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Trip Report Maui Wowee - a long overdue trip report

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Maui Wowee – a trip report PART I


Hi everyone, just thought I’d share my trip report from our trip to Maui November 7-14 2009. I had created a bunch of reviews on Yelp but of course that wasn’t quite enough to commemorate our experience, and since I had a lot of fun reading everyone else’s trip report I thought I’d write one here too. It’s gonna be a pretty detailed trip report but that’s how I like to remember everything! Sorry if it’s too wordy, but I will try not to repeat specific reviews of places I have already written about on Yelp. You can look up those reviews of places on our trip here: http://www.yelp.com/list/maui-wowee---a-list-of-places-we-visited-kihei

Anyways, the cast is: myself and my husband, 30-something year olds, newlyweds hailing from New York City. We had gotten married in Nov. 2008 and we were looking for a location to spend our 1st anniversary. Since I had started a new job just 2 months prior to our trip, we could only spend a maximum of a week away. I wanted a place that we were both somewhat familiar with, but also “new” for us. We also wanted it to be somewhat of a “destination.” We had been to Mexico and the Caribbean a few times and wanted something still tropical and beachy, but altogether different. We decided on Maui because a) it’s far enough but not tooo far from NYC, b) we had both been as children with our families, but never together as a couple hence the familiar but new feeling c) we thought it was the perfect location since we both love Hawaii. We had gone to Oahu about 4 years before getting married and we had a blast.

In terms of planning, I booked our flights on United airlines via the united website. The flight was ok priced but I attribute that to booking rather late on our part. Because of the economy most of the flights were better priced than I had seen in previous years regardless. The first 4 days in Maui, we would be staying in Kihei, at the Maui Coast Hotel. Expedia was offering some great deals and since the hotel recently underwent a renovation, we were getting some good post-renovation deals. The latter 3 nights of our trip, we would move on to Kapalua to the Ritz-Carlton. I had gotten a package from http://www.askabouthawaii.com which included breakfast buffet and a resort credit for our 3 night stay. (BTW, when we were planning this trip, we had no intention of returning to Hawaii for at least another year or two, so we thought we’d splurge a bit. In any case, we ended up going on a last minute family trip to Kauai in January 2010, but that is another trip report…)

We arrived Nov 7th in Kahului airport at around 3pm. We were greeted with warm breezes and bright sun, yay! We usually never check our bags when we travel, so getting out of the terminal was a breeze. I quickly changed into a sundress and flip flops while in the ladies room. I usually keep a change of clothes in the outside pocket of my carry-on suitcase because I want to feel like I am on a tropical vacation as soon as I arrive! We made our way to the Alamo counter where we had gotten a convertible for the week. The rack rate of the convertible was actually rather high, imo. I had tried to use priceline to get a better rate, but for some reason during the week we stayed there, the car rental prices just weren’t in our favor. In the end I managed to use corporate discounts to book directly through Alamo. We left the airport in our bright electric blue Chrysler Sebring convertible, top down of course!

The first stop before going to our hotel was Zippy’s. It’s located not too far south from the airport and we wanted a quick bite before heading further south to Kihei. When we were on Oahu together years before, we discovered Zippy’s and thought it was a great combination of tasty local comfort food, fast service, and great prices. The Kahului Zippy’s was relatively new-ish, and had a nice, pleasant, bright atmosphere. We sat at a booth and I ordered the small fried saimin, and hubs ordered the chili with beef, over white rice. One thing I must must always get in Hawaii wherever I go is lillikoi drink (passionfruit), so I was very happy when our waitress brought over my tall refreshing glass of lillikoi, whoopee! A great start to vacay!


Now I am one of those insane people who takes pictures of my food before eating it. I usually take pictures of interesting things I eat with my blackberry and post them on Facebook. However, when I am on vacation, I travel with my Canon Xsi and multiple lenses and take pictures of EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING. So of course I whipped out my camera and took pictures of our food before devouring it. Everything was yummy and it was a nice “light” snack. LOL.

We headed on down to Kihei, but not without me picking up a few pastries to go at Napoleon’s Bakery, which is part of Zippy’s. They had seasonal treats and the pumpkin coffee cake looked too good to pass up! I got myself 2 of those!

The drive to Maui Coast was about 30 minutes, give or take. We brought along a Garmin GPS unit so driving around was very easy! Definitely highly recommended. BTW, don’t get a fancy one, get a cheap one for traveling in case you lose it or it gets stolen!

We entered the Maui Coast lobby, which was quite airy and spacious, and checked in. The process was quite smooth and we brought our own luggage to our rooms which were on the first floor. They didn’t’ have anything else available with a king bed, but we didn’t really mind. Our mindset was more or less that this hotel was just our “base” since we’d spend most of the next few days outside of the hotel anyways, so we didn’t really need anything too fancy. The room was very clean, with new furniture, flat screen tvs, mini fridge, and microwave. We manage to find parking outside the corridor to our rooms as well so it’s never a far walk to our car. We didn’t really have much of a lanai since we were next to the parking lot on the first floor but we never used it either. Bathrooms are small, but everything was new and clean.

We unpacked a bit and settled in for a nap. Well, hubs napped since it was pretty much like 2am NY time by that point. I watched TV: I was mesmerized by the Hawaii Channel, that channel that caters to tourists which has information about restaurants, tours, and sights about the island you are staying on. I recognized a few places that we were definitely going to, like Haleakala and Hana, as well as a few restaurants we were planning on trying. Great channel!!! I watched it all the time to see if there was anything I missed (the channel repeats the information over)

At around 8pm local time, we got up and got dressed to get some dinner. I wanted to check out Café O’Lei, so we drove about a 1.4 mile to the restaurant. It was packed! Tons and tons of people. We asked about a table for 2 and were told we could sit at the sushi bar with no wait so that’s what we did since we were rather tired and didn’t feel like waiting long. We started with fresh dinner rolls (nice and warm), and I ordered the soy-butter ahi with white rice, and hubs got the asian style short ribs. To start, we got the Café O’Lei tower, which was 3 tiers of deep fried tuna roll, fried calamari and fried coconut shrimp. The food was tasty and the portions huge! We had to take leftovers back to our room. Overall a good dinner, albeit a bit noisy.
Check out our review of Cafe O'Lei on our Maui List:
http://www.yelp.com/list/maui-wowee---a-list-of-places-we-visited-kihei

Here's pictures of part I:
http://picasaweb.google.com/sulynnteo/MauiPartI?feat=directlink

We went back to the room and slept…and slept! We woke up at around 5am for our next adventure…the Road to Hana…stay tuned!

