Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

New Years Sunset

Yesterday afternoon we drove up Haleakala to enjoy a post New Years sunset. It sure was beautiful. And there were a lot more people than I had anticipated.

Walking up the sunset I caught this view!

Last time we went for sunset was just over a year ago at Thanksgiving. My bad, I assumed with less people on the island, there would be fewer people at the summit of Haleakala. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of parking in the crater valley parking lot, but the top lot (with the best sunset view) was overflowing with double parked cars.

A couple of observations

  • Arrive early rather than just on time. You want to make sure you get parking. While we arrived on time, the upper lot was full and we ended up having to walk to the summit. Not usually a problem, but at 10,000 ft altitude it’s a bit harder to breathe and you can develop a headache.
  • It’s cold up there. Yesterday afternoon the temperature at the summit was at about 50F. It dipped after the sun set. We were prepared, dressed in our long pants, winter jackets, mittens, hats, scarfs and hiking boots. Yes, we still have these things left over from 10+ years ago when we moved to Maui. We saw a number of people in shorts and t-shirts with beach towels wrapped around them for warmth. Fail.
Anyone cold? It was 50F and windy. They didn’t stay long
  • Yes, per Hawaii State mandate, even here you have to wear a mask. The bonus is that it keeps your face protected from the wind!
hey look, my mask matched my scarf and hat! I did remove my glasses for this glamor shot – they kept fogging up!
  • The crater valley, though always amazing, doesn’t have the stunning colors before sunset that you see in morning pictures. Closing in on sunset the valley just looks dark. If you want to enjoy it with all its colors, come earlier in the afternoon.
late afternoon crater view. It’s certainly not as stunning as when lit by the sun
  • Stay on actual paths – don’t just wander among the dirt and plants. The amazing and protected silversword plants grow here. Stepping on their fragile root system will kill them.
A silversword plant right next to the summit parking lot
  • Don’t just leave as soon as the sun sets. Just like at the beach, the sky turns the most amazing colors within half hour or more of the sun having set. If you wait til it’s nearly dark, you can stargaze on the drive down – now that’s spectacular! Have you ever seen the Milky Way with your naked eye? Just be sure to pull into an actual pull-out.
  • While to the summit is beautifully paved, there are no guardrails once you enter the national park. Yesterday my new-driver son (just weeks away from taking his road test) chauffeured me. There is only a small ‘lip’ at the edge of the road, so pay attention!
  • There really are cows on the road between the lower forest and the park gate (before you reach the national park). Watch for them. Especially at night they like to hang out on the road. The asphalt holds the heat.
Moo. We saw a surprising number of cows and calfs. These on the other side of the guardrail. Plenty right up by the road also.
  • Sunset is soooo romantic. Last night we were standing next to a couple. Next thing we knew, he had a little box with an engagement ring and was proposing to his now-fiancee. It was so romantic!
My son snapped a picture of this sunset proposal. So sweet. Yes, they dropped some cards in the shuffle (but did get them before finishing up).

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Maui’s own German Bakery!

Some of you may know that I (Cara) grew up in Austria. It’s been a while, but one of the things I really miss is a good grainy loaf of bread. While Costco has a decent loaf in their bakery section, it doesn’t come close to the Austrian/German Bakery of my childhood.

I remember my dad going for walks twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) to the bakery in our town and picking up fresh buns for breakfast. I’m not sure if it was because he loves fresh bread or because he wanted an early morning walk, but Tuesdays and Thursdays were my favorite breakfast days – fresh buns with homemade jam. Wow that brings back memories.

A few years ago the Maui Bread Company opened in Dolphin Plaza along South Kihei Road. It is a cute little bakery with great baking, but not the Austrian/German breads and buns I love. This week my neighbors told me the Maui Bread Company had reopened and…. that they were baking German bread. Had I checked it out and was it authentic?

Well….. yesterday (in the interest of research) Sig and I went for a walk down to Dolphin Plaza to the Maui Bread Company. The bakery still looks quite like it always did. Of course, it has the obligatory Covid plastic protective panels now and a sign at the door allowing only 4 people at a time…. but there they were – fresh buns, fresh loafs of German bread and even pretzels. A lady approached me to offer assistance and I detected a slight German accent. Next thing we knew, Christine and I were chatting in German, getting acquainted and hearing all about their journey in buying this little bakery.

