Our Adventuresome Travels to Maui
In December of 2007, my husband and I went to Maui to celebrate our 20th anniversary.
It was an unexpected trip for me, given that he planned it all out as a surprise, knowing that he would appeal to my adventurous side. Next thing you know, we were on a flight from LAX straight to Kahalui. Normally, we would fly to Honolulu and then take a small charter from there to Maui. This time, however, my husband had something up his sleeve.
Upon arriving at Kahului airport, we rented a car and began driving through the island. Rather than staying in a fancy hotel in the more recently developed Lahaina area or in one of the beautiful Kihei condominiums, we took the road to Haleakala, the majestic volcano that sits on the Southeast of Maui and offers the most spectacular view of the sunrise in the entire world.
Haleakala, however, was not our final destination. I confess that the uneasiness of not knowing where I was headed mixed with being puzzled by the direction we took on the road made me feel as if we were on an exciting adventure. Finally, my husband disclosed that during our five days in the island, we were going to stay in a super charming bed & breakfast right in the heart of Kula. Kula is not your average tourist trap. It is a calm uphill area with stunning views of the entire West side all the way to the ocean, where Makena beach and Maalaea bay ornament the seashore.
After a couple of wrong turns, we found our Upcountry Bed & Breakfast nestled 3,000 feet up the slopes of Haleakala crater. Our host, Mike, was ever so gracious and knowing that it was a our 20th anniversary, gave us one of the best rooms in the “house” with a gorgeous view.
Once we settled in, we drove away to find a restaurant and grab a quick bite for dinner. Unfortunately, restaurants are not Kula’s forté. Possibly because the local people there prefer home-cooked meals, and if they decide to go out, then why not head towards the beach? But we did manage to find Kula Bistro and Bella Venezia Catering. With a name like that, how could we go wrong?
The food was not as Italian as we expected. It tended more towards the home-made meal flavor, which was acceptable. The Opakapaka and Veggie Risotto was our choice meal, but I would not give it more than three stars out of five. In the end, it served to satiate our hunger. With our tummies filled, we returned to Upcountry B&B for a deserved good night’s rest.
It was easy to get up in the morning because we were three hours behind our normal schedule. 10:00a.m. in Los Angeles was 7:00a.m. in Maui. Of course we were ready to be up and about. Downstairs, a luxurious breakfast awaited the guests, which at the time were not too many: cutup papaya, pineapple, mango, coconut, all sorts of tropical deliciousness, mixed with scrambled eggs, toast and jam, blueberry pancakes, accompanied by espresso coffee or herbal tea. A wonderful spread in a richly decorated setting.
The time is now 8:00a.m., the weather is starting to warm up and we were itching to go to the beach. “Let’s go to Makena!” I suggested. To get there, we would have to go all the way down the main road back to Kahului and then head towards Kihei, where Makena beach is located. Well, that is if we didn’t have Google Earth. According to Google, there was a dirt road that went straight down West through to some countryside estates. It was an old road, but for sure it would take us there, according to the map. Our rental was a four-wheel drive, so down the road we go.
For anyone who has seen “Romancing the Stone,” you may remember the escape from Juan’s ranch. Our driving down that crazy road reminded me very much of that portion of the movie, when they are being chased by the Colombian “federales” in Juan’s black Ford Bronco which he referred to as his “little mule.” At one point, I screamed. My husband had a grin on his face the entire time. Suddenly, the road ends and we are on private property facing a cow’s skull over the closed gate. That was our stopping point and we could go no further. My husband’s grin disappeared at that moment because he knew we had to turn around and go back to the regular road. Much later we would find out that those lands are owned by some pretty bad people who will shoot at trespassers without mercy. In Maui! Talk about a crazy adventure! We headed up to the highway and after about two hours, we were digging our feet in the sands of Makena Beach.
This was the very day of our anniversary, and we had already experienced quite the excitement, but not enough to spoil our plans for the evening: “Mama’s Fish House.” If you ever go to Maui, and I recommend it just for the fun of it, don’t miss this gem. It is one of the best restaurants I have ever been to, and we have traveled a little more than your average bear.
