Tag Archives: maui vacation

Hawaii Vacation: Kaanapali Sunset

If you’ve kept up with my Hawaii vacation posts, you know that the purpose of dragging these posts out as long as they can go is not to give you vacation envy. It has seriously become a form of therapy in an effort to counteract this brutal winter that just won’t leave!

Something else I’ve found therapeutic — HGTV’s Hawaii Life. Have you seen it? It’s a TV series that documents the home-buying process in Hawaii for a wide range of families, lifestyles and budgets. Every episode is littered with breathtaking scenes from all over the Hawaiian isles. But more importantly, there are properties featured that Mikey and I could actually afford. Just something to keep in mind if we ever want to make that possibility a reality.

And so the recap continues…

Day 7 (continued)

Our day at Mount Haleakala was beautiful, but exhausting. All the changes in air pressure really do affect your body. And since Dad was the trooper who drove us around the whole day, we decided to stop back at our Aina Nalu condo to rest up for a bit.

Dad took a little snooze, while the rest of us planned out the evening agenda. We’d gone all day without our toes in the sand, so we made an executive decision to head to the beach.

Maui is known around the world for its magnificent beaches. Kaanapali Beach is one of them, and if you’re visiting Maui, you’re most likely to stay on this beach if you choose to lodge on Maui’s hotel row. As we drove north from Lahaina to Kaanapali, we found the trick was figuring out where to park. We eventually got suckered into paying for parking at the Whaler’s Village shopping center. From the parking lot, we walked through the outdoor mall to get to Kaanapali Beach — and what was soon to be the most gorgeous sunset I’d ever seen.

Mikey and I splashed in the waves for a few minutes until the setting sun behind us was just too pretty to ignore.

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Splashing ashore

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Ready for photo action!

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Beach was cleared out for the most part, giving us lots of space to lounge.

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Out mish mash of footprints

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Picture perfect photo opp

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He wears lobsters on his shorts. He’s the most interesting man on the beach.

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Sun gleams gold

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Is there anything more serene?

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Spotted: two love birds

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An orange-gold intensity

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Just a sliver of sun merely seconds before setting. How’s that for alliteration?

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I can almost feel the warmth.

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Highly saturated orange gives way to neon pink.

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Not your average pink and blue

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Boat sets sail on Kaanapali

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And of course, with social media, you’re never alone.

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Hawaii Vacation: Mount Haleakala

haleakala summit

Day 7: Mount Haleakala

Most people are quick to think that Hawaii is purely a paradise of sun and sand. And well, it is. But beyond the beach, high up in the mountain country of Maui, you can get a completely different perspective on the Land of Aloha. Mount Haleakala is Maui’s highest peak, where temperatures drop to anywhere between 40 and 60 degrees fahrenheit. It is also a massive shield volcano that formed more than 75 percent of the island of Maui. Visitors can drive up to the summit in Mount Haleakala National Park, which is exactly what we did on day 7 of our Hawaii vacation.

If you have any plans to visit Mount Haleakala during your tropical vacay, you ought to bring some pants and a fleece jacket. Although if you forget, you probably won’t stick out like a sore thumb. Mikey braved the cold in shorts and a t-shirt, and we saw a few other tourists rocking shorts and sandals in the midst of the subarctic temperatures. Who really thinks about fleece attire when you’re packing sunscreen and swimsuits, anyway? (Um, me and my always-prepared dad. Mom and Mikey not so much.)

From the moment I stepped out of our rental SUV at the first Haleakala visitor’s center, I knew something was up. I felt funny. And it wasn’t the chill in the air. It was altitude sickness. It shouldn’t have been a surprise. Nausea had quickly become standard operating procedure for me while in Hawaii. It happened first during our surfing lesson, a second time during the Road to Hana drive and a third at Mount Haleakala. Wonderful.

After quickly perusing the displays at the first visitor’s center, Dad recommended I sit down and take it easy. It helped, and minutes later, we hopped back into the car to stop at the second visitor’s center. There wasn’t much to see there, so we didn’t stay long. We did encounter some friends in the parking lot though.

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A chakur partridge in search of food

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Looking fierce with those fiery red eyes

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The only photo Dad managed to take of me while nauseated. Pictured here is a ribbon rock. It forms when lava shoots up into the air and freezes before landing, forming this solid curve.