Christine and her husband bought the Maui Bread Company in January 2020, then closed due to Covid in March. They’ve recently reopened and Christine’s husband, a master baker from Germany, just started baking German breads early December. It’s sourdough breads, all natural (possibly organic) ingredients, and some gluten-free.

Honestly – this German bakery made my week! The buns were amazing, the spelt bread fantastic. I do believe we will resurrect my dad’s tradition of walking to the bakery for fresh buns and bread. Once you’ve had it, you just can’t beat it!

By the way, yes, they are continuing to bake many of the goodies the former owners baked, including gluten free and vegan options.

What else can be found in Dolphin Plaza

Dolphin Plaza is a two storey stripmall that sits perpendicular to South Kihei Road, across the street from Kamaole I beach. My favorite stores there are….

  • Maui Gelato (get the lilikoi gelato if they have it)
  • a gift shop
  • the Maui Bread Co
  • Cafe @ la Plage – my friend Beth Cooper painted/decorated Cafe @ la Plage this summer (check it out!)
  • Koiso Sushi – Maui’s best (and most exclusive) tiny sushi restaurant (you need reservations weeks in advance).
  • a fish and chips place
  • a number of other restaurants, a nail place and of course Pizza Hut!

Please note, due to Covid and the severe drop in customers (due to the contraction of tourism), many businesses have scaled back their hours of operation. Do check to avoid disappointment.

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Another great Kamaole Sands 2-206 review

It’s been a year…. we’ve been thankful to have a steadier flow of guests since October’s reopening of tourism with the introduction of the pre-travel Covid test.

Our most recent guests at our Kamaole Sands 2-206 condo left us a really nice review on the booking platform (we advertise on Airbnb and VRBO) and guest book entry at the condo.

We realize travel during Covid-19 is more complicated than it used to be. We appreciate those willing to travel and are so happy to have you stay at our condos!

Mahalo!

“Wonderful space, clean and bright! The condo upgrade/remodel was well done, so comfortable in the space & location was very safe! The two (2) bathrooms is this one-bedroom is definitely nice to have, earns this place extra points! The space was well equipped with all the necessary items you’d need from kitchen tools to boogie boards and beach chairs.

The complex itself was impressively very well maintained, so clean from the gym to the swimming pool area & the grounds are beautifully manicured.

You are directly across from Kamaole Beach III, literally you walk across the street, too easy to catch the sun rise or set. Compared to Kamaole Beach I and II, Kamaole Beach III was so much nicer, a no crowds beach with plenty of room to social distance, sand so soft + clean and the ocean swimming will not disappoint and the best part – there’s a life-guard who actually pays attention!

The host/s were always quick to reply and ready to assist when I had questions! I would absolutely recommend this condo without reservation.”

Dec 2020 guestbook entry
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The Canadians are back!

Late March 2020 the border between Canada and the US was closed and Canadian airlines Westjet and AirCanada cancelled all Hawaii flights. Covid was upon us all and noone knew what to expect next.

The airlines have been teasing customers with flights this fall, only to cancel them due to the persistent 14 day mandatory quarantine upon arrival to Hawaii. Mid-October the State started the pre-travel test exemption, but the approved tests were only available on the US mainland. As of December 17 there are now Canadian testing options and we are thrilled! Hawaii is after all the closest warm-weather destination for Canadians on the West Coast (though still a 6+ hour flight away).

For much more pre-travel test information please FIRST check the official State of Hawaii Covid Travel website (note, things change regularly, so check back often). Then (if you are traveling from Canada), check with your airline for further testing information. At this time AirCanada and Westjet both run the official pre-travel test program for Canadians traveling to Hawaii.

We were driving to Kahului yesterday afternoon as I saw a Westjet flight come in. I double checked my flight tracker app (I use the free Flightradar24 app on my phone) and sure enough – it was coming from Vancouver. I then googled more information, turns out it was the FIRST Westjet flight arriving on Maui since late March! Welcome back!

