Last weekend we went on a family hike. One of my favorite hikes on Maui is the Waihou Spring Trail in Olinda. I should qualify, usually we just do the 1 mile loop in the pine forest and call it a day. It’s an easy stroll and generally not busy at all. There is an off-shoot from the loop leading to the Waihou Spring Trail which we always walk down. But – there’s always a but – then you get to a danger sign, warning you of certain death.
The thing about hiking upcountry Maui is that it very often rains up there, so the switchback trail to the springs is often wet. This past Sunday however it was dry. Add to that, we had family along that are generally more adventurous than we are, so we thought – well, why not. Down a series of switchbacks we carefully walked to the bottom of the gorge where we found a sweet waterfall with caves behind it. And a rooster. Don’t ask me what the rooster was doing in the middle of nowhere at the bottom of the gorge. I didn’t see any chickens around. I can only presume he got lost, or accidentally went down there. Who knows. The hike out of the gorge was steep, but we all made it back out and lived to tell the tale! I would not recommend this hike if it’s wet.
Where is the Waihou Spring Trail
This trail is located upcountry Maui. To get there, drive up to Makawao. Turn right onto Baldwin and just follow the road up the mountain. The road will get narrower and narrower. Slow down, take your time and enjoy the views and watch for traffic. Eventually you pass the Maui Bird Conservation Center (to your left) and enter into a pine forest. You will shortly see parking on the right side. It will take you about an hour to get here from Kihei.
It’s hard to miss Hawaii in the news these days. Big Island’s Kilauea lava flow is making headlines around the world. The pictures and video footage are incredible. Unfortunately some of the media coverage has been misleading, leading people to believe all of Hawaii is under siege.
Another owner at the Palms at Wailea complex told me yesterday that a family had cancelled due to the volcanic eruption on our neighboring island. She had done her best to convince the family that their Hawaii vacation was safe, but they cancelled, losing thousands of dollars in airfare and accommodations (guess what, the cancellation insurance told them no – they weren’t covering cancellation due to an event far removed from their stay). Bummer.
So, some clarification – what is this recent lava flow on Big Island all about?
Taking it back to the basics – Hawaii is comprised of multiple islands. Our condos are located on Hawaii’s second largest island, Maui. Big Island (also known as the Island of Hawaii) is the largest and newest island in the Hawaiian island chain. Hawaii’s islands were formed by volcanic eruptions out of the ocean floor. The Island of Maui itself has one extinct volcano (West Maui Mountains) and one dormant volcano (Haleakala – its most recent eruption dating back to the 1480s). Big Island – to the East of us – is comprised of five volcanos, of which Mauna Loa and Kilauea are considered active. Mauna Loa most recently erupted around 30 years ago, Kilauea has been having continuous volcanic activity for the past 35 years.
What are the conditions on Maui – is Maui at all affected by the volcanic eruption?
I live in Kihei (in South West Maui) and these are the current conditions: the sky is blue, the air is clear, there is no effect from Kilauea’s current antics. The ocean temperature has not risen here (yes, this has been asked), we cannot see the lava, in fact, it’s business as usual here.
Can that change? Yes – the only effect that we may see is vog (volcanic air pollution). This is something we have experienced from time to time in the past 35 years since Kilauea has (most recently) been active. Hawaii’s prevalent trade winds are currently blowing the vog west and out to sea. However, every now and then the trade winds do subside. When that happens, southerly (Kona) winds can blow the vog up to Maui. The sky will appear hazy and we have the most amazing sunsets, but most people will hardly notice. If you have asthma, you will want to take precautions.
Should you be avoiding Big Island?
It depends. Yes, you should absolutely avoid the eastern-most corner (the Puna district of Big Island) as local residents are dealing with their own trauma. However, many other parts of Big Island are absolutely safe. In fact, I just read that the annual Iron Man Tournament is slated to go ahead next month (it takes place on the West coast of Big Island). Here’s another graphic I found on Facebook.
If you’ve been here around the first of the month, you should be familiar with the monthly warning siren testing that takes place. Loud sirens sound at 11:45AM on the first day of every month. This checks that the sirens are operational and is meant to be a reminder to all that tsunamis can happen.
If it’s the first of the month and at 11:45AM, it’s just a test. No further action needed.
If you hear these sirens at any other time, you need to take action. If it’s the tsunami siren, you need to head to higher ground immediately. It could be a locally triggered tsunami and you may have just a few minutes to get to safety. Tune in to radio or TV for further instructions. Depending on where the earthquake happened, we sometimes have up to 10 hours notice (no the sirens won’t go off that far in advance).