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    Maui Wowee - a Trip Report Part II

    The next day, we woke up at around 4:30am - because of the time difference, it was about 9:30 NY time. We figured we’d get a head start on our drive to Hana so we got ready and headed out for breakfast. The only place open that was close by was the Kihei Caffe (yes it‘s spelled that way). It was a very short drive from the Maui Coast to the café. The café is cute, very small, with limited outdoor seating. You place your order at the counter and then find a place to sit outside. They bring your food to you when it’s ready.

    We ordered coffees and asked about what they suggested was good for breakfast. The guy behind the counter was really friendly and recommended the fried rice with eggs. My husband ordered that, and I ordered 2 eggs with spam and hash browns. Gotta love all the spam in Hawaii! We also got a large, fluffy cinnamon roll to share. We found a seat outside, filled our coffee mugs from the self service station and pretty soon our meal came. Everything was delicious with the winner being the fried rice. It’s a bit mushier than your traditional fried rice but it had bits of ham, spam, scallions and I think some peppers in it too. You get 1 free refill on your coffee, and it’s based on the honor system.

    www.kiheicaffe.com


    After our huge breakfast, we headed on out to get some supplies - Styrofoam cooler, and drinks, my favorite being the Hawaiian Sun beverages. We shopped at Safeway, which we don’t have here in NYC, and I got a safeway card to save on some groceries.

    We embarked on the long road to Hana. The last time I was on this road was when I was about 12 years old. I barely remembered anything except for visiting some waterfalls. On the way we passed through Paia, which a was really cute town, we knew we wanted to stop here on the way back. We also passed the entrance to Mama’s Fish house which I was excited to eat at on our last day of our trip.

    The RTH was wonderful going there, especially since we were in a convertible, which allowed us to partake of the warm sun and cool breezes around each bend and turn. The views are nothing short of amazing. The road is VERY windy, lots of hairpin turns and one-lane bridges. If you are an experienced driver, I don’t think it would be an issue though. Since we were out so early, we didn’t encounter much traffic at all on the way there. We saw a couple of colorful fruit stands, some of them were closed at such an early time though. It was about 8am though. If you get carsick easily, just load up on the Dramamine (non drowsy version). Also the convertible helps a lot. I think if we were not in a convertible, I would have gotten a bit ill.

    We did run into a small little fruit stand where we bought a fresh coconut to share. They were nice enough to shuck it after we drank it and give us just the meat in a Ziploc bag. We used the port a potty stand there as well, which unfortunately was not very clean. But on the RTH, I guess its hard to find a public restroom in general so any place will do.

    We made a few pit stops. Keanae Peninsula was soooo gorgeous. The scenery there was amazing and I snapped a few wonderful pics. Up in Smoke BBQ for a quick bite. There are a few other food stalls there and a small gift shop. However, I wanted to try breadfruit so we ordered from Up in Smoke. The kalua pork was pretty good, served with rice and doused with hot sauce. The breadfruit was kinda like a yam crossed with a potato. It’s not very flavorful but you can douse it with butter and hot sauce and it’s not bad. 3 Bears falls was really cute.

    Right before Hana we went to Black Sand Beach at Wainapanapa State Park. It was fantastic! I have never been to a black sand beach before and I thought it was amazing. The “sand” is actually very smooth polished lava stones. Very pretty with the bright blue water. We got our feet wet, Not much in terms of swimming as the waves were pretty rough.

    When we got to Hana, we stopped to take a quick look. Hana itself was not very exciting. We drove around and got a feel of the place. The Hotel Hana looked really nice, but otherwise not too much to see. We continued on for a few miles until we got to Ohe’o Gulch, or Seven Sacred Pools. It’s a short hike to the pools, but it’s definitely worth it. The scenery is amazing. The pools are really cold though so be prepared if you came to swim. We kind of waded around. There is a waterfall and also another pool above the waterfall that you can hike to and swim in too. We just stayed at the bottom pools. The hike is pretty slippery and I’m not really good on my feet.

    For all my pictures at the Gulch I used a Panasonic Lumix TS1 which is waterproof so I didn’t mind it getting wet.

    After Oheo Gulch we headed back to our car and drove the long road back by the way we came. Now I am on the passenger side of the car, and when you’re driving back the passenger side is Really Really scary!!! Lots of steep cliffs with no guard rail, no barriers, nothing. A few times I thought we were going to fall to our deaths! I guess that’s what people find exhilarating about the RTH. Going there, I wasn’t scared at all but coming back is pretty frightening, especially in a convertible. Going back was definitely more crowded, lots more cars we had to let pass.

    On the way back, we stopped in Paia. It’s such a cute town, with colorful boutiques and restaurants. It’s not very big, but I like how it had a very upscale yet bohemian vibe. We stopped to eat dinner at the Paia Fish Market. You go in , and order from the counter and the seating is communal. We got the fish n chips with mahi mahi and the seafood salad platter with Ono. Both were delicious. I loved the salad dressing and I later found out it was Poppy Seed dressing which became my new favorite dressing! Fish was extremely fresh and prepared well. Everything was pretty casual and lots of people wearing beach gear.

    http://www.paiafishmarket.com/

    We also went to Aloha Shave Ice. I got my usual combo I like to call the triple L: Lillikoi, Li Hing mui (Chinese salty sweet preserved plum) and Lychee. Got it with adzuki beans, and vanilla ice cream. My first shave ice of the trip and I loved it! A bit pricey for shave ice, but I loved every bite. Maybe it’s because it’s my first one of the vacation?
    http://www.yelp.com/biz/aloha-island-shaved-ice-paia

    After shave ice, we walked around Paia for a bit and then got back to the car and drove back to the Maui Coast hotel and passed out. It was a looong but fun day!

