Category Archives: Maui

Surfing Goats, An Enameled Box Lunch, Heaven in Kihei and That Damn Shiny Ring

 

The week is winding down as I continue touring the best of Maui with the ASTA and NACTA group. Little did I know the wow would never stop. My interest in the Maui Ocean Center is bittersweet because this is the spot I know my little grandson would love and he’s not here. This place is beyond amazing and the staff is so eco-

ocean aware I can tell the aloha here is strong. I spend a lot of time facetiming a cute kid in California because I so very much want him to BE HERE with me. The site has sea turtle feedings, stingray shows and the coolest thing? This 750,000 open ocean aquarium with 20 sharks, huge rays and reef fish. I walk through this tube and they swim over me, lapping the current peacefully. I know I was annoying people talking in an excited voice while moving my camera slowly so Cash could see. I’m sorry. I really couldn’t help myself. This is the lesson I learned- take the kids. It is great to see, but they will probably wee a little with excitement. Take extra clothes. It is that exciting.

My next stop scares me. It’s the Island Art Party where everyone gets a smock and a paintbrush and then you paint. I am not talented. I can’t draw my way out of a wet paper bag with a sharp pencil. I am terrified. Everyone is super excited and giggling and anticipating so

Ken and Wendy Kimi create masterpieces at Island Art Party, Kihei!
Ken and Wendy Kimi create masterpieces at Island Art Party, Kihei!

much fun and I am filled with dread but trying to play along and not be ‘that girl’ who can’t just buck up and go with the flow. So I do. The place is fabulous, the hosts and hostesses are charming and so encouraging, I drink the kool aid and grab a smock. The picture chosen is an underwater scene with two angel fish. “Big loping strokes with the flat paintbrush, first blue,” our hostess cries out. I begin and it’s kind of working. I slope and bend and switch brushes and then get bored and paint ahead of everyone and of course, it is a disaster. But not even half as bad as I expected and everyone else’s looks really good. I’m

These are my little fish. I am not an artist.
These are my little fish. I am not an artist.

not exactly proud of the painting, but impressed by my ability to try to go along with it. Plus they served us an amazing lunch while dancing the hula for us. This is the perfect diversion on Maui; a wedding or affinity group event- a great option! And if you see that girl who is not terribly excited, please be kind. She is doing her level best to fit in with people who have an artistic bone in their body.

Then I am delivered to HEAVEN ON EARTH. Mana Kai Maui, please let me live in your walls. I check into my room and  hit the sliding doors of the lanai, I gulp. I’m overlooking a beach so clear, so close, I can see a sea turtle swimming in the wake. I take in the long stretch

Mana Kai Maui from the beach is just as special as from the lanai.
Mana Kai Maui from the beach is just as special as from the lanai.

of beautiful beach and the pounding surf is on reverb in the room. The aloha chant of the ocean captures me, rivets me to the floor as the palm trees sway. I have never been in such a fervent state because of a room category, even in a two bedroom penthouse condo with its own plunge pool overlooking the

Bay of Banderas. I thought I was jaded. I was wrong and I am instead sated, deliciously satisfied not only as I look out, but as I look in.

Yes, that is my view from my lanai at the Mana Kai Maui, otherwise known to me as heaven.
Yes, that is my view from my lanai at the Mana Kai Maui, otherwise known to me as heaven. Yes, you can see turtles in the water and sleep with the doors open. No, I did not want to leave.

The condo has a king bed, granite countertops in a full kitchen (hooray for Hawaiian morning coffee on the lanai!) and a nice sized bathroom. But the view, no words. Dinner approaches, it’s here on site and with this view as the entrée, I’m eager to see how the dining is. I know I have found heaven up here, but what’s in that kitchen?

Winston Chinn! Premier host for our dinner at the spectacular Five Palms, Winston is an icon himself, full of aloha and jokes and

Tiger Prawns and Scallops, couldn't eat it all so had the remainder for lunch the following day. Excellent cuisine!
Tiger Prawns and Scallops, couldn’t eat it all so had the remainder for lunch the following day. Excellent cuisine!
Everyone is enjoying ocean front dining at the splendid Five Palms in Kihei.
Everyone is enjoying ocean front dining at the splendid Five Palms in Kihei.

obviously on top of things when I see what I’m served. First course, a great romaine’s heart salad. Second course, amazing tiger prawns and scallops over pasta. Third course? Their signature Pineapple Creme Brulee, smoking hot custard blazing on a pineapple slice. Yippeee! Heaven continues! Honestly, nowhere, no way has the Maui dream leaned closer to reality for me. This is it and I’m perfectly content to stay here from now on. Why leave? Mana Kai Maui, I love you so much it is a little pathetic. I can’t help it though, I just can’t. I fall asleep, lanai doors wide open, a murmur of aloha waves washing me into slumber. Heaven.

Morning brings a drinking, dairy, honey day. I grab a spot in the van and off we go high into the hills to an organic vodka operation- Ocean Vodka. Unique because it is made with deep ocean mineral

This shows one of the production areas at Ocean Vodka. Everyone is on their feet!
This shows one of the production areas at Ocean Vodka. Everyone is on their feet!

water sourced from 3000 feet below the Big Island and it is all organic. We tour the fields- no pesticides, we tour the production area (no one is intoxicated!) and head for the tasting tiki hut. Early for vodka so I choose rum, they also do rum. It is smooth and goes down easy like a

Travel Agents Mikki Fillhour, Steven and Louisa Wong do some early morning tippling at Ocean Vodka!
Travel Agents Mikki Fillhour, Steven and Louisa Wong do some early morning tippling at Ocean Vodka!

