Maui – the Valley Isle and Much More!

19 Jun

Maui is shaped much like a bust with the isthmus being the neck

The island of Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Island at 727.2 square miles and is the 17th largest island in the United States.  Maui is part of the state of Hawai’i and is the largest of Maui County’s four islands, Moloka’i, Lana’i, and unpopulated Kaho’alawe.  Native Hawaiian tradition gives the origin of the island’s name in the legend of Hawai’iloa, the Polynesian navigator credited with the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands.  According to that legend, Hawai’iloa named the island of Maui after his son, who in turn was named for the demigod Maui.  The island is also called the “Valley Isle” for the large isthmus between its northwestern and southeastern volcanoes and the numerous large valleys carved into both mountains. I flew to Maui the week prior to our adventure at Kalaupapa to meet my friend, Dick, photog emeritus, who I knew would give me the finest kind tour of the Valley Isle.  He didn’t disappoint me as we did an in-depth expedition of many places that I had not visited in 15 prior visits to Maui.  Bob’s and my priorities were a bit different back when we were going to the Islands…Rest, golf and little touring was Bob’s motto. The first thing Dick and I did was to meet Craig, the owner of the plantation house we were to rent on Lanai.  Dick had been trying to finish the rental agreement with him for some time but Craig was so laid back until about 10 days prior to the actual rental.  The house and our time on Lanai were outstanding, but more about that in the Lanai posting.  Then we went to lunch at Leilani’s on Kaanapali Beach.  It’s such a pleasant feeling to dine on the beach with the trade winds ruffling your hair, small birds flitting around the restaurant begging for tidbits, and receiving a lot of the Aloha spirit that the Islands offer.

Getting into the Maui Mode
(RDS Photo)

How much better can it get?
(RDS photo)

Looking toward Lana’i from our condo at daybreak

Our condo was a second floor corner unit that was about 15′ from the ocean’s edge with exquisite vistas of Moloka’i and Lana’i and sometimes when the trades were right, a view of Oahu, about 50 miles away.  With this setting, it didn’t take me long to kick off my shoes, adjust to Aloha time and the pleasant trade winds.  Within a couple hours of my arrival, a large honu (sea turtle) was grazing on the rocky reef not more than 30′ from the shore.  I didn’t get a good picture of him, but he was about 3′ long with a sort of green back.  That was the first time I’d seen a sea turtle in Maui and I really enjoyed the sighting.  I kidded Dick about arranging that sighting for me.  You can see the reef closest to shore in the left hand picture.   It was so blissful to sit on the lanai that we never ate pupus or dinner out (except when we were away from the condo at dinner time).  The dazzling sunsets provided us with so much camera fodder that I’m surprised we didn’t run out of battery power on the first day.  I bet I had 50 pictures during my first sunset and only a few of them were worth keeping.  But it was fun and SOOOOO relaxing. Dick took me to places that Bob and I had been such as Napili Sunset; beaches we had visited like Honolua Bay, Slaughterhouse Beach and Kapalua Bay; and courses we had played like  the Village and Bay Courses.  Bob so enjoyed them and I did too. It was a nostalgic drive that I wish I could have shared with Bob. The next morning, we toured Hale Pa’i (the house of printing), a small coral and timber building on the Lahainaluna (upper Lahaina) high school campus, that starting in 1834, served as the home of Hawaii’s first printing press.  The early missionaries not only learned Hawaiian, they transcribed the language and printed (after teaching students to set type and run the press) a Bible, textbooks, maps, Hawaiian culture and traditions, the first newspaper west of the Rocky Mountains (1834) as well as Hawaii’s first paper currency.  An interesting side note is that in 1844, a student was expelled for counterfeiting, causing all the paper money to be re-issued with secret marks.

