TASHA OLSEN

TravellingMe

I am an experience traveler and before visiting Maui I have never thought that restaurants reviews may be so helpful (again, our savior – “Maui Revealed Guide Book”, p. 265 and up).

I believed that each of our meals on the island will be a tropical feast (like we had in Mexico). I was wrong. To find in Maui a place where you will find all together: reasonable price + pleasant and elegant atmosphere + tasty food = is impossible. To chase after a place which wisely combines all of those aspects is the same as to chase elusive Fidel Castro at the time of revolution on Cuba.

Restaurants in Wailea 5-star resorts are elegant but their prices are not just expensive, they are obscene. “So, what?” you may say. Let’s stop at a “normal” local place to eat. It sounds like an alternative. But the local places WE ate, looked as they hadn’t been updated since the 60’s. Even if the food was OK, the atmosphere was dull: plain, boring décor and poor service. Within 2 weeks of vacation we didn’t find a single place we would love to come back to.
The famous Hawaiian Luau, which we found available, was overpriced and bad buffet food.

According to statistics, last year about 7 million tourists visited the Hawaii islands. With such heavy tourist traffic I don’t think we will see any improvement in the food industry. But, hey, we didn’t die from starvation after all!
I want to finish my “travel log” on a positive note with a few nice words about Alaska Airlines. We had a direct flight from Oakland airport (California) to Maui. It was my first experience with Alaska Airlines and I liked it.
For the last 10 years I had to deal with questionable service from Delta and United. Most of the time I used them for international flights. What can I say? Unfortunately, if you travel in economy class, the stewardesses of Delta and United Air don’t even try to hide their disgust to the passengers. They are so in a rush to finish their “service” in the air that they literally scattered the drinks and snacks straight into the face of travelers.

The Alaska Airlines crew met us with smiles! I could not believe my eyes. Maybe I was travelling in the Twilight Zone? Smiling stewardess is as rare today as a mysterious unicorn. We had very pleasant trips both ways. Service was friendly and snacks were adequate. Our luggage was not lost and we landed on time. Bravo, Alaska Airlines!

I hope my tips will help you. I don’t want to discourage you from visiting Maui either. Maui is worth seeing, that’s for sure!

      

If you want to share your Maui experience, please be my guest! After all, any opinion may be subjective (especially about food preferences), but it’s worth sharing. Don’t you agree?

Wailea is a well-known resort area, located on the south-west of Maui.

Fairmont Kea Lami.  It’s a beautiful hotel, but some noisy construction across the road from the main entrance distracted from the experience. I don’t envy those hotel’s guests who reserved rooms facing the outside area of the resort.

     

Four Seasons Hotel

      

Waldorf Astoria Hotel.  It’s famous for the Spa Grande. In the list of “10 Best Spas of Maui” it takes 5th place.

     

Andaz Hotel

     

All beaches in Maui are public. If you want to use any resort’s beach you may do it, nobody will stop you. You will be asked not to use the swimming pool and do not occupy the chairs under the tents. Just remember, none of Wailea resorts have complimentary parking. We found Ulua beach next door to Andaz with free parking and small public bathroom where you may change clothes. If you want to use Andaz’ beach and the hotel’s restaurant as an option you may leave a car at Ulua parking lot and walk to Andaz, it’s close, 5-minute walk.

Now, a few words about Spas. I love Spas and try not to miss any opportunity to visit them during my trips not only in the United States but in Europe, Asia and Mexico.

There are 10 Five Star Spas (prideofmaui.com).
If you are a Spa lover, there are 3 of them (in Wailea) I found worth visiting. I gave # 1 rating to Montage Spa and # 2 to Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua Bay.

