Uncovering Hawaii, Maui edition (with special attention to the Road to Hana)

Let me just start by saying that Maui is now one of my favorite places on earth. We arrived, picked up our rental jeep, and hit the road. Once we turned on Homoapiilani Highway, (aka Hwy 30) we were blown away with the landscape! The road followed the bluest ocean and we could see the islands of  Kaho’olawe, Lan’ai, and Moloka’i across the sea. 

We checked into our hotel, the Marriott Ocean Club, which is on Ka’anapoli  Beach. This particular area, which stretches from the Hyatt down to Black Rock beach, is connected by a gorgeous boardwalk. This boardwalk is peppered with scenic views of the beach, tropical plants, and tiki torches to light the way in the evenings. Restaurants await at the Whalers Village, and we opted for a place called Leilani’s, where we enjoyed fresh fish and a piece of their acclaimed Hula pie.

Our first full day was high adventure, as we opted to drive the infamous “Road to Hana“. We downloaded the app called “The Gypsy Guide” which would prove to be an awesome guide through the Mauian rain forest. Although we had no cell service for 95% of our long day, this “guide” took us step by step and told us all the best places to stop along the way! No clue how it worked without service- and managed to track our every turn?!

Our first stop was in the town of Paia, which is just a few miles before the Road to Hana begins. This town was home to some amazing local art, including carvings that the local artists tap out with a chisel and a wooden block, and amazing oil paintings.

The next time we stopped we were on the famous road, with its more than 650 turns and over 50 one way bridges! It took us close to 5 hours to get to Hana between the stops, the turns, and the rainy conditions of the rainforest!  We stopped at the first spot discussed by our Gypsy Guide- at the Twin Falls. This stop had us walk through a pretty muddy trail, in parts rocky and steep, to witness a beautiful sight: two waterfalls running parallel with each other! Worth the mud! We also picked up a bag of fresh pineapple at the roadside stand- it was pure ambrosia.

The next stop was the Keanae Arboretum. This is pretty much an outdoor tree museum! There was a gorgeous walk through the groves of all of the native trees of Maui. By far my favorite were the Rainbow Eucaliptus trees. I had seen photographers capture these trees in several of the art galleries, and seeing them up close, I completely understood their mystique! The Banyan trees deserve some mention as well! 

We were nearly halfway to Hana and the guide told us about a great stop for food. When we stopped, we were greeted by friendly locals who offered samples of the most delicious baked coconut I’ve ever had- sweetened with cane sugar grown on the island. We ate fish tacos for lunch before heading back out on the crazy curvy road to Hana! It was also a great place to use the facilities- porta-potties nestled in the palms!

Our next “must see” stop, according to the app, was the Ke’anae Peninsula. The scenery here was, for lack of a better word, breathtaking. The lava rock literally jutts out of the ocean, and waves create white bursts of surf that remind viewers of the power of that sea. 

The next stop was the Wai’anapanapa black sand beach, which was also home to several caves which are steeped in legend! One of the caves was the hideout for the wife of an ancient King. He found her because he saw her reflection in the water, and killed her. Jeez! This stop was amazing. There were little brown mongooses frolicking all over the place; Rikitikitavi came to life!! (They sort of resembled a hybrid mole rat if I’m being honest). We were able to scoop up some black sand and smooth, weathered lava rocks to take home, and the views of some of the lava rock formations were stunning. 

We made it to Hana– considered Hawaii’s most authentic town. The town was, quite honestly, small and seemingly uninhabited! It was raining, so we snapped some soggy photos and hit the road back to our hotel- hoping to avoid sunset on the winding roads! It took us a mere 3 hours to get back to Paia. We ended up back at the hotel by 8:30pm! A long, muddy, fulfilling day, for sure!

The next two days were deemed days of relaxation. We hit Kapalua beach for the first R &R day. Public parking was nearly impossible to find, but we did luck into a spot on the street- the jeep was at such an angle I feared it might flip! We headed to the beach, avec rental chairs, and enjoyed the day. I saw turtle heads pop up all over the place, and enjoyed the refreshing Pacific. Jim went snorkeling and saw at least 8 turtles.  We ate dinner in Lahaina, at a place called Captain Jack’s. They had the best calamari I’ve ever had! (The Pirates Tonic was quite tasty as well!)

