We visited Maui, Hawaii for the first time recently, and boy, did it stand up to the hype! Anyone who has been seems to melt at the mention of it. Seriously… I had heard so many good things about the place. And since we have been back home, about 70% of my colleagues are now thinking that they might like to visit this year! It really is that beautiful a place. 🙂
So a bit about where we stayed etc., first:
We decided on going with a condo, rather than a hotel, as we prefer a kitchen – super-essential when you are a vegan family, I find. Not only does it mean we can make our own vegan meals, but we save money on constantly eating out… and I have to be honest – I do get a little bored after a few days of “Where shall we go for lunch”. I also feel a little more like a local – like I am living there – not just experiencing a hotel resort. We booked with VRBO/HomeAway – and I searched for a 2br with ocean view… We were celebrating our 20th anniversary, plus would be there for Christmas Day, so I wanted it to be special.
Room with a View:
As it happened, our daughter got a nasty cold for the first few days (not helped by the cramped space and recycled air on the plane, I am sure). So she was pretty much holed up in her bedroom for the first few days. So Other Half and I would take turns going out for a beach walk/investigating the area, etc. Now, had we been in a garden apartment, sans sea view, I might have been a little dejected at being somewhere so beautiful, but not being able to experience it yet. But as we had the wonderful lanai – I could just prop myself up on the bar stool, grab my easy vacation-read book, a cold drink, floppy hat and a view with a breeze… and I was a very happy girl. I would say booking a sea view is well worth a little extra, if you can. In this instance, it was a life-saver! 🙂
So, many a morning and sunset would find me sat dreamily on the lanai, glass in hand… surf sounding gently in my ears, sun gently tanning my pale skin… Most evenings, at sunset, at least one person would blow sounds from a conch shell, from their lanai… I wasn’t sure if it was to encourage whales to communicate, at first, but a little research told me that this is a Hawaiian tradition: The blowing of the Pu. It definitely adds to the mystical feel of the place.
Once our daughter was back on her feet and in the land of the living, we started to get out more. Our condo was in the South West of the island – in Kihei. We had researched before booking and read that this area was the drier part of the island. It also had plenty of little restaurants, banks, grocery stores, etc. and of course… the beaches! When looking online, we had read about specific beaches being better, but I guess it just depends on what you are after. Our condo’s beach area was lovely and quiet – and great for a dip or snorkel in the warm water (what a refreshing change from Canadian water!). But if you are after surfing and sports, then a little lower down (still Kihei, but heading towards Wailea) seems to have more of that kind of action. Up island too.
As vegans, we found quite a few options for us – for eating out and in.
We loved Hawaiian Moons café and store…. It has a food bar, which is labeled – with (I would estimate) about 70% vegan options, although there were also some chicken/meat options too… So not completely veggie. You can also order fresh sandwiches and smoothies, etc. The store had heaps of vegan/veggie staples too – which was great. We ate here a couple of times (there is a seated area inside) and I had the most delicious carrot/ginger/apple/orange/turmeric/other stuff smoothie there! 🙂
We stocked up on vegan goodies from the 2 large grocery stores too… which was great… even found some US stuff we hadn’t tried yet.
Christmas Hawaiian style:
On the morning of Christmas Eve, we attempted to get down to Wailea to see Santa arrive via kayak… However, it was super-busy in the resort, and we ended up missing his arrival – but saw him sitting down with the kids. Great looking resort – but far too busy for us… so we hung around for 10 mins or so, and then took off to go do a little shopping in the nearby mall..
We spent the second half of the day heading up to Lahaina. This was also very busy – I am guessing everyone was out and had the Christmas/holiday spirit (in many ways!). Lahaina has an old town kind of vibe. The main run of it is on Front St: Lots of restaurants, shops, hair salons giving samples (!), galleries, a harbour, bars, etc. Something we had been looking forward to seeing was the Banyan Tree. This tree is the 2nd largest of its kind in the world (the first being in India, I believe). It is quite remarkable to look at. It looks as though its branches hang down and create more trunks… it spreads out over the local buildings too, and has lights on it, which makes it quite magical in the evening light. In the day there are market stalls around…and once you have seen it lit up at dusk, not much more reason to hang around there.
