Peachhead™ Approved Vacations: Maui and Oahu - December 2010
We are very fortunate to have friends who own a timeshare in Maui at the Westin Kaanapali Villas, so every year we fly to Maui to celebrate the holidays. This is a great place for families, as the rooms are a nice size with kitchens and fold-out couches. They have options of studios and 1- and 2-bedroom villas with kitchens. They have a few pools, including a kids' pool with a pirate ship and a larger pool with bigger slides for the older kids. There are bbq’s placed throughout the property so you can have a relaxing evening of hanging out and bbq-ing.
Our first night we went to Whalers Village for dinner and ate at Cane and Taro . These are the same owners as a number of other reputable restaurants in Maui. I went the sushi route and everything was great. My husband had the meatloaf and my oldest had the steak. Everyone was very happy with their meal and to top it off they have the warm chocolate molten cake for dessert.
The following night we went to Lahaina and had dinner at Lahaina Prime Rib and Fish Company. The restaurant overlooks the water. We had the prime rib (although not as great a prime rib as I usually get, it was still pretty good).
My girls' favorite thing to do on vacation is horseback riding so we got up early and headed to Lahaina Stables. I have to say that the directions on the website were not great as they tell you to go about 5 minutes past Lahaina town and then turn at Launiopoko Beach Park. I was looking for a signal with a street named this but instead I was supposed to be looking for a park called this (the sign for the park was facing the opposite direction of our travel so we never saw it). If you plan on going there, call and ask them what the name of the street is that you need to turn on. We had an amazing 2-hour ride with our guide, Kim, along the foothills of the West Maui Mountains. She was very funny, great with the kids, and quite educational as well. She is actually in college studying archeology and Hawaiian history, so she is quite knowledgeable about Hawaii. She even gave me some great tips on where to go hiking and local restaurant favorites. Halfway through the ride we stopped and had snacks and ice cold water that they provided. When we finished our ride, the girls got to feed the horses carrots.
I love comedy and I love magic, put the two together and it makes for a magical evening. I went for a grownups' night out (no one under 21 allowed) at Warren and Annabelle’s Magic show in Lahaina. You first walk into Annabelle’s secret chamber where you try to find the mysterious passage to her parlor. Once in Annabelle’s Parlor, you are served your drinks, appetizers, and dessert while Annabelle, the ghost piano player, will play your requests and communicate with you via her piano. The food consisted of a selection of appetizers that included coconut-battered shrimp served with a ponzu sauce, spicy crab cake, chicken satay, and a kalua pork wrap. They were all very good. After our meal, we headed into the intimate showroom that seats only 78 guests for close up sleight-of-hand magic, also known as “close-up” magic. Warren was incredibly funny and very captivating. He did some of the most amazing, mind-boggling tricks, but his humor is what really made my evening. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much. His facial expressions, mannerisms, and quick wit one-liners were hilarious. He really gets the audience involved in his stories. Whether he was working with small items such as cards and coins, or larger items such as bowling balls, every trick was mind-boggling. My favorite trick was the $100 bill one but I don’t want to give it away. All I can say is if you are looking for a fun evening where you walk out laughing and amazed at what you have seen the last 2 hours, Warren and Annabelle’s is a great way to spend the evening.
My kids were envious that I went to a magic show so the following night I took them to Kupanaha, a magic show dinner theatre for the entire family, that takes place at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel. It is a magic show that also has hula dancers telling Hawaiian legends through their dancing. They start out with a dinner while a magician comes to your table and performs some card tricks. After dinner the show begins with the dancers and then Jody Baran comes out to perform his magic. I was blown away by his talent. Within the first few minutes, Jody Baran had doves coming out of nowhere. Throughout the night he spoke of famous magicians and then proceeded to do the amazing tricks they were most known for. He did everything from escaping out of the straight jacket, to sawing a woman in half, to disappearing before our eyes and reappearing somewhere completely different within seconds. He also did the trick where he shrunk his wife in a box. If you watched Americas Got Talent this year and loved the tricks you saw that the magicians were performing on the show you are going to love this show. Jody Baran is an amazing magician and I was blown away by every trick he did. We were in awe the entire show (and he has a great sense of humor as well). This is definitely a fun family night that your kids will remember for a long time.
