Archive for September, 2009

Because we only really took pictures on our mountain trek (except for the occasional shot from the iPhone), I wanted to write up a summary of the sea life and birds we’ve seen this trip, before I forget. I also wanted to make a little list of tips we’ve learned, so we won’t have to re-invent the wheel next time. So here goes:

Things We’ve Learned:

  • Always check ocean conditions before going snorkeling
  • Don’t put sunscreen on your face when snorkeling – it keeps your mask from getting a good seal, and gets in your eyes and stings, and is unnecessary since you will be face down in the water. Apply sunscreen to your face when you are done.
  • The crackling sound you hear near coral is the sound of the fish feeding – water magnifies the sound.
  • Snorkeling a couple hours a day can give you a very mild case of sea legs.
  • The following are some of the Save The Reef things we learned from Snorkel Bob:
    • Sunscreen kills coral – don’t apply sunscreen and then get immediately in the water. Apply at least 30 minutes before entering the water. Or, better yet, says Snorkel Bob, wear sun protection clothing instead of sunscreen lotions.
    • Don’t buy shells, and consider not taking the shell leis you get at luaus or in some stores (we passed on some shell leis at Hilo Hattie).
    • Don’t feed the fish – it changes their behavior and makes them more aggressive. (This was fleshed out for us by a Pacific Whale Foundation volunteer: when fish are fed, the aggressive fish take over and chase out the less aggressive fish, which includes the fish that clean the coral. Then the algae builds up, and the coral starts to die off L )
    • Don’t go on tours that don’t follow the above rules.

Birds We’ve Seen:

Fish/Sea Life We’ve Seen:

We returned home last night to rain and cooler temperatures and velcro kitties who missed their mamas – it’s nice to be back. I don’t even mind the weather, as I always struggle with heat and humidity, and I was starting to get tired of always having to protect myself from the sun – no heat or sun here (though humidity of the cool variety, which I can handle).

We did manage to fit in a little snorkeling yesterday before our early afternoon flight, and while it was a bit of a hassle figuring out how to pack and deal with our wet snorkel gear, it wasn’t bad – I’d do it again.  Note from Lis:  the snorkeling was fantastic.  We had to do it since we didn’t discover our favorite beach until our last full day. 

After showering and packing, we headed to Five Palms Beach Grill for our final Maui meal – it has one of the best views of any of the places we’ve eaten, plus is close to the condo, so we thought it would be a fitting place for our farewell. It was a particularly beautiful day, clear skies and not too warm. While we were there, we heard someone tell the waiter that she was leaving today at 1pm “just in the nick of time.” We wondered what she was talking about, then were able to ascertain that there was a tsunami warning in effect because of an earthquake in Samoa. The waiter and bus girl were unconcerned – “I’m sure it will be nothing” – and turned out to be right: I checked when I got off the plane – no tsunami problems in Hawaii. Those poor people in Samoa, though – my heart goes out to them.

On the plane we again rented a DigE Player, and watched My Life in Ruins and Taken. We knew before watching them that they were both stupid movies. However, My Life in Ruins is stupid but pleasant and entertaining, while Taken is stupid and offensive and ridiculous plus takes itself very seriously and is almost unwatchable. I think it is even worse than The Lake House, which I consider to be the standard by which bad movies should be judged.

In true “needing a vacation to recover from vacation” style, we are both very tired today, and will probably not go back to work until tomorrow. But I should probably wrap this up now, as there is currently a Sweet Orange Boy demanding my attention.

It is our last night in Hawaii and Mary just suggested that I write a blog post about the condo and she pack. What a grand deal, eh?

So let me begin by saying that I am the travel planner/researcher in our family and I do the job very thoroughly. Once I had established that we should stay in Kihei and that we wanted a condo, I began researching condo complexes. I quickly established that Maui Kamaole was the place for us. This description, which I stole from a VRBO advertisement, is a very accurate one: “Maui Kamaole is known for its stately tropical grounds, low density, and serene atmosphere respecting adult needs and privacy.”

The complex is beautifully landscaped and very quiet. The units are low rise. There are 4 units in each little area. The upstairs units are 2 bedrooms and the downstairs units are 1 bedroom. We found our unit F-102 on vrbo.com. The owners are Laura and Steve Streihlau, who happen to be from Whidbey Island – sort of our neck of woods. We actually met Laura and Steve in August during a trip to Whidbey Island and they are LOVELY people.

The unit is set up a bit like a railroad flat. When you open the front door you are in a hallway. A short distance to the right is the bedroom and further down to the left is the kitchen and the living room. There is a very private, walled patio off the bedroom with a sliding glass door and a lanai off the living room with a sliding glass door. If you open both doors, you can get a tiny bit of a cross breeze going. Maybe normally you can get more of a breeze. I’m told it was unseasonably hot this week. Some of my happiest times were spent on the lanai watching and listening to the birds and the swaying palm trees. Way off in the distance is the ocean.

The unit is very nicely decorated. I’m very picky and I had to rule out a lot of units because of what I considered to be tacky Hawaiian décor. This unit is decorated with some beautiful Asian art – see the photos Mary took of the unit and its artwork. The living room and the bedroom are carpeted in a very soft carpet that I like the feeling of on my bare feet.

There is a wall air conditioner in the living room and one in the bedroom, as well as ceiling fans in both rooms. There is a washer and a dryer, and a safe, and in the hallway closets there is everything you could want: snorkels, boogie boards, beach chairs, beach towels, umbrella, cooler, first aid kit, books. The books include Maui travel guides, bird guides, fish identification guides (some of which I only just discovered and will have to look at tonight) as well as a variety of popular fiction. There are TV’s in both the living room and bedroom, a DVD player in the living room, and a selection of CDs, DVDs, and games. As you may have noted, we particularly enjoyed “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” since we are planning to audition for that show and finance some fantastic vacation with our winnings. There is also free broadband internet, through a CAT cable in the bedroom.

