Tuesday, October 28, 2014

D + C | Honeymoon Part 1: Maui.

Not that I wasn't expecting our honeymoon to be completely wonderful, but it somehow exceeded all expectations to become the most amazing trip of my life.  We spent the first 4 nights on Maui, then flew to Kauai for an additional 5 nights.  To avoid picture overload, I'm splitting them up over 2 posts, 1 per island.  

{Our first day}

We landed late in the afternoon, immediately bought ourselves some fresh flower leis in baggage claim (love that), and headed to our hotel, the Westin Maui Resort & Spa in our cliched (but awesome) rented white Jeep.  After checking in, we sat down at one of the on-site restaurants (Relish) and ordered our first in the string of best seafood meals we've ever had.  We watched the sun set right in front of us along Ka'anapali Beach, sipping our first rum-filled drinks.  And that's when we completely fell in love with Hawaii.  

{Cabana Day at the Resort!}

For our first full day, all we wanted to do was relax.  We rented a cabana along the beach, popped in and out of the ocean, had one of the best (but insanely expensive) massages ever, and topped it off with the Westin's on-site luau.  Fun little anecdote on my luau attire: my mom wore this same dress when we all went to Hawaii in the 80s with my grandparents and aunt (I was 2 years old and apparently a holy terror the entire trip - sorry, Mom & Dad!  I'll be much better behaved if you want to plan a family trip there now!).  

Lanai Snorkeling Tour

The following morning, we went out on an 18-person snorkel tour with Ultimate Eco-Tours. We stopped at 3 different spots along Lanai (one of the two smaller islands off Maui's coast), and saw incredible amounts of beautiful fish (Alas, no sea turtles!  But do not despair, they still come into this tale eventually!).  I really liked the intimacy of such a small boat, it meant our two tour guides (who were fantastic) were able to personalize the experience and help everyone see lots of cool stuff, but make sure you're OK with really not having any room while on the boat before signing up with them.  

{We came across an enormous school (about 50 total) of spinner dolphins on the way, and they put on a little show for us}

The Banyan Tree of Lahaina 

After snorkeling, we wandered through the little town of Lahaina, mainly to see the awesome overgrown banyan tree pictured above.  That thing is eventually going to take over the whole town, and it is pretty incredible in person. 

We had quite the treat that night: one of our wedding guests, a friend of Conor's parents, happened to spend some time living on Maui many years ago and remained friends with Alex Stanislaw, the executive chef of Maui Fish & Pasta, an incredible beachfront restaurant (right in front of Whaler's Village) that happened to be located right next to our hotel.  Well, as part of our wedding gift, he and his wife treated us to an amazing 4-course meal cooked specially for us by Chef Stanislaw (like the most delicious ahi tuna of my life, I'm salivating  just thinking about it).   It was really once in a lifetime :)  

{Lunar Eclipse!}

{Typical morning at the hotel}

The Road to Hana

While driving the Road to Hana was every bit as beautiful as you may have heard (some photographic evidence below), driving along insanely narrow, windy roads which often go to one lane is not my cup of tea.  In fact, I was actually anxious about it ahead of time.  It all went smoothly and Conor drove it awesomely, but we decided ahead of time not to go the whole way.   We got to mile 20 and then turned around to head back to have dinner back at the start of the Hana Highway.

While I would hate to give up staying on the west coast of the island (more on the "where to stay" at the bottom of the post), staying in the midst of the Hana Highway would be a great way to make sure you saw it all without being overwhelmed with the return trip.  If we had gone the full 40 miles and then had to turn around or come back all the way around the eastern and southern edge of the island (Hana is on the north shore), it would have been the longest day of all time.  People do it every day, so it can absolutely be done, but for an anxious passenger like me, this was just enough.  I know we missed some sights, but sometimes you just can't do it all at once!

