Tag: adventure

What to expect at a Sunrise On Haleakala

Our family has lived on Maui for ten years now, and believe it or not, I had never been to see sunrise on Haleakala. There have been a few reasons – but mainly having young children and my general dislike of crowds.

Those two blocks are no longer a factor – the kids are older, in fact I was able to bribe one of them to come along with me this morning. And as for crowds…. Haleakala National Park has limited visitors with a sunrise registration system a few years ago. And now with Covid, the park has further reduced those numbers.

What to bring before leaving the house/condo

  • winter clothes, wind breaker… you mainland folk may be used to standing in near freezing temperatures for an hour or two (don’t forget about wind), but apparently my blood has thinned from living on Maui. I was so cold – but loving every minute of it!
  • your wallet (credit card and ID, credit card only $30 for park admission, cash for Komoda’s donuts – they have a $10 minimum for credit card purchases)
  • a print out of your Haleakala sunrise reservation
  • drinks, snacks
  • enough gas to get there and back
  • Note: the last place to purchase anything on the way up would be a 24/7 gas station or perhaps McDonald’s in Kahului

Our journey to Sunrise on Haleakala

This morning we left our home in Kihei at around 2:20AM. Right off the bat, we saw a deer right next to the Piilani Hwy by the Kihei police station. I’m sure glad it stayed off the road as we passed. There was little traffic besides a black SUV also headed to sunrise.

We saw someone walking along the Veterans Hwy (formerly known as Mokulele, taking us towards Kahului). He also thankfully stayed on the bike path.

We hit our only red light at the turnoff onto Haleakala Hwy by King Kekaulike school in Pukalani. At this point the highway becomes a two lane road (with exception of a one lane bridge you come upon pretty quickly). It’s a gorgeous drive by day. As we passed through a grove of trees just before Kula Lodge area, we saw a large bird (I think an owl) flying in front of us. For a moment I worried he’d fly right into my windshield, but he changed direction, picked up speed and took off into the trees.

A little past Kula Lodge you follow the signs and turn left and at this point the roads get pretty wind-y as you really go up in elevation. Just past the tree line and past the second cattle gate, we came across a beef cow and her calf. Yes, we have in the past encountered them even laying down on the road. Definitely watch for them.

We reached the National Park gate which is just above the 6500 ft elevation mark when you come to a forested area). I picked up an annual park pass ($55 vs the $30 for a 3 day vehicle pass). We will certainly come up at least once more this year making it worth it. Note, if you have a US national park pass, bring it along as you can use it for admission. The park employee cross-referenced my name with her sunrise reservation list. Then we drove another half hour to reach the summit, passing crater valley parking lot on the way. Guess what – we were the only car there!

The sunrise experience

We bundled up in our winter jackets, hats and gloves, in our excitement completely forgetting to don our face masks. We were about an hour early for the show to begin but enjoyed some stargazing, though the moon was about half full, which didn’t allow us to see the Milky Way. On the plus side, we didn’t have to use our phones as flashlights as we walked around the in part cracked sidewalks. No tripping at the top of the world! Any medical care is a good hour’s drive away at the Kula fire station or perhaps tiny Kula hospital.

We could see Kihei and Kahului’s lights, as well as the faint flashing red lights along the windmills in Maalaea. We could also faintly see a few lights in the distance – I am pretty sure they would have been from Hawi, Big Island.

Haleakala Sunrise
gazing down at Kihei (left) and Kahului (right)

The skies started lightening around 5:10AM today, in the mean time another five cars had joined us. We walked back up to the lookout area (due to Covid-19 the shelter area was closed). It was a balmy 46F (7.8C) and thankfully no wind. We sure enjoyed the view, the sky changing colors above the cloud cover until finally the sun rose just before 6AM.

By sunrise another 20 cars arrived – a number of them ended up completely missing the show. We stopped briefly at crater valley and headed back down the mountain for our rewards of Komoda’s donuts in Makawao.

Would I do it again?

I’m thrilled we were able to experience a Haleakala Sunrise, even more so that we didn’t have to face the crowds so many are used to seeing at sunrise. However, I think I prefer sunset on Haleakala. Sunset doesn’t require reservations, there are fewer people, you can see if the mountain is cloud-covered prior to leaving Kihei (because it’s daytime). You aren’t exhausted from getting up super early. On that note – I would plan Haleakala Sunrise when you are still undergoing jetlag (at the beginning of your Maui trip).

