Peachhead™ Approved Vacations: Vacation in Maui 2011
Every year we visit Maui during the Winter Break and this year we stayed at a new place: the Honua Kai Resort, located in Lahaina. This resort has over 600 rooms, including studios and one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites complete with full kitchen (including microwave), living room, washer dryer, dvd player, and TVs in the bedrooms as well as the living room. Everything is top quality and the refrigerator, range, microwave and dishwasher are Bosch appliances. The room is very spacious with unique sliding doors that completely open up like an accordion (giving you a great outdoorsy view) and then a special screen to keep the bugs out. The resort has a wonderful pool with a water slide, waterfall and even a shallow sandy beach area for the kids. The pool area has a lazy river (however, it is so lazy that there is no water pressure taking you around so you get to swim yourself around the river). If you prefer the beach instead of the pool, the resort has a beautiful beach to enjoy where you can rent chairs to relax. The hotel sells innertubes for $10.00 each, which I loved, as many hotels charge $10.00 per day just to rent them. The resort has a wonderful Family Fun Club for children ages 3-12. You can sign up by the hour, half day, full day, and even evening programs. For those of you who like to exercise while on vacation, there are two fitness rooms to choose from. Both fitness rooms have weight machines, cardio equipment with TVs connected to them, and free weights. Duke’s Beach House is Honua Kai Resort’s beachside restaurant where you can dine with an incredible view. They have live music daily and a happy hour from 3-5. Duke’s Beach House is the restaurant for the pool as well and you get the benefit of happy hour poolside. We had a wonderful dinner there which included the steak, chicken, shrimp scampi and ravioli, and ribs. They have a nice selection for the children’s menu as well. My kids loved the lava cake for dessert. ‘Aina Gourmet Market is another option for dining on the property as it is a cute little café with a coffee bar, pastries, prepared salads and snacks and hot Panini sandwiches. They also have groceries and sundries available. I really enjoyed staying at this resort. Everything is so clean, modern, and sleek. There is Hawaiian flair to the property but it is very subtle and while it has the look of being exclusive, there is an inclusive vibe where everyone feels welcome. All of the employees were so nice and genuinely seem happy to be there. They always have a smile on their face and are always willing to help you out or give you advice on whatever you may need.
We are fortunate to have friends who own a couple of timeshares at the Westin Kaanapali Villas, so our second week we moved to this resort. They have studios and one- and two- bedroom villas. This is also a wonderful family resort with a variety of pools, including a shipwreck pool for the younger ones, a pool with a slide, and a pool where you can play volleyball. They even added a kids play structure for the little ones. There are 2 fitness rooms on property with cardio machines and weight machines, as well as free weights. I love that there are a number of bbq’s throughout the property as we typically bbq for lunch and then venture out for our dinners.
Mala has always been one of the most popular restaurants in Maui. Recently, Mark Ellman opened a new restaurant next door to his Mala Restaurant called Honu Seafood and Pizza. The ambience is so pleasant and very open. As you walk in you are captivated by the beautiful view of the ocean with the sun setting in the background. As it gets dark, you enjoy your meal while listening to the waves crashing. While the ambience is great, the food is what makes this restaurant stand out amongst the rest. Their menu has everything from pizza to seafood to fried pig ears. While I didn’t try the fried pig ears, everything we did have was amazing. We started out with a Margherita Pizza that was cooked to perfection (we have traveled New York in search of the best New York Pizza and we ended up finding our favorite pizza in Maui). I am a big fan of Burrata mozzarella so I was very excited to try the Fresh Burrata Mozzarella with Olowalu tomatoes, hazelnut cherry bread, drizzled with olive oil and kona sea salt. It was just the right combination and every bite was delightful. For my main course, I had the Snake River Farms Filet Mignon Oscar (crab, asparagus and Hollandaise, served with purple potato purees). Delectable. They have a great kids' menu with basics the kids will love such as a cheeseburger, chicken strips, and pasta. "Honu" means sea turtle so they brought my girls these cute little sea turtles to play with that they loved. This restaurant has something for everyone and the service was superb. There was not one moment when I was looking for a server to get me anything. I noticed the employees always eyeing the tables to see if anything needed to be taken away or if there was anything we needed. Exceptional evening.