Friday morning. It is a real treat to see a smallish family run operation that is so successful. How successful? So successful that wherever we go afterward, my friend Mikki tries to order it or buy it and it is ‘out’. Huge demand for this uniquely Maui product and there’s also an open field area for concerts, wedding receptions, etc. It overlooks a valley with views to the ocean. Add a small store and you have the perfect business model.

Next stop, goats that surf? An enterprising German couple call Surfing Goat Dairy home. This is an organic dairy operation. When

Susie Adair captured this great shot of surfing goats while visiting the dairy!
Susie Adair captured this great shot of surfing goats while visiting the dairy!

they started, they ran into a guy at the dump getting rid of his boards. In a light bulb moment, they offered to repurpose them and now, the goats play yards are full of them. Surf board fences line the visitors area, very unique! I sample a variety of goat cheese and they’re all so good! My favorite is the Garden Fantasia, peppered with savory bits of organic veggies. Yum.

Upcountry Maui is full of gourmet operations that keep the island’s economy ticking

Instructions on how to eat goat cheese on crackers came in handy for the taste testing!
Instructions on how to eat goat cheese on crackers came in handy for the taste testing!

while offering the unique and tasty. Farm to table starts at these elevations. While on Maui, get off the beach for a day and head up to the cool country where a lot is happening, most of it sustainable and organic!

Next we go down, down, down into the valley and then up, up, up! Where we land is unlike anywhere else I’ve been on all three islands. Lona Ridge. The home is an architectural masterpiece, patterned

Our group assembles on the palatious lawn of Lona Ridge. Another Maui heaven spot, the view takes in two Maui coasts.
Our group assembles on the vast lawn of Lona Ridge. Another Maui heaven spot, the view takes in two Maui coasts. Picture courtesy of Ken Kimi.

after early Maui architect, C.W. Dickey’s work. Head out back if you want to be wowed. The view encompasses both shores of Maui and a view of the Big Island. The grounds contain rare trees and plants and up the steep slope behind, an organic honey operation. Owner Leona Rocha Wilson was Maui raised in very humble circumstances- a sugar plantation camp. Her

The lanai was the perfect spot for Leona Rocha Wilson to share stories about her life and the ongoing projects at Lona Ridge.
The lanai was the perfect spot for Leona Rocha Wilson to share stories about her life and the ongoing projects at Lona Ridge.

mother knew she couldn’t pay for college, so encouraged Leona to enlist in the military which she did. Setting her sights high, she used the GI Bill to launch a career in the fashion industry. Today, she opens her home by appointment only (or the customary Monday farm lunch- see linked article for details), preferably to local school children. She has a keen desire to inspire the keiki to reach for their dreams. It is a true ‘island girl made good’ story and after she shares it, I sample honey.

The honey is organic, produced in collaboration with Lona Ridge by a young woman Leona met on the school board. The Lona Ridge Honey component is also all organic and it is interesting to sample

Honey sampling is the best! Photo courtesy of Susie Adair.
Honey sampling is the best! Photo courtesy of Susie Adair.

the flavors of the honey from differing locations. My favorite was macadamia nut! After sampling her delicious fare I’m treated to the most amazing box lunch ever. Leona loves education and all the possibilities involved so another collaboration is with the Maui University Culinary Arts Academy. Yes, I am pleased to have enameled box lunches to choose from, each looking like a jewel and all having flavorful delights inside. Mango and other flavored teas from the property

Portabella and fresh mozzerella cheese on a ciabatti roll, purple yam chips with hummus, grilled veggies and delectable couscous were topped off with tea made from Lona Ridge fruit trees. This food tasted better than it looks if that is even possible!
Portabella and fresh mozzarella cheese on a ciabatta roll, purple yam chips with hummus, grilled veggies and delectable couscous were topped off with tea made from Lona Ridge fruit trees. This food tasted better than it looks if that is even possible!

wet my thirst while I ravish the box lunch. Farm to table is the theme but this is stuff straight out of a Five Star restaurant. I want to keep the box but alas, must return it. The steep, steep ride back down is accompanied by groans and sighs as everyone riding along knows it will be

The steep ride back down gave everyone the chance to just settle in and enjoy the view. It wouldn't have been good if we would have had to move at all. Too full!
The steep ride back down gave everyone the chance to just settle in and enjoy the view. It wouldn’t have been good if we would have had to move at all. Too full!

a long time before they experience something that special again. What a treat.

My afternoon at leisure consists of throwing a load of laundry in. After all, I have been here eight fabulous days and who wants to pack that many outfits? Not me. I sit on the lanai in between, then check out the sundries store where Ramen Noodles are $1.98 a pack and then peek into the pool area. Not many pool takers because the ocean is right there, yards away, the ocean! The Kihei location of the Maui Mana Kai is very nestled right up on the beach, built before a

Pledging unending aloha overlooking the ocean at Mana Kai Maui. Oh my, warms the heart Hawaiian style!
Pledging unending aloha overlooking the ocean at Mana Kai Maui. Oh my, warms the heart Hawaiian style!

lot of restrictions about that were in place. The setting is perfect for an ocean front wedding and this evening, the staff is preparing for one with delight. I see leis and a ukulele and neat rows of chairs. The sunset will frame the vows with the promise of enduring aloha.

Our group’s time is coming to a close. We still have a snorkel tour in the morning but our graduation dinner is at Merriman’s Monkeypods tonight and even though I’m still quite full, I actually put on a dress for the occasion. The drive is short and the location is

Mile high oh my chocolate pie! And with swimsuit day the next day, oh boy.
Mile high oh my chocolate pie! And with swimsuit day the next day, oh boy.

an upscale strip mall in Wailea. The place is jam-packed crowded and when our appetizers come out, I can see why. Seared poke’ tacos and garlic oil fries. Everyone had a choice for dinner and I chose the Kale and Wild Mushroom Gnocchi. But the dessert, the Chocolate Cream Pie? It is a mile high! Piled high with delicious cream! I keep thinking as I attempt to polish it off, swimsuit tomorrow, with everyone. Oh boy. I’m not a quitter. I manage to eat almost all of it.

