Tag: Maui to-do

Hosmer’s Grove Walk

If you’ve driven up Haleakala, you may have come across a sign for Hosmer’s Grove. The turnoff is almost immediately once you drive through the national park gate, to your left. You can camp here, though I’ve heard it can be pretty cold especially if it rains. You are after all at 7000 ft elevation. Next to the campground is a short half mile loop trail.

In the 1800s explorers decimated Hawaii’s native sandalwood forests, logging and shipping them off as exotic woods. In some cases, such as Kaho’olawe, cutting down the forests dramatically changed the weather patterns. Early 1920 a guy named Hosmer planted an experimental forest, introducing 86 types of non-native trees. Today 20 species still grow in Hosmer’s Grove, ironically within the national park. Not all of the shrubs are non-native. There is a section with native-to-Hawaii shrubs, including one plant that has some similarities to the silver swords you find at Haleakala crater.

How to get there

It’s a 38 mile drive from Kihei, and should take just over an hour and a national park entry fee to get to Hosmer’s Grove. Last year I purchased an annual park pass for my Haleakala sunrise expedition. We’ve used it three times this year, but somehow didn’t make it to Hosmer’s Grove. When I suggested going on a family hike yesterday, Sig was game. I even told him it was just inside the national park. However it’s been a long time since he’s been to the park ~ probably since 2012 when we drove to Haleakala summit to see Venus cross in front of the sun (an amazing experience). He hates windy roads. To be fair, it takes about an hour to get to the Waihou Spring loop trail (also a contender for yesterday’s hike), so this wasn’t that much further, and not much less windy.

Yes, it’s kinda silly to drive an hour to go for a 1/2 mile walk. It would have made more sense to combine the walk with sunrise or sunset or just driving up to the crater. But like I said, my park pass was about to expire, and I’m in no rush to buy another $55/annual pass just to go on a 1/2 mile walk.

Haleakala National Park

Yes, we have a national park here on Maui. The park gates sit at 7000 foot elevation. From the park gates it takes about half hour to reach the summit area and the viewing platform for crater valley. Haleakala is a dormant volcano, but technically the crater is a valley with many smaller cinder cones in it. It is a beautiful, out of this world experience. Keep in mind, once you leave Kula and before you get to the park gates is ranch land and you will encounter cows – possibly on the side of the road, but sometimes also on the road (the asphalt heats up nicely during the day and cows like to warm up on it in the evening).

The entrance fee is $30/private vehicle with admission valid for 3 days (there are some park areas accessible along the Road to Hana, so you may want to plan accordingly). Should you be visiting Big Island during your Hawaii trip, you may want to consider the Hawaii Tri-Park annual pass for $55. This pass gives you admission to all three Hawaii national parks (two on Big Island, one on Maui).

Hike Maui

Last year our family embarked on a number of new to us hikes around the island. We enjoyed exploring our island, especially without tourists around. I can imagine some of these hikes are significantly busier these days. There are a number of excursions you can book. Acquaintances own Hike Maui which picks you up from your condo/resort and takes you on guided hikes. Check them out!

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Minigolf on Maui

Have you driven past the Maui Golf and Sports Park at Maalaea Harbor and wondered what that was? Minigolf on Maui? Surely that is too small a place to be worth going to?

When you walk into the Maui Golf and Sports Park you will be surprised. This wedge-shaped property is incredibly well designed to fit two 18 hole minigolf courts, extreme trampoline, a small climbing cliff, mini volcano and – the piece de resistance – bumper boats.

Over the years we have hosted a number of kids’ birthday parties here. While minigolf is a lot of fun, really, all they want to do is ride the bumper boats and use the super soakers to spray their friends and parents watching from the sidelines.

We recently took our youngest for his birthday again. As of this week masks were optional – on Maui you currently need to wear masks indoors but not outside (and this place is outside).

A few things of note:

  • it’s Maalaea, it will be windy. Wind can be deceptively cooling – remember to use sunscreen so you won’t burn.
  • wear something that can get wet and bring a towel/change of clothes. After a round of minigolf the bumperboats are super refreshing. You could technically stay dry, if you convinced everyone not to use their spray guns, and if you kept the boat out of the waterfall. But where’s the fun in that?
  • Yes, they have two large bathrooms with plenty of room to change.