Locally triggered tsunamis? Yes, tsunamis are triggered by some earthquakes. While Hawaii is far removed from fault lines, we do have volcanic activity which causes earthquakes (generally they are rather small and I don’t recall experiencing a locally triggered tsunami in the past 7 years on island).
If it’s the attack warning siren, that indicates that a nuclear attack is imminent. Head indoors, close doors and windows and turn on radio or TV for further instructions for a pending emergency. Having said that, I assume you’d have to be find a local station?
Isn’t it crazy that things have deteriorated on the world stage that we need to plan for this? The last time these attack sirens were tested was in the 1980s. Is the State expecting a nuclear attack? Politicians think it’s unlikely. And yet, State planners are running through scenarios so that they are prepared in case something were to happen. It’s good to have a plan. Hopefully we will never need to use it.
My hunny loves to go for an upcountry drive. In fact, we used to go about four times a year – every time we had company visiting us. Finally I stopped going – it’s a beautiful day trip. It’s just – well, it takes up a good chunk of my day 🙂
Today we went for his favorite upcountry drive as a family. It was drizzling as we left our house – that seemed a bit ominous since our ultimate destination, Ulupalakua Ranch is just 3 or 4 miles above Kihei/Wailea. And sure enough, it rained lightly for the majority of our day. But it was still a beautiful drive and fun family day!
We drove from Kihei to Kahului, taking Hansen Road by the old Sugar Cane Factory to Hana Hwy and then continuing up Haleakala Hwy (which becomes Kula Hwy). We drove all the way to Grandma’s Coffee House where we took a little detour to a side road to drive by Oprah’s house (well, one of them I’m sure). Then back down to Grandma’s Coffee, a little detour to where Oprah’s private road down to Kihei starts (no, you can’t drive it – there are several locked gates). Then we continued to Ulupalakua Ranch
Ulupalakua Ranch‘s General Store is one of our favorite places to eat. They grill burgers to order made from their own meat. There’s something about eating fresh burgers at Ulupalakua.
Then we walked across the street to Maui Winery. Two reasons – the bathrooms are over there (the burgers were a little juicy) and a wine tasting. I picked up a case of their Mele red wine. They have a brand new wine – the Kula which according to their website is a rose white wine. It was really good. Be sure to check out ‘The King’s Room’ in the tasting house which tells some of the 150+ year history of this famous Maui ranch.
Next we headed back to Grandma’s Coffee House for some coffees and carrot cake. They roast their own coffee, make great sandwiches and have delicious baking.
This time we passed Kula Field’s farm stand, turned left on Oma’opio Road (a VERY winding road) and slowly followed it down to the Surfing Goat Dairy and Ocean Vodka (right next door).
Curious – go for a drive! See a part of Maui you didn’t think you’d find!
A few weeks ago a friend asked me to provide the piano accompaniment at a wedding at Kula Botanical Gardens. In fact, my very first wedding on Maui. You know how you go through ‘wedding-periods’ where everyone you know or their kids are getting married? We’ve been in a wedding drought, or perhaps it’s just that ‘our’ weddings have been too far away for us to attend.
Years ago before moving to Maui I played piano professionally. While I dabbled a bit in teaching piano, my real love was in piano accompanying. I accompanied at recitals, competitions, concerts, played at weddings and background music at dinners… I loved it. Since moving to Maui I haven’t really had many opportunities to play piano. I do play at church from time to time and have accompanied for some school choir concerts, but… I’ve found other things to keep busy with I guess. Like our condos…
The wedding was held at Kula Botanical Gardens, a beautiful 8 acre property on the slopes of Haleakala.
One friend played flute while another sang, I borrowed a keyboard and was quite proud of myself to be able to figure out cables and speakers. No, I’m not about to becoming the new Maui wedding pianist, but it was fun morning and I’m glad we got to do this.
If you haven’t been to Kula Botanical Gardens – go check it out! It’s located at approximately 3600 ft elevation, just past the Kula Country Farm stand, just after you’ve turned left to head towards Haleakala National Park.
A little teaser… they also have a small coffee farm. Their coffee is grown at 3600 ft, which is apparently the highest altitude coffee is grown within the US. According to the owner (Warren) their plants actually don’t grow in dirt, but in a mixture of volcanic ash and organic matter.
