Maui, Hawaii

Category: life on Maui

The Final Days of Maui’s Sugar Cane

For Maui it’s been a week of lasts. The last of Maui’s sugar cane harvested. The last time the smoke stacks burn. The last sugar cane shipment departing Kahului Harbor. For many this has been an emotional week.

Here is a video of the ‘last harvest’ ceremony, followed by the unloading of the last wagon of sugar cane at the factory.

Sugar cane farming used to be the main industry in Hawaii. On Maui, HC&S started in 1870 when two missionary sons from the Alexander and Baldwin families started their very own sugar cane farm. The farm grew, grew and merged with various other farms, until finally having grown to 36,000 acres in size. Many immigrants were brought to the Hawaiian islands to work in the sugar cane fields: Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Filipinos etc. These families have been here for generations, and sugar cane is a huge part of their family heritage. While modern farming is a lot less labor intensive than it once was, there are still over 700 Maui employees who have or are losing their jobs due to the factory shut down.

Maui's sugar cane
There is no smoke coming from the smoke stacks at the Sugar Cane Factory these days.

Why the shut-down? There are of course many factors that play into it. Did you know that Maui’s sugar mill is the last remaining on all the Hawaiian islands? Between depressed commodity prices, increasing competition and environmental concerns about sugar cane burning etc, it’s been a tough business.

What is next?

So what’s next? Check out this video! HC&S have said they are looking to go into diversified agriculture. More recently they have said they are currently growing some test crops, seeing what may do well here on Maui.

For now, the Maui’s sugar cane fields have been harvested. Most have not been worked up (this helps keep the dust down), but the irrigation is shut off. Slowly the cane is re-growing. We are all curious to see what will happen next!

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It never rains in Kihei!

If you’ve been watching the weather forecast, you’ll have noticed that we’re having cooler than normal weather here in Hawaii, and winter storms and flash flood watches. And if you’ve been here this past week…. well, you know how I say ‘it never rains in Kihei?’ We’ve had four rainy days this past week alone….

I promise you, it rains a lot less in Kihei than the rest of Maui. We average 8-11 inches of rain a year, which is not much. Usually we will get two or three decent rain days a year with a few showers thrown in for good measure. Why is this? The North shore and the Road to Hana get piles of rain… Kihei and Wailea are in Haleakala’s rain shadow. The clouds dump their precipitation on the other side, by the time they get to us, there is nothing left. Kihei is usually pretty brown except where irrigated. So yes, those of us who live here are excited about the rain and the dust it keeps down.

Is it miserable? Well, today for instance the sky is grey, it’s drizzling (West Coast folks would calls this liquid sunshine) and it’s in the mid-70s. You can still wear shorts and t-shirts. But please don’t go in the ocean during the rain and stay out until the water is not murky. Here is a blog I wrote a while ago with some rainy day ideas.

Forecasters will warn about flash-floods. We can have these when Maui gets heavy rain. It doesn’t necessarily have to be raining where you are, but can be raining heavily upcountry with the rain washing down the mountain towards the ocean. While this is usually not a big deal in South Maui, it most definitely is along the Road to Hana where they can see rock and mudslides and even road washouts.

Also, flash flooding can be a big deal if you’re out hiking, with water levels suddenly rising, you can end up stuck with no safe way back to your car.

If there are warnings about flash floods, do be careful and reconsider your travel options.

Where to get good reliable weather forecasts for Maui?

The County of Maui routinely issues warnings. Watch them and read them carefully – usually they do not cover the entire island.

MauiNow is another good source for Maui specific weather information.

Enjoy the overcast cooler weather. After all, it (almost) never rains in Kihei!

Maui County Ocean and Water Safety Video

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How about giving the ukulele a try?

Did you know, the ukulele has its origins from Portugal? Over 130 years ago Portuguese sugar cane workers brought machetes (instruments, not knives) to Hawaii. A few tweeks and modifications later and Hawaii’s ukulele was born. It became a hugely popular instrument as it is small, portable and with four strings, easy to learn. By the way, ukulele is pronounced oo-kuu-leh-le (oo as in too, not you-kuu-leh-le).

