared turkey yesterday evening and then picked it up again this morning. Here are a few pictures for you to enjoy! It’s a really neat experience.

A few tickets? Well…. I thought we’d do a turkey and some pork (two wrapped containers) but as Sig pointed out – we had two turkeys in the freezer, so why not just cook them both? The good news is – our Christmas turkey is carved, packaged and in the freezer!

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raw turkey glam shot!

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my turkey rub – butter, poultry spices, garlic, salt and pepper – not traditional Hawaiian, but the way I like it

 

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First students dug a pit, stacked keawe wood, surrounded by lava rock. Once the fire burned down, the rocks fell onto the fire/ashes. Then they layered banana stalks, turkeys, banana leaves, wet burlap bags and a plastic tarp, weighed down with dirt around the edges.

 

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the imu pit in the morning

 

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unearthing the imu

 

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imu with tarp off (you see the burlap sacks)

 

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opening the imu

 

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the first turkey to come out

 

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unloading the imu

 

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turkeys and other meats/vegetable dishes with the imu in the background

 

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the emptied imu

 

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glam shot – imu roasted turkey. One of our friends calls it ‘haole’ turkey (haole being a Hawaiian term for Caucasian). Being cooked in an imu means no browned crispy skin

 

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carved turkey with pan drippings

 

How is it?

The meat is deliciously moist. It has a bit of a unique smell – a bit smokey from the keawe wood fire, and a little different from the banana stalks/leaves. It is absolutely delicious. If you ever have the opportunity to participate in an imu, do! Also, word to the wise, choose a smaller turkey. Our friends’ 20 lb turkeys still needed to spend some time in the oven while the meat just fell off the bone on my 13 lb bird.

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