# 3 – AWILI SPA at ANDAZ HYATT HOTEL
3550 Alanui Dr., Wailea
1-808-573-1234

Friendly service. The ladies at the reception are attentive and passionate about guiding you. The Spa is clean and quiet with an Adult Pool (for adults only). They have a fantastic Body Wrap treatment: “Dry brush exfoliation is followed by a seasonal mask gently massaged into skin. Your body is then wrapped in local Maui Ti Leaves and fully cocooned in a heated blanket to detoxify and purify skin tissues” ($185.00 for 60 minutes and $265.00 for 90 minutes).

The following Spas WILL NOT ALLOW you – as a Spa guest – to use their resorts’ swimming pools. I was informed by Willow Spa, Al Fresco Spa and Spa Grande that their swimming pools are for hotel guests only. How strange. I am going to pay as a minimum of $200.00 (plus tax and gratitude) per person for treatment (multiply for 2, me and my husband). My total easily will come up to $600.00 per visit, and we are still not worth of using the resort swimming pool? It sounds odd: you are a “Spa guest”, you are Not the “Hotel guest”?

Here are the Spas with nice menus and with no swimming pools for a “Spa guest”.

# 4 – WILLOW STREAM SPA at FAIRMONT KEA LAMI
4100 Alanui Dr., Wailea
1-808-875-2229

I came there early and had a chance to take pictures; I felt like a secret agent 007. The Spa is very small, very clean and very private. It has a fantastic Vichy Shower treatment and Avocado Wrap, beneficial for dry, sun-exposes skin.

      

     

# 5 – SPA Al FRESCO at FOUR SAESONS
3900 Alanui Dr., Wailea
1-800-874-8000

The Hotel has a Beautiful Serenity Pool. Its picture welcomes you on the front Spa page. The Serenity Pool does look nice. But… it is not for the Spa guests who are not also hotel guests, as I mentioned earlier. Rather confusing, isn’t it? Spa Al Fresco has the best varieties of treatments, including nice packages with massage, body wrap and hot stone face massage. This is the only reason I included it in my list: wide variety of healing massages, body and facial treatments. To get to its menu through the hotel website, however, is rather challenging, and it does not give you the detailed description of the treatments.

(#6) SPA GRANDE at WALDORF  ASTORIA
3850 Wailea Alanui Dr., Wailea
1-808-875-1234

We decided against it because it looked like the busiest Spa in Maui.

The lady at the reception was nice and helpful. The foyer – see for yourself – huge with marble and crystal chandeliers. It is not permitted to have a Spa tour prior to reservation. Besides, I read a lot of negative reviews about this place. The main guests’ complaint was the time limit of only 1 hour for using the Spa facilities. Hmm… it may be fun to use the Terme Hydrotherapy Circuit and cascading waterfalls, Japanese bath and Roman whirlpool, but to get rushed in a Spa?! No, thanks. If I am not able to relax, then why bother visiting a Spa after all?

If you are a cat lover, this article is for you.

Before coming to Maui, I looked for interesting places to visit, and I found a website for a Cat Sanctuary located on Lanai. In 2004 Kathy Carroll organized the cats’ shelter on the island. I was intrigued and interested; I had a desire to see the founder of Cat Sanctuary and, of course, I wanted to get acquainted with her rescued pets.

It’s an open-air sanctuary. Spayed and neutered cats are NOT locked in cages. Lanai’s climate is mild and it allows kitties to enjoy the freedom of living outside of the cages, but at the same time, the sanctuary (25,000 square-foot playground) is safely fenced.

     

There are over 600 cats in the shelter.

    

    

How may cats do you see in this picture?


Tip: bring some cat treats. They will follow you everywhere!

This cat was diagnosed with cancer. The veterinarians saved him. Three years ago, his ears had to be amputated, but the cat feels good after the surgery. He is very friendly. He is not afraid of people any more.


When I saw this Beauty, I almost heard him saying to me “Do I know you?” with the voice of Antonio Banderas: doesn’t he remind you of the Cat in Boots from the Shrek movie?


Not another step! I’m not a putty-tat. I’m wild and dangerous!


I am pleasantly plump, cute and irresistible! Don’t dare calling me fat!