Mama’s Fish House Beach

Lahainaluna High School was founded as a seminary in 1831.  It was the first school west of the Rockies and survives today as Lahaina’s public high school.  It has the distinction of being one of the few public boarding schools in the USA and accepts students from not only Lahaina but neighbor islands as well.  We happened to be there a few days before graduation and were greeted on the long road going up to the school by printed banners and bed sheets hung from fences and houses congratulating the graduating seniors.  I thought it was a fun custom. Lunch was a real treat at Mama’s Fish House,  a converted beach house in a coconut grove on a secluded white sand beach. It was voted one of the best 100 restaurants in the USA in 2011 and I can see why.  In addition to the beautiful setting, the fish was probably the best I’ve ever tasted.  Man, it was good!  The menu actually lists when, where and by whom the fish was caught.  So we knew it was very fresh and oh, so tasty. Just a bit away from Mama’s, is  Ho’okipa Beach Park, “the wind surfing beach capital’ (according to a Pa’ia web site) that was being well used.  Lots of surfers were out there trying their luck.  To me, it looks like such a demanding sport, especially on the shoulders and back.  I think it’s better for me to observe the people plying their skills than to try it.  We visited Pa’ia which is noted as a “quaint” town.  It’s supposed to be a reflection of its history as a booming sugar cane plantation town with its old plantation style wooden buildings still intact and an array of  specialty shops, boutiques, surf shops, antique stores, bakeries, and even an old fashioned tattoo parlor.  It might be a great place to browse if you like to shop.  I didn’t check it out as that’s not really my game.  We did check out Mana Foods, a ramshackle looking building with has a vast array of organic, natural, international and gourmet offerings on the inside.  I was amazed at what was inside this store.  As a matter of fact, it reminded me of Mother’s in Costa Mesa before it was remodeled.  A lot of people know about this place as there were a lot of people in its narrow aisles.  It was fun to visit.  We then drove mauka (toward the mountain or inland) to visit up country towns, Makawaoand Haiku.  Such a pretty drive seeing nice homes, some small ranches and farms, and churches.

An Ae’o in Kanaha

On the way back to our condo, we stopped at the Kanaha Wildlife Sanctuary, home of the Ae’o (black-necked stilt).  The wetland sanctuary is near the Kahului Airport and has some noise from planes as well as nearby traffic that does not seem to affect the birds.  We saw Ae’o in all stages, from little puff balls on stilts to adults wading in the shallow water.  I like these birds as they appear to be in long-legged tuxedos as they stealthily walk and stalk the shallows to catch their prey.  They are a bit territorial as we saw them arguing a bit with each other by squalking  and flying at each other.

Surfacing in Kapalua Bay in front of Kapalua condos
(RDS photo)

Thursday was snorkeling day.  We checked out Black Rock near the Sheraton at Kaanapali and Kapalua and saw many fish varieties including some eels and trumpet fish.

Trumpet fish
(RDS photo)

We followed our snorkeling excursion with lunch at the Pineapple Grill (aka Grill and Bar where Bob and I had many contented, filling meals back in the ’80s).  LaPerouse Bay was

The “Old Goat” leader

our next stop on the day’s tour.  This bay is at the end of the road on the south end of Maui and is known for two things, dolphins (which we didn’t see) and wind (which we felt).  The dolphins apparently like to rest in the bay in the morning but had left for other areas by the time we got there.  There are signs all over the place to not harass the dolphins, so I guess they really do hang out there.  The wind is ever present and tousled our hair the entire time we were there.  What we did see were wild goats, which were grazing close to the path we were on.  Dick declared that we were on the “Old Goat’s Tour.”  And tour we did, seeing a blow hole, coral beach, some black sand and remnants of the 1790 lava flow, the last eruption on Maui.  It was a good hike and I enjoyed every minute of it.

That blue vanilla is great! I’m a shave ice fan!
(RDS Photo)

On the way back to our condo, we stopped in Kihei so that I could sample for the first time, a Hawaiian delicacy know as “shave ice.”  I would have called it a snow cone, but it was much better than that.  The ice is shaved and becomes a smooth powdery snow type substance.  Much better and tastier than a regular snow cone.  I had a combination of grape and lemon-lime, much to my delight.  I noticed a flavor called blue vanilla and the lady gave me a sample of it.  Ooh!  That was good! We made it back to our condo that evening in time for another nice sunset and dinner.  Life is good!

