A view on the Road to Hana
Photo by Lianna Matt McLernon
My husband and I narrowly escaped the Polar Vortex when we left for our honeymoon in Kihei, Maui; the day after we left, apparently 10 inches of snow swept through the Twin Cities area. We chose Maui because of the humpback whale migration patterns and because we thought it would provide a good blend of recreation and relaxation. Both counts were correct. We chose Kihei because it had the most affordable AirBnb price and we were on the main road right next to some boutiques and market stalls, Foodland, and mouth-watering restaurants (I am a very big fan of the ramen at Three’s and the breakfast at Kihei Cafe).
Over the 10 days we were gone, we dove five feet away from a sea turtle so big I wouldn’t be able to wrap my arms around it, watched humpback whales, waded on a black sand beach, and had a very lazy night in where we ate popcorn, drank a bottle of wine, and watched The Office. And, in my maturity as a married woman, I bought my first snapback hat; it has a pineapple on it. If you can’t tell, my husband is a very supportive person.
Like all vacations we plan on our own, there are always some lessons to be learned from them. We were fortunate enough that most of the takeaways we had were things that happened to work out, but maybe they’ll help you. Or maybe you just want to laugh at our tragic cellphones and stupidity around AirBnb. Either way:
Grab road maps.
Granted, not everyone decides to travel with a phone that dies at 60 percent, but sometimes all it takes is a constant downpour while on the scenic Road to Hana before we’re out both of the cellphones we brought.
Because I grabbed a road map from our car rental place, we were able to old-school it and return safely from the Road to Hana and get to our afternoon dive at the Maalea Harbor, our whale watching tours in Lahaina, and the volcano Haleakala, where we stood above the clouds at 10,000 feet and watched the sunset. Luckily, Maui is not particularly difficult to navigate. Fun fact: Most of the highways (at least on the west side) seem to average 45 miles per hour, but most people go 60-plus.
Be okay with taking and not taking pictures.
This one might apply less to people more into photography, but for the average lay person, go in accepting that there will be moments you wish you had taken a photo (like those three whale breaches right in front of us). However, sometimes the act of taking a photo can take you away from the moment that made it so great, you know?
If there is a picture you want to take, don’t be afraid to go for it, no matter how cheesy. My favorite picture of myself that trip is highly unphotogenic but I am standing underneath towering bamboo at the Twin Falls on the Road to Hana.
Don’t be afraid to splurge on a couple of things.
We decided to go to what was generally deemed the premier luau on the island, Old Lahaina Luau. After we bought the tickets, I saw signs for luaus that were $20 per person. If that happens to you, don’t be discouraged! Not everything that is more expensive is overpriced!
The luau was one of the highlights of my trip. There was an open bar, a huge buffet—I had a bite of everything except two out of three salads—and a wonderful performance full of excellent showmanship and great traditional hula dancing. My husband was a champ and we did the little mini hula group lesson they had before dinner, and we got to see the roasted pig being unearthed. The food was delicious (don’t shy away from the jelly-looking noodles of the Chicken Long Rice), and our spot at the traditional cushion-seating in the front row turned out great. As chance would have it, two out of three of the other couples at the low table were from Minnesota and Wisconsin, and the third was a German couple from Cologne, where, as they put it, the football team isn’t super good, but when they win, it’s a huge celebration.
Also, don’t be afraid to double down on one place or try a few different places options for an activity.
I know that seemed a bit contradictory, but it’s true. For instance, I like working with the same dive shop during the whole duration of my vacation so I can get into the flow of how the organization operates. For this trip, I doubled down on the Maui Dive Shop because although they were a tidge more expensive than some other dive places, they had great reviews and, on a practical level, picked us up for free on our morning dives. To convey some of the reasons I liked them in one very long sentence, their dive masters were all great (we had four different ones, Lucy, Dave, Marc, and Brian, one for each day of diving), they pick good sites even if the weather doesn’t cooperate, and they utterly spoiled us with their food: breakfast burritos, pastries, and fruit in the morning; a deli lunch; and for the afternoon dive, we even had ribs with what is debatably now my favorite barbecue sauce.
As for the two mornings of whale watching we did, I chose two different companies. The Lahaina Cruise Co. was a later morning time slot on a boat, and the other, Ultimate Whalewatch & Snorkel, was early in the morning and on a raft. The time of day didn’t seem to affect how many whales we saw or the amount of boats that were out there, but perhaps the boat traffic is worse around the holiday season. Lahaina Cruise Co. ran a smooth operation with an amicable naturalist onboard, and the indoor cabin provided shelter from the consistent rain while the upper and side decks provided more than enough viewing. However, my favorite of the two was Ultimate Whalewatch. It did help that we were not rained on. In general, though, the raft provided more agility when looking for whales, and it was cool to be so close to the water. All in all, since I had never been whale watching, I’m happy I tried it both ways. I definitely saw whales both times, so no need to worry about that.
Bring Dramamine if you have ever needed it in your life.
I literally started creating a storyboard in my head for a Dramamine advertisement while on my dive boat because I was so excited that the choppy waves didn’t make me seasick. When you’re not puking, the waves are kind of fun. Who knew? My tagline: “Dramamine: Erase your limits.”
Roll with the punches (and pack a Nintendo?).
The subtitle to this lesson could also be, “Check your AirBnb reservation.” It turns out that I did not reserve it for the extra day to cover our late flight time like I thought, so when we were doing a quick run-back to the condo before we settled in at the beach our last day, there was a cleaning lady there. So we packed up and, since we didn’t particularly want to bring our big dive bag and carry-ons to the beach, went to the airport where we had to wait outside check-in for six hours before the three-hour check-in period began. I was pretty devastated at the beginning, but my husband kept such a positive attitude, journeyed for 15 minutes looking for food for us to eat, and made me laugh as we played Yoshi’s Woolly World. We saved seven Yoshis, by the way.
Our honeymoon to Kihei, Maui, was full of adventure and lazy afternoons, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope on your next trip, it’s the right amount of relaxation and fun for you!