One night we were looking for a more casual route for dinner and ended up at the China Bowl in a little strip mall near our hotel (they deliver as well). We had a variety of dishes and enjoyed almost everything (we didn’t care for the miso soup too much and the fried rice was better once we put soy sauce on it) but the candied walnut shrimp (my favorite), chicken with vegetables, fried shrimp, pot stickers, chicken and corn soup, Mongolian beef, and pan-fried egg noodle with beef were all very good.
We always make a point of going to Kobe Steakhouse when in Maui so we saved that for Christmas day. The kids love watching the chef cook in front of us with their style and pizzazz. We especially love when the make the onion ring volcano erupt. The show is great, but the food is also wonderful.
For a nice evening, we went to The Plantation House at the Kapalua Resort. It overlooks the north shore of Maui and we got there in time to see the sunset. What an incredible view. The room itself is very comfortable (sorta like an upscale lodge or nice dining room). The food was quite delicious. We started out with the sampler appetizer that had shrimp, crabcake, and scallop skewers (apple-smoked bacon and lehua honey guava glaze…it tasted like candy)…yum. We also had the crispy crab-stuffed ahi roll. What a wonderful creation. The Totally Maui salad was very tasty with the passion fruit vinaigrette, as well as the Kapalua Farms Tomato and fresh mozzarella cheese salad, which were both a wonderful way to start our meal. For dinner I had the oven-seared filet mignon with the gorgonzola scalloped potatoes and my husband loved his New York Strip steak. To complete our meal we had the Crème Brulee and the Pot de Crème au chocolat, the perfect ending to a perfect meal. This was definitely a nice evening with wonderful food and an incredible view. I also loved how they have a children’s menu with steak and chicken as well as a vegetarian menu. They are also open for breakfast and lunch.
If you are looking for something different to do at night, you should check out the Cirque Polynesiashow at the Hyatt Regency . The show originally opened in June of 2009 and was such a great success that they built a new outdoor stage called the Maui Moon Theatre to enhance the experience so guests can enjoy both the evening under the stars while experiencing the 75-minute performance. While you are waiting for the show to begin, one of the performers comes out and interacts with the audience and does some tricks for the audience. The show starts out with Vili, Hawaii’s infamous warrior. He had the entire audience laughing and even pulled a couple of audience members to participate in the fun. Performances include everything from high-wire acts (with no netting or safety catch), hula hoops (how they can hula hoop with so many hula hoops when I can barely do one hula hoop), contortion, aerial illusionists and acrobats (their strength is amazing and watching them fly through the air on silk fabrics is beautiful), Rolla Bolla (a performer who balances on rolling metal objects that he keeps stacking higher and higher, and magic show (I am still trying to figure out how the woman was able to completely change her outfit so many times within seconds). There are 2 options for seating: VIP, which includes the first five rows from the stage, and premier seating, which includes all other seats. The show starts at 7:00 but you can check in as early as 6:00. We got there at 6:30 and there were plenty of great seats available. They have snacks and drinks you can purchase before the show and I was very happy to see they were reasonably priced. Popcorn and shaved ice were $5.00 each, and bottled water was $3.00. The music, lighting, hula dancing, and amazing performances make for a very unique evening on Maui.
If you really want adventure you should try ziplining with Kapalua Adventure Ziplines. You must be at least 10 years old and weigh between 60 – 250 pounds…no exceptions. Jasmine was luckily 60.8 but they weighed her on two scales to make sure. This was a great adventure. You start out by going on a 15 minute drive up the mountain where you see pineapples growing and other plants. Once you reach the destination you change vehicles and get into an “army” vehicle that drives you further up to the first zipline. Once there you begin a little hike to reach the first zipline. You cross over the highest suspension bridge in Maui (which was pretty cool). It is slightly muddy so be sure to wear tennis shoes or hiking boots. Each zipline was exhilarating. The longest one is ½ mile and what an incredible view. You go up to 2000 feet elevation. One of the ziplines required you to climb a bridge which was fun as well. The guides were amazing. We had a woman in our group who was deathly afraid of heights. She was crying when we got to the first zipline but she ended up staying and finishing every zipline. It was amazing to see her overcome her fears like that.