Jan was to arrive Friday evening and we had the entire day to use to explore or goof around.  Dick knew that I’d never been on the Hana Road (Bob and I had flown in when we stayed there) and told me that it is quite a journey that everyone should see.  The guide books tell you that there are 620 curves and 46 one lane bridges (who counts these things?) on the 52 mile long “highway” from Kahului.  I put highway in quotes because the road narrows from four lanes to two to about one and a half or even one in some cases beyond ‘Ohe’o Gulch (aka Seven Sacred Pools).  Off we went from our condo about 7:30 AM (early departure) in anticipation of an exciting adventure, seeing places, things and people I’d never seen before. It was fun seeing the flora change from sugar cane waving in the breeze to very lush vegetation with ferns, bamboo, and other jungle plants  so thick that you’d be lost if you ventured more than 15’ from the highway.  It’s good to be green in this vicinity.  Sometimes we would come out of a turn espying a beautiful vista of a valley or peninsula with little houses and taro fields dotting the valley floor or be hugging the edge of a steep cliff.  Witness these two pictures.

Keanae Peninsula with houses, taro fields and the ocean in the background

Highway to Heavenly Hana. Click on the picture to better see the cut in the cliff.

Waikani Falls (aka the 3 bears) before arriving at Hana

There were not as many waterfalls as advertised in the brochures because East Maui Irrigation company (EMI) has ditches throughout the way to Hana that have diverted much of the water previously destined for the gorgeous waterfalls.  So some of them are dry or not flowing as dramatically as in previous years.  I guess it depends on the time of year or water needs as to how much water is flowing (or falling, as the case may be)  We did see several spectacular falls but the light wasn’t just right so as to duplicate what we saw.  I was still pretty impressed with the falls we saw, however. We had lunch at Tutu’s Snack Shop on the beach at Hana Bay.  It’s basically a burger joint but serves very good BBQ pork sandwiches.  I had one of the best hamburgers I’ve eaten in a long time.  So Dick and I vote for Tutu’s.  We visited Hasegawa’s General Store which features the most diverse assortment of stuff ever put together in a store.  It’s an amazing place that sells groceries, fishing equipment, clothes, galvanized pipe and you name it and it’s probably there.  I helped out their bottom line and bought a Hasegawa tee shirt.  Hana is a quiet little town that doesn’t impress you until you get out and walk around a bit and let its essence sort of creep up on you.  It’s a great place to get away from it all because “it” isn’t there.  And sometimes that’s a nice thing to do. We buzzed back to the Wai’anapanapa State Beach which has the only volcanic black sand beach on Maui.  I like this park and beach because it sported camp sites, cabins,

Pa’iloa Beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park

showers, picnic tables, freshwater caves, a sea arch, black sand beach and brown noddies (which I’ll explain in a bit).  Technically, the freshwater caves are a bit brackish according to some kids we talked to, but they looked inviting to swim in.  People were on the beach enjoying the cool water (although not in very far…it looked a bit tricky to me in terms of currents and such)

The brown noddy rookery. They forage far out to sea catching squid or fish.

A brown noddy is a bird about the size of a small sea gull (16″ long, 33″ wingspan as opposed to 18″ and 48″ for the our local gulls).  There was a noddy rookery at this beach and there were many flying around the area and resting in the rookery.  A characteristic “nodding” display between adult birds is often seen at nesting colonies, hence their name.  This was fun for me as I’d never seen a noddy before. We continued on our way, stopping at Wailua Falls for photo ops and on to ‘Ohe’o Gulch formerly known as 7 Sacred Pools.  Apparently, ‘Ohe’o Gulch is the original name of this area and 7 Sacred Pools was a monicker put out for the tourists.  What a different experience from when Bob and I were there!  Bob and I were covered in mosquitos when it wasn’t raining.  We really didn’t get to see much.  This time, the weather was perfect and there were no

Jumping at ‘Ohe’o Gulch

bugs.  Yea!  Many, many people were visiting the pools nearest the shoreline; swimming, hiking, sun bathing and just relaxing.  The pools are quite deep and lots of people like to jump from fall to fall.  Check out the guy in the red trunks who happened to jump

