Saturday, June 30, 2018

Manic Hobgoblin: Already Planning Next Vacations

I've mentioned the Manic Hobgoblin who haunts my thoughts sometimes, right? He shouts over the quiet, rational voice that usually narrates my inner monologue. I didn't even finish my Maui blog posts before Manic Hobgoblin (M.H. for short) started planning our next grand excursions. Here are the five places topping M.H.'s travel destination list.

1. Scotland (focusing on Edinburgh)

2. Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland

3. Niagara Falls

4.  Pacific Northwest Road Trip

5. Budapest


Chad and I need to visit my grandmother for her 90th birthday in August in Arkansas.

We need to visit Chad's family in the Atlanta area in the fall.

We need to visit my family in the Raleigh area.

I've tried (in vain) to reassure M.H. that after all these family trips, Chad and I will start saving up enough money and "Paid Time Off" for one of M.H.'s adventures. M.H. is not pleased by this timeline. He has hijacked my MacBook and started researching already. Yet again, M.H. proves he has no chill.

Sometimes I kind of hate the Manic Hobgoblin.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Maui = Amazing, Conclusion/Reflection

I highly recommend the Westin Maui Resort! The resort is gorgeous and conveniently located.The adults-only pool really is adults-only. There are five pools, so plenty of family-friendly pools too. I loved that we could rent snorkel gear and walk down the beach to amazing snorkeling at Black Rock. I loved that Westin Maui offers onsite restaurants, is a five-minute walk to Whalers Village restaurants and offers the free shuttle to Lahaina attractions.

I'm glad we didn't rent a car on Maui. Between the Westin shuttle bus, Lyft and guided tour pickups, we didn't need our own car. Consider when renting a car not just the car rental cost, but also the $30 per night parking cost at most resorts on Maui. Gasoline also costs a lot more on Maui.

I kind of wish we'd done Hike Maui's Hana Hiking Trip instead of the Road to Hana van tour. I'd love to see even more bamboo forests and even more waterfalls close-up, but we really enjoyed the Road to Hana van tour with all of its stops. Above all, I'm really glad we didn't try to drive the Road to Hana ourselves.

I wish I'd made reservations ahead of time for restaurants at Whalers Village (especially Monkeypod), instead of being surprised by the long lines & waits at dinner time. The outrageously long lines at dinner time meant that we ended up eating from the burrito stand one night. The food was fine, but scurrying back to our hotel room to sit on the floor and eat was not glamorous. We do that (eat takeout on the floor) at home. I want a little more from vacation.

Chad took a surfing lesson that he enjoyed. I wish I'd gone to watch (and take video). made planning and booking our tours, hikes and surf lessons so easy. I highly recommend !

I'm sorry that the United States of America basically subjugated Hawaii into statehood which many Hawaiian people didn't want. If you go to any Hawaiian island, be prepared to be reminded of this history. It's uncomfortable, but deal.

Like many popular tourist destinations, I sensed an undercurrent of resentment towards tourists from some locals. I'm sure it's rough to depend on tourism for the economy, but also to be real tired of tourists. I get cranky about the crowds in Austin during the numerous festivals such as Austin City Limits Music Fest, South By Southwest (SXSW) eighteen-day everything festival and Bozo Fest*.

Maui feels a lot like an idyllic paradise, and is priced accordingly. Be prepared. Everything (food, hotels, tours, activities, clothing) is much more expensive than on the mainland.

I'm so thankful for our Maui experiences. That said, the air travel time of eight hours in cramped economy class and the financial costs of a Maui vacation make this a once-in-a-lifetime trip for us. There are so many other places on this glorious planet that Chad and I want to see!

*Bozo Fest is not a real festival in Austin. It just feels like that sometimes with all the street closures and crowds.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Hiking Haleakala on Maui (& Trying Not to Pass Out)

First trail at Haleakala where some green stuff grows up in the clouds.

Maui boasts a dormant volcano crater at Haleakala National Park. The tallest peak of Haleakala tops at 10,023 feet elevation. Chad and I hiked two trails at Haleakala for a total of four miles. During our hikes at Haleakala we stood at eye level with clouds. The air is very thin and cold at that height, but the sun can burn your skin quickly. It felt a little difficult to catch our breath, both from the hiking exertion and the thin air. From the summit of Haleakala, we looked down through the clouds into a massive depression/crater 7 miles across, 3 miles wide, and nearly half a mile deep. The surrounding walls of the volcanic crater are steep and the interior mostly barren-looking with a scattering of volcanic cones. The ground is made of red and black sand, which is actually volcanic ash. The views are breathtaking and otherworldly. Chad and I felt very small in such a big, open, barren space. It was fairly difficult to hike on the steep, sand-like ground at the peak elevation in the thin air, but we did it! 

