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Trip Report Maui trip report July 2011

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I now understand why people who visit Maui either return time after time, or simply never leave. I traveled with 4 other women to Maui in July 2011 and fell in love with it. For interested Fodorites, read on! And please share any insights you may have about this fabulous island.

We flew from the eastern time zone to Dallas and then on to Maui. LA might have been an easier stopover, as the trip would have been more evenly divided, but it was more expensive. We had a layover and then a delay of an additional 3+ hours, so it made for a long day. Arrival at our timeshare was around 8 PM, so no activities our first evening.

We are members of the Royal Aloha Vacation Club. The units are in Kihei at Village by the Sea. Interestingly enough, there are only 14 Royal Aloha units out of the entire 2 5-story buildings. The rest of the condos are individually owned. We were right on the beach, and had beautiful views from the unit. The units were OK - not beautifully done nor awful. We loved the location.

On our first day, we had planned to drive to the top of the volcano to see the sunrise, since our internal clocks were not yet set for Hawaii time, but changed plans and attended the breakfast/local activities presentation at the condo. The concierge was very well-informed and helped us plan the remainder of our week. After breakfast we headed up the road to explore a little, and stopped at the first outdoor market we came to. I think it was just called the Craft Fair, right next to McDonald's on S Kihei. Two of us bought some handmade jewelry (the real deal), we all bought costume jewelry, beach cover-ups, etc. We visited other markets throughout the week, but this was our favorite and we returned several times. The vendors were very nice and prices were good here. You could bargain prices, especially when purchasing multiple items.

We continued down the road and had lunch at 3's. The food was good and service was good. I had lobster mac and cheese for $15 (more shrimp than lobster, and I'm not a fan of shrimp) and a house salad for $7.

For dinner we went to Sansei. After reading all the hype about this restaurant in this forum, I expected it to be the best meal of our trip. It was OK. I had the chicken thighs appetizer and miso soup. Both were tasty, neither one was hot. They served water in plastic glasses, and I think the plates were also plastic. The place was packed, we had reservations, and were seated right away.

Day 2 - Got up at 2:40 AM to head for the volcano. Were on the road by 3:15 with some food, coffee, and water to sustain us until our return. We were prepared with gloves and multiple layers of warm clothes and took the blankets off our beds, as suggested by the concierge. Even with all of the preparation, it was COLD up there. Arrived at the summit around 4:30 or so and sat in the car for a little while, then took the plunge and went to the edge of the volcano to await the 5:45 sunrise. On this particular morning, the space shuttle was making its final pass before landing the following day. The rangers were getting info from the nearby observatory and brought our attention to this amazing sighting. Although they were only dots of light in the sky, we got to see the space station and space shuttle fly overhead. Little by little the sun peaked over the horizon, and it was definitely a sight not to be missed (although I don't think I'll make the trek on return trips).

Had coupons for Lulu's for breakfast, so gave it a try when we got back to Kihei. There was only one other couple when we arrived and they had already been served. The majority of menu items were not available with the coupon, so we wound up not using them. Even though there was a waitress and someone at the bar (who kept checking on us and refilling coffee), it took nearly 2 hours for breakfast. Imagine what it would have been like if the place had been crowded! When the food came it wasn't hot and the server was just awful. The scenery was outstanding. Maybe this just isn't a good place for breakfast - didn't go back so don't know about lunch, happy hour, or dinner capabilities.

We shopped a little and then chilled out at the condo in the afternoon. On the recommendation of the concierge, we went to the Sea House Restaurant in Lahaina. This was one of the best things we did. Happy hour included reduced price drink and appetizers, so we made a meal of lettuce wraps, artichoke hearts, crab cakes, beach balls and spring rolls with a Mai Tai or two. Food, drinks, service and ambiance were outstanding. We sat at an outside table right on the beach. Don't miss this place! Next was a drive to the Kapalua Golf Course, then on the way home we stopped at a beach to enjoy more fabulous Maui scenery and watch a few surfers. It had been a long day, so we called it a night fairly early.

Continued later . . .

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    Lulu's has gone steadily downhill. It went on my "never again" list last visit (May) due to slow service and unclean rest room.

    I've enjoyed your adventures so far and look forward to the next installment.

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    iamq - I think I read your trip report before I left, which inspired me to write my own report. Thanks for all the info you shared.

    Day 3 - Two of our group went to Pearl Harbor/Honolulu for the day, and the other 3 of us headed to the plantation. The tour was good and the guide was fabulous - interesting and friendly. The plantation has about a dozen different plants native to Hawaii, each grown in a small plot of land. You ride on a tram while the guide tells you about the pineapples, macadamia nuts, coffee, papaya, etc. There was one stop where she demonstrated how to peel and open a coconut. The info was good, but it wasn't a real plantation. It looked like it needed some water or sprucing up. We talked to a couple at our condo who said they'd gone there for the zip line and really enjoyed it.

