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
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
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…
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.
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).
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.
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!
My favorite easy upcountry walk is Thompson Road. It’s a picturesque one lane road above Grandma’s coffee house in Kula.
School is starting again here on Maui (we will see how that goes), so I forced the kids to go on a family walk. Yes, they would have preferred to stay home with on their devices, but such is life. Family is a benevolent dictatorship, not a democracy, or at least that’s what I tell them.
How to get to this upcountry walk
From Kihei, you drive direction Kahului, then turn left on Hansen Road by the old Sugar Cane Factory. I don’t know about you, but I like to look at it while passing by, to see what’s going on. This past year the big pile of coal (for power production) has finally been hauled off. I wonder where it went.
You turn right onto Hana Hwy, then immediately onto Haleakala Hwy. Haleakala Hwy becomes Kula Hwy which you follow ‘forever’. You drive through Kula, past the Waldorf School, the Kula Farms stand – sadly they were closed this Sunday. You continue past the second Haleakala Hwy turnoff, past St John’s Episcopal Church and eventually end up at Grandma’s Coffee House. They were sadly also closed this Sunday.
Just before Grandma’s the road forks off to the left. Turn up there, take your very first right (it’s nearly immediate). This is Thompson Road. There are three pull-outs on the left. Park in one, get out and walk.
The upcountry walk
The road itself is patchy asphalt. Our youngest brought his new skateboard along which helped curb the complaining. I love looking at the huge plants, the insanely large bush of bird of paradise (it’s got to be 8 feet tall or more). There are lava rock walls, horse pastures, rolling hills.
Please be respectful of local residents who live here. Residents passing through always smile and wave, so do the same. It took us about an hour to the end and back. Well, that’s not entirely true. Thompson Road curves left and heads up the mountain – we’ve never gone up there.
But the best part about this upcountry walk – it was a full 15 degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler than in Kihei. Loved that!
Sig and I had an errand to run in Lahaina today. After our errand, we parked as we always do in the Hilo Hattie’s parking lot on the Northern end of the Front Street tourist strip to see what Covid Lahaina looks like. By sheer habit, we wandered into the Adidas outlet. Sig always finds something there for the kids. Hilo Hattie’s has moved out of their street front location into the space directly behind Adidas. I wanted to go in, but the doors were locked while staff were on a half hour break.
After our obligatory Adidas purchase, we wandered through the deserted Outlets of Maui towards Front Street. It’s sad to see. This shopping center was once bustling, then died only to be revitalized a few years ago with a number of outlet stores. Now it’s pretty dead again. The big box stores were open, the smaller shops closed.
We walked past our first homeless gentleman towards Front Street. The former Hard Rock Cafe is being renovated, and there is a (strangely) newly opened Waikiki Brewing Company. The Adidas girls told us they serve bbq and is supposed to be good.
We’ve had king tides this week, so the sidewalk was wet from being sloshed with waves. Bubba Gump (Sig’s favorite restaurant) was open but on brief glance, I saw only one person at one of the less favorable tables. It was 5pm. This place would normally be bustling with people. The gift shop appeared to be closed. On the wall just past Bubba Gump’s there were four or five homeless people, just chilling. Another was talking to the security guard across the way. From there on most of the shops were closed, some boarded shut. A couple restaurants were open, such as the Lahaina Pizza Company. I have a few musician friends who used to play there, I had always meant to go and hear them play live, but never have made it.
Honestly, we turned around and walked back to our car. Front Street was depressing. While I generally don’t like how commercial it is, particularly not the high pressure face cream places, this was really sad. Acquaintances used to have jewelry places along Front Street, and year’s ago we’d heard of the $30,000/month rent payments. No wonder everything is closed.
The good news
I like to think positive when I at all can. In my opinion it is so much easier to walk through life with a positive attitude. So here is the good news. It only took us 40 minutes to get to Lahaina today, very unlike normal non-Covid driving conditions. And there was very little traffic on the road. And our meeting went well.
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.
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
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.
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).
This weekend we saw the sad announcement on social media – the Maui Tropical Plantation is closing indefinitely. While I understand given the current economic realities, it is so sad to say goodbye to this place.
We’ve been coming to the Maui Tropical Plantation since early 2004, back before we lived here, when we fled rainy West Coast Januaries and came to Maui on vacation. Besides the gift shop and restaurant, they have a beautiful lake, ducks to feed and a trolley you can take to see and learn about plants that grow here on Maui. Back then they even had a monkey enclosure (those were moved to a new home a few years later).
A few years ago the Maui Tropical Plantation was revitalized, given new life with funky Sugar Cane Factory equipment incorporated into the landscape. It is to date one of my favorite places to go, enjoy the landscape, have a coffee, shop the gift shop and grab some fresh veggies at the Kumu Farm stand. I always intended to try their beginner zipline with the kids. Their Mill House Restaurant had stunning reviews, and though I never ate there, I did eat at the train bar once (yes, it had a full size sugar cane locomotive right there in the bar). This is on the ‘must do’ list for all boy moms, after all!
