Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hidden Hazards of Maui

There’s a few things you should know before visiting Maui, the kind of things ‘they’ don’t talk about.


Small as the island is, Maui has several distinct micro-climates. Depending on where you are on the Valley Isle you could get scorched, sun- or wind-burned, drenched, or chilled to your bones. Let’s start with “scorched”…

The Hawaiian sun does not play around. Even on a cloudy day, even if you’re a regular at the tanning salon, even if you have SPF-30 on – don’t go less than SPF-50, I say – you’ll probably get burned at some point during your vacation (usually at the beginning). Around here, even your ears need a good, strong sunscreen. Don’t forget those guys! What’s that, think taking an umbrella to the beach will save you? Think again; light reflecting off the water and sand is almost as potent as lying or standing directly in the sun. You may think I’m kidding about the sun being strong even when it is overcast, but don’t just take my word for it. Learn from experience if you want, though it’s a decidedly more uncomfortable route to go. You have been warned. [The sun is strong everywhere on the island but skies are usually clearer with direct sunshine hitting the southern and western facing shores most of all.]

The combination of Maui’s heat and humidity occasionally sends people up to the volcano (Haleakala) summit to cool off, or, people simply visit the summit to see the sunrise. The weather at the summit is definitely cooler – about 15-20 degrees on average than the coast – but is often quite windy, too. Like, really windy, the kind of wind that’ll exfoliate you more than you want it to. Combine that with the average 40 degree temps in the morning when you want to see the sun rise and – let’s just say you should go up Haleakala dressed in layers. And, rain can kick in any moment near the summit outside of the summer months. Even then bring a poncho if you are determined to stay dry. Although, it’s usually dry by the time you’ve hiked down 500 feet or so inside the crater as long as you stay east of Kuapo Gap on the trek. That shouldn’t be a problem since Kuapo Gap is about 10 miles away on the opposite side of the crater.

Speaking of getting wet, are you going to stay in or drive the road to Hana? If so, then you’re going to get wet. There’s always a 50% chance of rain in Hana due to the weather pattern, meaning, on the day you go there there’s an almost 100% chance you’ll get dumped on with torrential water. At least that’s been my experience all the times I’ve been. (More on the Road to Hana later.) Likewise in the northwestern area of Maui, up and around the Wailuku area and beyond. Air gets pushed up by the eastern slopes of the mountains, condenses, and voila! you’re wet. Granted, it doesn’t rain as much up this way as it does in Hana, but still. At least bring a hat.

Sea and Surf

The Sea is a dangerous mistress. As of this writing in 2013 there have been 8 shark attacks, 2 of them fatal, and yes these are abnormal numbers. Shark attacks were also up in 2012, but this is getting ridiculous. No one is sure why the number of attacks is up, but they are. Sure, statistically speaking you are not likely to be attacked by a shark but if you like snorkeling, splashing around in the waves, or fishing off a kayak you may want to know this: Sharks in Hawaii are more likely to come near shore during dawn and dust when light conditions are low. They hunt under such conditions. That said, it is also wise to stay out of the water when the surf is cloudy, usually the day after it has rained or when the trade winds have picked up and made the water choppy. Don’t wear high contrast clothing or jewelry either. And above all else if swimming, stay away from fishing boat as they have baited the water nearby which may attract sharks. If fishing off a kayak, don’t dangle your feet off the kayak for this very reason. That’s how the latest fatality happened. If you’re still determined to go in the water, though, consider scuba diving since sharks never seem to attack divers. Also know that in the summer, the west and north shores are generally calmer for swimming and snorkeling than south Maui beaches, while in the winter the weather pattern and currents change and the south Maui beaches become calmer. Other things to know include not touching the goddamn turtles unless they approach you and it cannot be avoided. Same goes for the whales, but since it is law that you need to stay 100 yards away from whales, that shouldn’t be a problem, right? Dolphins? Eh, they’ll initial contact if they’re curious but don’t chase them down; it stresses them out and they’ve got enough stress trying to avoid sharks. If taking a boat out on a snorkel or other adventure tour, take Dramamine or eat something with ginger an hour before getting on the boat. Many people who don’t think they’re going to get sea sick do and once you’ve headed out, the captain isn’t going back to shore unless you’re literally dying.


