Sam and I just got back from five days in Maui. We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary and I am convinced there is no better place to celebrate an anniversary/birthday/just-about-anything than Maui. 20 years, you guys! How awesome is that?! There is also something to be said about removing yourself from parenting, work and house responsibilities for five days (or longer if you are lucky) and decamping to an island in the middle of the Pacific. I had no idea how run down I had been feeling until we got to our hotel. Maui fixed me right up and now I feel equipped to DO 2018. This trip to Maui was the first trip we had together JUST the two of us in two years and it was great. It’s a good thing we really like hanging out together :).
We have been fortunate to spend quite a bit of time in the Hawaiian islands over the last ten years. This marked our third trip to Maui; we have visited Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island each one time as well. Maui is probably our favorite because it has all of the elements we love in ONE place: great beaches, wild adventurous places to visit (I’m looking at you, Hana AND Haleakala), easy accessibility to yummy food (in our case, plentiful fish tacos and banana bread), lots of accommodations to choose from and an easy flight from SFO. Because we visited in January, the weather wasn’t quite as awesome as we have experienced in the past. Highs in the low 80’s were fine but the trade winds were VERY strong while we were there making it a little chillier than we were used to. The ocean wasn’t quite as warm either. Luckily, we are adventurous people and fairly go with the flow when it comes to travel.
We stayed at the Sheraton Maui at Black Rock. We last stayed at this hotel nine years ago and chose it again because of its fantastic location in Kaanapali and because it literally backs right into Black Rock. The location is truly PERFECT. The beds are comfy (I’m picky about my mattresses and pillows and the Sheraton always does it right) and the grounds are very pretty. We had an ocean front room and the view was our best Hawaii vacation view yet. WOW. We hit the jackpot with this room. My only bone to pick with the Sheraton this time around was that the pool was NOT heated. Now you may think to yourself, why would you care about a heated pool in Hawaii, but trust me when I say that it matters. Especially in the typically cooler months when trade winds are pretty strong. SO. Cold pool was not fun but other than that we were very comfortable.
On the evening of our actual wedding anniversary we enjoyed Dinner Under the Stars at the Sheraton.
It is a private four-course dinner for two on the beach and more than lived up to the hype. It was truly elegant and special; just what we were wanting for our anniversary. We were seated by our waiter who only worked with us that night. Our location was removed from any other guests and allowed us to watch the sunset in a gazebo as well as the famous Black Rock cliff diver ceremony.
We started with an Ahi trio of sashimi, poke and tatati – it was crazy good. Then something called an Waipoli green salad, followed by really good homemade bread (that we had to stop ourselves from eating so that we would not run out of room).
Then it was an entree of the fresh catch of the day (which I now cannot remember but it was FANTASTIC) with mushroom risotto, Manilla clams and soy truffle nage. I don’t even know what nage is but I liked it.
Finally to round things out was a plate of Oreo churros and dulce-de-leche ice cream with strawberries and cream. It was as divine as it sounds.
Our server was fantastic and made us feel super relaxed the whole time. The hotel gave us a beautiful goodie bag of treats and snacks for our stay as well. The entire experience was really special and put an exclamation mark on an already great day. If you are ever in Maui, please consider doing a Dinner Under the Stars experience for a special occasion; they do it up right!
We sat at our table for a long time just talking. We have done and experienced a lot in our 20 years of marriage and it felt like a gift to sit there and reflect on where we have been and where we want to go. We only talked briefly about our kids. We were married for five years before having our first child and we will be together long after they have gone their separate ways to college and jobs and families of their own. It was nice to just talk about what WE want to do together over the next 20 years. We have adventures and experiences that we are interested in that we need to balance against our health, our jobs and the needs of our entire family. It was just good to take a breather and soak in the goodness of the moment with the sunset as our backdrop. Eventually the stars came out and we crashed for the night.
The rest of our time in Maui was a great balance of complete leisure and awesome adventure. On the leisure side were meandering drives along the coast stopping whenever we felt like it (my favorite pull-over was to watch whales breaching! At one point we could see four of them at once), eating deliciousness when we felt like it (particularly tacos from Maui Tacos), laying by the pool, walking on the beach, sleeping in. One of our goals was to stop at food trucks whenever and wherever we felt like it which is ALWAYS a good goal to have, regardless of the location. I personally had a goal to eat as much Ahi tuna as possible (We had zero responsibilities and it was glorious.
On the adventurous side we made it a point to find our favorite banana bread place from nine years ago (it is called Julias and while it is good, we found better on the way to Hana) in West Maui and ended up in the craziest car situation on a one lane road with LOTS of cars in both directions basically on a cliff. That was a stressful 20 minutes. Glad that is over. We ventured up to Haleakala since we had never been before. We decided that we didn’t want the pressure of waking up at 3 AM to see the sunrise (it is a two hour trip to the summit so you have to leave early) with the masses nor the pressure of seeing the sunset with the masses, so we just headed up there around noon one day. I am certain that sunrise or sunset can be breathtaking…but this was more our speed on this trip :).