After our exhausting day, we were looking forward to a nice relaxing dinner. We went to Hula Grill in Kaanapali. They have indoor dining restaurant and then a more casual restaurant called the Barefoot Bar outdoors in the sand overlooking the water. You can order from both menus outdoors. They have live music 7 days a week and they have hula dancers every evening. Be sure to make a reservation, as they get very busy, and try to get there in time to see the sunset as it overlooks the beach. I really think we had one of the best servers on the island. Sasha was so on top of everything and an absolute doll. We tried a number of appetizers and everything was wonderful. The macadamian nut crab-filled won tons were very different, sashimi tuna was so fresh, vine-ripened tomato and Maui onion salad was refreshing, and the Rosemary and Wood roasted rack of lamb was heaven. They have a wonderful kids' menu with everything from burgers to shrimp scampi pasta, baby rack ribs, fresh fish, and even filet mignon. They even make their Mai Tai’s with fresh juices. It was so nice to sit outdoors, have our feet in the sand, listen to great music, and even see hula dancers. Throw in delicious food and service and it made for a magnificent evening.
If you are looking for way to challenge yourself and feel a sense of accomplishment, you should try out the Tango Tower at the Piiloho Ranch Zipline. What an adventurous way to spend the day. The girls had a blast conquering their fears as they climbed the Kings Swing (climbing the pole and then jumping across from one platform to the other). I attempted this also and even though I made it to the top, I was pretty freaked out trying it. Next we did the X-ladder, where you climb a criss-cross rope and then climb the cargo net. The kids made it to the top but I only got up to the cargo net and then couldn’t go further because the cargo net pulled too much and it was too difficult for me. Our last adventure was the best, the Giant’s Ladder. Here the girls had to work as a team to climb each level that got further apart. Jasmine had to push off Amber’s knee to reach a higher level and Amber had to help pull Jasmine up but eventually they reached the highest level. It was hysterical watching them work together to accomplish this task. While out in the area you should visit Paia…it is a cool hippy town. There is also a cool place to go on a hike and see a waterfall in the area called Twin Falls. We didn’t stop there but I heard a lot of great things about it.
We decided to try Oahu on this trip and what a difference it is from Maui. There was a bit of a culture shock for us but after a day we adjusted. We stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village . This is a very large property with 6 pools, a lagoon, restaurants and stores. There are parrots throughout the property and we even had some say “hello” to us. They also have flamingos, turtles, and penguins. We got a 1-bedroom suite in the Tapa Tower. The room was incredibly large with great views of the ocean. The living room had a fold-out couch that was comfortable (not made of springs) and we had them bring a rollaway bed in, as well. The bathrooms were small and not updated but the room more than made up for it. The family pool is called the Paraside Pool, which is 5000 square feet and has slides, waterfalls, and Jacuzzis. They have strict requirements for using the slides so prepare your kids ahead of time. Any child under 4-½ feet must wear floaties to use the slides, even if they know how to swim, and children must be at least 3 feet to go on the slides.
The beach is very crowded (we were there during the Christmas break) but there was still room to put our chairs out (which you can rent from the hotel for $15.00 each). The ocean is very calm and relaxing. Part of the water has rocks on the ground; if you have water shoes, you may want to wear them, but not necessary. We brought our own inner tubes and the hotel blew them up for us for $5.00 each (or you can rent an inner tube for around $10.00 for the day). It was a lot of fun floating around in the water. The lagoon rents out kayaks and other water activities by the hour. They were nice enough to let my girls split up the hour so they did ½-hour kayaking and ½-hour paddle boating. They had a blast.