At the local elementary school, kids take group lessons starting in second grade. It’s easier on the ears than recorders, trust me! They remain a popular instrument, especially with men. I am sure you have heard of one of Hawaii’s most legendary singers IZ who accompanied himself on the ukulele (Somewhere over the Rainbow). Also, check out Oahu’s Jake Shimabukuro.

A tenor (26 inch) from Mele Ukulele, and a cheap 21 inch ‘ABC store ukulele’

If you are in the market for an instrument, you are in luck. Here on Maui you can find them everywhere. Try the ABC store or Whalers General Store for a cheap instrument. Or, if you are looking for a better quality or perhaps even hand-made ukulele, check out Mele Ukulele at their Shops at Wailea or Wailuku stores! They have instruments for all budgets and from our experience great customer service, from helping you choose your perfect ukulele to doing repairs. Yes, they service all their instruments. Remember to get a case to protect your instrument! You can even get an electric pick-up installed so everyone can better hear you practice (if you have an amp, I guess)!

Free ukulele group lessons!

On the fence about ukuleles? Mele Ukulele offers FREE group lessons at the Shops at Wailea every Monday from 5:30-6:30pm at the center courtyard (you may need to stop by the store to borrow an instrument). Learn how to play and how this instrument is part of Hawaiian culture!

Want more? Every 2nd and 4th Wednesday there are additional lessons as part of Wailea Wednesdays’ Ukulele Mix Plate program, also in the courtyard.

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Frequently asked security questions

I thought it might be helpful to address some of your security questions. If you have any others you’d like me to address, or if you have first hand experience with any of these (and better answers), please let me know.

This post is not to scare you. Maui is a very safe place to visit. But, please use common sense, just as you would at home.

What do you do with your phone and keys when you go to the beach?
I love sunset at the beach!

Is it safe to just leave them with your towel? Honestly, don’t take anything of value to the beach. If you must bring your phone (I know, it doubles as our camera, book, etc), make sure someone stays with your stuff when you go in the water. Or, pick up a water proof case, either at home or at the ABC store. I know of people who have used ziploc bags to protect their phones when going paddle boarding. Would I? Probably not… If you are staying at one of our condos, we have keyless entry, so it’s just the car key you need to worry about.

Is it safe to leave valuables in the rental car?

Would you leave valuables in the car where you live? Probably not. If you must, maybe because you can’t check into the condo til 3 or 4pm or because you have a late flight and couldn’t get a late check-out, place everything in the trunk of the car and do not open the trunk to get things out (in case anyone is casing your vehicle). If you are renting a jeep, there is no trunk, everything is visible (and accessible if it’s a soft-top). In six years of living here, we haven’t had a vehicle break-in, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

A few years ago I wrote this post on ‘What to do about late check-out at your condo?‘ Have a read. Did you know, most flights to Canada and a surprising number of flights back to the mainland leave in the evening? Check-out at our condos is at 11 AM.

Is it safe to leave valuables in the condo?

Generally yes. But, know that there are others who by necessity have access to the condo. The owner, the property manager (in the case of our condos, we are the owner and property manager), the cleaning lady and the manager of the complex you are staying at (they need to have access in case of emergencies and for the quarterly pest-control treatments). If you are staying at our condos, we have personal safes for you to use (I have an override key should you forget the code or the battery randomly dies). Otherwise, I recommend just placing your valuables in a drawer or at least out of sight. It’s happened a few times where I’ve had to go into one of our ground-floor condos (with guest consent) to repair something, and seen the blinds wide open and laptops, ipads, phones and once even a wallet just laying out. When staying in a ground floor condo especially, please don’t do that. It’s asking for a break-in. At minimum close the blinds when you leave.

Is it safe to walk at night?

You may have noticed, it is really dark on Maui at night. Why is this? Power is super expensive here and street lighting isn’t cheap. On the plus side, it makes for some great star viewing. Generally the tourist areas especially are quite safe to be walking at night. But use common sense. I also strongly recommend taking a flashlight. A few years ago I didn’t see the edge of the sidewalk – ouch. I was walking with crutches for over a month.

