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Trip Report Trip to the Big Island and Maui

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Check out the Big Island Revealed and Maui Revealed guidebooks for very helpful information.

On April 25, 2012 we flew from JFK to LA and then on to the Big Island of Hawaii. We picked up our rental car from Dollar and drove the 20 minutes straight up Highway 19 to the Hilton Waikoloa Village Hotel. We had stayed here about 20 years ago when it was a Hyatt and being here brought back a lot of memories. The property is very large but we enjoyed using the monorail or walking to and from our room (helped walk off all the good food we ate) in the Ocean Tower. The room was very spacious and service at the hotel was very good.

Our first morning we check out the Lagoon Spoon for breakfast but, since nothing really appealed to us, we went to the Big Island Breakfast Buffet which was a very, very good and very large spread. The eggs were made to order and were delicious. The fruit juices were so good and let us realize we weren’t in NY anymore. The buffet was a great deal at $25. My husband needed to buy some socks so we went over to the nearby King’s Shops where he bought the sport socks which he ended up wearing once when he later bought sandals which he wore for a lot of our trip. We picked up our car from the self-park lot and drove up to Hapuna Beach State Park which was very busy and we walked around and took some photos. We continued north and turned onto Highway 270 and into the Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and started at the small visitors center and then walked along the trail to get closer to the Heiau. It was very hot. The site is free and is not worth going out of your way to see but worth a quick stop on the way elsewhere. We continued on 270 to the little town of Hawi which was once a major sugar plantation town. We walked along the streets (only two blocks) and joined the crowds at the Kahala Coffee Mill to buy Tropical Dreams ice cream. We ordered the macadamia nut and the strawberry/coconut and it was very good and creamy. The weather was getting overcast, hazy and windy so views out towards the ocean were not very good. We drove on to Kapa’au to see the King Kamehameha statue and then continued on to Pololu Valley Lookout where it was windy and foggy. Because of the weather conditions, we didn’t walk down the trail at all. On the way back, we stopped at Keokea Beach Park (they have porta potties) which was pretty and then we drove back on Kahala Mountain Road (Highway 250) which went through ranch country which was very, very green but the weather meant that we had no views at all even from the lookout. For dinner we went to Brown’s Beach House at the Fairmont, a short drive north on Highway 19 and they offer validated valet parking. We sat at a table outside and watched the torches being lit and enjoyed the music played and sung by a local musician. The setting was gorgeous. They offered a $59 prix fixe menu and the food was delicious and the service was excellent.

Friday we went to a coffee place in the King’s Shops for lattes and very good pastries which we ate outside. We again drove north on Highway 19 and then east through Waimea and north on Highway 240 to Waipi’o Valley Lookout. Despite the overcast and drizzle, it was a nice stop. We got back on Highway 19 and discovered a treasure in the Hawaiian Vanilla Company. The people were so nice. We ordered some of their fabulous vanilla ice cream and bought some soap as gifts and some spice rubs to take home for cooking. My favorite is the vanilla garam masala which I use a lot. We then drove on to Hilo for lunch at Hilo Bay Café which we had some trouble finding (we forgot to bring our nav system with us) but it was worth it once we located the restaurant. The food was delicious and they served some of the best onion rings I’ve ever had. We had coconut limeades and pork sandwiches which were served with a very good cole slaw made with a sweet sauce. After filling our bellies, we drove down Banyan Drive to see all the banyan trees some of which were named after people we recognized and then we want to Lili’uokalani Park which was a very pretty stop. On our return trip on Highway 19, we took the 4 miles scenic drive which was very pretty and the vegetation was amazing. We stopped at Akaka Falls going to the left to see the falls. We skipped Kahuna Falls because we heard it was largely blocked by vegetation. We stopped at Kolekole Park but we couldn’t find the waterfall which is supposed to be small and secluded so we continued on. We wanted to stop at the bridge past mm16 for views of two waterfalls but you can only stop there on the south side of the road and we continued to the next bridge. We stopped and walked to the middle of the bridge but the view wasn’t worth the stop. We drove down the road to Laupahoehoe Point where school children and teachers were swept to their deaths in the tsunami of 1946. There were many people camping out I the park. The surf was very rough and there were great views of big black volcanic rocks with the heavy surf. It was a beautiful spot. Driving back to the hotel, we hit bad fog on Highway 19 on the way to Waimea but it lifted soon after.