Other birthday considerations

oh those mango malasadas were amazing. Found these at a small pop-up bakery

This week’s birthday festivities included

  • mango-custard filled malasadas
  • a Cold Stone icecream cake
  • dinner at Outback Steakhouse (Roundtable Pizza was a close second choice)

Mango malasadas? I stumbled across a pop-up bakery (Coppa’s) on Facebook that made these to order. They were filled with a mango custard. They were very delicious.

Malasadas are Portuguese-style donuts, made fresh to order. Typically you can get them plain or with a custard filling, or guava jam filled (at Komodas). Our family has a birthday (and special day) tradition of picking up malasadas for breakfast.

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Have you seen the whale exhibit?

Cara at the Maui Ocean Center (isn’t there a way to fix the selfie-mirror image sign behind me?)

I’ve had the new whale exhibit at the Maui Ocean Center on my to do list for a while. I love the Maui Ocean Center and the ‘new’ white dome has intrigued me for some time now. I knew it was a 3D experience about humpback whales, but that’s about it.

Last year the Maui Ocean Center closed when Covid hit. With tourism at a complete standstill, there were just not enough customers to be open. Fortunately this spring they reopened the aquarium. Here we are, half way through the kids’ summer break, so today was the day to go check out the center and it’s whale exhibit! The last time we were at the Ocean Center was in January 2019, one month before the new whale exhibit opened.

The whale exhibit

The Ocean Center has always had a whale exhibit. The old one had various displays and games and a Bubble Net room. The Bubble Net room was a simulation of what it would be like to be krill caught in the humpback whales’ bubble net. Our family thought this was the best part 🙂

However, in February 2019 the aquarium opened the new whale exhibit. In addition to a cool 3D film shot right here off the shores of Maui, they have a whole new updated interactive whale display. Watch this Youtube video for the best description of it.

The new whale exhibit is in a new building tucked next to the gift shop and bathrooms. The former exhibit has been transformed into an exhibit about Kaho’olawe, Hawaii’s forbidden island. One thing I learned today is that it is the first of the Hawaiian islands to have been populated. The island has been deserted for some time, and was actually used for target practice (for bombs) from World War 2 up until 1990 when President Bush signed a moratorium, halting military exercises on it. It’s an interesting exhibit, I highly recommend it.

My favorites

Our family has been big fans of the Ocean Center for years. When the kids were little, we’d come multiple times a week (buying a weekly pass when we were on vacation), then 5-7 times/year with an annual pass once we moved here in 2010. When your kids are little and have a short attention span, you try to be creative in getting your money’s worth!

The frog fish aquarium – one of my favorite displays!

My favorite exhibits are the frog fish, the octopus, the flat fish, the open water exhibit (shark and ray tank) and now definitely the new whale exhibit. How about yours?

Before you go….

The Ocean Center is currently using a reservation system to better spread out guest numbers throughout the day and make social distancing a little easier. And yes, currently you will need to wear your mask both indoors and outdoors while on property. You pre-purchase your tickets online. Read the instructions closely, for instance there is a twenty minute window to arrive (if your reservation is for 10am, you can arrive between 9:50 and 10:10). Yes, they’ve raised their prices, I assume due to limiting visitor numbers and operating losses from last year. On the plus side, there is no extra charge for the new whale exhibit (there previously had been). When I looked, I was able to get same day tickets, no problem, though I assume that depends on the day.

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Cara’s favorite Maui to-dos

What are some of your favorite Maui to-dos? For many it’s finding the perfect beach and spending the day. Others plan action-packed days, filled with adventure and excursions. For others it’s all about the food – finding the best island treats and meals. I recently wrote a list of my favorite restaurants. Here is a list of to-dos. This list is meant as a starting point. It by no means includes all the best things to do. We live and work here. We don’t do the tourist thing as much as we should.

favorite Maui to-dos
Sunset from Haleakala summit

Haleakala

This past year we’ve driven up 10,023 ft resident volcano Haleakala both for sunrise and sunset. Both were spectacular. This is my very favorite Maui to-dos. You do need reservations for sunrise (which keeps the numbers in check). Sunset has gotten quite busy as a result, so make sure you get there with plenty of time to get a parking spot. But really, going up during the day is fantastic also. There is a crater webcam and you can see what the weather is like as you are driving and change plans if things seem socked in. Gazing into the crater valley is amazing. And yes, there are many hikes. Something I (and many other locals) do not recommend, is the ‘ride down the volcano’ style bike tours. You are mainly on roads without shoulders and really have to watch out for traffic. In my opinion there are better ways to enjoy the volcano.

