Our itinerary was:
Day 1: Grand Wailea Luau Show
Day 2: Haleakala National Park
Day 3: Snorkeling at Lahaina, Kapalua, Kanapali
Day 4: Road to Hana
Day 5: Whale Watching and Snorkeling at Molokini
Day 6: Iao Valley, return home
At airports, especially in tourist destinations, you can easily distinguish between the people arriving and those leaving. We, and the rest of our flight, arrived in heavy jackets, looking sleepy and frazzled, and generally giving the impression that hey, we need this, ok. The people leaving were in shorts and colorful clothes, with overstuffed luggage, carrying last minute shopping bags and generally looking relaxed and beaming around. We were ready to take in the chill effect too!
We were renting a condo by the beach in Kihei. On our way from the airport to the condo we wanted to make a quick stop at Costco for some essential supplies. When we entered Costco, we saw rows of beach gear, Hawaiian shirts, skirts etc. Thankfully in all this random shopping we didn't forget to buy milk! Anyhoo, we made it to our condo an hour or so later laden with a lots of new luggage.
Our condo was right on the beach in a cute little community. The whole area was quite nice, and not very crowded. Abhishek, Divya, Alex and Arya headed for a little walk along the beach.
A pig cooked in Kalua style at our Luau, along with colorful jewelry on display:
The music and dance performance was about an hour and a half and was creatively choreographed to bring to life different events in Hawaiian mythology. Hawaiian dance and music, like the beach life, is relaxed and fluid, quite unlike todays tempo music and dance which borders on aerobics. Each scene in the performance featured colorfully dressed dancers. The MC of the night was particularly talented, doubling up as a singer, drummer and performer. The grand finale of the evening was a group of dances putting out fires by sitting on them (first time I had seen that way of containing fires), and a fire and knife wielding artist who juggled with sticks on fire and then plunged a long sword down his throat!
Haleakala National Park
The island of Maui is named after the demigod Maui - son of Hawaiʻiloa, who is credited with discovering the Hawaiian islands. Haleakala, which translates to "house of sun", is named so since legend has it that the demigod Maui captured the sun in Haleakala, only releasing it when the sun promised to travel more slowly over the ocean. Thousands of years later Haleakala crater is most renowned for it's spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
We made the drive up to Haleakala National Park on our second day at Maui. The drive was gorgeous, rising up from sea level to more than 10,000 ft in 38 miles.
It looked like the surface of Mars (or similar to the surface of Mars as created in a Hollywood basement and shown in Martian). We could imagine Mark Watney getting out to do an EVA!
There is a gorgeous hike called Sliding Sands which hikes down along the crater. Alas, the day we were there it was very cloudy and windy, so the visibility wasn't that great. For the few moments when the clouds opened up, we had a spectacular view of the valley.
A relaxing end to a lovely day.
We started at Baby Beach (they should really rename it to Adult Beginner Beach, it sounds so much more respectable!), and got comfortable with our gear. When we saw our first fish, all the underwater cameras and gopros were out - that fish, which probably strayed off from it's school, must have felt like such a celebrity! From Baby beach we headed on to Kapalua bay, which is a sheltered cove on the north west side of Maui. The rocks lining the bay and the calmer waters make the cove a sanctuary for fish and turtles.
Divya, Abhishek and I were a little uncertain of swimming in the ocean by ourselves, so we held hands and snorkeled. At one point, Abhishek was on my right and clicking pictures with his right hand, and Divya was on my left. We proceeded as a trio holding hands, swimming farther away from the beach that either one of us would have dared individually. It was a fun experience, though Alex maintained a little bit of distance, generally implying that I don't really know these people!
Little Arya who was initially quite uncomfortable in the morning, with the water and the sand that got into everything, was having a blast by the afternoon. She spent hours transferring sand from one container to the other and vice versa. Too bad no one ever remembers what they were thinking when they're that age!
A few pictures from our beach day:
Road to Hana
The rain forest our road cut through was dense. There was such a rich and diverse ecosystem within a square foot. There'd be a big tree growing that would be hogging most of the sunlight, vines and creepers twisting around the tree's bark, a variety of shrubs around the tree making the best of the filtered rays of sunlight, grass around the shrubs, and moss between the grass - not a square centimeter of earth gone to waste! The jungle could just swallow you whole, and there'd be no trace that you were ever there. It was just incredible how so many species and life forms were being supported by Mother Earth. The whole backdrop reminded me of the scene from Lost World when they get stuck in the jungle. Speaking of which, apparently some scenes from Jurassic World were shot here, something we found out later.
Hana, and this rain forest are on the other side of Haleakala Crater that we'd visited a few days earlier. Winds laden with moisture come in from the ocean and as they make their way inwards they encounter the crater which obstructs their journey, causing condensation and an abundance of rain. On the other side of this dense rain forest was a deep red, barren crater valley with just a spindly plant popping up once in a while (with lots of fragile, please conserve signs around it)!
A little further down we stopped for a tasty lunch in a unique ambience. A food truck was parked inside a hut with the dense jungle all around it. A lunch ambience unlike any other, definitely put my office lunch spot to shame.
Side note: I learnt while writing this blog that both flowing lava and solid lava are called lava :)
A few pictures on our drive back:
Gypsy guide (the app for Road to Hana) was an excellent companion. On the way to Hana the Gypsy guide talked about interesting places to see. On the way back he spoke about the history of Hawaii and it's people.
Traditional Hawaiian society apparently had a caste system resembling India's caste hierarchy. Society was divided into warriors and chiefs, priests, commoners and the lower caste. Marriage between castes, especially to people in lower castes was strictly forbidden. Superstitions in society abounded, one mentioned that if a man and a women ever ate together at the same table the man would be struck down by lighting!
The islands of Hawaii were ruled by different chiefs who frequently fought battles amongst each other. King Kamehameha conquered all the Hawaiian islands in 1795, and the islands were brought under one ruler for the first time. The next century saw a growing battle for control over the archipelago between the United States and Europe. Hawaii was eventually annexed by the United States in 1959, as it's 50th and most recent state. In 1993, the US Congress passed a joint Apology Resolution apologizing for the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom and acknowledging that Hawaii had been annexed unlawfully.
Gypsy guide's chronicle of Hawaiian history kept us deeply engrossed on the drive back. The narrative had rich details about the people and rulers of each era, their way of life and aspirations. Soon we were back to civilization - straight roads, shops, people. I went to bed that night dreaming of Hawaiian warriors jumping out of the jungle screaming Haka - an ancient Hawaiian war cry!
Snorkeling at Molokini
That afternoon we took a cruise out to Molokini - a crescent shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater just a few miles off the coast of Maui. It was a beautiful day to be out on the ocean, the sun was shining brightly in the sky, and the water was a sparkling, deep sapphire blue. We were also delighted to see a few humpback whales, including a mamma and a baby whale, during our cruise.
Some pictures of us snorkeling are below. Snorkeling in Molokini felt like swimming in a gigantic 40ft deep swimming pool with fish and corals around us, the water was so clear and calm.
For our last evening in Maui, we went out for dinner at a Japanese-European restaurant on a small hill near Kihei overlooking a golf course. A wonderful end to a glorious day.
Aloha and Mahalo!