Sunday, September 26, 2010


     For the outdoor enthusiast or just the recreational visitor, not much can top a trip up the 10,023 foot mountain to view the world's largest dormant volcano, Haleakala.  The crater is 3000 feet deep, 7.5 miles long by 2.5 miles wide and is officially considered "active" even though there has been no activity registered there since 1790.  Haleakala is revered by many as one of the earth's most powerful energy forces and is well worth the 2 hour, 37 mile drive that encompasses a total of 33 switchbacks, numerous climate zones, going under, in and then out of the clouds.

     The Haleakala park boasts two scenic overlooks.  The first one located at approximately mile marker 17 is probably the best one to start with.  Travelers must remember that this is a high altitude area, which may cause dizziness due to lack of oxygen, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, nausea and other such ailments.  People with asthma, heavy smokers, pregnant women and those with heart conditions need to be aware of the limitations the altitude might place on them.  It is recommended that you get out of your car and just take a slow walk close to your vehicle to see how the altitude will affect you before straying too far.
      The Leleiwi overlook provides you a view down into the crater itself.  If you time your visit just right, which is usually right around sunset, when the clouds are low and the sun is in just the right spot you might experience a phenomenon knows as the "Specter of Brocken."  You might be lucky enough to catch a reflection of your shadow, ringed by a rainbow in the clods below.  This optical illusion is caused by a rare combination of sun, shadow and fog that only occurs three places in the world: Haleakala, Scotland and Germany.  It isn't advised that you wait around all day for this phenomenon to occur as it isn't something that happens on a regular basis....but just thinking of how awe inspiring seeing such a rare event would be sends shivers down my spine.
Just a few steps back and it's a LONG way down!
      The second overlook, Kalahaku, is a couple more miles up the mountain and is home to the rare silversword.  These aren't just ordinary plants, mind you...they've got an attitude almost as the thrive where few can hang on.  They project their silvery bayonets that display tiny purple flowers.  This plant grows only in Hawaii, takes anywhere from 4 to 50 years to bloom and when it does, usually between May and October, it shoots up one 1 to 6 foot talk with a purple bouquet of flowers that resemble sunflowers.  The silversword is a very rare inhabitant of Haleakala, so don't even think about taking one home with you.
Note to self:  This is not the way to dress if planning to spend time at top of Haleakala!
      There is a park ranger station located closer to the bottom of the mountain at the park's entrance.  I believe the entrance fee ran us 10.00 per vehicle but was well worth the admission price.  It is at this ranger station that you can get info on special hikes, camping and hiking, trail rides and other park info.  Be sure that if you plan to trek the interior of Haleakala that you bring your own survival gear.  The crater interior boasts very raw, rugged, unforgiving terrain.  Temperatures at the summit can easily dip below freezing no matter what time of year you visit.  You are also subject to a wide variety of climates ranging from rain to wind to dense fog that can all change at a moment's notice.  If I could only offer one piece of advice at this point, it would be to be prepared!  This being said, I hope that if you make the trek to the summit, you will feel the awe and sacredness of one of the few untouched places that remain.

 "Gone with the Schwinn"

      I can't blog about the Haleakala experience without including my first trip.  Sitting here in sunny Florida, behind the safety of my computer, I booked all of the activities that my sister and I had or our "to do" list for our first trip to Maui.  She finally gave in and we didn't have to do the zip line (thank goodness....I probably would not have survived that one), but in exchange for this, I agreed to take a 38 mile bike ride down from the summit of Haleakala.  Sounds simple enough, right? our tour van slowly wound its way up the mountain, I began to wonder more and more just what I'd gotten myself into.  Our guide explained that we'd be sharing the road with vehicles, both coming up towards us as well as coming down behind us.  He also explained that the Hawaiians don't use guard rails so it was extremely important to keep your eyes focused on the road.  He said that should we allow ourselves to gaze off into the vast beyond, that more often than not, that was the direction the bike would head and we would be entering a zone he referred to as "Gone with the Schwinn."  He instructed us in the event that this should occur, please strike various poses as we sailed off the side of the mountain, on which we would be rated by those who watched our departure.  This was meant to add humor to our situation, but only severed to make my fear worse.  When we reached the top, we were instructed to get out and simply walk around to see how the altitude at 10,00 feet was going to affect us.  I have to say that I've never come so close to feeling "weightless" if you will, as I did as I paced the lot.  As we adjusted to the altitude, we were given our wet weather gear, our helmets, and out bikes.  At last, it was time to saddle up and head out.  Keep in mind that I hadn't been on a bike since I was 12 I think...what on earth was I doing letting my first time back on one be going down a 38 miles of "down!".  Not wanting to be known as the chicken of the group, I mounted my ride and held on for dear life.  The bikes were simple one speed bikes but I swear, they had the best brakes I've ever I can attest to after riding the entire way down, not peddling once, white knuckled from holding onto those brakes!  Needless to say, I did survive my ordeal and am very glad I did it....altho I will not be doing it again :)