Whale watching (in season)

Every year humpback whales journey to Maui to both calve and mate. The journey from Alaska takes them about 6 weeks, during which time they do not eat. They spend roughly 5-6 weeks in Hawaiian waters, mainly in the shallower waters between Maui, Kahoolawe and Lanai, where they mate and calve, and then journey back to Alaska. During this whole time they are on an extreme diet of no eating (we don’t have krill). Can you imagine? Whale season runs mid-November through mid-April, though the best whale watching is January-March.

Whale watch cruises are definitely worth the money. You can also learn much more about whales at the Maui Ocean Center and the Whale Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center (currently closed due to Covid). Once you know what to look for, you can often see whales from the beach. I wrote this blog entry a number of years ago on how to spot Humpback Whales. Watching for humpbacks definitely comes second of my favorite Maui to-dos.

favorite Maui to-dos
a turtle at the Maui Ocean Center

Snorkeling and/or the Maui Ocean Center

Snorkeling is not my area of expertise. So I will leave that for others to discuss, such as Boss Frog’s Maui snorkel blog (this is one of the snorkel gear rental companies). However, there is plenty of snorkeling to do both just from the beach and also through excursions. If you aren’t a strong swimmer or comfortable with snorkeling, you can still see all the local sea life! Go check out the Maui Ocean Center, our local aquarium. It is truly fantastic. At this time (Covid) you will need to make reservations. And as someone who sees many of the news announcements – if you are not a strong swimmer, please do not snorkel. And please, never snorkel alone. Always have a buddy.

Hiking

There are many hikes here on Maui. Some of my favorites are the Waiehe, Kapalua Coastal Trail, Iao Valley, Sliding Sands, Poli Poli, Makawao Forest, Olinda, Pali Trail, Windmills etc. We enjoyed a number of them last year during the Covid shut-down.

Waihee Ridge Trail
view into a West Maui Mountain valley from the Waihee Coastal Trail

Favorite beaches

My personal favorite beaches are Keawakapu beach and its neighbor Ulua beach. I also really enjoy Sugar Beach – it is a 5 mile stretch of sand, great for walking. Having said that, I typically go to the beach for an hour, splash in the water, sit in the sand a little and then head home. Others will pack up and spend the day. I would say when considering which beach to go to, you may want to consider the following

morning
early morning beach walk at Kamaole 1 beach
  • facilities (bathrooms/showers). When we first moved here, we went to Big Beach, not realizing there were no showers. Sig’s brand new truck was initiated with five bodies covered in sand. Ouch.
  • are you coming to surf, boogie board, swim, snorkel, walk or suntan) – conditions will vary depending on time of day, time of year, weather, surf conditions etc. Do some research.
  • location – do you want to walk to the beach, or are you driving to one further away
  • wind – the wind tends to pick up mid to late morning and then can settle down mid afternoon or so. Ulua beach seems to be more protected from the wind, so this can be a good afternoon option

A few words about the Road to Hana

This is a hugely popular all-day drive with multiple pull-outs along the way. However, it is actually the road which leads to Hana where people live and work. It is not designed as a tourist attraction. Since tourism’s rebound this spring things have gotten particularly crazy along this road, with visitors parking willy-nilly because of lack of parking. County workers have placed no-parking signs and Maui Police are now enforcing with tickets. Should you decide to drive the Road to Hana, please be mindful of parking rules and locals trying to get to and from work, grocery shopping, doctors appointments etc. Also note that some of the places mentioned in guide books or online actually involve trespassing – please DO NOT TRESPASS. While I personally have never driven the Road to Hana (I get really car sick), my son says his favorite is the Garden of Eden. And Twin Falls (which is currently struggling with parking issues). You may enjoy the Road to Hana Gypsy app which tells you more about the area and points out sites of interest along the way. I’m told it’s great (we got it when we went to Oahu a few years ago)

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Cara’s Maui favorites

I am regularly asked for recommendations, what my Maui favorites are. Of course, with Covid many things have changed, so this list is in flux. Also, for restaurants – call and make reservations! Some take reservations on Open Table, others do not.

