Maui: Days of Re-engagement and Renewal

And we sat outside Wailea Beach in our rented Mustang convertible. I said to Pat, “we’re so blessed to enjoy summer in winter.” And he said, “yes we are.” We never forget how easily we could have lived another fate.

December 26, 2015 – our 13th anniversary. Earlier in the week we’d made our list of places to visit for our annual anniversary trip. Pat asked me for a wish list and   said he would select from my list. I picked these. And Pat picked Maui. Number not on my list. But I sat with this a few days and thought, I could do Hawaii. Why not go for something easy hot and beautiful. So we got our hearts set on Maui. But then we couldn’t get a hotel.  A lot of places were completely booked or $1000+/night. Eventually, and I mean Saturday, Dec 26 @ 1AM, we booked the Courtyard Marriot for Dec 26-31. Phew! We made our 5AM flight to Dallas.

@ DFW – we’re on our way to Maui!!

Where we connected to the 10AM to Maui. 8 long hours ahead of us on the very last seats on the plane. But we were jazzed. The flight was uneventful until the landing which was horrible. A roller coaster of dips and dives and climbs and twists. I half expected to do a loopdiloop. I thought. Please don’t let me die before we get married.

We finally touched ground safely on the most sublime space on earth. Maui is a perfect blend of breezy hot sunny lush cool dry weather and no fuss attitudes. There is no stress vacationing here (unless you don’t like winding roads. They are treacherously winding especially on the Hana Hwy and on the way home). People say aloha and mahalo all day. Cars rarely honk. No one hocks or begs. People live and let live. You’re unbothered in Maui. There are some flies, but nothing bit us. We used deet in the jungle on the Road to Hana. Who knows if we needed it. Maui is soothing to the soul.

Arriving earlier than expected we had a full Saturday on Maui. We rented our Mustang and headed straight to Monkey Pod Kitchen in Wailea. I had wanted to stop at the hotel first, but Pat thought we’d kill our momentum. I said ok since he was right. He knows that I will attempt to sneak a nap if allowed to get close to a hotel … and away we went right out of the airport … smelling plane funky.

Monkey Pod Kitchen is Delicious!! It has a hipster farm/sea to table vibe reminiscent of many of the places we visit on the mainland.

The service was impeccable – waitstaff attentive and funny. The banana cream pie was actually on the house because the waiter was just nice. Maybe living in paradise is a remedy for bad attitudes. Everything was so delicious, we ate there 3x in the 5-day period that we visited. Kinda overboard.

Afterward we visited Wailea beach and sat on a hill overlooking the ocean and watched the sun set. It was gorgeous. Some dude was playing a banjo to a lady who was singing. Very peaceful.

We then checked into the hotel and promptly went to sleep before 8PM Hawaii time.

Sunday we woke up and worked out. Then headed to Lahaina. Our master plan was to have lunch at Pacific’O, pick up our Ta-nehisi books at Barnes and Noble, and then head to Ka’anapali Beach.

Pacific’O was crickets, a nondescript restaurant at the back of a little shopping plaza. I briefly questioned this pick. They had approximately 10 people dining for lunch on their two medium-sized patios overlooking the beach. My dear childhood friend all the way from Elmhurst, Queens and St. Bart’s, Aileen, had suggested we dine there so I maintained confidence. (Side note: Aileen ran off to Hawaii ~ a decade ago and never returned to the East Coast. We understand why she lives there. She gave us some awesome suggestions from her honeymoon and this handy little map. So cool. Every place she suggested was a winner. Go Aileen! Little known fact, my first international trip flying by myself was to visit Aileen in London when we were both just 20. I showed up one Christmas break and slept on her dorm room floor for a week. Had THE best time. Solidified my thirst for travel and made me confident that I could go anywhere. Mahalo my free spirit Aileen!!)

The view at lunchtime was perfect; the crash of the waves at the shore soothing; the cool breeze refreshing. I ate a mahi mahi with some kind of ginger peanut sauce. The fish was fried which would have normally been a turn off, but the batter was amazingly crisp and light. The bread and butter was a winner. The Mai tai, just not as good as MPK. I drank it anyway. I can’t remember what Pat ate – fish?!? That would be a safe bet since he ate fish every meal.

At Ka’anapali Beach, the place was bumping. Tons of families. We rented a chair with the shade pulled over it. This is the way to lounge at a beach. Sun out, breeze in. We sat with our books and read until it was time to go back to the hotel to wash and ride to our next meal at Mama’s Fish House in Paia. I think that visiting Mama’s must be required because everyone we spoke to strongly suggested we visit including a very concerned Canty who also coached us through the Hana Highway. Mucho Mahalo Canty! Mama’s sits right on the water – an open air spot. We watched the sunset over the breaking waves. Our meals were delicious. Interesting but not really interesting note – Hawaiian’s seem to slice their fried calamari to look like chicken fingers. I had a fish curry dish that I couldn’t possibly finish. Pat had more fish. The bread didn’t look good, but it was actually. Mama’s mai-tai held no candle to the one at MPK – oh well. The worst kicker for the night was dessert – mint cookies and cream. The verdict – creamy minty but hardly any cookie. Judge for yourself.