Many visitors agree to join the program “Adopt Me”. The cat stays at the Sanctuary and receives a monthly donation of $20.00 from his/her foster parents. It’s enough for food and litter. One visit to McDonald’s costs more money today! Adopt these adorable kitties!

This Sanctuary also helps to protect native birds, Hawaiian Petrel, Wedge-tailed Shearwater and Hawaiian Coot. Last year 1,300 tourists visited Cat Sanctuary. This place keeps functioning only because of peoples’ generosity. I want to mention that Lanai’s owner – Mr. Larry Ellison – supported the founders’ effort to save homeless cats and protect native birds. I was told by the Sanctuary’s “caregivers” that Four Seasons’ guests also make generous donations. Isn’t it wonderful?

Tip: you don’t need to rent a car for the ride to Cat Sanctuary. It’s much easier and less expensive to call Lanai personalized taxi; for more information please go to Sanctuary’s website www.LanaiCatSanctuary.org
If you get a personalized taxi, a portion of your metered fare will be donated to the cats. We were lucky, the Sanctuary’s volunteer got a day off and we had an opportunity to talk with the Cat Sanctuary manager – Mike. He picked us up from the Ferry. After visiting Sanctuary Mike took us to Lanai town and then to Four Seasons.

This is a T-shirt I bought at the Sanctuary for $20.00. If you are looking for a souvenir for another cat lover you will not find a better gift!

        

(My German Shepherd Attia is used to be around cats)

If you are interested to learn more, you may find the video with Kathy Carroll here: www.hawaiimagazine.com/content/cat-sanctuary

Cat Sanctuary website:
www.LanaiCatSanctuary.org

Facebook.com/LanaiCatSanctuary

 

Cat lovers! If some day you come to Maui or Lanai, visit this place.

You will not regret. It’s a Cat Lover’s Paradise.

                           

Lanai is a private island, very quiet and isolated. It was known for its pineapple plantations. In 2012 a financial magnate Mr. Larry Ellison purchased it for just… $300 million dollars. By his initiative the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel has been built; exhausted travelers are promised comfort and privacy, delight their senses and soothe their bodies.

If you are ready to be pampered by the solitude atmosphere of Lanai, Four Seasons will kindly open its gates for their dearest guest to immerse themselves in the true Hawaiian experience for only… $ 1,800 per night. By the way I’ve heard a joke about Lanai and found it… too close to be true to be funny: “Do you know that ‘Lanai’ in local Hawaiian language means ‘it costs how much’?!”

Also, visitors may stay at Hotel Lanai. It is small and not as elegant as the Four Seasons, but if you compare the prices you will be pleasantly surprised; it’s reasonable. Hotel Lanai will charge you only $ 200 per night.

   

Lanai is an amazingly quiet place. Birds are singing. Clean and empty beaches. No crowds, no loud music. The population of the island is approximately 1,500 people. Everybody knows each other. If you come to the island and try to stay without making a hotel reservation, the police will remind you that Lanai is a private island and ask you politely to leave.

      

      

In “Down Town” – Lanai city – we had a snack in a charming café. We were asked to pay with either cash or check. Back in time?! I don’t recall many places where the café’s owners will accept private checks!



Here you can visit a very nice art gallery and eat in the park. Pine trees amazed me by their heights.


There is a great public beach available for everyone. As soon as you get off Ferry you follow the road to the left. After 10-minute walk you’ll be at the beach. The beach has a nice, clean bathroom you may change if you need.

And now the time has come to talk about Lanai’s most interesting and unique destination – Cat Sanctuary!

If you are not planning to spend much time in your hotel room, why overpay?
Royal Kahana Condominium (north-west coast of Maui).

       

Yes, it is NOT a 5-star Hotel, no doubt about it, but it fit our needs and budget. We hardly spent any time in the room. We had a cup of tea in the morning and left only to come back after 8 p.m.