Saturday was our day to take a snorkel cruise on the Hula Kai with Fair Wind which we reserved before leaving home. The drive to the place where we joined the cruise took about 45 minutes and we had some trouble finding the Bay despite it looking very easy on the map. Parking was easy and the boat was really nice and the crew was great. We went to Kealakekua Bay right near the Captain Cook memorial. The water was very chilly so I didn’t go in but my husband did snorkel. They served us a very nice continental breakfast and then we went to a second snorkel area passing a blow hole on the trip over. They served a good lunch. On the way back to the island, we saw a very large pod of pilot whales which, the crew told us, was relatively rare to see and we also saw white tipped sharks. The captain took us for an extra ride so we could see the whales for a longer period. Because of the VOG (volcanic smog), there were times when we were on the ocean and couldn’t really see the island at all. It was amazing. Back at the Hilton, we hung out at the pool for a bit. Dinner was at the Blue Dragon, an open-air restaurant with a band and dancing. The portions were large and the mahi mahi special was very tasty and the Tropical Dreams toasted almond ice cream was delicious.

We have been to Hawaii on three previous trips so we decided to spend some relaxation time and skip some places we had visited on prior occasions such as Volcano National Park and Pu’uhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge). We ate at the breakfast buffet again and, although they don’t take reservations, we were seated pretty quickly and just before 9am seemed a good time to arrive. The adult pool by Ocean Towers was quiet but there were no umbrellas and no shade but the overcast weather made that a non-issue. We spent the day relaxing and reading. Dinner was at Merrimen’s which was much more casual than I thought it would be. The service was excellent, friendly and low key. Everything was absolutely delicious starting with the bread and butter, the quesadilla and the salad and the special fish which was Ono and ½ portions of the wok charred ahi and the mahi mahi. Dessert was their famous chocolate purse and a pineapple crisp. An excellent dinner from start to finish.

Another very good place for breakfast was Island Lava Java in Waikoloa Village. We sat outside and were served by the really friendly staff. The fresh oj/pineapple juice was very good but expensive. We each had Belgian waffles with bacon, coconut syrup, macadamia nuts and bananas. The portions were very large and the food was delicious. Today we decided to hang out at the main pool. A major complaint is that there was no shade anywhere unless you wanted to rent a covered chair they call cabanas. I think a hotel in a tropical area should provide shady spots for guests who cannot sit out in the sun. Since the pool area was not very busy, they told us we could sit in one of the cabanas without paying any extra charge. These covered chairs were ok but you do feel closed in and it prevents any breeze from reaching you. Dinner was at Café Pesto on Highway 270 in the Kawaihae Center. The salad was very good and I had a 9 inch pizza while my husband ordered a 12 inch pizza and both were very good and we shared a coconut tart for dessert.

To Maui:

Tuesday was very overcast, we checked out, filled the car with gas and rove to the airport which was surprisingly busy. It took almost 45 minutes just to get through security. The flight to Maui was only about 20 minutes. We went to Alamo to pick up our rental car and they gave us a little Chevy. We wanted a smaller car because the road to Hana is difficult with a car of any larger size. This was such a basic car the windows weren’t automatic but you had to hand crank them! I didn’t realize they even made cars like that anymore. We ended up going back to Alamo to exchange the car because this Chevy was just too basic, tinny and made too much noise while we were driving. Alamo very nicely and quickly exchanged the car for a Mazda 2 which we were very happy with. We arrived at the Four Seasons to a wonderful, warm and gracious welcome. We had fabulous service our entire stay at the hotel. It is a beautiful property and our room overlooked the lovely gardens. Our room was beautiful and spacious with a huge bathroom and a sitting area outside the room. We were greeted with leis on arrival, free bottled water and a dish of chocolate covered strawberries and homemade marshmallows and cookies in the room for our birthdays. Wifi was also free. That night we ate dinner at the Spago restaurant in the hotel. It was very, very expensive with appetizers costing in the high 20s and entrees starting at $40. We have eaten at a number of Wolfgang Puck restaurants and have always had wonderful experiences until this dinner. The special poke appetizer was very good but the ribs were just ok. The mahi mahi was good but I had to send back my pork chop because it was all dried out. The second one came correctly cooked. They ran out of their special bread and we weren’t able to get a second portion. The service was good but not great. But we had a lovely table overlooking the beach and the restaurant was totally full.

