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Josiah's Hawaii Travelogue 9
December 6th, 2018 - January 16, 2019
Hawaii Travelogue 8
December 6th - 17th (Thursday - Monday): Back on Oahu
We left for Hawaii a little early this year since Connie's parents were coming with us before returning to China on the 15th. The first week or so was spent showing them around a bit, though not anywhere I haven't written about before, and doing stuff with Zack. Then I had to spend several days grading finals while the others did a bit more sightseeing without me. It was nice to walk around, enjoy the good weather, and relax a bit (before the grading started, anyway). It was also interesting to see what had changed (mostly for the better) since last year. There were one or two things that I'll write separate travelogue entries for, but mostly it was just a nice vacation without anything especially new or exciting. The big difference is that this year's Hawaii trip is split between Oahu and Maui (where I expect to have more to write about), but more about that another time...

December 11th (Tuesday): Beat-lele
I might have mentioned before that my dad is a big fan of oldies (60's) rock, and he got me into it growing up. Anyway, he got tickets for him, my mom, and I to go see Beat-lele at the Blue Note (a small but popular club on Waikiki). Beat-lele is a Beatles cover band, but what's special is that, instead of guitars, they use ukulele (and a beat box). And they're pretty good. It was a fun show and, if you're a Beatles fan, it's worth seeing Beat-lele if you happen to be in the right place when they're doing a show.

December 18th (Tuesday): Off to Maui

In an earlier post, I mentioned that this Hawaii trip is being split between Oahu and Maui. So here's the story. My dad always had a dream of having a whole bunch of tropical fruit trees so he could just walk outside and pick his favorite fruits every day. Well, he and my mom ended up looking at a place on Maui that kinda fit that dream and decided to give it a go, at least for a while. They're not really farmers, so I'm not too sure if it'll last, but we'll just have to wait and see there. Anyway, Connie's parents left Saturday night and today the rest of us headed over to Maui to spend the next couple of weeks at the place there.
Flying between islands is really quick. While you still have to deal with airport check-in, security, and all that time consuming stuff, the actual flight from Oahu to Maui was only around half an hour. Though it was also the first flight were we had to buy Zack his own seat since he just turned two a few days ago. While the extra space is nice, having to buy an additional ticket for every flight from now on will be annoying.
My parents' new place is half an hour outside of the main town, up in the hills. It's a nice enough house with a large fenced in garden or back yard of sorts with a whole lot of fruit trees and some ducks and chickens, which Zack really enjoys. However, it started raining soon after we arrived so we only had time for a quick look around before heading indoors to unpack. I'll write more about the place, "farm life", and Maui in general in upcoming posts.

Random Hawaii Comment: General Notes on Maui
Maui is the second largest Hawaiian island (after the big island) and the second most populated (after Oahu). That said, it only has one large town (or maybe small city) and a collection of small towns, many of which are kind of old Hawaii style and touristy. There's also an area or two with bunch of resorts but overall the island isn't especially built up (really, not much of Hawaii is outside of Oahu). There's some mountains as well, including one that's known for stargazing, and a lot of beaches (some of which are very famous for surfing). While Maui lacks a lot of the events, shopping, and dining of Oahu (it has some, but certainly a lot less), it's fairly popular with tourists and also home to a number of famous singers, actors, and the like. I'll go into more detail about the island in the future, but that's the basics.