Silver swords (‘ahinahina) in bloom

What a treat! It’s silver sword blooming season. These are such bizarre, delicate plants that are found exclusively on Haleakala.

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Maui Open Studios – explore Maui!

It’s February and that means it’s time for the free self-guided tour of some of Maui’s artists’ studios. This annual event is called Maui Open Studios. If you enjoy exploring and art – check this out. I promise you, you will find places on Maui you have never been before and meet some interesting people along the way.

Grab a copy of the print guide or browse the online PDF edition. Then each weekend check out some new favorite artists, watch them in action, talk to them about their art and maybe buy a very unique souvenir of your Maui trip!

Last weekend was their opening gala. Here is the upcoming schedule (weekends, from 11AM-6PM)

1st weekend: February 10-11 Upcountry

2nd weekend: February 17-18 West, Central, North Shore and Hana

3rd weekend: February 24-25 Kihei and Wailea

Did I mention the event is free?

 

One of my favorites

One of my personal favorites, Beth Cooper, is participating in the 3rd weekend event here in Kihei. Over the years I’ve bought a few of her paintings for our condos and many of our cards (prints of our paintings).

Maui Open Studios
One of my favorite Beth Cooper paintings provides color in our Maui Kamaole condo bathroom

 

You can also find Beth’s paintings in our Sugar Beach condo (her Tahiti scene in our living room) and at our Palms at Wailea condo (a small beach scene in the hallway). Here is another picture of one of Beth’s cards.

Maui Open Studios
one of Beth’s cards I’ve bought – when were you at the beach last?

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Death in Paradise

This past week has been crazy. In the past nine days six tourists have died in the ocean with another near-fatality this morning. No, the sharks are not to blame – these men in their 50s and 60s died while snorkeling/scuba diving. I’ve linked these short articles so you can read a few of the details.

My condolences to their loved ones. This is a tragedy. When we go on vacation, we plan for things such as bad weather, sickness, even poor accommodations. But certainly not death.

 

How common are water-related deaths?

While this string of deaths from the past week is unheard of, water-related deaths are unfortunately more common than most think. According to statistics compiled by MauiNow we average between 12-25 deaths/year by drowning on Maui, the majority of them tourists. For much more information, please check out this article filled with statistics from MauiNow.

death
This is a graph borrowed from MauiNow.

 

What should you do?

Should you avoid the ocean altogether? No. I am not trying to scare you. But, it is important to understand that while Maui is paradise, it’s not Disney. Bad stuff can and does happen, you need to understand risks and take action accordingly. Consider these suggestions:

  • If you can’t swim, you should not go snorkeling. As an alternative, check out all the local fish at the Maui Ocean Center. It really is well done.
  • Snorkeling may seem like an easy and relaxing activity, but in reality it can place a lot of stress on your heart. It is easy to ‘become panicked either from swallowing water, not getting enough air, or simply from fear due to strong currents or waves.’ According to this Maui doctor’s article, cardiac arrest is the main factor to snorkeling deaths in people over the age of 50. Please, take the time to read the article.
  • Never snorkel (or dive) alone. Always use the buddy system and keep an eye on your buddy.
  • Be aware of water and wave conditions. The waves pick up at a certain time in the morning – snorkel early in the morning (before 9) for best conditions.
  • There is some discussion online about full-face masks possibly trapping CO2 in the mask. While this is an unproven theory, ask the pros and be sure you know how to properly use your equipment, making sure it is working correctly.
  • Remember – yes, some people die in drowning related accidents. However, consider that in 2016 we had 2.6 million visitors come to the island of Maui. According to the graph above, thirteen of them drowned. While that in itself is awful, the odds are you will be just fine. However do use common sense and be careful.

 

What to do if you see someone not moving in the water?

Call for help (9-1-1), try to get help to move them out of the water as soon as possible and start CPR.

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Upcountry Farmer’s Market and hot sauce

I’ve been meaning to check out the upcountry farmer’s market for a while now. It’s a Saturday morning event, I’m not sure what time it starts, but do know that it ends around 11AM. My mission – to replenish my stock of HI Spice hot sauce.

Yes, HI (the abbreviation for Hawaii) Spice hot sauce is locally made small batch hot sauce. The owners live in Kihei, their commercial kitchen is in Wailuku (as a side note – I’ve picked up from their kitchen before – it smells divine). You can buy their sauce online and at a few local stores – the Maui Tropical Plantation has it, as does 808 Bistro in Kihei, and I’m told someone at the Shops at Wailea carries it too… but it’s cheaper when you can buy direct ($10 vs $15 at the stores).