Other upcountry things to check out…
On our way home we stopped at the Kula Country farm stand for some fresh strawberries. Then a little pitstop at La Provence for some baked goodies (next time I’ll go earlier, they were somewhat sold out).
We’ve been meaning to go hiking in the Makawao Forest Reserve. This past weekend we finally made it there. Compared to the Olinda hike, this is quite an extensive trail system and is actually set up for mountain bikers. Some of the trails are strictly for bikers, so do pay attention to the signs.
The hike itself is a 6.5 mile loop in the forest. We didn’t go nearly that far, but hiked past the two sets of ramp areas for bikes and then through the ravine. I really enjoy seeing this different (non beach) side of Maui. There are tall pine trees and beautiful trees with stripped bark.
This trail is covered with leaves and often wet. Do bring sturdy shoes, slippahs are not appropriate here.
Getting to the Makawao Forest Reserve is a little adventurous.
From Kihei you are looking at about a 50 minute drive. Driving on Makawao Ave (from the Haleakala Hwy), go straight through the 4 way stop with Baldwin and then take your first right after the church and cemetery. Pass the Piiholo Ranch Ziplines and when you come to a Y intersection, turn left (Waiahiwi Rd). The road gets narrower, windy and there are very few signs. There will be a few ‘no outlet’ signs. Eventually you turn right onto Kahakapao Road (don’t go straight onto private Piiholo Ranch property). Eventually you get to park gates (open 7am-7pm). Now the road is quite narrow with some pretty good ‘dips’ in the road (they are marked, slow down). Pull into the second parking lot on the right (after the horse trailer parking lot). It’s a fairly large parking lot with good signage.
Bring your own snacks and water along. There is a port-o-potty.
Do not leave any valuables in your car.
If you are interested in mountain biking it, there are a few bike rental places on Maui – Krank Cycle is likely easiest as it is right in Makawao.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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).
This weekend our family went hiking on the Waihou Springs Trail. Actually we had planned to go to the Makawao Forest Reserve, but after doing a bit of reading, decided this one would be more up our alley. It is designated for hikers only, and is a short 2.5 mile loop hike (as opposed to 5.7 miles) with no bikes. Perfect.
To get there, you drive to Makawao, and then turn right (up the hill) at the only four way stop in town (Makawao and Baldwin Ave). When you turn right at this intersection, you are actually on Olinda Road. You follow Olinda for 5+ miles into the Waihou Springs State Forest Reserve. The road is narrow and winding and in parts quite steep (go slow). After passing the bird sanctuary you will see parking for it on the right hand side of the road (by an experimental pine forest).
The hike itself is a relatively easy walk through the forest. Watch out for tree roots. There are a lot of pine needles and later leaves on the path. If it’s wet or muddy, I imagine hiking here would be very slick. We didn’t quite walk down to the Waihou Spring (a side-trail off the main trail) as the path was narrow and steep and a little more excitement than we had in mind for a Sunday afternoon walk.
We picked the perfect afternoon – it was dry, the sun was shining. Within the forest it was about 72F (perfect weather for walking or hiking).
The kids tried to talk us into dinner at the Makawao Steak House or at minimum the Stop Watch (sports bar in Makawao). Instead we stopped at Costco, bought steak and bbqed it at home. A perfect afternoon!
This morning we checked out the Hali’imaile Distilling Company in Hali’imaile, upcountry Maui. They are the makers of several great products – Pau Vodka, Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum, Paniolo Whiskey and Maui Moon (flavored) Vodka. When driving up Haleakala Hwy, this is the first town on the left hand side, also famous for the Hali’imaile General Store (a Bev Gannon restaurant).
Hali’imaile Distilling Company is set right between Maui sugar cane fields and 1300 acres of Maui Gold pineapple fields. Unfortunately the pineapple fields are somewhat hidden – further behind the Hali’imaile General Store (across the road and back a ways).
We booked the tour online, showed up at our time and paid the entry fee of $10/person (which includes three samples at a tasting). The distillery tour was about 30 minutes long, the tour guide enthusiastic. This is a small-kine operation. They were just in the process of bottling some Pau Vodka on a small-scale bottling line. But hey – small batches are often best! The Vodka is made from Maui-grown sugar infused with additional molasses. The rum is made from Maui Gold pineapples (grown in Hali’imaile, and juiced for them by the Ulupalakua winery).
At the end of the short tour we had fun checking out the merchandise and sampling our favorite product. It was still morning – but it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?
Which was my favorite? I bought a bottle of cognac infused Pau Vodka. Yum.