December 19th (Wednesday) - January 5th (Saturday): Maui Life

In this post, I'm going to talk a bit about how I and my family have been spending our time on Maui. Specifically, I'll be focusing on my parents' "farm" (well, more like a large garden). I'll talk about sightseeing and other parts of Maui in detail in future posts.
As previously mentioned, my parents got a place with a large fenced in farm/garden area which includes ducks, chickens, some monarch larvae, and lots of different fruit trees. While it's not really a full on farm, they keep fairly busy clearing brush and weeds, harvesting fruit, looking for eggs (the ducks and chickens don't always lay in their coops), planting some new things, and the like. Connie and I haven't done too much in that regard, though Zack likes to help feed the ducks. As for me, I cut down a banana tree. See, they not true trees and they only ever get one bunch of bananas so, if you want a steady crop, you have to cut down the tree once the bananas start to ripen and let a new one grow in its place. I also helped my mom get honey from the bee hive. It did involve dressing up in one of those bee keeper suits you've probably seen on TV, but my parents' hive is some fancy new design, which makes getting the honey out really easy. You basically remove a panel from the back, plug in a spigot, open up the gates for one column of the hive, and the honey flows right out. Very simple, though you have to wait a while for all the honey since there's so much of it. My mom and I emptied two columns (out of six) and ended up with a bit over a gallon.
The newest addition to the place is a tortoise, who they adopted from the humane society a few days after we arrived. Why a tortoise? Because it's cool, can live a long time, and requires virtually no work to take care of since it can eat the grass, weeds, and any discarded fruit. It's a male tortoise, six and a half years old, and already a pretty good weight (I've had to carry him from place to place a few times). He spent a lot of time hiding in his shell at first, but is starting to get more comfortable around people. For a while though, every day we basically played a round or two of find the tortoise, combing the entire area to see what obscure spot he'd hidden in.
While we have done some sightseeing (more on that in later entries), a lot of our time has been spent hanging out at my parents' place and keeping Zack amused. Fortunately, he likes the animals and there's a huge playground only ten minutes or so away. Unfortunately, this is in one of the rainier parts of the island and winter is the rainy season. As such, I don't think we've had a single 24 hours period without rain. Actually, anything less than half a day of rain has been pretty rare. We could always get out of the rain by going to other, dryer, parts of the island, but it did prevent us from enjoying the farm as much as we otherwise could have. Hopefully we'll get better weather the next time we come here. All in all though, it's been fun and fairly relaxing, just a bit wet.

Random Hawaii Comment: Maui Roads
Fortunately, thanks to a much lower population (both permanent and temporary), traffic on Maui is a whole lot better than Honolulu. The roads, however, often leave something to be desired. They're not bad if you stick to the most developed part of the coast, which encompasses areas like Kahului (the main town), Kihei, and Wailea (the fancy resort area), all of which I'll talk more about later. The speed limits are often a little lower than it feels like they should be, which leads to an extreme speeding problem (there are places where it seems like just about everyone is going 20+ over the limit), but the roads are pretty well laid out and easy to drive on. But once you get a little ways out in the country, things get a lot worse. The roads are barely wide enough for two cars (and some bridges aren't even that), feature tons of sharp curves (some with really poor visibility), and are often in sore need of repaving. This trip is the first time in years that I've had any real problem with car sickness. And, knowing how the Hawaii state government tends to work (or not work, to be more accurate), I don't think the roads here are going to improve any time soon.

Around Maui: Kihei
For some of these posts, I'll be talking about places rather than specific dates.
Kihei is a coastal area around 15 minutes away from Kahului (the largest town on the island; good for shopping but otherwise not too interesting). It's got a number of small beaches, apartments, rental villas, and the like. There's no major hotels, but it does remain fairly popular with tourists and, as such, has a nice collection of restaurants (Connie and I like Paia Fish Market and Kamana Kitchen (Indian)). We went to Kihei on several occasionas since it made a good place to spend time with Zack. In addition to the beaches, there's also a very large park with sports areas, a skate park, and a nice playground, which made for a good place to pass the time. Especially since the weather was a whole lot dryer than at my parents' place. If you don't have little kids, Kihei isn't really an essential location, but between the beaches, restaurants, and the like, it's still not a bad area to visit.

