I promised all of you a trip report on my recent engagement in Maui, which I spent some time writing during my mileage run to Bahrain. This is going to be a long one, so I’m spreading it out. If you’re planning an upcoming trip to Hawaii, feel free to ask for more details and ideas.
- The Plan
- Outbound: SEA-SFO-OGG in United First Class
- Day 1: Check-in at the Hyatt Regency Maui
- Day 2: Visiting Old Lahaina
- Day 3: Proposal at Haleakala!
- Day 4: Road Trip around West Maui
- Day 5: Snorkeling at Molokini & the Drums of the Pacific Luau
- Return: OGG-SFO-SEA in United Economy Plus
- Turning a Proposal into a Miles and Points Bonanza!
Morning at the Hyatt Regency Maui
Megan and I originally planned on watching the sunrise at Haleakala our first morning in Hawaii, figuring that we would still be on Pacific time and not have any trouble waking up a few hours early. It made perfect sense, right? Of course, we didn’t count on our already early wake-up call the day before to fly out to Maui, nor the cumulative exhaustion that even first class air travel can inflict. When the alarm went off at 3 AM, I barely had the energy to turn it off and go back to bed. But I did find the time to open our sliding window to listen to the ocean. It was a very nice experience to wake up to the chirping birds, crashing waves, and pre-dawn glow a few hours later, so we made some of the in-room coffee and read for a bit before heading out for our morning run.
One of the reasons I love the Kaanapali beach area is that all of the resorts are connected by a mile-long boardwalk. It’s very easy to move from one hotel to the next, stopping to browse the different properties and find a new place to eat every night. We took a nice walk the night before from the Hyatt at the south end to Black Rock, an outcropping of lava at the north end that now serves as a great snorkeling location. In the morning, however, the boardwalk is much less crowded. After our two-mile run, we stopped at the gym located underneath the Spa Moana. Although the equipment was pretty basic, it was a nice location with views of the ocean as well as some cold towels and ice water. We originally planned to run and stop by the gym every morning of our trip, trying to keep up our usual exercise routine, but that dream didn’t last long! There is just so much else to do on the island to keep one occupied and busy.
After our workout was breakfast, which I was really looking forward to. Lots of hotels on Maui offer breakfast buffets with outdoor seating. It’s a great way to take advantage of the beautiful weather and an improvement over eating a continental spread at an enclosed hotel lounge. Hyatt’s buffet is served at Swan Court, the same venue as its upscale Son’z restaurant at night. Although it is fully covered it provides some great views of waterfalls, gardens, and of course swans and other waterfowl. One of the ducks even came over to join us for breakfast during our first morning and later got into a heated discussion with a swan that tried to butt in.
The food and service here was great. Our server remembered my face each day and addressed me by name. The selection was plentiful and included an omelette station, pastries, and other American breakfast basics with some slight variation from day to day. There were also a tropical fruit spread, POG (passion orange guava juice), and a few Japanese breakfast choices for international guests. I had quiet a feast to keep me going, and most of our lunches ended up being on the light side.
Getting to Lahaina
Since we didnt go to Haleakala we decided to head into Lahaina instead. This is a former whaling village a few miles south of Kaanapali and for a time also served as capital of Honolulu. It retains most of its historic charm, although there has been an increase lately in the number of chain stores and restaurants (why someone would eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. while in Hawaii is beyond me).
There are four ways to get to Lahaina. Buses run from Kaanaplai and other parts of Maui if you don’t have a car. There are also some shops that rent bicycles, although I don’t think any of these are located at Kaanapali beach. Third is the old Sugar Cane Train, a holdover from the days when sugar cane plantations dominated Maui’s west shore. I still remember watching the fires burn from the beach when I was younger, but the sugar industry has since given way to hotels and other developments. The train stops in Puukolii, Kaanapalai, and Lahaina, although it isn’t really an interesting experience for anyone but young children.
If you have a car, I suggest driving down Highway 30 past Lahaina to the south side of town and parking there (turn onto Prison St). Many people turn onto Front Street as soon as they come to it, resulting in a long drive through town. If you drive to to the south side, you can park near the giant Banyan Tree–so well known it deserves capitalization–and walk north to some of the better retaurants, then walk back to see the shops on the other side of the street. Street parking is limited to a couple hours and hard to find in the late morning, but there are several pay lots at the south end for $5-10 per day.
The Sights of Old Lahaina
The Banyan Tree is immense and actually looks like several smaller trees since the root structure erupts from the ground in multie locations to support the elongating branches. It’s a nice place to escape the heat in the summer and is a common venue for local artists to set up shop.
Across the street is a small multistory shopping center with a few restaurants and a cinema, but there really isn’t anything worthwhile there. We chose to walk around the Best Western Pioneer Inn instead, a waterfront property in a historic building and one of the few hotels located in Lahaina. you can see the remnants of the old whaling harbor as well as some of the newer boats that today take tourists on day trips. Here you can see the Atlantis submarine tour, with a glass bottom that lets your see the tropical fish, as well as a few sunken ships.
The most popular chain in Hawaii is the ABC Store, which sells sundries, Hawaiian treats, and alcohol. Megan picked up a new hat to shield the sun after I tossed her in the ocean the day before, losing her sunglasses. 🙁 Other than this, most of the shops are equally distributed between clothing shops, art galleries, and jewelry stores. Rarely have I seen anything that I actually need or would want if I were shopping anywhere else, so try not to let your stay in Hawaii sway your judgement. I did stop to get a Hawaiian shirt, which actually looks quite classy.
It was time for lunch, and if my parents taught me anything it’s that you don’t go to Maui without visiting Kimo’s at least once. They have the best mai tais as well as good food and an awesome view from nearly every table. If you want a hamburger, do NOT go to Cheeseburgers in Paradise. One more block and you’ll be at Kimo’s–a much better choice in my opinion. We had a few mai tais, burgers, and a hula pie for dessert (essentially a mud pie made with macadamia nut ice cream instead of coffee).
We walked back, stopping at a few more shops and getting some shaved ice at Ululani’s (along with a $10 off coupon for the Lahaina Grill, where we were eating the following night) before getting back in the car and driving home to the Hyatt. It was a pleasant, relaxing day with some time for snorkeling at Black Rock and lounging by the Hyatt pool. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures from this part because our crappy Kodak underwater camera is not as waterproof as they claim, but Megan did swim away in panic from a giant sea turtle that was hanging around just offshore for about an hour. 😀 Fortunately she calmed down a bit by the time we saw more turtles and fish at Molokini later in our trip. All in all it was good we got a chance to relax on our first day to prepare for all the exciting stuff still to come!