Well…. Covid happened. The island all but shut down with mandatory quarantine imposed on all arrivals and with that tourism died – temporarily at least. As with many businesses, the Maui Tropical Plantation closed temporarily, only to reopen a few weeks ago. However, I imagine there was just not enough traffic to keep it viable and so now they are closing indefinitely.
This week they are having a closing sale at the gift shop, daily 10-4 (in person only, not on the website). I arrived shortly after 10 and…. the lineup went around the building, all the way to the shops in the back. While in line I chatted with those around me (all wearing our masks, sometimes in the shade, sometimes in the bright hot sun). We are all so sad to see this special place go.
What did I get?
Unfortunately I didn’t make it into the store today. The line was moving, but too slow for me to make it in and out on time to pick up my son from Kanaha Beach Park. I’ll try again tomorrow. It’s not so much that I wanted to buy something, it was more about going for one last visit. But yes, I know I would have found things I ‘need’. Like HI Spice hotsauce.
Tourism will return one day and with it, I hope, this beautiful place will be revived. For now, we say aloha and a hui hou (goodbye and until we meet again).
Another week, another family hike. This time we drove out to the West side, past Lahaina and Kaanapali to hike the Kapalua Coastal Trail.
We’ve been out there before of course, to hike around Dragon’s Teeth and for the PGA Tournament which always takes place early January. But this was our first time walking the Kapalua Coastal Trail. The trail description marked it as easy, so we didn’t worry too much about our foot wear. Next time, I would at least wear enclosed shoes. No matter.
We parked at the end of Office Road and followed the signs. The section in front of the Ritz was fenced off for security since the hotel is closed. So we headed south instead. It was really a sweet adventure. The sky was overcast and there was a nice breeze coming off the ocean.
It turns out, despite the signs, I managed to take the family off course. Just around the Montage, we veered off the trail and ended up at Akin’s Jumping Rock where there a group of 40+ local kids were having a party and cliff jumping. Oops. That trail appeared to dead-end. At that point we turned around and headed back towards the Ritz and our car. Long story short, we clearly did not do the entire walk. However, the portion we walked was beautiful. I would definitely do this again.
If you’ve walked the Wailea Beach Walk, this path is in parts narrower. I have no idea how busy it is regularly. But now during the Covid-19 shut-down, it was pretty ideal with nearly noone on the trail.
Different lava rock
I love looking at the rock formation. Hopefully someone with more geology background can explain it to me sometime, but some of the lava rock is all bubbly-looking. I presume from the ocean water hitting, or I could be way off base. It is very neat.
Another day, another hike with the kids, this time the Waiakoa Loop Trail in upcountry Maui.
I’ve been wanting to go explore the hikes at Poli Poli for a while now. Last fall my cross-country running kid had a team practice up there. It turns out, I had a completely mistaken idea of where the hikes were.
The car adventure
Of course, to preface this – you drive all the way from Kihei past the Kula Farm stand along the Kula Hwy, then turn up the mountain and, just next to Kula Botanical Gardens, turn right up Waiopuli Road which takes you what my teenager had told me was Poli Poli. It’s the bottom of a large meadow with signs featuring hang-gliding. That portion alone is about a one hour drive from Kihei.
To get to the hikes, you traverse a large meadow with a newly paved one lane road featuring many hair pin turns, then continue up through forested areas (with more hair pin turns) until you get to the first of a series of trails. The hairpin turns aren’t so bad, and there are occasional pull-outs to allow for oncoming traffic. The sketchy part is – the newly paved road has steep dropoffs on either side of the asphalt (4-8 inches for sure which is great for the car). However, this balances out with the spectacular bicoastal views.
After our car adventure, we chose to go with the first trail we came upon – the Waiakoa Loop Trail.
Waiakoa Loop Trail
The Waiakoa Loop Trail has a very small parking lot (fitting maybe 3-4 cars) next to an ominous-sounding ‘hunter check-in station’. Consider yourself warned. The road continues up the hill promising further adventurous driving, but instead you head down a dirt access road (as of today this road has some deep ruts in it, my van would not have done well on it had it been open for driving – it’s not). The trail starts off with a steep downhill section, followed by a steep uphill section (not quite as bad as the beginning steep uphill section at the Waihee Ridge Trail). After that it levels out with alternating uphill/downhill parts, but not bad at all. This coming from an inexperienced hiker.
After 0.7 miles you get to the beginning of the loop trail. Close the gate behind you and brush your shoes to prevent carrying non-endemic plant seeds onto the trail. This hike is completely in the forest (no views beside forest). We were partly in the clouds. It was however absolutely beautiful. We heard so many birds (my dad would have had a field day with his bird watching app). We saw absolutely no wildlife on the trail (though we had seen a nene bird near the trail head).