December 24th (Monday): Maui Ocean Center
While Maui has far fewer tourist attractions than Oahu, some are quite popular. The Maui Ocean Center, for example, was rated one of the world's top ten aquariums according to Trip Advisor. So my mom took Connie, Zack, and I to go see it. As a side note, I will note that I'm a little dubious about it being one of the top ten in the world. It's nice, but I've been to several better aquariums myself (not ten, but three or four at least).
Anyway, the Ocean Center is off mostly by itself (along with a small shopping center) a bit outside of Kahului. It's divided between two main buildings and a courtyard with a few outdoor pools. The first building focuses on reef life, especially fish and other creatures that live in the oceans surrounding the Hawaiian islands. While some of the tanks could have been labeled a bit better, it was a good exhibit with lots of interesting fish, eels, and other sea creatures such as jellyfish, an octopus, and glowing coral. Though I ended up going through it mostly at Zack's pace, which involved lots of dashing about from tank to tank.
After that, we ended up back in the courtyard and took a look at the petting pool and a large pool where they raise young sea turtles. We stopped for lunch in the restaurant, which was quite nice, if a touch pricey (there's a much simpler and cheaper cafe as well) then moved on to the next building.
Zack fell asleep on the way, so it gave us a bit more time to examine the exhibits. The first was about fishing in ancient Hawaii, along with a few small movie rooms featuring different underwater videos. There was also a fancy 3D theater, but that wasn't scheduled to open until a week or so after we visited. Then it was back to the fish with an underwater tunnel featuring more deep sea life such as sharks, tuna, and giant manta rays.
And, of course, what attraction is complete without a gift shop? The one at the Ocean Center was especially large and varied so my mom and Connie ended up spending a while browsing before we left.
While I'm not sure if the Maui Ocean Center is really one of the top ten aquariums, it's pretty nice and worth two or three hours to visit if you come to Maui.

December 27th (Thursday): The Surfing Goat Dairy and Steven Tyler
A goat farm / dairy normally wouldn't be too high on my sightseeing list, but Zack loves goats and my mom found some tickets on Groupon, so off we went. If you're there the right time of year, you can see some of the baby goats without taking the tour, and there's a little play area for kids right there as well. As for the tour itself, it lasts maybe half an hour. First off, you walk to one of the fields and get to spend 10 minutes or so feeding the goats while the guide talks about the history of the farm, raising goats, and the like. The feeding is clearly more for kids, though there's no reason adults can't join in. After that, you move to the milking platform to learn a bit about how they milk the goats. If you come at the right time of day, maybe you can see the milking, though we didn't get to. We did, however, get a quick look at the cheese making, though without much detail. The final part of the tour was a cheese tasting where we got to try several of their goat cheeses. Now I'm normally not a big fan of goat cheese, but these were actually pretty good. There's also a store were you can buy some cheese to take home, or a cheese flight (board with sample sized portions of several different cheeses) if you want a snack. In addition, they had a wide variety of truffles made with goat milk/cheese (good if you like chocolate, but in the one I tried the chocolate flavor mostly overpowered the cheese) and goat milk gelato (pretty good).
All in all, the tour was mildly interesting, though probably not worth the money unless you love goats or have kids who will get a kick out of touching and feeding them. Even without the tour, the dairy might be worth a visit if you're a fan of goat cheese and/or unusual truffles, though there are stores in some of the tourist towns that sell their products as well, so you don't necessarily have to drive all the way out to the farm to try some.
Later that day, my dad and I split off from the others and headed into Kahului to see Steven Tyler (of Aerosmith fame). Now, I'm not a big Aerosmith fan (I was raised on 60's and early 70's music, so they're a bit after my time, so to speak) but they have a couple of songs I really like. It's the same with my dad, but the tickets were pretty reasonably priced since Steven Tyler lives on Maui. Willie K was the opening act. He's most famous for his ukulele playing (which I'd heard before) but he also has a blues band (though more rocky blues than classic), which is what he did that night. I can appreciate how good of a guitar player he is, but it wasn't really my style.
Steven Tyler dressed, talked, and sounded pretty much like he walked right out of the 80's. I wasn't quite sure if that's just his persona or if he literally hasn't really changed much since then. As such, he's pretty vulgar. His singing voice seems to have held up though. In the end, we didn't stay for the entire concert, but we heard the Aerosmith songs we liked and he also did some pretty good covers. Sorry about the lousy video quality, by the way. Cameras weren't allowed in the concert, though they strangely enough had objection to people recording with their cell phones. Anyway, if you're an Aerosmith fan I'd certainly recommend going to see him if you get the chance. Just be prepared for the language.