TIP: If you decide to rent a condo I would recommend you mainly to pay attention to the reviews for the following aspect: was the condo’s description truthful? Did the guests find everything they had been promised in the advisement?

We stayed in room #1003 and – in general – we got what we were promised. Ocean view from lanai (a little balcony). As I understood, all condos are ocean-front units. The suites, however, face both the parking lot and the ocean because of their floor plan.

Free parking. We didn’t have any problem with parking, but again, end of April is a low season, maybe that is why there was always a spot available?

 

On the first day we arrived at the condo around 2 p.m. The key is not available prior to 4 p.m. (it’s mentioned at the time of reservation). We had plenty of time to walk and drive around to explore the area. We found that it would take us only 5 minutes to get to Kapalua Bay and 10 minutes to get to the old town of Lahaina by car.

The condo is good for the budget minded travelers, very quiet, but small. Comfortable bed, nice shower, clean kitchenette. The ceiling definitely needed a touch of new paint. I noticed cob-webs in the closet with the washing machine/dryer. It made me feel a little bit worried and uncomfortable because spiders are not my favorite pets. Check out is 11 a.m., and two minutes to eleven a custodian, armed with brooms and vacuum cleaner, knocked at the door. Be prepared to leave on time!

The condo does not have its own beach, we used the Montage Hotel beach. When we returned home I read that in 2004 somewhere around one of the Lahaina beaches a surfer… had been attacked by a shark. Scary.

Close-by, Napili Market was helpful. Usually, we came back too late to look for a restaurant around or we had our dinner on the way home.

Boss Frog’s Snorkeling tours, you will see their ads everywhere.
We made a reservation for snorkeling tour to Lanai, but the day before we were informed it was cancelled due to “not enough people”. Not very good customer service in my opinion. I never feel comfortable when a company declares straight into my face that I am nothing but a dollar sign. I am pretty sure that in high season they have full tours, and there was no need to spoil our day by canceling our excursion.

Lahaina Town is an old town.

“Lahaina” means “cruel sun”. According to one of the legends, many years ago a tribal chief became so furious that he killed all his priests. I didn’t understand why the priests inspired such a rage in the chief. In other interpretations of the legend the hot son was blamed for the chief’s insanity.

To our knowledge, Maui receives more direct sunlight because of its 20-degree latitude, and it may be “cruel”. The afternoon sun is bright and intense. It burns mercilessly and some days the air may be so humid and dense that it seemed it can be cut into slices by a knife.

The town center has a nice park and harbor, a lot of shops and cafés.

       

Parking may be a huge challenge. TIP! There is a small free parking between Dickenson Street and Luakini Street. We used it when we took our trip to Lanai. It’s allowed to leave a car for the whole day, which is great, because all the streets inside of Lahaina town will only permit 3-hour parking. And don’t rely on police mercy! You will get a ticket.
Besides all of the shopping, Lahaina town’s main tourists’ attraction – Banyan Tree. The park has only one tree, although it looks like that there are many of them.

       

Another tourists’ attraction – historic Pioneer Inn. It was constructed by the order of a rich plantation owner, Mr. Alan Freeland, in 1901. For years this hotel was the only place on the island where the tired travelers could get a clean room, decent breakfast and a newspaper (yes, prior to Internet era people had a weird habit to read newspapers).

    

Hotel is close to the harbor.  It’s convenient for those tourists who are planning to go to the island of Lanai but not sure if they have enough time to catch a Passenger Ferry: what if  your plane gets late?  The Cruises’ guests  find Pioneer Inn the best place to stay overnight.

Our next destination is the island of Lanai. It is very easy to get there by the Passenger Ferry, but you will need to make a reservation (free number 808-661-3756). Remember, you are going to visit a private island! The cost of the ticket (round trip) is $60.00. It will take approximately 45 minutes to travel there.