Morning comes early, lulled into consciousness by the waves so

close you can hear their crashing, time to rise for the last activity – snorkeling at Molokini Crater. Another short van ride gets us to the pick up point for Kai Kanani Charters. The waves are rough in the early morning hours and as the boat runs up on the sand, I look around and gulp. The catamaran lets down the stairs and the boat

keeps rocking. The crew gives the ‘wait, wait, wait’ sign so we do. The waves surge in groups and when a calmer stream starts we all scramble on, still getting soaked and a little jostled. We’re given great instructions by the experienced crew, warned about things that matter and told what to look for. Why am I excited? Because they have masks that have prescriptions in them and I will actually be able to see something. That has never happened before. We are a

motley crew, my fellow travel agents and the general public. Guys are speaking softly to calm their wives, others are trying hard not to stare at the hard bodies of the Hawaii styled bikini body guides and some of the kids can’t resist putting their flippers on to walk like ducks. We arrive. There is abundant sea life in this extinct volcanic crater. “Don’t get too close in to the crater walls because that pretty coral is sharp and dangerous” we’re warned. I wait my turn and take the plunge. Snorkeling has never been fun for me, a glasses wearer. The prescription lenses change everything. I can see the pretty fish and the beautiful coral! I am so mesmerized, floating and staring down in awe that one of the guides swims to me to ask me if I’m alright. Well yes, you see, I am staring at the bottom of the ocean, the beauty of it. Duh. Everyone else is flipping and flopping but I am happy to turtle around slowly, just taking it all in and remembering to breathe through my mouth, not my nose. It works. I am happy and at peace staring at the ocean floor, the coral and the fish. I am one of the last few on the boat because next, turtle town! On the way? Rum punch and sandwiches. Yea!

I have had a long love affair with all things honu. My first encounter was on the Kona coast of the Big Island, in a park. I was walking along looking at the ocean and boom, a turtle is peeking at me with its big, cute eye. I was so excited to see it and really felt like it was happy to see me because it kept peeking at me. Today, we’re going to a spot called turtle town so I am super excited! I’ve had many other turtle encounters since and they all seem magical. We get near and are told to swim closer to the shore. It doesn’t look far so I do. I see one turtle and then realize I am getting tired so decide to swim back. Half way back, and we’re talking the length of two football fields or more, the Jaws music starts playing in my head. I’m kind of far away from everyone, wearing a very bling ring and I’ve been told that attracts sharks. A woman near my age has been recently killed snorkeling not far from shore and it weighs on my mind. I am in their

Monica Ambriz and Susie Adair discuss best practices for feeding Hawaiian goats.
Monica Ambriz and Susie Adair discuss best practices for feeding Hawaiian goats.

territory, alone, with that damn shiny ring I forgot to take off, just asking to get bit or worse. Before I was all “I love honu’ and now I’m all “I am shark bait!” so honestly, I start to panic a little. I soon realize that swimming faster will not make the shark any slower and will wear me out. I calm myself, swim purposefully and wish I knew a song about honu to replace the Jaws theme. Hasn’t Jack Johnson written a honu song? Ugh. I pass a guy who is consoling his wife as they schlep through the waves. I don’t think anyone thought it would be such a far swim and expecting this, the staff is throwing out ropes to pull people in? Why not just move a tad closer? Anyway, I’m glad to be back on board after surviving the Jaws encounter in my head. I look resentfully at my sparkly ring as we head back to shore.

This is it. The end of the road for our group. We all hail from far and away and our time learning about Maui Nui is over. I am sad. Glad

This is your view at breakfast if you're lucky enough or smart enough to book a room at the Mana Kai Maui.
This is your view at breakfast if you’re lucky enough or smart enough to book a room at the Mana Kai Maui.

for the friends I’ve made, the connections that will be touchpoints held together by tender aloha memories. I have one more night and day in the HEAVEN condo, so I am not leaving yet, but as a group we are done. It was fun, sometimes hilarious. It was yummy, sometimes over fullish. It was educational, with interesting learning that fed my heart and my soul. It was so much more than a beach trip. Friends reading this, visit Maui. Go farther

and discover the secrets of Molokai and Lanai. But on any of these islands? Don’t limit yourself to the beach. I know, I know, all I’ve been showing are videos of the beach. This last one is on Molokai, three miles of pristine beauty, deserted. Papohaku Beach. Worth thr trip, but again, off the beaten path. So many activities and interesting things to discover await you. Venture off the beaten path for that unique experience. You’ll be glad you did and the people you meet? They’ll also be happy you branched out to find the gems of aloha, scattered about just waiting to be enjoyed. Mahalo Maui Nui.

Many thanks to the organizers of this trip, ASTA, NACTA, and the Maui Nui Visitor and Conventions Bureaus. Very well done and executed. Mahalo!

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Authentic Maui Continues to Wow, Lana’i and Molokai Refresh

Travel agents can be a jaded bunch. We really do get the plum assignments, like this trip to Maui sponsored by NACTA and ASTA. It’s hard to be humble when the hosts at each location treat you like you’re the best thing ever. Even the notion that the above names groups support us agents so completely, it is heartening!  Rough job to have these VIP’d and sponsored trips, but someone has to do it, so we eagerly sign up and pack.

