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.
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-
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
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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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!