Once in the car, the rain clouds came to greet us. And unlike tropical rain that comes and goes and actually counteracts the oppressive humidity, this rain was cold. We decided to wait out the rain before driving the home stretch of road to the summit. Luckily, we had plenty of snacks to keep us entertained.

The rain eventually ceased, and by the time we reached the summit, I was feeling much better. My body was adapting to the altitude, and I could finally enjoy some of the scenery — massive clouds in motion right before our eyes. Red rock emitting the only source of warmth from the hard earth below us. It felt like we were standing at the edge of the world.

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Taking the stairs was quite an undertaking at that high altitude.

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Big cotton balls in the background

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We were lucky to see blue skies when we first arrived. Darker skies settled in a few minutes after this.

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Mom and Dad at the summit

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It took this cyclist six hours to reach the top. Wow.

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Aloha from and elevation of 10,023 feet!

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Pondering the meaning of life

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Simply heavenly

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It was amazing how much heat this stretch of rock was emitting. I stood there for a long while trying to warm up.

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A twisting road leads back down to the second visitor’s center behind me.

One of my favorite Haleakala sights is the silversword, a plant endemic to Mount Haleakala. That means this is only place in the world where this plant grows. The blade-like stems at the bottom reminded me of succulents, and the flowers that extended north reminded me of purple coneflowers, but with much shorter petals. It was cool to stand face to face with something so rare, and we were lucky to have been there at the right time to see many of them in bloom.

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silversword

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Close, but no cigar.

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I win with my tippy toes.

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silversword

By the time we piled back into the car, my altitude sickness had pretty much worn off, but unfortunately Mom was coming down with it. She dozed off, while Dad navigated the winding road back down to the warm island breezes that we came to Hawaii for.

While my Haleakala experience got off to a rocky start (no pun intended), I’m glad we did it. If I did it again, I’d like to go at sunrise and get some great pictures. In fact, that’s what many of the tourist sites recommend. But realistically, we knew our inability to a) get up before the crack of dawn, and b) get out the door in a timely fashion, so we didn’t even attempt an early rise that morning. If we had, it would have been a 2am wake-up call.

Many of the tourist sites also mention the option of riding a bike from the summit back down to the visitor’s center, but my adventurous side was wary of the all-to-real possibility of biking straight off a cliff. Would be a cool experience though — if I were a little more brave. Fact is, I’m usually willing to try new things, but lounging on the beach is, has and always will be my strong suit.

Next up: the most amazing sunset my eyes have seen…

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Hawaii Vacation: Road to Hana and Oheo Gulch

The last time I posted, we were bracing ourselves for a massive snowstorm. Said massive snowstorm came and went, but winter is still gracing us with presents every day. Wind, rain, freezing rain, sleet, ice, black ice, wintry mixes and the most-talked-about phrase of the season, the polar vortex. How many different words do you really need to describe downright cold? And so recapping our Hawaii trip continues to be my saving grace as the first month of the year closes out and February rolls in.

Day 6: Road to Hana

All the tourism sites tout the Road to Hana as a must-see, must-drive, must-do. So naturally, I put it on our to-do list. My dad wasn’t so sure though. Everything he had read and heard said the Road to Hana was an arduous trip, and a long one at that. He preferred to spend a full day seeing other Maui attractions, but my persuasive daughter powers persisted, and in the end, Mom and I convinced him to give the Road to Hana a go.

If you aren’t familiar, the Road to Hana is a 68-mile stretch of highway along Maui’s rugged eastern coastline that boasts a whopping 620 curves and 59 bridges. The drive is a total of two and a half hours without stopping, but the whole point is to make numerous stops. At various points throughout the drive, you can see waterfalls, hike through lush tropical forests, gawk at rainbow-colored eucalyptus trees, stop at a roadside fruit stand, view the ocean from a high-in-the-sky overlook, watch windsurfers dominate the waves and so much more. To do it all in a day is literally impossible.

In true Sarusal fashion, we got a late start in the morning. We eventually hit the road, headed toward the town of Paia, where we dined for lunch the day before. Minutes later, that’s where the Road to Hana officially began. I spent most of my time with my nose in a tablet, trying to figure out which stops would be best for us to check out. Not the best idea when you’re sitting in the back seat, rounding 620 turns every which way. Motion sickness quickly settled in.