Our next stop is a farm to table experience overlooking the ocean. Nothing mundane about this place, Oh my Pacific’O. You know the new movement where everything is organic, grown locally and then

Shelia Sweet and Nicole Dalasta dine at Pacific'O, one of the original farm to table venues. Twenty years strong, it is flavorful with a view of surfers!
Shelia Sweet and Nicole Dalasta dine at Pacific’O, one of the original farm to table venues. Twenty years strong, it is flavorful with a view of surfers!

delivered to a restaurant with a discerning chef who insists on only the finest ingredients? This place is your benchmark. Pacific’O was created in tandem with O’o Farm with the intention of having control over produce quality. They’ve been doing it for twenty years people, not the new kids on the block, the pioneers. They even grow their own coffee and my favorite- edible flowers. If you are what you eat, I want to eat flowers. As a small child, my parents made the mistake of letting me hold the pretty red geranium plant in the backseat, heading to grandma’s on Mother’s Day. Have you ever tasted one? By the time we arrived, no flowers; Gulp. So if you haven’t tried edible flowers and they’re not a gift for someone, chow down. So good! But I digress…. I have the Fish n Chips and homemade ice cream- all fabulous, with surfers in the background.

Our next stop is the state of the art Maui Theatre for the production of ‘Ulalena. Interpretive dance and fusion music meet Hawaiian history. The theater itself is a great venue, but the live music, vocals and Cirque style dance weave a spell of enchantment that holds me entranced through the changes Maui has experienced. I am not a musical lover. I don’t want this to end. I want to linger longer in the dark as the mood envelopes me in its magic. A side note: Kalapani Kollars, our tour guide from the Maui Nei Native Expeditions is one of the music makers for this long standing production. This man lives and breathes the true essence of Maui, devotes all of his energy to embracing and dispersing it to interested parties. You will miss something significant if you don’t request him as a guide and then experience his performance in ‘Ulalena.

I have an appetite now and glad to be walking though the high end shopping outlet with a wood fire pizza joint- Pi Artisan Pizzeria. The

Woodfire pizza from Pi Artisan in Lahaina. They stuffed us with amazing salad, pizza and dessert. What a good deal!
Woodfire pizza from Pi Artisan in Lahaina. They stuffed us with amazing salad, pizza and dessert. What a good deal!

sun lowers itself onto the waves as they bring out platters of antipasto, bowls of Caesar salad and then of course the pizzas. All locally sourced with another fabulous view, pizza done right Maui style satisfies everyone, topped off with more platter of dessert. The cheesecake gets me. I don’t need this but I want, I want and I grab a spoon. We later waddle to the vans together.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to wait for a six am ferry. They

Yes, it is chilly at the ferry at 6 am. Yes, I will sit up top of the ferry until I realize the spray is a constant. The quiet of  Lahaina Harbor at dawn is pretty nice!
Yes, it is chilly at the ferry at 6 am. Yes, I will sit up top of the ferry until I realize the spray is a constant. The quiet of Lahaina Harbor at dawn is pretty nice!
Leaving Maui for Lanai
Mikki Fillhouer, Chris Kaiaokamalie, Nicole Dalasta and Julie Bicoy brave the top of the ferry from Maui to Lanai.

give me coffee, a ferry ticket and I roam around with my box breakfast, watching grizzled construction workers congregate with their gear. This ferry is full because crews are heading over to do a refurbish on one of two Four Seasons resorts on Lanai. Oracle founder Larry Ellison purchased the majority stake of the island and is building into the economic and cultural infrastructure of this tiny island. After repeatedly asking many of the residents and reps there, they say the jury is still out on Ellison. It is still too soon to assess if this benevolence is genuine and unequivocally a place where the local’s hearts and his meet. “So far, so good,” they say. “We’ll see,” they say.

The Expeditions  Ferry takes about an hour and we approach the Manele Small Boat Harbor before eight. The harbor is new and nice and our coach takes us up, up, up a winding road that offers sweeping vistas over the fringes of scraggly shrubs. Mountain goats live here on these slopes, but I don’t see any. What I do see when we reach the top is a really nice broad top of an island that is green with cooler temps. Towering [pines lana'iCook and Norfolk pines shoot emerald spikes into that landscape and rim areas of the road in a reminder of genius rain capturing magic. These pines suck the moisture out of the sea breeze and create a micro climate of rain which is desperately needed on Lana’i. And the beauty it has created; I love trees and the town square is Dole Park, named so because the whole island was once a pineapple plantation. These are huge! The tiny Dole Park town square has its own forest. I love this spot! It is cool and refreshing and feels so intentionally lovely. Little art and boutique shops dot the perimeter of the park along with the Hotel Lana’i, our first stop.

Oh take me back here, please! Quaint and charming, I long to return.
Oh take me back here, please! Quaint and charming, I long to return.

Groan, sigh. This place is exquisite in its throw back charm, lovely native art and furnishings, plus its delectable cuisine. This is not the Ritz but an old school inn with a handful of rooms and gathering areas in the center. It is lovely. Ellison has hired top notch staff, many locally sourced and built into their skills to offer a world class experience, tiny island style. This gem offers

Eager to please, we were served huge plates of fruit and delectable brunch fare.
Eager to please, we were served huge plates of fruit and delectable brunch fare.

relaxation of the finest kind. I swoon and swoon again as we are greeted by the manager and fed a gourmet brunch. Touring the rooms yields rustic island furnishings with my Hawaiian quilts in my favorite colors. I am charmed, and as I stated before, as a kind of jaded travel agent, this is a refreshing feeling of delight.

We stop briefly in the tiny Lana’i Culture and Heritage Center. The building is multi purpose, holds other offices but the artifact collection it holds is really impressive. It was formerly the Dole Plantation Administration Building turned cultural center/museum when development began on the island. Another spot where I wish I could linger.