Daughter was still a little drained at this point, so we hung around for about 2 hrs, then drove back, singing carols all the way! 🙂
We did stop off at Target, for a couple of impromptu gifts for the next day, which was also very convenient. Maui is such a great place – you still get some of the big box stores, can visit malls with the top designers (Gucci, Tiffany’s, and all that stuff) – and there are all the wonderful surfer clothing stores (my personal faves) such as Roxy, QuickSilver, etc., and still frequent tons of farmers markets and small shops too. They manage to work that really well, and it doesn’t feel like it spoils the place. Not too big, not too small… but just right, Goldilocks!
Another lovely event was on Christmas Eve, the condo peeps had set up a voluntary carol singing session… We wanted to make sure our daughter didn’t feel like she was missing Christmas, so we all went for it! The kids wore neon glow stick bracelets, took flashlights, etc. and there we were, in the dark, walking around the outside of the condo, by the beach, serenading the residents… it was truly magical… and something we will all remember. Especially when my Other Half started to get a little too… ‘choral’ with his singing! 😀
Christmas Day was spent opening gifts, and making Christmas Dinner: Heaps of local organic veggies, and other vegan goodies. We didn’t go too crazy, to try to avoid over-buying and then wasting remaining food… as we planned to have a second Christmas Dinner back home on Vancouver Island – which you can read about here!
And then in the evening, we dined out at an Indian Restaurant close to our condo: Monsoon India. They had the usual veggie options (channa masala, aloo mutter, aloo gobi, etc.) samosas, pakoras, etc. and the food was really good…But the most amazing part was the view. We booked for 5.30 pm and the sunset was truly spectacular.
A fantastic way to finish Christmas Day off…
Road to Hana:
The road up the Hana Highway was highly recommended – but a heads-up: the driving is pretty taxing, as there are constant winding wet roads. Takes good concentration. They do have it pretty well organized though, as there are wet bridges (due to waterfalls all over), where they have set one side at a time to wait/yield to oncoming traffic, before continuing on. We had heard there can be some petty theft at some of the stops along the route – and we did actually see a smashed window on a car we pulled in next to. This made us a little anxious (well, daughter was not keen to get out, to be honest), so we just skipped that stop. Two things we wanted to make sure we did on our way, was to stop and see turtles, and also to visit the botanical gardens at the Garden of Eden.
We did eventually see turtles at a beautiful breathtaking stop at Ho’okipa Beach. We pulled up there and enjoyed the amazing surf – and watched the surfers, and further up the beach, you can see a sign and a roped off area which says it is for turtles resting…. And we waited there for about 30 mins, but no sign…. We decided to head back up to the top of the cliff to see if there was a good view from there, had a fresh coconut water drink, and made our way back down towards our car, feeling a little disappointed at the no-show… and then suddenly, my Other Half thought he saw a large flipper in the water below… then we realized it was a turtle! We hurried back to our earlier vantage spot… and sure enough, one by one, these HUGE turtles started slowly making their way out of the water onto the rocks. They were AWESOME. So much bigger than I had anticipated, too.
After the exhilaration of that, we made our way along the windy uphill roads to the Garden of Eden. This place was a treat. From the friendly staff at the start, to the stubborn ducks that like to block your way in your vehicle, to the insanely beautiful tropical flowers and plants… There are washrooms and places to sit and viewpoints undercover all the way around… Waterfalls and a little gift shop and gallery.
We drove a little further – maybe another 40 mins and then made the decision to head back home… we had hoped to get all the way, and experience the vegan ice cream, but the sky was starting to grow dark, and personally, I didn’t fancy driving those windy roads in pitch black.
We skipped out on going to a traditional Luau: We figured that it is not really going to work for our family, as vegans. Part of the traditional ceremony includes a pig cooked in the earth. There are a few places that do offer vegan meals/options, apparently, but I don’t think any of us wanted to chance seeing the pig, and so we decided to skip this. I heard that it is more of a tourist event really, so we are fine with that. For anyone who is still keen to hear where they do vegan offerings, I believe it was the Feast at Lele. (I will edit this if incorrect).
What else to say about Maui? Is it paradise? Yes. Is it how you imagine Hawaii? Yes (unless you watch Hawaii 5O as that is more Honolulu on Oahu, I believe). Would we go again? In a heartbeat. What was the best part? The people (friendly, relaxed), sunshine, palm trees, surf, warm water, sprinkles of rain, flowers, music (oh the music – I LOVE it!). The worst part? Leaving!
So if you get the chance to visit this place… take it. It lives up to the dream. Aloha!