Haleakala was SO cold. We had been told it was cold and I figured it would be like when we went to the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island (see my post about that here). Mauna Kea is actually even taller than Haleakala but was lacking one thing: WIND. So while it had been very cold on that trip we never had to contend with wind. Haleakala had the most enormous gusts of wind we have ever experienced. Like, almost dangerous wind. We went up to the summit, took some photos and then scurried back to the warmth and safety of our car. It was intense! My favorite part of that adventure was standing in the viewing center at the very summit looking across the water at the snow covered summit of Mauna Kea and knowing that we have now stood on both summits. Pretty cool, right?!
My favorite adventure of this trip was our drive to Hana. This was the second time we have done this drive and it was SO wonderful to make the journey again. When I look back on all of the trips Sam and I have taken over the years, the drive to Hana is always at the top of my list of favorite trips ever. We made our first trip to Hana back in 2006 and it has stuck with me for 12 years. This time we focused on a few areas we did not make it to the first time around. Weather was also a factor; it rained or drizzled on and off most the time we were out. The journey took all day and was worth every single minute. Exploring a rain forest in the RAIN is magical. Every moment, every turn in the road (and there are SO many curvy twists and turns), every waterfall and pool is photo worthy. Hana is less about a destination (Hana is an actual town on one secluded side of Maui) and more about the journey to get to that destination. The entire experience is really a metaphor for life, if you think about it. Maybe that is why the Hana adventure appeals to me so much. It is beautiful and spiritual and mystical and far away and sometimes hard all at once. If you ever go to Maui, you MUST block out an entire day to experience the beauty of Hana. It is a journey that will stick with you long after you have left the island.
By the way, the guidebook Maui Revealed has been our go-to “bible” for all things Maui for each of our three trips to the island. We probably need the newest edition but it is pretty much perfect. The way it is written with obsessive attention to detail, great maps and photos and funny commentary make it a must-have for any trip to Maui. I highly recommend it.
One of the best things along the drive to Hana that Maui Revealed mentioned was a village named Nahiku. It suggested going down Nahiku Road because it was supposed to be the most mystical and unusual place on the Hana journey. With a suggestion like that, how could we not?! When it came time to find the road on a map, we noticed the actual street sign was gone and instead it said that the Nahiku bridge was closed 2.5 miles away. Hmmmmm… We took a sharp left at the turn with the sign and low and behold, we found the community of Nahiku.
Sure enough, the wooden bridge was closed to cars with a cement barricade…but it was NOT closed to people walking over it. We parked our car and walked about a quarter mile down the most beautiful, green road through the jungle to a landing that opened out onto the ocean.
The tiny village of Nahiku is small and very secluded. It felt like such a special place to visit, so removed from the rest of Maui and even from the amazing journey to Hana. It was a different world. It started really raining while we were in Nahiku and that just added to the beauty of the experience. Nahiku is one the wettest places along the coast of Maui and is home to approximately 100 people. We were so fascinated by the entire area that we started looking at random plots of land that are currently for sale there. If you have ever had the fantasy of both living off the grid AND in a jungle/on a beach then Nahiku is probably for you.
On our way out of Nahiku we stopped at an honor fruit stand to get some tiny bananas for the remainder of the our Hana journey. These little fruit stands dot the way to Hana and are rarely manned by someone. Instead there is a jar for your donation in exchange for fruit.
After Nahiku we continued with our adventure, stopping to get out and look at waterfalls or beaches or a fruit stand. It also started raining a big harder. We skipped many places that we had been to before and instead tried to focus on what we hadn’t seen the first time through many years ago.
Everything along the road to Hana is lush and green. Even when it is raining it is beautiful!
As amazing as the drive to Hana was, my favorite experience of our whole trip was the double rainbow that seems to spring out of Kaanapali on Saturday afternoon.
It had been drizzly then sunny then drizzly all day when around 4:30 PM these stunning colors shot out of the sky. We pulled over up in the hills taking these photos and were giddy the whole time because it was just amazing.
The dark stormy skies with this rainbow against was a memory I will never forget. After our rainbow-in-the-hills experience we went back to the beach at Kaanapali and walked until it was dark. It rained while we walked (seriously, we were such a cliche at that point) and talked and that evening was the perfect memory. I felt immense gratitude for our entire journey as a couple, our journey to Hana, the double rainbow, the rain, the fish tacos – everything.
Our trip to Maui was everything I had hoped it would be. As we were driving to the airport on Sunday, we were already making plans about what we wanted to explore on our next trip back. Aloha Maui; we love you so much.