Dawn and I celebrated our third anniversary by travelling to Maui. I've never before attempted to be a travel writer, but I see the appeal - travel to exotic locations and write what you think about them. Not a bad racket. So, in the interest of spreading my wings a bit, I'll share a few observations about our trip.
     One thing we did correctly was plan our trip well in advance. In fact, when Dawn and I first reconnected, I asked her if she would go to Hawaii with me someday. She agreed, and a goal was formed. It took us more than four years to pull it off, but that really just built the anticipation of going for us. Finally, in December of last year, we decided we would be able to pull it off sometime in 2013, My first instinct was to plan the trip to celebrate Dawn's birthday. She was born on December 27th, so she often gets the short end of the stick when it comes to her birthday ("Here's a present for you, sweetie, this is for both Christmas and your birthday.")
     The more I looked at it, though, the more that seemed like the wrong answer. For one thing, Maui is very crowded that last week of December. Also, everything (airfare, lodging, etc.) is more expensive that week. It was an easy decision to move our trip to mid-October and celebrate our third anniversary instead. We got very reasonable airfare by watching the prices and booking as soon as they took a dip in March. 
     If you've ever booked lodging in Maui, you know it can be a little expensive. Most of the places we were looking at had rates between $250-350 per night. Then I found a website called VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owners.) They had a ton of listings and we found a really nice one bedroom condo right on the beach in Kihei for $100 per night. Kihei tends to be a little less expensive than staying nearer to Lahaina in Kaanapali or Kahana. Having stayed previously in Lahaina, I can honestly say that I liked staying in Kihei better. The area around Lahaina can be really crowded and we found both the weather and the beaches better in Kihei.
     I think there are two basic kinds of Hawaiian vacations: The "pool" vacation and the "adventure" vacation. I know many people who fly to Maui then stay most all day beside the pool and only leave when it's time to go into town for dinner. Then there are people who plan some kind of an adventure most every day - snorkeling, snuba diving, hiking to waterfalls, zip-lining, etc. We fell more into that second category.
     Dawn had never been snorkeling before, so our first day there, I scheduled a basic snorkel trip where they included all the equipment along with instructions, safety tips and a great tour out to a coral reef by mile marker 14 outside Lahaina. I was a little worried about whether Dawn would enjoy it or not - I've seen people that just don't take well to snorkeling. I didn't need to worry. It was like she was born with flippers on. We shared our tour guide with two very nice and polite Canadians (shocking, right?) who fell on the other end of the spectrum. Jeffery, our guide, hauled a boogie board along behind him in case anyone needed to rest during the dive. Our new friends never let loose of the that board for one moment. At the end of the dive, I expected to see the indent of their fingertips on the board. We booked our trip with  Maui Snorkel Tours in Kehei and Dawn and I both give them two enthusiastic thumbs up.
     The following day, we drove up to Lahaina and walked through the galleries and shops and enjoyed the shade of the incredible Banyan tree. When I say it is a "big tree," you might think of the mighty California Redwoods. The Banyan tree isn't nearly as tall as that, but it's immense wingspread covers the equivalent of a city block in front of the old courthouse. 
     Saturday night, we went on a sunset dinner cruise, leaving out of Ma'alea Harbor. We sailed on The Pride of Maui which I chose because it's not too big. With some of the sunset cruises, you're sharing your experience with 150 or so of your closest new friends. The Pride of Maui is much smaller and there were about 36 people on board. The cruise featured all the free booze you could drink during the two hour cruise and many of the revelers seemed more focused on that than on the food (which was much-touted, but turned out to be pretty mediocre) the live music (which was good, but located down below decks - who wants to be below decks in Maui?) or the sunset itself. In fact, when we left the harbor, the captain said he wasn't sure if we were going to see much of a sunset at all. Then, at the last moment, the clouds parted, the sun dropped into the ocean and we were rewarded with this view:
     On Sunday, we rested. When we're home and I say "we rested," that means we sat around and watched movies or fooled around on our laptops. In Maui, that meant we didn't have any big adventure scheduled for the day and instead settled for exploring around Kihei, visiting some of the beaches and settling for long swims and quick snorkel dives. Oh, and I might have worked a lazy nap (okay, maybe two) in there as well.
     Monday was one of my favorite days on the island. We signed on with a company called Aqua Adventures to take us snorkeling at Molokini, a mostly-sunken inactive volcano ten miles across the water from Ma'alea Harbor. I have been a snorkeler since I was 20 years old, but I've never seen snorkeling like was available on Molokini. If you are interested in seeing aquatic wild life up close and personal, I can't recommend this trip enough. There were so many fish, it was slightly surreal - like swimming inside a huge aquarium. The part of Molokini that is still above the waves is a bird sanctuary, so you can't walk on it or even touch it, but I snorkeled up to about three feet away, where the water was very shallow. The waves broke gently against the volcanic rock, swishing me and many dozens of fish to and fro with the rhythm of nature. It was an experience I will never forget.
     After Molokini, we motored over to an area called "Turtle Town." There aren't really turtle condominiums and shopping malls, instead, it's an area where species of fish referred to as cleanerfish eat the parasites that grow on turtles. The turtles come from miles around, settle in to the bottom of the ocean, amongst the coral, and let the little fish clean them up. 
     We elected to pay a premium on the trip ($50 apiece, a bargain) to snuba dive. As you might guess, "snuba" is just a new word combining "scuba" and "snorkeling." It combines the ease of snorkeling with the ability to stay underwater for long periods of time of scuba diving. The problem with scuba diving, of course, is that you need to take classes and be certified before you're allowed to dive. With snuba-diving, you have a mask like in snorkeling, but a small raft floats on the surface holding your oxygen tank. A line extends to you underwater and you breathe in, breathe out, naturally and easily. At least, it was natural and easy for Dawn and me. A woman who tried it before us freaked out completely and stayed on the surface.
     We stayed underwater, swimming through fish, turtles, eels and octopus for 30 minutes without having to surface. Those might have been the quickest 30 minutes of my life. When our guide pointed us to the surface, indicating our dive was over, I thought she must be kidding. It felt like we'd been in the water five minutes. All in all, the Molokini/Turtle Town adventure was an absolute highlight of our trip. I recommend it to anyone, especially through Aqua Adventures - the captain and crew were excellent.
     Our next day was completely dedicated to the Road to Hana, as close as a zen experience (it's the journey, not the destination) in all of Maui. I have a lot to say about the Road to Hana, so I'll give it a blog of its own sometime later this week. 


10/20/2013 3:24pm

We loved Hawaii too. First time we went was ten years ago and we went to Oahu and maui. The last time we went was in Jan. 12 and we just went to Oahu and loved it even more. We also love the snorkeling in Hawaii. In Feb we are going to Costa Rica. Cant wait

10/20/2013 5:04pm

I'm glad you had a good time. You forgot to mention your dinner at Mama's, which I saw as a Facebook post. As I read through your post, I was able to relive what you had done, because Sarah and I have done most of them as well. I've never snuba'd. As I have said before, Maui is my favorite place in the world.


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    Shawn Inmon

    I am a writer, Realtor, KISS imitator and sales trainer. But, more than these, I am a husband, father, grandfather and caretaker of two chocolate Labs.

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