Peachhead™ Approved Vacations: Vacation in Maui, December 2012
Places to Stay in Maui
Every year we visit Maui for the holidays and stay in Kaanapali. This year, for something different, we spent our first night at the Grand Wailea in Wailea. What a beautiful hotel. Before this trip, I had last stayed here over 20 years ago on my honeymoon. The lobby is beautifully decorated with incredible pieces of art and sculptures, and of course the holiday decorations added a special treat. When you arrive you receive a flower lei greeting and a refreshing drink. The rooms are very nice, and they even have refrigerators in them with complimentary bottles of water. After you arrive, for an additional fee, you can upgrade your room to a room with a better view, which is what we did. The pool is what makes this resort extra fun for the kids. It has an area with a rope that kids can swing on and jump in. There is a water elevator where the water actually lifts you up. While the kids may have the pool area, the grownups have the incredible spa. Spa Grande is by far the nicest spa I have ever visited. It focuses on East meets West. The highlight of the spa is the Terme Hydrotherapy Circuit, which consists of five aromatic baths with different salts to soothe the body and soul. In between each soak you enter a multi-jet shower to rinse off. There is also a shower where the water beats down on your back and it is invigorating. The spa has 2 Jacuzzis, as well as two cold plunges. One of the Jacuzzis is unique in that it has the bubbles and water pressure coming from the bottom of the Jacuzzi, as opposed to the sides like a regular Jacuzzi. In the spa there are also steam and sauna rooms. If you want to just sit and relax you can sit out on the lanai, which overlooks the ocean. You are allowed to use the baths an hour before your treatment and then a bit after your treatment. I did not receive a treatment but instead paid for the day pass. While they inform you that you are allowed to use the baths for 2 hours, I was never told to leave after 2 hours so I enjoyed the spa a little longer and relaxed on the lanai. There is also a wonderful fitness room to work out in at the hotel.
The next day we headed to Kaanapali, where we stay at the Westin Kaanapali Villas. These are timeshares, which we usually buy from friends, but you can also book directly through the hotel. This is a great resort for families, as the rooms have full kitchens. We always stay in a 2-bedroom villa, which has a full kitchen and a living room with a foldout couch. There are bbq’s throughout the property. They have a few different pool areas, including one with a ship in it that is specifically for younger kids. New to the resort this year was an outdoor ice-skating rink for the holidays, and a Fishpipe. There are only 14 Fishpipes in the world. My kids absolutely loved it. It is a big ball that spins around (think: hamster ball) so you feel like you are on a never-ending slide. I tried it out and it was a bit intense for me but my kids couldn’t stop laughing while they were in it. Tip: I found a couple of coupons for the fishpipe in the Maui magazines, so be sure to look for them.
Our last week in Maui we stayed at the Honua Kai Resort. This resort has rooms that range from studios to 3 bedrooms. You can rent directly from the resort or you can find an owner on VRBO. Keep in mind that if you book directly through the hotel, you will get all of the amenities of staying at the resort such as daily maid service, towel cards, and calling the front desk for anything you may need. We rented a 2-bedroom from a person I found on VRBO. Our room had a very open and spacious living room, a full kitchen and a washer/dryer, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a fold out couch. The person we rented from has the unit wonderfully stocked with snorkel gear, boogie boards, beach chairs and ice chests, games, PlayStation, and even a lovely welcome gift basket with Hawaiian treats. They also had baby items (which luckily I no longer need). Our unit was on the 4th floor with a spectacular view of the ocean. The wraparound lanai is perfect for enjoying your meals while taking in the gorgeous view. The pools have lounge chairs available; however, if want to hang out on the beach on a lounge chair you can rent one for the day for $10.00. The owner I rented from, Brian, was great to work with. In fact, we already booked our stay for next year with him. Here is a link to his unit.
Dining in Maui
While staying at the Grand Wailea, we had heard that Alan Wong’s restaurant called Amasia was amazing, so we decided to try it. The restaurant is very large and actually has 3 separate kitchens: the sushi bar, Robata Bar, and the main kitchen. They have a variety of unique dining spaces, including some unique dining spaces called Tatami, which are private dining areas where you sit on the floor (but there is a hole in the floor so that you can drop your feet down and sit comfortably). You can order a number of small plates and everyone at your table can share. We really enjoyed the soy braised short ribs (incredibly flavorful), the Szechuan chicken wings, and the Ahi 5 (Ahi prepared five different ways), but my favorite dish was the Hawaiian Kampachi Sashimi Tiradito, Hanaoka Farms Passion fruit Ceviche Sauce. Incredible.
One of my favorite breakfast places in Maui is the Sea House Restaurant in Napili. They have the best chocolate macadamia nut pancakes, and the view is incredibly beautiful overlooking the ocean. It is very reasonably priced, which is another reason to enjoy a wonderful breakfast with a gorgeous view.