The kitchen is very well-stocked. There are two bathrooms – the one off the bedroom has a tub shower and the one off the kitchen has a shower stall. Both are fitted with double shower heads which I found to be more of a pain than a luxury because it felt like I was getting less water than if there was just a single shower head. The main bathroom has two sinks, which is always nice. We found it really nice to have two bathrooms so that when we came home exhausted from snorkeling we could both shower at the same time. Also a lot of room to spread out things to dry.

The complex itself has tennis courts and two pools. We spent a couple of evenings at the upper “tropical” pool which has a waterfall above it and a sand-bottom Jacuzzi. I loved digging my feet into the sandy bottom of the Jacuzzi. There are also barbecues all over the place which we were too lazy to ever use. The complex is right across the street from Kamaole Beach Park III as well as the Kihei Boat ramp which is where we left for our Molokini snorkel trip. Both are walking distance from the condo.

There are signs put up by the condominium rental agency saying to close and lock all windows at night. We like to sleep with our windows open and found that very difficult. After the first night we decided to break that rule, deciding it was a CYA type of rule. However, the one problem we ran into with this unit is that we are on the edge of the complex, across the street from another complex called Maui Hills, one that does not cater to a quiet, adult clientele. Almost our entire stay there were people in the other complex who sat out on their balcony and talked quite loudly, or, one time, blared their TV so loudly we could hear it in our unit. I found this rather appalling. I was awakened more than once by very loud talking at midnight or later. Early on I went over to Maui Hills and complained and got the unit numbers so I could call at night and complain about noise. However, Mary and I both thought it seemed like when I complained, the people just got louder so I gave up on that. Once the windows were closed and the air conditioner on I couldn’t hear them – we both just really missed the fresh air.

This whole trip came to be because I found an incredibly inexpensive flight to Maui. We booked the flight and then went about finding the most inexpensive (yet really nice) lodging we could find, since we had no money saved for this vacation. This condo was an amazing find. Still, I am a girl who loves her luxury hotels when we can afford them (which we couldn’t this trip.) We visited the Four Seasons three times this vacation and it started my luxury hotel longing. Ah, the huge King bed that would get made for us every day. The L’Occitane toiletries. The clean fresh towels every day. I even asked to see a room last night, and it was really, really great. But Mary and I both agreed we wouldn’t want to spend an entire Maui vacation at the Four Seasons. This condo has been so roomy, and so much quieter than a resort would be (other than the losers at the Maui Hills) and it has everything we need. It has really felt like home, and we can’t wait to come back!

And so our last full day in Maui has arrived. Which sounds kind of sad, but really isn’t. Usually by this time in a vacation, I am ready to go home, and the same is true on this one – I’ve had an excellent time, and I will be glad to get home – win:win.

Yesterday we woke up tired (no doubt due to our drunken carousing of the night before) and so decided to take the day off. We sat out on the lanai, where some Grey Francolins came and visited with us (we looked them up in the condo bird book), and then lay about reading and surfing the web and napping. For lunch we made a salad and had our leftover pizza. It was really quite a lovely day – definitely what the doctor ordered.

Round about 4pm we started mulling over our dinner options, and ultimately decided to head over to the Four Seasons for their afternoon hula show. We weren’t sure if we wanted to just do pupus, or try their (fairly spendy – $49 per) tasting menu – we figured we’d decide when we got there. We eventually ended up doing neither – just ordered off the bar menu – Lis had a burger and I had a Cobb salad. Still way expensive, but half of what the testing menu option would have been.

The hula show was a very low key affair – just one (somewhat weary seeming) hula dancer and one guy with a guitar accompanying her. But they were both quite good – we enjoyed the musician very much (sometimes he performed by himself – the hula dancer came and went) and the dancer, though not as young and athletic as the luau dancers, really seemed to be doing more actual story telling with her movements, which were also incredibly graceful and beautiful. She was more subtle – you really had to watch to notice this. But she was awesome.

At 6:10 there was a torch lighting ceremony. The hula dancer was joined by a strapping young man with a conch shell (he was really something – the hostess came over later to see if we enjoyed it, and gigglingly said “They’re so physically fit; it adds to the enjoyment of the performance,” which I took to be her polite way of saying “He is SO HOT!” He really was perfectly built and beautifully tanned, and of somewhat regal carriage – very impressive). They performed a dance together, apparently a traditional Hawaiian end-of-day ceremony, that involved repeated long soundings of the conch shell, which moved me to tears each time, as long soundings of conch shells always do. Then he lit a torch and went all around the hotel grounds, stopping at each tiki torch, sounding the conch and then lighting the torch. Then the hula dancer did a couple more numbers, and it was done. I enjoyed the whole thing much more than I’d enjoyed the luau.

Lis:  I love the Four Seasons.  I love their graciousness.  They are spendy, but they are also an amazing value.  Both times we dined at the Four Seasons, the parking was free.   I don’t know if it is also at the other resorts, but I’m guessing it might not be.  When we wandered into the lounge, trying to decide what to do for dinner, the hostess gave us a stack of menus (for 2 restaurants plus the lounge pupu and lounge food menu)  and said, “You could go sit down there on the couch, while you decide.”  As we perused the menus, a waitress came and brought us a dish with spiced nuts on one side and marinated mushrooms and olives on the other.  I must have looked alarmed when I said, “We’re still deciding what to do.”

“Oh, that’s okay,” she said.  “Take your time.  Whatever you decide to do, these are complimentary.”  The hostess came back and said, “If you have a lot of time, this is really a lovely place to just hang out.”  She told us all the different types of music being played at different times and showed us the best table for viewing the hula dancing.   How could we resist?

I believe the total for our evening came to something like $78 including the tip.  In addition to the cobb salad and burger which Mary mentioned, we shared a mango margarita (the most delicious smoothy ever, basically) and I had a coconut sorbet for dessert.  The burger was huge and came with both fries and onion rings, which I barely made a dent in.