    Afterward we drove down to Wailea - this is where all of the big, ritzy hotels are. Just did a drive-thru, then went back to Kihei and had lunch at Fred's, a Mexican restaurant. What a luxury to have lunch outdoors with a couple of fabulous margaritas. The food was good - tortilla soup was a lunch in itself. I had tacos which were really good - wound up taking one home. The service was great. Would recommend Fred's.

    We spent the afternoon lounging around the pool and hanging out in the hot tub.

    Only one of us was interested in dinner; we all went to Fat Daddy's. One diner had a mai tai, one had the pulled pork, which was excellent, and I had some cole slaw - felt bad about taking up the table and then not ordering much. The place was full, although there weren't lines to get in. Service and food great - not too expensive. Afterward we walked across the street to the park. It may not be the best place to roam around after dark. There is a skateboarding area with ramps, a number of people just hanging out - maybe homeless - and a large group of teenagers who were doing some really raunchy rapping over a PA system. This was a low-key day - went to the airport and picked up our fellow travelers.

    Day 4 - This was our luau day. We had made reservations for the Old Lahaina Luau several weeks prior. I understand that some luaus have priority seating for an additional fee, but OLL assigns your seats based upon when you call in for reservations. Since you can cancel with no penalty up to around 10 AM the day of, it's probably beneficial to make a reservation far in advance if possible. Our seats were good. We chose to sit in chairs but you could also sit on mats or pillows on the group with low tables. This was my first luau, so I have no point of reference, but it was really enjoyed by all. The cost was a little less than $100/person which included gorgeous flower leis, food, beverages and show. They served mai tais as we entered the seating area and you could also order drinks from your waitress or walk up to the bar. Our seats were wonderful, and we weren't even in the first tier of tables. We had our picture taken with several of the gorgeous young men who worked there, and all of our service and interactions with staff were fabulous. We watched the unearthing of the pig, then tables were called up to get their food. There were several seafood dishes, and although I'm not a seafood eater, I did try the octopus which was good. The steak was tender, and the pork, which I was thinking would be the best dish of the evening, was a little tough and not terribly flavorful. My favorite dish was the purple sweet potatoes! This luau is noted for being authentic, which meant there were no fire twirlers, but the show was outstanding anyhow. I'd go to another luau, because this one was really fun.

    We actually started out around 11 AM to have lunch and explore the town of Lahaina. There is one road to get there, and there was an accident which backed up traffic for an hour or more. Some people turned around, but we had no idea what to do if we went back, so we just waited for it to clear. The only bad part was that we were low on gas, so I hand my fingers crossed that traffic would clear before the gas tank emptied. We made it to a station, which wound up being right on the cross street to take us to the main drag of Lahaina. We had lunch at Lahaina Pizza. Individual pizza, salad, and a beer - great food and service. We then talked around and shopped for awhile. All made purchases at Honolulu Cookies, which has samples of all of their goodies. We went to the banyan tree to take pictures, use the facilities, and rest in the shade for a short while before going to check in for the luau. Truly enjoyable day!

    Days 5 and 6 - Road to Hana and the snorkel trip

    More later . . .

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    Ahhhh...Honolulu Cookie Company! Thanks for reminding me that I need to make some purchases for family members for the holidays. Love them! Looking forward to hearing more.

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    Saturday was the Road to Hana. The cost was about $100/person, but everyone else wanted to take the tour rather than have me drive, so we went with the majority vote. The advantage of taking the tour is that the roads are curvy and could be dangerous if you're not paying close attention every minute. It also allows the would-be driver to see the sights. The downside of the tour is you don't get to stop at some of the gorgeous places that you see along the way and stay as long as you want.

    Our guide was very nice and quite chatty. It must be difficult to talk for 8 hours a day on a regular basis, but he did fine. When we bought our tickets, the concierge suggested that we purchase the trip without lunch and then just buy our lunch when we get there. I imagined Hana as a small town with several restaurants from which to choose. Guess again! Hana has one restaurant, where you could eat inside or order at a window and eat at a picnic table. The prices were a little less outside for the same food, so we chose the picnic tables. It was nice out and we met a young couple who are teaching English in Japan. The food was OK and not inexpensive for what you get - $6 for an order of onion rings, $2.50 for a small bag of chips. The town also had a bank and a post office which are open a few hours a week, and a souvenir shop. That's about it!

