Wednesday, March 16, 2011


We just spent a week on Maui, and we had a great time! We stayed at Kahana Falls, which was a really nice hotel. We found it through a military time share exhcange program. Our room was small but clean, and it had a kitchen, which saved us a fortune on food. Groceries on Maui are expensive! $7 for a gallon of milk, and $7 for a bag of green salad.. Wow. Gas was expensive too, so be prepared if you are headed there...
The hotel had a pretty koi pond:
And a small, but gorgeous pool with waterfalls:
And 2 fabulous hot tubs. We spent a lot of time in these!
We got to explore most of the island. The only thing I really feel like we missed was the volcano crater, due to rain. We plan to visit the big island to see the active volcano though, so I guess I'll get over missing this one!
We really enjoyed the town of Lahaina. They have one of the world's biggest banyan trees, and it was a great place to play hide and seek. All of the trunks you see below are part of ONE tree.
Lahaina is full of fun shops and great art galleries. They also had some yummy restaurants. We didn't eat at Bubba Gump's (my vegetarian son would have lost his mind), but we had to take the picture...
And Lahaina is where I saw my first whale breach. Here's Crumpet pointing out something he was pretty sure was a whale:
One morning when Dad was snorkeling, Crumpet and I headed to the aquarium.
This is a small but nice aquarium and we had a lot of fun. They have a tunnel you can walk through and be surrounded by sea life.
We loved the giant rays!
There was also a really good educational exhibit about some of the larger sea animals living around Hawaii.
This was Crumpet's favorite - pulling a lever to make the dolphin release air through its blowhole. We spent a LONG time doing this!
They had a pretty good touch pool with sea cucumbers and sea stars There were urchins too, but we decided to avoid those...
The inside tanks were full of coral and creatures that can be found in Hawaii's waters. I liked these garden eels. They stay planted in one spot and wait for food to float by.
And the flounders were very active, swimming all over the tank. I'd never seen one move off the bottom before. The naturalist said it was because they are in a tank environment.
We found lots of amazing flowers to photograph while driving around:

We went to see the cliff diver at Black Rock one evening. Every evening, he walks up the cliff, lights a series of tikki torches, says a prayer to the gods while blessing a lei, and then jumps off the cliff into the sea. Quite impressive to watch! (Black Rock is also supposed to be a good place to snorkel, but we didn't get a chance.)
Ah, vacation...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Maui - The Road to Hana

One of the required things to do while on Maui is to drive the road to Hana. It's a beautiful, twisty, narrow road with tons of one lane bridges and many waterfalls. It's about 40 miles, but it takes about 2 1/2 hours to drive straight to Hana. However, there is really nothing to do in Hana. It's all about the drive, so take your time. My two best pieces of advice about doing this drive:
1) Use the guidebook Maui Revealed. This is a great book full of 'off the beaten track' places to see. If you use it, chances are you will be surrounded by fewer crowds and you may even get to swim in a waterfall by yourself. However, if you stop at every place they recommend, you may have the problem we had, which is this: Getting to Hana will take forever. The entire round trip took us 16 hours, which is far longer than most people take, and we never did get to see the very last sight, which is what everyone raves about. Oops.
So my second recommendation is this:
2) Stay in Hana overnight. Even if you don't dawdle like we did, it will give you freedom to enjoy the trip and not worry about darkness ending your visit prematurely.

Other advice: It rains a lot, so the drive is incredibly green. Prepare for all weather. We saw all a bit of everything. Also, bring bug spray for hiking in the woods. And if you get carsick, take medication. Crumpet had never been carsick in his life, but he was miserable on the way home...

So, onto our drive:
See the road cut into the hill below?
One of the many one lane bridges. Tourists handle these really well, and politely give way. Locals will try to crush you. Just so you know...
Every turn brings a new, gorgeous view:
At the beginning, we stopped at every waterfall. After a while, you realize they are everywhere and just stop at the ones recommended by the book!
"The Three Bears" Waterfall. This one was particularly pretty.
We swam in Ching's Pond, which is a small waterfall under one of the tiny bridges. No one was there, just like the book promised! This is as close to the water as Crumpet got:
Because it was insanely COLD!! Here's me getting in. It took me a long time to finally take the plunge. It was worth it though...
Leptospirosis is a nasty disease that is very common in fresh water in Hawaii, so I don't normally swim in the waterfalls here. (Lots of people do, and few actually get sick.) However, I could only find a record of one case in Maui in the last 10 years or so, so I went for it.