This was so much more lovely than the luau which we paid a little over $200 for.  I sort of think of it as the “poor man’s luau”, even though most people would never think of the Four Seasons as the Poor Man’s Anything.   But we could have shown up there at 6:00 for the conch ceremony, each ordered a $4.00 dish of sorbet (which was delicious, non-dairy, and came in quite a few flavors) and been treated just as well as if we had purchased $400 worth of food and drink.   And yes, the burger cost $24 or something outrageous like that, but the view was amazing, we were treated like royalty by the staff, and there was great music and entertainment.  Really, that is a value.  Okay, end of my Four Seasons advertisement and back to Mary.

After dinner we came back to the condo and went to the upper pool for an evening swim. The stars were out and the water felt perfect. We went for a dip in the sand-bottomed hot tub and ended up in conversation with a young couple from Sacramento who are police officers. We asked them lots of questions about police work – the woman in is a mounted unit, which I also thought sounded pretty cool; she assured us that it is – and had a very interesting chat. Then a couple games of Millionaire – I won both and am now ahead 3 games to 2.J

This morning we managed to find Ulua Beach (after virtuously checking the surf report, and seeing that the conditions were calm), and really, really loved it. It’s a pretty little beach, and has some incredible coral on the right hand or north side. The coral is very rugged-looking – lots of hills and valleys and nooks and crannies – but easily accessible and in this gentle surf not at all scary. We again saw tons of fish, plus swam a ways with a turtle, plus saw a moray eel and an octopus.

Another neat feature of this particular location is that many of the fish where in large schools (as opposed to lots of individual fish), including a large school of sergeant majors hanging at the surface. The cool thing about this is if you stop swimming and just float, the fish accept you and let you hang out with them – it’s like you become part of the school. We hung with the sergeant majors for quite some time.

After snorkeling we walked a ways along the Wailea beach path that Lis had wanted to walk a couple days ago, and soon found ourselves at the Wailea Beach Marriott outdoor grill. I had some money on me and it was lunchtime, so we ate here. We both had the Ulua burgers, which were still a little spendy (though not Four Seasons spendy) but quite good.

We’re going to spend the afternoon trying to get as packed and ready to go as possible, and our plans for dinner are pupus at the Five Palms Grill – half price pupus if you get a drink. Then we’re going to do some in-depth planning for tomorrow morning – we want to snorkel before we go, and Lis wants to have breakfast somewhere, plus we’ve still got to get sandwiches for the plane and turn the rental car in – all before our 1:45 pm flight. Wish us luck!!

Lava FlowsWhich is not as exciting as it might sound, given that we were back at the condo by 8:30pm. Still, it was pretty nightlife-y for us.

After our Molokini Snorkel excursion we had lunch at the Five Palms Beach Grill, which is right across the street from our condo complex and looks out on Keawakapu Beach. The food was fantastic and the view amazing – we had a nice leisurely lunch and then headed back to the condo. Since our lunch had been pretty big, we were thinking about doing pupus at the Four Seasons for dinner – they have a hulu show every evening at happy hour. But by 4:00 we were already quite hungry again. Lis thought Italian would be good, and decided on a restaurant called Matteo’s in Wailea that had soy cheese pizza, plus 50% off pizza and wine between 4-6pm – we headed there about 5pm.

Turned out they were out of soy cheese, but this turned out not to be an issue. The counter girl talked us in to ordering two 10″ pizzas rather than sharing one – she said they were very thin crusted and more like a personal pizza, and with the 50% off we were basically getting 2 for 1. I got the Hawaiian pizza, and Lis got pepperoni with artichokes and mushrooms but no cheese. Plus we each got a house salad. The food was very good, even the pizza sans cheese, and we each had more than half remaining to take home for next day’s lunch (we totally could have shared one).

If you’ve been reading along with us, you know that we discovered the (apparently incredibly common) fruity umbrella drink, the Lava Flow, early in the trip when we ate at Café O’Lei. Their version looked fabulous, but it was lunch and too early to drink. Since that first Lava Flow sighting, I’ve been on a mission to get one with an umbrella, with no luck. We had Lava Flows at Moose McGillycuddy’s – no umbrella. At the luau Lis ordered a Lava Flow, and it was a weird Slurpee kind of thing with some watery strawberry syrup on it – no umbrella plus highly disappointing in general.

So we decided that after dinner we would go back to Café O’Lei and get a Lava Flow. We sat at the bar and ordered our drinks, and watched the bartender make them. She blended and poured and put in the pineapple and then brought them over – no umbrella. I was very disappointed, but then realized that I had the power to alleviate the situation – “May I have an umbrella, please?” The bartender smiled and said “Of course; what’s a Lava Flow without an umbrella,” or some such nicety. She put umbrellas in both of our drinks, and I was finally happy.

The drink was very good – basically a smoothie with rum (really a Pina Colada with strawberry puree, but whatever) – just the kind of girlie drink I like. We sat at the bar, drinking our drinks, and grew slowly fascinated by the chef working the seafood bar. He was building these incredible things called seafood towers – three plates with shrimp and oysters and some kind of fish salsa thing and tempura and all sorts of stuff. Plus making more standard shrimp cocktails and oyster plates and such. We had a menu in front of us, so he would start making something and we would consult the menu, trying to figure out what it was. It was very entertaining – like watching the Food Network.

Eventually we attracted the notice of the manager and the chef himself. The manager came over to tell us about the seafood tower the chef was building at that moment, and then the chef came over about 15 minutes later, when he was done with all his orders, to ask us if we had any questions. I asked about the two different sizes of oysters I had seen, which prompted a fairly lengthy dissertation on the three types of oysters he uses. He went over to the seafood bar to get examples of all three, and at first I was afraid that he was going to give us samples (I abhor oysters), but he was just showing us the shells. He described the taste and texture of each oyster, where they’re from (two from California, one from Washington), and how he uses them. It was all very fun – we really, really like Café O’Lei – plus the prices are quite reasonable.