I love happy hours so I was excited when I discovered 5 Palms has a happy hour with $5.00 mai tais and half price appetizers. The miso soup is very good but what really got me were their wings. They are fresh, light, and tender meat. It comes with a sauce, but we had the sauce on the side, which allowed the wings to be crispier. I also enjoyed the sashimi combo. They have a kids’ menu as well as a sushi menu so there are a lot of choices. The restaurant overlooks the water and it is very calming to sit looking out over the water and listen to a person playing the guitar and singing while you enjoy your food and drinks.
If you are looking for a place for a casual, less expensive meal, we discovered Italian Delight, a pizza place in a shopping center. They have very good pizza, as well as a good Philly cheese steak.
One restaurant we have always wanted to visit but never before had the opportunity was Mama’s Fish House, a spectacular restaurant. The restaurant is over 70 years old and has grown quite a bit from its origins. It is a very large restaurant but even with it being so large and crowded, the service was impeccable. Everything we had was truly scrumptious. We started out by sharing the haiku Tomato and Maui Onion Salad with Pointe Reyes blue cheese, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, and eighteen-year-old balsamic vinegar dressing. The French onion soup and lobster soup are both very tasty. The highlight of my meal was the Beef Polynesian, which has a seared tenderloin in a grilled Hana Papaya. The onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers mixed together create quite a sensational taste. The prime beef short rib “Pulehu,” with sautéed hamakua mushrooms, is very tender and flavorful, as well.
Another favorite restaurant of ours is The Plantation House. It has an incredible view overlooking the Kapalua Golf course and serves amazing food. The restaurant recently hired a new chef so their menu is completely new. They redesigned both the kitchen and the restaurant. The ambiance is very inviting. They start out by bringing the most delicious warm bread with soft butter, always a great way to start a meal. They also have the most savory drinks. I started out with a Mango Martini and then finished with the Pineappletini. Our appetizers began with the most delicious corn soup and Caesar salad. The Caesar salad was different than I am used to and very tasty. I found myself scraping the plate clean. For our main course I had an incredible filet in a Hibachi sauce, served with a potato puree. My older daughter had the vegetarian pasta, which she really enjoyed, and my younger daughter enjoyed the pasta she ordered off of the children’s menu. My husband had the New York steak, which was cooked to perfection. We ordered the beans with onions for a side vegetable and it complemented the meal nicely. After dinner we enjoyed the key lime pie dessert, as well as the chocolate trio--the perfect ending to the perfect meal.
Mark Ellman owns a couple of restaurants in Maui. Honu is the newest restaurant. It is right on the water on Front Street. There are so many wonderful items to choose from that I decided to order a variety of appetizers instead of one big meal. We tried a few of their specials for the evening, which included the tempura squash blossoms stuffed with squash and ricotta in a sage hazelnut brown butter, the Nantucket bay scallops fried with a warm pancetta tomato vinaigrette, arugula, and flaxseed croutons, and my favorite--star fruit, tomato, and kula onions salad with goat cheese mousse with an aged 20 year balsamic. We also enjoyed the tataki sashimi of wild local tuna with shoyu, ginger, wasabi, and green papaya salad, and the fresh burrata mozzarella with olowalu tomatoes, hazelnut cherry bread, olive oil, and kona sea salt. The rock shrimp and asparagus ala plancha with mojo verde and tomato caper salsa was equally delicious. They are also known for their pizza so we had the pizza margherita, which was cooked to perfection. They also have a wonderful drink menu. I enjoyed my heavenly Hibiscus and Three Nenes Martini. The service was impeccable and it was a lovely evening.
We also visited Mala, Mark Ellman’s other restaurant right next door to Honu. It is located right over the water and the ambiance is breathtaking. We started out with the seared Ahi bruschetta, which is served with flax seed toast, olawalu tomatoes, and edamame puree. The different textures and flavors combined were delectable. We also enjoyed the black bean soup and the special of the night, a burrata tomato caprese salad which included figs. My younger daughter really enjoyed the kids’ pizzas off of the children's menu, while my older daughter really loved the adult mac and cheese with mushroom cream, mozzarella, pecorino, and maytag blue. Heaven. I enjoyed the Avalon Seared ahi sashimi with a YG Potato Puree & Shitake Mushroom ginger sauce. We ended our meal with the most delicious dessert, a chocolate soufflé. (Be sure to order it early as it takes 20 minutes to prepare.)