We then went home for our 8:30 bedtime. So jet lagged.

Monday morning we hit the Hana in our Mustang. Whoa!! A ride worth doing. If you don’t have the stomach for driving winding roads and TIGHT turns, take a bus tour. It does get treacherous (worse than our experiences in the Carribbean and PR), and one person did bully us to get off the road. For the most part, though, drivers were respectful and moving carefully.

We can’t even tell you how gorgeous this drive is. You start in Paia which is the weirdest little Hawaii hipster town. You quickly hit rainforest where you can see tons of waterfalls and serene vistas. You eventually see a few houses – the guidebook says “towns” – but I think we have differing definitions of the word “town.” Hana, itself, is a cute little “town.” Afterward you hit Seven Sisters and quickly dip into a desert by the sea.

Two words of advice:

  1. Drive ALL the way around. Don’t go to Hana and then turn around. The real joy is in seeing the terrain change. We admit that driving gets a little scary after Hana because there are no guardrails, and it’s pretty deserted; however, it’s well worth it. Go slow. Honk around turns. Forget cell service. There is none.
  2. Bring your own food. Aside from the banana bread at Aunty Sandy’s, the food in these little “towns” is TRASH. We cannot stress this enough. To all our bourgie kindred spirits, go to the Target and get yourself some eats/cooler. And do not try to use the restroom at Island Chef’s. Those port-o-potties are the worst things ever, and we’ve used the bathrooms in multiple countries under a variety of conditions. I’ve seen and smelled nothing worse.

But enough words from us, take a look at the beauty that is the “Road to Hana” …

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When we got back to civilization, we drove straight to MPK. Thank you for feeding us after the nastiest pork and fish tacos at the taco place next to Island Chef. We stopped at Leodas for pies, but they didn’t have too much left. We bought a sweet potato which I liked. Pat was not a fan, I think because it was not the sweet potato he was expecting. They use a starchy purple variety. I was pulled back to my childhood eating at my Filipino friend’s family parties. Purple potato is great in desserts.

Tuesday we just ate brunch at MPK (yes, we went back) and bummed around Wailea Beach. Did a little swimming, a little sleeping, a little reading. The water is pretty good at Wailea this time of year. It’s not the Bahamas, but it’s not the Jersey Shore either. The sand is soft, and the waves have a bigger bark than bite. The water is VERY salty, but there is no problem there. There are people at the beach who will rent chairs and umbrellas to people not staying at the area hotels. They close up shop at 4PM which was a little early for my liking. I could lie on that beach forever.

Ta-Nehisi Coates talks about “the people who believe they are white” as well as the lack of agency of the black body with such poignancy that we’re left saying – YASSSSS! THANK YOU FOR GIVING VOICE TO OUR EXISTENCES.

We dined at Hula Grill at the Whalers Village in Ka’anapali for dinner. What a cute little mall town. Great place to stay if you don’t drive. On the way, we stopped at Leodas to pick up our pies. I got lime and Pat got the apple crumble. Pat thought his apple crumble was too sweet, yet, I don’t remember seeing left overs. My lime tart was ridiculously perfect. I saved a morsel for the next day, and it was stolen from me. I suppose it’s for the best. I can’t eat this way all year.

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Wednesday, we biked at Haleakala combined with a great tour from Tim of the Haleakala Bike Company. We were happy that we chose the self-guided bike down the mountain. We went at our own speed and stopped when we wanted. We biked through a cloud – something I’ve never felt before. The roads are very winding. A few thoughts from our experience:

  • take turns slowly unless you’re Armstrong. There are no real bike lanes.
  • listen to the directions and refer to them if unsure.
  • wear layers. dri-fit is a good idea. we heard the sunrise bike is 30-40 degrees.
  • don’t cycle close to other people in case they stop abruptly
  • make sure your cell has battery in case you need a pick up
  • ask for Tim. He is a hoot!

After a quick but thorough shower scraping the mud off of ourselves, we ate at the Paia Grill at the Inn. Delicious. Expensive. Worth it. I loved the scallops. Pat had the sesame crusted Opa with mushroom risotta. For a man who doesn’t like mushrooms, he devoured them all. We had the poke appetizer and loved it. I don’t tend to like raw fish, but I wanted to try it. I enjoyed it. We finished the meal with a triple berry tart which is the farthest thing from anything we would select. But the couple next to us strongly suggested it. It arrived crowning a mound of fresh whipped cream. Refreshing, light, sweet and tart. The crust was yum. A great end.

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On Thursday, in our last hours in Maui, we hit the workout, packed up, and headed to Paia Fish Market for lunch. A decent food end to a very above average food vacation. (You could skip Paia Fish Market.)

Maui is just the best place on earth. I hope we’ll be back when we’re in the mood for delicious food, beautiful weather and scenery, and nice people. Wonder when that will be. ;0

“… so blessed to enjoy summer in winter.”

A lovely five days, some might think too quick. But we covered all of the bases for a perfect trip. We ate, I drank for the both of us. We talked a lot. On this trip we re-engaged. We completed all of the conversations we never finished … and started new ones. We talked about the future in exciting ways starting with planning to get married in 2016. Happy New Year.



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