    I’m really glad we did the RTH, although I am not sure I’d do it again. Maybe I will…

    Here’s our pics for day 2:

    http://picasaweb.google.com/sulynnteo/MauiPartII#

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    Even though no one may be reading, I am going to attempt finishing up this looooong overdue TR. Since Nov 2009 we have been back to Hawaii 4 more times: Kauai (Jan 2010), Big Island and Maui (Nov 2010), Oahu (Oct 2011), and most recently Oahu and Big Island (June 2012). I’d like to, at some point, write TRs for all of them, mostly so I can remember our wonderful times in Hawaii. Luckily I take pictures of EVERYTHING and I use that as a template for my TRs in case my memory is not so fresh.

    Maui Wowee - a Trip Report Part III

    The next day, we head to Kihei Caffe for breakfast again. I got the bircher muesli which is delicious. It’s like cold sweet oatmeal with fruit. It’s creamy and seems healthy enough. My husband got the cinnamon roll French toast which he enjoyed.

    After breakfast we headed to one of the beaches in Wailea/Makena. We weren’t sure of the name of this beach, but it was in the ubiquitous blue book. All I remember is that it is before Big Beach, and there is a parking lot and a short walk. The beach is pretty small, but there were some people already there. This beach had the most incredible snorkeling. We swam with 2 giant sea turtles! We used gear that we rented from Snorkel Bob, and it was really comfortable. We saw a ton of fish, but the turtles really blew us away. I have never swam so close to one ever. Amazing. I took some underwater pictures too with a waterproof point and shoot.

    We swam and laid out on the beach for a few hours, by then it was lunch so we went to Da Kitchen Express in Kihei for a quick meal. It’s counter service only there and prices are very reasonable and portions large. I got the Won Fat Guys Chow Fun and my husband got the Hawaiian Plate. My chow fun was ok – I didn’t love it. I’m more used to Cantonese style chow-fun we get here in NYC, so this is a bit different, doughier and sweeter in flavor because it had teri beef in it. I still ate it since I was hungry. The Hawaiian Plate was good though, lots of juicy kalua pork, lau lau, chicken long rice, and lomi salmon. It was my first time trying most of these things and it was pretty good. I normally am not a pulled pork kind of person, but kalua pork was flavorful.

    After lunch we decided to check out Local Boys Shave Ice. We got a huge shave ice. I got my usual triple L combo but this time with a cream top. Sooooo good! We walked around the market place a bit. I don’t really remember buying much but I did buy a pretty black beaded top which I still wear.

    That evening we were going to Spago at the Four Seasons for dinner. I had read their menu online and I was pretty excited to try out some items. We relaxed a bit at the Maui Coast pool, which was small, but cute. Then we took a nap in the room before heading out for a sunset dinner.

    The Four Seasons is a beautiful established hotel, definitely can see why it has one of the highest price tags in all of Maui. It has a beautiful beachfront location and the pools look luscious.

    We were seated at Spago immediately and right by the edge of the restaurant so we can overlook the beach and pools. I was disappointed upon reading the menu that they didn’t have the whole wok fried moi which was what I wanted to try. So in the end, we decided to get the tasting menu. It was 125 pp without drinks, but I figure it was our anniversary so we could splurge. Unfortunately this did not turn out to be one of the better meals we had. I mean it was all good, but I felt that they could have done better. The tuna tartar cones were good, but then 2 other courses involving tuna came out after – so it felt every dish had the same ingredient. Also, the sauces on some of the meats and fish were overpowering the delicate flavor. I think I have just had better elsewhere. Dessert however, was wonderful and it included a mini island milkshake (yum) and they gifted us an extra chocolate cake because of our anniversary. They even wrote Happy Anniversary on the plate!

    We asked the waitress to take a picture of us and the pretty sunset. It came out well. Overall another great day in paradise.

    Here's my list of Yelp reviews of all the places we went to in Maui: http://www.yelp.com/list/maui-wowee---a-list-of-places-we-visited-maalaea

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    Maui Wowee – A Trip Report Part IV

    The next day was a busy one – I had spent months planning the timing of this day down to a T because I wanted to be able to do a lot of things in Upcountry Maui and we only had one day. Our first stop: Haleakala for sunrise!! It was around 4am when we left Kihei and we stopped at Zippy’s in Kahului because their counter service is 24-hours. We bought coffee and a small breakfast platter which we shared just so we’d have enough energy for the drive up. There were a few cars on the road heading up for the sunrise as well. The road is windy and at some point you realize you’re pretty high up because your ears keep popping.

    When we got to the vantage point/visitor center it was about a half hour until sunrise. Brrr it was cold! We bundled up in our coats, hats and scarves which we had when we left New York (it was November after all). Sunrise was as beautiful as I had imagined it would be. It could have been better if it was a little less cloudy, but still an amazing sight. We took some pictures and wandered around before heading down the mountain. Our next stop: Kula Lodge for a full breakfast!

    The Kula Lodge is a little outdated but has plenty of charm. The views from the terrace out back are amazing. We ate in the hotel restaurant and our breakfast was yummy and satisfying. We shared a giant breakfast platter consisting of pancakes, eggs, sausage and bacon, oh and coffee of course! We added mac nuts to the pancakes for an additional charge but it was worth it. Two words: coconut syrup. Overall breakfast was really cheap because we split the giant platter but it was plenty for 2 people.

