Hawaii Post 9: Crossing Food Off The List

To catch you up to speed:
Post 1: The Hilton Waikoloa
Post 2: Waikoloa to Hilo
Post 3: Hilo to Volcano Village
Post 4: Volcano Village to Kona
Post 5: Kona to Maui
Post 6: Lahaina + Trilogy Boating Excursion
Post 7: Ziplining + Maui Brewing Company
Post 8: The Road To Hana

This is my LAST Hawaii post, I swear, and it’s a shorty.

On our last day, we spent it relaxing by the beach and buying goodies to bring home to our ¬†friends but we also had one last indulgence: food. I know what you’re thinking, we ate so much already what could we possibly add to the list? Oh boy…

We started our day by visiting the Gazebo Restaurant which was only a mile away from our condo. It’s right on the water and exactly like it sounds, a gazebo. It’s a favorite amongst everyone in the neighborhood and expect a line. But the best things in life are worth waiting for right?

It started raining while we were waiting in line to get in, and they had a special Gazebo umbrella stand with giant umbrellas waiting for us. That’s one think about Hawaii, one thing it’s raining and the next it’s perfect weather. You never know. Our day started rainy (it’s like Hawaii knew we were leaving!) and then ended up being a great last beach day.

After a tasty sandwich at the Gazebo, we walked across the sand to Napili Beach to enjoy our last swim. The water was so warm I couldn’t resist. And a sea turtle stopped by too. After a couple hours we left the beach to check into where my sister was staying for the remainder of her trip. While my friend and I had to head back to LA to face reality, my sister extended her trip through Memorial Day weekend. This meant that we had a place to wash off after our beach day, which worked out really well for us.

Now what time is it? Time for dessert! We decided to have dessert before dinner on our last day. If you think that sounds piggy, well it is. We stopped into Kimo’s (a Young House Love recommend) and caught their happy-hour drink specials and shared a massive macnut “hula pie”. It’s point “B” on the map. Yummy and huge so definitely share.

Now that dessert was out of the way, we made room for dinner. We stopped into Cool Cat Cafe where my sister and I split a veggie burger and our friend got a salad for the plane. We weren’t starving (obviously) but we knew we wouldn’t get to eat for another 8 hours.

We said our goodbyes to Lahaina, and she replied with a rainbow. Don’t worry, we’ll be back.

Hawaii Post 8: The Road to Hana

To catch you up to speed:
Post 1: The Hilton Waikoloa
Post 2: Waikoloa to Hilo
Post 3: Hilo to Volcano Village
Post 4: Volcano Village to Kona
Post 5: Kona to Maui
Post 6: Lahaina + Trilogy Boating Excursion
Post 7: Ziplining + Maui Brewing Company

Great apologies for this post taking FOREVER, but if the map below is any indication, “The Road to Hana” covers a LOT of territory.

We got on the road as early as possible because we had a giant day ahead of us. If you tell anyone you went to Maui, they all ask “Did you do the road to Hana?!” so we knew this was something we needed to do. It’s like a Maui right of passage. And just a warning, spray yourself with bug spray before you leave on this trip. That was a giant regret I had, and that advice alone is like gold.

There is a Shell gas station on route 380 (right near the airport) where they have a roadside stand selling cds that guide you along the road to Hana. The ABC stores (that you’ll find everywhere) also sell Hana cds. You play these along our journey and they give you a history of what your seeing. It was worth it, especially splitting the cost among the three of us.

Then we drove to Paia (point “H” on the map) where we enjoyed a lovely breakfast at the adorable, Anthony’s Coffee Co. This is a great stop before making the road to Hana. They even have picnic baskets you can take and enjoy on the road. We even got to meet the sweet Keri Stewart (one of the owners) who was working behind the counter.

At point “C” on the map, you’ll see cars parked along the road because this is the start of the twin falls “hike” as well as the Twin Falls Maui Farmstand. It’s worth stopping to experience this fruit stand. I ordered the sugar cane juice, which I watched her juice actual sugarcane and then hand me the cup. No preservatives, no frozen anything, it’s all fresh and made in front of you. This is a nice refresher if you just walked down to the waterfalls.

The colors of the plants and flowers make this “hike” (more like an unpaved walking path) such a beautiful journey. The waterfalls were of course stunning (see the images below) but I enjoyed getting the falls more than the actual falls. That idea is what’s most special about the road to Hana, it’s all about the journey. Hana itself is nothing special, but it’s the stops you make along the way that make this trek famous.

I drove this leg of the trip and I can tell you, it’s terrifying. The roads, at their widest, are barely wide enough for two cars. All the bridges (there are 100’s) are single lanes. This is a very windy, scary cliff drive but it’s worth the fear. Be careful on your drive, and keep your windows down to listen for oncoming cars (especially around bends). Also the locals drive giant vehicles and don’t bat an eye at running tourists off the road. If your trip is anything like mine, this will happen a lot. We stopped along the road to visit an arboretum (where this tree picture was taken) and saw two cars that had plummeted down off the cliff. We have no idea how long ago this happened, but it’s definitely a warning.