Load into the vans courtesy of Rabaca’s Limousine Service, I’m going off-roading to Shipwreck Beach. We drive and bump and sway over the mostly sand roads.

Honu at Shipwreck Beach. I believe Julie Madrid or Susie Adair took this picture. Ladies? Anyone? I do want to credit you!
Honu at Shipwreck Beach. I believe Julie Madrid or Susie Adair took this picture. Ladies? Anyone? I do want to credit you!

Everyone once in a while there is a clearing of tiny buildings knocked into the scrub where people were living off the grid before it was trendy. There are turtles lolling in the surf when I arrive, fishermen fishing for their real lunch, not as a sport. The ship that was wrecked offshore looms in the distance and there is nothing around here, nothing. Oh wait, that’s not what one of our drivers says. Let’s head into the scrub and check out the

Julie Bicoy (facing away), Amy Chauncey, Mikki Fillhouer and Wendy Kimi peer at the petroglyphs in the brush above the Shipwreck Beach area.
Julie Bicoy (facing away), Steven Wong, Amy Chauncey, Mikki Fillhouer and Wendy Kimi peer at the petroglyphs in the brush above the Shipwreck Beach area.

petroglyphs. This place is the real deal, native etchings that are symbols of importance to Hawaiian history. There are ceremonial stone cairns in the scrub also. This is the Hawaii many miss, the outback Hawaii on a remote island with a steady population of about 3200 people total. This is your ultimate getaway if dodging the crowd is your thing. It is certainly mine at times.

We head back and have time to check out the new Lana’i Theater with it’s leather reclining seats and fancy bathrooms! I browse

State of the art theater represents the ongoing contribution of Larry Ellison on the island of Lanai. This place is plush!
State of the art theater represents the ongoing contribution of Larry Ellison on the island of Lanai. This place is plush!

the tiny shops and grab a lunch from Pele’s Other Garden and head to forest bathe under the giant pines. Young kids play in the park while their hipster moms do yoga on the grass. The call to board the bus and leave comes and I am just the last one on the bus. I want to stay. Charity Texiera from the Lanai Visitor’s Bureau has made the brief stay pleasant, and a little bit of a teaser for more to come. I want to stay to see what the light is like through the pines in the evening; what the air smells like as I bicycle through the early morning hours. What the locals say when the haole woman just doesn’t get on the ferry and go. I just want to immerse myself and stay.

Off we go and the ferry ride back brings me to the vans and then I’m checking in to the Kaanapali Beach Hotel. This is in the hotel zone on Kaanapali Beach, a moderately priced property with sprawling grounds and is considered the most Hawaiian of the hotels in this area. There are native arts and crafts, music and we are greeted with traditional song and then when we congregate later,

Engaging keiki in traditional arts is encouraged through a cultural ambassador pack for young guests at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel.
Engaging keiki in traditional arts is encouraged through a cultural ambassador pack for young guests at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel.

are feted with more by lovely women who explain their kukui beads to us. Guests and staff alike receive a bead lei and for staff, every year service garners a different colored bead. For returning guests, it is the same because many, many customers return. Why? Because of the location, cultural offerings and excellent beach. During our room tour, we were shown the kit kids receive when checking in. It is totally cute and it is plain that keiki are given honored status here.

Yup, two pictures of savory dishes from the Tiki Terrace. Sure wish I had some of that now!
Yup, two pictures of savory dishes from the Tiki Terrace. Sure wish I had some of that now!

 

Our hostess at dinner outdoes herself as we are seated on the Tiki Terrace for food and music. The food is out of this world. I have the

Scallops are my favorite and this dish at the Tiki Terrace, Ka'anapali Hotel was truly special!
Scallops are my favorite and this dish at the Tiki Terrace, Ka’anapali Hotel was truly special!

scallops and Ed next to me has the skewered shrimp. It is a feast from the ocean. My friend Mikki has the tuna rare and she goes on and on about how it is perfectly done. Just heaven. But it is bedtime for us and we have another early dock departure, this time to Molokai for a one night stay.

The Molokai Princess Ferry  is coming so again I wander while eating and watching the workers get ready to head over for work. I’m told sitting atop is not a great idea because of the rough seas. It is uncharacteristically windy so we hunker inside and take the ride to Kaunakakai Harbor which is an almost two hour ride this time. I doze.

Arrival has us checking out the golden beach littered with tiny transluscent jelly fish. Not your swimming pals, they are often around you before you know it and the stings can be painful. We gather under a tree and are told we will next be meeting a Hawaiian

Kyrian Van Vliet hails from Holland, has devoted her life to Hawaiian culture, along with following the treachings of her husband, Kuma Pa'a Lawrence Kalainia Kamani Aki. This was taken during his Talk Story at Kalianaole Hall on Molokai.
Kyrian Van Vliet hails from Holland, has devoted her life to Hawaiian culture, along with following the treachings of her husband, Kuma Pa’a Lawrence Kalainia Kamani Aki. This was taken during his Talk Story at Kalianaole Hall on Molokai.

holy man. Kalanianaole Hall is straight Hawaiian plantation style, charming in its simplicity. I remove my shoes and am greeted by breathing the breath of a towering giant, his wife Kyrian Van Vliet and a follower. Kumu Pa’a Lawrence Kalaina Kamani Aki is a 50th generation traditional Hawaiian teacher. Blood lines are very important in Hawaiian society because remember, this is a monarchy and that follows the blood line.

Aki narrates to a power point, explains Molokai culture, how his teaching business is world wide (his wife is a blue eyed Dutch girl) and the movement to reinvigorate the many facets of Hawaiian culture. You can tell this is huge on the islands, the undercurrent of plenty pono (righteousness in Hawaiian) permeates all things Hawaiian. Like many traditional societies, rules are strict. It is fascinating to hear of Molokai’s deep heritage and how many people are building into sustaining it. This is a tiny island also with a population of less than 10,000. Because it has resisted development, it is ranked very high on the worldwide unspoiled island scale.