Soon we were done with our drinks, and took our leave. Because I am a lightweight, I thought it best that we maybe wait a bit before driving (I didn’t feel tipsy, but better safe than sorry). Lis was delighted because this meant she could finally get me to go with her to one of the many crap stores (I mean tourist gift shops) that she had been wanting to go to. We wandered all around, and did actually find a couple of 2010 calendars for 99 cents (one Maui scenes, the other Hawaiian flowers).

Lis: I love wandering around shops of any type and Mary hates it. It just so happened that the shop nearby was a tourist shop. I was quite happy. I am trying to figure out where to get her drunk next time where there might be some great soap and lotion shop.

Then back to the condo and another rousing game of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire (I won, but Lis is ahead in the series 2-1) and then in bed by 9:30. As I said, not all that exciting, but it works for usJ

Note from Lis: Since this is Mary’s travelogue and I just put my 2 cents in every once in a while, she has neglected to mention how I spent my afternoon, which was shopping for real estate. Every day at the entrance to our condo complex there are listings of which units have open houses, and I have been very curious to see other units. Yesterday afternoon there were two; Mary dropped me off at the first one on our way back from lunch. The first one was a fairly run-down one-bedroom with an ocean view. The price was in the 600k range, which I thought was low. I was expecting them to be in the millions. But what do I know? The second one was a very lovely one-bedroom overlooking the main pool for only $429,000. I spent a long time talking to the real estate agent there, partly because I was pretending I might buy a condo and partly because I was curious about how the whole vacation condo business works. I learned that they are sold completely furnished, that the monthly condo dues are in the $450 range and cover cable tv and maintenance and lots of things, but not electricity or internet, and that most owners hire a condo management company to rent them out and handle cleaning, maintenance issues, etc. In exchange for this service the condo management company gets approximately 22% of the revenues.

The real estate agent also showed me some photos of two-bedroom units on the internet and quizzed me about where I was from, what we had done so far, where we had eaten, and gave me suggestions. He was the person who told me about Matteo’s. It was all very interesting, but I was also standing in the humid condo dripping sweat and by the time I finally made my escape back to our air-conditioned unit, I thought I might pass out. However I quickly downloaded a mortgage calculator to my IPhone and ran the numbers to see if such an investment would pay off. The real estate agent had told me that the 429k unit had grossed $28,000 last year which sounds like quite a lot, but that would not cover the mortgage payment so, dear friends, we are not going to buy a condo in Maui. (not that we would have anyway)

The other thing Mary did not mention is that I was full after two slices of pizza at Matteo’s and didn’t want to go straight to Café O’Lei. I suggested walking along the Wailea beach path for the sunset and was met with incredulity. Something about parking the car and not knowing where to go and hot, hot, hot. We ended up driving to the Kihei boat ramp where our snorkel expedition had met that morning and walking a tiny bit in on a trail where we watched the sun go down behind a huge cloud and the waves break against the rocks. It felt a little bit Oregon Coasty to me. I took a nice little video which I would post to YouTube except I am way too far in to vacation to be able to remember my user name and password.

When I was in O’ahu, maybe twenty years ago, I went to a luau and I enjoyed it. I remembered it as being a silly tourist thing, but I liked the Polynesian show and the pig cooked in the ground all day had been delicious, and the whole experience had been entertaining. In researching this trip, we had read about the luaus, and the various guidebooks all said that they were fun – they didn’t say “You must definitely do this,” but they said that they were fun. So we had decided to go ahead and do a luau, as Lis had not been to one, and I had not been in a long time.

We chose the Old LaHaina Luau because all the guidebooks agreed that this was the best one – the most authentic. I thought this meant that the whole luau experience was authentic – turns out it means that the Polynesian show is the most authentic.

As we approached the luau site, I saw lots and lots of traffic, and then lots and lots of stereotypical tourist types in stereotypical tourist flowered Hawaiian shirts and dresses. My heart sank – I said to Lis “It’s like being on a cruise ship.” She said “Yeah, that’s kind of what I expected.” But I hadn’t been expecting it (I’d been expecting tourist, but not this much) and so I was disappointed. Once inside the mega-tourist-ness continued, plus it was incredibly hot and no air was moving. There were about 500 people altogether, all jammed in to tables for eight arranged in a semi-circle, and even though we were outside it felt like being in an airless room with 500 people and no air conditioning.

Our table mates were pleasant, but again the sense of being on a cruise (and not in a good way – we love cruising but not this part of it) predominated. After a while the servers led us over to the buffet (shades of cruise ship some more). The food was all right but nothing special, and I was beginning to feel like the whole thing had been a total dud – not a happy feeling.

Luckily, the show is very authentic, with lots of historical information, so it rescued the evening somewhat. I wouldn’t say it made it worth the $100 per person, but at least not a total loss.

The following morning we had scheduled a snorkel tour out to Molokini Crater. With the bad taste of the previous evening’s luau still in my mouth, I was apprehensive – what if this was another overpriced tourist thing? Especially since we had been able to see Molokini from the Haleakala lookout, and even from that distance you could see a million boats there. I was worried.

We had purchased our tour from SeaFire Snorkeling Adventures, on the advice of Katie at Snorkel Bob’s. They were less expensive than most we had read about, because more bare bones – no breakfast or booze or BBQ lunch or “party cruising” – just out there and back, with some snacks as needed. Also, the boat was smaller – a rigid hulled zodiac – so there were fewer people.

We arrived at the boat launch at 7:15 am and were out on the water by 7:30. Our crew was all-female – Dana, Vanessa and Captain Vicki. The surf was high again, so I was worried about the visibility – Dana said that visibility is always good at Molokini because there is no beach there – no sand to churn up. And this turned out to be true – best visibility we’ve had the whole trip, and we saw tons and tons of fish. And because we got there fairly early, we were able to snorkel somewhat unmolested at first, though it did eventually get pretty crowded – but by that time Capt Vicki was wanting to take us to another site anyway.