Upcountry Farmer’s Market

Saturday morning upcountry farmer’s market

From Kihei the drive will take about 40 minutes. When you come up the Haleakala Hwy, continue on the highway until the Long’s Drugs intersection (just past Carden and King Kekaulike high school). Turn right, then take your first left and find parking. The farmer’s market takes place in a parking lot past and to the right of Long’s. There is some street parking, an empty field. Please don’t park in the store parking lot.

This upcountry farmer’s market is different from the ones in Kihei. Yesterday there were 40+ vendors, many claiming to sell organic or no-spray fruits and veggies. You can buy orchids, hot foods, kombucha and many other foods and drinks I’ve never heard of. You will also find more eclectic vendors – a few years ago there was a ‘Gothic’ veggie stand, yesterday two younger men had a Temple foods stand. I still wonder how one raises Gothic vegetables, but maybe I don’t want to know.

Yesterday I was a woman on a mission, with little time to spare. I found the HI Spice stand and bought five bottles of my favorite hot sauce. They have various kinds but my favorite is their Smoke Scorpion hot sauce. If you like hot sauce, you’ve got to give it a try! Yum.

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Drowning on Maui

Drowning on Maui – what an upbeat topic, I know. No, there is unfortunately no pun intended. This is just a public service announcement, reminding you about the dangers of snorkeling and water activities. Not just here on Maui – anywhere really.

This past week there were two instances of visitors drowning while snorkeling at the reef just off Keawakapu Beach in South Kihei. No, there weren’t any sharks involved (to my knowledge). From what I’ve read in the media, both victims were snorkeling with their spouses (having a buddy system is very good). In both instances, one spouse returned to shore safely, then realized their partner wasn’t with them. Both victims (one on Friday, another on Saturday) were brought to shore and received CPR from other beachgoers until emergency services got there. Our condolences to the families.

Here are the two articles, one happened Thursday, the second Friday. Both visitors were in their 50s, no mention of them having had pre-existing health conditions.

Is drowning common? Well…. yes this is paradise, but it’s not Disney, and unfortunately that means stuff does happen…. from what I see in the news, it’s usually people cliff diving or the more middle-aged (and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all) people snorkeling. Cliff diving, well, ’nuff said….. but many don’t realize that snorkeling is actually a strenuous activity, especially for those who aren’t good swimmers or maybe aren’t as healthy as they wish they were.

Should you avoid the water altogether? Probably not. But do be careful and know your limits. Please be cognizant of your ability. Never swim alone – always go with a buddy and stay with a buddy. What an awful way to end your vacation.

More ocean tips

Here is an ocean safety video released in 2015 by Maui County. I believe it is on a loop at the airport and also airs regularly on the Maui Visitor Channel (channel 7).

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Kapalua’s Dragon’s Teeth

Dragons Teeth
entering the mouth of the dragon

We recently went for a drive up to Lahaina and Kapalua. One of my favorite things to do there is to check out Dragon’s Teeth. It is also known as Makaluapuna Point. This is a rock formation formed by a lava flow on Maui. The rock has a somewhat different composition than say the lava flow at La Perousse, and has been weathered by the ocean.

I was commenting to my family that it looks like it’s had some additional weathering from the elements since we were there last a year ago or so. I was also disappointed that someone had etched their names into one of the teeth. Really? Why destroy the natural beauty of this place?

Dragons Teeth
this is the entrance to the burial ground. Please be respectful and stay out.

Please be aware that you pass a native Hawaiian burial ground on the way to the formation, so please do stay on the path (the burial ground is gated off on the right – please do not trespass).

To access Dragon’s Teeth, drive through Kapalua and turn left on Office Road (the exit for the Ritz Carlton). At the end of Office Road hang a right and park. Then head down the golf course (there is a marked path on the right side) towards the ocean. It leads you right to the rock formation, which, in case you were wondering, kind of looks like a mouth full of teeth when you first enter it. You will want to wear decent shoes for this walk and really watch your step.

Dragons Teeth

Bring your beach gear

While you can’t access the ocean from the rock formation, popular DT Flemings Beach is just to the right of it in front of the Ritz. You can access it from the same parking lot by taking the trail in front of the Ritz, however there is better access if you head on back to the main road, turn left and take the next exit.

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How about some windsurfing lessons?

