So the Mrs. and I celebrated our second anniversary in style by spending five nights and four full days in Maui this last weekend. If you’ve ever heard good things about Hawaii, you can believe them. If I ever had to pick, I’d choose my Emerald City in a second, but since it’s unlikely I’ll ever have to do that, I plan to go back to Maui many times throughout my life. For today’s post, I’ve decided to share some thoughts and observations I had while I was there, and even some travel/tour advice.
1. If you ever plan a trip to Hawaii, don’t sweat the weather forecast. The Sunday prior to our departure (which was on a Thursday), Dona checked the weather forecast and saw that it was rain and wind our entire visit. Ask anyone who talked to me that day and they can attest that I was not too cheery. Well . . . it rained twice. Once in a rain forest for like four minutes, and then we had a very light sprinkle on our dinner cruise for a couple of minutes. The rest of the time it was sunny and warm. The wind was only intense in certain places by the ocean (as in, on the beach), and some clouds are always there because of the mountains, but when and if they block the sun it’s usually welcome. It was for me the one time it happened. My shuttle driver on the first day even assured us that the weather forecasts are NEVER right because the island has so many diverse climates. So take that one home with you.
2. If you stay in any of the amazing resorts along Ka’anapali Beach, that’s cool . . . but I think you’re missing something. It’s hard for me really to explain it . . . but we stayed in Lahaina on Front Street. It was a smaller hotel but very nice, right on the water, and just down the road from tons of shops and restaurants and neat things to see–and it was all an actual town. People lived there. Granted, we were in the touristy spot of the town, and the REAL locals lived up the hill a bit, but there were still locals around, and it felt authentic. The big resorts, which Dona and I “got lost in” one day just to check them out, are super nice and super cool, but it’s all so isolated and put on. Locals don’t go to that restaurant, or that bar, and have to pay to park to go to that beach. You’re in a mile-long, artificial experience. I’m not knocking it, because I’d LOVE to spend a week at one of them. Seriously. But everything you need is right there and completely made up for the sole purpose of getting you there. I don’t know how to make my point better than that . . . it’s just that while I think the people who stayed at those resorts may have had a “better” experience than me, I experienced Hawaii better than they did.
3. Me thinks that the magic of the island enchants people’s taste buds. When I would tell people I was going to Hawaii, all I’d hear about is how awesome the pineapple is and how amazing the mahi mahi is fresh, etc. Then there was our shuttle driver who raved on and on about how real bananas are “chalky,” and apple bananas are the way to go, and how Hawaiian avocados are infinitely more creamy than ones from California or Mexico, and so on. Well, we had all of them. They were all good. Really good. They were all as good as the times I’ve had them on the mainland. With the pineapples, I think the thing is that many people have had only canned pineapple and never a fresh-cut one. Hawaiian pineapple (even the low-acid Maui Gold kind) is just as good as the Dole pineapple I can buy at Safeway in Ballard. The mahi mahi? Incredible. I had it in a fresh fish sandwich at Cool Cat’s Cafe’ in Lahaina and then encrusted in roasted macadamia nuts on my dinner cruise, and both times it was awesome. As awesome as when I’ve had it at other seafood restaurants. Apple bananas and Hawaiian avocados? Well, I began to think that Maui had taken complete possession of my shuttle driver’s mind. Apple bananas are a tiny bit sweeter than regular bananas. I guess that makes them taste like apples? Still tasted like a banana to me. A good banana, but a banana nonetheless. And the avocados are . . . well . . . watery. “Watery” is not synonymous with “creamy” in my thesaurus. I wish I could report on the mangoes, but we were informed that since Maui’s mango season had been over for a couple of months, all the mangoes there were imported from Mexico. We skipped them.
4. Apparently pineapples don’t come from trees. Maybe you learned that in second grade. I learned it at age 30.
5. The new Hawaii Five-O series is . . . meh. I saw the first episode twice: once on my flight to Hawaii, and once on my way back. It’s a typical cop show. But maybe the original one was, too. That theme song is still awesome, though.