All in all, Maui is a pretty safe place to be. But like most places, we also have drug and homeless problems and crimes of opportunity do happen. A little common sense will help you have a great vacation – I’d hate for you to have a negative experience because of something preventable.

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Carving pineapples

How was your Halloween? I hope you had a fun time! This year we kept with our tradition of carving pineapples. Yes, we do have pumpkins here – even a pumpkin patch – but pineapples are cheaper. And better to eat!

carving pineapples
Carving a pineapple

Years ago when we still lived in Canada and were preparing for a Maui vacation, a friend gave us one of these pineapple cutters. At the time yesterday u could buy them in the produce section.


It is pretty slick for carving pineapples. Cut the top off the pineapple, line up the disk and begin twisting it into the fruit. The hard core ends up in the center tube as you hollow out the fruit. Depending on the size of the pineapple you can feel the ridge of the disk, or perhaps you will cut right through the pineapple skin (if it’s a smaller one especially). When you think you are near the bottom, you just lift the twirly pineapple out with the handle.

carving pineapples
Our carved pineapples

Set a candle in them and your house will smell like pineapple. Yum. For trick-or-treating I set these guys on the stairs leading up to our front door. Better to use battery operated candles for that, in case someone knocks them over.

carving pineapples
Pineapple chicken for dinner

What to do with all that pineapple? I tried a new recipe for crockpot pineapple chicken. I thought the family would like it, but our picky eaters disagreed. Ah well, can’t please everyone. Don’t feel sorry for them – they did feast on candy later on…

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What are these colorful tents?

Recently the Hale Kamaole condo complex was draped in bright circus colored tents. What is that all about? Is the circus in town? One word – termites!

These are the tropics and from time to time most wood buildings will be attacked by a particularly aggressive little critter. Termites in Hawaii are known to be one of the most aggressive of their species. They live in colonies. While they don’t harm humans, they like wood and any material containing cellulose. These days homes must be built with treated lumber, but there is no guarantee termites won’t attack it either. A number of years ago one of our neighbors had to completely redo their kitchen (their house is now only 10 years old) as termites were eating the wood cabinets. Yikes.

How do you get rid of termites?

Once it’s determined that a building has a termite infestation, the pest control company will schedule a special treatment. The entire building is tented (in Maui they use brightly colored tarps) and then fumigated and left to sit for a day or two. Afterwards the tarp is removed, the building aired out and the owners/management company cleans. The fumigation will kill any bugs that were hiding in the building at the time of tenting. However, the pest control cannot guarantee that termites won’t fly in the very next day and begin their wood feast again.

Is it dangerous to stay in a place that has been fumigated? Not to my knowledge, so long as it has been properly aired out and cleaned. Can you just leave the termites? Nope… they will destroy the entire building if left unchecked. Should you avoid treated buildings? Nope – given time every wood constructed building will be treated for termites. Such is life in the tropics.

What kind of bugs and critters do you have in your neck of the woods? At least we don’t have snakes on Maui!

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Upcoming events on Maui

There’s always something going on on Maui. Here are a few events that caught my eye. Check them out!

Sept 16-17th – Chinese Moon Festival at the Wo Hing Museum on Front Street in Lahaina. This event runs from 10am-7pm on both days (free event!)

Sept 30-Oct 16th – Boeing Boeing at the historic Iao Theater in Wailuku (Friday, Saturday evenings, Sunday matinees)

Starry Night 2016Sept 30th – Starry Night opening gala night from for the annual St John’s festival. From 6-8pm, tickets available for $45, ages 21+

Oct 1st – 34th annual Kula Festival at St John’s Church – live music, food, crafts, kids games, crafters, quilt show, auction etc.

Oct 1st – Ukulele Workshop at the MACC – this workshop is geared to beginning to intermediate players. Bring your ukulele, paper and pencil. Must be able to play basic chords (C, F and G7). Attendees will participate in the next day’s Ukulele Festival. (free event!)

Oct 2nd – Ukulele Festival at the MACC from 1-6pm. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon on the lawn with ukulele music. Bring a blanket or chairs. Free event, food, Hawaiian-made art and crafts available to purchase! Ukulele door prizes!