A person could rent a car, drive to Haleakala National Park and hike trails on their own, but Chad and I appreciated that Hike Maui picked us up at our resort, drove the winding roads, provided: lots of snacks, lunch, sturdy rain/windbreaker jackets, backpacks and a friendly, knowledgeable tour guide. Our Hike Maui guide, George, gently reminded us to drink plenty of water, handed out lots of snacks to fuel our journey, reminded us to reapply sunscreen often and pointed out native flora and fauna. 

Second trail in the barren crater area up in the clouds at 10,000 feet elevation.

I appreciated this experience with its amazing views. We were physically exhausted at the end of the day. My semi-shameful confession: if I had known how difficult the hiking would be at that elevation, I might have been tempted to just enjoy the observation deck and the sweeping vistas from the edge of the parking areas. Please feel free to do the lazy observer option if you go to Haleakala. Or be a badass and do the hiking. 

If you choose to do the hiking:
Wear good hiking boots with ankle support.
Apply sunscreen and reapply often. The sun at that altitude is no joke.
It can get cold, windy and rainy at Haleakala. Wear layers of water-resistant clothing.
Hydrate and eat plenty, so you don't get altitude sickness. Forget the diet on this day, because you need fuel.
If you go with Hike Maui, let them know ahead of time if you're vegetarian. They'll happily accommodate you with a Gardenburger sandwich at lunch. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Five Best Meals on Maui

Dear Foodies,

Don't get too excited about this list, because:

I'm a vegetarian. (I love animals. No, they are not delicious. Don't get me started. You'll regret it. I promise.)

I sometimes care just as much, or more, about the decor and ambiance of a restaurant as I care about the food. (Food trucks should have cute outdoor dining areas, or better yet, be a stepping stone to a cute brick & mortar restaurant. With air-conditioning. And comfortable seating.)

I eat food, but I'm not a Foodie. It's rare for me to rhapsodize about a dish, so when I do, it's a very special dish.

I'm allergic to peanuts. (I love peanuts, but not so much as to withstand the swollen lips and full-body rash that my peanut allergy induces.)

I am soy sensitive. (Tummy trouble: enough said.)

I hate wine. I'm real picky about mixed drinks and beer. I'm generally a light-weight about the alcohol beverages with a strong aversion to hangovers.

Even on vacation, Chad and I aren't gluttons. We're both just a little too body-conscious. I would love to be the kind of person who could enjoy more calories and flavors and alcohol, but I'm not.

You've been warned Foodies. Here are my top five favorite meals during my recent trip to Maui.

1. Monkeypod Kitchen (at Whalers Village, Ka'anapali)

The space at Monkeypod Kitchen is gorgeous. One wall features huge windows with views of the pretty beach. The seats and banquettes are upholstered in Schumacher's Chiang Mai Dragon fabric. The glass back wall of the bar encases antique glass fisherman's floats with light bouncing around beautifully. The vibe here is relaxed like, sure, wear your flip-flops and swimsuit cover-up, but also lush and lovely with attention to design.

Remember just now when I said, "It's rare for me to rhapsodize about a dish, so when I do, it's a very special dish."? Get ready, I'm about to rhapsodize about a dish! I had the most amazing gnocchi with mushrooms and kale dish at Monkeypod Kitchen. I ate all but one bite that I very grudgingly shared with Chad. Monkeypod Kitchen also serves lovely, delicious cocktails and pies. I loved this place so much! If you go to Maui, eat here often, and report back to me.

2. Choice Health Bar (at Whalers Village, Ka'anapali)

Chad and I were so beyond tired and hungry one evening in Maui after a rigorous day of hiking. Chad volunteered to scamper over to Whaler's Village and pick up dinner from the Choice Health Bar. We both loved our hearty kale salads and amazing vegan smoothies. Everything here is delicious and surprisingly satisfying. This place serves healthy food with an emphasis on yummy. I wish we had made the time to dine at sit-down restaurant down the road in Lahaina, but the Whaler's Village pickup location was super-convenient to our hotel.

