Monday, July 10, 2006


Well, it has been a year since our Hawaii vacation, so it's probably time I write a little something (okay, a lot) on this fantastic vacation before I forget:

May 2006

It all started on a trip to Havasu. We found out that Mike and Kathy were going to Hawaii using their new timeshare. Brian got off the phone, telling me about their wonderful condo that sleeps a ton of people. I jokingly asked why we weren't invited then. Brian laughed and said, "I'm sure we would be if we could actually go..." So I said, "Why not? We can afford a plane flight there." So Brian called Mike right back, and we promptly invited ourselves on their vacation. Luckily for us, Mike and Kathy were so generous and accommodating that they didn't mind sharing this fabulous vacation with us.

June 2006

Brian and I had less than a month to plan a week-long trip to Hawaii. I immediately bought several tourist books to research activities and things to see. Brian spent his time trying to finish his 5 week-long summer school course an entire week early. We found some last minute flights and tried to scrounge up some money to spend on our upcoming vacation.

July 3, 2006

Brian and I flew to Maui, meeting Rosemarie in the airport. We arrived late due to a departure delay. This was the most uncomfortable flight, with tiny seats and no air movement whatsoever. Mike and Kathy thankfully met us at the airport, so we followed them to the resort.

July 4, 2006

We explored the resort and beach in front of our condo: Kama'ole Beach. The sand was soft, the water was clear and the sky was a deep blue, though we found this beach a bit crowded. Later in the afternoon, we drove up to Lahaina to do some shopping in their old-town district, which was such a cute little town. We loved to window shop, but unlike Mike and Kathy, we had no money to spend on souvenirs. For dinner, we splurged on a nice seafood/steak restaurant, called Lalani's on the Beach. Then we drove back to Lahaina to watch their fireworks show, right on the water. It was a beautiful, unique fireworks show, though maybe some of the mystique was just being in Hawaii.

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July 5, 2006

Brian and I jumped on the opportunity to wake up at 3 in the morning to see the sunrise. Okay, well I guess we decided we better do it early in the vacation, or we may never get up! We woke up before any sane person gets out of bed, somehow convincing Dorothy (don't ask me how) to come with us, as we drove up the volcano, Haleakala. Mike and Kathy had made fun of our snow clothes (scarves, gloves, and heavy jackets), but we were glad to have them as we stepped out onto the ice-cold mountain top before dawn. We staked out our spot amidst other crazy tourists, and watched the ethereal sunrise over the blanket of clouds. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip (but there were many of those!).

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Mike and Kathy's group wanted to have another beach day and see some of the historic sights around the city. So Brian and I decided to take our much anticipated West Maui Drive. This is not the normal tourist drive, so we quickly got out of the busy city traffic and were on our way to explore unusual sights in Maui (with the help of an awesome book: Maui Revealed). First, we stopped at a place where long-ago lava met the sea, spraying up into tooth-like formations. At this spot we also found a circular rock-formed maze. Brian and I laughed about our 5 minute walk to get to the center, saying the locals probably made it to see how many tourists would dumbly prance around in circles.

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We went along our way to our next adventure: the blowhole. We could see a small stream of water flowing up through the rocks from afar, but as we hiked down the cliff and approached the landing the blowhole shot through, we realized this was a 40-50 foot tower of water. Several tourists and locals played in the water as it shot through the rocks, and luckily we were wearing our swimsuits so we could join in the fun.

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But our main destination was some intriguing natural pools called The Emerald Pools. These unofficial swimming pools were located down a cliff on a hard to find path. Brian and I drove around several dirt roads and almost gave up our search, when we found the right spot. We hiked down to these sparkling and inviting bluish-green natural pools, located on a small peninsula on the water's edge. The day we visited these pools, the wind was kicking up and a storm was starting to blow in, so the surrounding sea was a rough and wild, splashing over the rocks and into the pools. The tumultuous sea contrasted sharply with the serenity and peacefulness of the pools. There were 3 main pools, the deepest of which was over 20 or 30 feet deep. So we dove off the rocks and splashed around the pools.

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On our way to civilization around the back side of Maui, we had to pass through a small town called: Waihale. This was a charming old Hawaiian town, unspoiled by tourists. It would have been fun to visit, except for the narrow, one lane road to get both in and out of the town. A one lane road is by itself not so bad, except when it's on the side of a cliff (literally)! Our tiny little compact rental barely fit on the road by itself, much less when a large truck passed by (the person going downhill must reverse to a spot both can pass). I was so terrified; we have no pictures as proof of this horrific road! Our last adventure on our way back to the resort was to briefly visit the Iao Needle in central Maui. This pretty little tourist area was fun to walk around and see, but we were exhausted, so our detour was short.