Island life comes with a number of hazards and one of those hazards is driving. Why? Two reasons: First, the locals tend to drive like bats out hell. Quite frankly, I’m not sure why since they’re not going to do anything once they get wherever it is they are going. Hawaiians (ethnic and senior haoles alike) aren’t exactly known for what might be considered a Mainland work ethic and as such are on Island Time all the time they are not driving. So, I don’t know why they drive so fast and dangerously. They run red lights and think nothing of the concept of right-of-way or yielding. So, if you’re on the road and see a car that doesn’t look like a rental, beware. Wait, I take that back;  since tourists spend a lot of time looking at the sights – usually the ocean during whale season – they spend less time watching the road as they drive. This creates a lot of accidents as people stray into oncoming traffic. While the number of collisions is nowhere near as high on Maui as it is on Oahu, still. Please drive defensively, even on vacation.

Sugar Cane Burning

Did you know it snows on Maui? Central and south Maui is often afflicted with what is known as “Maui snow,” black ash that rains down on these parts of island from the burning of harvested sugar cane fields between the central and south sides of the island. And it stinks really bad. Unfortunately, the burning of the fields – which btw happens to be fairly toxic – takes place most of the year and can really make south Maui beaches unsightly when the wind favors the ash-fall. I suppose it could be worse if the HC&C Company didn’t burn mostly in the morning, but even when they do, their trucks are busy for the rest of the day raising a ton of dust clearing the debris, making a drive between Kahului and Wailea/Makena in a convertible seems like a terrible idea. The only way to avoid Maui snow is to stay on the west side.


Finally, shit’s expensive on Maui and in Hawaii in general. But, what do you expect? We’re out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean here. As a consequence, Maui restaurants are generally way overpriced, even for entrees that aren’t very good. So, if you ain’t prepared to pay the piper, don’t pick up the flute. You have been warned.
Despite all this, there are certainly worse places to be. Just don't rush into things or expect too much and you'll be just fine here. Aloha!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Upcountry Farmer's Market, Pukalani/Kula

As someone who has been to lots of farmer’s markets, I know that which I speak of. While I admire the motto of the Upcountry Farmer’s Market (“Occupy Farms”) I can’t help but say that this market, held Saturdays 7am-12pm, is probably the weakest farmer’s market I’ve ever been to. Granted, I did not get there until about 9:30am, so it’s hard to say if all the best items were wiped out early or if the farmers just don’t have much to sell. Frankly, most vendors appear to have plucked whatever looked ready in their backyard that morning and brought it to the market. Then there is the matter of just how uninterested the vendors are to sell you what they do have, mostly ignoring you and opting to chat with their friends or the next vendor over. And it’s not like there are very many vendors; most are selling you already processed items or widgets instead of fruits and veggies. The only bright spot here was the vendor selling Indian food, which although early for lunch, was as close to good Indian food as you’re going to find on Maui. Unfortunately, the fruit and veggie vendor who set up in Kihei four days a week has been AWOL for months now, forcing me to try this market. Decent Indian food aside, I tried this market but I will not be back.

The Upcountry Farmer’s Market is located on Hwy 37 at the Kulamalu Town Center near Long's Drugs, Pukalani/Kula.