Cara’s breakfast Maui favorites

  • Beach Street (Former S&Q Shave Ice stand)
  • Cafe @ La Plague
  • Maui Bread Co (we like to walk to this bakery – go early, it’s small and they sell out)
  • Kihei Caffe This place is hugely popular for their big portions. Honestly, I wouldn’t stand in those crazy lines (mainly in full sun) for breakfast. But if there is no line, I’d go! Note: they have finally opened their Lahaina location for those staying on the West side!

Cara’s favorite restaurants

  • Gannons – my absolute favorite, recently reopened for happy hour and dinner. Having said that, my favorite is lunch/happy hour. The view and ambiance is amazing
  • 5 Palms on Keawakapu beach – any time of day, but perfect for oceanfront sunset dining
  • Maui Brewing Company – for lunch and dinner. They also offer tours of their award-winning facility
  • Nalus – they have finally reopened after a long closure during Covid. I dream of their ahi club
  • Cafe o Lei on South Kihei Road – one of the most reasonable lunch menus
  • Ami Ami (at the Maui Coast Hotel) for breakfast/dinner. They also serve food poolside – no, non-hotel guests may not use the pool, but they often have live music and it’s an easy casual atmosphere with younger kids
  • Cuatro Restaurant – we haven’t been for a few years. Small restaurant, their ahi nachos are so good
  • Eskimo Candy – they have the best poke bowl on island (disclaimer, that is all I eat here)
  • Pint & Cork – when we went a few weeks ago, they were not taking reservations, just first come first serve
  • while not a restaurant, Island Market @ Shops at Wailea has a very nice take-out/deli section for picnics

non Kihei special mentions

  • Tin Roof (pre-order your take-out on their website). The mochiko chicken is amazing
  • Cafe o Lei at the Mill House (this is at the Maui Tropical Plantation, former Mill House restaurant site)

best grocery stores

  • Safeway (use your Safeway card, or the one in the condo. If you can’t find it, use my phone number for the Safeway deals 808-281-7934)
  • Hawaiian Moons – natural/organic grocery store with a take-out section
  • Foodland – best poke selection, hands-down

Cara’s Maui favorites – these are the ones that really count

I’ve mentioned I love dessert and treats, right?

  • Ululani’s – hands down best shave ice on island
  • Maui Gelato – have you tried their local flavors like lilikoi (passion fruit) or mango
  • Fabianis – love their desert display case. The lilikoi meringue is a definite favorite
  • Hula Cookies – they make icecream sandwiches with your choice of their cookies and Roselani icecream. So good.
  • Komodas – home made malasadas, donuts etc. Arrive early (like between 7-8am) for best selection, or pre-order for later pick-up.
Maui favorites

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Further loosening of Covid rules

Remember the good old days, when I blogged about things to do on Maui? I really look forward to no longer writing about Covid updates, but they are important for right now, so here is the latest. The State is loosening the Covid rules. A little.

To preface, all those who have NOT been vaccinated IN the State Hawaii still need to do their pre-travel Covid test. Once 60% of Hawaii’s residents have been fully vaccinated, the State will announce a lifting of the pre-travel testing for US mainland and Alaska residents. So hang tight. And schedule your pre-travel tests, in accordance with the official State website.

This week (June 15) you no longer need to take Covid tests when traveling between islands, regardless of your vaccination status. So for instance, if you are spending some time here on Maui and then hopping over to one of the other Hawaiian islands, you no longer need to pre-travel test before that island hopper flight. Yay. But, you do still need to pre-travel test to come to Hawaii. For now.

A little complication

To complicate things a little, as of June 15 those who are fully vaccinated (vaccines administered and logged) in the State of Hawaii do NOT need to pre-travel test when arriving on the mainland. This mainly applies to Hawaii residents. They do still have to upload their vaccination card into the Safe Travels app. I’m sure this will add a wrinkle or two at the airport.

Are you confused yet? Sorry about that. But please check out the State’s official website re the current rules and loosening restrictions.

Looking for more Maui information?

