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Maui: Not so Sober October!

Author: ETSanJose
Date of Trip: October 2010

Okay! We are Hawaii junkies!-and our favorite island is Maui! Because Maui really is “no ka oi” (the best!) and was again named number one island in the world for the 16th time by Conde Nast. For the last few years we have been visiting in October when we usually find good value, good weather (often slightly cooler or less humid but not yet rainy) and often, fewer visitors. Maui has beautiful resorts and beaches and sights; it is often breezy (not windy), which my husband and I love; it has a lot of history and a strong sense of community (we always read the local newspapers when we are there) and as in many other locations in Hawaii, the sounds of the birds and the ocean and the sweetness of the air are always relaxing and inspiring. And the food is fresh and good, with excellent restaurants to choose from. I always feel healthier in Maui.
This year we flew Hawaiian Airlines out of San Jose on October 12 for our nine-night stay on Maui. (Tip:  Hawaiian connects through Honolulu so last year we stayed a couple of nights at the Waikiki Beach Sheraton on our return trip where we enjoyed their new endless pool and the new pool shared with the Royal Hawaiian.) Alaskan Air now flies direct from San Jose to Maui as well. I booked part of our trip via Costco Travel and part through Expedia. The Costco part was for the “refurbishment package” at our favorite resort, the Fairmont Kea Lani where they are completing retiling the pool decks. It included 5 nights in a moderate suite with full buffet breakfast and mid-sized car. We wanted to add days on before the Kea Lani so we booked a special sale price via Expedia for the flight and a four-night stay at the Sheraton Maui on Ka’anapali Beach in West Maui.
I am a member of both hotels loyalty programs and I always make sure the hotels know we are coming since it is sometimes possible to receive small upgrades or perks.This time when we checked in at the Sheraton Maui we were upgraded from a garden view to a full ocean front high above Ka’anapali Beach, almost on Black Rock, with a large lanai! It was unexpected and the view was amazing! Also, since the resort is very spread out, it was nice that the elevator directly to the pool was within easy walking distance, just down the hall from our room. The only drawback to our room’s location was that sometimes parking got scarce in the upper level location of the resort, so my husband would have to take the car down to get comp valet parking and the valet parking and lobby area were a long walk back to our room. The room had a refrigerator and microwave and coffee maker (there is a $25 per day resort fee that includes parking, in-room coffee, local calls, etc.)

While staying at the Sheraton we enjoyed the “river” style pool, but since the hotel is in such a popular location, guests must wear wrist bands and return towels to only one location in the large pool area, so that gets a little old. (Tip: the front desk usually has towels to pick up if you are heading out on an excursion. And they don’t really write you up if you don’t return your towel to the desk–they don’t actually keep track by room. You do get a towel per “towel card” but you can ask for more towels.) The food and drink (Mai Tais!) we ordered via the poolside and oceanside bars were great!

When we snorkeled at Black Rock in front of the Sheraton we saw sea turtles. (They are protected but some snorkelers tend to crowd them.) We also booked a West Maui snorkeling trip via the Sheraton concierge on the Teralani ( to go to Kapalua and Honalua Bay (other access to Honalua Bay is by walking from the roadway down a steep hill to a rocky beach). It is probably cheaper to book online, but we booked the night before. Also, I believe the Sheraton owns the Teralani but we wanted this particular itinerary and it was everything promised and more! We met about 9am to be picked up by the catamaran on the beach in front of Leilani’s restaurant (which has restrooms outside the front door) at the end of Whaler’s Shopping Center in the Ka’anapali resort; you can walk there from the Sheraton or pay to park at the Whaler’s Village parking garage, which can get pricey if you don’t have a validation or coupon.

The crew put out fruit and coffee and pastries for breakfast in the ample-sized inside cabin and got fins and snorkels for everyone who wished to snorkel–a few folks didn’t; there were also several children on board and the crew took good care of helping them get the proper equipment. They also have floatation devices for anyone wanting one.  I had brought my own $5 “noodle” float to use. The crew told us about their digital underwater camera packages and their “snuba” option but there was no hard sell. We sailed down the coast and snorkeled at Kapalua first, which had a few fish. Then we sailed to Honalua Bay and suddenly were being escorted by spinner dolphins, who also jumped high out of the ocean. Beautiful! We snorkeled above the beautiful protected coral gardens in the Bay and saw lots of fish. It is the best place with the best conditions I have ever snorkeled. When we got back onboard via the easy steps the crew opened the bar and put out a fantastic barbecue lunch with lots of choices. Then they put up the sails and we actually sailed out in the channel before turning back toward the coast of Maui. Wonderful. No one was sick or seemed to feel queasy. We got back about 2:20 pm, tired, happy and slightly tipsy!

For restaurants in West Maui: At Whaler’s Village we like the Barefoot Bar for casual food; it’s part of the Hula Grill Restaurant. On the way to Lahaina from Ka’anapali, behind the Safeway, is a fun restaurant with good food, Mala Ocean Tavern. You can reserve a table on their outdoor deck. There is a new Duke’s Beach House at the Honua Kai resort where we had great service and good food. For a great view of the sunset, try Merriman’s in Napili. We bought cocktails and took them down to their deck. For lunch we like the Sea House at Napili Kai Beach Club which has a great view of the perfect crescent beach. At the other end of Lahaina is Pacific O which has excellent food. And this year we heard the Lahaina Grill won best overall Maui restaurant.

We have been to Lahaina shopping many times so this time we only shopped for teeshirts for our granddaughters and visted the Lahaina Library book sale (and saw the Healing Seat in the ocean in front of the library) and a craft sale under the gigantic Banyan tree as well as a local cemetery with the graves of lost sailors and Hawaiian royalty.

After our four-night Ka’anapali stay it was on to Wailea and the Fairmont Kea Lani. The Kea Lani is a cut above; their welcome and service and relaxed attitude is something we never get tired of. This year the resort was full because of their special reduced rates, so we didn’t get an upgraded view as we sometimes do, but we did get a choice from side view to inside garden view, which we took. And we could see the ocean from our lanai. Even the “moderate” suites are amazing. We love the bathrooms. And we really enjoy the “adult pool.” In fact, I would be hard pressed to think of anything we don’t like there. The only areas closed during the refurbishment were the pool slide, the upper pool and the upper pool bar.

This year we took a drive into the Kula area high on Haleakala to see the views from the mountain rather than driving to the crater. We also visited Tedeschi Winery which is on the historic Rose Ranch site, and the ranch General Store across the road. While in Wailea we snorkeled at Ulua Beach and swam at the beautiful Polo Beach in front of the Kea Lani. Restaurants: We visited the other Mala restaurant, in the Marriott Wailea Resort, as well as Gannon’s (formerly the Sea Watch but now owned and transformed by Chef Bev Gannon who owns the Haliimaile General Store as well as Joe’s) which was fun and fabulous, and Tommy Bahamas in the Wailea Shopping Center. A new discovery: Five Palms, right on the beach at the Mana Kai Maui resort, Wailea. Good Mai Tais, good food with some offerings a little more reasonable. And for a reasonably priced meal in a fun atmosphere we can count on Fred’s Mexican restaurant in Kihei. We had the buffet breakfast included with our room (fabulous but would be expensive to pay out-of-pocket); for lunch we usually stopped to get supplies at Longs or the Whaler’s General Store at the Shops at Wailea or the deli at the Kea Lani to make our own sandwiches. We didn’t make it to Nick’s Fish Market at the Kea Lani this year, but it has been an excellent place to enjoy dinner in the past.

We returned to San Jose tanned and pleasantly tired and, when we got outside into the night air, cold!  Maui no ka oi!

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