Around Maui: Paia
Paia is an old sugar mill town turned tourist spot. It's a decent drive from most of the hotel areas, but not too far from my parents' place. There's a few blocks of boutique shops, great restaurants (including a Paia Fish Market and the best shave ice on the island (though not as good as Island Vintage on Oahu), just to name a couple), and the like, including a surprisingly good health food store. Even if you don't like all the cutesy shops, it's worth a visit for the food. There's also several beaches right outside the town and, while Maui does have better beaches, they're all fairly nice. For a tourist town however, it is rather lacking in places to stay. There's a very expensive restaurant with some hotel rooms a bit down the road, but Paia itself just has a few small rental and B&B type places. So, while it's not necessarily the best place to stay, it's one of my favorite towns on Maui and worth a visit or three.

Around Maui: Makena Beach
Maui has a lot of great beaches. More than Oahu, in my opinion. Makena is one of the most popular ones. One reason is that it's situated just a little bit past Wailea, which is the area with all the big resort hotels. Plus, it's just a nice beach. It's long, fairly wide, and has really good sand. There's also a great view of Kaho'olawe, which is a deserted island that was used to test bombs back during World War II. Not really a place you want to visit, but it really adds to the view. I visited a number of different beaches on Maui and I'd say Makena is easily in my top three, maybe top two.
A couple other things to know... There's three different entrances to the beach, with the one furthest down the road tending to be the least crowded, and with a shorter walk from the parking area. It's also important to note that the main beach is also called Big Beach. Naturally, that mean's there's a Little Beach as well. It's a short hike over some rocks at the north (near) end of Big Beach. It's smaller (obviously), and it's also clothing optional. Officially, Hawaii doesn't allow nude beaches, but Little Beach seems to the exception. So, if that's you're thing, it's the place to go. If you're wondering, no I haven't actually been there.

December 31st (Monday): Drums of the Pacific Luau
As a birthday present, my mom got Connie and I tickets to a luau. We left Zack with my parents and headed to Wailea. It's the part of the island with the fanciest resort hotels. There's also a shopping plaza with all the high-end name brand stores if that's your thing (the rest of the shopping areas on Maui tend to be either boutique or fairly ordinary). The luau was at The Grand Wailea resort and we got there a bit early to look around. You know, as much as I love having free places to stay in Hawaii, the downside of getting to stay with my parents (or living here, back before I moved to Virginia) is that you don't get to stay in the fancy resorts. The Grand Wailea is right on the beach and has beautiful grounds and an awesome water park style set of pools (connected by slides, a lazy river, and the like).
The luau itself took place in a grassy courtyard near the beach, making it a good spot to watch the sunset. Connie and I went to a luau once before, shortly after we started dating, at the Hilton on Oahu. The Grand Wailea definitely had the nicer setting (though in other ways, they were pretty comparable). Anyway, they started letting people in around an hour before the meal. Since Connie and I had checked in fairly early, we ended up with some of the best seats you could get without upgrading to a premium package. While waiting for the main events to begin, they had some tables featuring local crafts, a place to try out a traditional Hawaiian game (similar to lawn bowling), and an open bar. Now, from my own experience and what I've heard, luaus and other similar events usually give you a couple of free drink tickets and after that you have to pay. Drums of the Pacific, however, gives you unlimited drinks for the entire duration of the luau, which is rather impressive. Now, if you've been reading my travelogues for a while you may know that I don't really drink alcohol (no deep reason, I honestly just don't like the taste), but they offered virgin versions of a number of different cocktails (in addition to the standard punch and soda), so I had fun trying some different ones.
The buffet, when it started, was nice and orderly and they had three sets of tables to keep lines to a minimum. The food was pretty good, especially for a buffet, with a nice mix of traditional and modern Hawaiian items (poi, Hawaiian rolls, mac nut crusted fish, teriyaki chicken, etc.). And, of course, there was a dessert bar as well. During the meal, there was live music and a bit of hula dancing as a lead up the main show.
The show was divided into a number of different acts including, of course, various types of hula. There were also some more unique performances that I wouldn't have expected in a luau show such as ribbon dancing and this poofy dress cloud dance (which I've never seen anywhere). Like most luaus, it ended with fire dancing. While it didn't have as many fire dancers as the Hilton luau, the one they did have was quite good.
All in all, it was great luau (not that I've been to very many) and a fun night out. Nice for Connie and I to get away by ourselves for a change. If you're looking for a luau on Maui, I'd certainly recommend it. I'll also note that, at least when I was there, the local Costco had tickets at a very good discount.

