Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Trips: Kihei, Maui

We had a really fantastic time in Hawaii. I’ve never visited in September and the island was practically deserted. My in-laws rented a four bedroom condo in Kehei and it was a great place for Ben to go crazy on the lawn and in the pool. We also made sure to budget in several ‘down-days’; after the fun and frenetic pace of the wedding activities it was nice to relax and unwind for a bit before heading for home. My mom also came along for the wedding and both she and my in-laws were true sweethearts and gave Chris and I some serious Ben-free hours. Heaven.

Ben in the empty pool

So without further ado, here are some activities that we really enjoyed in the Kehei area. We’ve previously stayed up north in Ka’anapali so exploring a new region was a fun adventure.

1. Our favorite beach: Maluaka Beach, Makena - Great for little tykes

We didn’t find this one until our last full day but it’ll be on our favorites list from now on. It’s all the way down past Kihei and Wailea but it has a decent parking lot, real (although not luxurious!) bathrooms, outdoor showers, and best of all, it wasn’t crowded at all on a beautiful Saturday morning.  Most of the recommendations we saw for ideal toddler/kid beaches included the popular Kamaole I, II, III beaches which were nice but set close to the road and fairly busy. Maluaka Beach had very gentle surf and lots of sandy expanses, ideal for sand castle building. I can’t speak to the snorkeling as we didn’t bring any gear but a turtle did buzz the beach at one point. One downside is that the beach is located directly in front of the Makena Beach and Golf Resort, but it was pretty low key - perhaps the hotel guests were spending most of their time out on the links. Map here. Cost: free.

2. Our Second favorite beach: Big Beach, also in Makena - Good for adults (but not kids or poor swimmers)

Big Beach is true to its name - it’s giant! On the day we visited it had some seriously rough swells that broke directly onto the beach, making it fairly unfriendly towards kids and those that aren’t comfortable around big ocean waves. We saw one little girl get carried 15 feet up the beach on an incoming wave. She was turning head over tail the entire way but didn’t appear too bent out of shape over the ordeal. It got to the point where the life guards were warning people to stay out of the water every time a particularly large set came rolling in. But the beach was nice, wide and I kind of like bobbing up and down in big waves (particularly when pregnant. I float like a cork!) so this beach rates pretty highly on my list. I’m told that the beach immediately to the north (after a quick scramble over an intervening bluff was the nude beach but I can’t verify that. Honestly!). Map here. Cost: free

I suppose one can’t talk about Makena this year without mentioning the fatal shark attack in August. Or here, if you'd like the gory details. This has been a rough year for Hawaii as they’ve seen an increase in the number of bites, most of them attributed to tiger sharks. Nobody is quite sure what is responsible for the increase. Most experts recommend staying out of the water at dusk/dawn and snorkeling in groups. The victim was described as being approximately 50-100 yards off-shore, which is a fair ways out. Staying a bit closer in might prove to be a better strategy, at least in Makena.  And also, let’s put the whole shark attack thing into perspective, shall we?

3. Favorite Activity for families: Maui Ocean Center

You guys know how much we love a good aquarium and the Maui Ocean Center was a small but fantastic activity for our little guy. Not surprisingly, the shark tunnel was the major hit. We also enjoyed the smaller tanks filled with octopus, frogfish, and trumpet fish. And Chris got to commune with the manta rays. It’s a small aquarium so two hours is plenty of time to allot to this activity.

Cost: $22.95/adult although discounts are given if tickets are purchased online 24 hours in advance. We also found a few entrance coupons that they honored.

4. Ho’okipa Park - World Class Windsurfing, North End

When I was in 7th grade my family came to Maui and we spent three hours perched on the cliffs above the beach watching the likes of Robbie Naish, Kevin Pritchard, and Bjorn Dunkerbeck, world windsurfing champions all, duke it out on the waves below. Ho’okipa is as close to a windsurfing mecca as they come. The sport has declined a bit in the intervening years as kite surfing and other sports have gained popularity but you’d never know that upon viewing Ho’okipa. Make a day of it and have lunch in the nearby quaint (but touristy) town of Pa’ia. Cost: Ho’okipa Park: free.

5. Maui Tacos, Kehei
It’s a classic dive taco shop but the one in Kihei has a nice happy hour with fish taco specials and constant Beatles playing on the radio. It could be worse, ya know? Maui Tacos. Cost: $

6. Pre-Mixed Margaritas from Costco

Team J drank their way through a number of these bottles both on this trip and on the vacation we took to Kauai in December. We like our margaritas while on vacation. Don’t judge. :)

7. The Nail Bar, Kehei

Megan took the bridesmaids out for mani/pedis and while the location and interior of this nail shop isn’t anything special, the foot massage that was included in the $53 package was heavenly. I just about fell asleep in my chair. I talked to a local that swore she splurged every two weeks on the foot massage. Plus: they allow bridal parties to bring in alcoholic beverages of their choice. Nail Bar. Cost: $$

8. Warren and Annabelle’s Comedy/Magic Show, Lahaina

My in-laws had previously gone to this comedy show a few years ago and had a blast so this time they invited the entire family out for the event. Typically leery of magic shows, I was feeling a bit ambivalent about the whole thing. But it was an absolute hoot, especially as newlyweds Eric and Megan were called up to be comedic fodder. They were good sports about the whole thing and my sides hurt the next day from laughing so hard. My advice: skip the not-terribly-fantastic food/drinks and head straight for the show. Warren and Annabelle’s.  Cost: $65

Things I wish we’d done/eaten:

Cafe O’Lei. We didn’t make it to their Kehei location for a meal but they did the catering for Megan and Eric’s wedding and the food was seriously fantastic. But I might be a little biased as I’m currently on the double meal plan. They had a tasty macadamia encrusted fish, perfectly done steak, and wonderful salads. And you wonder why they budget twice as much food for buffets (vs. sit-down dinners) - it’s for double entree eaters like me! I’ve heard their lunch menu is delicious and quite reasonable. Cafe O’Lei. Cost: $$

Shave Ice. Can’t believe we didn’t make it to the shave ice sellers. Definitely on my list for next time.

Also, we’ve previously done the Road to Hana (and around the backside) and Haleakala National Park so we skipped those this time around although they’re both fun and interesting activities.

Here are a few more photos:

We went a little crazy with the pool photos. We didn’t do any snorkeling this trip and I couldn’t live with  the fact that I’d hauled the underwater camera all the way over without using it. So it saw some serious pool time.

On a side note, Ben is the king of belly flops.