    This was where the timing had to be key because I had scheduled our next stop months in advance: Ziplining with Skyline Eco Adventures. I was toying between the timing of this because I wanted to fit in sunrise and breakfast before ziplining, but I didn’t want too much lag time in between activities. I picked the 9:30 time thinking we may be either right on time or 5 mins early. Turns out we were about half an hour early. LOL. It was fine because we got fitted for our harnesses and waited at the base with a few other people. Note: women, do not wear short shorts on this activity because you’ll just look really awkward.

    We’ve never been ziplining before so we thought we’d try the original upcountry course. It consists of 5 ziplines, each one longer than the one before it. Everyone goes one at a time since it’s a single line. It was loads of fun. Even if you are afraid of heights, it’s not that scary because you’re going too fast to notice. My husband recorded his ride on each line with a point and shoot, but on one line, he accidentally covered the lens with his finger so it’s just a video of darkness and him yelling Woohoo! The last line is obviously the longest and best. Everyone at Skyline was super friendly and took care of us. Highly recommended. Next time we’re going to do the Kaanapali one which is a dual zipline, that means we can zipline side by side! Race anyone?

    After our fun adventure we decided to visit a few places in Upcountry. I definitely wanted to check out the Alii Kula Lavender Farm and the Surfing Goat Dairy. I must say, driving around in a convertible with the top down in Upcountry Maui is just the most wonderful thing…

    The lavender farm was really pretty. You can walk around the grounds with a self guided tour and take pictures. We also got some lavender lemonade to share. It was tasty with slight floral undertones. I bought some gifts for some friends back home in their gift store. Everything smelled so good!

    Surfing Goat Dairy was kinda neat. We didn’t do any of the tours but we walked around and took pictures of the goats. It was also really picturesque there (is there any place in Upcountry that isn’t?). We tried the Goat Cheese sampler platter which is a sampling of 6 cheeses. Some were pretty interesting like mango quark. I am not a huge fan of goat cheese regularly but I kinda dug some of the flavored samples.

    After SGD, it was late in the afternoon. We weren’t terribly hungry but I really wanted to eat at Haliimaile General Store before we left. We like Hawaiian Regional Cuisine a lot and Chef Bev Gannon is one of their founders. I really loved the restaurant space, sort of an updated plantation-style home. We shared the burger and the “famous” crab pizza. The pizza was good – I don’t know why it’s so famous though. It wasn’t terribly life-changing. The kobe burger on the other hand was delicious. YUM. Definitely will go back to try more items on another visit.

    After lunch we walked around the cowboy (paniolo) town of Makawao. I was pretty surprised at how upscale it was. Some of the boutiques here had pretty $$ stuff. It’s a nice quaint yet posh town. I liked the little boutique shops here. We also visited T Komoda general store. Their bakery goods are raved about but we were too full to try anything.

    We decided we were pretty tired then so we headed back to Kihei. On the way back we stopped at the Maui Mall for some Tasaka Guri Guri. It’s this dessert that is somewhat akin to sherbet and comes in 2 flavors: strawberry and pineapple. We got a mix of the 2 in a cup. We only paid a buck for it which is probably the cheapest thing we ate in Hawaii! It’s pretty good but a little too sweet for my tastes. I can see how kids will love this stuff. I hear it’s made from condensed milk, which just makes everything taste good.

    We also stopped at Homemaid bakery in Kahului. I just LOVE bakeries but usually try to avoid them because they are my weakness and I can eat my weight in pastries. On vacation though, it doesn’t matter right? I tried different flavors of the special manju, which are like little round baked pastries with different fillings. I loved Homemaid’s version because the crust is crispy like pie crust. I tried the purple sweet potato, pineapple, and apple. Pineapple was awesome! You can buy these at supermarkets as well as ABC stores (when available) but there is nothing better (and fresher) than getting it direct from the bakery! I got a box of pineapple to go.

    We returned to Maui Coast Hotel and chilled by the pool again. We also took this time to do laundry. The laundry machines are free but there are only a few of them. Luckily no one was using it then.

    After a brief nap, we went in search of dinner. Since it was rather late and we hadn’t made reservations anywhere, we decided to stay local and went to a Vietnamese restaurant we spotted in one of the Kihei strip malls. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called, but it wasn’t the best pho I’ve had so it doesn’t kill me to not remember this place.

    This night marked the end of the first half of our week in Maui. So far we’ve had an amazing time. It’s pretty neat to see all the places you’ve researched and read about in person. Even though we’d both been to Maui before, we were very young so it’s like we’re experiencing new…yet familiar territory.

    We were set to move the next day to the Ritz Carlton Kapalua for the remainder of our stay. It was hard to believe our week was more than half gone! But we’re happy we got so much done in 4 days . Now it was time for some true R&R!

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    I opened this thread just because of its title. That you're able to remember so much detail from a trip 3 years ago means, I guess, that you really enjoyed it. But it's not quite the Maui Wowie that I fondly recall. ;-)

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    @ 22tango - I have a lot of pictures which I am able use to refresh my memory...and I had actually written up a loose form of a TR that has been sitting in Word for some time...I guess it was about time I did something with it :) I actually think of writing TRs as fun!

    I will probably transfer this, once completed, to some sort of travel blog site so I can add pictures - think it'll be more "finished" that way. :)

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    Tufa, I'm thrilled you decided to reopen this, because we're going to be in Maui at the end of September (probably our 5th or 6th time, but I still like to read others' e0xperiences!)

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    tifa-- I LOVE your trip report...I can't wait to read more! I'm a Kauai addict but I just may have to make a trip over to Maui after reading your report. Your pictures are absolutely gorgeous!!

    I would love to hear about your trip to Kauai. My husband & I have been to Oahu (August 05); Kauai (May 07); Kauai (August 07); and Kauai (May 2011). Our next trip is this September, two months away, back to Kauai! Which one is your favorite island?