About half hour later I saw another plane arriving – Flightradar showed me it was Air Canada – their very first Covid-era direct flight from Calgary.

Mandatory Quarantine on return to Canada

As Canadians will know, there is currently a mandatory 14 day quarantine for all arrivals to Canada. However, Alberta currently has a pilot-program to avoid the mandatory quarantine. I am hoping BC will follow suit. Sure would be nice to go see our Canadian family again! It’s been a long year….

State of Hawaii Mandatory Quarantine Change

As I mentioned, things change from time to time. This week the State of Hawaii officially shortened the mandatory quarantine from 14 to ten days. This applies to all arrivals who do not have a Hawaii State approved negative Covid test in hand on arrival in Hawaii. Please check their website for much more information.

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Upcountry Christmas Shopping

Last weekend my neighbor and I headed upcountry to a pop-up Christmas market at Kula Farms. In days of Covid we weren’t sure what to expect, but we both had some shopping to do, wanted to support local and needed some girl-time. We had a great day!

Kula Country Farms and the pop-up Christmas Market

the flower stand

We started off at Kula Country Farms. There is some road parking, but you could also park in the pumpkin patch field if you trust your vehicle’s off-roading capabilities. There were 25+ vendors on property. Everyone (business owners and customers) wore masks, hand sanitizers everywhere, everyone making the best of the new normal. I picked up some hand-made soaps, locally made masks, some veggies at the farm stand and the best coffee – one with honey and coconut syrup. I’m normally a ‘black coffee gal’, but this was a worth-while exception!

Kula Botanical Gardens

Kula Botanical Gardens coffee
Coffee grown at the US’ highest elevation (3600 ft above sea level)

We headed back to our car, sanitized, and headed to our second stop – the Kula Botanical Gardens. Originally the plan had been to buy freshly cut Maui Christmas trees, however we knew they had completely sold out the weekend before (their first weekend open).

We checked out their gift shop and I picked up a pack of their home grown/roasted coffee. A few years ago the owner of Kula Botanical Gardens told me their coffee was grown at the highest elevation within the US. I remember from last time, it is great coffee!

We will save a walk through the 10 acre gardens for another day.

Kula Market Place

Next on the agenda, we drove up to Kula Market Place (located at the Kula Lodge). This is a neat gift shop featuring local artisans. Art, crafts, clothing, jewelry, quilts, food etc. If you’re upcountry, do check it out! My neighbor found the missing items on her Christmas shopping list and then it was time for lunch…

Kula Bistro

my mahi mahi sandwich! So delicious!

We headed back down Haleakala and back-tracked a bit to Kula Bistro. They are known especially for their desert case. The restaurant had indoor and outdoor seating, all subject to the social distancing guidelines. Maui County has new restaurant rules. Even when seated you have to keep your mask on until you eat or drink, replacing it when finished.

On a side note, bars are currently closed through December 26 to help contain the increase in positive case numbers on Maui.

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Lahaina in late November

Last weekend we headed up to Lahaina for a family outing. The given excuse was to buy soccer cleats at Adidas, but really, we just needed to get out and do something as a family. We hadn’t been to Lahaina since July. At that time only a quarter of shops had been open and frankly it was depressing.

Here we are 1 1/2 months into Hawaii having reopened for tourism with the pre-travel test option, and I am happy to report that places are reopening. Yes, there are still many empty shops and boarded up windows, but many businesses are trying to make a go of it. Our tourism numbers aren’t nearly where they used to be, but we are thankful for those who have returned.

Just how many visitors are arriving?

I’ve spent my early morning looking at some of the online statistics. It’s really quite fascinating. Did you know, at this time Maui is getting roughly the same number of daily arriving visitors as Oahu? Interesting since typically Oahu (particularly Waikiki) is the most well-known Hawaiian island.

Here is the arrivals table from December 3, 2020 which gives you a snapshot of that day’s arrivals. (Hawaii Tourism Authority for more daily stats). By contrast, in 2019 Maui was averaging 7000 visitor arrivals/day (so we are approximately at 25% right now compared to last year).