If you are looking for a restaurant with an incredible view at sunset, Plantation House is the restaurant to visit. It overlooks the Plantation Golf course at Kapalua and has incredible views. The restaurant is very elegant, yet comfortable, and the staff is incredibly friendly. We started out with an appetizer dish that had goat cheese and tomato on a toasted bread. It was a great way to start out the evening. I discovered my new favorite drink here, a mango martini--so light and refreshing. There were so many wonderful appetizers to choose from; I love ahi so I started with the ahi sashimi “Mediterranean style which is created using infused lemon oil, Hawaiian Sea Salt, and Arugula.” Divine. My girls love scallops so we also had the scallop skewers with apple smoked bacon and Lehua Honey-Guava Glaze; it was so sweet and delicious. The Caesar salad was wonderful as well. For our main course, we had the filet, rib eye steak, and the fish dish. What is wonderful about the Plantation House is that they have a number of different ways they prepare the fish, so you choose your fish and the preparation and you then have your perfect dish. I had my fish prepared using the Taste of Maui preparations which consists of pistachio crusted Hawaiian catch on Maui Onions, Kula Tomatoes and Upcountry Spinach, with Mediterranean couscous and virgin olive oil. It was a wonderful combination. They have a wonderful children’s menu with grilled chicken and steak as well as other items so the kids can have a grown up meal as well. Being a chocolate chocoloate lover, I was very excited to see a molten chocolate brownie with vanilla bean ice cream on the dessert menu. The perfect ending to the perfect meal.
We always like to walk around Lahanina at night and walk down Front Street to see the various art galleries and stores. Further down Front Street is a little shopping center with two restaurants, I’O and Pacific’O both owned by Chef James McDonald. We dined at Pacific’O one evening. This is a casual fine dining restaurant right on the beach and they cater to families. Your kids can actually play in the sand while you enjoy your Mai Tai and dinner. They have a children’s menu with all of your kids' favorites including burgers, hot dogs, and quesadillas, and they also have fresh fish for the kids. James is also the owner of O’O farm where almost 100% of the salad greens and herbs come from the O’O farm in Kula to his restaurants. Most of the fish served at Pacific’O are caught locally so the fish are delivered straight from the waters to the restaurant. I started my meal with the soup du jour, an amazing French onion, very rich in flavor, followed by the Poke Bar. All of our main courses were wonderful. The Roast Rack was a very large portion of New Zealand spring lamb that was incredibly tasty, the Pink-Peppered Beef, a grilled filet mignon that was so tender and flavorful and topped with gorgonzola cheese, and the chicken was incredibly moist. The red snapper prepared Kona Winds style was wonderful as well. Every dish was beautifully displayed and really nice portions. We ended the evening with the chocolate decadence, a bittersweet chocolate cake topped off with a warm dark chocolate –framboise ganache and locally grown strawberries. Heaven.
Another favorite restaurant of ours to take the kids to in Maui is Kobe Steakhouse, located in Lahaina near Front Street. This is a Benihana-type restaurant where they cook the food in front of you. They give you so much food that I shared the dinner with my 14-year-old and we still couldn’t finish it. (Note, there are usually $10 off coupons in the Maui magazines so be sure to look for a coupon if you are planning on eating there.) After dinner we walked around the stores on Front Street and visited the art galleries.
We discovered a wonderful Chinese Restaurant near our hotel called China Bowl. It is in a strip mall, very casual and comfortable and affordable. They have really good scallion pancakes, chicken and corn soup, candied walnut shrimp, and a tomato beef that was wonderful.
For breakfast one of my favorite places to go to is the Sea House Restaurant. They have the most amazing chocolate macadamia nut pancakes. It is such a beautiful way to start your mornings sitting in the open air restaurant with a beautiful view of the ocean and having an delicious breakfast.
There are many wonderful activities to do with your family while in Maui. This year we went on a snorkel/snuba adventure with Aqua Adventure. What a great experience. First of all, you need to realize that even though I am a California girl (born and raised) I have never been very comfortable in the water and the idea of snorkeling makes me a little tense. What I loved was how patient and encouraging the crew were. Glen in particular was amazing with getting me comfortable in the water and step-by-step taught me how to snorkel until I was very comfortable doing it on my own. They even provided me with noodles to make me feel more secure while maneuvering in the water. Jasmine was also very nervous (in the past she has always gotten water in her mask); however, once again they were very patient with her, had the right equipment that fit perfectly, and she was snorkeling in no time. Amber has no fear and she just jumped right in and started snorkeling immediately. The first stop was in Molokini. Wow, what a thrill. You are swimming with hundreds of fish of varying sizes and colors. The water is so clear you can see all the way to the bottom. Aqua Adventure also offers snuba which is a cross between snorkel and scuba. You can go under water by being hooked up to a long tube (therefore you don’t need to carry a heavy tank). The tube is connected to an inflatable raft, which follows you along the surface supporting your air tank. Snuba allows you to dive up to 20 feet. Children must be at least 8 years old to snuba. As you go further down you have to plug your nose and blow out of your nose to release the pressure in your ears. Both of my girls have had ear infection problems so after trying it a few times, they decided they would prefer to snorkel instead of snuba, but many others on the boat loved to do the snuba--so definitely give it a try if you want to hang out underwater with the fish. After snorkeling in Molokini, we relocated to an area where they have large sea turtles. Again, a very cool experience. Aqua Adventure offers a wonderful program. They take you out in smaller groups so you get more of that one-on-one attention (which believe me, we needed), offer you wet suits for an additional $5.00, provide breakfast for you on the boat on the way out to Molokini and provide deli lunch sandwiches and drinks (including mai tais) for your return trip. The boat ride itself is really fun as well. It was so thrilling when at the end of our snorkeling adventure Jasmine said “Can we go snorkeling at Black Rock sometime?” Success!!!