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    LOL I just googled maui wowee and saw this:
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=maui-wowee

    I guess what was a deliberate typo turned out to be something else entirely. :) Well, it is definitely a conversation/thread starter...

    @ Susie - thank you!

    A sf7307 - thank you and have a fantastic trip!

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    Maui Wow__ A Trip Report Part V

    Fill in the blanks with the spelling of your choice. Either way it had nothing to do with our trip, really, I swear! :)

    The next morning, still being on mainland time, we woke up early, and even though we had to check out by 11am we thought we could still fit in a quick trip to the beach. After some pineapple manju and coffee in our room, we headed out to the beach. We went back to the beach we saw the turtles at, a little past Wailea but before Big Beach. Unfortunately there were no turtles this time but we still had a fun time snorkeling.

    After heading back, we showered, changed, packed up and checked out of the Maui Coast Hotel. Even though we didn’t spend too much time here, we only have positive things to say of Maui Coast. It’s a good home “base” if you’re looking to do a lot of activities and want someplace new and comfortable to crash at a reasonable price. Definitely get one of the suites if you like a bit more room though. Our regular king bed room was a little cramped.

    On our way to Kapalua, there was a local place I wanted to check out in Kahului: Sam Sato’s for their dry mein. I’ve heard tons of good things about this place, and it’s the sort of hole-in-the wall local style place we’ve come to love. It closes at 3pm though just an FYI. Dry mein is like chinese noodle soup – but with the soup on the side, hence the “dry” label. I love noodle soups but I like it even better when the soup is on the side. Then you can control the wetness of the noodle with each spoonful!

    We both got the dry mein and a side of the chicken skewers. The dry mein was really really tasty, the noodles are simply served with a smattering of charsiu (chinese roast pork) and scallions. Even though the dish seems plain there is a lot of flavor packed in the noodles themselves. Also the texture of the noodle is really good: chewy and thick, perfectly cooked al dente. The broth is also savory and delicious. Definitely a winner!! The chicken sticks were not bad but I think the noodles themselves are the highlight. We also tried some of their special manju which was good but I liked Homemaid Bakery’s better because of their crisper crust.

    The drive to Kapalua is really beautiful and didn’t take long at all. From Kahului it was about 30 minutes without much traffic driving at an easy pace. I was in love with our convertible! Coming from NYC where I spend half of the day commuting underground, this was just the most wonderful experience. The only bad thing is that there is barely any trunk space. Our Styrofoam cooler that we purchased had to be stored in the back seat, and the top of it blew off! So basically each day we had a large box of ice in the back seat sloshing around…I also loved how the scenery changed constantly on our drive to the west side, one second it would be lush and beachy, then dry and desert-like.

    We had planned to visit I’ao needle on our way but we decided to save that for a future trip…we just wanted to get to relaxing asap!

    Upon entering the Kapalua resort complex, we noticed how much more secluded it felt than the rest of Maui. The tree-lined drive led to the resort. The check in was very easy, and we got black polished kukui nut necklaces. We had decided to do self-parking, which is across from the hotel. Not too bad of a walk.

    I had booked a garden room but we were upgraded to pool view. Breakfast buffet was also included in our rate. I had booked through AskaboutHawaii.com and got a very competitive rate. Our room was huge and inviting. The hardwood floors were my favorite part. It’s rare to find hardwood in hotel rooms! The bathroom is also really large. It felt like we were in Vegas, in the Bellagio hotel bathrooms. LOL.

    For our first afternoon, we walked around at the Ritz Carlton beach. Although the waves were too high for swimming, it was still really amazing to watch. There was a wedding going on and the couple were having their picture taken at the beach during sunset. Beautiful! We also did a quick dip in the pool. The pool area is huge, having three “tiers” of pools. We spent the rest of the afternoon/early evening just chilling in our ginormous room and watching TV. Just realized they had DVD players in the rooms. Wish I had known that so I could have brought a movie or two. Vacations are usually my time to catch up on nexflix. :)

    Not deciding where to have dinner yet, we headed out to Lahaina to check out Front street restaurants and shops. It’s definitely where all the nightly action is - I think this is the most people we've seen all week aside from the airport. We settled on Kimo’s because it wasn’t crowded and it had a pretty central location in the heart of Front Street. We were seated upstairs, and although it was night there wasn’t much of a view but we could still hear the waves of the ocean.

    For meals, I got the teriyaki steak and shrimp combo which is served with rice and a side of butter and teri dipping sauce. I don’t think my steak/shrimp combo had the teri steak to begin with but I asked them if they could just make it teri-style and they were happy to do so. My husband go the grilled Wahoo served with rice. Everything was good and tasty, nothing fancy but definitely well-prepared. I can see this being a good people watching place during the day.

    After dinner we walked up and down Front Street. ! Its nice that the shops are open late so you have time to browse around after dinner. I ended up buying a handmade decorative candle which has a built-in light and the words Maui carved into it along with 2 sea turtles. It was pricey…but when in Rome…unfortunately the candle somehow slightly melted in our apartment during the summer, and ended up with dust particles IN the candle. It wasn’t a very pretty sight anymore so it had to get tossed out. Oh well.

    Overall, today we had a great transition from South to West Maui, we got to eat some good local eats, and check into a five start hotel. Looking forward to our next 2 days of chillaxin’!

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    Maui Wowee(ie) – A Trip Report Part VI

    We awoke on our 6th day to bright blue skies – a beautiful day! We headed down to our included breakfast buffet. It was a pretty awesome buffet. Everything was fresh and delicious. You can also request an order of mac nut pancakes which are not on the buffet but is available with no extra charge. Yummy. I definitely got my fill of mac nut pancakes on this trip. It’s funny because I don’t normally eat mac nuts anywhere else outside of Hawaii. I buy a lot back as gifts but I never eat them myself even though they are quite tasty. I think it’s one of those things I save to eat on the islands…

    Breakfast was delicious and sooo filling. I can see us skipping lunch – I didn’t have anything planned though. Now it was time to enjoy the massive pool at the Ritz! The pool area is just luscious and the views are also really pretty. 3 levels of pool to choose from. It wasn’t crowded ever when we were there, but I don’t know about other times of the year. There were plenty of chairs and also private cabanas which you can rent, I think.

