The Sights and Sounds of Maui

I am sitting in the United Airlines Lounge at HNL with three more hours before boarding our flight to ORD (Chicago). Because of COVID cancellations, we will have four flights (instead of three) to arrive back in Central Pennsylvania. So it is a good time to start writing a summary entry about our two weeks on Maui. I’ll start off with one of many sunset photos from our lodgings in Kaanapali. The beach faces west and we had sunsets on 13 of our 14 days. The clouds blended in, providing additional swirls and images … No matter what we did during the day, 6:30 found us in a pool lounge chair watching the sun disappear.

Just after sunset, the TorchLighting Ceremony began. All the small children ran along, as if he were the Pied Piper. It was lots of fun…

Kaanapali is a part of West Maui, the smaller of the two volcanic cones … The two are joined by an ancient lava flow that bridged them together. Kaanapali is known for its beaches, relatively dry weather, and views of Lanai and Molokai across the channel.

And the channel has one other big perk … The Humpbacks migrate south from Alaska for the winter. They like the water temperature, and they like to have their babies here. The Moms keep the newborns in the channel because they don’t want to expose them to really deep water. At about three months, the babies are old enough to travel and they head back north … So, the whales can be seen here from January through April. We sat on our balcony and saw them every day. Next trip, we definitely bring a telescope or binoculars. This time, my laser golf range finder was helpful.

The two famous drives on Maui are on the East Maui volcanic cone. From Kaanapali, it is at least an hour to reach the beginnings of these drives. But, just to the north of Kaanapali is a great road trip sampler. First, the Highway took us to Kapalua, home of a couple great beaches and the best golf course in the Islands. The course can be seen on the hill of the photo below.

As the drive continues north, the crowds disappear and the road begins to imitate the Pacific Coast Highway. It ascends to the top of bluffs looking down at the sea, then drops down to ocean level which allows short walks to rocky bays and beaches. Then the road ascends back up to the next point. The views are spectacular…

Continuing on gives the driver a preview of the Hana Highway. The road narrows, some bridges become one way, and corners at the cliffs are so blind that there are signs to honk horns. But the drive is rewarded with the Nakalele Blowhole. There is a parking cutoff, usually with locals selling incredible banana bread. A short, steep, and rocky trail leads to the blowhole. There are signs that warn of impending death if one gets too close to the vented sprays of the fissure. And it is best to visit the blowhole at high tide.

The road continues on and actually circles the West Maui cone. BUT reviews are mixed about the value of completing the drive. The road becomes even more narrow, turns to gravel, and the guard rails disappear. I didn’t see or hear any headlines of distracted tourists doing a “ Thelma and Louise,” off the cliffs. And a local told me that, if one completes the drive, head north past Kapalua. That way, your car will be against the cliff if and when you meet oncoming traffic at turnout spots.

I wrote about the Road to Hana on my last entry, so I’ll just post a couple pics, and remind readers that unlike the road around the West Cone, this incredible drive is through the rain forest. More vegetation and waterfalls.

A few words about the spinner dolphins that can be visited by cruising across the channel to Lanai. We found them near the entrance to the Lanai harbor. They were playful with our raft and sometimes surfaced along-side. Then they, as a group, disappeared for a few minutes. I wondered if one saw lunch and chased after a school of appetizers. Then, all of a sudden, 20 or so would be seen again a couple hundred yards away. This pattern repeated until we cut it off to head back to Maui.

The other iconic road trip on Maui is a trip to the crater of Haleakala, the dormant volcano that dominates East Maui. We talked about driving it, but after spending a whole day in the car on the Hana Highway, the thought of another full day behind the wheel was not appealing. But I lucked out later in the week on the golf course. I was introduced to a local who owns an avocado farm in the Maui upcountry, somewhere on the road to Haleakala. I mentioned to him that our plan was to return next March when the grandkids can travel again … Would he mind if we brought the kids up for a tour?? He graciously agreed.

He also brought along lunch for the foursome. Pictured above is “Musubi:” rice, grilled Spam, and a seaweed wrap. I am always surprised by Hawaii’s genuine passion and affection for Spam. I never eat it … and assume that Spam is a more fatty alternative to Ham. But being the gracious visitor, I accepted and sampled his offering. The meat was grilled and a little spicy, and not that bad. My host commented that these wraps can be purchased at almost any small market. He also claimed that Hawaii was trying to surpass Korea’s consumption of Spam.

I was asked if we eat Spam on the mainland. I mentioned its presence in markets, but Pennsylvania goes one-up with the Mennonite concoction of Scrapple. Once again, the mention of what is actually in Scrapple has kept me from eating it. And I will defer to John Gorka’s lyrics … “Back in Pennsylvania, I ate Scrapple on toast … That was my first step on the road to looking gross.”

I don’t have any pics illustrating the incredible underwater life on the coral reefs that can be found off almost every beach. This will be remedied next year with a camera purchase. In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for Mrs Bear’s pic of my favorite Hawaii activity … We found a really good rental shop and carried our snorkel gear almost everywhere we went.

One of my “ must-dos” on any trip to Maui is to visit the Banyan Tree in Lahaina. This one tree, which was planted in 1874, has grown from an eight foot sapling to a complex of over 40 main trunks, connected by an incredible branch and root system. This one tree takes up an entire city block. There is no way to capture its majesty in a photo, or series of photos. Just come on down, have lunch at one of many local cafes, and walk through the Banyan Tree Park.

A few words about the parking in Lahaina … It’s a mess. We have always struggled to find a spot on the streets or municipal lots. This time, we noticed that spots were easily available in private lots. The $5 was well worth the avoidance of the free hassles.

Hopefully, I have conveyed some of what makes Maui special, even among the rest of the Hawaiian Islands. I felt like we really only scratched the surface of getting to experience her. I’ll have more to say when we come back next year. Until then, a couple more pics to tide us over…

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