Monday, August 30, 2010


     Nestled safely off of Highway 30 (and just a bit north of the only McDonalds I remember seeing on this side of the island) is a tropical paradise known as the Napili Kai Beach Resort.  When seeing this place for the first time, don't let it's relaxed atmosphere and seemingly simple decor fool you.  This well kept secret houses activities for all tastes, including the beautiful white sand beach of Napili Bay.  Here you will find some of the island's best swimming and snorkeling in waters that are protected from the strong winds and currents.  I do feel it's necessary to pass along another one of my warnings:  don't let yourself grow complacent when going for a swim in these sparkling clear waters.  The waves are bigger than they look from shore; the water gets deep relatively quickly and the undertow is well capable of pulling even the strongest of individuals down into the water (I know this because I decided to take a swim and think I ended up falling down more than I was able to stand up, thanks to the unseen underwater current).  That being said, go for it!  If you didn't bring your own snorkeling gear, I believe you can rent some at the hotel or even at the nearby Maui Dive Shop.  For those who desire a more peaceful way to enjoy the great Maui outdoors, there's a golf course nearby and the hotel offers 2 18 hole putting greens.  There's always a trip to the spa for the ladies, planned activities for the kids, and plenty of great food!  The Napili Kai boasts one of Maui's few true ocean front dining experiences at the open air Sea House Restaurant.  I can personally attest to their delicious breakfast menu and it's as close to actually dining on the beach as you can get short of a picnic basket and cooler.  Oh...and don't forget the hula lessons.  Back in 1985, Hawaiian educator, George Kanahele began the integration of Hawaiian values into the hotels and such commonplace things as hula lessons were taken seriously.  Each  resort now employees a kuma hula, a hula teacher, to instruct the hotel guests.  This push to incorporate the Hawaiian value of unconditional love, also known as aloha, is what I feel has made the level of service you receive at resorts such as the Napili Kai something you will remember long after you return home.
     I contacted the Napili Kai and requested that I be allowed to include a photo or two from their website in this blog to give the readers a better idea of what to expect.  Since I have not heard back from their sales department yet, I will only be including some of my own pictures of the grounds and the view from my private patio.  I think I should add this bit of humor before the pictures, however.  After a very long day of traveling from Tampa, Florida, when my sister and I were shown to our room, as we stood in the foyer, trying to let the fact that we were actually in Maui sink in, the first words out of my sister's mouth were "how are we going to do this without air conditioning?"  It was then that I realized that the room was equipped with a ceiling fan, two very large glass doors with wooden blinds that could be pulled for privacy but designed to let air flow through, and the same kind of wood structure on the room door.  Turns out, ac was never needed nor missed.  At night, the trade winds blew through the room and we actually had to sleep with a thin blanket.  So..don't panic if you discover your room has no air conditioning.  I seriously doubt you'll even miss it.  Now...on to a few pictures of the grounds:

And here are a few of the view from our private patio.  We use to sit out there every morning and have our Kona coffee and try to watch the sun come up.  It gets light very, very early on Maui and dark just as early each evening, so plan accordingly.  We were usually up by 5:30am and in bed by 8pm.
Napili Bay                                                                                   

Molakai at sunrise, across the ocean

Gazing across the Pacific Ocean

As I've said, don't let the "simpleness" of these grounds fool you.  The Napili Kai Beach Resort has everything the bigger hotels have to offer and then some, in my humble opinion.  If you prefer monster hotels with crowds and the typical "Maui" scene, head south a few miles to the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa.  I do suggest a trip to this property just to walk the 40 acre grounds.  My sister and I attended our first luau there and it was certainly beautiful.  I personally prefer the "homey" feel of the smaller resorts such as the Napili Kai, complete with it's kitchenette, coffee maker and refrigerator.  As for the service, it was outstanding...just enough to take care of you during your stay without being intrusive.  The staff was welcoming and friendly.  The beds felt wonderful after a full day of being outside.  It has been said that a trip to Maui is like a vacation for all your senses.  It's like nothing you've ever experienced and it will be remembered for many years to come.  One of my favorite such memories is of how each night, the rain would finally make it over the West Maui Mountains and I'd lay in bed, feeling the warm trade winds caress my body as I listened to the soft rain falling outside my door, greeting the tropical foliage that waited patiently for those drops each day.  I can say without a doubt that if I'm given the chance, I will stay at the Napili Kai again, gladly.  Aloha!

