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MAUI - THE VALLEY ISLE
If there was one single island I'd recommend that you visit in Hawaii, this would be it.
Maui has it all. Beautiful beaches and vistas, neat little towns and villages, the best whale viewing in the islands during the winter, a big volcano, and fabulous snorkeling. It also has some of the best restaurants in the islands and a meal to meet everyone's budget.
Perhaps the biggest resort area is Kaanapali. And while we have stayed there and enjoyed it, there's some mighty nasty coral just offshore which makes swimming difficult and snorkeling all but impossible. Our favorite resort area is called Wailea. Great snorkeling and safe beaches.
Our stay in Kaanapali came at the old Marriott right on the beach. Since that visit, they've turned it into a time share. Too bad. It was a really nice hotel and the staff was incredible. People hated to leave that place.
Our subsequent stays have come at the Renaissance Resort in Wailea, which is now a Marriott. At least I think that's what has happened. We haven't been there for a few years and things change fast out there! Great place and the rates don't send you to the poor farm.
Snorkeling is fabulous in Maui. And one time while snorkeling off Wailea I heard noises like kids screaming around me. Turns out the noise I heard underwater was the song of the humpback whale! One was just a few hundred feet away from me. Everybody on the beach was standing up pointing as the big fella jumped out of the water! Humpbacks come fairly close to shore in March and April and theyre one of the joys of experiencing Maui. The humpbacks spend the winter off the Hawaiian islands and then commute to the Bering sea for the summer. Thats one heck of a swim, ay?
During one visit to Maui we had an incredible encounter with a rare and endangered Hawaiian Monk seal while snorkeling at Molikini. This big guy (about 6 feet in length) came right up to all of us. He stood "toe to toe" in the water with my daughter, Christie, grasping her with his side flippers. He put his face right up to her mask so close that she could feel his whiskers touching her face around the mask, blew some bubbles and then swam over to "embrace" another swimmer. The dive master told us that two or three times a year a seal, usually a male, will visit Molikini and that he was usually in a "romantic mood." Okay so he was horny! The dive master said he wouldn't hurt us and that if anybody felt uncomfortable with him clutching them, they should just spin gently and he'd let go and run off and play with someone else. Back on the boat I quipped to the dive master that I felt sorry for him with all those people pestering him. She replied: "Don't feel sorry for him!!! He CHOOSES to play with people. He's protected by Federal Law under the endangered species act, therefore people aren't allowed to touch him. But if he wants to touch them, that's fine. And he loves it!" What a moving experience to interact with a completely wild and friendly animal. I took some great underwater shots and you can check 'em out by clicking here.
Another neat thing about Maui is the volcano--Haleakala (pronounced holly-ahk-ah-lah). Its a big mountain---about 10,000 feet high---and people say the sunrise each morning is incredible. But dress warm because it can be quite chilly up there. Many ride up in organized van tours and then glide down the mountain on bikes after observing the sunrise. Our daughter and her husband took the trip and loved it. But it was about 32 degrees up at the summit before sunrise! Burr!!!!
Hana is referred to as Heavenly Hana” and is a long and somewhat scary drive from the resorts of Maui. Charles Lindbergh is buried there (the famous aviator). We drove about half way there and then turned around because the roads are so narrow and slow and we did not allow enough time to make it back before sundown.
The flowers are beautiful on Maui and everywhere you look is a treat to the eyes. Take lots of money, though. Id say everythings about 40% more than youll find in the mainland.
One strange favorite food is Portuguese sausage. Youll even find it on the menu at McDonalds! Local seafood is great especially the fresh tuna. Again...its expensive, even for the locals. They pay $11/pound for fresh tuna at the grocery. We actually pay about the same or a little less here on the mainland!
Lahaina is a neat little city full of tourist shops, restaurants, bars, etc. Its an old whaling village.
For those crazy Hawaiian shirts--visit Hilo Hattie's in Maui. She's got an incredible array of men's shirts, ladies' wear, sun tan oils, shell necklaces, even locally concocted perfumes and colognes. Great place and they've got good prices. To get a head start on your Hawaiian shopping or to shop for stuff once you get back to the mainland, you can shop on line.
SOME RESTAURANT REVIEWS & SUGGESTIONS ON MAUI
There are many wonderful restaurants to choose from on Maui including Roy Yamaguchi's famous eateries, etc. But below are our personal favorites.
Mama's Fish House is, in our opinion, one of the best fish restaurant in the Hawaiian Islands. It's pricey but it's great and right on the water. The kids will appreciate the surfers doing their thing when the waves are up. Read our personal review here.
Erik's Seafood Grotto is another excellent fish restaurant in all of Hawaii, in our humble opinion. Plenty to choose from in a relaxed atmosphere. Plus, they serve some great steamed clams. Read our personal review here.
Roy's specializes in Asian fusion cuisine. You'll find them throughout the islands and now on the mainland, too. They match flavorful, exotic sounding sauces with the freshest fish available. But the fish remains the star of the show. The sauce compliments the fish and never overpowers it. Enjoy fresh tuna, salmon, Mahi Mahi and some prime steaks. Great cocktails and a very impressive wine list. Fantastic service always with a smile. Elegant yet not stuffy. And the molten chocolate soufflé is mandatory! One of the best chocolate desserts ever!! Our favorite You'll find two Roy's on Maui. We have only eaten at the one in Lahaina.
Paia Fish Market is on "the other side" of the island from the sparkling hotels. It's not far from Mama's Fish House (reviewed above). It's a little fish market and store where you select your fish, pay the bill and sit down until your server brings you your meal. Great, fresh fish. Extremely casual but well worth a visit. This would be a good option after bicycling down from the summit of Haleakala.
Longhi's is a little more upscale than some places but it's a great dining experience. They now have several but our experience has been with the original restaurant in Lahaina.
Alexander's Fish, Chicken and Ribs located at Kihei offers excellent fried or broiled Wahoo and other fish 'n chips at a take-a-way counter. Rustic but affordable by Maui standards and excellent. And you can have your fish grilled or the traditional way--fried, greasy and wonderful! Read our personal review here.
Chart House Restaurant used to have three locations on Maui----Lahaina, Wailea, and Kuhului. Apparently they have folded or sold to somebody else. They were good places with great prime rib and fabulous salad bars. I've always been puzzled why they were never listed on the Chart House web site. Same thing for the Chart House in St. Thomas at least when they still had one there, too.
Tony Roma's, the famous rib place, has a branch in Kihei and it's exactly like the other franchises around the world. We've enjoyed these restaurants in such locations as Aruba, Seoul, even in Guam! Good barbecued ribs and by Hawaiian standards, reasonable prices.
The Maui Onion Restaurant located by the pool of the beautiful Renaissance Resort in Wailea serves up perhaps the best onion rings you'll ever enjoy. The key is using sweet Maui Onions and the preparation. I'm not 100% sure but I think they bread their sweet Maui Onions with Japanese panko breadcrumbs to make them light, crisp and dee-licious!