Next I head up to the rigid Nanahoa in Pala’au State Park with the group. This is the fertility stone and it takes a little hike to get there. I snap a pic and send it to my son, father of four, and tell him to never touch this. It is beautiful and I love the

Fertility rock sacred to the Hawaiian community, it protrudes nicely in a pine forested glen.
Fertility rock sacred to the Hawaiian community, it protrudes nicely in a pine forested glen.

high forest. I almost step on two little mushrooms that look like bosoms. So here is the rock and here are the perfect, tiny bosoms. Interesting. I hike back to the Kalaupapa Lookout, gaze down upon the Kalaupapa Settlement where the leper colony stood and Father Damien took purposeful strides in creating a decent world for people cast off by society before succumbing to the disease himself. Mule rides down into the historic

Tiny bosom mushrooms grew near the phallic rock. I found that interesting!
Tiny bosom mushrooms grew near the phallic rock. I found that interesting!

development are very popular and from what I hear, exciting. Visit the page at Kalaupapa Mule Tour for more information. I didn’t do this, but would have loved the opportunity!

Hard to believe it’s only lunch time but it is. The sandwich buffet is scrumptious at the Coffees Of Hawaii. Julie Bicoy has called ahead and we’re greeted with an amazing frozen coffee drink, perfect refresher after the higher altitude walking we just did. This plantation style building is large enough to house a coffee shop, gift store and boasts a spacious lanai for hosting hula shows and music. Small but charming, this place hits the spot. They roast a wide variety of coffee and their hospitality is fantastic. I don’t want to leave.

We land on a swath of beach three miles long and 100 miles wide. Papohaku Beach. I have never seen such an incredible beach. There

Best beach ever. Unbelievable expanse of deserted and undeveloped sand. Incredible! Papohaku Beach.
Best beach ever. Unbelievable expanse of deserted and undeveloped sand. Incredible! Papohaku Beach.

is no one here with us (okay, a young tattooed couple almost hiding in the rocks). You cannot see a house or anything. It is just sand and surf and the wind. Swimming is  not advised. The seashells are abundant so there I go scouting for tiny treasures. I love when I get them back home and there is sand clinging to the little fissures and openings. The sea coming home with me is nice.

Next stop is a resort where you can rent condos, the Kalua Koi Beach. It seems deserted. We meet a couple from the Midwest who after vacationing here for decades, have just retired and moved here. They say everything has stayed the same. Nothing changes. There is a slow pace they enjoy. I’m not sure about you, but I think this would be paradise, a great place to retire.

Our next ride drops us at Maunaloa Town where the Big Wind Kite Factory is located. It is the store and it is the factory. Back beyond the book section, tables are strewn with kite making materials under big

Magical mystery ride inside this place- total throwback to the 70s and everyone just loved it!
Magical mystery ride inside this place- total throwback to the 70s and everyone just loved it!

windows. The same owners have had it for decades and the vibe is that of a 70s head shop. Jewelry and t-shirts and used books and wind chimes and kites. This is definitely the spot for unique shopping on Molokai. I buy a book about ghosts and climb aboard the van. It is so obvious that unseen forces blend with the seen world here. I don’t really believe in things like that, but from the stories I’ve been hearing, you don’t need to believe in the Hawaiian spirits for them to be real. Your beliefs are not important, haha.

Hotel Molokai awaits. It is a cluster of low slung buildings on the water, under refurbishment and that means the kitchen, too. Our

Rustic and earthy with a patio door that doesn't really lock, I never felt unsafe and am ready to return.
Rustic and earthy with a patio door that doesn’t really lock, I never felt unsafe and am ready to return.

desk clerk is from Peoria, about 100 miles from where I live. The open air concept is charming but this is a rustic hotel; fan only, no A/C. To get to where dinner is being served, I walk through the construction area in the bar. The pool is tiny but lovely and a group of hipsters are there partying it up. The food is great, especially for a

Island bungalows capture days gone by and rustic luxury at Hotel Molokai.
Island bungalows capture days gone by and rustic luxury at Hotel Molokai.

first meal after a renovation. This little engine is trying very hard and doing a fantastic job of reinventing itself for visitors. I really like the laid back vibe of this place. The back of my room is all screen door and there is no lock, just a chain. I sleep peacefully with the screen open. There is very little crime because where would one go after committing a crime? The island is ten by twenty eight miles. Sure you can run, but you really can’t hide.

I am late to the lobby so miss the trip to the Kanemitsu Bakery. I am crushed but wait patiently in the lobby, hoping someone will share this legendary bread and they do. This bakery is open all night because people visiting off island carry it as a gift to ohana and friends. There is no website but there is a great story by wakeandwonder on the jaunted blog website. Most planes leave before 7 am so getting the bread the night before is the way to go! The bread is a warm lump of surprise with cinnamon or fruit filling and is so tasty. I’m not really embarrassed to be tearing handfuls off of someone else’s loaf (thanks Ken and Wendy Kimi), but I should be. What I shouldn’t be is hungry after my recent dinner. Instead, I’m just a tad jealous of everyone clutching their brown bags of steaming bread. Ugh.

