It was a pleasure to get up at 4 am that morning last month, and to arrive at the Airport and park our vehicles before undergoing US security and catching a flight to Maui. It was a family holiday. We boarded the US Airways from Edmonton (Canada) to Phoenix as the first leg of the journey. Apart from flying in a smaller aircraft with two middle aged cranky hostesses, the three and a half hour flight was insignificant. Here we changed the flights and boarded a much larger aircraft jammed with passengers and headed for the enchanted island of Maui. It was a longer flight, six and a half hours over the Pacific ocean, and the US Airways provided no entertainments, no screens in front of your seats to watch a movie, play a game or observe the progress made on the flight map which are common in most major Canadian airlines (Westjet) and in all Emirates flights. They served free soft drinks, but cold sandwiches cost extra. A delicious Ruben sandwich and a tin of roasted almonds cost $11, credit cards only. For me this was sufficient until we landed in Maui, at the Kahului airport, 6800 kms away from home.
Our party consists of 5 adults and one child and were occupied isolated seats during our flights as US Airways failed to seat us together. By previous arrangement, we picked up two rental cars and drove to our hotel – the Royal Lahaina Resort, about an hour drive from the airport. I had already programmed my ‘talking’ Garmin GPS (Global Positioning System) and the detailed street maps on the LCD screen guided us smoothly to our hotel lobby. In a few minutes we were taken to our cottages on two trolleys.
First thing you notice when you arrive in a tropical country like Hawaii is the sweet smell of fruits and flowers in the air, the difference in temperature, and the very happy and extremely helpful people greeting you with “Aloha” (Welcome!) and “Mahalo” (Thank you) when you leave.
Our cottage had a garden view with all those beautiful exotic trees and flowers. Coconut trees were everywhere, also Acacia tree, Tamarind, Mango, Banana and palm trees. Right beside our cottage was a guava tree with ripe yellow fruits ready to pick which I did. Its interior had red pulp and very sweet. Our 3 cottages were connected by a long wide verandah with tables, lounge and chairs to sit and relax.
After a quick shower and change, we met at the Lahaina restaurant for dinner. Hawaii has its own cousine prepared with pineapple, yam (sweet potato) and poi (taro root). Mahi Mahi is a popular seafood item , caught by the local fishermen and is listed in every restaurant menu here, so is yellow fin tuna. Blue Hawaii ( a melon drink) and Mai Tai are the two popular drinks, costing about $9 a shot. We enjoyed the cool breeze from the ocean, and watched the sunset while we dined.
Suddenly the outdoor stage came alive with Hula dancers – mostly by former Miss Hawaii contestants wearing freshly cut flowers around their neck. This was followed by fire dancers by their male counterpart. In most resorts and hotels, the Hula dancing and singing is common every night.
After the breakfast next morning, we went shopping for a few items in a nearby grocery store and was appalled by the prices. Everything is doubled in price. A bag of barbecue corn chips $5 ($2 in Canada), 12 cans of Coke $7.50 (3.50 in Canada), Pineapple which grows here by the millions $6.50 each ($2 in Canada) and so on. Gasolene (petrol) sell by the gallon in the US, works out to be about $1.05/litre while we paid .82 cents in Canada. We found the major difference in prices when we started eating in the restaurants 3 times daily.
On the second night, my wife and I took a dinner cruise in Maui Princess ($148+tips). From Maui harbor, the ship will take you some miles out to the sea and you get a chance to see some of the other islands, Molakai and Lanai in particular. The meal was excellent and there was live entertainment by a guitar artist. We were fortunate to witness a double rainbow during the cruise, also the mountains of the ‘big island’. About a couple of kilometers into the ocean, there were dozens of surfers floating on their boards waiting for a big wave. The sea was calm, and the west coast of Maui was illuminated with night lights. We were back at the dock by 8.30pm.
Tourists arriving in Hawaii do not want to miss attending a festival called LUAU pronounced Loo Aa oo), a traditional cultural event where you enjoy the Hawaiian foods and drinks, watch various dances performed by men and women. During the middle of a dance, it started to rain, and all the 600 audience were supplied with plastic rain wear. We did not much care for the food which included a pig roasted for 16 hours in a pit with blue yams. Commercially, Luau is very much exploited throughout Hawaii, with unlimited drinks, especially Rum based Blue Hawaii and Mai-Tais. Cost per Luau varies, the one conducted by Lahaina resort costs $100 per person and it last for about 3 hours.