Oct 6th – annual Maui Fair Parade (starting at 4:30pm). The parade starts at the UH Maui campus, marching up Ka’ahumanu Avenue to the War Memorial Stadium.

eventsOct 6-9th – 94th annual Maui Fair. Rides, livestock, flower, art exhibitions, pie and chili eating competitions and much more. Check out the website for more information.

Oct 13th – Air Supply concert at the MACC. What? I’m actually not kidding – they are doing one performance on Thursday Oct 13th (yes, Maui gets the mid-week dates while Oahu usually has the weekends). Check it out – indoors at the Castle Theater!

Not quite what you are looking for? Check out the Calendar Maui website, one of the most comprehensive websites of what’s going on on Maui.

Of course, you could also just go and hit the beach 🙂

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Hurricane Madeline and Hurricane Lester

There are two hurricanes headed towards Hawaii. Hurricane Madeline is scheduled to arrive Wednesday/Thursday while Hurricane Lester will be here for the weekend.

It’s hurricane season in the Central Pacific (June through November). Hey Cara, I thought El Nino was over and this was supposed to be an easier summer. Yeah, I thought so too.

Hurricane Madeline has now been upgraded to a Category Four storm and is headed for Big Island, currently showing to veer off to the South of us. It is scheduled to hit Big Island Wednesday, which means it could be impacting us on Maui then or by Thursday.

hurricane madeline
Hurricane Madeline’s current track

She is closely followed by Hurricane Lester (currently still in the Eastern Pacific), which is currently a Category Three storm and scheduled to arrive in Hawaii Friday/Saturday. Note, this storm is still a ways off and a lot can happen between now and then.

hurricane madeline
Hurricane Lester’s current track


What should you expect?
The past few years all our hurricane warnings have ended up being non-events in Kihei area. Yes, we have gotten humidity, but rain and wind have been negligible. The Big Island usually blocks and tears storms apart, with the high mountains messing with their wind patterns. Big Island has been dumped on and seen some damage the past few years. I in no way want to minimize this. But while we feel very badly for them, we are hoping the systems change course or see a similar thing happening again.
In the mean time: be prepared
1. check the hurricane information in the binder in your condo (if you are staying in one of our condos).
2. be prepared by filling the rental car with gas, making sure you have water to last you several days and food supplies. Often in a storm power can get knocked out and in a bad situation, it can take a few days for it to be restored (make sure all devices are charged, check the batteries in the flashlight – bedroom closet, let us know if you need batteries, we have lots). Our water treatment facility on Maui is located in the flood zone, so that can also be an issue. Emergency people say to have at least a gallon of water per person per day for several days on hand, so you can drink and wash. (fill jugs and pots and go buy some gallon jugs if need be). Check that you have enough food to get you through a few days in case you can’t make it to a grocery store (or they are closed). Have some cash on hand (again in case of power outage).
3. stay out of the ocean once the storm hits and for several days after. Not only do we get a lot of run-off from the islands when it rains a lot, but these big storms can change the dynamics within the ocean (currents etc) and it increases the risk of shark attacks. Best to just enjoy the ocean from shore.
4. stay informed. While the main news on TV focuses largely on Oahu, you can get Maui specific news online: MauiNow and MauiWatch on facebook are good sources.
5. just before the hurricane is scheduled to hit, bring in all the lanai furniture and secure (close) the windows.
If you are staying at one of our condos, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.
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How to treat a sunburn

We recently returned from a family vacation off-Maui. After several weeks away, we had lost most of our suntan! You know what that means when you get back to Maui! Yup – a sunburn!

On our first beach day back I burned horribly. The kids were wearing water shirts and were just fine. Too bad I am too vain to wear them too.

We have a collection of sunscreen in our cupboard (I am not endorsing any of these, though I do like the Neutrogena Sport Face).

I know many tourists burn badly when they come to Maui. Maui is located at 20.7 degrees latitude, the sun is much more intense here than the US mainland and Canada. Particularly for the first few days of enjoying the wonderful Hawaiian sun, you need to make sure you heavily lather on that sunscreen (and renew it every hour or two). If you have rented a convertible (those Mustang convertibles are quite popular), BEWARE. That’s a sunburn waiting to happen right there!