January 2nd (Wednesday): Lahaina
Wailea is the fanciest resort area on Maui but there's one other town with a lot of beachside hotels. Not quite as fancy as the ones in Wailea, but still pretty nice. That's Lahaina, another old town converted into an artsy tourist destination. My mom took Connie, Zack, and I there to hit the beach and look around a bit. Parking by the beach was a bit of a pain. There's a free parking lot at one of the hotels (the state of Hawaii requires that), but it's tiny. Some of the hotels had pay parking, but we found a nice shopping plaza that validated parking with a purchase, which is clearly the better deal.
Black Rock Beach is one of the nicer ones I've visited with good views, a long stretch of beach, clear water, and really great sand. The area around the black rock at the north end is also supposed to be a good snorkeling spot. We didn't make it quite that far, but my mom and I did try snorkeling a little bit where we were set up and it actually wasn't bad. Nothing spectacular, but there were some simple reefs and a good number of fish.
After a nice morning on the beach, we swung by Maui Brewing Company for lunch (as a note, if you're like me and don't drink, they have really good root beer, ginger beer, and cola) then drove to downtown Lahaina, where we lucked into a very convenient parking spot. Lahaina's main drag is right along the coast and features a long strip of old buildings converted into restaurants and boutiques. Wish I could have taken more pictures, but we hadn't brought the stroller so I was too busy keeping Zack under control as we walked around. Anyway, it's a nice town and makes for a fun stroll. There were some pretty interesting places to shop and eat as well. One especially notable feature is the town's banyan tree (the largest in the US), which fills an entire block all by itself.
We had a nice time and I'd like to go back to both visit the beach and explore the town a bit more. If you're planning to visit Maui, I think Lahaina would be a pretty nice place to stay (especially if Wailea is a bit out of your budget), though it's a little far out from many of the island's other attractions.

Around Maui: Haiku
Haiku is the town on Maui were my parents' place is. It's up in the mountains near Makawao (another artsy tourist town, though smaller than the others) and there isn't really much of a town, so to speak. Though there is a large park with an enormous playground. It's really not a tourist destination and there isn't much of anything to see. That said, if you're in the area visiting Makawao or some such, there are a couple of good restaurants. My top recommendation there is Nuka, a Japanese place that, though not entirely authentic, is good and has a very creative menu. Though it's only open for dinner, doesn't take reservations, and tends to fill up quickly. So you really need to get there around 4:30 or so if you want to avoid a wait.

January 4th (Friday): The Mill House
My mom had been wanting to go to the Mill House for a while so she decided to take Connie and I before we left Maui. So what's the Mill House? It actually reminds me a lot of the Dole Plantation back on Oahu if you're familiar with that (or read my travelogue entry on it). Basically, it's an old farm and mill house that's been converted into a tourist attraction. There's a huge gift shop, and a few smaller gift shops scattered around the area amidst some nice little tropical gardens you can walk through. It's a pretty place, and there's a zip line course and some bus tours of the farm (naturally, those cost). The biggest draw though, is the restaurant. It's a farm to table place with a very creative menu and neat decor. Really good food (some Italian, some Japanese, some fusion, etc.) and a great view. A little on the expensive side, but if you're ok with that it's certainly worth a visit. If you're not going to eat at the restaurant, it's hard to say if visiting the Mill House is worth it. It's a pretty setting, though Hawaii is hardly lacking those, and there's nothing special about the gift shop or anything. There's other (probably better) zip lines around too. Though there is the farm tour if that sounds interesting. Anyway, we had a great meal and Zack got to run around and chase birds for a while afterwards, so it made for a fun stop.