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July 6, 2006

After several days of snorkeling, we convinced Mike and Kathy to join us for an early morning snorkel adventure in a beautiful well-known snorkeling cove on the south side of the island called the Aquarium, which promised exotic fish, sea turtles and possibly pods of dolphins early in the morning. We got an early start and found the place before any other tourists were there. We put on our snorkeling gear and set off, but we were initially disappointed at the conditions since the water was rough and murky. Our trusty tourist book said that each cove got clearer as you swam out around this peninsula, so we kept going. I swam on ahead, trying to determine the conditions further out. Brian and the others started catching up to me, and we decided it wasn't going to be a good day for snorkeling in the area. But just as we had all gotten outside the protected cove to open water, I noticed that a storm was coming in. Mike and Kathy were tired and wanted to float and take a break for a while. But within a matter of minutes, the swells grew so large and strong, it was pushing us against the coral and lava shelves all around us. I knew that if the conditions kept getting worse, we could be pulled out to sea or smashed against the sharp lava. So we started swimming back as fast as we could. Mike and Kathy being tired (and Mike starting to have chest pain), were a little slow going. I looked back to our safe, protected cove and realized we had swum out too far for them to get back in these conditions. We didn't know how much time we had, so I found a somewhat protected lava shelf to try to climb out on. We each took turns scooting up on the shelf, trying not to be smacked by the huge waves. Amazingly, we all emerged with only a little scrape on Kathy's knee. But now we had a new problem: We were at least a mile or two from where we started - with sharp unweathered lava fields in between. We couldn't possibly go barefoot. So we started trekking back in our swimsuits and FLIPPERS! We met some hikers on the way, who dumbly asked us: "Did you hike all the way here like that?" My thoughts: "Yeah that sure sounds like fun - lets hike in our flippers!" LOL Needless to say, Mike and Kathy did not want to snorkel with us again the rest of the vacation.

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Later that day, Mike and Kathy generously took the whole family out on a helicopter tour of the island. This was an amazing, spectacular view of the entire island. We took off, viewing the Iao Needle close up. Then we headed out across the flat city and farmland. The highlight was seeing the inside of the volcano crater and its lava marks down the side of the mountain. We came back following the road to Hana, seeing the awe-inspiring enormous waterfalls amidst the tropical rain forest. We arrived back to the airport, and made sure to get some photos of the helicopter. That evening, we went to Wailea's 'Finest Luau' where we took photos as a group, ate a fabulous traditional Hawaiian feast (including the yummy roasted pig), and got to see a luau show, with the nontraditional but very exciting fire dancer at the end.

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July 7, 2006

In the morning, Brian and I visited several beaches along our side of the island. They each had that classic tropical beauty and tranquility that made you just want to lay around and relax. At one beach, near a good diving spot, we stopped and decided to snorkel. We had hitherto not found very good conditions for snorkeling, but this spot was different. The water was clear and it was not very choppy. We were able to swim amongst large lava cliffs and shelves, seeing all the different tropical fish. The highlight was definitely the giant sea turtles. At first it was hard to spot them, because they blended in so well with the rocky surroundings. But once we got used to searching for them, we realized they were all over. Brian and I would just float, not trying to swim up to them, and it must have made them very comfortable because we had several start swimming around us. In fact, one swam right up and looked in my face! I was almost scarred he was going to bite my nose or something! It was definitely a special experience - too bad we didn't capture it on camera.

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The next beach we visited for snorkeling was quite a different experience. It was further north, above all the resorts, and even though it was a popular snorkeling site, the conditions were not optimal. The water was cloudy and it looked like the plants and coral in the area were dead. We also noticed that there weren't many fish - mostly just a type of big ugly white fish. I had heard that in over-used sites, the aggressive species tend to take over and crowd out the variety of tropic fish. This must have been one of those cases. At first, it was kind of neat because the big white fish were not afraid of us and would swim right up to us (looking for food I expect). But when we didn't feed them, they seemed to become more aggressive. I pulled my head out of the water to tell Brian something, and when I looked back down there were hundreds of them circling and swarming around me! I tried to swim a little ways off, and they followed me and started bumping into me!! Now I was freaked out, so I swam away at top speed, but they followed me! Brian tried to cut them off and helped me get out of the water quickly, but I cannot believe how aggressive the fish were. Now he laughs about it and says how funny it was to see a swarm of fish following me, but it was definitely not funny at the time - I was attacked by killer fish!