Bully's Burgers, Ulupalakua

Few eateries actually qualify as “burger shacks” but that is exactly what Bully’s Burgers is. Located on the mauka (inland) side of the road just a bit past Tedeschi Winery / Maui Winery, Bully’s Burgers is the last place to buy some grinds before hitting the general store in Kaupo a long ways towards Hana (assuming you’re headed towards Hana, doing the Back Road to Hana tour). Is it worth it? It certainly is the best roadside burger I’ve ever had, I’ll tell you that. It wasn’t a fancy burger either, just a plain and simple burger that they’ll tell you is 100% natural beef. (Ignore the pig in the pen next to the condiment table.) After tasting the burger I believe them, despite having to acknowledge the rest of their food and drinks are from Costco. But hey, you’ve got to give a little to get a little. It did take about 15 minutes to get the food but c’mon, this isn’t McDonalds here and there is a view to admire while you wait. Service was very friendly, too, another feather in their cap. I will mention that there are only a few tables here, so you may have to cozy up to a stranger or else eat in your car but I can’t imagine eating their burger without the view. So, if you like burgers, yes, stop here and you probably will not be disappointed. (Well, except by the prices maybe which are $9-$15 a burger. But hey, this place is out in the middle of nowhere. What do you expect?)

Location: 15900 Pi'ilani Highway; Open 11am-7pm (8pm in the summer)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Monkeypod Kitchen,Wailea

I wanted desperately to like Monkeypod Kitchen more as they have made an effort to use as many local ingredients in their food as possible. The interior is also nicely decorated and clean, something you don’t see too often north of their location in Wailea Village Mall. I especially love the hanging ropes that serve as dividers between the patio, bar, and dining room. Nice touch there. Unfortunately, that’s about as good as it gets at Monkeypod Kitchen as the immediate view off the patio is of the main road that winds on down to Wailea, tiki torches notwithstanding.

Despite the use of local ingredients, nothing great comes out of it. Yes, the Garlic-Truffle-Oil Fries with Aioli sauce are a respectable attempt, but it’s not enough to give you that surprise you long for when you try something that sounds so good at first.  

Cocktails, spirits, and beer are all par-for-the-course. While Monkeypod Kitchen boasts a greater variety of beers on tap than any other restaurant on Maui, all of their tap beer can be bought at any local supermarket for much less money. $10 for a coconut porter? I can get a four pack at the store for $8. 

Service was respectable, neither fast nor slow, though you tend to get the sense that no matter who serves you on Maui, you can tell they are thinking about surfing while taking your order. Personally, I don’t care how distant my local server is as long as I don’t go completely unnoticed and I’m served what I actually ordered. I’m relaxed that way. 

Fortunately, not many people come to Maui expecting great dining experiences. While you won’t be disappointed here, you will not be wowed either.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fabiani's Bakery and Pizzeria, Kihei

I’ve been hoping against hope of ever finding good, reasonably priced Italian food in Maui again after Aroma D’Italia closed its doors in March 2012. Wouldn’t you know it, though, along comes Fabiani’s, a stone’s throw from where Aroma D’Italia used to be. That doesn’t mean that Fabiani’s is easy to find; while you may see their sign driving up or down East Lipoa street, the restaurant itself is back off the road in the corner of the strip mall. (Okay, it’s not THAT hard to find it.)

When you do find Fabiani’s, the first thing you’ll notice is the dessert cabinet, but we’ll get to that soon enough. The second thing you’ll notice is the ambiance, or the lack thereof. While I like Fabiani’s, the restaurant is too new and too clean to have much character to call its own. With too many TV’s, even in the dining area, its just not a place I would go to for a romantic date. In this way, Fabiani’s is like many other Maui spots that try and fail to walk the line between being a restaurant and a sports bar. Plus, there’s no view of any kind here if dining with a view is an issue for you. Fortunately, Fabiani’s is saved by its food.

Good pizza is difficult to find in Maui. Good pizza with an authentic thin crust has been virtually impossible until now. When Fabiani’s says “thin crust” they mean it and deliver it faithfully. I’ve never had a bad pizza here, so order any one of them and it’s going to be tasty without all the salt you get from chain pizza places. Though their pizzas may not be as big as something you’ll get at Pizza Hut or Shaka Pizza, pizza from those guys pale in comparison taste-wise. While you’re not going to get the best pizza you've ever tasted here, it’s definitely among the best I’ve ever had in Maui. Meanwhile, appetizers are so-so while their other dinner dishes such as the lasagna or calzone are respectable, though you probably won’t send a postcard home about them. Ah, but then there’s dessert. While I wouldn't use the phrase "to die for" here, there isn’t a single dessert that is less than wonderful; they were all worth salivating over when you first walked in. My personal favorites are the chocolate mousse red velvet cake and the cheesecake. The macaroons are all also quite good.