The next day was beautiful and we had booked a trip with Trilogy to Lanai from 10-6pm. When the valet brought the car, they gave us towels and water bottles for our day out. We drove to Lahina and parked where Trilogy told us for a charge of $10 for the day. It was an easy walk to meet the Trilogy cruise at the Lahaina port. The boat had a fabulous crew who made the trip so much fun. There was no shade on the boat unless you went downstairs so we made sure we were protected with sunblock, shirts, hats, etc. On the way out they served beverages and cinnamon rolls and later wraps of various sorts. We saw a humpback whale and a very large pod of spinner dolphins including babies. It was such an enjoyable ride out to Lanai. Once there they drove us to the beach and had all the equipment necessary. My husband decided to do snuba which he enjoyed. I wanted to try snorkeling. Not being an ocean swimmer, I had some problems getting out into the water but one of the crew members suddenly appeared at my side and walked out with me into the ocean and helped me get my equipment on and waited until she saw I was doing fine. I really, really appreciated that help because I otherwise might have given up and sat on the sand. Instead I got the chance to snorkel and saw lots of fish and had a great time. We came back in and they took those who wanted to go on a van tour of Lanai which was very interesting and we learned a lot. We stopped at the museum and then later made a restroom stop near a store where my husband bought a new hat (which he ended up losing the next day). We all ended up at the pavilion near the marina and they served us a delicious late lunch. The meal was substantial and very tasty with Asian-style noodles and then peas and grilled chicken. The crew provided music. Then we got back on the boat for the trip back to Maui. It was very bouncy and very wet. A few people seemed to be a little seasick because of the roughness of the trip back. They served us cups of ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert. We saw a mahi mahi skipping through the water and that was a very exciting sight. Once the water calmed down, they put up the sails and we sailed for part of the trip while one of the crew members sang to guitar accompaniment. The motored the last bit into the port and we arrived after 6pm. It was a great trip, a great day and I can’t recommend Trilogy enough. They have fabulous people working for them who made our day so enjoyable.

The next day was also beautiful and sunny and we got our car and drove a few minutes away to the Shops at Wailea for breakfast at Longhi’s. They have lovely outdoor seating and we had excellent pineapple and macademia nut pancakes and very good blueberry ricotta pancakes with tasty coconut syrup. By the time we returned to the hotel, the weather had gotten more overcast. We walked around some of the gardens and then down to the beach where the staff of the Four Seasons set us up with chaises and umbrellas which are weighted down because of all the afternoon winds on the Wailea side of Maui. The staff would offer ice water, lemonade and fruit during the day. When it got very windy, we moved to a cabana at the main pool. We spent the afternoon relaxing at the pool area. We had dinner that night at Joe’s which was a very short drive. You park in the lot and then are driven to the restaurant door by golf cart. The restaurant overlooks the tennis courts in Wailea. We shared the hot crab dip and the iceberg wedge which were very tasty. The special ahi and the ribs were delicious entrée choices. The portions were large and the food very good. Dress was very casual.

We had never driven the road to Hana on our past trips so today was the day. I had researched this drive using all the guide books I could find and the internet and then a book called something like the Hana Highway Mile by Mile. The latter was the most useful along with the suggestions of friends who had done the drive a month before we got to Maui. We got an early start and brought water, towels, toilet paper (which we didn’t need), jackets, binoculars (which we never used) and snacks. We wore hiking pants and hiking shoes which worked our well because of the rainy weather we had along the drive. We picked up some baked good at the Whalers General Store and made sure the gas tank was full. We drove through Pa’ia which looked cute and seemed to have interesting shops but we didn’t stop and we headed out on the Hana Highway. The traffic was light. During the day we had sun, clouds, heavy rain, misty rain and wind. We first passed Ho’okipa Beach Lookout and stopped for the toilets and we hoped to see the windsurfers this spot is famous for but they weren’t out and we saw only regular surfers. The parking for the Lookout is right on Rt. 36. When the road became 360, we reset the odometer to 0. We skipped Twin Falls and Huelo. ½ mile past mile marker 9 there was very limited parking for the Waikamoi Ridge Trail. The trail was muddy because it had rained before we got there and then the rain started again while we were on the trail. We started at the picnic area and took the right trail and followed the loop skipping the extension. We saw amazing vegetation. This trail was well worth doing. We saw Waikamoi Falls and then arrived at the Garden of Eden which we had planned on skipping until we heard how much our friends enjoyed it. We were so glad we listened to them. The entrance fee was $15 cash and the Garden was only open until 3pm. We spent about 1 hour here and took lots of photos. This was a place where my husband, who was our driver for the day, could enjoy the views without worrying about driving into the mountain or into the ocean. We saw both Puohokamoa Falls and followed the map they gave us to walk through all the various gardens. Our next stop was Kaumahina State Wayside (a nice clean toilet) with a nice view but nothing special. Honomanu Bay Lookout had good views along with a few additional pullouts. The drive down to the Ke’anae Peninsula was fabulous. There is a beautiful church building, amazing coastal views with very rough seas and a stop at Aunt Sandy’s is recommended for the smoothies and the excellent banana bread. At mile marker 16, we stopped at Nua’ailua Bay Lookout. The road to Nahiku was closed so we didn’t drive into that area. Just past mile marker 17 was a great pullout on the ocean side with a great view. We then stopped at Wailua Valley state Wayside and took the stairs to the top for a great view. We couldn’t see Waikini or Three Bears Falls on the way out but we stopped on the way back and the falls were gushing with water. We stopped at Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside but there was nothing there worth a stop other than a bathroom. Upper Hanawi Falls were nice from the bridge. We skipped stopping at Makapipi Falls because it was pouring rain each time we came by. Nahiku Marketplace by mile marker 29 was actually a series of separate businesses and we bought a bag of coconut candy (which we didn’t like) and a cappuccino. Wai’anapanapa State Park was our next stop. We parked and walked to the black sand beach and walked into the cave just a short way to see the ocean on the other side and stayed in the shelter of the cave until a passing rain storm went. We walked back to see the arch and the blowhole and the beautiful scenery. Another heavy rain started so we ran back to our car and drove through Hana and then back along the highway towards Wailea and our hotel. We stopped at various pullouts on the way back. Dinner was at Merriman’s Monkeypod which was up the road from our hotel near the entrance to Wailea. We had very good service and excellent food. The chicken wings appetizer could have been a whole meal. We had a delicious fish special and an excellent pizza. The desserts were huge and, although the macademia brittle pie was very good, the strawberry light cream cheese pie was superb. I tried to get the recipe but they weren’t sharing.

