CELEBRATING IN HAWAII
After spending Thanksgiving weekend in Spokane with family we woke on Monday, November 28th, 2016 to snow. Our bags were packed and we were headed to the airport with not nearly enough clothes on for the cold but we didn’t care because we would soon be in paradise.
Travis would tell you that he’s not sure how this trip came together. But, I would tell you that after accidentally planning a surprise trip for what I thought was his 50th birthday one year early I had to do something for his real 50th. A 10 day vacation in Maui seemed appropriate.
The trip was a whirlwind, the first seven days were spent vacationing with our cousin McKenzie and drinking mimosa’s at sunrise, walking on the beach, hiking through the hills to see waterfalls, snorkeling with turtles, going whale watching and ending our days with gorgeous sunsets. What could be better than that!
Welcome to Maui
The weather was our friend about half the time during our stay, even on the rainiest days the temperatures were still comfortable for running around in just shorts and a t-shirt. On days when the forecast called for more than a short rain shower we toured Maui’s back roads, shopped downtown Lahaina, visited the historic banyan tree (book of knowledge fact about this particular banyan tree. It is 143 years old, it was 8 feet tall when planted in 1873, and now covers almost 2 acres in downtown Lahaina).
There were some things that struck us as odd about Maui. Did you know that there are wild cats and chickens running around everywhere – literally everywhere. It got to be laughable after a while wondering where they were going to pop up next.
Ho’okipa Beach Park
The waves on the north side of the island are not for the faint of heart and on one of our adventures we stopped off at Ho’okipa Beach to watch the surfers. We had our choice of vantage points: the cliffs on the point, the gazebo at the park, or from the beach.
While we were parked at the cliffs on the point watching the surfers take on wave after wave a retired gentleman asked us if we saw the turtles on the beach. Thinking he was crazy we all said no and he promptly pointed out one of the “boulders” moving on the beach. According to his brief lesson in marine biology there is a little water bug, like a mosquito, that bites their neck and when they get tired of the biting they crawl up on shore to dry out (which kills the bug). We quickly jumped back in the Jeep and drove down to the beach to check out these four amazing creatures.
Twin Falls Farm Stand
The Internet is a beautiful thing by placing all kinds of information at your fingertips. On this particular day we were all set to tour this little farm and hike into Twill Falls to visit a handful of beautiful small waterfalls and swimming holes on the north part of the island. This was best described by Maui’s Guidebook as a neat little swimming hole with perfect picture opportunities in the caves behind the waterfalls.
Shortly after parking we were greeted by this little food truck selling all kinds of fresh fruit and coconut water straight from the shell harvested from adjoining farm. We passed on the goods eager to get our hike underway and venture back to the swimming holes. The trail system into the falls was well traveled and easy to navigate. Several of the trails were blocked off and unpassable because of the heavy rains. This alone was our first clue that things may not be as advertised. Our excitement grew as we crested the last hill to the sound of rushing water – the falls were close – we could hear it, one more bend in the trail and we arrived. The view before us was not a small swimming hole with a trickling waterfall but rather a rush of fast moving silty water. There was no need to post a ‘no swimming’ sign because there was no-way we were getting in that water. Not even for a great photo.
Snorkeling and Whale Watching
We chartered with Pacific Whale Foundation for snorkeling and whale watching trips. PWF is a non-profit organization charged with non-invasive marine studies and educating the communities. This was our primary reason for selecting this company over the hundreds of other options.
Our snorkeling trip was over in a bay near the island of Lanai. It was a crazy beautiful day with calm seas. The captain said the seas the previous week were so rough that during each trip there were multiple people getting sick so we felt very blessed. The snorkeling was very different from the times we’ve snorkeled in Mexico, the color of the water and fish were so vibrant and clear. It was peaceful, I found I could’ve floated there for hours just watching the fish and turtles feed on the bottom.
The island of Lanai was owned by Dole until 2012 when Larry Ellison CEO of Oracle bought it for ~$300 million (actually only 97% of it, the other 3% is owned by the state of Hawaii). Most of us dream of owning a vacation home in Hawaii but a whole island?
The whale watching season doesn’t really kick off until December 15th but the PWF starts tours on December 1st so we decided to give it a shot. During our tour the biologists aboard the boat told us to be on the lookout for pods of dolphins, flying fish, and of course humpback whales.
The humpback travels from Alaska to Hawaii for 2 reasons, to deliver babies and to make more babies. The area between the islands is like an ocean desert so there are very few predators so it’s a safe place for the whales to give birth. Since there is little to eat the whales lose a substantial amount of weight (like literally tons). We cruised around for at least an hour and saw a couple of spouts (a whale clearing its blowhole) followed by a tail going vertical. For whale watching that is not a good thing because the vertical tail means the whale is going on a deep dive and won’t surface for up to 15-20 minutes. We were happy that we at least got to see a couple whales even if it was just the tail and it was from a distance when the captain turned the boat around and made a beeline for the shore. He said there was a group of whales closer to shore so we were going to check it out. Nothing could have prepared us for the show this group of whales put on. It was what is called a competition pod which is a group of males fighting to get the attention of a female. Since the fighting takes a lot of energy they surface much more frequently (about every 3 – 5 minutes). During this battle we got to see just about everything they are known for from a full breach (launching up out of the water) to one of them slapping their pectoral fin to head butting each other and tail slaps. The captain was very good and was able to keep moving the boat guessing where they would surface next. At one point we were looking over the railing and saw one pass right under the boat. It was truly an unbelievable experience, by the time we headed back to the dock our cheeks were sore from smiling so much.
One of the things that is so wonderful about the tropics is being able to sit outside and watch the sunset without the temperature dropping to the point where you are forced inside or having to bundle up. So when it wasn’t raining we would sit outside on the lanai and watch the beautiful colors of the sunset. Sometimes there would be turtles feeding close to shore and there were always little black crabs all over the rocks.
Namalu Bay / Oneloa Bay
We did several hikes (maybe they were more like strolls) along the northwest shore of Maui. In one of the pictures below you can see this area that almost looks like a vortex out in the water. There is just something about the deep blue azure water and the waves that makes you want to just sit and stare at it all day.
Towards the end of our trip we did a farm tour where they take you around in a little tram and explain all of the crops they grow and then this young lady demonstrated how to husk a coconut (it’s not as easy as you would think, they are super tough). She also explained everything about the life cycle of the coconut like only drink coconut water from a green coconut and only eat the “meat” (the white part inside) when the coconut is ripe. Unless of course you need a laxative; then by all means prepare yourself.
Maui Ocean Center
Our flight home was a red eye and we had about 11 hours between the time we had to check out of our condo and our departure time. The weather was not cooperating and we experienced torrential downpours throughout the day. So much so that mud and rock slides were happening on one of the only two roads between us and the airport. It turned out to be a perfect day for indoor activities. Who wouldn’t want to spend an afternoon at the aquarium. It was a fun day and we had a nice lunch at the restaurant inside the aquarium which looks out over the bay.
One of the coolest things of being Jeep Wrangler owner is the ‘Jeep Wave’. It took us a few months to get the hang of flashing the peace sign or waving to other Wrangler owners but once it’s ingrained – well, you just do it.
On the roads in Maui, half of the vehicles on the road are Jeep Wrangler rentals but nobody has a clue what a ‘Jeep Wave’ is. I think this is something that should be added to all rental agreements and strictly adhered to – it just makes you happy. When parking, you best make note where you park and what your license plate is because you are likely to lose your car in a sea of other Jeep rentals. Honey is ours the silver one or the white one?