{The Upper Waikani (aka Three Bears) Falls}
{Hawaii's "famous" shaved ice - not that much different from a sco-cone, I'm afraid}
{So long for now, craziest/windiest/narrowest road ever, we're off to the best DINNER ever!}
{Mama's Fish House: amazing atmosphere, service and food.  I had the mahimahi stuffed with crab and lobster 
with a macademia nut crust.  It was as delicious as that sounds.}

And so our last night on Maui ended in a sunset photoshoot on the beach in front of Mama's Fish House (could not recommend Mama's more - but be sure to get a reservation!).  Well, not quite: we then wandered to the next beach over because we'd heard a rumor that sea turtles like to sleep there at night to get away from sharks.  We thought we'd missed them after walking almost all the way to the end, when we suddenly realized that the boulders we were about to step on were actually the glorious sleeping turtles.  There were about 30 of them total, and we actually got to see a few latecomers slowly crawl out of the surf and join them.  It was just incredible.  The beach was super dark at that point, and using a flash on our phones would have disturbed them, so you'll just have to believe us that it happened ;)

Other Thoughts and Tips on Planning a Trip to Maui.

Where to Stay: Kaanapali is a gorgeous sandy beach sprawling north and south of the Westin.  There's a great pedestrian path at the beach's edge that spans miles and gives tourists an easy walking route to try restaurants at the different resorts and pop into the shops along the way.  When we go back to Maui, we will absolutely come back to Kaanapali, and most likely the Westin.  We just loved both the location on the island and the resort itself.  The water's edge is so close, making it super easy to jump in and out, move over to the pools for a bit, grab some food at the outdoor restaurants, run back up to the room, etc.  It's the perfect lay-out, with the added bonus of the sunsets (due to the western shore location), and great views of Molokai and Lanai islands off the coast.  The water has a bit of a current but is mostly very swimmer-friendly, and we even spotted some sea life right off the beach when we tried out our snorkel gear.  Perfect segue to my next comment...

Weather and Water:  Hawaii has the perfect weather every day reputation for a reason.  It was in the low-80s with partial to no clouds the whole time we were there.  The locals were complaining about the "heat and humidity" wave they've "been experiencing" and we looked at them like they were nuts.  Try Chicago in July before you start complaining about humidity!  We didn't even notice it.  The few passing sun showers we experienced were always welcome and lasted no more than 15 minutes.  It's really just perfection.  What is less stable and very unpredictable?  Ocean conditions.  The first 3 days on Maui, the ocean was calm and clear, with a few rolling waves every so often.  We got spoiled and assumed it would always be that way, so we postponed a paddle board lesson and a trip to Black Rock (a great snorkeling spot at the north end of Kaanapali Beach) for the final 2 days.  But then the wind showed up and smirked at our little plans.  That mild current became something quite scary, and I ended up not venturing into the ocean again there (though Conor had one last hurrah).  Luckily our Road to Hana drive was planned for our second to last day, so we had plenty to keep us occupied, but the lesson here is be flexible and take advantage of perfect conditions when you have them.  Don't expect to wake up to them the next day.  If you see an opportunity to do something water-related, take it while you can!

Nightlife: We were kind of surprised (but ultimately glad) to find that Hawaii shuts down in a hurry once the sun goes down.  We settled into a nice pattern of either going to an earlier dinner (5:30-6ish p.m.) to see the sunset while we ate, or enjoying a happy hour sunset view from our balcony or the pool, then getting cleaned up and heading to dinner once the sun had firmly set.  But after dinner, there is really not much to do at all.  Except for a few awesome tiki torches to light the paths, the hotels, restaurants and shops keep lights low and close on the early side.  We got on a nice schedule of going to bed relatively early for us (9:30-10 p.m.), and getting up by 7 a.m. (unheard of for us!).  After waking up well-rested and having such long days at our disposal, we immediately understood why the island likes to shut down with the sun.

I'll be back with a Kauai post as soon as I've finished editing the pictures.   Mahalo!

xo. di.

*images property of Diane Crary

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thanks so much for the note! i love reading your comments. xo. di.

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