6. Our modern age has changed how I see older couples for the worse. I was on the elevator at my hotel and there was an older couple (“older” as in my parents’ age, mid- to late-fifties, probably) that were having a great time with one another and flirting and kissing. It wasn’t so excessive that it grossed me out, mind you. It did start to produce that feeling of, “wow, it’s so great to see a couple like this that’s likely had and raised kids and worked long careers still enjoying being with each other so much.” Then the thought hit me–this guy could have recently ditched his wife with whom he “raised” those kids for this woman who got divorced at age 27 because marriage was “no fun” and made it her life pursuit to be a cougar when she hit 35. I could have been briefly admiring a wrecked home. Of course I don’t really know, but I’m not too pleased that the thought was rational.
7. I’m not going to say to NOT go on a dinner cruise, but I will tell you to not expect it to be worth the money you spend on it.
8. Apparently Hawaiians like weak drinks. Look–I never “go out drinking.” I’ll go get drinks with friends, but “drinks” is plural in that case because there’s more than one of us each ordering our own. 99.9% of the times I go out I have only one, and the other 0.1% of the time I have 2, and they’re always at least an hour apart. I know what one drink with hard alcohol in it will do to me; I had several on this vacation and I might as well have been drinking POG. It could have saved me some money.
9. Seattle loves Hawaii. Let’s just take you through my trip to illustrate this. We arrived on Thursday, and one of the hotel clerks saw we were from Seattle and mentioned her daughter and son-in-law lived in Bellevue. Five minutes later she was checking in a lady from Kirkland. The next night we were walking around on Front Street and walked into a coffee shop just in time to hear a couple mention Kona Coffee vs. Seattle Coffee. We talked to them for a second to learn that they live in the Greenlake area. The next day we were on a snorkel excursion and overheard the two couples across from us discussing how one was from Bothell and the other was from Shoreline. Several hours later, during lunch on the same boat, there were five or six guys all talking about how they were all from Seattle. One other guy that I never talked to on the boat was wearing a UW shirt. The next day was Seattlite free, but only because we only directly interacted with like four people the whole day. The next day we had to reschedule our dinner cruise plans, and as we were doing so, found out the agent was from Puyallup. And of course the planes were both packed.
10. The Road to Hana is only really worth it because of Waianapanapa and Oheo gulch. It’s a gorgeous drive, but the danger and stress that it brings and time it takes wouldn’t be worth it otherwise. You may see stuff in a visitor’s guide about the Garden of Eden where they filmed part of Jurassic Park, and talks about walking around in lava tubes. Well those cost money. Lots of money. The Garden of Eden was $20 a person (I think . . . it was definitely at least $10 a person). No thanks. When we got to the Lava Tubes, there was already a couple getting instructions on where to go by the guy at the entrance, so we sat in our car to listen before getting out, and the guy ended with, “Now, it’s $25 to enter . . .” We started the car and left. Keep it. Waianapanapa and the seven sacred pools at Oheo gulch deserve to be most of your day, anyway. Just go straight to those places and jump off some rocks–you’ll be glad you did. I’m sure there’s hidden stuff all around there that’s awesome, but we weren’t fortunate to have a local guide to show us those kinds of things.
11. I’m glad I live in Seattle because here the sun doesn’t try to eat me. I haven’t had shoulders burnt this bad since I was 15. Thankfully now I know about the wonders of aloe. When most people heard that our seating for the dinner cruise was open-air, they thought, “Oh, how nice!” I thought, “I’m not going home with any skin.” Shirts don’t matter in Hawaii. The Hawaiian sun laughs at shirts.
12. I guess all the big waves are on Oahu? The biggest wave I saw was maybe a 4-foot swell. All of the surfers did that paddle-surfing thing that you do when you have small waves. That made me a little sad because I remember swimming at a beach in Florida as a kid that had five foot-plus waves and it was awesome. I honestly didn’t know that big waves like that were so rare.
13. Those stereotypical, blond, Hawaiian “surfer dudes” are all too real. I saw many. Unfortunately none of them talked like stoned versions of Bill and Ted, though. They talked like normal, intelligent people. So sad.
14. Be wary of a hotel’s offer of a “free breakfast.” We understood it to be the ONE complimentary continental breakfast we got for our stay. Turns out it was a sales pitch to use the hotel’s concierge service to book our events, and the food was four small cinnamon rolls (about as wide as a quarter each), eight pieces of store-bought pineapple bread, and six tiny mini-muffins. And eight people showed up, including us. We ate but didn’t stick around when the lady didn’t start her presentation by 10 minutes after she said she would. We had to buy breakfast elsewhere.
15. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, overly tanned, skinny, Speedo®-clad old men are always unsettling. They’re always by themselves, too. Can’t imagine why.
16. If you’ve heard that the people in Hawaii are really nice, you heard right. Now this is the people in the SERVICE industry. The actual, non-service locals weren’t rude or anything, but they weren’t going out of their way to say “Aloha” to a couple of pale mainlanders, either. But everyone that works in a restaurant, a tourist location, a store, or a hotel are so genuinely cool it’s frightening. I was most impressed by the guys on our snorkel cruise. They were just relaxed and cool with everyone. It could be that they’re genuinely nice guys. It also could be that they have one of the best jobs in the world and they know it. I think it helps to love where you live and love telling people about it, too. That seemed to be a common thread with many people.
17. The whole “Aloha” thing is something of a facade to tourists. I’m sure that actual locals use the commonly known Hawaiian terms of “Aloha” and “Mahalo” in their common speech on a regular basis, and that “living Aloha” is something many of them take seriously. But when it comes to the tourist part of it, at least in what I saw, those words are really only used to create an experience. No one seemed uncomfortable using “hello” and “thanks” at all, and when they did say “aloha” or “mahalo,” it came off as part of a script. The biggest offender is Hawaiian Airlines. They say “Mahalo” after every announcement, and you could tell they get tired of saying it. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to begin boarding the premier seating and first class now, please come to the gates with your boarding pass ready. Mahalo.” . . . “Can I have your attention please–would Bob Smith please come to the desk by the gate? Mahal–” . . . “Ladies and gentlemen we’re going to now board rows 35 and up, muhuh” . . . “Thank you for choosing Hawaiian Airlines mu.”
18. I suspected it, and there actually is something of a movement to make Hawaii its own independent nation. I saw a few people with decals on their windshields and rear windows that read “Nationhood.” And one guy had a sticker that said, “Hawaiian Nation Now!” If you didn’t know, there’s something similar in Texas going on, and Chuck Norris has said that WHEN Texas becomes its own nation again, he will run for president. That gets me wondering . . . if Hawaii becomes ITS own nation, will Tom Seleck run for president?
19. The Red Dirt Dirt Shirt company is MILKING their appearance on Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. When I saw that episode of the show, I immediately thought it was a publicity stunt. The whole idea of Dirty Jobs is that what the people featured on the show do for their living is somehow vital and important to civilized society. I guess you could argue that making t-shirts with red volcanic dirt is a small-but-important part of private commerce, but that might be stretching it a bit. Well it turns out I was right, because the three or four Dirt Shirt stores along Front Street in Lahaina all had standees of Mike Rowe next to big screen TV’s playing the episode on constant loop, and many of their shirts feature screen printing related to Dirty Jobs or Rowe in some way. In pointing this out, I’m not faulting them for doing it, I’m just saying that I called it.
20. Hawaii still has the old soda cans! Dona was not remotely as impressed by this as I was, but I caught it immediately. Nearly all the soda cans in Hawaii are the older style that went out of use in the late 90’s, at least in the Midwest, meaning they have the wider lids and the ribbed rims. Does anyone remember when all soda cans were like this? (Well, at the time they also had the smaller openings, where it seems everyone uses the wide-mouth ones, now, which originated on beer cans). Why do I know so much about soda cans?
21. It’s kind of sad that such a revered Hawaiian musician, Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwoʻole, has been relegated to those cheap gas station and department store CD racks, with the box where you press the CD cover to hear a sample. I mean, those things are for lame world music, cheap swing and jazz compilations, and nature sounds. I could also make the easy observation of how awesome it is that a 700+ lb. guy’s primary instrument was the ukulele, but I’m classier than that.
22. The first rule of planning a vacation should be, “Check your connections.” I just found out we could have gotten a discount at our hotel if we had talked to someone we know. Oh well, such is life.
23. The best way to want to give up salt in your diet is going swimming in the ocean. I can still taste it, and I still want to avoid it. How is it that water so beautiful and clear tastes so nasty?
24. Skip the milk in Hawaii. Over eight dollars a gallon. The cheapest is around five or six. I’m not making this up. They have cows! Why don’t they milk them? Makes no sense to me.
Well I hope my next vacation is as relaxing and as awesome as this one was.