    Back to the trip - The first half of the trip, the northern part of the island, was quite tropical and beautiful. We made a few 5-minute stops at waterfalls for photo ops and at a roadside stand that sold ice cream and macadamia nut brittle. Lunch was about an hour, then we got on the rocky part of the trip. Our car rental agreement prohibited us from driving on the southern part of the Hana road, so if we had driven, we would have gone around the northern edge of the island and returned the same way without seeing the full loop. The guide told us that the road on the second half of the day was bumpier but not as curvy. It was absolutely rocky and bumpy, but seems to have quite a few curves, too! This part of the island is also where the rich and famous have homes/estates. We got this from our guide, so no guarantees on this, but Oprah has a place there, as do Woody Harrelson and Kris Kristofferson. There were a lot of other people he named, but I can't remember them right now. We had a stop of about an hour at the Seven Sacred Pools. There was a steep descent to reach the water, and a number of people went swimming. We talked to a couple with a teenage daughter who live nearby. The husband jumped off the rocks into the pools (although the signs prohibit this) and it was great to talk to them about Maui and their backgrounds. He is originally from Maui. After leaving the pools we made a stop at the winery where we tasted 4 of their wines. They have a sparkling pineapple wine. I've read somewhere else that you'll probably want to taste the wines there but not purchase them. They weren't great - probably better to purchase something from the grocery.

    We had dinner at Coconuts that evening. Coconuts has been recommended several times on this site, but I was totally unimpressed. It's in a strip mall and doesn't serve alcohol. After the Road to Hana, we needed a drink! We walked into the restaurant and it smelled like you were in the midst of a deep fryer. The smell was awful. I wouldn't have been able to eat inside, but there was a table outside. I had a small green salad for $7. The others who ordered the fish tacos said they were good, but I found the entire episode to be unappetizing.

    Sunday, our last day there, was the day of our snorkel trip. It was a fabulous way to wind up the trip. We were on the Quicksilver, and the cost was about $100/person. We were told that the boat would load at 7:15, but when we arrived at that time, the boat was almost completely full. I'd suggest getting there much earlier. We got on the boat and they were serving breakfast - I think it was pastries, fruit, coffee and juice. The only place we could find seats was upstairs in the sun, and while I love the sun, those of us with skin cancer issues can't take hours out in the sunshine, even with sunscreen. As the boat was getting underway, I went downstairs to get some coffee and noticed a table with clothes, towels, etc., belonging to other people, but no one was seated. It turns out that a group had claimed the table but was sitting outside in the front of the boat. One of the crew members told them that they had to make a choice of where they wanted to sit, and they chose outside! I went upstairs and rounded up our party and we had a great place to sit and a very comfortable trip. The crew couldn't have been nicer.

    Our first stop was the Molokini Crater. 3 of us rented the wetsuits for $10, and I was glad I did. It was a little chilly for me, but the wetsuit made the snorkeling heavenly. There were quite a few boats that were anchored in the area, so we were restricted to swimming in the area between our boat and the crater. Many of the fish were quite tame and unafraid of the swimmers. The sea life and the reef were beautiful. We stayed there for about an hour then went to Turtle Town. I was a little skeptical about seeing a sea turtle, but we were told that there were a number of them in the area, and if we just floated around and didn't move toward them, they would swim past us. We saw 3 of them! These huge, slow-moving creatures swam right by and among us. We had a disposable underwater camera which got some pictures, but they weren't terribly clear. Doesn't matter - we knew what those big brown blobs were! After an hour there, we got back on the boat and had a BBQ lunch with pulled pork or chicken and potato salad. You could also purchase Mai Tais and other drinks for $1. We had about another hour of a boat ride before returning to the pier. This was one of the best things we did all week.

    In the evening, we went to Cafe O'Lei for dinner. We had a partial view of the water, and the service and food were outstanding. This was probably our favorite meal all week.

    On Monday before we left, we did a little shopping then went to Mama's Fish House for lunch. Even at lunch it's really pricey. The Mai Tais are $16, and the food prices matched that. I split a crab cake appetizer, had a salad and 2 drinks and I think my lunch was around $50 with tip. It's a place you won't want to miss, but be prepared for sticker shock.

    That's about it! Thanks for reading and a HUGE thanks to all Fodorites who share information in this forum. It has been a great help to me in planning many trips.

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    Hello,

    We are going to Maui next week and need suggestion on
    where to stay. I checked out Expedia and found this
    condo resort - Honua Kai Resort at the Honokowai.
    The price is reasonable and has kitchen. Is this a good
    location and also do we need to rent a car to get around
    the island?

    Thanks,

    Peter

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    I would start a new thread with your questions. You will get more responses.

    Yes. You need a car on Maui. No question about that.

    Can't help with the Honua Kai as I don't that place.

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