I found Paradise!
When and where, you ask me? Labor day weekend, 2014, on the lovely island of Maui, with S!
We booked a package through Costco Travel and got a pretty sweet deal for a gorgeous ocean view room at the Westin Kaanapali, more on that later 🙂
We landed at the Kahului/Maui airport at about 1PM and headed out to the rental cars. The airport is dingy and smelly, but once you look out the windows, you see the clear blue skies, the well tended gardens, the pretty colorful flowers! I figured that with views like that, who needs updated interiors :P.
We got a sturdy SUV from the Budget guys (nice of them to give us an upgrade :)), went to Costco to pick up a few essentials and headed to the hotel. The entire highway is along the ocean, you can see swimmers, surfers, paddle-boarders, campers, etc. dotting the sea and the small beaches by the road. On the other side of the highway, there is a row of windmills (which S loves!), and we just HAD to stop to take pictures!!
We checked into the hotel, which in itself is a treat to visit. The grounds are perfectly maintained, with a huge waterfall and a pond complete with pretty fish, ducks and pink flamingos! Lends the perfect tropical feel to the resort! We went up to our room, and we were greeted by a STUNNING view! The beautiful grounds with its many swimming pools, and the vast, perfectly blue, shimmering ocean beyond, dreamy and surreal!
We freshened up and headed to the Iao Valley state park. This lovely stream-cradling valley is nestled between lush green high peaks, which also has a lot of historical significance for Hawaii.
We took a little walk around and clicked some pictures, and headed back to the hotel, in plenty of time to enjoy the bottle of wine kept in the room by the hotel staff and watch the perfect sunset over the ocean from our little glass walled lanai 🙂
We then ordered room service and went to bed early, as we were a little jet-lagged and planned to get up at 2AM and go see the sunrise at Haleakala National Park! (Travel tip: Consider going to Haleakala on your first morning, you might be jet-lagged anyway so going to bed and getting up early will be a lot easier.)
This day began super early with a drive to the Haleakala National Park (Travel Tip: Dress like you’re going skiing, it will be freezing cold even in the summer). As we stepped out into the chilly air, I looked up at the inky black star-studded sky and it took my breath away! It was mesmerizing, just to glance up and see millions of stars twinkling back at me 🙂 We found a place near the edge railing, S set up his tripod and we settled down to watch that sunrise. As the horizon started to lighten and the stars began to fade away, I saw the prettiest shades of red, pink and orange, rippling over the soft clouds and the water in the distance. The sun started coming up, and one of the natives who works at the visitor center sang the traditional Hawaiian chant to greet the sunrise. It was an experience I never had and probably never will, and it was totally worth the effort of getting up at 2AM!
After the sunrise we warmed up a bit in the car, and went to the Sliding Sands trails. A very unique trail, black sandy mountains with pretty hilltop views.
On our way back, we stopped at a roadside fruit stand and had coconut water, took me back to Bombay :).Went back to the hotel room, and relaxed for some time. We then headed to the pools, and I went swimming while S chilled on the lounge chairs by the pool deck (Westin has a fabulous pool complex.)
As the sun started to lower, we went for a sunset walk on the Kaanapali beach, and walked towards the Sheraton to catch the cliff diving ceremony on the Black Rock. It’s another little nugget of history that the Sheraton and the locals are trying to preserve. At sun-down, a warrior runs through the Sheraton grounds and lights the tiki torches. He lights the one on the Black Rock the last, and dives off the cliff into the ocean. Another interesting glimpse into the history and culture of the island.
We then walked back towards our hotel and had dinner the Whaler’s Village on the way.
This was a long, well-spent day 🙂
After a lovely poolside breakfast, we went for a morning walk on the beach and then went for a submarine tour. It was an interesting underwater experience, to see the the reefs and wide variety of fish. We even saw a shark! The captain said that happens about 1 in 10 times, so I guess we got lucky!
After the tour, we walked around Old Town Lahaina for a bit. The atmosphere was quite lively, with local traders setting up booths for their merchandise. The Arts and Crafts fare was on that weekend, and after purchasing a few trinkets and seeing the famous Banyan tree, we walked over to the Cool Cat Cafe for some yummy burgers and cocktails.
That afternoon, we rented out some lounge chairs and umbrellas and relaxed on the Kaanapali beach and I went to play in the ocean waves.
Day three evening was Old Lahaina Luau night! A luau is an open-air Hawaiian cultural performance. It originated from the tradition of always welcoming and offering meals to all visitors who come to the Islands of Hawaii. In that spirit, we were greeted with orchid leis and Mai-Tais (yay!), and then seated on a table with three lovely couples from all over the United States.
A Luau is always supposed to have a theme or story, and ours was about the Goddess of Fire, Pele.
This was a very pleasant evening, the setting sun, good food, great cocktails, interesting conversations, hula-skills stalls, and all of this topped by a superb Hula performance 🙂
I was very nervous about this day, we were planning to drive along the Road to Hana, a long windy beautiful road, but I don’t do too well on windy roads, fortunately I handled this one well! We started with getting a picnic lunch packed at the Hana Lunch Co.
The road to Hana has a lot of picturesque stops, and they are identified by mile markers. Our first one was the Hookipa beach park, we parked on a bluff overlooking the ocean and watched the many surfers and snorkelers.
We next went to the Twin falls trail, hiked around and had sugarcane juice at the stall by the entrance, yummy yum yum!
There is a little shop called Halfway to Hana on the way, which has amazing banana bread.
We then drove to the Upper Waikani Falls, these are visible right off the road, we took some pictures and headed to the Kahanu Garden.
This place has an entrance fee, but I think it was worth it! The gardens are beautiful, with labeled plants, lovely views overlooking the ocean and waterfalls, complete with a peacock strutting around!
Next stop was the Waianapanapa state park, which has a black sand beach and a nice rocky trail all around it. After having our picnic lunch, we sat on some rocks and let the waves crash all over us, it was so much fun!
Our last stop for the day was the Kipahulu region of the Haleakala National Park, home to the seven sacred pools and the Pipiwai trail. The seven sacred pools is extremely pretty, it was a little crowded though. The pools are at different elevations, which gives the entire area a beautiful look and feel! We hung around there for a bit and went up the Pipiwai trail towards the 400-feet Waimoku falls. This 4 mile roundtrip hike is easily one of the most unique and fantastic hikes I’ve been on.
The trail is so diverse and beautiful, ranging from rocky slopes to wood planks to steel and concrete bridges, to actually crossing a stream.
The surroundings go from grass to lush tropical forests to, my personal favorite, the bamboo forest! Oh it was all so beautiful, I could walk that path forever 🙂
(Tip: Try doing this as early as possible, the trail may feel dark even when the sun is pretty high up). You can’t walk right up the waterfall here, but just looking up at this makes you wonder about the power of nature!
On our way back, we heard a howl among the trees and saw fresh dung on the trail, gave us quite a scare! S took his tripod and wielded it as a weapon for the rest of the way back, which, in retrospect, was quite hilarious. I later looked up that there are wild boar and cattle in the the forest in that region.
This was our turning point for the day, it was time for us to head back to the hotel.
This was our last morning here 😦 We did not have much time to do anything except have a last lovely poolside breakfast, and head to the airport. This reverse journey was wayyyy too soon.
Usually by the end of a vacation I am ready to be back home, for the first time, I wished I could stay longer. Can’t wait to be back!