Saturday was a relaxing day. My husband sat t the pool and was glued to his Blackberry texting back and forth with a friend in NY as they followed the fortunes of the NY Rangers hockey team. I caught up on reading and napping and all was good. During the day the Four Seasons staff come by with cold water, lemonade, fruit, ice pops, Evian to spritz on your face, brownies, wet towels and cucumber slices for your eyes. What a way to spend a day! Later we walked along the beach path from the Four Seasons to the Grand Wailea where we had stayed with our son about 20 years ago. We looked into Alan Wong’s new restaurant there but decided that it wasn’t appealing to us. We walked back to the Four Seasons and watched the sunset from the path and then drove to the Pita Paradise in Wailea which was very tasty and very reasonable.

Another beautiful day and our plan was to go to Haleakala. We stopped at the visitor center first for a bathroom break. We drank water since we were already at 7,000 feet and put on our fleeces since it was getting much chillier. We looked for but didn’t see any nene. Leleiwi Lookout was our next stop and we walked to the end where we had a great view of the crater. At the upper visitor center we took lots of photos. This area was very cold and very windy so we put light windbreakers on over our fleece. We took the Pa Ka’oao Trail which had great views. We drove up to the summit and saw the silversword plants and walked along the summit. What a strange sensation to see the clouds below you. On the drive down, we stopped at the Kalahaku Overlook which had great views into the crater. After Haleakala, we stopped in Makawao which we always remembered from our trip here 20 years ago. There were lots of small shops and it is still a bit of a new age town. The sushi restaurant sold delicious ice cream which was a good treat. Back at the Four Seasons, we walked all along the beach path and watched the sunset. Our dinner was at Cuatro’s which had very good food and very large portions. Based on recommendations we had read, we had the tuna tacos and the pupu steak for appetizers and the fish special and the stir fry for main courses. We had a ½ portion of ice cream and fruit with sauce for dessert. Everything was really good.

Our last full day in Hawaii was another relaxing day. We had reserved a complimentary trip on an outrigger canoe which was offered by the hotel. They taught us how to paddle and to respond to commands in Hawaiian and then we went out for a ½ hour trip. We saw some green turtles and were told about Hawaiian history and, when we returned to the beach, we were offered some of the best pineapple I’ve ever had. It was a lot of fun. We relaxed at the pool most of the day taking walks along the beach path to stretch our legs. In the late afternoon, we drove to Lahaina and parked in the Lahaina Center for dinner at Lahaina Grill. The service was excellent and the food was delicious. I could have made a dinner out of their warm rolls and garlic and chives flavored butter. We had an excellent salad and a Kula corn soup and a fish special and wild salmon entrée. The portions were very generous. For dessert we shared a wonderful lime tart. Then at 8:30 we headed over to the magic/comedy show called Warren and Annabelle’s. This wasn’t something we would normally think of doing but the reviews everywhere were so great, we had to give it a try. We didn’t eat or drink at the show since we had just had dinner. Dress in pants and closed shoes and bring a sweater or jacket because it is very chilly inside. First you all sit in the parlor where a “ghost” plays the piano. Then you go in for the show. The magic is totally amazing and the show is hysterically funny. The recommendations were correct—this is a don’t miss evening. We got out past 11:30pm and drove out of the parking lot and no one was there to take our validated ticket or to ask us to pay for any extra time we were parked there.

Our flight home was delayed so we hung out at the Four Seasons. The lobby area is so beautiful with art and flowers everywhere. We went back to Monkeypod Restaurant for lunch because we had been dreaming about those pizzas and the strawberry cream pie. A fabulous final meal in Hawaii.

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