One of the passengers was a very pale young man from Ireland who had never been snorkeling before. The swells were high, so there was much up-and-down action, both in the boat and while snorkeling. When we got back on the boat, this young man was looking peaked and asking for a bucket – “I’m going to be sick.” Capt Vicki told him to lean over the side – “Nothing ruder than a bucket of puke.” So he leaned over and did his business. I was also feeling slightly nauseous from the wave action, so made sure that I did not see or hear any of this – didn’t want a chain reaction. A few minutes later Lis and I glanced over and saw a huge gathering of fish near the impact area – lunch was served, apparently.

Afterwards, the young man (or Seasick Boy, as I took to calling him) sat back down and sank in to his misery, which in my opinion is the exact wrong thing to do. Speaking as someone who tends toward motion sickness, I know that if I am feeling seasick but still try to keep my head up and participate in/ think about something other than how I’m feeling, I don’t feel quite as bad – of course, I haven’t actually thrown up since I was 11, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about (a shocking concept, admittedly). Anyway, Seasick Boy basically curled in to a ball under a beach towel and stayed that way the rest of the trip.

Capt Vicki took us around to the outside of Molokini, where the water is really deep, and pointed out a shelf in the outer wall where we could snorkel. She said that in deep water the swells go up and down only, so there was no chance of being pushed in to the wall, like you can be pushed in to shore in shallow water. I wondered if the deep water would scare me (I can freak out easily while snorkeling), but was willing to give it a shot. Then, while we were looking at the shelf, this huge swell slammed a mass of water up in to the roof of the shelf area. I said “I think I’m too scared to snorkel here,” just as Capt Vicki said “I’ve changed my mind – I don’t think we’re going to snorkel here.”

So we went on to the next site, which was in La Perouse Bay – one of the many places called Turtle Town by the snorkel tours. There was sand here, so the visibility was not as good, but it wasn’t bad – we could see. Soon in the water, we found a turtle – a pretty big one. Everyone gathered round, and took pictures, and I was bummed that all of us were going to be watching this one turtle. I thought about trying to find another one, but then noticed that everyone was gone – only Lis and I remained to hang out with the turtle until she (short tail) surfaced – everyone else had gotten their pic and moved on.

After about 15 minutes, the turtle started to swim slowly to the surface. Lis and I did what we do, which is to put our head above water right before she surfaces so we can watch from above. Since we were near the boat, and about half the people were not in the water, I called out “Turtle about to surface right here.” It was fun to watch the commotion of everyone running over to see – distracted me from watching the turtle.

Lis: I was extremely close when the turtle surfaced. It was a pretty amazing experience. Mary yelled at me, “Lis, you’re too close!” which I took great offense at since I was just floating and the turtle happened to be close to me. I thought I was not supposed to move and bother the turtle. Once we were back in the boat I asked, and both Dana and Captain Vicki said that you should back up if you get too close to a turtle. So now I know. I’m kind of glad I didn’t know at the time, because it was really cool being that close to the turtle.

Then it was time to head in. While we were heading back to the boat ramp, Capt Vicki slowed way down. We wondered what was going on, then realized that Capt Vicki was listening to someone on the radio saying “I’ve got some spinners here.” She radioed “We’re on our way,” and I said to Lis “We’re going to see some dolphins.”

Soon we came upon a pod of 10-15 spinner dolphins. They swam around us for quite some time, and at one point one of them repeatedly jumped out of the water and spun in the air like a corkscrew (hence the name) – we all (except Seasick Boy, who wanly raised his head once but otherwise stayed balled up) cheered and hollered – it was really fantastic. They kept swimming with us, and Dana called out “Talk to them – they’re very curious.” I said “What should we say?” and she demonstrated making some high-pitched dolphin sounds. I made a halfhearted attempt but felt silly. Then Lis did the call she does for our cat LuLu – basically “LuLuLuLuLuuuuuuu,” yodel style. The dolphins seemed to swim closer, so I said “Do it again.” She did it several more times, and each time the dolphins seemed to come closer, or stick their snouts up, or do something in response (no more spinning, though). I wondered if LuLu would be pleased that her call had been used successfully with dolphins, or just jealous (she’s a jealous girl). Lis: I can tell you the answer to that – jealous. And who can blame her – I did feel a little like I was cheating on her.

Now we headed back in, a fabulous morning in the books and my faith in tourist activities restored.

Yesterday morning we were dragging a little after our UpCountry day, and so didn’t get right up and out to the snorkel beach. Instead, we lingered over breakfast and took our time – we figured if we were at the beach by 9am we’d be OK. What we didn’t know, and neglected to check, is that the surf was really high, making water visibility poor and snorkeling more challenging. This reinforced what Lis had read, which is that you should check surf conditions before entering the ocean.

But, we were blissfully unaware that it was a bad snorkel day, and loaded up our stuff and headed out. We were wanting to try Ulua Beach, which the condo owners had said in the condo guest book was one of their favorites. But we were unable to find it (turns out my navigator had the map upside down) and so went back to Malu’aka Beach that we had enjoyed so much our first day.

We saw few cars in the parking lot, and Lis wondered if this was a bad sign, but I was my usual optimistic self and said “Oh, I’m sure it’s fine.” Then as we approached the beach we heard what sounded like thundering waves. Lis said “Uh oh,” and this time I was inclined to agree. Then we got on the beach and saw that the surf was pretty big and there were few people in the water.

We went up to the small surf shop– there were several people congregated there, apparently waiting to board a catamaran that at that moment was struggling to disembark its previous passengers in the high surf. There was a cruise-director type woman there shepherding them, and we went over to her and said “Looks like the water’s too rough for snorkeling?”

She cheerfully said, “Oh, no; once you get past the sets it will be fine.” I said “Sets?” She said “The waves come in sets, but if you watch you can swim out between the sets and it’s fine. There are turtles out near that bouy – you just want to make sure you don’t get too close to shore.” She sounded very sure of herself, so I believed her. Lis was more dubious, but I convinced her to give it a try.

