Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Maui: Haleakala

From what I learned from the locals and some scam-y spend-your-money-by-booking-expensive-activities lady from Expedia, Maui means "valley" because of the fact that it was created by two shield volcanoes (which is a type of volcano formed from fluid lava flow) that merged to form one island with a great valley in between. That, and the fact that the now dormant volcanoes have eroded and there are lots of valleys everywhere, or something to that degree. I guess I wasn't paying great attention.

There's Maui Komohana, or the West Maui Volcano, to the west (obviously), and Haleakala, the House of the Sun, to the east. Everyone goes to see the sun rise at Haleakala because it's breathtaking and spiritual and amazing. However, my family opted to do the sunset instead for a few reasons.
  • You have to wake up at 3am for the sunrise. It takes a little less than 2 hours to get there (from Kihei) but it will be dark so you'll need extra time to maneuver the curves of the mountain and you need to get there early enough to get a good spot. It's a v. popular activity so there are a lot of people and limited parking spots and viewing areas.
  • Alternatively, to see the sunset, we headed to the mountain around 3pm and spent a few hours exploring and hiking before we reached the summit. The drive was easy because it was bright out. The drive back down was just as easy because the sun was still giving off a nice hazy light to guide us down.
  • It is cold and dark when you arrive on top of the mountain. 40 degrees doesn't sound too bad but combine it with gusting winds and fog and clouds and high altitude and the fact that your body is accustomed to 80 degree beach weather and it is severe.
  • Alternatively, it was pretty warm when we were climbing the mountain. I'd say it was in the mid 50s and the we didn't feel the severity of the cold until the sun actually started to drop.
Justifiably, there are many benefits to seeing the sunrise, after all, Haleakala is called the House of the Sun for a reason.
  • You'll catch an amazing view of the stars as you're driving up, the sun rises over the big crater so it looks amazing.
  • When the sun sets, it falls behind the observatory area so it's not as majestic of a view.
  • You have the rest of the day ahead of you to swim, play, and do whatever activities you want.
Some tips/warnings:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Maui: the Road to Hana

This is not a trip for those with car ride-induced motion sickness. All the guidebooks warn you about the winding roads and one-lane bridges but you can't understand how intense it is until you travel the road. That being said, the Hana Highway is a must, when visiting Maui. There is an alternative route to Hana along the south side of the island but if you're a tourist, chances are that your rental car company forbids you from using certain parts of Highway 31.

Preparation for this trip is essential! The driver of your car must be reliable, safe, and great at maneuvering. You must check the weather; if it looks like rain, you might want to postpone the trip because parts of the road can be closed due to land and mudslides. Pack some bug spray because you are headed to the side of the island that is lush, wet, green, and full of mosquitos. Stock up on snacks and bottled water; it's a long and windy drive in tropical weather, staying hydrated and avoiding starvation is important. Wake up early and get a head start on the day (7am!). And if you don't plan on spending the night in Hana, make a list of the places you want to visit and keep an eye on the clock because it is imperative that you are on the road and on your way back from Hana by 3:30 pm. Otherwise, the sun will set before your journey is over and being stuck on those winding hairpin turns in the dark can't be fun.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Maui: Snorkeling Part II

Here are the rest of my reviews:

Olowalu Beach - 3 out of 3

Since it was still early (before 9am) the water was a bit chilly but we jumped right in. They say (who's they? The experts? Whatever!) that fish are most active in the early morning and early evening so we saw a lot of fish. The sand was gritty but there were virtually no rocks and the water was clear with so much coral. My sister and I actually swam through and around the coral like a maze and we saw so many interesting fish. We were really careful not to touch the coral (if you touch it, it dies!) but since the coral was in such shallow water, sometimes the waves would push us into it. It hurt us, but I'm sure it hurt the coral more.

