The anticipation grew and the smiles flashed as we flew into Maui’s Kahulia airport with the ocean beaches and sugar cane fields surrounding us. I was taken back to my senior year in high school when my family took our Christmas vacation to Maui and we stayed in Kihei. I remember my first impressions of Maui and those were the cane fields on the way to the beach. My daughter brought her good friend with her so it was so fun to see the excitement in their eyes as we were landing and they saw the beaches from the air. In Kahulia it’s most impressive when you wander to baggage claim through open air corridors. This is a welcome like no other after a chilly morning in PDX.
With a trip to Costco just beyond the airport grounds (with the only open air cafe I’ve ever seen in a Costco) we stacked the car full for the trip to Kaanapali North Beach’s Honua Kai Resort. The resort is beautiful and the grounds pristine. The pools are a lovely combination of hot tubs and pools. You won’t be swimming laps in these pools but they are great for relaxing and for families. There were ooohs and ahhhhs from the girls as we ventured out to check out the pool with the lovely red umbrellas and the beach just beyond. The beach outside the hotel was nice and good for snorkeling with coral close to the water’s edge so one must be careful of the toes.
On the first night we got pizza at Pizza Paradiso which is a yummy destination for pizza, sandwiches, Greek food, tiramisu and gelato. The next day we headed to Napili Bay with boogie boards in tow. The waves were smallish and the girls ended up body surfing and my husband and I were entranced by the turtles feeding by the rocks on the south end of the beach. I adore Napili Bay. There’s just a magic, protected feeling about it and the turtle feeding for an hour giving the tourists a show was a highlight.
We snorkeled at Kahekili Park a few days and enjoyed the nice grassy area between the beach and public restrooms – a nice feature when you are staying put for a while. Black Rock is just down the beach from Kahekili Park and Whaler’s Village is a good walk south from the Honua Kai just past the Sheraton at Black Rock on the south side. If you are at Whaler’s Village there is a Yogurtland and it’s worth a stop in for the self serve yogurt and fresh toppings.
Dinners out were a treat with Duke’s at the Honua Kai being our first sit down dinner. Two of us had seasonal fish (Mahi Mahi, Ahi, Ono) and two had bbq ribs. I was happy with my Mahi Mahi and fresh vegetables. Of course the group ordered a Hula Pie which are apparently quite popular and can feed 3-4 easily. Dukes is on the beach with the boardwalk that stretches along Kaanapali right by it and the beach beyond. Tiki torches surround and the atmosphere is lovely. Another favorite destination for dinners was Kimo’s in Old Lahaina Town. A tip on Kimo’s is that you really want to sit on the lower level in the bar. They do have a few rows of seating for dinner menus on the lower level by the water but it’s harder to find a seat there. I found no comparison to sitting right on the water listening to the waves slapping on the shore to even being one level up. The last restaurant we loved is the Hula Grill and there we’d recommend the Barefoot Bar at the Hula Grill. The Barefoot Bar has sand underfoot and the girls love listening to the band with their feet in the sand, tiki torches glowing and the surf not too far away. If you checked my links you may have noticed our favorite restaurants look to be owned by the same company. Their food is good, websites similar and apparently they know how to pick a location.
For shopping Old Lahaina Town is darling! We discovered Lahaina 2 years ago when we visited Maui and it is so quaint with shops, restaurants, art galleries up and down Front Street. Also near Old Town Lahaina, the girls went surfing with Maui Wave Riders. They both surfed the waves just south of the Lahaina Harbor, a nice location for beginners. The water was busy with other groups but with 5 in their group they were able to take turns and the instructor helped them push off so they could ride the waves. Besides the sun burn on the back of their legs it was a good first experience (apply water proof sun screen just before entering the water).
Our big excursion was one we’ll all remember. We went on an almost 7 hour tour with the Pacific Whale Foundation‘s Ocean Odyssey. We chose the longer tour by default because we booked it the day before. We were aboard for the Molokini and Lania Snorkel. On the way to Molokini the crew served fresh fruit, sweet breads, juice and coffee. Molokini was great – lots of other boats around but the water was crystal clear and we saw many varieties of colorful fish. After the Molokini snorkel they fired up huge grills in the back of the boat. But the highlight for me was our second snorkeling location off of Lanai. We followed a crew member for a ‘reef tour’ and as we were finishing the tour someone called out they’d seen a turtle. We went to check out the turtle feeding on the reef. Just as the boat crew was calling for us to return the turtle came up for air and ended swimming right between the girls and I! It was so exciting I felt I was embedded in Finding Nimo for a moment swimming with the turtle. The cute ‘little’ turtle was so close we had to make a point not to get too close with the currents. It came up, took a quick breath and returned to the reef for more good food. I liked that we ended up snorkeling with the Pacific Whale Foundation. Their crew was knowledgeable and they are a non profit all about protecting the whales, reefs and marine life.
Another favorite highlight was morning beach walks. The walk from the Honua Kai to Black Rock and back is a good length and barefoot is the way to go. And at night, even with a few cloudy days, we caught a sunset or two. All in all we had a relaxing vacation of no alarms, great excursions, late dinners and great family and friend time.