Maui is one of the younger volcanic islands so there is lots of jagged lava rock that hasn't been smoothed out by the sea and wind yet.
There are some beautiful black sand beaches. We stopped at Wainapanapa State Park, which was gorgeous. Neat beaches (not really for swimming), cool caves, and a blow hole which wasn't very active while we were there, but still fun to check out.
One of the caves:

The sand here isn't really sand yet. It's mostly smooth lava rocks which still need to be broken down.

There is also a red sand beach in Hana. While pretty, this really wasn't worth the difficult hike...
A few other Road to Hana sights:
Fluffy bamboo forests:
Whales, which aren't supposed to hang out on that side of the island... We saw many...
Really cool flowers:
We missed the main tourist spot which is Oheo Gulch, also known as the Seven Sacred Pools. It is a few miles past the town of Hana. This is a series of waterfalls and pools working from the top of a mountain down to the ocean. You can swim in many of them. We didn't do our research and so didn't realize that it's a few miles to the top. We did get to walk about halfway up and saw some beautiful falls and pools, as well as a gorgeous bamboo forest. We didn't get to swim though, and... our camera battery died so we have no pictures... Sigh, it just wasn't meant to be.
Still, this was a lovely drive. Don't miss it!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Maui - Sea Life

Maui was beautiful, but for us, the truly amazing thing about the island was this: Whales, whales and more whales! Humpback whales come to Hawaii from December to April to mate and give birth, and most of them stay near Maui. It was a phenomenal experience to be there at this time of year. Never once did we go anywhere near the ocean without seeing whales. You can see them from the airplane on the way in, from highway scenic lookouts, from your car, from the beach. We saw mothers and babies. We saw whales breaching (when their whole body is out of the water). This is what males do to show off. We saw them spy hopping. This is when just the head and top half of the body comes out of the water because the whale is looking around to see what's happening on the surface. I saw 2 whales take turns spy hopping all the way down the beach. It was incredible.
Most of the time, we watched from the beach, but we did take a whale watching cruise on our last day in Maui. It had been very rainy overnight, and was drizzly that morning, so there was almost no one on our boat. A whopping 7 of us. It was great to be able to move anywhere on the boat to follow the whales from side to side, and we never got in anyone's way. And, the naturalist told us that the whales actually seem to be more active on yucky windy days, so we got a good show.
We took a whale watching tour on Oahu last month, but this one was even better. We saw many more whales, and they got very close to the boat. It was great because Crumpet could see the whales well this time, and enjoyed it much more. We also saw flying fish next to the boat which was really cool!

Another way to get close to sea life on Maui is to go snorkeling. It is known for its clear waters and large variety of fish and sea turtles. One of the more famous snorkel trips to take is a boat trip to the island of Molokini. This is a crescent shaped island not too far off shore. The water inside the crescent is very clear, and you can often see 150 feet down. Scuba divers like the back side of the island because it is even deeper.
Crumpet Sr. took a Pacific Whale Foundation tour out to Molokini. They feed you breakfast and lunch while on the boat. He said this looked like the best group to go with - the other boats out there were packed with far more people. I would have liked to join him, but Crumpet would have been bored to tears so we went to the aquarium that morning. I did get a chance to snorkel at Kapalua Beach later in the week. I saw an octopus and an eel (no pictures, sorry!), which were both new finds for me.
Here are just a few of the fish we photographed while on Maui.

Above is the unicorn fish - you can just barely see his horn/nose.

If you do get a chance to go to Maui, definitely try to go in February or March when the number of whales is at its peak. And don't miss the snorkeling. It's an awesome experience!
Above is the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a. This is the Hawaiian state fish. Some name, eh?? We had never seen one before, and we both saw them on this trip.
Below is a sea turtle that Crumpet Sr. saw at "Turtle Arches". All of the Molokini boat tours also stop here, claiming there will be tons of sea turtles. He did see 2 but we've seen more on Oahu...
(For some reason I couldn't enter these pictures in the main part of the blog so they are here at the end...)