The last day of as paradise was spent tooling around Lahaina while waiting for Jim’s scuba trip to dock at the Mala boat ramp.  He had a beautiful scuba experience, and I was awed by some of the photos, so I decided to share them here for any scuba divers that may want a glimpse! (I am not, nor will I ever be a scuba diver!)

I ate at a delicious crepery (not surprising that I might be drawn to such a place!) called the Maui Swiss Cafe. The crepes were French style, caked with butter and sugar; no, not very diabetic friendly but you can’t ALWAYS obey the rules!? Until noon I wandered around the town, particularly fascinated by the numerous local art and photography shops! The Banyan Tree grove was neat as well.

We made our way back to Kaanapali beach, got the beach junk, and headed to the famous Black Rock beach. I enjoyed watching the cliff divers, and swimming in the waves. The waters were definitely a bit more wild at this beach, but it was beautiful! Jim snorkeled and met up with an octopus! ​

I will miss the sweet sound of “Aloha” and the  beauty of waves crashing into lava rock. I will surely return to this beautiful land again someday… Mahalo!!


Uncovering Hawaii: Oahu, part two (with special attention to Pearl Harbor and the North End)

Uncovering Hawaii: Oahu, part two (with special attention to Pearl Harbor and the North End)

We purchased tickets online to see Pearl Harbor and got there with a little under two hours to explore before taking the boat out to the memorial honoring the USS Arizona. The memorial park had some amazing exhibits and I was glad to have the individual audio-headphone tour to truly understand all that I was seeing. 

I was surprised at how small the torpedoes were considering the damage they inflicted. I found the film they showed us fascinating and powerful in its timeline retelling of the events of Dec 7, 1941, the day that FDR said, “would live in infamy.” The film footage taken from the actual day brought us as close as possible to the destruction that sunk four US battleships and damaged eight more, destroyed 188 US airplanes, injured over 1,100 men and women and killed over 2400 Americans.

The history of the surprise attack waged by the Japanese was interesting and well documented, and my heart went out to the radar operator who saw the Japanese planes approaching, but assumed (with urging from his superior) that the planes were US test planes coming in from California. The Japanese plan of attack was so perfectly executed- the US didn’t stand a chance.

The boat ride out to the memorial was a gorgeous ride, as Pearl Harbor is lined by dormant volcanos that seem to continuously boast rainbows. If you go- try to get on the starboard side going out to truly have the most uninhibited view. Once we stepped onto the memorial we were able to see parts of the USS Arizona that jut out of  the water. We also paid tribute to the wall of names of those who lost their lives.

Our next adventure was to find “Bailey’s” Hawaiian shirt shop. One of my co-workers, Dave, a fellow Oglethorpe alum, told me I had to check the place out. He must have a good sense of who I am- because it was my favorite shop in Oahu! It was home to 15,000 different Hawaiian Aloha shirts- the largest selection in the world! There were used, new, and vintage shirts- definitely something for EVERYONE- even sports fans and card sharks! The tops of each rack had all sorts of vintage Hawaiian stuff- lamps, hats, jewelry, old toys, and hula girl statues. Signed photos of Tom Seleck were hanging all around. I could have spent hours in this place, but we only arrived 40 minutes before closing… We left with some souvenir shirts we can wear back home, when enjoying Mai Tais in Hotlanta!

Our last Oahu adventure was to spend a self-paced jeep day touring the North End of the island.  What a totally different vibe from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu! We started out driving up the center of the island and past the Dole pineapple plantation. We could see the gardens and the train that takes visitors on a tour, but we opted not to stop. We had to return to Waikiki for a 6:00pm luau!

