Wednesday, July 27, 2011

NOTE: New posts below

In an attempt to keep things in chronological order, I have posted several things below from July 9-July 25, so please scroll past the video if you want to read new posts. (More Hawaii posts to come) Thanks!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ryan's Recap of his Week

After picking up Ryan from his week spent with Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, we asked him what he did. He started [wildly] explaining so I snuck out the camera and started recording. Most of this is up for interpretation, but I have a feeling a camel and a polar bear went on a wild stroller ride where they made a big pile up high at Grandpa and Grandma's house. Oh, and Milo was there, of course.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hawaii: Maui Restaurant Reviews

You can go ahead and skip this post if you're not planning a trip to Hawaii, but just for my own reference and in case you're planning a vacation in Maui, here's a short list of the eating establishments we tried in July 2011.

Royal Lahaina Resort's Luau: I thought the food was decent for a buffet and gave us a little bit of island flavor with the pork, especially. They had a good keiko (children's) buffet which was also perfect for adults looking for a little more traditional fare. I liked the Blue Hawaiian drinks that were included and others enjoyed the Mai Tai's, but you really come to this luau for the show, not the food.

Cool Cat Cafe: Located on the second floor of the Wharf Cinema center on Front Street in Lahaina, they have been voted "Best Burgers in Maui" several years running. We did have excellent burgers here (mine included avocado and was divine) and used a coupon from a dining guide we picked up from the airport. It was a fun atmosphere and great food.

Cold Stone: Far from local, this mainland chain is still tempting and had a very long line. I normally don't like Cold Stone but my simple chocolate with pb cups hit the spot. The owner was working and was very friendly. The only downside was that he only had one other worker (who was new) and they had trouble keeping up with orders, let alone doing any of the signature singing. Might have just hit them at a bad time, so I wouldn't cross it off the list.

Honolua Store: This is one of those hidden gems suggested by Maui Revealed. One morning, Adam and I drove north to Kapalua for breakfast. A combination store/coffee shop/deli, they have very reasonably priced meals that you get in a to-go box, but can eat on the outdoor picnic tables. It's located near the Ritz Carlton and the Dragon's Teeth coastal formation (pictured). The food wasn't anything to write home about (but blog about? why not?) but it was nice to find something inexpensive with good coffee.

Cilantro Mexican Grill: Located on Papalaua Street, this was one of my favorite meals. I had a craving for Mexican, so we ate here before going to Warren & Annabelle's show. I had the Nachos Del Sol as recommended by Maui Revealed and they were probably the best nachos I've ever had-plus inexpensive! Adam said the Mother Cluckin' Flautas were amazing and this was a fun little Mexican grill with excellent food. I would highly recommend if you're looking for a fast, excellent meal, for not a lot of money! Tip: Park in front of the restaurant-they'll validate your parking. We parked in Lahaina Center and they did accept the validation stamp over there, but it was more of an exception than a rule.

Shaka Shave Ice: I had to have at least one of Hawaii's trademark "shave ice" desserts, but wasn't blown away by this one. There are lots of places to get shave ice and I just picked a stand in Lahaina. The table was wobbly so I dumped half of my giant "small" size shave ice over, but it wasn't a huge loss. They use real Hawaiian cane sugar, and maybe I'm too used to artificial flavoring, but I didn't think the flavors were very strong or true to the fruit. I was expecting to want to come back every night, but one was enough for me.

Lahaina Pizza Co.: We met up with friends to share 2 large pizzas (Hawaiian and a pepperoni) among 6 of us and thought it was great. It's deep-dish Chicago-style pizza with chunky tomato sauce on top and very filling. It had live music, a second-story view of the water, and was an overall fun place to eat. Jill and Jeremy had calzones here early in the week and said they were good as well.

CJ's deli:  We went here for a big breakfast our last day in Hawaii and had a great meal! Located in the Fairway shops in Kaanapali, it was very close to our resort and a deli-style place. The staff was great and helped us figure out the vast menu. I got a breakfast burrito-type thing with peppers and sausage and it was so good, but I could only eat half of it! Everyone else seemed to enjoy their breakfast as well, so I think this is a good option.

Cary & Eddie's Hideaway: This was probably our most disappointing eating experience on the island. Looking for a place to kill time and eat a big meal before our 13 hours of travel time ahead, we chose this restaurant for it's Early Bird dinner buffet. The best thing about the place is the view, but the food was less than mediocre and was the highest price meal we ate ($18.99 each). A limited salad bar and warmed-over fried chicken was about all I could muster. I couldn't even bring myself to try the other un-appetizing-looking dishes. I had to send my soda back and there were 4 other parties there-all over 50 (but maybe because we were eating at 5:00pm) so it wasn't exactly "happenin'". I would avoid this place and find somewhere else to kill time in Kahalui.