We took a detour to try the world famous banana bread at point “D” on the map. This is Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread and it’s the place to go for banana bread. It’s so off the road and unassuming, but so many people told us to stop here and it was worth the wait. After you finish, keep going down the road a quarter-mile until the road ends. Here you get a great view of giant crashing waves and the cliffside ahead of you (see pictures below).

You’ll keep trucking along (praying at every bend in the road for survival) and stopping off at so many overlooks and waterfalls.

After breakfast in Paia, smoothes at the farmstand, and banana bread you’re probably wondering how we have room for anything else, but we made room. We stopped just after mile marker #29 for the best shrimp taco I’ve ever had. This little shack-strip mall was charming but also a little creepy. It was worth the creepiness to indulge in this awesome giant shrimp taco.

The below pictures are taken from Waianapanapa State Park. It was getting cloudy and windy, so this wasn’t a place where we spent a ton of time, but it was on our list to stop into.

At this point we’d reached Hana. As we anticipated, there wasn’t much to see in Hana. We took a bathroom break at the old Hana Hotel. This is a great place to stay if you have the luxury of time and money to spend a night in Hana. We had neither of those things on this leg of the trip, so we just walked around and then hit the road.

You can see my photos are getting cloudier and cloudier as it got later in the day and closer to sunset. As I said above, we weren’t spending the night in Hana which meant we needed to somehow get back to Paia before dark because there are zero street lamps until you get to Paia. We made a stop in at Hamoa because their beaches are award worthy. These photos don’t express the craziness of the waves.

I just want to point out how the landscape is always changing (as it has the entire trip). The photos below were taken minutes apart, and don’t they look like two completely different worlds?

We decided to do something that only 1% of the people who drive to Hana do. Instead of looping back and retracing our steps, we decided to take the road less traveled. In fact it’s a super dangerous unpaved road. We took the southern road back to Paia.

This road is very difficult to drive, which means nothing is out here. No tourists… barely even locals because there’s nothing to be local to. We passed maybe 5 houses (run-down shacks) through the whole ride back to town.

See the house in the photo above.. right on the water, without half a roof. That’s what we saw. We also were fighting for daylight. We had to pass the 7 pools without stopping in, which was painful to skip, but we HAD to get through the driving with sunlight or we were totally screwed.

Along the way we stopped at point “G” to visit a churchyard. The church itself is closed, but with the sun setting, it made for great photos.

And then the scary drive continued. At least here the road became paved, but it also was still one lane, for a two laned road.

It was frightening, but beautiful. It’s scariness is what keeps people away, which is what made the second half of the day so special. Eventually it becomes two lanes, and then your only worry is all the cattle that love to hangout on the road. It was quiet a sight! We survived and I’ll never forget that drive.

We finished our day stopping in Paia for a celebratory dinner at the famous Fish Market, which many locals recommended to us. They had a huge menu and it’s the type of place where you order at a counter and eat at indoor picnic tables. Not classy by any means but we all loved our meals.

Next up is my final post from Hawai: Crossing Food Off The List.

Hawaii Post 7: Ziplining + Maui Brewing Company

To catch you up to speed:
Post 1: The Hilton Waikoloa
Post 2: Waikoloa to Hilo
Post 3: Hilo to Volcano Village
Post 4: Volcano Village to Kona
Post 5: Kona to Maui
Post 6: Lahaina + Trilogy Boating Excursion

After yesterdays boating adventure, it was time for a beach visit. Originally we had grand plans to wake up at 3am (I know, ridiculous) and drive all the way to Haleakala to catch the sunrise. I’m sure this would have been amazing, but it just didn’t make sense because of where we were staying it would take 4-5hrs just for a 10 minute sunrise. Not worth our time this trip (although when I go back, I’ll make sure I get to see it). Instead we decided to hit the local beach, Napili Bay (point “B”).

The sand was so soft that it made for a great laying-out beach as well as snorkeling. At noon we went to Skyline Eco Adventures (near point “C”) to go ziplining! It was my first time. I didn’t bring my cell phone or camera because I didn’t want to lose either, although in hindsight it would have been okay to use a cell phone for photos. Sadly, there are no pictures of this excursion. If you click on the website link above you can see photos on their website of the lines we went down. What a cool experience and our guides Kevin and his partner in crime (who’s name I can’t pronounce or spell) were hilarious. You could tell they love their jobs and working with travelers. We did 8 (?) zips and ate lunch at a treehouse like structure overlooking a valley. They had a veggie option for me which was a tasty sandwich. They even give you a free water bottle and drinks and dessert when you finish. I highly recommend this company. They were a little more money than some of the other options, but provided food and a ton more zips! It’s the best bang-for-your-buck.