Our first stop was lunch at a renowned “food truck” area off of Haleiwa Beach. These food trucks were visited by “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” on the Food Network , and included the Big Wave Shrimp, the Surf Salsa, and a Korean BBQ. We ate outside at picnic tables and enjoyed shrimp burritos and salsa that was CRAZY hot. After lunch we wandered down the street and enjoyed a tasting opportunity at a local place specializing in Hawaiian spreads. Had to bring home a jar of the chocolate peanut butter with macadamian nuts… Wow!

The next stop was to the public area of Haleiwa Beach, where we got to watch surfers take on the north shore waves, and put our feet in the sand. Lots of local teenagers were here, watching the surfers- who ignored the “No Swimming” signs. Perhaps surfing and swimming are  two distinct  activities? All I know, is that if I were the mother of these young surfers, I’d be freaking out!


We continued to drive around the tip of the North End, stopping frequently to ooh and ahh at the scenery. The final stop before returning for the Luau was a place called Laie Point State Wayside Park. This park is literally at the dead end of a residential neighborhood. Surprisingly, the park was sparsely populated with tourists, and when we stepped out of the car to look at the view we couldn’t believe it! The rock formations, actually called islands to the locals, were incredibly beautiful. The largest of the rocks is called Lizard Island, and it’s beautiful arc had a hole ripped through from a 1946 tsunami. 

Legend has it, according to inscriptions at the park, that this area of the sea was protected by a giant lizard named Laniloa. One day, the lizard had to fight the great warrior Hana. The lizard lost the battle and Hana chopped the lizard into five pieces. Those lizard parts now make up the five islands that we could see from the park. 

Between the waves crashing against the cliffs of lava rock, and the awe-inspiring views of the rock formations, this stop was one of my favorites.

Our last evening in Oahu ended with a traditional Luau and Hawaiian show tracing the history of the Polynesain culture. The show was atop the roof of the Hilton! The selection of traditional dishes was amazing- my favorites were the noodle salad, the Mahimahi, and the shrimp and scallop salad. The entertainment was great- the host had a voice like Frank Sinatra, and the dancers were high energy! The finale fire throwing was fantastic!

​While our time in Oahu is up, I cannot wait to see what adventure and beauty Maui holds! 

Uncovering Hawaii: Oahu, part 1

Uncovering Hawaii: Oahu, part 1

Aloha! That word always seemed like one of those words I only heard in Elvis movies, yet from the moment I stepped off the plane, it is the word that begins and ends every sentence in this beautiful state. I was reading an article about Duke Kahanamoka, considered the father of surfing, and he said, “Aloha means ‘with love’. People meet you with it and send you off with it. I believe in it and it is my creed. Aloha to you!”I like that.

We rented a Jeep at the airport and headed to our hotel- the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort in the Tapas Tower. This place is considered a resort, but I call it a city! There must be 20 restaurants, over 100 stores, and five pools- it is massive and sprawling!

Since we were caught up in the time-change funk, we rose at around  4:30am. After the ultimate parking challenge, we went for Saturday breakfast at the Hula Grill, a chain popular throughout the Hawaiian Islands. The view was fantastic, and the breakfast fare was all Hawaiian- and delicious! I ordered eggs Benedict with Hau’ula tomatoes and spinach on a toasted bao bun, and fresh papaya & pineapple. This was a far cry from my normal nutri grain bar! Delicious.

The next stop was the Diamond Head Crater. We got there by 8:30am, but the lots were already full! Realizing I left my nitroglycerin tabs at home, (I have a slight heart condition that does not appreciate strenuous hikes) I opted to drop off Jim & the folks we were with and go find something solo to do in lieu of a mega hike up. The ancient volcanic crater, however, was beautiful even from the ground!  Here are a couple photos from the top taken by my husband Jim. Breathtaking comes to mind!?

While they hiked, I tooled around and happened upon the local KCC Farmer’s Market, which was organized by the Hawaiian Farm Bureau on the campus of Kapiolani Community College. The campus was beautiful and I wandered through their cactus gardens before hitting the market.