 

 


What kind of vacation is it without being pampered at the Spa, don’t you agree?
Personally, I am a frequent spa guest and I shall admit: I am a very spoiled customer. We shopped around and checkup our opportunities at Ritz-Carlton and Montage Hotel, as both of them were conveniently located at Kapalua Bay. We chose Spa Montage.

What I loved in the Spa the most (besides their fantastic customer service and complimentary parking) was the Oceanview Infinity Pool. Huge plus right away: the pool may be used by adults only.

Very clean and quiet inside.

Besides therapy treatments, the Spa offers their guests the following retreats: eucalyptus steam room, cedar wood sauna and therapeutic cascading waterfall whirlpool.  The whirlpool’s waterfall helps to release neck and shoulder tension.

We had access to all of the spa’s amenities for the entire day because of our treatment reservation. It allowed us to leave the Spa and come back any time we wished. My therapists – Henry and Michelle – were truly miracle workers, very professional. Mariann, Cindy, Nicky (sorry if I missed any of you) all of you were simply great! During our stay in Maui we visited several Spas, but I will talk about our other experience a little later.

After our treatments in the early afternoon we went to snorkel at the Montage Hotel beach. As a tip: bring your own snorkel gear and enjoy the beach! It was unbelievably quiet there. I think it’s THE best beach on Maui.

It’s a very well protected bay by two cliffs from both sides of the beach. We were very pleased not to be beaten up by the strong surf (as we experienced at Andaz Hotel in Wailea and Ritz). We snorkeled till we could hardly move our arms and legs. We even saw the sea turtles! There was a lot of them; huge and irresistibly cute, sea turtles enjoyed their afternoon sea bathes. They were not afraid of people at all!

Here, do you see two black stones popping up from the water?

The black round black spot closer to us is a head of the sea turtle. She (or he?) swam up to the surface of the water to get some air. I tried to take better pictures as I watched the “sea beast” as a hunting cat, but no luck! The turtle behaved as a true Hollywood movie star, well skilled to avoid the naughty Paparazzi. The “Star” disappeared like a Cheshire Cat when I was ready to take a picture and suddenly appeared again when I was distracted.

We returned home after sunset.

 

Another beautiful Maui day came to its end.

 

I simply fell in love with Kapalua Bay! If I come back to Maui one day again, there will be no doubt where to stay: at Kapalua Bay, my favorite resort area. It’s located on the north-west of the island.

Here, you will find two 5-star hotels: Montage

and Ritz-Carlton

I read so many negative reviews about the Ritz’ location. Now, after seeing the hotel (and Spa) with my own eyes, I may say that I don’t agree with those angry writers. Ritz is not for everyone – that’s for sure. If you love to jog in the mornings, play tennis or golf, relax in a hammock and swim in the ocean in the afternoons, if you love nature, big trees, birds singing – make a reservation at the Ritz, you will not regret it, it’s your destination. But if you dream more about “city-like adventures”, then, definitely, this is not your cup of tea.

I was impressed by the huge lawn in front of Ritz (not at the entrance, but from the coast line). It’s a lovely walk towards the beach.

We found out why Ritz has it. Ritz was supposed to be an oceanfront hotel, but during its construction the developers had to relocate the building – due to the ancient Hawaiians burial site. The hotel had to be moved a little bit away from the coast line, leaving a lawn which is bordered by a stone wall. Behind the lawn and the wall, you will be able to see “Dragon’s Teeth of Kapalua” which is a part of the ancient burial place.

 

For those, who love walking along the coast and enjoy the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean, there is a lovely path – 1.5 miles – between the Ritz and Montage Hotel. Beautiful place, peaceful and serene, but don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and apply sun-screen lotion on your face!

 

As we walked from the Montage Hotel towards the Ritz, Bay Villas were on our right. I took a couple of pictures of them just in case if you may be thinking to rent one.

      

       

Some ocean front villas have direct access to the lovely beaches. The beaches are tiny but they have nice sand. We saw hardly any tourists there. If you are looking for quite time, this area may work for you. I am not sure if it is a good place for snorkeling; both times we visited Kapalua Bay it was windy and the waves were rather big. Those days, definitely, were not good for snorkeling.