This past week the kids had a break from formal book learning and instead were out and about on Maui, experiencing and trying new things. One of the options was windsurfing lessons. The company the school contracted with is HST Windsurfing and Kitesurfing. This company offers private lessons but also does group lessons and kids camps in the summer months.

windsurfing lessonsThe lessons take place at Kanaha Beach Park which is right behind Kahului airport. To get there, you loop around the airport and then turn at the car rental facility. Just keep driving past the new cellphone waiting area and turn right at the T intersection. Then you take the third (and final) turn before the gate and drive all the way in to the right. When you have reservations, that’s where they meet you. Note, you do need to make reservations!

What do you need?

You will need a swim suit, sunscreen, water and a snack. They provide the rest. They have large beginner boards and small sails (they have other gear for the more advanced). They also provide wetsuit shirts (this time of year the water is a little cold, for us Maui people at least), water shoes and all beginners (kids especially) wear life jackets.

The instructor-student ratio was good (1/3). The instructors were right in the water with them. What particularly impressed me was that the instructors knew all the kids’ names by the beginning of day two of the camp.

Most of the kids in our group had not windsurfed before. I was amazed to see them on the board, learning to catch the wind, steer and manoeuver (clearly not windsurfing terms – I know nothing about this either).

Other things to know

Kanaha Beach is located on Maui’s North Shore and this area is popular with wind and kite surfers. There is also a homeless encampment on one end of this beach park though we couldn’t see them from where the kids were surfing. As always just use common sense.

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Changes to Haleakala Sunrise viewing and Waihee Trail Closure

UPDATE: the Haleakala National Park website has this great FAQ section.

Have you driven up Haleakala for sunrise? Confession, in 6 1/2 years of living here I have not drive to the summit for a Haleakala sunrise. A couple reasons for this. I am not that interested in taking a 2 1/2 hour drive in the dark from Kihei, only to find out Haleakala is clouded in. Also, I am told it is complete mayhem up there, often with no places to park. No thanks.

Apparently others are similarly concerned. This past year the National Park Service held several town hall meetings, surveying Maui County residents on how best to address the crowded and overrun sunrises. Here is what they came up with (Maui Now article with much more info).

Beginning February 1st, 2017 everyone wishing to enter the national park for a Haleakala sunrise must make advance reservations. Check out this website, choose your date and pay $1.50. Print out your confirmation and bring it along with your photo ID. Also, you will need to purchase admission to Haleakala National Park ($20 for a several day re-entry or $25 for an annual pass).

Starting February 1st the national park is allowing only 150 vehicles plus one tour bus to enter the park for sunrise (between 3-7am), which will guarantee parking for all. Please remember to be respectful of the fragile vegetation (stay on the path) and any cultural activities taking place.

Note: as of now this reservation can be made up to 60 days in advance and is non-transferable. Reservations cannot be made at the national park gate, so please make sure you do this BEFORE you drive.

If you plan to enter the park AFTER 7AM you will not need a reservation. Then you just drive up and purchase admission or use your National Park pass.

Personally, my favorite time to drive up Haleakala is during the day to admire the amazing crater valley and take in the view. There are several hikes you can do (just be aware of the 10,000 foot elevation and thinner oxygen levels). I also love driving up at night to go stargazing (I have found the best viewing to be at a pull-out at about 6000 ft, just before you enter the forest before the national park gate). If the moon is small and the mountain is not clouded in, do try it! The stars are amazing. You’ll need to wait until about an hour after sunset for the stars to start popping. Unlike sunrise, there are very few cars at night.

Waihee Ridge Trail closure

The popular scenic Waihee Ridge Trail is temporarily closed from January 3-February 28th for some much-needed maintenance. For more information, please check this MauiNow article. Do check before you go in March that the trail has really re-opened, as everywhere, there can be unexpected delays.

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Active Volcano Tour on Big Island

I know, this is a Maui blog, but sometimes people ask – where do you go on vacation? This weekend I took my kids to Big Island (the Island of Hawai’i) to see its active volcano Kilauea from a helicopter! What an adventure!