Service-wise, everyone is friendly and also attentive without being overbearing. I will disclose that I have not been here for breakfast or to pick something up from the bakery, but if several successful happy hours and dinners are any indication, I don't see how mornings here could be a bad thing.

Check out their menu here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Boss Frog’s Frogman II Molokini Snorkel Tour

We certainly got up early for this one since all the reviews I’ve read about snorkel tours out of Maalaea indicated that the parking lot at the harbor fills up fast. We arrived 20 minutes before boarding, though, and parking was easy to find on the far side of the harbor, which meant a three minute walk to the slip. No big deal.

After checking in we found a nice place inside the cabin to sit, though it’s just as nice outside and upfront by the catamaran’s trampoline. The crew had placed some morning eats out which I have to admit were tastier than I expected. I think I eventually ate about half of all the little pieces of cinnamon cake they had. Fortunately, I had time to digest my “breakfast” as the ride out to Molokini took a bit over 45 minutes, time during which the captain was entertaining enough in recanting the ship’s strict rules and pointing out landmarks.

When we got to the crater, we were once again reminded to stay between the boat and the crater wall and not to stray too far to either side where other boats may come in. This resulted in 50 people trying not to kick each other as we got up close and personal with a school of black fish. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be much going on below the surface other than the black fish, and while the visibility is a good distance inside the crater, I didn’t find the coral all that remarkable. The water at Molokini is also noticeably colder than it is near shore, so be aware of that. That being the case, I would advise bringing your own wetsuit or rent one from the crew.

So between the crowd of snorkelers and the lack of marine activity inside the crater, I wasn’t all that impressed. I was more impressed by lunch, which featured cold cuts and drinks that weren’t half bad. We probably stayed at Molokini for 45 minutes, then shoved off for Turtle Town.

What you need to know about Turtle Town is that the location of Turtle Town varies by tour boat; it’s basically wherever the captain says it is which in this case was off Wailea Point. And we caught conditions on the right day as the water was warm and calm at Wailea Point with several turtles to be found. But the reality is, on a good day it would be easy to snorkel to the site where the boat stops halfway between Wailea Beach and Polo Beach. This stop was as good as any other, I suppose, but you needn’t book a snorkel tour to experience it.

After leaving Wailea Point came the best part of the trip, whale watching on the return the Maalaea Harbor. The whales were quite active today and we got a good view of several whales while remaining a respectful distance away. (The same cannot be said for many kayakers and paddleboarders.) Another word of advice: the surf conditions during the return towards Maalaea is often choppy, as winds change by the time you’re four-five hours into your trip. If you’re at all prone to sea sickness or don’t know if you are, please take Dramamine before getting on the boat! You’ll be doing everyone and yourself a favor.

All things considered, this snorkel tour was better as a whale watching tour and if it weren’t for the crew who were all professional, courteous, and entertaining, I may have minded. I wasn’t impressed by Molokini what with the amount of snorkeling I’ve done in my life and turtle town was okay, though I’ve seen more turtles elsewhere. At about $70 per person, I feel we only got our money’s worth because of the whales. If it weren’t whale season, I would have said don’t bother going to Molokini.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fat Dady's Smokehouse, Kihei

Fat Daddy’s Smokehouse is your average hole-in-the-wall dive bar and grill. That is, it’s neither here nor there; not the best but not the worst place either. Surprisingly, Fat Daddy’s has managed to be around for quite a few years in Hawaiian time. How, I’m not sure. Maybe because average is considered good for a restaurant in Kihei?