Difficulty: easy
Parking: side of the road parking (and plenty of it)
Other comments: porta-potties

Kaanapili Beach (Black Rock) - 1.5 out of 3

(Kaanapili is pronounced KA-AH-na-PEEL-lee). We came here because it was so popular and mentioned by every book, website, brochure, and guide. However, I wasn't too impressed. The snorkeling itself was cumbersome and difficult because the waves were sort of violent and I kept on getting scared the water would push me into the rocks. But what made it even harder was the fact that there were so many people in the water; it was impossible to swim an inch without bumping into another snorkeler. However, there is a cliff-ish rock (the Black Rock) that juts out into the water and you can jump off. We saw a bunch of people doing it (I think with a guide/safety monitor) and it looked like a lot of fun. Plus, the sand is soft so the beach itself is great for lying around and sunbathing.

Difficulty: moderate (because of the crashing waves)
Parking: paid parking garage at the Whaler's village, minimal free parking in the garage adjacent (maybe 16 spots on the ground floor)
Other comments: showers and restrooms (courtesy of the Westin Maui)

Kapalua Bay Beach - 2 out of 3

Kapalua was the farthest north we went. It's right by a golf course and the Ritz Carlton. The sand had the texture of cornmeal (it was coarse but still weirdly soft) and the water was so clear and blue. The snorkeling itself was okay. There was plenty of coral and fish but there were a lot of rocks at the edge of the shoreline so that when it came time to get out of the water, it was difficult to avoid being pushed into rocks by the waves. The waves were actually pretty strong and we saw a few kids getting tossed around like insert something cliche here. The beach itself was pretty thin, not much room to lay out, but there were plenty of trees that provided shade for the umbrella-less.

Difficulty: easy
Parking: lot (not sure if it's free), we parked on the grassy bank on the side of the street, Lower Honoapillani Rd
Other comments: showers, restrooms, water fountains

Here are my sketches of the underwater ocean life that I saw. I only had a purple pen so I couldn't color anything in :(
And some photos from the Kamaole beaches:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Maui: Snorkeling Part I

While in Maui, I had the chance to snorkel at 6 different beaches. I bought a snorkel before going ($20 for a hot pink Aqua Lung Sport Molokai Island dry snorkel/mask combo - Molokai is a Hawaiian island, how appropriate) and rented fins from Snorkel Bob's for just 1 day once we got there.

My snorkeling tips:
  1. Rub a little spit onto your mask to stop it from fogging up
  2. Right before you stick your head in the water, breathe in with your nose to suck the mask to your face. That way, once you stick your head in the ocean, a tighter seal forms and it's less likely that you'll have any leaks.
  3. Relax and enjoy what you're doing. I found that floating like a dead person was the best. I saw so much by just staying still and observing and I conserved energy for when I needed to swim back and fight the tide from pulling me further out.
  4. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water before you start. Breathing with your mouth gaping open (since you have to breath through a snorkel) dries you out. Plus, if you swallow any salt water by accident, that will leave you parched.
Here's my Maui Snorkeling map:

You'll notice that all of the snorkel spots are on the south and west side of the island. That's because Maui has a windward side (wet, rainy, forest-y and lush) and a leeward side (dry and calm) and the leeward side is where all of the good snorkeling spots are.

And here are my reviews of the places we went:

Kamaole Beach Park II & Kamaole Beach Park III - 2.5 out of 3

This beach was right across from our condo resort so it was the first beach we explored. The sand was soft (almost the texture of flour) and the water was clear and beautiful. As far as snorkeling goes, it was great. The waves weren't strong at all, the water visibility was clear, and there were a lot of fish to look at. In fact, you didn't even have to go deep to see the fish. They would swim around our ankles while we dipped our feet. There are some rocky areas to be wary of, but other than that, it was really easy to get in and out of the water. The rocky area is nice for kids though because there are little tide pools that form where you can see some cute tiny fish.

Difficulty: easy
Parking: street (designated lines)
Other comments: picnic areas, barbecues, restrooms, showers

Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve - 1 out of 3

This beach was interesting. We actually overshot the bay area and ended up on a single lane road through a cooled lava flow area. However, we eventually found our way to the beach. It was a difficult "hike" because of the big chunky rocks and a fear of breaking my ankle but we eventually found the water. The beach itself was really rocky (reminded me of the black sand beach on our Road to Hana adventure) and we were all crying in pain from walking on the rocks barefoot and that made it really hard to get in and out of the water. Visibility was pretty horrible too; perhaps it was the position of the sun and/or the amount of wind that day and we had to swim out pretty far before we started to see any fish. There were some guys that said they saw a turtle and a few scuba groups that seemed to be having a good time.

