Sunday, September 5, 2010

The dirt roads past "nowhere"

Here's my two cents on Hana after spending a week in Maui. So as Danielle said, the road to Hana is also called the road to nowhere, and the attraction is the journey, not the destination. That wasnt exactly true for us because we had a reservation at a luxury hotel waiting for us, but there is more than that. Hana is most definitely a destination. Hana is the old Hawaii. There are no Aloha shirts, and chain stores selling souvenirs made in china. there are no tour stands and time share operations trying to lure you with a $15 luau. Hana is 50 miles from any other town, and people there are locals. The road to Hana used to be a worthy accomplishment with the poor quality of the road, but now ~2000 day trippers do an out-and-back, and don't give a second's thought to taking in the local flavor. don't get me wrong, I did love the drive, but after 3 hours of waterfalls, I was tired of following the road most taken.

but like I said, most people go out to Hana from paia, then head back down. However, I wanted to do the Full Loop. voiding the rental car contract - check. 25% grade single lane dirt roads? check! Sheer 400ft drops right to crashing waves below with no guard rail? CHECK!! there was pleading and there was begging and negotiation, and while I'm not proud of it, there was also pouting. in the end, I finally convinced Danielle it was something I really wanted to do -- drive the infamous back side out of Hana.

It was awesome. Vast volcanic landscape, wild goats, and a farm fruit stand with no electricity...I had to pedal a bike hooked to a blender to mix our fresh fruit smoothies!

But before all that, first was boogie boarding at the best beach in the world (Hamoa), navigating a rather perilous path to a secluded red sands lagoon, and the most breath taking 4 mile hike ever, complete with a bamboo forest and 300 ft Wimoku falls.

It's interesting, but the towns we've visited in Maui are pretty different. our main HQ has been Wailea, which is really little more than a master planned resort community (with million dollar condos and houses sprinkled in). Kehei, which was really going into "town" from Wailea, is a rather run down crowded 1 mile strip, Makawao, which is also a little run down, but in that cool Berkeley sort of way. And Lahinia, here's where all the Aloha shirts conglomerate and hit up Bubba Gump's restaurant. didn't love Lahina, but people clearly do, and if the Aloha shirts make them feel removed from the daily grind, well then so be it. they won't be on my 4 mile hiking trail anyway.

So don't miss the drive to Hana, but stay in Hana and experience all there is to see past the road. And absolutely drive the loop. the scenery changes from lush and green to arid and volcanic, with expansive views that I just cannot describe. I love taking a left when the crowd goes right, and Hana and it's surroundings did the trick.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Makena Rd,Kihei,United States

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Road to "nowhere"

okay, running a little behind on the posting. here's a little something Danielle wrote up mid-week:


Wednesday, we woke early to get in some activities before embarking on the road to Hana. Daniel went to do cycling intervals around 7am, and I packed and made sandwiches before doing some snorkeling on Polo Beach on front of the hotel. The lava flowed out to the sea in jagged fingers, leaving a great habitat for fish and coral. There are so many sea urchins tucked away in all the little nooks of the lava, with with lots of brightly colored and interestingly patterned fish too. The coral looks iridescent; pink, yellow, green. I love snorkeling in Hawaii. The water is so warm, and the fish are so abundant. It's like swimming in an aquarium.

We set out to drive the road to Hana around 9:45 after checking out and stowing our luggage and bikes at the Fairmont Hotel. Can't say enough about the great service there. The receptionist was helpful about our trip and lent us a CD driving guide to Hana. It was ok; a bit annoying due to the silly banter but the actual narrative of the Hawaiian culture and locales was good. Thank goodness I had Maui Revealed, thanks to Heather and Holt! We love this book! They even highlighted the best parts!!! <3

Our first stop was Kahalui to load up on gas and Starbucks. I spotted a great vegetarian market across the road and got loaded up with a delicious veggie sandwich for the road. So much for the PB&Js that I made... Our next stop was Paia. True to it's name (means noisy in Hawaiian) we left after a brief (hot and sweaty) walk up the road. Traffic seemed to be all backed up but when we set off, it cleared out and Daniel did a great job of keeping us free from other cars by going slowly and pulling over to let cars pass. Especially the locals, who tear through the roads.