Hawaii arrivals statistics for December 3, 2020

You will note Lihue (Kauai) has next to no arrivals. As of December 2, 2020 that County is taking a temporary break from the pre-travel test program. All arrivals will need to do a mandatory 14 day quarantine no matter what their test result. Not surprisingly this has brought their arrivals to a screeching halt from average arrivals of 500-700/day in November.

Did you know?

A number of years ago a friend told me the cost of rents on Front Street. At the time had several family members who owned jewelry businesses on front street. He said typical rent for a Front Street store was $30,000/month. It blew my mind. Just now I found a listing for the former Na Hoku store at 924 sq ft on Front Street for $26/sq ft. That’s $24,024 plus tax/month (never mind your other costs). How many customers do you need to bring in to make those numbers work? No wonder some of these businesses are slow to reopen or permanently gone.

lahaina
my Volcano Burger at Teddy’s Bigger Burgers was delicious

Teddy’s Bigger Burgers

We tried a new place for dinner. In our soccer cleats quest, we ended up at the Lahaina Gateway Center which used to have a shoe store (no more). There we did find Teddy’s Bigger Burgers. I’d heard about their amazing burgers, so we gave them a try. My volcano burger was great!

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Finally – Hawaii State approved Covid tests for Canadians!

Exciting news from the Hawaii State Governor today. They have announced new testing options that will allow Canadians to fly directly to Hawaii!

On October 15th the State of Hawaii started allowing visitors to present a pre-travel Covid test to avoid the mandatory 14 day quarantine. To be clear, this test must be taken no more than 72 hours prior to the last leg of your flight to Hawaii (if it’s a multi-leg flight). The catch is that you have to have the test done at one of the ‘trusted testing partners’. Originally these partners were only in US locations, then it was expanded to include Japanese partners. And now, ta-da, finally we have Canadian options, which are specifically through Air Canada and Westjet, the two Canadian airlines that fly to Hawaii.

Both Westjet and AirCanada will be posting all the information to their website in the coming days, so please do check there for details. Note, very importantly, please study the Hawaii Covid Travel website thoroughly to ensure you have the correct information (and note, it is in flux and changing – so check back). You will also need a Safe Travels account.

What about quarantine on return to Canada?

Yes, as Canadians know, there is currently a mandatory 14 day quarantine for all returning to Canada. There is however currently a pilot program at Calgary International Airport (YYC) which allows those returning to severely shorten the quarantine. Note, at this time the physical border between Canada and US is closed. Canadians may fly into the US, however under most circumstances Americans are not allowed to fly into Canada.

What countries are next?

The Governor just mentioned South Korea is in talks with the State of Hawaii to offer testing options also. New Zealand and Australia may be on the horizon, but per the governor, ‘the problem is, Hawaii is part of the United States and many countries have shut down travel to the United States’. So we’ll see what happens.

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Changes – you must have your pre-travel test results prior to traveling

On October 15th the State of Hawaii started a pre-travel test program. Travelers have the option to skip the mandatory 14 day quarantine by getting a negative Covid test no more than 72 hours prior to the last leg of their flight to Hawaii.

You have to take the test with one of the State’s ‘trusted testing partners’ in order for the State to accept it. A friend’s daughter just arrived with a wrong test. Additionally she didn’t receive her result (negative) until after her arrival. As she took the wrong test, she has to quarantine for fourteen days regardless of the fact that she is negative. Bummer.

The big change is…. Starting Tuesday November 24th, ALL RESULTS MUST BE IN HAND PRIOR TO BOARDING YOUR FLIGHT. The State wants you to stay home (not travel) should you test positive. They do not want you to arrive and then find out that you are positive. Should you fly to Hawaii and not have your results (either uploaded to the Safe Travels App or in hand), as of Tuesday November 24 you will be subject to the mandatory 14 day quarantine, even if you receive your results after arrival. This new policy applies to all domestic and international flights. Per the governor’s news conference this change is due to the increases in Covid numbers on the US mainland but also worldwide.