Ala ‘Aina grounds Could you ask for a more gorgeous view?
(Jan photo)

when I was taking pictures. Dick took me to Kipahulu and Ala ‘Aina Ocean Vista, a one bedroom B & B that he and Jan like to stay at.  It’s a beautiful place with banana trees growing all over the place.  There are many stories that Dick told me about this area, but suffice to say that it’s gorgeous and so off the beaten path, that one can totally unwind and experience culture shock just going to the little town of Hana.  It was amazing! In the little graveyard behind the small  Palapala Ho’Omau church, Kipahulu,  is the final resting place of Charles Lindbergh.  His grave is very simple in the Hawaiian style of a plot surrounded by lava rocks.  Nearby are the graves of Sam Pryor, a retired airlines executive, who had a ranch in the area.  Pryor was good friends with Lindbergh and persuaded Lindbergh to visit Maui and build a small place on his ranch.  Pryor is also remembered for his gibbon apes who he considered to be his “children.”  Their six graves are between the Pryors’ and Lindbergh graves.

Godlight looking over the Pacific Ocean

Car rental companies used to prohibit rentals from continuing on around the island on the “highway.”  I don’t know if they still do, but the road is fine (at least when we were on it).  It is a narrow, one lane dirt road for part of the way, but that aspect added to the charm of it.  It was also interesting to see the climate change almost instantly from green and lush to brown and arid.  It has to do with the wind and rainfall…which is evidently not great in this area.  We saw the top side of the two cinder cones that made the 1790 lava flow and looked down on LaPerouse Bay that we had seen the day before.  That was an interesting perspective.  The road improved to being paved and two lanes and began to climb the side of the big mountain, Haleakala.  Clouds were coming in over Haleakala and also the ocean which gave us some beautiful views.  Dick likes to call this Godlight.  We celebrated our safe return to Kahului by consuming a sumptuous Costco hot dog and then we went to pick up Jan upon her arrival from Sacramento.

Jan got up early the next day as she was still on mainland time and we went for an early morning walk.  It was so pretty to walk as the sun rose over the mountains and listen to the birds wake up with their many tunes.  I love that time of day when the world is waking up.  We also waded a bit in the ocean and saw a small eel and many little minnows. Later that day, we visited the ‘Iao Valley and Needle (A sacred burying place for chiefs and the location of Maui’s last giant

Yeow! at the ‘Iao Needle
(RDS Photo)

battle for supremacy.  The Needle itself was used as a lookout base.  It is another lush, verdant valley with a prominent point sticking up from the valley belying a violent, bloody history.  Dick’s picture shows us needling the needle.  Following our antics at ‘Iao Valley, we visited the Bailey House Museum, the house of a mid-19th century missionary.  I enjoyed this little museum and its display of Hawaiian stone tools, weapons and even a century old surfboard.  There were also exhibits from the missionary era that were very interesting.  It’s good to get some education on a vacation and be sort of well rounded.  🙂

From Maui, Jan, Dick and I went to Kalaupapa for 5 days, Lanai for 3 1/2 and then back to Maui.  We stayed at the Maui Beach Hotel, not far from the airport, to pack and readjust our thinking for future events.  I was flying home the next day and Jan and Dick were going out past Hana to the Ala ‘Aina for a few days of real Hawaiian time together.  Jan and I were walking around the hotel grounds when we happened upon a trio called “Power of Ten,” a kane singing and playing the ukelele and a kane and wahine dancing to the tune.  They were rehearsing for a show they were putting on later.  It was vigorous, beautiful and exciting.  Did you ever see such gorgeous smiles as on the “Power of Ten?”  Aloha spirit epitomized!

What a good looking group!
(RDS Photo)

The Power of 10
(RDS Photo)









The lei toss
(RDS Photo)

Sadly, it was time to say aloha to the Islands on May 30 and I was to wing my way home.  Dick and Jan took me down to the beach where they told me I had to complete the tradition of throwing a lei into the water to see if I’ll go back or not.  Yea!  The lei did so, thanks to the wind and a not so great toss (but with great form!).  I’m looking forward to the next adventure in Hawaii which I hope won’t take another 20 years to happen.

A Hawaiian adventure wouldn’t be complete without some geckos. Here they are catching their supper near a light fixture in Ala ‘Aina (Jan Photo)

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