One of the first things I noticed upon moving to Oakland was the giant Hawaiin Airlines billboard that juts out of Trader Joes’ parking lot.  All summer and fall, that billboard reminded me that we’re so close to Maui(daily nonstops!) and really, isn’t it time we experience the beauty of the island?

So, when a flight deal with roundtrips comparable to LA popped up in my e-mail, I gave in to the billboard’s temptation.  David and I booked a short post-bar/30th birthday Maui trip and I began to daydream about sun, heat, and beautiful beaches.

We’re on the flight home now after four nice, restful days and I’m so grateful we were able to take this trip.  Getting on the plane Thursday, I was pretty wound up with stress, and I’m so grateful for the restful break. One bummer-the weather! One surprise-the incredible food! Here’s some highlights-from moments when we found pockets of sun :)

We rented a condo in Lahaina at the Mahaina Surf. Normally, I research hotels/rentals like crazy, but with bar review, David was on it. Maui is EXPENSIVE but David ended up finding a great, reasonable place.  The condo grounds are extremely well manicured and the views are gorgeous:

Special bonus: All our neighbors were nice retirees.  The pool closes at 8, and there’s signs that say: “Quiet will Prevail.” Each evening, about an hour before sunset, the retirees made their way, two by two, to the pool, drinks in hand, to watch the sunset.  And what a show! Even with all the clouds, it was absolutely breathtaking.  

The condo was about a mile from the Farmers Market, and after waking up early on Friday, we picked breakfast goodies and a couple pineapples.

Friday brought wild wind to Lahaina, but we were headed north and east to drive the Road to Hana.  It started raining when we got to Kahului….and hardly ever stopped. The road was a good rain-day trip, as the waterfalls were spectacular, and all the views were green and lush.  We stopped for shave ice, and the coconut and vanilla ice cream combo was so sweet and SO good.

We fell for the Garden of Eden tourist trap, eager for some fresh air during a brief rain pause.  It’s totally overpriced, but as David says, absolutely worth it to meet this guy:

and see this view:

After hearing many good things about Mama’s Fish House, we made a reservation as a special dinner treat.  It was on the way back from Hana, so I made the reservations for sunset…I would love to try it again when it’s not pouring! The sky was completely gray, but I imagine it’s gorgeous when it’s warm.  

On Sautrday morning, we checked out sunny Wailea:

I finished Glitter and Glue on the beach….what a book.  Can’t wait to write more about it soon.  The sunshine was wonderful, but eventually the wind picked up and wind grew out-of-control.  It was one of those moments where you wonder-when does being optimistic stop being a good thing? I kept trying to look around at the gorgeous view, and remind myself of my gratitude for the trip, all while bring pelted by wind.  After a minor sandstorm, David asked, “where are those beaches like in the Corona ads-warm, clear water?” We decided it was time to surrender to the wind and head back to the condo.

One the way back, we spotted a clear water beach on the side of the highway.  We pulled over and walked into the ocean.  The sun was strong, and the waves were calm, dotted with water sparkles. THIS was a Corona beach.

That afternoon was the best-exactly what you want on a beach vacation: to fall asleep in the sand, with the warm sunshine on your back, listening to the waves.

Buoyed by our sun naps, we followed our retiree neighbors example, and made piña coladas at the condo, to watch the sunset by the pool.  It was breathtaking.

After reading about good snorkeling places near the condo, we decided to try it out the next morning. At the rental place, the nice clerk strongly discouraged us from renting gear: “this is the worst winter in five years.  Visibility is awful-you won’t see anything.”  With that vacation-inflated sense of confidence-“It’s our last day! It’ll be different for us!” we thanked him for his honesty, and walked out with fins and masks, excited to explore.

Conditions were TERRIBLE. The snorkeling beach was freezing, the water was choppy, and the clerk was totally right.  We’re pretty sure we saw a whale (out in the horizon, I only saw rocks through my mask) so the outing wasn’t a total wash, but it was not ideal.  Oh well, next time!

At dinner the previous night, our waiter recommended checking out Honu for pizza and turtle watching.  Pizza sounded like an excellent remedy for the snorkeling fail and Hoku did not disappoint.  Actually, all the food in Maui was excellent-I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but everything exceeded expectations. Honu is great for lunch-I’m still thinking of the mushroom truffle pizza and ahi bruschetta.

That evening, back at the condo, we watched one last sunset and enjoyed takeout from the Fish Market on the patio. The condo had little candles, and it was nice to listen to the waves, drink wine, and enjoy another delicious meal before an early bedtime.

Thankfully, we managed to get a good night’s sleep before our 3:00 a.m. alarm. We decided to do the sunrise at Haleakala before our morning flight.  Six years ago, on my only other trip to Maui, the Webbers were amazing hosts and took me to see the sunrise.  It’s was incredibly generous, and I remember the thrilling feeling of seeing the clouds below.

We arrived at the summit around 5:30, about an hour before sunrise. The weather forecast predicted a sunny day, so we hoped to see stars before the sunrise, but quickly realized the cloud cover was too deep.  At around 6:20, we left the warm car and ran through wild, biting cold wind, to join the other tourists for the sunrise.  At 6:43-sunrise-this is what we saw:

There’s no way to Pollyanna that moment.  It sucked.  

Eventually, our mood improved as the drive down was really pretty.  The clouds cleared a bit, and we got a glimpse of the crater down from the visitor center.

What turned the morning around? Macadamia nut pancakes at Kula Cafe! 

Katie and Virginia introduced me to this awesome place on my last trip, and I beelined to the fireplace to warm up and de-wind.  After a heaping stack of their buttery hotcakes, with stunning views of Upcountry, the 3:00 am alarm felt totally worth it.

Maui is just beautiful and I hope we’ll go back-maybe during the summer?  For now-this trip was just what I needed: a total escape from studying and stress, and time to just relax with David. I’m very thankful for that. And-incredible food! The restaurants were remarkable.  Last night, we came up with a list of some of our favorites:

Most memorable flavor:
David: Hot and Sour Ramen, Star Noodle
Fay: Same

Most surprising/unexpected flavor:
David: Spam Masubi, Da Kitchen
Fay: Ahi Edamame Bruschetta, Honu

Favorite All-Around Dish:
David: Crusted, Seared Ahi, Pineapple Grille

Fay: Sautéed Ono, Mama’s Fish House

Best All-Around Experience:
David: Mama’s Fish House
Fay: Takeout Fish Market on the patio

Best non-fish dish:
David: Mushroom truffle pizza, Honu
Fay: Same

Dish to try recreating at home:
David: Crusted Mahi-Mahi, Pineapple Grille

Fay: Basil Aoili, Pineapple Grille

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