I believe this is the total list of restaurant-stops while we were in Hawaii. We never went too extreme because we didn't want to blow the budget. We also didn't plan ahead enough to get reservations at some of the nicer sit-down places. A way we kept the budget in check was buying groceries at Walmart in Kahalui the day we landed. We didn't even eat all of our groceries, but it served us well to have a few lunches of sandwiches and breakfasts of cereal to avoid paying high prices for every meal. We also often ate just 2 meals a day with a few "suitcase snacks" in between. I wasn't really shocked by the prices in Hawaii and think you can still eat reasonably if you just make a few of your own meals and keep your restaurant bills in check.

Please leave a comment with some of your favorite places to eat in West Maui, or let me know if you've been to any of these restaurants and want to share additional information!

Hawaii: Twin Falls

After hearing from Jordan and Kellie that their favorite part of the road to Hana was the hike to Twin Falls only a couple miles into the journey, we decided it would be a great afternoon activity on Saturday since we had to be checked out of our hotel by noon and didn't need to be at the airport until 9pm.  We drove a few miles of the winding highway and pulled over at the Twin Falls stand to start the hike.
Many people were ordering drinks from the blue school bus at the trail head. We skipped the coconut juice but appreciated the facilities at the start of the hike and the awesome landscape.
We headed down the wide path and detoured a little bit to check out a rocky stream.
The vegetation was unreal, scaling to Jurassic at some points!
After crossing a stream and walking along a man-made wall, we reached the waterfall!
Others were swimming in the frigid water, but we decided to just enjoy the beauty from land.
We walked to another waterfall where people were swimming and a lady was meditatively playing a guitar, then headed back to the top.
This was a fun little hike and gave us a taste of the wonders that must await those who brave the road to Hana. With motion sickness running prevalently in our group, we didn't do the full road trip, but were glad to see this little piece of paradise.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hawaii: Lahaina

Lahaina is the town in west Maui with the most shopping and dining. We ended up in Lahaina almost every evening to walk along Front Street and get something to eat. It's not terribly crowded and we didn't have that much trouble with parking, but usually parked in a shopping center lot and bought enough to get it validated. After a while the shops started looking the same and the activity brokers were annoying, but there were fun sights to see and, of course, a great view!

 On Friday night, we met up with Jordan and Kellie for pizza. We didn't mean to crash the honeymooners (it was by accident that we both chose West Maui) but since they were just killing time before they had to be at the airport, we all met for supper.

Lahaina also had one of the best sunsets!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hawaii: Warren & Annabelle's

On Thursday night, we had reservations in Lahaina to attend Warren & Annabelle's, the "best show on the island" as billed by Maui Revealed. It did not disappoint!

We did not get the "Royal Flush Package" where you have dinner/drinks before the show (not worth the money IMHO) so we arrived at 6pm in time for the "secret" entrance. (I won't spoil the surprise). The entrance leads into Annabelle's (the resident ghost's) hall where she takes requests and play songs on the piano for you.  We sat by some newlyweds who asked if either of us had been recently married. Kind of funny since it's been 7 years for Adam and me and 10 for Jill and Jeremy! Do we look like a couple of young kids in love?
(Gotta love the free conch shell necklaces from Hilo Hatties. Bunch of tourists!)

After the piano playing, we were escorted into the intimate theater for a 2-hour magic & comedy show. We did not get to see Warren, but the first magician, John Shryock, was a terrific slight-of-hand magician who did some truly amazing tricks!  The second performer, Dana Daniels, was more comedian than magician but was so funny, we all said we hadn't laughed that much in a LONG time! There was a lot of audience participation and it was an all-around great time. I highly recommend this show as a MUST-SEE for anyone visiting Maui!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hawaii: Honolua Bay

Adam's favorite snorkeling spot turned out to be Honolua Bay, just up the road from Slaughterhouse. There is a nice lookout area up top and then a few more turnouts to park further down the road.
A scenic path leads you down to the shore. This is actually private property, but the owner lets people use it from 5am-5pm and rents out snorkel gear if you need it.
The beach is very rocky, so it's not great for laying out. I actually stayed on the lookout while Adam snorkeled. I tried snorkeling a little but couldn't calm down and breathe normally and freaked out when I wasn't touching the bottom. I saw a few colorful fish, but nothing like the coral and amazing sea life Adam experienced. He even had a Hawaiian seal swim by him and encountered a giant sea turtle!
 Many snorkeling boats brought people into this protected cove, but you can just swim out to the same water from the shore without paying for the boat ride.
The water was SO clear, you could see the rocks on the bottom even from my vantage point at least 100 feet up the cliff! This is Adam swimming out further from shore.
Snorkeling was Adam's favorite part of the trip and he can't wait to see the pictures that come back from the underwater camera.