The Governor stated that 94% of travelers arrived with their tests. However, there have been 40+ who have arrived and then gotten positive results after arrival. Note, the State of Hawaii currently has the lowest per capita incidence of Covid19 in the country.

For much more information about the State of Hawaii’s pre-travel test program, please carefully study the State’s Covid Travel website. And please check it regularly – details have been changing from time to time.

What do you do if your results don’t arrive on time?

Canadian airlines Air Canada and Westjet both had reps on the State of Hawaii Governor’s press conference today. Both stated that should the results not be back on time, travelers could change their flights free of charge. The Lieutenant Governor thought the US airlines would have similar policies.

My question to that is – by bumping your flights back by a day or two, would you not need to re-test as you would no longer be in the 72 hour window?

Please, if you choose to travel at this time (and we would love to have you), make sure you purchase Cancel for Any Reason Trip Insurance which specifically covers Covid19.

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Changes at Ocean Vodka

The other day I went for a drive to Ocean Vodka (Hawaii Sea Spirits – Organic Farm and Distillery) to see what’s new. Truthfully I’ve been wanting a bottle of their Fy gin which we discovered a year ago. I haven’t seen it at any of my usual liquor shopping places (Safeway, Longs, Costco). From what I could tell online, they were open, so I headed on up.

Note, many stores and restaurants are on limited hours these days – if they are open at all. So don’t rely on what used to be but rather sleuth for up-to-date opening hours and times.

What a difference a year makes – the first thing I noticed was that they have relocated the parking lot. The former gift shop has been repurposed. Instead they have built a brand new cluster of buildings on the far end of the new parking lot overlooking the beautiful lawn and bicoastal views.

The gift shop has its own building (the two friendly employees got me situated with my Fy gin). Excitingly there is a new restaurant/bar building with a large lanai for outdoor dining. It didn’t look quite open yet, but I think what a wonderful addition to the property! I know they’ve hosted events on their lawn before, this gives them more options.

Curious about Hawaii Sea Spirits?

This is a local company that started out a few years ago with Ocean Vodka which comes in a very distinctive blue round bottle. Since then they’ve branched out to three varieties of organic Kula Rum – clear, dark and toasted coconut. About a year ago we discovered their latest product, Fy Gin. For much more information, do take one of their informative tours. All their drinks are produced from local organic sugar cane. You know – organic. So it must be good for you, right? 🙂

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Important – Maui County Covid rules

We are one week into having the pre-travel test option for arrivals in the State of Hawaii (check here for more info). There have been hiccups and bumps along the road, however, it is wonderful to have this as an option to avoid the mandatory 14 day quarantine. Of course, this doesn’t mean anyone is exempt from the Covid rules.

What are the rules?

The Maui County Covid rules aren’t that hard.

  • Wear a mask when in public (ages 5 and up) – unless you are doing strenuous activity or in the water. Yes, we have to wear a mask on the beach and when walking. Many have not been doing this – the State is stepping up enforcement.
  • Social Distance six feet or more.
  • Wash your hands and/or sanitize often.
  • Indoor/outdoor gatherings of up to ten people allowed subject to social distancing.
  • Stay home and isolate if you are sick. Get tested.

Check out this graphic from Maui County with their new Arrive Healthy, Stay Healthy campaign. Maui County is offering complimentary post-arrival tests (only to those who did the pre-travel test). You cannot do an on-island test to opt out of quarantine.

How is it going?

We are starting to see a few more people on island. Sig and I walked the Wailea beach walk again yesterday (we do this twice a week) and saw a few visitors at the beaches. There were a few people in lounge chairs on the Four Seasons property and we have seen a little activity at the Grand Wailea, but unclear if they are open yet.

Wailea Beach fronting the Grand Wailea

We saw a few people across the street from Fred’s Mexican (Kamaole 2 beach), sitting on the wall watching sunset. It has been 7 months since we last saw that.

Some residents remain skeptical about allowing visitors back. Others are hugely relieved as they hope to be able to work again after all this time. We are hopeful people will obey the Covid rules and that Maui County can avoid an outbreak. On that note, Lanai is currently struggling with an outbreak. It appears it may have been a traveling construction worker at one of the hotels.

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