One of the restaurants I had always wanted to visit but was never able to due to them always being booked was Sansei. For this trip I made reservations way in advance. They have a great happy hour from 5:30-6:00 but you have to get there early to actually make it so I just went later on for dinner. One of the things I really loved about this restaurant is their amazing service. They bring the food out so quickly that you are never really waiting for anything. We started out with their miso soup, which was very good, followed by the butterfish, tuna tataki, and then the shrimp tempura roll. The dynamite shrimp was incredibly tasty with the sauce. The New York steak was served sliced with the most delicious mashed potatoes. The apple tart for dessert was the perfect ending to a wonderful meal.
Another favorite restaurant on Maui is Lahaina Grill. We visit this restaurant every year to celebrate our friend's birthday and they always make it special. I started out my meal with the toy box tomato salad, an assortment of baby tomatoes marinated in alziari extra virgin olive oil, sweet Maui onions, and organic basil honey vinaigrette. It was truly wonderful. For my main course I had the tequila shrimp and firecracker rice. It had a nice kick to it. The triple berry pie for dessert was scrumptious.
There is a new restaurant in Lahaina on Front Street called Fleetwoods on Front Street, owned by Mick Fleetwood. They have an amazing roof deck where every night at 6:00 they have a torch lighting ceremony, which also includes a bagpipe player telling you about Hawaiian history. After the ceremony they have live music. There is nothing better than sitting outside listening to great music. One night we were lucky enough to see King Paris perform, and the following night Lucas Nelson (Willie Nelson’s son) and Mick Fleetwood’s Blues band performed. What a spectacular night. We stopped by there a number of times while in Maui, as they always have great live music. One of the items on their menu is a Harley Davidson Hog Burger. The cost is $35,274.81, which includes a one pound beef burger and Mick Fleetwood’s custom road king edition Harley Davidson Motorcycle delivered to your door….now that is service. (Oh, and if you want cheese, you need to add $1.00.)
My friends wanted to visit the Nakalele Blowhole, so we decided to explore the island. The Westin provided me with a great list of places to explore along the way, with the mile markers so you can locate the landmarks. We stopped in the parking area that said the blowhole was ½ mile further down to the next parking lot, but we thought it would be fun to start our adventure here and work our way to the blowhole. As it turns out, we never found the blowhole from this area but we had a lot of fun climbing down to the water. It was absolutely beautiful; however it was pretty windy. When we finished exploring we got back in the car and drove the ½ mile to the next parking area. There we just walked down a little way and saw the blowhole. What a magnificent sight. It is a pretty rocky climb so make sure you don’t go right after it rains or it will be very muddy. You can get wet from the blowhole so you may want to bring a change of clothes. When we finished this, we drove a bit further down to the Olivine Pools. This looked like it would be pretty difficult to climb down as well as to come back up so I decided to pass on this; however, my friends decided to venture on. They told me it was fantastic (up until a wave hit them and knocked them down and they received a lot of cuts and brushings from the fall). If you are going to venture down there, please be careful.
If you are looking for a fun adventure, I highly recommend the snorkeling trip with Trilogy. It departs out of Maalaea Harbor at 6:00 AM or 8:00 AM. You meet out front of the Buzz Wharf restaurant and they have someone there to greet you to tell you where to park and which slip to go to. Once you check in, you board the boat and they have coffee and hot chocolate waiting for you. They give you a warm greeting, explaining the trip and procedures. They are very funny and it is quite entertaining. One of the things they emphasize is that you can just stay and hang out wherever you are comfortable and they will bring everything to you. We took them up on that. They brought us their famous warm cinnamon rolls, fresh fruit, drinks, and even all of the snorkel gear. The boat takes 40-60 guests at a time but I was amazed that I never found myself waiting for anything. They run the boat so efficiently. Our first stop was at Molokini. The boat has steps that drop down from the boat (not a ladder on the back of the boat that I have done in the past), which makes it very easy to get in and out of the water. They also have a slide that you can use to get into the water as well. The snorkeling is incredible--so many beautiful fish. They also provide boogie boards for easier maneuvering in the water. After hanging out in Molokini for an hour, we returned to the boat and moved to our next destination, Turtle Town. The turtles are massive. It is quite angelic to be swimming along these large turtles moving so gracefully in the water. At one point I was swimming alone with a turtle and I almost thought he was going to come up from under me (luckily he didn’t). After our turtle experience we got back on the boat and they had a nice warm chicken lunch available (which once again they brought to us). (Note: if you are a vegetarian or have dietary restrictions, let them know ahead of time and they will accommodate you.) The salad, chicken, rice, and bread were served on real plates with real silverware. Very nice touch. Our next adventure was to find the whales, and boy, did we find whales. We found a group of 4-5 whales that seemed to be competing against each other. It was majestic to see these large animals coming in and out of the water and blowing water out of their blowholes. Truly magnificent. And if this wasn’t enough, the crew put up the sails on the boat and we sailed back to the port. If you are looking for a day of fun filled adventure where you can snorkel in Molokini and see beautiful fish, snorkel in Turtle Town and swim among the largest of turtles, take in the beauty of whales enjoying their habitat, and go for a sail, then Trilogy is definitely the company to go with on such an adventure. Not only was it an incredible day for exploring the sea, the staff is what made this an exceptional trip. They know exactly how to run this excursion so that you never have to wait for anything, they instantly know your names and are making sure you have everything you need, they are full of knowledge about the different fish and mammals, and they are all around just great guys to be on a boat with for 6 plus hours.