The only cure was to actually make a couple stops, so I could actually get my bearings. We pulled over to the side of the road at one point, where some tourists were embarking on a trail. We only stayed a few minutes to get some fresh air and did the same near an arboretum not much farther on the drive.

Our first actual stop where we saw something worthwhile was the Keane Peninusula. Nothing but craggy stretches of volcanic rock, extending off into the distance beside a vast blue ocean. Mikey and I immediately came upon some black crabs that blended seamlessly into the rock. Good camouflage.

Less than a mile from this stopping point, there was another picture-worthy site of the Keane Peninsula where more cars were gathered to watch the waves pound into rocky terrain. We captured some of our best photos here. Words can’t describe how stunning it was. I could’ve stayed there all day.

Once Dad and I had our fill of photographs, we hit the road again and made another little stop at an overlook.

road to hana overlook

road to hana overlook

Then, it was back at it again until we came upon Waikani Falls, also known as Three Bears Waterfall. Dad was getting very irritable with the other tourists at that point. Many of them were blatantly avoiding the “no parking” road signs, making it difficult for other cars to pass. We found a parking inlet around the bend from the falls and walked on the side of the road until Waikani Falls came into view.

We spent a good deal of time at Waikani Falls. Took lots of pictures and witnessed an angry local call the cops on all those tourists who were illegally parked until we eventually decided it was time to move on.

At that time, it was starting to get late in the day. We decided to forego the rest of the stops on the Road to Hana in order to make it to Oheo Gulch before close.

Oheo Gulch is a series of swimming pools, fed by waterfalls. It is part of the National Park Service, so expect to pay a $10 fee per car upon entering the park. You may also hear Oheo Gulch referred to as the Seven Sacred Pools. But there’s nothing sacred about them. Locals will tell you the name is just a marketing tactic. Props to the copywriter who came up with that one.

We didn’t spend much time at Oheo Gulch, but it was a great way to end the day. With all the twists and turns and braking and accelerating on the road, it was nice to be on solid ground. Mikey and I swam through some of the pools. (Careful climbing on all those rocks. They’re slippery suckers.) And as is always the case, Dad took pictures and Mom found a breezy area to catch some quick zzzz’s.

Although many tourism sites will tell you to avoid driving back at night, Dad thought it was a piece of cake. You get the benefit of less cars on the road. Dad ultimately admitted that Road to Hana wasn’t nearly as challenging as everyone says it is. The tourism sites probably have to say it is, so that off-islanders know to use extreme caution. But to someone like Dad who grew up on an tiny island, he didn’t think much of it. It was a lot like driving on Guam.

Dad got us safely back into Paia. We were all starved at that point and found a little Thai restaurant, called Bangkok Cuisine in Kahului to fill our grumbling tummies.

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Overall, I have to say that the Road to Hana wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Yes, part of the reason for my poor experience is because I was nauseous the whole time. (Seems to be a theme for the trip as evidenced by my surfing post and the Haleakala post that’s in the works.) Or maybe it’s because we’ve done coastal drives before. In fact, that’s a common activity back on Guam. “Hey, let’s go drive around the island.” And driving around Guam is better because you can literally drive around the entire island in less than a day. Aside from the nausea though, I wasn’t overly wowed by what we saw on the Road to Hana, with the exception of the Keane Peninsula. Now maybe that’s because we didn’t make nearly enough stops as we would’ve liked, which brings me to my next point…

Would I ever drive the Road to Hana again? Maybe, but leaning toward the side of no. The only way I would do Hana again is to spread it out over a couple days. I’d need to stay overnight somewhere to break things up. To do it in a day is frankly, too rushed. And next time, I absolutely positively need to remember to bring the Dramamine.

Next up: visiting the summit of Mount Haleakala.

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Hawaii Vacation: Maui Bound

Here in St. Louis, we’re bracing ourselves for eight to 10 inches of snow before the weekend ends. So while the reality of what’s happening outside is soon to be cold and slushy, my mind is still thinking about sea, sun and sand as I continue this recap of our Hawaii vacation.

Day 5: Hello Maui

Day 5 of our Hawaii vacation started out in transit mode. We hopped on a plane and took the 30 minute flight from Oahu to Maui, also nicknamed The Valley Isle.

