Monday, May 28, 2018

Maui = Amazing, Part Two

A bit of history: Before Hawaii became the fiftieth state of the United States of America in 1959, Hawaii was a sovereign nation recognized by the United Nations. The monarchy of Hawaii was overthrown by resident European and American capitalists in 1893. Hawaii was an independent republic until 1898 when it officially became a territory of the United States. The Iolani Palace in Honolulu served as the capitol of the Republic of Hawaii. The Iolani Palace featured electricity, indoor plumbing and working elevators before the White House in mainland United States of America did.

Thanks to wikipedia and the television show Adam Ruins Everything, I had a basic understanding that not all the history of Hawaii was rainbows, beaches and palm trees. There were also plagues brought by germy explorers, stolen land, wrongful subjugation, squashing of native traditions and other shameful stuff most people don't like to think about while on a tropical vacation.

Our tour bus driver on the Road to Hana delivered a heavy-handed sermon on these historical misdeeds and traced his native Hawaiian bloodline, all before we stopped for breakfast. Our tour group consisted of Chad and me from Austin, another couple from some other part of Texas and seven African-American (this is relevant, I swear) senior citizens from Chicago who were all acquainted with each other. Our tour bus driver went on to state as part of his history lecture that Barack Obama was not legally president of the United States of America, because he was born in Hawaii which should still be recognized as an independent nation. This statement was met with stony silence from every person on the bus (besides the driver) and a few dropped jaws.

Later our tour guide/driver relayed a story about chickens on Maui getting loose during a hurricane, explaining the feral chicken population. He said, "Like Malcolm X, these chickens were saying, 'Free at last, free at last. Thank God, we're free at last." (Nope. That is a loose quotation taken completely out of context from a speech by Martin Luther King Jr.) After a beat, one of the ladies from Chicago said, "That's okay. He doesn't know our history. He knows his own history." I appreciate that Carol from Chicago said this, and diffused an awkward and offensive moment.

Assuming you don't get the same tour guide driver we endured, I highly recommend taking a guided tour with a professional driver of the Road to Hana. The Road to Hana features 617 curves, 54 one lane bridges, tropical rainforests, bamboo jungles, black sand beaches with lava tubes, waterfalls, cliffs and tropical streams with pools. We enjoyed the breathtaking scenery while a local, professional navigated the crazy curves and one lane bridges. Our tour stopped at a beach with lava rock outcroppings, a famous black sand beach, Oheo Gulch (a.k.a. Seven Sacred Pools), a lovely local farm to market stand, Wailua Falls, Charles Lindberg's gravesite and another farm to market stand in the rolling hills of the dry side of Maui. The Road to Hana tour allowed us to see an amazing diversity of Maui landscapes and climates. The day we went was drizzly, but the day before we went had heavy rains complete with rockslides. Thankfully we weren't impeded by rockslides, but were treated to rushing waterfalls.

Keanae Peninsula

Keanae Peninsula

Black Sand Beach

The beautiful flowers hanging in those trees are bright turquoise

Baby pineapple plants

Oheo Gulch (a.k.a. Seven Sacred Pools) raging waters

A tall, raging waterfall & some ladies' heads

Maui's version of the Grand Canyon

Due to a brief stop to let road construction clear and traffic on the way back to our resort, our Road to Hana tour took just under thirteen hours. We loved the amazing views on Road to Hana! My photos from that cloudy, drizzly day don't do it justice. In retrospect, I even appreciate the history lesson from our tour guide. But, for real, he should work on his heavy delivery, and consider his audience with a bit more care and thoughtfulness. 

More from gorgeous Maui soon. (So. Much. More.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Maui = Amazing, Part One

Sorry for the delayed travel post. I've been dealing with a bummer of a health issue: nothing serious, mostly just annoying.

After a year (not exaggerating) of research and careful planning, Chad and I finally took a much anticipated week-long trip to Maui in April. Maui delivered everything I hoped for, plus a little extra. Big thanks to Adventure Maui for excellent activities bookings made easy! We got a discounted flight plus hotel package on Expedia, so check them out too for your travel needs.

We flew American Airlines from Austin to Dallas-Forth Worth, then straight to Maui's Kahului Airport. Eight hours in economy on a very full flight felt less than delightful, but the American Airlines flight attendants were very good natured and nice. Free movies on seatback screens and a free meal (veggie wrap with chips & a yummy cookie) made the time pass a bit more mercifully. Landing in gorgeous Maui made the long flight worthwhile.

After a long, scary shuttle ride during which our driver juggled a work-issued walkie-talkie, their personal phone and an i-Pad with route information while weaving over the center line and other lane lines, we arrived safely at the most beautiful resort I've ever seen. Hello, Westin Maui Resort and Spa! Glad to meet you!

photo courtesy of Westin Maui Resort

photo courtesy of Westin Maui Resort

photo courtesy of Westin Maui Resort

photo courtesy of Westin Maui Resort

We arrived on a Saturday evening during light rain. We were tired, jet-lagged and hungry. So naturally we partied all night at the most exclusive clubs. Kidding! We had dinner at one of the hotel restaurants, walked around the gorgeous resort a bit, unpacked and settled in for necessary sleep.

We chose not to rent a car for our Maui vacation, which worked out beautifully. Between the Westin resort shuttle into Lahaina, guided tours with resort pick-up and three Lyft rides (less than $60 total with tips for all three rides), we did not need a car.

Sunday morning Chad and I took the free Westin Shuttle to Lahaina Wharf Cinema Center, conveniently close to Banyan Tree Park. This spectacularly large banyan tree was planted in 1873, and has grown to cover an area of about 0.66 acres, topping out at 60 feet in height with sixteen additional trunks radiating from the original trunk. The shade and benches in this park offered a nice respite from the bustling Front Street noise of t-shirt shops, restaurants and wily pedestrians going nowhere fast.

Chad and I walked around the waterfront a bit, admiring the beach views. We shopped a little for obligatory postcards, shell necklaces and chocolate covered macadamia nuts. Then we caught the Westin shuttle back to the resort to get ready for the evening's entertainment.

One wardrobe change later, we hopped back on the handy Westin shuttle to the Old Lahaina Luau. Greeting guests with a strong cocktail (or a lovely fruit juice for the non-imbibers) set the tone for fun and hospitality. Before the show guests are encouraged to walk around to different cultural demonstrations such as hula dance lessons, wood carving, block printing and photo opportunities. We scored seats right next to the stage, because I booked our reservation eight months before our trip. Chad is leggy, and not especially limber, so I think he struggled a bit with the pillow on the ground seating situation in the front rows. He might have better enjoyed the cheaper chair seats a bit farther from the stage.

The main show started just after sunset. The performers put their heart and talent into the dancing while narrators explained some history of the Hawaiian islands. (Spoiler alert: the missionaries banned traditional hula dancing and native traditions for a long time in a misguided attempt to spread their good news. Not a good look, missionaries.) The music was performed live by musicians off to side of the main stage. Dinner was self-serve buffet style between dance numbers, and was vegetarian friendly with plenty of options. The food was very good, but it was a buffet, so go for the overall experience; not for a made-to-order foodie adventure. Servers cruised by throughout the evening offering more cocktails and juice from the open bar. A giant dessert platter was served family style to each table. Each guest received a thoughtfully packaged mini banana bread loaf on their way out after the luau.

More from Maui soon, I promise. Aloha until then!