Have you checked out Tripadvisor’s Maui forum? This is a great place to get specific information from recent travelers and locals.

The other day I was checking our Kamaole Sands 2-206 condo around sunset. Look at the palm tree shadow being reflected on the building by the sunset lighting. I thought this was pretty cool.
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Reopening of the Maui Tropical Plantation

We were so sad to see the Maui Tropical Plantation close and unfortunately lay off most of its employees last June (2020) due to Covid. It has been wonderful to see the restart/rebirth of this wonderful facility this spring.

Kumu Farms, a farm stand selling their own produce did stay open for the duration of the shut-down. Cafe o Lei took over the Mill House restaurant and opened their fourth location on island (the others are Cafe o Lei in Kihei, Ami Ami in Kihei, and Cafe o Lei at the Dunes golf course in Kahului). I have yet to eat at their Mill House location, but judging from the food at their other locations, I’m sure it’s fantastic. It definitely scores high for atmosphere!

Kumu Farms had an exciting announcement recently – together with Maui ‘Oma Coffee Company they took over the closed Maui Tropical Plantation gift shop and transformed it into a farm market (vs the higher end ‘ABC-type store’ it had become pre-pandemic). I’m supposed to check it out with my neighbor on the weekend, but I couldn’t resist and stopped in this morning. Oh my.

Once again we can stroll around the beautiful property, enjoying the beautiful landscaping, duck pond and funky sugar plantation factory ‘lawn ornaments’. Love this place.

The zipline has reopened, and, yes, you can once again book and go on tram tours, learning about Hawaii’s fruits, vegetables and plants.

Unfortunately the other little shops in the courtyard next to the pond have not reopened at this time.

Maui ‘Oma Coffee

You learn something new every day. I have always loved the name Maui ‘Oma Coffee. Oma in German means grandma. But today I learned that ‘Oma (don’t forget the ‘okina’ at the before the O) means ‘to roast’ in Hawaiian. They supply some of Maui’s restaurants with custom roasted coffee – such as Merriman’s, Mamas Fish House, Duke’s etc.

What is an ‘okina, you ask?

An ‘okina is considered a formal consonant in the Hawaiian language. It is a glotol stop, like when you say uh-oh. For example, you write and say Hawai’i (not Hawaii – be sure pronounce the extra I).I will not pretend to know much about ‘okinas, but my friend Google has much more information.

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Glorious Wailea walk and a flying dress

I admit – we haven’t been walking as much as we used to. March hit and with it, a crazy number of check-ins and check-outs as tourism is back, baby! We’ve been busy. Yesterday we pulled into the Ulua beach parking lot next to the Andaz, ran into the owner of Maui Flying Dress and then walked from 5:45 and walked til 7pm. We walked in front of Wailea Ekahi, Wailea Beach Resort (Marriott) and the Grand Wailea to the Four Seasons and back. Both the Marriott and the Grand Wailea luaus were in full swing, so we enjoyed watching and listening to the shows as we walked past. It was a gorgeous evening for a walk.

near sunset in front of the Wailea Beach Resort (Marriott)

What is Maui Flying Dress?

We know Lawrence and Regina from our kids’ school. They are the owners of the Maui Flight Academy here on Maui. Lawrence is the flight instructor, Regina handles the bookings. Over the years this has kept them very busy. But then Covid happened. Spoiler alert: flight school is back in business and they are busy!

Lawrence has always enjoyed photography, Regina is a former model, and this past year they created a new business ~ Maui Flying Dress. They meet you at the beach near sunset, set up lights and cameras and do a photo shoot with a beautiful flying dress. It’s not for everyone, but it sounds like they have a fun and a busy gig going! Do check out their Maui Flying Dress website and Instagram for many more details. (Personally, I am curious about a beginner flight lesson).

Where to start this Wailea beach walk?

I know I have talked about this walk a lot in the past year. We have walked it at least once a week. Unless you are staying in one of the resorts/condo complexes along the Wailea beach (or resort) walk, there are four options:

  • Ulua Beach parking lot (just south of the Andaz)
  • Shops at Wailea parking lot
  • Wailea Beach parking lot (access is just south of the Grand Wailea/just north of the Four Seasons)
  • Polo Beach parking lot (just past the Fairmont Kealani)

The beach parking lots are all free – which means they are first come first serve. By late afternoon there is usually plenty of parking as the beachgoers have left for the day. The Shops at Wailea had actually implemented a fee system in 2019 I think, however since Covid they dismantled the gates and you can again park free. I assume at some point they will reinstate the parking fees. Our pre-covid go-to would be to bribe the kids with a waffle cone at Lappert’s and then cut through the Marriott (now called the Wailea Beach Resort) to get to the Wailea beach walk.