After ziplining we explored Whaler Village (also near point “C”) before heading back to our condo to get ready for dinner. It reminded us of the Grove, to put it in LA perspective. It’s also surrounded by large high-rise hotels and resorts so it’s very touristy. It was fun to walk through, but we didn’t stay too long. We drove up north of our condo to see the Ritz, but it wasn’t very open to the public so instead of catching the sunset there, we stopped back at Napili Beach.

After sunset we realized we never stopped in at the Maui Brewing Company. Since we saw the Kona Brewing Company on the Big Island, it only seems fair to see Maui’s. We knew we wanted to have dinner in Lahaina (at Cheese Burger in Paradise which was recommended by Young House Love)so we just stopped in for one drink. I ordered their coffee/coconut dark brew Coconut Porter. I love it.

Then we ate at Cheese Burger In Paradise (point “D”) while listening to a singer. The photo was good. Nothing fancy but a fun place to eat on the second floor overlooking Lahaina.

Of course we stopped back in a Ululani’s for another dose of shaved ice.

Can you tell we’ve eaten and ton on this trip? And indulged in so many tasty treats? It’s so hard not to with so much unique food in Hawaii. You can bet now that I’m back, it’s diet-city!

Hawaii Post 6: Lahaina + Trilogy Boating Excursion

To catch you up to speed:
Post 1: The Hilton Waikoloa
Post 2: Waikoloa to Hilo
Post 3: Hilo to Volcano Village
Post 4: Volcano Village to Kona
Post 5: Kona to Maui

We decided to spend all of our Maui time based out of a two bedroom condo in Napili/Kahana (point “A”). We stayed at Kahana Sunset where they rent these condos out, which are filled with amenities and a great deal for your money. We had two balconies, two bedrooms, and an ocean view. The property had a pool and private beach front. We were able to do laundry (in our unit) as well as cook meals. It cost the same price as a hotel but gave us so much more. Plus we were able to save money and meals and laundry access meant we could wash our beach towels and pack fewer clothes (saving on luggage checking fees). We were less than a mile from the gorgeous Napali Bay and a 15 minute drive north of Lahaina (a cute downtown area). I would gladly do this again.

Our first day in Maui was spent sleeping in, shopping for food and supplies for the rest of our trip, and lounging on the beach. After such a busy time on the Big Island it was nice to relax and enjoy paradise. That night we watched the sunset from our balcony.

Then we drove down to Lahaina to experience the “nightlife” (aka get dessert). Everything in Hawaii closes early, but at least this strip of shops and galleries stayed open a little later. Almost every night we would end up walking the streets here enjoying ourselves.

There are so many art galleries here that it was fun to window shop.

We HAD to get shaved ice and according to Yelp, we had to do it at Ululani’s Hawaiian Shaved Ice. This is a Hawaii must-do. They take a scoop of mac nut ice cream and pile shaved ice on top. You pick 3 flavors from a massive list, and they add the syrup on top. Once you eat through the ice, the ice cream takes on hints of flavor from the syrup. It’s awesome. Go here!

From there we went home because the next morning we had to get down to Maalaea Harbor Road where our Trilogy Boating Excursion would begin at 8am. If you come to Maui you have to do one of these scuba/boating adventures. It’s one of the highlights of our trip and Trilogy treated us like kings. We underestimated the time it takes to get to the harbor so we were a few minutes late and FRANTIC that they left without us. Instead of being fussy with us for holding up the boat they were extremely nice and casual about it. They took time to get to know everyone on the boat. They referred to us as the “LA Girls”. The group wasn’t that big, so it felt more intimate.

They fed us so much food. Fresh fruit and coffee and then the hot cinnamon rolls came around! After we did some snorkeling off of Molokini (which was so cool because the water was crystal clear) they fed us a fruit salsa with chips. The next diving spot was on the Kihei coast where I swam with a sea turtle! The waves were large which meant visibility wasn’t the best and it also made it easy to get off course but it was worth it to sea the turtles.

After the turtle spot they served up lunch, which for me (a pescetarian- a vegetarian that eats fish) was a veggie burger patty with rice and salad. It was very filling and they came around with seconds for everyone. And I stress that they came to us. They were so accommodating and worked hard to give us an awesome boating experience. The Captain of the boat was Brett (hilarious), and Mark (?) and his son Logan (super hot) where in charge of keeping us happy and helping the guests who were new to snorkeling. Dave (?) ran the Snooba program (which cost more so we didn’t do it). If I go back and do it again, I would request these guys, they were so amazing.