The next morning I’m so excited to see the Molokai Airport. Our

Prop over Molokai taken by Ken Kimi. I love a little prop plane. 'Ohana Airlines gave us a short and sweet ride.
Prop over Molokai taken by Ken Kimi. I love a little prop plane. ‘Ohana Airlines gave us a short and sweet ride.

flight leaves at 7 am and this airport is cute and little. Travelers look the same as others the world over; cranky to be there so early, grappling with small children and confused looking elderly. But this place is pretty calm. It’s apparent we’re outsiders. Molokai get about 1000 visitors a day which is a substantial number considering their focus has not been tourism. The ongoing dilemma here is to attain the sweet spot balance between of delicious Molokai culture and inviting and accepting the world flavor. It is problematic but Molokai Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Julie Bicoy presses on, knowing that the right strategy will keep the chill while warming the island for curious world travelers. Molokai is lovely.

Stay tuned for more of your armchair travels. Don’t you want to go? Words and pictures don’t really suffice. Breathing the air, meeting the big Hawaiian teachers and hiking to Phallic Rock? Has to be done. Come…

Like a Moth to a Maui Flame…. Come Part 1

It’s been a month since I left for a nine day trip to Maui Nei. I had never been to Maui, all islands but. I was excited because I knew there was on old whaling town and how I love history. Little did I know the depth of that history or how it would draw me, like a moth to a Maui flame. Better yet, this trip was sponsored by the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA) and the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA)– two groups that support agents and promote travel in ways that deepen cultural understanding and depth of destination. It is the perfect first trip to Maui and I leave with more friends and bigger Hawaiian dreams.

Arriving – Well the rainbows are personal with me. I love Hawaii and I am not ashamed to say that I think Hawaii loves me. I stop counting at nine rainbows during my ride to the resort.

Welcoming rainbow at breakfast my first day. This was taken sitting at my table.
Welcoming rainbow at breakfast my first day. This was taken sitting at my table.

The skies scream a welcome I could hear, even above the grumbling of the Russian driver. Russian? Yep. Hails from New Jersey, visited five years ago and never went back. Something tells me he doesn’t love his job but that his off hours on Maui make the grind worth it. He grumbles off after our arrival at the Royal Lahaina and I check in, Aloha style. Kindness flows at the front desk and at the end of the open air lobby, I spy the ocean. I rumble my suitcase upstairs and throw open the lanai doors. Ocean view, check. Ocean wave sounds, check. Coffee maker and Hawaiian coffee, check check! Time for dinner.

The sun sinks while the ocean groans and shimmers. It hugs the golden sand like a longing lover, crashing again and again in its passion. I see this from where I’m eating dinner. Tiki lights are lit, Hawaiian music plays and the tinkle of ice from drinkers at the bar supply a background melody. I’m exhausted. I never sleep the night before a trip and I’ve been up almost 16 hours, most of them spent in an airport or airplane. A full stomach has me moving into the corridor and doing the Mai Tai stumble to the elevator. It is time.

When my consciousness meets daylight, I have this great realization that I’m in Maui. Yippeee! Two whole days to explore before my business trip starts so first things first-

Everyone enjoying Aloha life on the beach!
Everyone enjoying aloha life on the beach!

walking shoes and sunglasses, I hit the beach. What a beautiful beach- Ka’anapali. Long golden stretch with the Black Rock sticking out. I meet many other early wanderers and then cruise up to the walking path that separates the Ka’anapali Golf Courses from the ocean. It wanders in front of the resorts in this area so a good long stretch awaits. Everyone is up! People are surfing! The different resorts I stroll through are each unique but I really like the pools at the Westin.

I find a spot to sit and just watch everyone; the workers at the surf shack trying to kill the night’s after effects with coffee, retired

Golden sand and waves whisper. Ka'anapali Beach is incredible.
Golden sand and waves whisper. Ka’anapali Beach is incredible.

ramblers with their fanny packs huffing into their finest stride, families lugging everything needed to host a day at the beach with toddlers- all in a subdued morning mode. No rush, island style, happy and bright with the anticipation of a day in paradise. I find the Whaler’s Village and note there is everything from Kate Spade to Maui Jim’s for shopping, quite a few dining places also. But the town is waiting for me. I have a couple specific goals today and one includes the town square in Lahaina.

Banyan Tree, how did you grow so big? Art show, aren’t you glad to be nestled in its shade? Homeless people sleeping on the bench,

Planted in 1873, this tree wraps a city block in aloha.
Planted in 1873, this tree wraps a city block in aloha.

does this tree protect you? It’s natural magnificence is equal to the historical significance of the Old Lahaina Courthouse. I feel like I have struck gold. As a travel agent, I’m pleased. As a history nut, I’m thrilled. As a genealogist, I know there is royalty buried close and an old prison of dubious nature nearby. Pay dirt! No one besides a triple threat nerd like me could ever understand the thrill running in my veins as a stroll this area.

Museum
The struggle with leviathans was real during the early history of Lahaina Town.

The courthouse is a gem tenderly housing artifacts both native and haole. The banyan tree planted in 1873 has spread it’s branches and roots over the town square. The history is compelling- raucous sailors and warring Hawaiians collide with missionaries and a fledgling government, all with differing agendas. You have to know how juicy that story is but explore for yourself when you come. Spend a couple days wandering the museum now housed in

View over the harbor from the second story lanai of the old courthouse in Lahaina .
View over the harbor from the second story lanai of the old courthouse in Lahaina .

the courthouse. Stand on the second story lanai and look out at the harbor where the whalers would drop anchor. Wander through the Pioneer Inn next door and have some lunch while you watch Maui culture collide with tourists from a cruise ship. “Real surfers!” I hear one say. “Did you see her suit?” says another. “It’s up her butt crack. That can’t be right.” Don’t spit your drink trying to snuffle a choked laugh. Wipe yourself off and head to the cemetery.

Old Prison anchor
Huge anchor attached to an equally large rusting chain at the entrance to the Hale Pa’ahao, the old prison.