It was an unforgettable evening filled with romance, a perfect atmosphere and delectable food—the flavors still roam inside my palate’s memory. What an outstanding evening! It was then that my husband told our waitress of our plan to cross from Maui to Oahu in the brand new super-ferry—an enterprise recently launched that connected the two islands in speeds never possible before. For instance, construction workers going through a dry spell in Maui could place their trucks and tools inside the ferry and get more work in Honolulu, without having to move! Cyclists who wished to ride the pali roads in Oahu could simply bring their bikes on the ferry, bike all day, spend the night in Honolulu and return to Maui the next day. This was a way for Maui to become inter-connected with Oahu. To us, it was an amazing opportunity for unification. The locals, however, were not too thrilled with the island-to-island new means of transportation.
Maui is different than Oahu. The Maui people prefer to live their lives as they always have, without interference from outside cultures, which is perfectly understandable. You could feel the sadness in our waitress’ voice as we expressed our excitement and anticipation to take the three-hour trip on the luxurious and technologically advanced super-ferry. She was opposed to the new development stating that it would affect the whales and other marine wild life, and that it was ecologically unsafe. We understood her concerns and empathized with her as a local maui lady, without hiding our enthusiasm for what we saw as a great way to connect the two islands! A year later, the ferry project was shut down, bringing peace of mind to the Maui locals.
Our third day was dedicated to seeing Hana. I had always heard that there was a section of the island where one could experience a luscious tropical forest, covered in greenery and humidity—along with its mosquitoes. A place so beautiful that one wonders why it has always been so difficult to reach. Most visitors who have ventured to go there have earned the right to wear their staple T-Shirt: “I survived the road to Hana.” That’s because the road is twisty and twirly, enough to make many a grown man puke. Luckily, this was not to be our fate. Near Kula, right after Ulupalakua Ranch, the Maui county has built a “new” road to Hana. The back-road to Hana, as it is known, is for the most part fully asphalted.
One interesting thing about Maui is its multi-climatic and multi-vegetation sections. While driving through farmland, you suddenly find yourself in the moors of England or the cliffs of Ireland. Not too much further, mysterious trees and wetlands, black beaches, and finally the famous tropical forest. From sunshine to rain to fog, it is as if the island is exhibiting itself as a microcosm of the whole earth.
Now don’t take me wrong, the asphalted portion of the back-road to Hana is great, but once that asphalt disappears, the drive is not without its share of challenge, in other words, terribly dangerous! Although it is a two-way road, there is only space for one car and through the various curves, it is impossible to see incoming traffic. It was either through a miracle or by divine protection that we did not collide with those returning from their own adventure to Hana.
At a certain moment, the road becomes a carved path through a tall mountain where huge boulders became loose but are prevented from falling by a metal-mesh net. You drive through it and pray that the boulders do not fall. It is surreal and terrifying! Still, this road is much better than the original one. At least there was no puking involved.
We arrived. Hana is a humble and hidden place, like a jewel embedded in the veins of a huge rock. After walking around through the state park, visiting the half-destroyed pier, we went to its only restaurant, the Hana Ranch Restaurant, offering something different than excepted: hamburgers. Expensive ones, I might add. We decided to break our fish fast and try Hana Ranch’s burgers, which were not a disappointment. Suddenly, a tropical storm began to loom in the horizon cutting our trip short; we drove back through the crazy road, barely saw the Pools of Ohe’o, also known as the Seven Pools, and tried our best to beat the storm which still caught up with us. We had to go home and order pizza for dinner because all of the restaurants were closed due to the rain.
The next day the storm had passed and the morning was beautiful with calm waters. It was our super-ferry adventure day. We packed our luggage, said good-bye to Mike, our bed and breakfast host, and drove our rental car to the dock. Upon arriving at the very organized entrance to the super-ferry, we placed the car along with at least one hundred others on the ferry, and proceeded to the very front of the boat to enjoy a fantastic view, decent food and even free internet. It was a smooth trip where we got to see Molokai, a pack of dolphins, a couple of humpback whales and Honolulu from a distance. We got to enjoy Oahu for two days and then return to spend our last afternoon in Maui and fly home that same night. Yes, it was a short trip, but unforgettable nonetheless, where I got to spend quality time with my husband and engage in all sorts of crazy adventures.