David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
“Getting Maui’d Again”
Part 2 – Returning to Maui
It is always a joy to be able to go to Hawaii. There is so much beauty and happiness there that any visit always becomes a very special memory. As I briefly mentioned in an earlier blog, my wife and I mixed a little kismet with a desire to celebrate one of her milestone birthdays and came up with a six night stay on Maui. It was a wonderful getaway with special memories, and great experiences, but it also had a few disappointments and obstacles along the way. I covered part one of this report – specifically about the Grand Wailea – in my blog last week. In this part two, I’ll detail a bit more about our planning and some of what we did on the trip.
When we were first looking for a celebration destination around the globe, we received an out-of-the blue offer for Hawaii round-trips at reduced mileage levels from United. As I’ve blogged before we had just-about sworn-off mileage redemption on United, but in this case we had enough miles left in my account for my wife’s ticket, and I was already in San Francisco on a business trip, so it seemed like a no-brainer to do it. We had been to Maui one time before – staying at an Airbnb on Sugar Beach in Kihei – so this time we decided to take the plunge and stay in the upper-scale Wailea area. It is a pricey place to stay – even when redeeming points – but this was a special celebration, so we figured what the heck. We booked a reward stay at the Courtyard by Marriot for the night we arrived on the island (at 6pm) so we could rest and acclimate, then booked five nights at the Grand Wailea – a Hilton “Waldorf Astoria” level property (one night on an American Express free night certificate, and the next four on a mixed “points and dollars” award.)
The Courtyard for the first night turned out to be everything we expected. Near the airport, a clean, cool place to sleep and catch-up for our first night before we started our real vacation. I highly recommend this as a great plan – saving the cost of a more expensive property that one could only enjoy for a few hours, and then heading to it the next day after a good night’s sleep. We would-up having breakfast at the IHOP and visiting the Maui Tropical Plantation while we waited for our resort room to be ready. (Since I covered the resort very thoroughly in my last blog, I won’t rehash it again here.)
As for touring Maui, we made the journey on the Road to Hana our last time visiting, so as part of this one we took our first trip to Haleakalā National Park and visited its peak at sunrise. This is definitely a must do for anyone that can get there. Maui was exceptionally hot and humid for this time of year (a high of about 88 degrees and about 80% humidity) but at the top of Haleakalā (about 10,000 feet) the temperature was a windy 38 degrees. You can either drive yourself (on tight, dark, winding mountain roads with no guard rails at 3am), take an expensive tour that provides you with winter coats, or take a less expensive tour and remember to bring your own coats (or be cold.) We used Polynesian Adventures (which is bookable by dozens of firms – so shop around) and our tour guide / driver was named Preston – and he was great. The views were exceptional and the experience breathtaking. The photos and linked video (click any picture below) don’t do it justice.
We also took a tour of the island of Lana’i this time around. There is a ferry that goes between Maui and Lana’i, and we booked a tour with “Lost on Lana’i” to visit Lana’i City, Keahiakawelo (the Garden of the Gods), Shipwreck Beach and the planet’s only Cat Sanctuary.
Lana’i is very sparsely populated and doesn’t have a lot of modern conveniences, but the tour was still eye-opening and also had breathtaking views. We wound-up not visiting the places for the time or in the order we booked them, as the tour company “had someone call-in sick” so we were combined with another tour at the last minute and stuck in the back row of a Chevy Suburban for the day. (Lost on Lana’i wound up doing the right thing and giving us a partial refund as a result.) It is certainly worth a visit if you want to see what it was like living on Hawaii before the tourism industry, and want to know what it’s like sitting amongst 600 cats (and also want to see what new owner of 90% of the island Larry Ellison is doing there.) As we were boarding the morning ferry to Lana’i, it was interesting to see the Lana’i locals getting off in Maui to visit the Costco, Walmart, Target and other shops to stock-up on milk, eggs and other essentials that are either scarce or far more expensive for them at home. When we came back from our tour they were going home with their coolers, suitcases and bags packed-up with supplies and groceries.
On our last day on the island, we traveled to one of the “Upcountry” towns to see a bit of how the locals lived. We visited a couple of glass-blowing factories and a rustic town called Makawao. It had a mix of galleries geared strictly for adventurous (if not frugal) tourists, and shops for the locals. One notable exception to both was when we wandered into a little storefront showing pretty placemats and scarves that turned out to be the personal gallery of artist Sherri Reeve. You’ve probably seen her work before in stores like Pier One or The Nature Gallery. It’s also a must see on any trip to Maui, both for the collector and the tourist wanting to bring-back inexpensive but beautiful things.
When our visit was at an end and it was time to fly back home, we noticed that the facilities at OGG - Kahului Airport are definitely being beefed-up for greater tourism and travel in the future.
There is now a new tram that goes between the airport and the car rental building, and the airport is being expanded to accommodate international flights in the near future. (This makes sense, as a supermarket has opened near the abandoned sugar cane fields in the middle of the island. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that they’d only open a supermarket where they expect a lot of people to be shopping and therefore living in the near future.) One could only hope that the airport adds some more fans or air-conditioned areas as the 80+ degrees / 80% humidity was nearly unbearable while checking in, checking bags and going through agriculture inspections and security. As I stated earlier it was far worse than the last time we visited, as the added humidity made it impossible to keep wearing my sweat-soaked shirt on the flight back – and in the era of rapid-drying / wicking shirts that never happens anymore unless it’s truly, excruciatingly hot and humid.
We had a great time on this trip (despite any difficulties) and certainly look forward to our next Hawaiian adventure.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.