January 5th (Saturday): Beach Day

We decided to spend out last day on Maui at the beach. We were originally planning to head back to Makena Beach, but my mom really wanted to try out Wailea Beach so we ended up there. It's a pretty nice stretch of beach as well. Not as long as some, and a little crowded, but with good sand and surf. It also turns out that the path along the beach goes far past the Grand Wailea. We walked on it quite a while, past lots of other fancy hotels, before turning back. It looked like it might actually go all the way to Kihei.
We spent a pleasant few hours there and, on the way back, stopped at another beach, but not to swim or lay out on the sand. Ho'okipa Beach is a relatively small beach out near Paia. It's kind of rocky and has a lot of waves so it's not a good spot for sunbathing or swimming, though some surfers seem to like it. Its real claim to fame, however, is that it's a popular hang out for sea turtles. Lots and lots of sea turtles. Yeah, that's pretty much all turtles in that photo. There's supposed to be larger numbers at night but there had to be 50 - 60 when we stopped by that afternoon. They were mostly just sleeping on the beach, though occasionally a new one would come up on shore or one of the ones on the beach would decide to go back in the water. That involved a lot of awkward shuffling as they tried to climb over each other to get where they wanted to go. While I've seen sea turtles before I'd never seen anywhere close to that many at once and it was pretty cool.

Random Hawaii Comment: Thoughts on Maui
Maui is certainly slower than Oahu and, while there, I missed the convenience and walkability of Honolulu and the heavy Japanese influence. That said, Maui has its charms as well. The small towns like Paia and Lahaina are fun to visit and, while Maui doesn't have anywhere near the restaurant selection of Honolulu, there are still some very good ones. Plus the beaches are great. Oahu is definitely the place to go if you want a lot of things to do but, if you're looking for a slower vacation with lots of beach time Maui is a pretty good choice. Connie and I both enjoyed it there more than we expected and look forward to going back.

January 6th (Sunday) - 16th (Wednesday): Back in Honolulu
Connie and I were already scheduled to fly back to Virginia from Honolulu and we wanted to spend a bit more time there as well so we said goodbye to Maui, and my parents, and flew back to Oahu for the last 10 days of our vacation.
It was kinda interesting to go back to it being just the three of us (Connie, Zack, and myself) after having one set of grandparents or other around for the past few months. It turned out that Zack really missed having a stroller when on Maui and he constantly wanted to either go for a ride or push the stroller himself (with a bit of help from Connie or myself since he could barely reach the handles). Sometimes he'd even climb in and sit it in while we were in the condo. He also really loved a toy car he got a little while back and I got him a couple others from a gatchapon machine at Shirokiya which he carried around all the time.
Anyway, we did some shopping and ate at a bunch of favorite restaurants, but a lot of our time back in Honolulu was spent keeping Zack entertained. We took him on walks and to different places to play, we went to various beaches a few times, and took him to the zoo twice as well. While there are better zoos out there, it's still a decent one, and a pretty nice place for kids with lots of space to run around, a good size playground, and a kids' zoo as well. Here's one more zoo picture, just cause I like how it turned out.
So we didn't really do anything new or different while we were there. I tried a new bubble tea place (which I really liked) and also got Taiwanese fried chicken at the mall (good and huge), but that was about it. Despite that though, we had a really nice time. Honolulu is always fun and I still feel pretty at home there so it made for a nice way to wrap up the trip.
We left late Wednesday night and had a smooth couple of flights back home. There were some issues after we got back...but that's another story

Hawaii Travelogue 8

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