    After an enjoyable morning at the pool, still in our bathing suits and cover-ups, we decided to venture down to the Kapalua golf course because our guidebook told us of a pretty cool site called Dragon’s Teeth. You can walk there from the Ritz Carlton, you just follow the edge of the golf course until it hits an area where the lush green grass ends and it is jagged volcanic rock, right where it meets the ocean. It was really quite breathtaking to see the large splashes the wave made against the rocks. You can walk all around the formation but be careful as it can be sharp in certain areas. It’s not really a flip flop/sandal kinda walk, but of course we didn’t have anything else on our feet. It’s a cool place to take pictures and video. You are mesmerized by the waves thinking the next one is gonna be bigger than the one before. It is highly recommended if you’re in the Kapalua resort area.

    After our morning/afternoon at the Kapalua Resort, we decided to head out for a bit before our dinner at Lahaina Grill, but not before stopping at the Spa to book an appointment for a facial for me. Our 100 dollar resort credit was well spent here. I booked my appt for the day we were leaving because I like to reserve spa treatments at the end of our trip, reasons being: I can have something to look forward to instead of thinking about how vacation’s over. Also I like to be fully relaxed when I get on a plane so I can keep the “vacation” mode for a while longer…

    We took the car and on our way out, stopped by the Honolua Store to check it out. It’s a cute little grocery/general store located right outside the Ritz. It has a prepared food section which looked pretty good, and prices are very reasonable. It’s too bad we were still fairly full from breakfast otherwise we’d totally have gotten something to eat. I did however, get a spam musubi snack to share. Two thumbs up!

    My husband really wanted to watch the Chicago Bears game playing at the time so we headed over to Lahaina to find a good sports bar. I think a Yelp search helped us find Lulu’s in the Lahaina Cannery mall so we settled in for a few hours of football and frozen concoctions. I took a little walk through the mall myself, and it primarily seems like a touristy spot with many souvenir shops selling t-shirts, Hawaiiana, and tropical gear. There weren’t that many stores but still it was a lot of fun to browse since I hadn’t really done much shopping at all, and I found a few things for friends. I am not sure if this mall had the best prices out of all the touristy shops in Maui but I didn’t really have that many days left to do a price compare. My friends were very happy with their gifts (mostly locally-crafted jewelry and the like) so I think the selection in the mall was decent.

    Back at Lulu’s after kicking back a lava flow (or two) and a platter of wings for the hubs, we headed back to Front Street to walk around before dinner. It’s definitely the place to be – lots of people walking around. I guess this is where everyone has been the entire week! I passed by the Museum of the Early Chinese in Maui and thought it sounded really interesting but it closed at 4pm. Shucks. Maybe one day.

    Our dinner at Lahaina Grill was great. The service was excellent. Lahaina Grill is located right off Front Street, but it doesn’t have a water view of anything, but it does have really delicious food. We started with a few glasses of wine and a prickly pear martini which was yummy. We shared the appetizer of seared foie gras and ahi tuna. Yum, I think this was one of the best foie gras pairings I’ve had! For my entrée I got the grilled bone-in rib-eye with blue cheese mashed potatoes and the hubs got seared sea scallops, both were delicious and beautifully prepared. The dining rooms can get quite loud and there were a lot of people there but all of them looked like they were having a good time.

    We wanted to get dessert, but I really wanted a shave ice so after dinner we stopped at Ululani’s shave ice on Front Street. Since it was kinda breezy we didn’t really get to appreciate our shave ice completely, like we would on a hot sunny afternoon, but it was still good, although not as good as the one I had in Kihei at Local Boys. It started to drizzle a bit at that point so we decided to head back to the hotel. My shave ice kinda melted quickly after that. Note to self: shave ice is better when it’s during the day and when it’s not raining! Overall, a very great day chillin’ on the west side of Maui, ate some great food and wine too!

    Next, our last full day in Maui...

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    @loiuistraveler5:

    Sorry, it seems like I have missed your post! My apologies as I really appreciate your comments, and sooo sorry this is a bit late...

    "tifa-- I LOVE your trip report...I can't wait to read more! I'm a Kauai addict but I just may have to make a trip over to Maui after reading your report. Your pictures are absolutely gorgeous!!

    I would love to hear about your trip to Kauai. My husband & I have been to Oahu (August 05); Kauai (May 07); Kauai (August 07); and Kauai (May 2011). Our next trip is this September, two months away, back to Kauai! Which one is your favorite island?"

    Thank you! I really enjoy taking pictures - although nowadays I have put aside the heavy DSLR and travel only with a Panasonic Lumix GF1 - only slightly larger than a point and shoot but with interchangeable lenses. I highly recommend it for traveling!

    Wow, so many trips to Kauai - I am jealous. I have only been once but am really keen on going again. I don't have a trip report to Kauai (yet) but I do have a bunch of yelp reviews which may give you an idea of what we did and ate.

    http://www.yelp.com/list/foodies-take-on-kauai-lihue-4

    I am sure you have many more activities that you did and could probably provide me with a list of "must dos". I think Kauai is the most beautiful island - the helicopter tour of the Napali Coast and Waimea Canyon on Blue Hawaiian Helicopters is one of the most amazing things I've done. Stunning!

    It's hard to pick a favorite island - I like each island for different reasons:

    I love the food on Oahu, the variety and the strong Asian influence make for some seriously good eats. I love finding hole-in-the wall places, and even food trucks, that aren't in any guidebooks. This is the island where we try to "live like locals" and Lanikai beach on the windward side is one of the most beautiful beaches on the islands.