A few sunburn remedies

I’ve polled some of my friends as to their best sunburn remedies. I would love to hear your favorites. Of course, the best thing would be to actually avoid the sunburn altogether. That is another topic.

A few sunburn remedies in my bathroom

Aloe Vera  ~ I was surprised how many of my friends use aloe.

  • pick an aloe leaf and apply the juice directly to the burn. Of course, you are traveling and will most likely not find an aloe plant you can pick.
  • aloe gel – I asked, like the BananaBoat Aloe Gel? While one friend uses that approach (she keeps it in the fridge so it’s nice and cold), apparently there is an aloe gel you can get at a health food store (Whole Foods or maybe even Hawaiian Moons here in Kihei)
  • aloe cream or ointment  – check out Maui Vera at the ABC Store (or Amazon).

Coconut Oil ~ Coconut Oil seems to be really popular with locals – I’ve heard of people using it as hair conditioner, moisturizer, eye makeup remover etc. I’ve never tried it! One of my friends adds several drops of peppermint oil to hers (again, something you get at the health foods store).

Cool moist Towels ~ after you’ve burned, put cool moist towels on the burned areas to help pull the heat out of the skin.

Moisturize ~ we all know what happens after a sunburn… the peel! Moisturizing helps minimize the peeling skin. Ideally use a thick unscented moisturizer like Cetaphil.

Stay out of the sun ~ I know, you’re on vacation, but do give your skin a chance to recover.

Have you ever had an itchy sunburn?

This happened to me – about 48 hours after the sunburn it got incredibly itchy. I admit to self-diagnosing rather than checking with a doctor, but according to this website, it may be ‘Hell’s Itch’. Ouch.

Advil ~ this has been my best friend this week, I do confess.

Vitamin A&D Cream ~ one of the online forums mentioned this. I picked some up at Target, it’s a petroleum jelly and is quite soothing on my sunburn.

From a landlord’s perspective (yes, I wear that hat too)…. please don’t apply ointments and creams and then lay down on the sheets or sit on the couch…. they do stain and ruin the sheets.

Do you have a favorite sunburn remedy? Please share it! A special thank you to my friends who contributed ideas for this blog post.

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Driving updates on Maui

We’ve returned from our vacation – it was a busy but fun trip, exploring new places and visiting friends and family. We loved it. But it sure is great to be home again. Coming back to Maui – what’s new? What’s changed?

Here are some driving updates!
It’s back to school here on Maui.

Mind those school zones! That’s right, 20 mph is the speed limit in school zones. Make sure you don’t get caught in a speed trap, or worse yet, run over any kids! Public schools are back in session as of August 1st after a long (2 month) summer break – yes, the kids got out end of May.

The Airport Access Road is open.

Well, kind of. The airport area is a construction zone. You now want to take Airport Access Road instead of Dairy Road to drive to the airport. If you take Dairy you will be guided into a detour that takes you to the Airport Access Road. As you cruise down the new section, you will see construction to your left – that is the new rental car terminal. They are still moving dirt around – it will be at least a year or two til it’s done. Take the new Airport Access Road to drive to the airport, then drive past the airport, and loop around to get to the (still old) rental car drop-off/pick-ups.

If you are just arriving on Maui, get your rental car as in the past, and continue down Dairy Road til you connect with Airport Access Road. Turn right and immediately get into the left lane to turn left on Mokulele Hwy to drive to South Maui. If you are going to West Maui, just stay on the Airport Access Road which becomes your highway to the West.

The Mokulele Hwy is being re-surfaced – again.
road news
the newly resurfaced Mokulele Hwy

Note my enthusiasm. Did it need resurfacing? Nope. It was perfectly fine. There are many worse roads on Maui that could have used a facelift or all-out overhaul. The road between Kahului and Kihei is a federal highway. I assume they have to resurface it when the money is scheduled, otherwise it disappears into the great abyss never to be seen again. The perfectly good road is being fixed, the normally painful speed limit (45 mph) is now even slower at 35 mph between North Kihei and the Humane Society light. Last year they repaved from the Humane Society into Kahului, so this completes the project. Thanks tax dollars!

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