Saturday, August 28, 2010


     The distance from the Kahului airport to Napili is roughly 36 miles, but be forewarned:  depending on the time of day, this short trek can take close to 2 hours.  Hate to say it, but on Maui, there is pretty much only one way to get around; one road to take, and the traffic on State Highway 30 can be especially heavy during the rush hours of 6am to 8:30am or so and then again from about 3:30pm to 6:30pm.  On a positive note, other than the tourists who are always in a huge hurry to get from point A to point B, the locals do not seem to share this sense of urgency so road rage isn't a frequent occurrence.  As you traverse this highway (which is only really a two lane road, one lane each way but considered a highway by local standards), you will be hugging the cliffs of the West Maui mountains out the passenger side of your vehicle while looking out over seemingly bottomless drops into the Pacific Ocean on the driver's side.  A word of caution:  do not take your eyes off the road in front of you.  There are many tight twists and turns and I have personally witnessed what can happen if you look away for even the slightest moment.  We were heading towards the airport early one morning when suddenly, a van coming the other way veered slightly to it's right, proceeded to veer up onto the cliff side, roll over onto it's roof and slid right past us, spattering our rental car with rocks as it passed and eliciting some words of fear from me! My sister held onto the wheel and hit the gas, hoping to avoid being bumped by the careening vehicle and knocked off the side of the cliff into the ocean.  As you can see, her quick reaction was effective....I'm still here to tell about it.  So, just be extremely cautious as you drive this road.  We wouldn't want your first trip to Maui to be your last!
     Having issued what I feel are all the mandatory warnings, I have to say that this harrowing drive can also be breathtaking.  It's almost as if you're being transported back in time.  Because of the island's mountain terrain, there is not really any room for expansion so things haven't changed all that much over the years.  Yes, you will pass the newly constructed homes of several celebrities, but even they aren't the monstrous structures you'd expect to find.  These people are truly paying for the view.  The terrain on this side of the island appears rather dry because the rain rarely makes it over the massive West Maui Mountains.

 As you can see, however, the place where the mountains and the clouds meet provides a stunning backdrop, including beautiful rainbows (if you're lucky).  In contrast, the view out your driver's side window gives you the feeling like the sky goes on forever.  It's often hard to discern where the sky ends and the blue of the Pacific Ocean begins.

The view of the coastline from just offshore

State Highway 30 winds along the coastline, as seen from our snorkeling boat, just off shore.

One humorous note is worthy of mentioning at this point.  There is one spot along Highway 30 that seems to be a favorite of the locals, who spend hours sitting on their surfboards, staring out at the vast expanse of water, patiently waiting for "the big one" to come along and give them the thrill of riding the waves.  I swear it seemed as if those patient souls would be out there with their boards if we passed at 7am and still there when we came back by twelve hours later.  To us, I suppose that sounds like a rather boring way to spend the day.  The more I thought about it, however, I began to realize that maybe the Hawaiians know more about how to truly live life than we do.....take it as it comes, one wave at a time....why worry about what we can't control?
     You'll pass through a small town or two before reaching your final destination of Napili.  Take some time to explore if your schedule allows...but if not, it will still be there tomorrow, just waiting for you to discover all the little things that will make lasting memories!  Mahalo!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


     They say there's no such thing as a stupid question, but I think that might just be one.  Who doesn't want to go to Maui?  There is so much to say about a trip to this tropical paradise but I thought I'd start with just a few of the basic tips, learned from experience:

   Tip#1:  When packing, overlook the urge to over-pack.  Put the extra dress clothes back in the closet; take only shorts, a couple of bathing suits, flip flops, a hat and your sunscreen.  Oh..don't forget the sunglasses. (you might also want to stick some bonine in your carry-on bag for later).

   Tip #2: Always arrive at the airport 2 hours early and expect that all will go well...I mean, you're going to Maui, for goodness sake!

   Tip#3:  In the unlikely event that the curbside check in attendant happens to notice that your bags are only checked through to San Francisco, remain calm (you're going to Maui, remind yourself of this and smile.)
   Tip#4:  Once settled in for the first leg of your journey, close your eyes and picture clear, blue waters and spectacular sunsets as you prepare yourself for multiple plane changes and many rounds of hoping your luggage makes the transfers too.  As you board your final flight somewhere in California, sit back and relax, cause you're only about 6 hours away from paradise!

   Tip#5:  Approximately one hour before beginning final descent into Maui, locate bonine and take as directed.  Remove all outerwear and stow any blankets.  Adjust overhead air unit to maximum and blowing directly on you at full power.  Grasp arm rests firmly as you watch the West Maui mountains and the Haleakala Crater come into view.  Also notice that the runway ends abruptly in the Pacific Ocean should the pilot be unable to slow the enormous aircraft upon touchdown.  Breath deeply as the plane rocks and not panic at thought of just how the pilot will steady the plane enough to touch both sets of landing gear onto the runway.  I was assured that only experienced pilots are allowed to land their jumbo jets under the above conditions (no, I didn't ask how they got their experience...just hoped for the best).  Once the plane is securely on the ground, join your fellow passengers in letting out a huge sigh of relief. 

   Tip#6:  Once your luggage has been located, it is suggested that one person stay at the terminal with the luggage while the second traveler goes to pick up your rental car.  I must issue this warning is common for the person left with the luggage to take a look around, feel the warm winds caressing their face and slip into fits of tremendous joy, breaking into a wide grin and uncontrollable laughter....YOU'RE IN MAUI, FOR GOODNESS SAKE!

   Tip#7:  After loading luggage into rental car, one final rule must be understood:  you must now leave all of your troubles and worries behind you as you enter into a world like none you've ever seen before!

     I hope that you will find these tips useful as your Maui adventure begins.  I will be back with my photos and memories of all the wonderful places not to be missed....till then, Mahalo!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Stayed tuned for my thoughts, photos, and memories collected from some of my most cherished locations.....I hope you will enjoy taking my adventures with me.