One of our favorite things to do in Maui is ziplining. This year we went on the Skyline Eco Adventures tour in Kaanapali. What a great adventure. You start out at their store in Kaanapali. You are then transported to a site where you are outfitted with your gear and given safety instructions. Getting to the site was exciting as you off-road to the destination (it kind of reminded me of the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland). After getting set up with your gear, you are transported to your first zipline. Throughout the day you travel across 8 ziplines. Each one is longer than the next, with the longest one being 1000 feet. The views are incredible as you are overlooking the ocean. There is a little hiking along the way, which adds to the experience. Halfway through your adventure you stop for a lunch that is included in your package. The guides are really fun and entertaining. We had Joe and Patrick, and they had us laughing throughout the day. One of the things I really loved about this zipline is that it is very easy. You don’t have to think so much about when to put your knees up or down to control your speed or when to use your hand as a brake, as I have had to do on other ziplines. If you don’t slow up enough on your own they are there to brake for you. It was a really enjoyable day. There are restrictions on being able to participate. You must weigh between 80 and 260 pounds, be able to hike 2 miles over uneven terrain, and must be at least 10 years old.
I love magic and I am lucky that on Maui there are 2 magic shows, one for adults only and one for families. I took my kids to the family magic show called Kupanaha, at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel. It is a show that combines Hawaiian culture and magic. This is a dinner show, so while you enjoy your dinner, there are Hawaiian dancing shows and other forms of entertainment. Once you have completed your dinner the real magic begins. Jody Baran and his wife, Kathleen, perform magic based on seven of the world’s greatest magicians. It is mind boggling to watch as he levitates his wife, saws her in half, and constantly disappears and then reappears. He is also very comical so you are laughing throughout the night. They offer general seating and gold circle seating. Gold Circle seating is the front row of tables, which I would recommend.
A couple of nights later I went to the adult only magic show at Warren and Annabelle’s. What a fun evening. You start out by entering a room where you need to find the secret door to enter the parlor. Once inside, you can enjoy a full bar and a variety of pupus. I especially loved the coconut shrimp and the white chocolate raspberry cheesecake. Annabelle the ghost joins the party and plays the piano (she is happy to play any requests you have, so come prepared). You are then led into the intimate showroom (only 5 rows) for Warren’s up close magic. While his magic is truly mesmerizing, what really makes this show unique is Warren’s humor and quick wit. He has such a great personality and his interaction with the audience is so entertaining. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much. It was truly a “magical” evening. Be sure to make your reservations ahead of time, as they do book up weeks in advance.
Maui has become one of our favorite vacation spots. We love the beaches and the cool, laid back vibe. There is nothing better than floating down the ocean in an inner tube. While Hawaii can get quite expensive here are some things we did to keep the costs down:
When renting a car I searched on http://www.hotwire.com/ to find the lowest rate available. I rented from Thrifty Rent A Car. Unfortunately, they were one of the few rental agencies that required me to pay an additional fee of $12.00/day to be added on as a driver with my husband. Since I don’t take out the insurance policy as my insurance will cover me I am still not clear why I needed to add my name to the contract. I spoke to my insurance company and they said I would have been covered if I were driving a car rented by my husband, so you may want to look into that before you travel next time to find out if you should pay the additional cost.
I used my frequent flyer miles to book my trip to Maui. When we first purchased our tickets the miles required were very high. As our trip got closer, the miles dropped and both American and United allowed us to have our tickets reissued at the lower amount and they put the extra miles back in our account. Be sure to continually check the miles needed to see if you can save yourself some miles.
Once you arrive in Maui there are Maui Magazines at the airport and throughout the island with coupons for various activities and restaurants. I also found a website that has many coupons online at http://www.mauileisureguide.com/maui-coupons.htm.
Grocery shopping can be quite expensive so be sure to sign up for the free memberships the stores offer to save extra money. Safeway and Foodland Farms offer this discount. (Safeway is the same parent company as Vons and Pavilions.) The Times store does not offer a discount card.
I would like to thank Plantation House, Mala, Trilogy, Skyline Eco Adventures, and Warren and Annabelles for hosting me.