Difficulty: moderate
Parking: gravel lot (there was a sign that said to be wary of thieves so watch your valuables)
Other comments: porta-potties

Makena Landing Beach Park - 3 out of 3

We lucked out at this beach because there was one parking spot left in the lot and we snagged it. The beach was sandy with a rocky area jutting into the ocean. The water was really clear, blue, and calm, waves were minimal, and there was so much beautiful coral and tons of beautiful fish. I had so much fun here. We did have to swim out pretty far to see the fish but the water stays shallow for a while before it starts to drop off significantly so you don't have to swim back too far to be able to stand up.

Difficulty: easy
Parking: dirt lot
Other comments: showers, restrooms

I'll do Part II with three more beaches in the next post!

**Sorry for the lack of personal photos in this post. My cousin's husband bought an underwater camera and snapped a lot of fun photos but on our last day, his bag, along with the camera and his netbook, got stolen! :(

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Maui: food

Since we stayed in condos, we cooked the majority of our meals but when we did venture out, we made it a point to get Hawaiian foods. To the right is a photo of the spices I packed from home so that cooking in the condos wouldn't be bland and tasteless. I used a free daily pill case from my local pharmacy and the cylindrical container is from a craft store. It's meant for bead storage, I believe. Cute and easy idea, and extremely convenient.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Maui: lodging

For our trip, we stayed in Kihei, a town 30 minutes south of the Kahului Airport, full of mostly condo-type lodging and located right next to the beach. From what I gathered, there are 3 types of areas you could stay in while in Maui: resorts (in towns like Wailea, which is right next to Kihei, or Lahaina/Kaanapili area which is on the northwest side of the island), condominium-style lodging in Kihei, or upcountry/secluded hotels and B&Bs in towns like Hana.

Personally, I don't have the money to stay in a resort, but even if I did, I doubt I'd want to stay in one. When I go on holiday somewhere (especially somewhere new), I don't spend much time in my hotel so why pay so much? However, Maui has some really amazing looking resorts, all of them seemed modern and in great condition with awesome beach amenities so if that's your scene, go for it.

I can't say too much about the upcountry lodging but I think I would probably go for that if I'd been to Maui multiple times and wanted to escape the touristy stuff.

As for the lodging we chose, Castle Kamaole Sands in Kihei, I loved it. Our condo kitchen was stocked full of supplies (bowls, dishes, utensils, rice cookers, coffee makers, sandwich press, griddle, pots, pans, spatulas, you name it, we had it), was clean and spacious, and it pretty much made us feel like we lived in Maui. There's a nice pool area (pool, chairs, two hot tubs) in the center (where they offer free cocktails in the afternoon) and there are a few barbecues scattered throughout the property (which we took advantage of). We got a great package deal through Orbitz for our hotel + rental car + flights. In the end, I think we paid around $100/night, which is amazing for the high season. Just do some research.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Back from Maui :(

Maui was amazing; so amazing, I would definitely live there, if I had the opportunity/means.

Overview of what I did --
Day 1: plane, plane, plane, settle into condo, Korean new years dinner
Day 2: brunch, beach (first time snorkeling in the ocean), bbq dinner
Day 3: Hana highway, Hawaiian plate lunch for dinner
Day 4: cousin's beach "wedding," brunch, shave ice, Old Lahaina luau
Day 5: snorkeling, Haleakala sunset, Hawaiian pizza dinner
Day 6: snorkeling all day!
Day 7: layout at the pool (in attempt to even out tan), Waihe'e Beach Park, Maui Botanical Gardens, Queen Kaahumanu Shopping Center, L&L Hawaiian barbecue for lunch/dinner, head to airport :(
I took lots of photos of signs/symbols/text
I'm excited to look back through my photos and blog about how much fun I had :)
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