We then stopped at the very crowded Twin Falls. Wish I had paid more attention to Maui Revealed as we did waste too much time here. It was a nice waterfall but there were many MANY more waterfalls to be seen that were easier to get to also. Daniel did pick up a few unknown fruits that had fallen and dared to eat one, not knowing what it was at first. (He loved it. Later found out it was passion fruit)

The drive to Hana is about the journey, not the destination. That was a mantra repeated in the CD and book, and it was very true. The tropical lushness of the vegetation, the stunning views of the coastline with the black lava cliffs and blue/white of the ocean and pounding waves, and the freshwater falls and pools... All so beautiful it took your breath away. We found another lovely waterfall and pool where we both swam (thank goodness for water shoes). We watched local kids cliff dive off the 30-40foot cliff. Oh to be 16.... We stopped often for photos and bought banana bread and other treats along the way. Daniel loved the fresh pineapple. Wish I weren't allergic as it looked really good! In total it took us 8 hours to go 35 miles.

By the time we got to Wai' napanapa state park just before Hana, we were tired. We had bought some food up the road and ate here... Kahlua pig for Daniel and a veggie taco for me. I also tried the baked breadfruit. Not a big fan; it was rather dry and starchy with a bland taste. I fed it to the stray cat and mongoose(s) at the state park, which sparked a noisy battle. There were lots of mongooses (or is it mongeese??) at the park, and all over Maui. According to the cd, they are not indigenous and were introduced to control the non-native rat population. That didn't work as they preferred the tasty eggs of the ground-nesting seabirds... Rendering the indigenous ground-nesting seabirds extinct. Sads. But they are cute little buggers.

Feeling rejuvenated, we strolled around this gorgeous park with its black sand beach and lava tube caves. Finally, after more incredible views of blue ocean contrasted by black lava rock formations, we set of for the hotel. The hotel is smack in the middle of Hana town, in an idyllic setting overlooking the ocean. We were greeted with handmade tea leaf leis and special white nut shell leis since it is our anniversary..made from kukui nuts. They loaded our bags and us on a golf cart and whisked us off for a tour of the lovely hotel grounds and to our room. It's a pretty big bungalow with a bar, living room, and large lanai with table and chairs. There is no a/c here, just ceiling fans and tropical breezes. Lovely! The hotel gave us a fruit basket with papaya, guavas, banana, and oranges and stocked our fridge with water, juice, and champagne. Did I mention that I love this place??

(If only our eastern European neighbor in the next bungalow didn't foul the air with his chain smoking Marlborough reds. It woke me up at 4am and I of course stomped outside to ask him to stop. It's a non smoking property and the smoke comes right in with the open air and the aforementioned tropical breeze. Rude! He complied, grudgingly. Thank you mister.)

We went out for a dip in the infinity pool overlooking the ocean (sigh) and Daniel declared that he wants to move to Hana and that he has never been so happy in his life. I'll admit, it's a pretty special place. We got taken by golf cart(!) to the Hana Ranch Restaurant where Daniel had ribs and I had the locally caught opa (white) fish. I have been eating fish while in Hawaii under the rationale that it's locally caught and I am supporting a local fisherman. It hasn't really agreed with me, so I hope the fishermen appreciate my support. Anyhoodle, the restaurant is also the local karaoke venue. Tourists and locals alike belting out bad songs in warbling voices. Fun! We finished the bight with homemade macadamia nut pie a la mode (kind of like pecan pie but different nuts) and a short stroll back to our room. So nice!!!

Locals here are friendly and this hotel obviously provides a lot of jobs. This part of the island is pretty remote, although we were told on the CD that several celebrities have houses out here. I can see why.

Thursday we will head back on our journey to O'heo gulch, although we are now in no rush to leave. I booked this hotel on heather's recommendation thinking it would just be a place to crash along the way, but it is a winded place and I wish we were staying 2 nights. It is very expensive ($375/night min) but thanks to my job, I got it for much less than that. Yay me!!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Happy number two!

More snorkeling -- I'm wrestling with crappy equipment, but almost nothing can take away from the amazement of floating in a giant reef tank. Then I squeezed in some very hot intervals followed by Danielle meeting me for the spin down portion, where her intention was to escort me to the end of Makena where we'd sample from the local road side vendors. first up was a giant of a Hawaiian woman selling fresh coconut juice, where upon your completion she'd cut away the meet so you could take it to go.

fresh coconut juice >> cytomax, btw.

then it was off to a grill set up side of the road that's been featured in nat geo traveler -- Makena Grill. while the personality of the non-Hawaiian owner was a bit coarse at first, the fresh caught grilled Ono was delicious, and Danielle had some of the best coconut rice I've ever eaten.