The market was both entertaining and delicious. People drank fresh pineapple juice right out of the fruit.  I listened to a local musician play his original songs, I talked to a local farmer, and I sampled some amazing local honey! My favorite samples had to come from the macadamia nut table where I sampled over 15 different flavors! I bought the onion garlic flavor- but I could have gone NUTS! The market is open every Saturday. Brandi-Ann Uyemura reviewed the market for Hawaii.comand said, “this market is like a shopping mall for the foodie and a hotspot for Saturday brunch.” Totally agree, Ms. Uyemura!

Once I picked up the Diamond Point hikers, we headed to Tantalus Road to make the Round Top drive. We took the top off the jeep for the ride- not the least bit easy- and set out on the steep, curvy jaunt to the top. We stopped at a beautiful lookout spot to take in the views on the way up. We had a great view of Diamond Head, the Punchbowl Crater, and downtown Honolulu. We continued up, and the open jeep was amazing… until the rains came! Without any more pull offs, and crazy, cliff- hanging cottages lining one side, all we could do was embrace the rain until we got to the top!

After making our way back down, we drove to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl Cemetery, because the site sits in the crater of surrounding volcanoes. In Hawaiian, the term “punchbowl” is “Puowaina” which means “Hill of Sacrifice”. This is a befitting name for this beautiful, solemn resting place of over 13,000 soldiers and sailors who died in WWII. There are also 70 generic “unknown” markers for the graves of soldiers who died at Pearl Harbor.

As we approached Lolani Palace, my attention was momentarily interrupted by a drunk guy who was dancing and waving to me on the palace lawn. This palace was once the original residence of the King Kalakaua and Queen Lili’uokalani, who were the last monarchs of Hawaii. Also on the grounds is the famous gazebo, which was built for inaugurations, and is now used for local concerts and weddings.

Down the street from the palace sits Kawaiahao Church, which is the first Christian church built on Oahu in 1842.  The church is sometimes referred to as the “Westminster Abbey of the Pacific”. The coolest part of the church is that it was built by missionaries using 14,000 pounds of coral slabs from ocean reefs. There was a bride and groom getting photos taken when we arrived. The groom looked about 65 and the bride in her twenties. We thought it might be a father daughter until they kissed. Nope. Definitely a couple!

We ate lunch at a place called Hank’s Haute Dogs, which was featured on the Food Network’s Diners Drive-in and Dives. This place is not exactly a vegetarian dream. Their menu consists of mostly “haute” dogs and hamburgers. When I asked the guy what the best vegetarian option was, he looked at me like I was from Venus, and suggested the Truffle Macaroni & Cheese. Now truffles are interesting to me. I once watched a documentary on the underground, highly sought after truffles and remember that they are often hunted by trained dogs and pigs, especially in France, where they are considered a delicacy. Looking closer at the menu, I asked the order taker about the “Lobster Haute Dog” which listed sausage as one of it’s ingredients.  The order taker said that the seafood was wrapped in a pork casing. Then he asked if I wanted that with some beef fat fries. Smart assery was evidentially his schtick… The truffle Mack and cheese was pretty good, though…

Our day ended with the conferment ceremony for the 2016 CPCU designees- the reason we were flown to Hawaii! The Hawaii Conference Center was the biggest my eyes have ever witnessed; 15,000 people awaited the start of the event. The keynote speaker was journalist  John Quinones, the host of “What would You Do?” and numerous other award-winning pieces. His message was powerful: we must model integrity and kindness. He was at once inspiring, funny, and heartfelt, and his own story was one of struggle and hard work.  I videotaped several tidbits to share with my newspaper students when I get home.

After the ceremony, Jim’s CEO put the Crawford & Company people on a shuttle to Duke’s Restaurant, where we were escorted out past the pool to a private dining area directly on the Pacific. Tiki torches lined the walls, and a gorgeous Laie was placed around each of our necks. We had cheeses and shrimp appetizers, all the Mai Tais we could drink, and a beautiful buffet of Hawaiian fare including fresh caught Mahimahi.  And to think… this was just our first full day… more adventure awaits!