Scott and I decided to escape the gray, rainy skies of Portland, Ore., for Thanksgiving and go instead to Maui, where we spent nine days snorkling and sightseeing and eating in good restaurants. We'd have liked to have extended the trip, but our budget didn't stretch as far as our dreams.
We stayed at the Lahaina Shores Beach Resort, a modest condo-hotel a couple blocks from downtown Lahaina. It was the perfect location because we were easy walking distance from all the restaurants, shops and art galleries in Lahaina and a short drive from some of Maui's best beaches. (The hotel is actually on the beach, but it's not considered a very good one.)
We were given leis upon arrival at the Maui airport. They were very pretty, but I'm not sure what you're supposed to do with the leis once you've worn them to your hotel. Ours spent the nine days in the hotel room refrigerator ...
Upon arrival in Maui, our first act was to head to Costco, where we stocked up on breakfast foods, pop, apple bananas (yes, that's apparently a type of banana) and several Hawaiin shirts for Scott. The latter were a real bargain that we'd been alerted to by a friend of Scott's. We then headed for Lahaina to check into our hotel, We managed to get caught in the island version of rush hour, so by the time we got checked in and settled into the hotel room, it was early evening and time to head out for dinner.
The next day, we went to the "island orientation" offered by the company I'd bought our package from. We knew it was a sales pitch, but they had some good prices on the two snorkle trips I wanted to take to Lanai and Molokini, so we went. Apparently offering a free breakfast is a really good deal for them, because we ended up signing up for more than I intended! Not only did we buy the two snorkle trips, but we also got tickets to the Maui Ocean Center, a Hawaiin show called "U'lelena" and a van trip to Hana on the north side of the island.
We went to the aquarium later that day. It had amazing exhibits of reefs and tropical fish, and five species of sharks. I figured it was good to see the sharks and identify what I wanted to stay far, far away from while snorkling! Want to see some photos from aquarium? Look here.
On Wednesday, Nov. 26, we went on the van tour to Hana. We had a rental car and could have driven it ourselves, but I remembered how nasty the road was from my trip to Maui in 1994, when my friend Laura Rehrmann and I started the road to Hana but didn't finish it. There are 617 curves on the 59-mile road -- some of which are basically U-turns -- and 56 one-lane bridges. That makes for a not-fun experience for the driver, and Scott and I both wanted him to be able to enjoy the drive so it seemed best to leave the driving to someone else. It was a long day -- we got picked up about 7:30 a.m. and didn't get back to our hotel until 6 p.m. But we got to see a lot of the island, including the back route from Hana which the rental car companies forbid. See our photos here.
On Thanksgiving Day, we went to Molokini, a small island off Maui that's a nature preserve. It's supposed to be some of the best snorkling and scuba diving in Hawaii. A highlight of the trip is that we saw our first green sea turtles that day. I don't know whether it was the time of year or the location where our boat anchored, but we weren't that impressed with the coral reef or the fish there. We saw much prettier coral during our trip to St. Croix a few years ago. And the water was a lot colder than we were expecting after our experiences in Mexico and the Caribbean -- about 70 degrees, they told us. We rented wetsuits for this first snorkle in an effort to stay warm. See some photos here. The trip was fun, and thanks to our seasickness patches, neither of us got sick from the boat ride. The trip to Molokini was a six-hour trip, but they start so early in the day, we had most of the afternoon free afterwards. So we went to snorkle at Black Rock near the Sheraton at Ka'anapali. The water was pretty clear, and we saw a lot of fish.
On Friday morning, we went to snorkle at Olowalu Beach, a popular spot for snorkling and scuba diving. I was almost afraid to snorkle there because there were signs out where we parked the car warning that not only were sharks present in the area, that shark bites had occurred at that location. Yikes! I talked Scott into moving from the more secluded area where we started to a part of the beach that had other people -- I figured more targets for the sharks meant maybe they'd find someone tastier than me or Scott! -- and we went ahead and snorkled. We saw a couple turtles while in the water.
Like everywhere in the U.S., the Hawaiians started decorating for Christmas as soon as Thanksgiving was over. Here are a couple examples.
On Saturday, we went to snorkle at Lanai, probably the best snorkling of the entire trip. I was almost afraid to leave the harbor when I saw the vessel we'd be traveling on. Instead of a boat, it was more of a raft. It's probably the smallest "boat" I'd ever been on, and I wasn't wild about the idea of being out on the ocean in such a small vessel. They anchored just outside a harbor on Lanai, and we had some of the clearest water of the trip. The coral was beautiful, and fish were everywhere. On the way back to Maui, we saw a whale's spout and some dolphins off in the distance.
On Sunday, we snorkled at Ulua Beach near Weilea. This was the best beach snorkling of the trip. The coral was fabulous -- lots of colors and shapes. The fish were colorful. And the best part was getting really close to a turtle. We spotted it about six feet away, and then it turned and swam toward us. It ended up swimming less than a foot below me!
Monday started out drizzly, but what's a little more water when you're planning on swimming in the ocean? We headed to Makena Landing, south of Weilea. We've heard good things about the site, but we found the water murky and the coral didn't start until a long ways out from the beach. We met some divers who'd spotted a few turtles, but we couldn't find them. They'd also spotted a "little" seven-foot reef shark, which I was happy not to see! The coral was extensive, and it would be great to go back on a day when the sun was out so we could actually see. When we got out of the water, the rain started really coming down hard. We heard it rained six inches in five hours, and we saw the evidence of it later in the day with flooded out highways and the ocean surf looking like hot cocoa from the runoff. We took a couple photos of the roads here. It rained the rest of the day and evening.
We'd planned to do one last snorkle on our last morning in Maui, but the previous day's rain had caused so much runoff we'd have been swimming in muddy water so there was no point. Instead, we slept late and then went to the Maui Tropical Plantation, where we mostly looked at flowers and bought some pineapple to bring home. Lots of flower photos here.
While we were there, we did plenty of shopping, mostly for other people. But we did come back with a souvenir we didn't plan on. We love art galleries, so of course we hit every one of the many, many galleries in Lahaina. And mostly we resisted. But when we hit the Wyland Gallery, we fell in love with a piece we just couldn't resist. So in a few months, we'll have a new piece to add to our collection. See some photos of it here.
Scott also took a number of good scenery and sunset photos. See some of them here.
I was able to separate out the Molokini underwater shots, but had no way of identifying which of the other photos came from which trip. So look here to see a bunch more underwater shots, including a closeup of a turtle's head.