There are many choices to dine at the hotel. Our favorite is Benihana. For breakfast we ordered from CJ’s New York Style Delicatessen and took it back to our room because there was always a long wait for a table. They have an amazing matzah ball soup. One morning I ate at the Tropics Bar and Grill at the hotel. I had the bagel and lox plate, which I loved, and Amber had the pancakes and they were so big and fluffy (she really enjoyed them). I also enjoyed hanging out at the Tropics Bar and Grill and the Tapa bar for their live entertainment.
There are a lot of great shopping areas nearby. Our favorite was the stores along Kalakaua Ave. It was almost like being in Beverly Hills or Third Street Promenade. A lot of great stores and restaurants. Another shopping area nearby is called Waikiki Beach Walk. And finally, one of the largest malls I have ever been in, Ala Moana Center , Hawaii's largest shopping center, located in Honolulu just minutes from Waikiki, is an open-air shopping oasis. There are over 290 merchants, including luxury brands, local specialty stores, fine-dining restaurants and an international food court.
After walking around for awhile, we walked to the Outrigger Reef Hotel to have dinner at Ocean House . What a wonderful place to dine. The restaurant is beachfront with a gorgeous view of the ocean (great place to be at sunset). The entire restaurant has great views of the ocean as each row of tables is tiered so everyone has the great view. They also had a nice room off to the side with a large table for a private dining area if you have a larger party. They start your meal by bringing out hot, fresh homemade bread that we devoured. We started out our dinner with the most amazing appetizers, the Seared Peppered Sea Scallops in a soy sake butter sauce…..the sauce was so good we used our fresh bread to soak up the remaining sauce. My husband, who doesn’t even eat fish, tried a bite of the scallops and couldn’t stop. I also had the Sizzling Ahi Carpaccio, that was amazing. It was prepared with Hawaiian salt, togarashi, Maui onions, radish sprouts and then drizzled with sizzling sesame and peanut oil. The Hawaiian salt added just the right “ting” and it had a nice spicy bite to it. Next was the Caesar salad which had just the right amount of anchovy bite and the Goat Cheese Salad that contained Mesclun greens, mango, candied walnuts and a sun-dried cherry champagne vinaigrette. For our main course we ordered the prime rib. They have a variety of sizes to order from, and different preparations. They even even have prime rib on the kids' menu, along with grilled chicken. We chose the Hawaiian Sea Salt Roasted Prime Rib and it was heavenly. Great quality of meat and very flavorful. It was served with maui onion mashed potatoes, traditional English peas, and creamy horseradish. We completed our meal with the warm lava chocolate cake…heaven!!! The entire meal was fabulous, the service was impeccable, and the setting was divine….the perfect meal.
I woke up the next morning still dreaming about our dinner so I decided to go back to Ocean House for breakfast. We took a nice walk there and sat overlooking the ocean again. They have wonderful waffles with fresh fruit. It was a great way to start the morning.
After breakfast we decided to rent a car and explore the island. There is a Hertz located at the Hilton Hawaiian Village but the line was huge and by the time we got to the front of the line they told us they didn’t have any more cars so I went across the street to Enterprise and got a car right away. We drove towards North Shore and stopped at Waimea Valley to see the Waimea Falls . There is a fee of $13.00 for adults and $6.00 for kids. You take a lovely walk about ¾ of a mile up the paved road through the botanical collections to the Waimea Falls. There you can get life jackets and/or noodles and swim in the falls. It was so much fun. The kids loved it. It was tough to swim close to the falls because of the pressure of the water pulling you away but it was fun to try. If the walk is too much for you, they have a shuttle that will take you there and back at the cost of $4.00 one way, $6.00 round trip (per person). Before you leave Waimea Falls keep an eye out for the beautiful peacocks strolling around.
After leaving Waimea, we headed to North Shore to see the incredibly big waves (12 feet) and watch the surfers. What a sight. The waves were so powerful it was incredible to watch. We also stopped at Laniakea Beach to see the 200-pound sea turtles.
We were very sad when our vacation came to an end. Even though this was our longest stay in Hawaii, we still were not ready to leave when it was time, and look forward to visiting again next year. Aloha.
Many of my activities, food, and accommodations were either hosted by the business or given to me at a discounted rate.