My mom and I have long wanted to visit Maui. After all these years of stopping into Hawaii on the way to or from Guam and visiting Lola (my parents go more often than I do), Mom and I had still never set foot on Maui. Dad, on the other hand, was born there. While Lola was waiting for my dad to enter the world, the Navy sent Papa to work on Guam. Although Lola wanted to follow, paperwork and her pregnancy kept her behind in Maui. She stayed with Papa’s sister in Kahului, in a house located a stone’s throw away from Maui Memorial Hospital. Once Dad was born, Lola was able to join Papa on Guam, where they made their living as an auto mechanic and elementary school teacher for years and years. While on Guam, Lola gave birth to three more sons to round out the clan of mischievous Sarusal boys.

We made it to Maui!

We made it to Maui!

So once we stepped off the plane in Maui, we waited for what seemed like a lifetime at the car rental facility before finding a place to chow down. We settled on the little village of Paia and dined at the Paia Fish Market.

Paia Fish Market

Paia is considered a starting point on the Road to Hana. Kind of like the last point of civilization before embarking on the scenic drive. Parking proved to be difficult in Paia, but once we found a spot and got out of the car to stretch our legs, Paia turned out to be a cute little town with a handful of restaurants and shops, including a gelato shop. (The juxtaposition of Italian gelato in a place as island country as Paia, Maui still cracks me up. It’s like serving Russian vodka on a cattle ranch.)

The Paia Fish Market was bustling. We practically had to charge one of the tables in order to claim seats. But the food was good, albeit pricey. Then again, what isn’t pricey in Hawaii?

The only downside to our time at Paia Fish Market was the sound of this blonde girl's voice all up in every inch of our conversations. Nothing screams TOURIST when you talk like a valley girl at a volume of infinity! (Sorry, this is a real pet peeve of mine. Can you tell?)

The only downside to our time at Paia Fish Market was the sound of this girl’s voice all up in every inch of our conversations. Nothing screams TOURIST when you talk like a valley girl at a volume of infinity! (Sorry, this is a real pet peeve of mine. Can you tell?)

Our first taste of local beer

Our first taste of local beer

We stopped into a couple shops as well, including Honolua Surf Co., where I picked up a couple t-shirts.

Honolua Surf Co Paia Maui

From there, Dad drove us into Kahului, where we passed Maui Memorial Hospital to see where he was born and the home of Papa’s sister, where Dad and Lola lived for a short time before they relocated to Guam. Unfortunately, I missed seeing the house in person. All that beer and fish put me into a food coma, so I was asleep when Dad took this picture of the house.

Maui Memorial Hospital

Maui Memorial Hospital

Maui house

Tracing Dad’s roots

Checking into our condo rental was next on our itinerary. The GPS routed us to Lahaina, where we pulled into the Aina Nalu hotel and condo complex.

I found Aina Nalu while searching for vacation rentals on HomeAway and VRBO. I noticed a series of rentals available within the same complex. All had nearly identical features and were priced affordably. We ended up booking Unit K109 at $180 a night. With two bedrooms, two full baths, a kitchen and a living room, that price is unheard of! The condo owners also provided beach chairs, a cooler, boogie boards and beach towels. Those sort of things are a huge help when you’re flying in without the luggage to accommodate those necessities.

Aina Nalu is not located on the beach, but it is within steps of Front Street, a hot spot and historic whaling village in Lahaina lined with shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. It was a beautiful night to walk the streets in search of a place to eat dinner. So we did.

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Off to Front Street we go.

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Debating on a swim shorts purchase at Rip Curl

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Along with souvenir and surf shops, Front Street has many art galleries with beautiful, vibrant artwork to match the gorgeous ocean scenery outside.

We settled on Koa’s Seaside Grill, where Mikey and I enjoyed some drinks, and we all ordered… steak. We certainly are a meat and potatoes family — or meat, potatoes and rice — to be more accurate.

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Checking out the menu at Koa’s

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Ready to wine and dine over the ocean

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Enjoying a lava flow. So apropos.

With our tummies full and ready for relaxation, we made the leisurely walk back to Aina Nalu and turned in for the evening. The next day was shaping up to be a busy one — driving the Road to Hana!

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