Tip. You might see wales from the Bay Trail. We saw some.

Before taking our walk to the Ritz, we ate lunch at Montage beach bar. Montage – no doubts! – is an expensive hotel; in low season, its rates start from $ 800.00 per night and up. For our afternoon snack we paid $75.00. It included two sandwiches, two non-alcoholic beverages, nice service, birds’ singings, fresh air and fantastic ocean view from the terrace.


As a bonus, our friendly waitress shared with us the low-high seasons’ time frame. The end of April is considered to be a low season (my husband and I were happy to hear that; our trip wasn’t planned, it just happened and we were happy to avoid crowds of anxious tourists). High season for Maui is: the month of November (especially Thanksgiving week), New Year, the month of March (spring break). The summer is a high season; it lasts from the middle of June till the middle of August. In February it may be pretty overcrowded as well; this is the favorite vacation time for our Canadian neighbors.

 

When we were approaching the foothills, we noticed that the top of the mountain was covered with clouds. We were warned that in Maui weather is very naughty, it changes frequently.


It didn’t take us long to make the decision to keep driving, and we didn’t regret it. It cost us $ 25.00 to enter the National park. Be ready to take a credit card with you! Cash is not an option.

Despite an overcast sky, it was an exquisite and unforgettable trip. I would say that Haleakala is my most striking impression of Maui, and even the fog didn’t spoil it.

               
The fog was rising over the grass; it was sliding above and between the bottoms of the cliffs forming mysterious patterns out of its own mist. Here and there it slowly wandered to the top and covered it with the fluffy blanket of clouds. The surrounding nature was serene. The light wind gently shook the top of the flowers as it was singing a lullaby song to the surrounding nature. We reached the end of the world…

Do you see what I saw?
A hunter is lying behind the stone and nearby him a dog lifted up its head…

Crater. What weird unrealistic colors! Breathtaking.

The last eruption of the volcano happened in 1794. Scientists describe Haleakala as a “sleeping” volcano. There is always a possibility that the volcano “wakes up” one day and will surprise us with a new eruption.  Haleakala means “House of Sun”. Long ago, in ancient time, one of the local gods got upset with the Sun that it finished its “run” over the sky too fast. The furious god caught the Sun with the net and forced his hostage to promise not to be in a rush – ever again!


 

 

 

 

 

 

Visitor center and parking.

           

Summit (10,000 feet above sea level).  Observatory.

            

Maui is often named as the Rainbow Island. Haleakala may be called Rainbow Mountain.

Tip: stop at the first and second turn outs, don’t ignore them! At the first turn out you have to walk a few minutes to see an outstanding view of the canyon (if there is no fog!)

         

For those who are looking for complete solitude, there are “primitive cabins” (with no electricity or running water) to rent in the National park. You have to make reservation six months in advance with a maximum of 3 nights stay, and still there is no guarantee you will be lucky to get it! The only way to get the cabin is hiking or riding a horse. I should admit that after visiting Haleakala, Maui justified the reputation of “magical” and “unpredictable island”. I could never imagine that the “primitive cabins” would be so popular!

On the way back it rained, and we stopped at Kula Lodge Restaurant.

Kula is a charming tiny town in the foothills. It was getting dark and cold and the manager started the fire. Real fireplace, no electric or gas imitation!

The bill given to us by a polite waiter, didn’t shock us. Within the week we gained the skill to control our blood pressure rocking up when we signed the bill for $75.00 for two sandwiches, coke and a hot cup of tea. Besides, the warm fire place in alliance with the beautiful view of the mountain outside made us less vulnerable.

Our trip to Haleakala came to the end in the Lodge’s garden. Nicely groomed flowerbeds with exotic flowers and bushes.

As the previous day, we came home exhausted, happy and full with new impressions.