Now I don’t know how I was led to cemetery number one except that my mental map and where my feet trod landed me in a spot I hadn’t intended. It was the grounds of the Holy Innocents Episcopal Church but it wasn’t my final stop, I had somehow wandered here in search of a different cemetery. Coincidence? Probably not. If I don’t find them, they lead me to them. The lovely part? After I left the cemetery, there was that old prison I mentioned- Hale Pa’ahao. What a place this was- talk about some history!

Moving on on the bright heat of mid-afternoon Maui, I am finally at my destination- the Waiola Church where Waine’e Cemetery was founded in 1823. Buried here is the last King of Kauai, Kaumualii. He benevolently made an agreement with King Kameahea in order to prevent bloodshed for his subjects. Marriage to Kaahumanu who had royal Maui lineage sealed the alliance. This sacred ground is adjacent to Moku’ula, the ancestral grounds of the Maui royalty. It is being reclaimed with the intention of restoring it from a baseball diamond and parking lot to its original condition. We toured this area as part of our cultural familiarization trip for NACTA/ASTA, but I get ahead of myself. I’m also afraid I will lose you in the name trail. Anything too unfamiliar (i.e. Dick or Jane, Tiffany or Brett) and people’s eyes start glazing over.

Kinoole Memorial
Kinoole Memorial.

But this was it, what I had traipsed around in the hot son for, the sacred burial ground of Ali’i.  I sat on the lava rock wall and watched. Birds visited, people came and brought flowers and then a guy showed up with water for the flowers that were in the graves of Kaumualii and Kaahumanu. He didn’t linger, he was purposeful, but his dedication was sincere. I wanted to know his

Last King of Kauai and his wife- Ali'i burial site.
Last King of Kauai and his wife- Ali’i burial site.

story but oh, there he goes in his pick-up. I look over the abandoned baseball field and parking lot (not yet knowing it was the ancestral home of royalty waiting to be reclaimed)- consider cutting through this field but feel an inexplicable caution so take a longer, scorching way the couple of blocks into town. I later find out it is a historical and sacred site you have to call to the guardian spirits to be invited into and get goose bumps, but am grateful for the sentient whisper that keeps me from overstepping my bounds.

Lahaina Town again and back to the shuttle stop. Great service there from Ka’anapali; two dollars will get you all the way into or out

Many places to explore right on Front Street in Lahaina Town!
Many places to explore right on Front Street in Lahaina Town!

of town. I am beat and ready for a swim in the breaking waves on the beach. The Royal Lahaina sure delivers for stunning views from my oceanfront room and after a dip, I sit on my balcony and relax. Coconut Shrimp from nearby CJs Deli is washed down with onion rings dipped in banana ketchup. Yes, it is good! Tomorrow starts my familiarization trip and from what I have already experienced on my own, I can’t wait to learn more!

Later our group congregates in the lobby and we are a far flung group! Florida, Texas, Vancouver BC, California, Denver, Iowa, Nevada,

Our host at the Royal Lahaina, Jennifer Carvalho. She welcomed us like we were Ali'i!
Our host at the Royal Lahaina, Jennifer Carvalho. She welcomed us like we were Ali’i! Jennifer is center, Steven and Louisa Wong on the left of her, Shelia Sweet and Nicole Dalasta to her right.

New Jersey, Honolulu and more are represented. The Maui and Molokai Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus are represented by people we lean on and embrace for their insider knowledge – Chris Kai’aokamalie and Julie Bicoy. Representing NACTA is Ken Kimi and his lovely wife Wendy. We gather to meet and greet then head over the

Happy FAMers at the Myths of Maui Luau. Left to right: Donna Evans, Renee Drummond, Ed Davis, Lesley Trudelle and Chris Kai'aokamalie enjoying the feast before the show!
Happy FAMers at the Myths of Maui Luau. Left to right: Ken Kimi/NACTA Hawaii Chapter Director, Donna Evans, Renee Drummond, Ed Davis, Lesley Trudelle and Chris Kai’aokamalie/MVCB Director of Leisure Sales, all enjoying the feast before the show!

Myths of Maui Luau on the grounds of the Royal Lahaina. The food and drinks are amazing, the entertainment a wow, especially the cameos set against the setting sun. As great as it has been, the time change hits me and bed awaits, another Mai Tai shuffle to the room.

Bright and early we meet Jennifer Carvalho who shows us fantastic oceanfront rooms at the Royal Lahaina, rooms in the high rise towers and recently redone cottages big enough for a family. Nice and sumptuous, with a heavy

History and caffeine collide at the Maui Grown Coffee Company.
History and caffeine collide at the Maui Coffee Company.

dose of island decorating, perfect for honeymooners, families or any kind of getaway. Next stop, the MauiGrown Coffee next to the old Pioneer Mill site. Old railroad engines that carried the sugar cane to the mill line the parking area, as well as the smoke stack. The operation is tiny but mighty and the brews are sublime, set in the little historical storefront used to be the company office.

We next stop in the parking lot next to a thrift store. A loud backhoe pummels the blacktop while two explorer types crouch in a little hole slightly filled with water, absorbed in the hole with serious

Maui Ne Expeditions guide Kalapana Kollars begins our tour at the Mukele site and then leads us into town.
Maui Ne Native Expeditions guide Kalapana Kollars begins our tour at the Moku’ula site and then leads us into town.

looks.  As we wait for Kalapana Kollars from the Maui Nei Native Expeditions to being our tour, we wander to a large placard that explains the meaning of this Moku’ula site and the plans for its restoration. The field we seek to enter requires chanting in between two of our guides. We stand silent as they voice the greeting and its answer. Then we move forward. This tour and the company that created it is at the root of a cultural resurgence that unveils sites, legends and the native way of life. Hawaii has beautiful beaches, but it is so much more if you open your mind and heart to the true essence of Aloha! …. Stay tuned for more!