Maui has 80 well kept beaches stretching 120 miles (about 190 kms). Our hotel had its own private beach. This island has several volcanic mountains, none active, and gorgeous valleys, fresh water lakes, numerous waterfalls and a huge stretch of rain forest. There are miles and miles of sugar cane fields and pineapple farms. They also produce Macadamia nuts. Unfortunately, Hawaii is trying to get away from producing their own sugar, as they can buy cheaper from other countries. Their Macadamia nut business also came to a halt when Australia aggressively invaded that market.
One of the most spectacular event in Maui is taking a road trip to Hana, and the best way to accomplish this is by way of a chartered coach, as the road consists of 600 curves and hairpin bends and 54 narrow bridges taking you through rain forests, bamboo forests, tropical fruit farms by slowly driving over high cliffs through narrow bridle paths and through coastal line. We caught the coach at 6.30am and returned to our hotel at 6.30pm after visiting numerous places including an Avacado farm, a black sand beach and pools, various waterfalls in a rain forest, pineapple and sugar cane fields and part of Haleakala national park.
Just a few miles from the beaten path was a cemetery, and I wanted to go there to visit Charles Lindbergh’s grave.
Lindbergh was the first man to cross Atlantic in a propeller plane -The Spirit of St. Louis in the late 1920s and became a hero. Unable to cope with life in the United States, he moved to Maui with his wife Anne Morrow, where he died in 1972. While the rest of the passengers opted to go swimming, my wife and I went to visit Lindbergh’s grave.
The Hana road trip was one of the best highlights of our Maui visit. Our hotel had an Expedia office, which arranged our trip to Hana. They had also suggested to take a Helicopter trip to see Maui’s high mountains and the coastal areas.
On the 5th day, four of us drove towards the Kahului airport and got into a helicopter run by Blue Hawaii. The lady pilot announced that it was a 45 minute flight and enabled us to watch Maui and adjacent islands from the air. I left my video camera at the hotel, as the helicopter people would supply a video disc of our flight within minutes after we return for a price. But that didn’t happen, the camera had malfunctioned during the flight and the recording was lost. The flight costs around $200 per person with a maximum load 6 passengers, seated according to their weight. Persons weighing over 245 lbs (110 kg) are not eligible for this trip.
For 3 meals daily, we depended on various eateries. One of the restaurants we tried was the Lahaina Grill, a hugely popular place situated near the harbor. We were fortunate to get a reservation for six there on a Saturday night. My rib steak, marinated with sweet aromatic spices was close to 1kg and delicious. The total bill came to over $400 including an 18% tips already added to the bill. Those who don’t notice the tip amount in the bill, would add more tips. For lunch one day, we happened to be in a small mall, a sign said they makes the best pizzas in Maui, we bought 3 and took them back to the hotel. They were indeed the best pizzas ever!
The best time to visit Maui is from December to April when the coastal waters are invaded by the Humpback whales. It is estimated that some 12000 humpbacks arrive in Maui in early December, give birth to young ones and train and raise them in the warm shallow waters for 5 months before they heads back to the deep sea. During this season, snorkeling and boat excursions are limited, as they would interfere with the whale migration. Snorkeling, surfing and scuba diving are the main activities in Hawaiian islands. People from around the world arrive here in Maui at the rate of 1000 a day. Tourist traps includes ‘time share’ selling to unsuspected visitors who are lured to attend a 90 minute function, only to come out after signing some obscure contracts costing them thousands of dollars. It is a fact that 95% of time share holders never return to use their so called privileges. There are hundreds of travel agents thrive on this particular business.
Hawaii consists of 6 major islands: Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui and the Big Island. The Conde Nast Travel magazine voted Maui as the best of all Hawaiian islands continuously for the past several years. Hawaii is the newest of the 50 US states, joined in 1959, and is the only US state that is made entirely of islands and occupies an entire archipelago and its own time zone. For example when it is noon in New York, it is 6am in Hawaii, and 10pm in India (16 hours difference between India and Hawaii).
Returning rental cars ($600 each for 8 days) was a breeze. The Kahului airport was huge and designed for passenger comfort. Our return trip was via United Airlines, left Maui at 10.30pm. They too failed to accommodate us in seats together. But the staff were friendly, and we arrived in San Francisco, passing the golden gate bridge, in time for breakfast and a little shopping. I spent some time in a book store while others were busy shopping for souvenirs. After a couple of hours we took another United Airlines flight and arrived in Edmonton within three hours.
Maui is a very pleasant island to visit, it is beautiful and majestic with its vast natural splendors and fragrant flowers, delicious tropical fruits including 53 different types of mangoes and many different types of bananas, its steep waterfalls and huge trees that grow over 100 feet, the volcanic mountains and miles of clean white sandy beaches, fabulous restaurants and countless souvenir shops. It is pure magic. How can you tell you liked a place so much? When the time comes to leave, you don’t want to go. It is rather expensive, but its worth every penny.