We had a chill afternoon, Danielle arranging our itinerary for the remainder of the trip. Then it was a walk along the path by the ocean to The Four Seasons for our anniversary dinner at Spago's, which I believe is a Wolfgang Puck establishment. The food was amazing (just the day before we left we got an enthusiastic tip about this place) the service excellent, and the sunset view made it post card perfect. cliche, really, but we loved it all the same. opt for the times when they're offering the price fixed menu and save a bundle.

Aloha akiaki! I don't know if that's spelled right of pronounced like i just wrote, but Danielle is going to be fluent in Hawaiian before we leave anyway, so I'll follow up.

P.s. blogging on the iPhone is tedious.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The "palmetto bugs" here fly. well.

So anyway, when your hands and fingers have microcuts from coral and/or sea urchins, here is a comprehensive list of things that Hurt:
- sun screen lotion.
- soap.
- chlorine water.
- salt water.
- Mai tai.

Day two was even better than day one. The day started with Danielle waking up at 4 am and reading the paper. i rolled out of bed an hour or two later, squeezed in a quick 5k along previously discussed path, then it was off to try the snorkeling again. I did a better job at Not blindly grabbing ahold oh things below the water that I cannot see, and Eagle-eye Danielle spotted a sea turtle that we followed for a good 15 minutes. Danielle also correctly identified a 4 foot trumpet fish. she's an island pro.

Then it was on to pick up the bikes! So, cross season is right around the corner and I have to stay on top of the intervals I started last week, so I rented a 5 series Madone for duration! They also hooked up Danielle with a sweet Orbea, though it took a stem swap for her to dial in the fit. I get along really with 80+ degree weather, so a quick ride in the afternoon was just the right thing to shake out the legs.

Drinks and a little pizza at The Four Seasons capped off the night. we also stole a peek at the luau going on at The Grand Wailea, but since the garb on the "native" dancer wasn't authentic (haha, get it?), I quickly lost interest.

Maui is beautiful...

yeeeow, so is Danielle!

Coral is sharp

First day in Wailea, Maui was fantastic. thanks to jet lag, we were up at 5 and ready to go. first order of business after breakfast of mostly chocolate and cookies (don't judge) was to go for a walk to experience the grounds of The Fairmont and get the blood circulating. A 2 mile path kisses the back of The Fairmount, The Four Seasons, The Grand Wailea, and other hotels. While it's a heavily manicured, the little path was not at all busy. in fact, the whole area doesn't feel at all crowded, just pretty mellow.

Next order of business was to get in the water. I needed some snorkeling gear, and there are a million shops that rent, but here's a tip: buy the mask, fins and, I dunno, mouth tube thing? when you get here at kmart or Safeway. because the cost of renting is $25/week for mid range stuff, and buying is $30 + the bonus of not having to imagine just what type of sanitary measures the shop takes... i ended up renting before going to Safeway, so, lesson learned. Anyway, to cut to the chase, snorkeling here is amazing. tons of activity along the reef. Danielle saw a reef shark too, and here's why I suspect; I had tons of micro cuts on my hands from touching the coral for support while putting on my flippers. actually it is the urchin that I suspect are the culprits here, but the point [ha] is that I didn't feel any of them happen, but when I surfaced out of the water, I saw was rocking a couple of really good slashes. so yeah, mr. reef shark probably smelled dinner.

next we drove down as far as you can drive in Maui, and the road takes you through a field that is probably where they filmed all the moon landing footage.

very amazing lava flow that happened 300 years ago.

In town (kehei) a little later Danielle noticed a place called Da Kitchen which she said was where she read they serve Real Hawaiian food. and far be it from me to turn down a spam masubi. Yes, it was amazing.

then we went to bed at like 7 Hawaii time.

oh you natives you.....

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Aloha from Maui (Wailea)

We arrived safe and sound! Maui is amazing and the Fairmont Kea Lani hotel in Wailea is the most beautiful place I have ever stayed. And i have stayed in a lot of nice places. The lobby is stunning!!