We managed to make it out past the breakers with no trouble, but what the cheerful woman had failed to mention, and we should have known from our reading but forgot, is that the churn of the high surf had kicked up lots of sand, and we couldn’t see anything – it was like being in fog. Still, half the fun of snorkeling is just floating in the water, so we decided to stay out and float around for a while and then head back in.

We did this, and after a while our eyes adjusted to the sand-fog and we were able to see a little. At one point we drifted over a small bit of coral where a school of small fish was hanging out, and we floated with them. It was actually pretty cool because the swells were so strong that we would be pushed all the way over one way, and then all the way back, again and again, in unison with the fish, who were also being pushed around. It made me feel like a plastic grocery bag in the wind, all weightless and blowing hither and yon.

Watching the fish struggle to stay near the coral to feed, I realized that a day like this is like a stormy day for them – Portland in February, right there in Maui. It was kind of interesting to see.

After about 30-45 minutes we decided we were done. Unfortunately, the cheerful lady had also failed to mention that once you got in, you’d have to get back out again. As we swam in we saw the waves were even bigger than when we’d entered – big swells moving past us and then breaking on the shore with a thundering crash. I figured we’d sort of body surf in, but my plan was a vague one at best.

As we neared the beach, everything sort of speeded up, and the next thing I knew a wave had pushed us almost to shore, but the one behind it was pulling us by the ankles back out to sea. I said to Lis “Jump in to the wave!” and she tried but fell. Then the next wave was coming, pulling at us. I said “Jump in to the wave!” but she was on her bum and unable to get up. I dived through, but the wave crested over Lis – I saw her yellow-finned feet go straight up in the air and then backwards and then over to the side, and then the wave sort of spit her out. We managed after this to get to shore – Lis was completely covered in sand, like she’d been breaded – which I guess she kind of had been.

She looked a little shell-shocked, and said that she was having a terrible sharp pain in her ear – “I hope I haven’t broken my ear drum.” She sat on the sand and recovered – after about 15 minutes she said she was fine, and after about an hour there was no more ear pain. So no harm, no foul. But we did learn a lesson or three.

Lis: Mary has always talked about being pulled in by the surf in O’ahu and how scary it was, and I didn’t quite get it. I do now. I looked shell-shocked because by the time I sat down I could hardly breathe and I was a little nauseous, and I was pretty sure I was never going to hear out of my right ear again. I told Mary, “I NEVER, EVER want to snorkel in these conditions again.” When I was first getting out of the water, she tried to explain to me what I had done wrong – that I had to jump into the wave. She finally understood when I told her I didn’t need her to explain the concept to me. The concept is meaningless when you are on your butt and someone is yelling at you to jump up into a wave. It was a little like a recurring nightmare I have in which my legs don’t work. Mary was yelling at me, “Jump! Jump!” and there was just no jumping in those legs of mine, especially since I was already flat on my ass. Like she says, lesson(s) learned.

Yesterday we got up at our now customary 6am and had breakfast on the lanai with the birds (a clarification – the birds are all around singing and squawking, but don’t actually come over and bother us while we’re eating. Though they do sometimes come over and inspect the area for crumbs once we’ve gone back inside). Then it was time to get ready for our UpCountry adventure.

We had planned to hike the Sliding Sands trail at least a little bit, though we weren’t sure how far because we were feeling a little tired from our early rising (though really it’s like getting up at 9am in Portland) and snorkel exertions. We had brought along camelback water bags in case we did any hiking or biking, so we got those out and filled them with water. There is a little cooler here in the condo (the condo is well stocked with activity paraphernalia – I’m hoping to get Lis to write a post about the condo here soon) which we filled with ice, and we put some snacks in our new Snorkel Bob’s Save the Yellow Tang tote bag, along with sunscreen and hats and jackets.

Then we went to the 808 Deli to get some sandwiches. We had read some reviews on Yelp’s iPhone app, and most said that this was a really good sandwich shop, but we found it just OK. I had the Chicken Pesto Panini, but to-go and as a wrap (normally it is a hot grilled sandwich), and it was better than our Big Town Hero offerings but not a lot. Lis had a Build Your Own on a hoagie, and it was basically about the same as her Big Town Hero mostly-bread-and-air sandwich. What did live up to the reviews was the Potato Mac salad – this is a regular potato salad with macaroni mixed in, and it is super good – I really enjoyed it. Lis: sounded totally disgusting to me. I did not try it.

The young man making our sandwiches asked where we were going. When we told him, he became fairly animated – “Oh, I hope you’ve got coats. It’s really cold up there. You’re really going to need to bundle up.” We asked how cold. “Like, 60 degrees!” He said this with the air of someone saying something shocking. We told him we were from Portland, Oregon and used to cooler temperatures. Lis said, “Can we wear shorts?” He said, “Well, if you’re used to cooler temperatures you’ll probably be fine. I go up there and I FREEZE!”

We put our sandwiches in the cooler and headed out. It was a beautiful, cloudless morning, and so the drive up was very pretty. I had read that there were usually clouds at the 5000 foot mark (the summit is at 10,000 feet), but today there were no clouds and we were able to stop at observation points and take photos of grand sweeping views. The road is switchback-y but in good shape and not too scary – we were able to make good time and soon enough were at the summit (about a 2 hour drive all told from our condo in Kihei to the crater).

It was definitely much cooler here (felt fabulous to me – I don’t do heat and humidity very well and had been looking forward to cooler air) and there was lots of wind. We put on our jackets and hats and camelback water things and binoculars (I was already wearing the camera bag, which was doubling as my purse), and got our sandwiches out. The plan was to hike along the trail for awhile and then have our lunch somewhere in the crater. Then we started walking around. The views were spectacular, but we couldn’t find the trailhead.

We went in to the visitor center (dodging other tourists – there was a Carnival ship in port, and we had already been overrun by a couple tour buses at an earlier lookout point) and asked the ranger where to find the Sliding Sands trailhead. He cheerfully informed us that we were in the wrong place, and pointed to the lookout just below with all the buses. “It’s down there – didn’t you see it when you stopped?” He expressed disbelief when we told them we hadn’t stopped there, but seemed to understand when we explained we were avoiding tour buses.