After lunch we took a sailing ride along the west edge of Maalaea Bay and relaxed. The suns heat dried us off and we got to talk to the crew about how they ended up in Hawaii and what they recommend we do on our trip. They also passed out vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and offered beer for an extra couple bucks.

At 2/2:30p we docked in the harbor and our cruise had come to an end. Me made the drive back to our condo where we washed up and laid out on the deck.

That night we got dolled up and went to Mala (a mile north of downtown Lahaina). We all ordered fancy drinks and watched the sunset. This restaurant is right on the water (as you can see in my photos) and we got a table right out on the deck. We indulged in a tuna poke appetizer (a must for Hawaii) and I ordered a fish burger a my meal. We all loved the food and the view. This was a splurge night for us, as it is pricier than the places we had been going to, but when you’re on vacation sometimes it’s fun to get dressed up and have a fancy night.

Hawaii Post 5: Kona to Maui

To catch-up on my vacation recap (and to learn about must-visit restaurant and hotels in Hawaii) check out these posts:
Post 1: The Hilton Waikoloa
Post 2: Waikoloa to Hilo
Post 3: Hilo to Volcano Village
Post 4: Volcano Village to Kona

And so we leave off with us saying goodbye to the Big Island and taking an “island hopper” to Maui. It’s not common to take boats between the islands as it’s not cost effective or environmentally friendly which is a big deal in Hawaii. We dropped off our rental car and took the shuttle to the airport, only this time we didn’t get dropped at the main entrance. Instead we were taken to a shack of a building away from the main airport. And this is why this flight earned it’s own post.

So it’s the three of us and another two couples in this “terminal”. We approach the desk to get our tickets (since they don’t let you get boarding passes ahead of time… which should have been a warning sign). Instead of a person, there is a courtesy phone where you speak to an operator to “check-in”.

The planes parked out front were tiny. Very tiny.

We had a lot of time to kill, considering it’s Hawaii (and they have issues with plants and soil) we got their super early because of security. It turns out island hoppers don’t require you to go through security. So yes, lots of time to kill. The sunset was beautiful, watching it over the tarmac. And you know me, I made friends with an older couple waiting for their flight so that helpped time go by.

Eventually an attractive guy comes out and calls our names. He asks to see our licenses and confirm our weight. Oddly enough, weight on these small planes is a number one priority. We told him our weights (painfully after 5 days of vacationing) and then waited to board the flight. We were concerned about liquids and the number of bags and sure enough, none of that mattered. It turns out that the attractive man was our pilot, Captain Tim (he told us to call him). Oh how hottie Captain Tim will remain in our hearts.

Captain Tim loaded all of our luggage himself, and even called out our seat assignments. It was pretty funny, given that this plane fit 8 people? What an awesome/frightening/cool/scary experience. He put the three of us directly behind him. My knees were hitting the pilots back, that’s how small this plane was. We could see all the gauges, maps, whistles. Given how flying is these days, this was such a unique chance to see how pilots fly. It was totally new to me.

I was a tad worried, since the plane was so small and my stomach gets motion sickness sometimes, but it was all perfectly fine. Our only regret was that we didn’t do the flight during the day. Most travel companies had $100+ helicopter tours of The Big Island, but this plane was only $60 and was low flying enough that you could get the island tour experience. We booked our flight for just after sunset so we couldn’t see very clearly. Trust me, book a flight to another island and do it during the day time.

I’m Back!

Hilton Waikoloa- Budha Point

Hi All! I’m back after a crazy 11 day adventure exploring The Big Island and Maui in Hawaii. It’s been full of adventures, and by that I mean FULL. We certainly clocked some beach time, but we wanted to make the most of both islands so we packed our days. I took over 1500 photos, so I’m still going through figuring out which ones to share with you.

Sunrise in Hilo

I know that my blog is mostly about Los Angeles, with the exception of some New England travel and Milwaukee wedding fun, but I think sharing details from my Hawaii trip would be really helpful to people planning their own vacation (the same way we used Young House Love‘s blog to help with our planning). So if you could care less about Hawaii, just skip over the next 9 posts coming up this week and I’ll be back to sharing my usual LA business late next week (it’ll be June!).

Volcano Village- Hike Through The Crater

Hopefully you’re interested in Hawaii and the next few posts will be really helpful to you. Without going into overkill (did I mention 1500 photos?) I plan on sharing with you maps of the trek, food places you can’t miss (from restaurants to roadside stands), the clean inexpensive hotels (resorts, condos, and B+Bs) we stayed at, and the excursions that are worth the splurge of money and time (zip-lining, snorkeling, and waterfalls). The smallest amount I can condense it to is 9 posts, while still sharing all the important details with you. If you want more details about a particular place, leave comments and I’ll happily tell you more.

One of many turtles on Punalu’u Black Sand Beach (Big Island)

While I do miss Hawaii, it’s good to be home and I missed you all too.

Another amazing Maui sunset.