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Maui Chocolate Factory

Do you love chocolate? I love sweets and chocolate is one of my go-to treats. Did you know Maui has several cocoa growers?

This weekend’s Maui News has an article on Ku’ia Estate Chocolate. In fact, last summer someone gave me some Ku’ia individual chocolate pieces. The pieces I got were dark and absolutely delicious. For much more information on Ku’ia Estate Chocolate, how the owner got started 10+ years ago, do read the very interesting article in the Maui News! They work hard to give back to the community – in fact, last summer’s gift was from a fundraiser for a local charity. Ku’ia Chocolate offer tours and tastings. The factory/store is located at 78 Ulupono St in Lahaina.

A picture of my Ku’ia gift I posted on our Instagram last summer. Do you follow us on Instagram or Facebook?

Other cocoa growers on Maui

Doing a quick cocoa farm search on google, I’m coming across two other cocoa farms. Kupa’a Organic Farm is located upcountry in Kula and offers coffee and chocolate tours. Hana Gold Plantation is located in Hana. I’m not seeing tours offered, however have seen their chocolate in stores. I’m pretty sure there are more – send me a note if you know of any others and I’ll add them!

Have you ever been to a cocoa farm? I haven’t here on Maui, but a few years ago we visited a small cocoa farm while on a cruise off Honduras and Mexico. Their bars were definitely calling to me (and calls to me still).

My very favorite

While I definitely appreciate the dark variety – particularly the fact that it’s something I savor and enjoy slowly, my favorite is milk chocolate. Having grown up in Austria, the land of amazing deserts and coffee, my favorite is Milka. It’s so smooth, I can eat that whole bar in a matter of minutes. That’s why it’s best to not open it until I have a couple kids nearby. Ha!

On a related note, have you tried Maui’s coffees? Which is your favorite?

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Did you know Wailea has a farmer’s market?

Wailea Village, the new upscale shopping area by Manolis Pizza Company and the Wailea Blue Course, opened just as Covid was beginning. They’ve had a rough start of it, with half the store fronts still empty. Management decided to help its shops out this past January by starting a Tuesday farmer’s market.

Every Tuesday from 8 to 11:30 vendors set up their tents and food trucks in the Wailea Village plaza. Today was my first time going, and let’s just say – it was a great way to start my day!

They had live music, flowers, two vegetable stands, two bakery stands (including my favorite Maui Artisan Breads), a variety of stalls selling juices, jams, cookies, breakie bowls, balsamic vinegars etc. It kept true to Wailea-standards, from what I could tell, good quality products.

Sabado Art Studio

My first stop actually was the Sabado Art Studio, one of the shops at the mall. I’ve been meaning to go in here for a while to get matching cushions for the Philip Sabado art rug we have at our Palms at Wailea condo. They helped me select some (reasonably priced) cushions right there. The artist’s son, who I have met several times, was there running the store. Do go in and have a look – they have some beautiful items for sale.

Farmer’s Market vendors

My favorite local bakery had a stand, but I had my heart set on trying the other sourdough bakery – Momo. I picked up a braided foccacia loaf and also an artisanal fig loaf. Both are excellent.

I looked at these protea bouquets, but realized we still have flowers in the kitchen and passed. But aren’t they beautiful?

The Maui Cookie Lab was calling my name and I picked up a few of their cookies.

Should you be looking for something to do on a Tuesday morning, do check out the Wailea Farmer’s Market!

Other shops at Wailea Village

While here, check out my favorite local card store Paper Garden. In addition to cards and gift wrap and such they host arts and craft workshops. Check out their website or follow them on Instagram for more information.

Love your coffee but looking to support local over say Starbucks, check out Akamai Coffee next to Paper Garden. They also have a store in Central Kihei across from Times Supermarket and a coffee stand in the Home Depot parking lot.

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