    I love Kauai's beauty and rustic nature. Hanalei is probably the quintissential Hawaiian town. I loved all the beaches and the low-key vibe. I feel like I can truly relax here and not be overwhelmed by all the activities that I feel compelled to do on other islands.

    I love the Big Island's diversity - the island-grown food, and the variety of activities and scenery. I've been on the Big Island for a total of 15 days over the past 2 years and I still haven't seen or done everything that I've put on my "to-do" list. The volcano is amazing and the best snorkeling I've ever done was over at Captain Cook monument. Visiting coffee farms was super cool too (if you're into coffee), and the punalu'u black sand beach was where we saw 9 giant sea turtles napping - absolutely incredible.

    However, Maui does hold a special place in my heart and so I will say it's my "favorite" island - for now - because it's a wonderful blend of everything we want on a vacation: a great variety of high- and low-end restaurants, shopping, beautiful beaches, drives, a bit of nightlife, and a ton of activities so as you'll never be bored, but also not get bogged down in "the planning". I hope you do decide to go as it's beautiful too!

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    We just booked our first trip to Maui - for spring 2013, plenty of time to figure out what to see and do over nine days. Thanks for this great trip report - I am bookmarking it, so we can refer back.

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    I am attempting to finish this report before our next trip to Hawaii! I currently am thinking about a birthday trip to Oahu and Maui in February of 2013. I must say that even though it is a good 4 months away a lot of the condos that I've seen are booked solid through March! So, we have some slim pickins. But while I plan, here is day 7 of our trip report:

    Maui Wowie – A Trip Report Part VII

    Our last full day on Maui…sadly our vacation was coming on an end, but we still had a full day and most of the next ahead of us, so we got up and enjoyed breakfast buffet again at the RC. Today they had changed up some of the items, instead of regular breakfast sausage they had Portuguese sausage. My favorite! Anyone know how I can get this back in New York (aside from someone bringing it back from their Hawaii trip)? Regular Linguica just doesn’t cut it…

    Since the beach at the RC had too much of a high surf for swimming, we were thinking of heading over to Kaanapali, to the Blackrock beach in front of the Sheraton. This is also where the Whaler’s Village shopping complex was. On the way down we decided we’ll have lunch on the beach, so we stopped at the Honolua store to pick up a plate lunch to share: breaded mahi mahi and kalua pork with rice and mac salad.

    Blackrock beach was fabulous. Granted there were more people here than at other beaches we’ve seen but I can see the draw here. The snorkeling was wonderful! We saw a giant sea turtle that swam so close to us we could totally reach out and touch it (we didn’t of course, but I think others weren’t as polite). It was so used to seeing people that it didn’t seem scared. I think I was more scared than the turtle! Pretty awesome sight. I had never seen a giant sea turtle before this trip and now I had swam with 3 of them within a week. The beach is also really nice, wide with golden sand and easy entry into the water. Having lunch here was great after an afternoon of snorkeling. BTW, there were only a few free parking stalls here next to the walkway to the beach. We managed to get one but on subsequent trips were weren’t as lucky and we just parked in Whalers Village. If you buy anything you can get your parking validated.

    Walking back to the car, we decided to take the long route and walk through the Whaler’s village shops. I stopped by Mcdonalds to get something to drink and I couldn’t resist getting myself a cup of saimin (ramen noodles in a cup) because I wanted to take a picture of it to show people back home. I find it really fun go to go fast food places and order stuff you can’t get anywhere else. I did that once in Singapore with a curry mutton pizza at Pizza Hut…anyhoo, the saimin was kind of bland and not the greatest, but my friends on facebook were surprised when they asked what was in the container. They thought it was oatmeal.

    I also really loved the retro t-shirt shop that was on the 2nd floor (can’t remember the name!) but their t-shirts had a really great vintage appeal. They were pricey but they seem to last a long time. My husband really loves the ones he got there. I thought they were nicer than the Crazy Shirts (which I also like, especially the Sharka ones)

    After cleaning up and relaxing back at the RC, we headed out to dinner at Merrimans. It’s located in the Kapalua complex itself so we didn’t’ have far to drive at all. The restaurant was fairly new (when we were there in 2009), and it had beautiful elegant plantation-style décor. We started off with a glass of wine and I actually tried a merrimans mai tai. I am by no means a regular mai tai drinker so I wasn’t sure where this stood in terms of mai tai greatness but it was pretty good, but I’ve decided I’m not really a mai tai drinker ( I do love lava flows though!). We got the appetizer sampler which consisted of a crudo of island fish (ahi) and kula tomato, kalua pig and sweet onion quesadilla, kona kampachi sashimi with miso marinated calamari salad and a lobster bisque. I was full just from looking at the large sampler plate they set in front of us! But I truly love the variety we got. They even were agreeable in swapping out the goat cheese salad which was originally there for the lobster bisque. I guess I felt I had too much surfing goat cheese already.

    For my entrée, I got the Big Island Butterfish misoyaki, which was just delectable. It was served with shimeji mushrooms, baby bok choy and young ginger broth. There was a side of mac nut brown rice too. Some of my favorite flavors are in this dish and it did not disappoint. My husband chose the Merriman’s Mix Plate – Crispy day boat mahi with local citrus ponzy, maui cattle beef filet with mushrooms, and wok charred ahi with brased kula romaine. His fishes were good, but his beef was overcooked. I really hate to send food back , but his steak was just completely well done and we ordered medium rare as we always do. So, they whisked off his steak and brought back another, perfectly cooked one. Whew! Service really was quite extraordinary too.

    For dessert we got the pineapple upside down cake, a good solid dessert. When the bill came, we were surprised that we got both entrees comped as a gesture for the overcooked steak. We were not expecting this at all since they did rectify the mistake. Our server said that he also thought we waited too long for our food, which I guess thinking about it, our entrees did take some time to come but we were grateful for that because our appetizer platter was so filling, so in essence was not a big deal. In any case, the service was outstanding, and they apologized profusely for the steak. Next time I would like to come to Merriman’s during sunset so I can really appreciate the view!