Then he asked “Where are you headed?” We looked confused and said “The Sliding Sands trail.” He said he meant what point along the trail. We said we had no real ambitions – just wanted to go a little ways in to the crater. He laughed and said “Oh, you look like you’re ready for a trek.” Well, I guess we were a touch over-provisioned for a stroll…

He gave us some good advice about the hike, reminding us that we were at high altitude (which we knew but hadn’t really been thinking about), and that it would feel real easy going down and so to time ourselves – “for every ten minutes down, it will take twenty to come back.” This turned out to be excellent advice. We went a little ways along the trail but not far – just far enough to find a nice place to sit and eat and take pictures. Even with this short distance, it was surprisingly hard to drag ourselves back out (and it had been easy going in). While we were sitting we saw several hikers coming back and they all looked pretty gassed – we figured they hadn’t had the benefit of our sage ranger’s counsel. Note from Lis: One thing I really enjoyed in our less-than-ten-minute “hike” was this odd combination of cold wind and hot sun. It was almost like some strange spa treatment. One minute there would be a rush of cold air, the next a rush of hot, then the cold again. I really loved it.

We sat in the crater, and felt simultaneously cool and warm. Neither of us needed to bundle up – Lis was in shorts and a t-shirt, and I just wore a long sleeved denim shirt over my t-shirt. What I do wish I’d had, and will definitely bring next time, is ear covering of some kind, as the wind is pretty strong, and strong cool wind hurts my ears. Otherwise we were perfectly fine. Note from Lis: I was well-bundled up in my Barbados hat that Mary bought for herself on our last cruise and then generously donated to me. I LOVE that hat. I wear it for sun-protection, but it was amazingly warm in the wind. So sweet of Mary to give it to me and then suffer the cold wind. Note from Mary: It’s less sweet when you know that the hat doesn’t really fit me, and I did have a straw hat from the condo – but I’ll accept the credit all the same.

The crater was really, really awesome, in the old “inspiring of awe” sense. Fabulous shapes and colors. The guidebooks describe it as a moonscape, but it seemed more like a sand sculpture to me – all the different colors – black, grey, green, rust, tan – all swirled around in different shapes and patterns. Plus the afternoon clouds were starting to form and slowly seep in to the crater. Really cool. I highly recommend a drive up to the crater on any Maui stay.

Then it was off to the Ali`i Kula Lavender farm. It was a little off the beaten track, and the road to it was very narrow and a bit crumbly, but thankfully far enough down the mountain that there were no scary drop offs – just not much room. We drove up to the farm and got out, and were instantly met by the pervasive scent of lavender. We went to the gift shop and looked around, and then started off to walk amongst the plants in the fields. Lis had picked up a treasure hunt map – if we could find all 8 places, we would win a reward. We found the first one easily, and then started off in search of the next, and quickly realized that we were too tired for such nonsense – it was time to start back. Plus, we still wanted to boogie board – didn’t want to squander our remaining energy.

Lis suggested that we return to the health food store (I keep forgetting to get its name) in Makawao to get some more of the fabulous sugar free cake we had gotten there on Monday, and then stop in Pa’ia at Ono Gelato because they have dairy-free gelato. Well, who am I to turn down dessert? On the way the gathering clouds turned in to a pretty good rainstorm, but it passed quickly.

At Ono Gelato they had two big display cases of gelato, each containing about 9-10 gelatos. The case on the left was all dairy free – my lactose intolerant girl was very happy indeed.J We tried several samples (the girl waiting on us was very patient and sweet), and then made our decisions – I had the peach and strawberry (local strawberries from the Kula region we had just driven through). Lis had the chunky monkey (chocolate, banana, and some Hawaiian fruit whose name I forget) and sea mist (lime, lemongrass, and some other stuff). As we were sitting outside eating our gelato, a woman came by and said “So, which did you choose?” I realized that this was the owner whom I had seen earlier making some gelato in the back. We told her what we got and she chatted with us a while. We will definitely try to go back.

While we were deliberating over the gelatos, a man and woman came in. Very soon the man started staring at Lis. I wondered what there was about her appearance that was causing such an investigation – he was looking her over quite carefully. (Note from Lis: Sadly, I am used to people staring at me. Whenever we go swimming in Portland at Mt. Scott Community Center, the children in the locker room all stare at me. I figure it is my attractive UniSuit. So I vaguely noticed he was staring, but it barely even registered.) Finally he came over and said “Are you from Portland, Oregon? We’re from Eugene.” And I realized he had been studying her Portland Century shirt, probably trying to figure out if it was Oregon or Maine. He was very friendly, and his wife never even looked at us. Go figure.

After gelato we went to the condo and changed and grabbed boogie boards from the condo’s activity closet and headed to the closest beach. Neither of us have boogie boarded before – we just tried to copy what we’d seen other people do. I caught the first wave I tried, and it was an OK one, so I travelled a fair way and it was pretty fun. But all in all I think I prefer snorkeling. Boogie boarding seems to be a pretty sand-intensive experience, and I didn’t enjoy all the de-sanding that was necessary afterwards. Lis: I was not very good at boogie boarding and it hurt my shoulder which is recovering from an injury. I will say that yesterday’s boogie boarding, combined with my experience this morning that Mary will surely write about later, have cured me of my desire to learn to surf during this vacation.

My sweetie had the brilliant idea of getting takeout so that we could head back to the condo and stay there. So we went to Maui Thai and got some salad rolls and curry and pad see ew. The portions were significantly smaller than our Portland neighborhood Thai place, and even with the 15% early bird discount (we are on a good early bird special roll – haven’t missed one yet) it was 10 bucks more than we usually pay – but it was pretty good nonetheless, and we did get next day’s lunch out of it as well.