I think next time we go on a beach vacation, we'll have to make it a family affair so Adam can snorkel with my mom and Wade. Dad, Abbie, and I can just hang out on the beach!

Hawaii: Slaughterhouse Beach

On Wednesday, we ate our lunch (sand sandwiches, as Jeremy recalls) on Slaughterhouse Beach. This ended up being our favorite beach for swimming, sunning, and cramming sand into our swimsuits by attempting to jump the waves. More than a few times one or more of us ended as a mass of arms and legs tumbling up on shore, but it was fun to watch it happen to others!  We swam here on Wed, Thursday, and Saturday morning, so the pictures below are a collection of our trips.

There is limited parking for this beach, which is great because it was never crowded! 
There are stairs leading down to the sand.
It's an idyllic scene-a little cove with rocks on the sides but very fine white sand in the middle.
The waves were quite strong, especially on the last day. 
This pictures lends a little more perspective:
 On Saturday, the others were a bit braver than I. Here's Adam swimming down a wave.
The sand was exquisite, turning into a 6" deep "sponge" where the tide came in. The top side was perfect for drawing in the sand for a future photobook cover:
This beach is one I'll never forget from our beautiful trip to Maui, Hawaii in 2011.

Hawaii: Hiking

Maui Revealed: The Ultimate GuidebookOne of the most helpful things on our trip was a book we borrowed from my parents called Maui Revealed by Andrew Doughty. It has information on just about everything you need to know about visiting the island, including reviews on restaurants, resorts, activities, but also weather, language, culture, beaches, and hiking! On Wednesday, we headed off with Jill and Jeremy to explore some of the hiking described in Maui Revealed.

Acid War Zone to Blowhole

We followed the directions in Maui Revealed, but also has decent directions of how to hike to Nakalele Point and the Blowhole.
We hiked down to the blowhole and saw some spectacular views!
 Right around the same area is a heart formation in the rocks.
If you wait for a big wave, the surf provides a great backdrop!
 The views from Nakalele Point are everything I imagined Hawaii to be.

 Mushroom Rock
We also followed the suggested route in Maui Revealed to reach Mushroom Rock.

It was SO windy, it was probably pretty dangerous to climb up onto the outcropping, but we were adventurous and rewarded with more spectacular views.
We did see the Olivine Pools, but decided it was too windy and the waves were too big to risk climbing down to swim in them. We enjoyed our hiking adventures, but decided it was time to hit the beach!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hawaii: Luau

 On Tuesday night we went to the Luau right at our hotel (the Royal Lahaina).
Here is the pig! Funny story about this picture is when we were showing the pix to my mom, Ryan saw the guys in this picture and said "Uncle Wade!" haha
 There were lots of hula dancers and also fire-twirlers (not a very manly description, but how else do you describe baton-twirling (but on fire)?
It was a fun show and we enjoyed the food, so I would recommend this luau to others. Especially if you can find a deal on tickets (we booked online through Boss Frog's which saved us $30/ticket, but you have to pick up the tickets in Lahaina) it is less expensive that many of the other options, but is still a good show and gives you that "Hawaii experience."

Hawaii: Biking

After the sunrise from the top of the volcano, the bike company brought us down to below the park borders and we were off! We chose to take an "unguided" bike tour which meant we could go down at our own pace and didn't have a lead guide or sag wagon. This was a good option for us since some of the guided companies were seen whizzing by at a much faster pace than I was comfortable with. Plus, we could stop and take pictures or eat breakfast whenever we wanted.
That's a rainbow above us, in case you were distracted by the "extreme curves ahead" sign. But curves their were! I ended up riding my brakes for much of the first section and my hands were pretty cramped by the time we "braked" for breakfast.

We had a very nice breakfast at the Kula Lodge, and then it was back to the bikes! It was quite cool for most of the way down and we got rained on for about the last half hour, so we were soaked through by the time we reached the bike shop around 10:00.
Overall, it was a fun experience and I'm glad we did it, but I probably wouldn't have to do it again. We enjoyed a long nap after our ride and then had a little more beach time on Tuesday before heading to the Luau!