    Next up, our last day in Maui before we fly back home!

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    Maui Wowie Part VIII

    Waking up on the day of departure was bittersweet – it’s our last day of vacation (sob), but it was also the day I had planned our last meal at Mama’s Fish House before our flight back home and I was looking forward to that as well as my facial at the spa.

    We had breakfast buffet for the third time and laid out by the pool again before my morning spa appointment. My facial was wonderful and the spa there is really top notch, but yes it is a pretty penny. Yay for resort credits. We were offered late check-out at 1pm with our package so we stayed at the pool until the last minute before checking out and packing up the car again. Ahh we were really going to miss this. Goodbye beautiful Ritz Carlton!

    We headed out and stopped by Honokowai Okazuya for what I thought was one of the best mixed plate lunches on the island. We split the teri steak over vegetables, mac salad and rice. It was flavorful and some of the best quality you’ll see in a plate lunch. Definitely worth the “higher” prices for take-out food, but portions are generous. We ate outside on the picnic table, although we could have carried it to somewhere more picturesque…next time. Next door was also Bad Ass coffee which had some great iced kona coffee. I really enjoyed my iced coffee, yum!

    We made our way around the island slowly – our flight was not till later at 9pm so we took some time on the drive back around from Kapalua. We stopped, took pictures at every outlook and did a bit of shopping – souvenirs for family and friends, and some more manju from homemaid bakery for me. We also stopped at that one mall in Kahului, which wasn’t very interesting but it was nice to experience Maui like a local. I remember going into the Sanrio store and buying some exclusive Hawaii Hello Kitty stuff for my sister who loved it.

    Since we had some more time to kill before dinner we went to the Sugar Museum – it is not terribly thrilling and the museum is old so I would say skip it, unless you REALLY want to see it. But the nice thing is now that I get those “sugar in the raw” packets in delis or coffee shops I always look for the wording that says, Made in Maui. :)

    Our dinner at Mama’s fish house couldn’t come sooner enough! Upon getting to Paia and to Mama’s we immediately jumped out, checked in and took pictures. It was right at around sunset so I wanted to capture all the available light. The beach area in front of the restaurant is really picturesque, tall palm trees and vintage canoes…they were pretty.

    The restaurant itself was a lot more romantic and elegant than I thought. Back then, when you went to the Mama’s Fish House website, it was extremely cheesy. (It has since improved). I was expecting a little more kitsch. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of vintage Polynesian decor here, but the ambiance is true old Hawaii and is just wonderful. I really thought this was the best place to end our trip. The surprising thing was when I made a reservation I put down we are celebrating our anniversary and they gifted me with a fresh flower lei! How sweet. Too bad I’d have to give it up in a few hours.

    Since we don’t like to drink a lot before long flights, I believed we shared a cocktail (can’t remember what but it wasn’t a mai tai), and dug into the cut your own bread that is served with the meal. For an appetizer, we shared the seafood soup with coconut broth. It was lovely. I love anything coconut! For entrees, I got the whole wok fried moi served in a lychee black bean sauce served with coconut rice. The dish itself was pretty good. I don’t think the moi (which was fantastic) needed such a robust sauce, but I like lychees. The husband’s dish though, was amazing. He got the traditional mac nust crusted mahi mahi tolled with a stuffed lobster claw. This was the most delicious variation of this dish that we’ve ever eaten! It’s quite common to see this dish on menus in Hawaii but the freshness of the fish and the delicate nature in which it was prepared was wonderful. I liked his dish better than mine :). Service was excellent and we had a great time.

    Since we were really full after, we couldn’t get a full dessert so we settled for mango strawberry sorbet. They also gave us a complimentary chocolate ice cream for our anniversary. Both were outstanding, even something as simple as sorbet and ice cream tasted divinely homemade. 4 thumbs up for Mama’s Fish House! Definitely a splurge meal but not to be missed.

    Alas our vacation was over. After dinner we headed to the airport where we returned our convertible and checked into our flight back home to New York.

    What an amazing first anniversary trip to Maui. Since that trip we’ve been back to Hawaii 5 more times: Kauai in Jan 2010, Big Island and Maui Nov 2010, Oahu Oct 2012, Oahu and Big Island June 2012, and we’ve currently booked a trip to Oahu for March 2013. We look forward to spending our 5th anniversary back in Maui and possibly to Kauai in November 2013. We obviously love Hawaii and consider it our go-to destination. We’d rather take less short trips during the year to other tropical places now so we can take one longer trip to Hawaii.

    I hoped you enjoyed this trip report and allowed me to relive our wonderful trip. Once again here’s the full set of pictures from our trip.

    https://picasaweb.google.com/117067623751789515603/MauiAnniversaryTripNov20009?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCOPA87-NgpyJCQ&feat=directlink


    And a series of reviews I did on Yelp:

    http://www.yelp.com/list/maui-wowee---a-list-of-places-we-visited-maalaea

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    Love your photographs! (but would like them more if you had a place name of some of those beach shots) :-) Thanks for sharing. We're planning 11 nights on Maui next spring, and there's lots of useful information here.

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    Great report and it reminded me of several of our trips to Maui. Definitely do take something warm when greeting the Sun God up at Haleakula and loved your dining reviews, replete with pics.

    Definitely one of the best trip reports have read in here.

    Mahalo.

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    22tango - not a problem, I actually had captions when I shared with friends on facebook but never got around to updating on my picasaweb. I agree it's definitely helpful for myself as well. I used my captions from facebook to help jog my memory for the trip report! And I agree that you should do the RTH. Although I didn't think I'd redo it after the first trip, the more I think about it, the more I want to do it again!

    Tomsd - thank you very much! I appreciate your kind comments. Mahalo!

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