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After surviving our second life-threatening snorkeling experience, Dorothy asked if we could take her on the exciting West Maui drive we did the second day. It sounded fun, so we took off, stopping at Aloha Mixed Plate for lunch (the restaurant on the premises of the Old Lahaina Luau). We enjoyed the excellent traditional luau food and waterfront scenery there. As we drove on, we decided to stop at some of the nicer resorts and walk along their boardwalk. It was a lot more crowded than some of the secluded beaches we visited earlier in the day, but it was definitely beautiful. We continued our drive along West Maui, but due to Dorothy's mobility, we weren't able to actually hike down to any of the sites we saw earlier. However, due to a slight overcast, we did enjoy a beautiful rainbow out across the water. That night we drove back to Lahaina and met Mike and Kathy’s group, who were there for some more shopping. We all enjoyed a dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp right on the water.

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July 8, 2006

We saved the best for last - the Road to Hana! I was looking forward to this trip ever since we found out we were going to Maui. This is a beautiful, tropical 20 mile drive around the jungle south side of the island. The whole family wanted to go, so we caravanned out first thing in the morning (along with my trusty travel guide: Maui Revealed). Our first stop was the 'Garden of Eden Arboretum': a pay-per-vehicle drive through a garden paradise. This was not exactly on my must-see list, but I have to admit it was very beautiful. The tropical plants and views of the ocean amidst the jungle were spectacular. We stopped off at the end of the drive to walk down to a view of a large waterfall and took some pictures.

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Next we drove down a side road, onto a peninsula with wild lava formations and gorgeous views of the surrounding cliffs and jungle. The water was rough and it smashed along the lava formations with such force, it sprayed into the air. We stopped off at a fruit stand to get some warm banana bread and yummy local fruit: pineapples and bananas. Further on our drive, we passed a small waterfall and pool, which doubled as a nice swimming spot. It was hard to see from the road, but the locals seemed to know all about it. We joined a local family there for a dip and Kathy and I swam to the waterfall, while Brian and the boys partook in some cliff diving. I started getting really cold and numb, so I got out of the icy water. I probably got out a bit too late, because within a few minutes I was light headed and dizzy and had to lie down. I told Mike I wasn't feeling well in case I passed out, but I think he thought I was joking. Brian had a little more sympathy once he realized what happened, but I warmed up and all was well - so no harm. :)

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We continued on our drive and stopped at many beautiful waterfalls that were right on the side of the road. One was particularly stunning to me - a large waterfall that had a low water flow, separating it into 3 side-by-side waterfalls. I thought it was spectacular, so Brian and I hiked down to it for a better view. I don't think the camera completely caught the majesty of it, but it is still in my memories.

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As the day went on, we stopped at many overlooks and drove through many tropical jungle areas. Even the drive itself was spectacular. Later, we stopped at the famous black sand beach. We hiked down to it and took some pictures of this unique beach. We explored the area, hiking to a small blowhole in the rocks and also among some internal caves. If we had had more time in the day, Brian and I would have stopped to swim in some of the underground pools in these caves. The night was coming on fast, so we made a quick pass of the actual town of Hana in order to get to the 7 Sacred Pools just beyond it (which by the way are not sacred and there's more than 7). Again, we wished we had more time to swim in these serene pools, leading down to the ocean. But it was already dusk and I really wanted to hike up a short trail to an overlook called the infinity pool (which promised a heavenly yet terrifying view: a pool dropping off with no ledge to a waterfall several hundred yards high). There was a chance this waterfall would be dry, since it was not the wet season, but I wanted to try anyways. We hiked up this cliffside trail as it got darker and darker. We almost turned around when we found the offshoot trail (marked "dangerous - no entry"). We hiked out to the waterfall, and sure enough, it was dry, but the view was no less spectacular. We took a few pictures and headed off in the dark to our car. We drove the rest of the way around the island in the dark, so we missed some of the beautiful scenery, but I guess that's what you get for trying to do so much in one day - we needed a whole week just for this drive!

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July 9, 2006

Our last day! So sad - we definitely weren't ready to go home yet. Brian and I got lunch at a local place - I ordered my favorite: chicken long rice and loco moco (rice, burger patty, onions, gravy, and a fried egg), and we ate at a park in front of our condo. We got a few last minute souvenirs at the ABC store (a good thing since Brian and I hardly got any souvenirs to this point) - a few hats and shirts and of course chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. We then made our way to the airport and had a depressing red eye flight home.


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