Disclaimer, we did not walk the entire trail. The entire trail is 3.8 miles (from the parking lot). We walked about 0.7 miles past the gate and then turned around, so a respectable 2.8 miles total.
Yesterday we hiked Waihee Ridge Trail. It was absolutely beautiful.
School is basically out for the year. Normally we would be planning a Canada trip to visit grandparents and then some additional travel to teach the kids more about ‘the world’.
However, Covid happened and so we aren’t going anywhere soon. We are faced with another 2 1/2 months of summer (in addition to the 2 months of kids doing ‘at home’ school. So in an attempt to maintain some form of sanity, we’re determined to do some hiking and exploring within the government approved parameters. Check here for some Maui hikes we’ve done in the past few years.
Yesterday’s actual plan was to hike at Poli Poli. However as we were headed towards Kahului on the highway we saw it was raining upcountry. Change in plans. I suggested we try the Waihee Ridge Trail. We’ve never done that hike and I’ve heard it’s beautiful. With next to no visitors on island, I figured chances were good the parking lot wouldn’t be full. I was right.
The drive to Waihee Ridge Trail
To get there you drive through Wailuku and Waihee and end up on the road that circles the island counter-clockwise. Not a good idea, by the way, to circle the island from this direction. If you do want to drive around the island, I’m told always to start in Lahaina and then drive clock-wise towards Wailuku from there. This road is very windy and in part one lane only. Always better to be on the inside against the mountain as opposed to on the cliff side. Note, I saw a sign that portions of this road are closed to all but local traffic (similarly to the Road to Hana).
When you get to Mendes Ranch, the road turns left and you immediately turn up the driveway on the left where there is a large parking lot. Do not stop there, continue through the gate and up the mountain to the Waihee Ridge Trail parking lot (end of driveway). There is a private residence and also the boy scouts camp (Camp Maluhia) which you pass enroute.
The trail itself begins with a steep uphill paved climb. I think it’s to discourage you from trying it. Oh my word. Once you get to the water towers (you can see them from the parking lot), you veer off onto a regular path and it gets significantly easier. You then continue the uphill climb through a forest until you get to the ridge, peering down into Waihee Valley. It is absolutely beautiful. Waihee river looks like a creek from up high, but based on the sound, you know it’s more than that. From there on I’m told we got lucky. This portion of the trail can be very muddy and slippery. We had in fact worn our hiking boots (thankfully) but the trail was dry. It continues uphill.
We sent the two older kids ahead with Sig and I and our youngest bringing up the rear. At some point they texted us they had made it to the top and started returning. Honestly, we called it a day at that point as our youngest was having a hard time of it.
Was it worth it?
Absolutely. It is a stunning hike with gorgeous views. I loved seeing all the ferns and plants. At the beginning of the trail hike there are boot brushes with instructions to wipe shoes so as to avoid bringing non-endemic plants up the path.
Will we do it again?
Maybe. Probably. But for now we have other hikes to try, such as Poli Poli and the Lahaina Pali Trail. How about you? What is your favorite Maui hike?
One of our sons has been playing hockey for… well, forever. He started playing as a 10 year old because, after all, it’s the Canadian thing to do. When he first started, I knew nothing about the sport. In all truthfulness, I still don’t understand much of it. But it’s fun to watch.
Did you know that Kihei has a hockey rink? No, it’s not an ice rink. It’s inline. Maui Hockey has a youth league with kids ages 5-16 and an adult elite, adult rec and 35+over league.
The rink is located at Kalama Park in Kihei, right along the ocean-front bike path. Games and practices are evenings (it’s just too hot to wear all your gear in the hot Kihei sun).
When are the games?
If you are in the mood to watch a little, here’s the schedule:
Monday night: 8:15-9:45 PM rec league (2 games)
Tuesday night: 7:45-9:45 PM adult league (2 games)
Thursday night: kids games start at 5:30, 35+over league begins 8:30-9:45 PM
Lights out is a hard 10PM per County rules.
Did you know, last season the 16U team kicked the adult rec league’s butts? It was an awesome season, but to keep things competitive and fun, they’ve been split up for this season. They are practicing as a team (together with the rest of the leagues) for an Oahu tournament this April at Kapolei’s indoor hockey rinks (what a treat!)
If you love hockey, come down to the rink on Sunday nights for a round of pick-up, starting at 7:30PM. Sign a waiver, pay $10, borrow some gear and play ! It’s a fun crowd! What else do you have going on on a Monday night? And – what could be better than playing hockey on Maui? Inline hockey, that is!
Yes, for those who want to just skate for fun, there are three open skate nights, Wednesday 6-8 PM, Friday 6-9 PM and Saturday 6-9 PM. Admission is free, skate rental is $5 (bring your own socks!). Skate night is run by volunteer hockey parents/skaters.