3. Maui Brewing Company (Lahaina at Kahana Gateway Center)

Beer is "liquid sunshine" according to Ruby, our friendly Lyft driver who drove us to and from Maui Brewing Company's restaurant. Chad and I shared a sampler flight of four beers. My favorite beer was the Bikini Blonde Lager, closely followed by the Pineapple Mana Wheat. We shared an order of Tots Dynamite: tater tots with beer cheese sauce, jalapeno, green onion, kimchi aioli, caramelized onion and garlic crema.  We could have stopped there with the food due to the generous portions, but we had already foolishly ordered entrees. Oops. I had exactly three bites of a deliciously hefty Veggie Burger before boxing it to go. Maui Brewing Company gets philanthropy points for donating half the profits from veggie burger sales to the Maui Humane Society! Chad had the veggie Teriyaki rice bowl, sharing two bites with me. Packed with veggies, the rice bowl was tasty and filling.

4. Lahaina Pizza Company

This deep-dish pizza packs a well-prepared punch. Yum! Chad and I each ordered the lunch special of a small house salad and a personal size pizza. We were pleasantly full after our meal; versus lie on the floor and don't breathe too deeply full. Lahaina Pizza Company has many local beers on tap and serves tempting cocktails. We enjoyed the tropical iced tea, instead of a cocktail, because we're no fun. The tea was refreshing with fruity overtones. This was one of the best value meals on Maui, with the added super-bonus of a million dollar view from this second floor restaurant overlooking the beachfront.

5. Frida's Beach House

Frida's Mexican Beach House Restaurant Commercial from Sascha Bauml on Vimeo.

Again with the amazing views, Maui! And, yeah, we ate Mexican food in Maui. We're from Austin. We need fresh salsa, tortilla chips and beans at least once a week! I appreciated the Chile Relleno and a house margarita on the rocks mucho. This meal was on the expensive side, but worth it.

Check back for more from Maui soon.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Maui = Amazing, Part Three

About a year ago when I started planning our trip to the Hawaiian Islands, Chad and I weren't sure which island/islands to visit. I bought a copy of Fodor's Travel Essential Hawaii from Book People. I asked every friend who I knew had traveled to the Hawaiian Islands. I read tripadvisor reviews. I watched youtube travel videos. I also made an honest wishlist for our vacation. Chad and I didn't need nightlife. We didn't want a "city" experience. We don't golf or play tennis. We wanted hiking, rain forests, beaches with wade-in snorkeling and a relaxing vibe. I am a bit scared of active volcanoes, but totally comfortable with a dormant volcano. All of my interviews with friends, reading the guide book, watching youtube traveler videos, reading reviews on and reviewing our wish list helped me decide on Maui, and only Maui, for our week-long Hawaiian vacation. Chad and I were both really pleased with our choice. 

Tuesday = Snorkeling Day!

One of the reasons I chose the Westin Maui Resort was its proximity to Black Rock Kaanapali. Black Rock is a prominent rocky peninsula on the North end of Kaanapali Beach. The rock outcropping makes for calmer waves nearby. Chad and I rented snorkel gear from the beachfront towel shack at Westin Maui, easy-peasy. I am not a strong swimmer, so I rented a floaty belt. I looked ridiculous. Better safe than sorry! We strolled about seven minutes down the beach, found a spot to park our towels on the beach at Black Rock and waded into the crystal clear waters. No boat needed! (Fun fact: All of Hawaii's beaches are public, even those in front of exclusive resorts. Hawaii state law requires all resorts and hotels to offer public right-of-way access to the beach, along with public parking. Yay!)

The farther we got from the shore, the less crowded it was. That said, we were careful to pop our heads up every few minutes to stay aware of our surroundings and kept tabs on each other. We reveled in the clear water and the variety of tropical fish we could see. I saw lots of other snorkelers using GoPro waterproof cameras on selfie sticks or on headbands. For a second I envied the GoPro users, but then I remembered to just enjoy the snorkeling. Chad and I saw so many beautiful fish including: butterfly fish, needlefish, parrotfish, surgeonfish, boxfish, damselfish, Moorish idol, goatfish and big marine turtles. A big turtle swam right past me while snorkeling. I tried to be respectful of the turtle's space. These are endangered species. It is against the law to "pet" them, bother them, touch them or chase them. The turtle swam closer to me as an official looking person in a uniform on the shore yelled at everyone to stay at least ten feet away from the turtle. I backed away from the turtle as best as I could in my flippers. I hope the turtle wasn't offended. 

*Click each fish name for links that have photos.*

Here's a lovely GoPro video of snorkeling at Black Rock. Thanks to Jim Sheaffer for sharing!

More from Maui soon, including top 5 meals, hiking at Haleakala and exploring the resort.