We have a huge 2 bedroom oceanview suite with a huge double balcony overlooking the ocean. The best part is that we're here for 7 nights!!! Thanks to my travel agent rate or we could not have afforded this. Our suite goes normally for over $500/night but I got it for about a fifth of that. :)

The food in the swanky hotel restaurants is CRAZY expensive. Nothing under $38 dollars for a dinner entree and goes way up from there. $40 mahi mahi with mashed potatoes, etc..... We stopped at a grocery store on the way here and loaded up on groceries since we have a mini kitchen. It was kind of funny to load up the bell hop luggage cart with all of our plastic grocery bags when we checked in... The porter said that people do that all the time... :) Gallon of milk in Hawaii is $7!!

We rented a jeep and are going to go exploring and hiking, swimming, snorkeling. I think we'll go snorkel at "turtle town" today which is a cove where sea turtles hang out. Also this week we've rented bicycles and will do some cycling while we're here. Hooray for vacation!!!!

Ok off to enjoy breakfast on my balcony and watch the ocean.



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Costa Rica: December 30, 2009

One interesting thing about the little bit of Costa Rica that I've seen is that everyone gets up really early.  It could how early the sun comes up or it could be that it is a primarily tourist economy, and tourists like to milk every minute they have, but I noticed here than other placed we've traveled.  At 6 am, people are up and things are starting to buzz.  It could be the howler monkeys that wake everyone up too.  So yeah, another beautiful morning, already 70 degrees.

view outside the Wood Chalet.

Anyway, today Danielle planned a nature hike in the National Park for us, and was recommended a guide (Estel) by the office of Manual Antonio Estates.  Estel and her driver picked us up promptly at 7 and after getting another small group, we were soon on our way to the park.  We had to stop outside the park while Estel purchaced guided tickets for us, so the taxi driver flipped down an LCD screen in the van an put on a DVD of Michael Jackson videos.  Strange, but soon we were on our hike.  Estel was more of a photographer than a guide, and really didn't have much to say about animals or plants unless asked.  What can I say, the naturalist/botanists at Lapa Rios spoiled us...  Estel was mostly just more interested in seeing and being seen by other guides.  But while I found her a little tedious, she did have the ability to spot wildlife with her Swarovski field scope, and she managed to come up with a few things to say about the animals we peered at through her scope (which would also photograph!)

Jesus Christ lizard.  (runs on water..?)

three-toed sloth.

Overall I found Manual Antonio to be boring and crowded and not worth the $90 we paid.  We stayed at the beach which was, well, a beach.  Honestly, the beach wasn't much of anything special.  Yes, the water was warm but the press of the crowds made it uncomfortable for me, and I really missed the seclusion of the deep rainforest.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Costa Rica: December 29, 2009

It has been an eventful past day or so.  Right after last entry, on our way to dinner, a foot and a half long Fer-de-Lance was coiled up by the walk way leading to our cabin.  These are extremely venomous snakes of the viper family, and are known for being unpredictable and often aggressive.  It was coiled up in a defensive position, bobbing its head from side to side.  The snake was clearly distressed by a couple of people who obliviously stomped by while returning from the night hike.

We asked someone from the hike to go get the naturalist guide and verify that it was the fer de lance.  When he eventually arrived and confirmed the species, he used his walking stick to persuade it off the walkway and down into the underbrush.  The snake was not interesting in fleeing however, and actually tried to get back on the walkway.

Danielle had a hard time focusing on her dinner after the encounter, but I was personally thrilled to get some pictures and finally see the snake we heard so much about.  That evening, our last night at Lapa Rios, we made a decision to visit an Animal sanctuary in the morning before our flight back to Pavas airport.  We spent the rest of the evening getting to know the Canadian family and went to bed just before midnight.  The next morning our Tico breakfast was waiting and we said goodbye to Lapa Rios.

We arrived at the doc in Puerto Jimenez and a nice 40 minute boat ride brought us to the shore of the mainland, across Gulfo Dulce, to an animal sanctuary just on the border of the Piedras Blancas National Park ( the dark green spot on the map ).  The animal sanctuary was amazing.  

Soon after the boat pulled up to the shore, the owner, a volunteer and a very special temporary residant named Sweetie (a 6 year old spider monkey) waited to greet us.  Sweetie went immediately to Danielle, grabbed her hand, and pulled her down to show her where a spider (brown recluse family) had bitten her two years prior. It was amazing and I was speechless.  She was doing exactly what she was naturally supposed to do -- socialize and be groomed by others.  Were we taught that she was about equivalent in maturity of a teenage girl. Soon the hormones would kick in and she would venture off into the wild to search for a mate...but currently, she loved the attention, and her adopted family of the sanctuary.