Another activity my family really enjoys doing on vacation is ziplining. We have done this in a number of places and I am always surprised at how different each one is. This year we visited Maui Zipline. This is the only zipline in Maui that caters to younger kids. Your child only needs to be 5 years old and weigh 50 pounds (and yes they do weigh you when you check in). The Zipline is located at the Maui Tropical Plantation in a very lush and beautiful setting and while on your tour, you learn about all of the different trees and plants in the area. The guides we had, Avocado, Kevin, and Sean, were all very knowledgeable about the Hawaiian horticulture. They were also very funny and made everyone feel right at ease. There are 5 side-by-side ziplines of different heights, lengths, and speeds. The ziplines are not so intense that you freak out; you can actually enjoy them and it is very easy to learn how to zipline. One of the great things about Maui Zipline is they stop you at the end of the line so you don’t need to worry about when to put your hand on the cable to slow down or use the wood block or springs to break your run; all you need to do is tuck your legs up into a ball as you approach the landing. There were times when someone did not make it across (either they did not have enough speed or the wind slowed them down) but the guides were right there climbing the line to bring them in. On the third and fifth zipline you are able to do more tricks (hang down, spin around, pretty much get crazy). The zipline is run very smoothly and efficiently. You are not waiting long times in between each zipline. The groups are small and they keep everyone moving. I was telling Kevin, our guide, how calm and relaxing these ziplines were compared to others that we have been on and he said it was kind of like zen ziplining in Hawaii. I loved that description. Now I have to mention, my husband went with us a couple of times and he was always a little freaked out by it but after the day with Maui Zipline (which he loved) he said he was really looking forward to going again. It was a wonderful way to spend the day with the family, being outdoors enjoying the scenery, and doing something adventurous and different. The adventure is only 2 hours so you still have the day to enjoy and it was affordably priced.
When visiting Maui, we always try to go to a Luau. This year we attended the Royal Lahania Luauwhich is located in Ka’anapali Beach, very close to our hotel. This Luau really caters to families, so much so that you get one free kid entrance with each paying adult and kids 5 and under are always free. They even have a special keiki buffet for kids including their favorites such as chicken fingers, hot dogs, and mac and cheese. For adults the buffet consists of all of the adult favorites as well, including of course, pork, steak, chicken, and a variety of salads. Let’s not forget the open bar consisting of our favorite Hawaiian drinks such as Mai Tais and Blue Hawaiians, as well as beer and soft drinks. When you first arrive you are greeted with a shell lei necklace. This Luau is smaller than some of the others I have been to so I found it more intimate. Once you arrive, you are shown to your seats. You can then walk around and enjoy the view and take pictures with the sun setting. In Hawaii you can never predict the weather. Luckily the Luau people were prepared and passed out ponchos for everyone so we sat out in the rain, wearing our ponchos, enjoying the show. The show was enjoyable with 2 stages of dancers, singers, drummers, and musicians. We all loved the Somoan “fire knife” dance at the end.
If you are looking for an evening out without the kids, a really fun place to go to is Warren and Annabelle’s Magic show in Lahaina on Front Street. You start out the evening in Annabelle’s Secret Chamber where you try to find the secret passage into the parlor. From there are you taken into another room that is much like a living room where you can enjoy your cocktails, appetizers, and incredibly yummy desserts. I especially loved the white chocolate raspberry cheesecake but the crème brulee and the warm apple pie were also divine. While you are dining Annabelle, the resident ghost at the piano, will play your favorite songs and answer your questions via playing songs on the piano. After your meal, you are then led into the intimate theatre where Warren performs the most amazing magic. The magic is sleight of hand and really involves the audience. This has to be one of the funniest shows I have seen in a long time. It is a magic show filled with comedy. While the magic is fascinating and you walk out mesmerized by how he did his tricks, his incredible quick wit, facial expressions and humor are what make this evening like no other. You walk out of the show with the biggest smiles and laughter as you think about everything Warren just said to everyone. He has a quick comeback for everything.
Maui is a wonderful vacation spot. Whether you want to just hang out by the pool and beach all day soaking up the sun, or explore the island with the many adventures and activities, there is something for everyone on this beautiful island.
Many of my activities, food, and accommodations were either hosted by the business or given to me at a discounted rate.