Hawaii’s volcanic history

The Hawaiian Islands have been created by the movement of the Pacific (tectonic) plate over a hot spot in the crust where lava erupted and formed volcanoes/islands. Of the inhabited islands, Ni’ihau is the oldest volcano remnant, then followed by Kauai, Oahu and Maui Nui (Molokai, Lanai, Maui and Kaho’olawe). Big Island is comprised of five volcanoes – Mauna Kea is the tallest (13,796 feet) and is considered dormant. It is home to the world’s largest observatory. Mauna Loa (13,678 feet) is still considered active, with its most recent eruption in 1984, streaming towards (but not reaching) Hilo. Check out this schematic which explains it well.

active volcano
Creation of the Hawaiian Islands

The active volcano

Kilauea is Big Island’s newest (above ground) volcano. It holds the distinction of being the world’s most active volcano, with non-stop activity for the past 33 years. That’s right – there has been something going on here for the past 33 years. Sometimes active lava flow, sometimes just rumblings. For the past year it has had an active lava flow, ‘gently’ making its way down and reaching the ocean.

We booked the Circle of Fire helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian. Seeing the volcano from the air was amazing. We started by checking out Rainbow Falls (in Hilo), then flew up along the most recent lava flow from Mauna Loa (from 1984) to Kilauea crater where we saw plenty of steam and some red hot lava!

active volcano
Birdseye view of Kilauea crater (with a flash of orange lava)

Then off to the Pu’u O’o vent where we saw more lava and from where currently lava is flowing (under a black crust) to the ocean, creating new land as it goes.

 

active volcano
Lava meets the sea where the steam rises) – you can see newly formed landmass in the ocean

Blue Hawaiian’s staff in Hilo was very professional, the helicopter clean and in good condition. I would very much recommend them. In fact, this is my second Blue Hawaiian tour – check my blog about my West Maui Mountains and Molokai helicopter tour with them.

A few thoughts…

In the past few years Big Island has torn up several hurricanes, drenching the Puna district, but tearing the hurricanes apart and shifting them away from Maui (we are so thankful). I somehow envisioned these mountains to be visually more impressive, maybe more mountainous. But it turns out, just like Haleakala, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea have gentle slopes which makes their size very deceiving (especially Mauna Loa). They are shield volcanoes, their shape has to do with the composition of the lava that flows out (see here for a better explanation).

active volcano
approaching Big Island by airplane from Maui – those mountains don’t look that impressive…

Recommendations

Initially we were only going to fly to Big Island for the day. However, someone reminded me that Hilo is on Big Island’s rainy side… what if the helicopter ride was cancelled due to weather? Yes, they will reschedule, but when flying over only for the day, you don’t have much flexibility. We opted to spend the night in Hilo which allowed us to explore the National Park on our second Big Island day. Turns out our flight day was perfect with blue skies. Day two was rainy.

Here is a short (blurry) video clip of the activity at the crater taken from the Jaggar museum outlook.

Admission to Hawaii’s national parks is $20/car with re-admission for one week. We chose to buy the 3 park annual pass for $25 which allows us to check out all three of Hawaii’s national parks (including Haleakala here on Maui).

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Maui geocaching

Did you get into the Pokemon Go craze this past summer? I am apparently behind the times. This summer I downloaded the geocaching app on my phone to try some Maui geocaching. I know, this app has been around for years and some of you won’t believe I am new to the game. On the other hand, some of you probably haven’t heard of geocaching either. No worries, you aren’t alone.

duckpond
A duck pond? in Kihei?

Geocaching is a real-world treasure-hunting game using GPS coordinates and an app on your phone. You choose which cache you want to find, follow the directions on the app to get close, read the hint and then look for a physical cache. Some caches have small trinkets that you can exchange, others just a log to mark your find. Check out the geocaching website for much more information!  I think it’s a lot of fun – you’re going on an adventure right in your back yard!

where in Kihei is this path?
where in Kihei is this path?

Kihei (and Maui) have a number of free geocaches. But if you sign up for their premium account (yes, I did – after all, it’s ‘educational’ for the kids), there are a whole bunch here in Kihei alone. Since downloading the app this June, our family has knocked out a few of the local geocaches. It’s been fun doing this with the kids. It makes going for a walk a lot more interesting. My hope is that they will become more aware of their surroundings as we do this, looking for treasure of their own! Hey, I can dream!

We found one at a duck pond in Central Kihei, one in a rock wall, one on a guard rail, another with a great sunset view near Keawakapu beach. We have also had a few ‘no finds’. Sometimes caches are discovered by ‘muggles’, people who are not aware of the game, who toss them because they think they are trash.

Caution

You do need data on your phone to go geocaching. If you have a Canadian phone plan, check on that. It may be a really expensive hobby to do while traveling in the US thanks to roaming charges. We have Tmobile with unlimited data in 100+ countries, so we were good to give it a go while traveling this summer.

keawakapu
Now THAT is a nice reward for finding a geocache!

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