Lis: How could Mary neglect to mention the fabulous beers we had with dinner? Our first night here we bought a six-pack sampler of Maui Brewing Company (2 each of 3 flavors – okay, I know they’re not called flavors, but the only way I like my beer is fruity and flavored so I like that word.) I actually thought to put glasses in the freezer before we went to the beach, so our beverages were nice and cold. My beer was called CocoNut Porter and it was delicious. Very dark, rich, and creamy. I was told by two people at the store where we bought the beer that that The CocoNut Porter was too sweet and fruity so I knew it was the beer for me. I didn’t think it was sweet, though, and neither did Mary. Mary had Bikini Blonde Lager. That was a very pale beer and also amazingly wonderful. I am not a beer fan so I was very pleasantly surprised by both. Maybe I was just so tired that last night I was a temporary beer fan. Mary again – Lis is right; terrible omission. All the beers are super excellent – the night before I had had the Big Swell IPA, and even though I’m not an IPA fan at all, I really liked this beer as well. Highly recommend all three.

We weren’t able to make it to the Surfing Goat Dairy – Lis is thinking maybe we still will, but I’m thinking that will probably be on the next trip. Lis: L

Too tired for a full blog post – just a quickie for now.  We visited the Crater, and stopped at the Lavender farm, but didn’t make the goats.  But we did go boogie boarding, plus threw in a stop in Pa’ia for gelato.  A great day:)  We did manage to post some pics on Picasa – you can view them here.

Today we snorkeled at Kama’ole Beach Park III, or Kam 3 (Kama’ole Beach is broken in to three sections, with Kam 1 and Kam 2 further to the north). Kam 3 is across the street from our condo, so we were able to walk there. Because we were up so early (see previous post), we got there before almost anyone else – just a handful of other people were there. Which was cool, though Lis remarked that it also felt a little scary – she was glad when it became more populated as the morning progressed.

We were on the south end of Kam 3, and snorkeled between Kam 3 and the Kihei boat launch to the south. There was lots of coral here, but at first it seemed like not as many fish. But then as we got nearer to the boat launch there were more and more fish, so that when all was said and done I’d say it rivaled Maluaka beach from yesterday – except for no turtles. We did see a couple of moray eels, though (or maybe the same one two times – hard to say) which was really neat but also kinda scared me – he just sits there with his mouth open, showing his scary teeth and looking all badass – I swam quickly out of range each time.

When we were done snorkeling we hung out on the beach a little, watching some kids boogie boarding and talking with a nice (very tanned) old lady about where to see turtles. Then we headed back to the condo, talking about maybe heading right out to lunch after showering – only to discover that it was not yet 10am – a little early for lunch. So we had some snacks and hung out – I worked on my last blog entry and Lis sat on the lanai and read.

We decided to have lunch at the Four Seasons in Wailea – Lis has read a lot about it, and her dad ate there and said the view from the lunch restaurant (near the pool) is spectacular. Plus Lis wanted to check out the facilities because whenever we’re able to swing it (usually need to score pretty good deals), we like to stay at a Four Seasons.

The view was definitely amazing – we could see the beach and the snorkelers and swimmers and surf-board-paddling-ers, plus the West Maui Mountains and the island of Lanai in the background, and the clouds hadn’t moved in yet (as they’ve done every afternoon) so the sky and water were beautiful shimmering shades of blue.  There was also a guy in a flowered Hawaiian shirt wandering the beach with a metal detector, which I thought was a fun counterpoint to Four Seasons swankiness.

Lunch was good, and the waitress was wonderful to us even though we split a burger and drank only water (more out of seeing how big the burgers were than out of cheapness, though cheapness was a close second since the burgers were 20 bucks). Note from Lis:  25% tip for this waitress.

Afterwards we walked around a bit and Lis checked out the exercise room and spa. It is really a gorgeous hotel – maybe we’ll be able to finagle a stay there someday – heaven knows this is Lis’ plan. Though I have to say that I prefer the messy strip mall sprawl of Kihei to the gorgeous manicured sameness of Wailea.

After lunch we drove in to North Kihei to a farmer’s market, which sounded better on paper than it actually turned out to be, so we didn’t get anything. We were able to see some of North Kihei, though, and I must say I was unimpressed. The beaches aren’t swimmable, and the condos/hotels didn’t seem nearly as nice as in South Kihei.

After this we went to the grocery store to get some additional supplies, and stopped by Snorkel Bob’s to pick up the complimentary canvas bags that we got for our purchases and bookings yesterday but which they had been out of. Our girl Katie wasn’t there, but her replacement was just as friendly and helpful (we didn’t get her name, unfortunately) and we came away with THREE pretty good quality canvas bags, one with a sea turtle on it, one with a yellow tang, and one with a shrimp. The girl said that people from Minnesota always think the shrimp is a mosquito, which I think is a sad story (an aside: how awesome that there are hardly any bugs here!).

Back to the condo for the afternoon, then dinner at Sansei’s. We made sure that we got there in time for the early bird special – 25% off from 5:30 to 6 pm. In fact, we got there at 5, and so had some time to kill. There was a consignment shop nearby where we scored an old-lady swimsuit for Lis for 8 bucks (she had been wishing she had a second swimsuit for evening swims – with only one your suit is still wet the next morning). It has polka dots and a skirt and Lis is cute as a bug in it – I’m going to try to talk her in to letting me post a picture here or on Facebook or both.  Lis' Old Lady SwimsuitUpdate:  I can’t get her to pose for a photo (at least not one I can post online), so I’ll have to settle for a pic of the suit itself – here it is. 

Dinner was good, and we were right across the street from a ball field, where we watched the practices of what I would guess as a 7th grade football team and 7th grade cheerleading squad. They were so young and cute. Just as we were leaving the restaurant, the sun was going down, so we stopped to watch it, and Lis is pretty sure she saw the Green Flash as the sun dropped in to the water.

After dinner we did some laundry and consulted our guidebooks to plan our day tomorrow. We are going to head to the UpCountry – start out at the Halealaka Crater and try to hit the lavender farm and the goat farm. And, if we have any energy left, attempt boogie boarding in the afternoon at Kam III. We’ll see how many of these things we actually manage…