Pulling up to the sanctuary

It was amazing being that close to a wild animal.  Aside from the rules not to hold her, she loved the attention and spent time checking out everyone in our small tour group.  Continuing on in the sanctuary, we saw a pair of coatis, macaws (they'd been kept in cages with no perch, so their wings had become deformed...they can no longer fly except in a straight line),  a wolverine and wild pig -- both of which thought they were guard dogs because of how inhumanly were raised.  Moving on, we got to see two sloths, a kinkajou, and finally an enormous enclosure containing a troop of white faced monkeys.  This was probably the most touching part of the tour for me because these animals (think organ grinder monkey) all came from abusive beginning where their hope of returning to the wild is almost nil.  I'll never get the image of the poor female that would clutch her hands together under her chin, shake her head rapidly, and rock back and forth nervously.  Apparently she was forced in darkness and solitude in someone's basement for the majority of her life.  Not like I needed additional evidence that humans and monkeys share recent lineage, but would be easy to see how a human would develop similar behavior and psychological disorders if forced in similar conditions.  It's heartbreaking to see first hand what harm people can do to animals that should just be left alone.  I forgot his name, the American that bought those 800 acres 14 years ago and left behind a successful career to peruse a dream, but I hope he's able to keep going.  The locals mostly just don't have the appreciate of their environment yet.  He has had some luck hiring ex-poachers however, but it's hard when the culture of this area is to hunt.  A number of animals have nearly been driven to extinction due to poaching or exporting.  For instance, only 1 out of every 75 scarlet macaws makes it alive through the export process.  Or the Ocelot for instance -- a small cat of the region -- can be sold for exporters for $10,000.

A pair of two-toed sloths that were found on the ground near the sanctuary.  Apparently if they fall, the mother doesn't have the energy to go back down and rescue them.  It's true, they move very slowly...  these two were found near the sanctuary.

Soon we were back on the boat and sitting on a bumpy flight to Pavas, followed by a short flight to Quepos.

We arranged transportation to Manual Antonio Estates and were a little disappointed with the "Wood Chalet" -- maybe 25 years ago it was something special, but with the heat, damp air, and complete shade, the whole place had a mildew smell.  It was a little bit of a shock because we essentially had just come from paradise.  We opened up all the windows and set the fans to high and tried not to let the accommodations get us too down.  It was late afternoon, so we decided to walk down to the town of Quepos...we found this town pretty depressing.  Personally it reminded me of any town poor town in mexico I've ever seen, except without all the tourist trinket shops.  Our main reason staying here was to be near Manual Antonio National Park, so we tried to keep that in mind. People seemed nice however, despite the barbed wire fences and bars on all the windows just like we saw in San Jose.  Unless you had the money to live in a gated community, you better invest on heavy duty bars and razor wire.

We picked up some Costa Rican beer (Imperial) and a few items at a little store. Danielle made us a delicious beans and rice dinner back in our gated community, then it was off to bed.

Costa Rica: December 28, 2009

It will be a little sad to leave Lapa Rios, but more adventure awaits.  Last night after dinner we spotted two vine snakes and a walking stick on our way back to the room.  After ushering out a cockroach from one of the beds, we retired with the sound of the waves and chirping geckos.  This morning we hiked the ridge trail with Danilo.  Muddy, but educational and a good workout.

Blooms once a year.  Though they probably tell every guest that.

Poison dart frog..No tocar!

Little squirrel monkey

We also got a great lecture on medicinal plants.  The kerosene plant which smells like mango, is flammable, and also acts as an insect repellent.  Danielle spotted a coati, which apparently is about as common as raccoons here, but isn't nocturnal.  She also spotted another vine snake, though this one apparently packed a bite.  We walked through primary forest (never cut down) and secondary, both of which have the ground level, the under story, sub canopy, canopy and emergents. After returning and washing some clothes in the shower, it was off to lunch.  Then another stroll to the beach where we encountered a group of squirrel monkeys crossing the tops of the trees.  After a little while at the beach, it was back to the resort and a stop by the pool where we kept company with four bats under the roof of the pool-side hut.  Soon some howler monkeys gave us a good show, as well as a toucan and a great curasow.   

Lapa Rios continues to impress and educate.