The food is not awful. I most recently had two of their sandwiches – the pulled pork and brisket sandwiches – in which the meat itself was well prepared. The buns are decent, too, but both sandwiches lacked BBQ sauce. Kinda disappointing for a BBQ joint. I’ve had worse but have also had better.

The drink selection is standard as far as cocktails go though I feel the beer menu is unforgivingly short. That’s me, though, someone who feels that only 3 microbrews on the menu just isn’t enough. I will say that I have never had a bad Mai Tai here, though.

Service, like everything else, was standard. The waitress was nice enough and the food came within a decent amount of time. Overall, I found Fat Daddy’s very, meh, shall we say. At least you won’t pay above-average prices here.

DIRECTIONS: Located at 1913 South Kihei Road but is really on Keala Place adjacent to Foodland and across the street from Kalama Beach Park.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Kalama Beach Park, Kihei

Kalama Beach Park in northern South Kihei, Maui is one of my least favorite places on the island. It’s not because the areastinks for swimming and snorkeling due to the extended shallow, murky, rocky seabed but because the area literally stinks (due to algae blooms and sewage in the area). Even though this park is very popular for kayakers, paddleboarders and beginning surfers, I think the place is awful for water sports as I can’t imagine falling off your board and the water hardly padding you before you hit bottom. Plus, there really isn’t much in the way of a sandy beach here. There is a tiny bit at the south end but that’s as good as it gets; the rest of the shoreline is almost all boulders.

What you’re left with are 30-plus acres of beach park marked by a very large whale sculpture. Assuming you can stand the smell, there are baseball fields, soccer fields, a skate park, basketball courts, tennis courts, a volleyball net that is always in use, and plenty of pavilions. There are restrooms and showers, too. There is even a concrete path that runs the length of the water that is popular with joggers. Plenty of benches along the path for sunset viewing, too, though at this end of Kihei, you’re hardly in a good spot for those sunsets. Oh, did I forget to mention there was a shark attack in this area in late November 2012? Yeah, these attacks happen but given the water conditions at Kalama, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often here.

I give Kalama Beach Park 2 out of 5 stars for its activities, being close to the Farmer's Market, and the fact that it’s still in Maui. That’s not really an endorsement, though.  

DIRECTIONS: On South Kihei Road across from Foodland supermarket, just south of Shaka Pizza. Parking is on the beach side of the road. Look for the big whale sculpture and you're in the right place.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Kamaole Beach I, II, II

Kamaole Beach I, panoramic view
Kamaole Beach in South Kihei is actually three beaches separated by rocky points. Kamaole Beach I – the northern most beach – is the best of the three, given its length and width. Kam I is also the best of the three beaches for snorkeling where either end is good though the northern point is slightly better in terms of coral. To be frank, though, I generally do not like snorkeling the northern end of the beach (which is also known as Charley Young Beach for reasons I don’t understand since it’s technically the same beach…). That is because locals often fish from the rocky area on the north end of the beach and I get nervous about getting caught in their lines. Although I’ve never heard of that happening, I’d just a soon not be their first human catch-of-the-day. Kam I has a parking lot right off the road on the beach side but this parking lot is small and fills up quickly. Chances are you’ll either have to park on the street or in the dirt patch across the road. Either way, you’re still very close to the beach. And, if you get hungry or need a drink, there is an ABC store right (convenience store) across the road at the Chevron gas station.

Kamaole Beach II, north looking south
Kam II is a different story. It’s much shorter than either Kam I (but still bigger than Kam III) and doesn’t have any personality in my opinion. The rocky point on the south side of the beach is still good for snorkeling but that I think is all Kam II has going for it. That and Fred’s restaurant/Moose McGillycuddy’s bar is right across the road, if that can be considered a good thing. There is no parking here other than road side parking.

Kam III is okay but this less protected beach (due to the less pointy rocky ends) makes it prone to stronger currents than its companion beaches. As such, it’s not as good for snorkeling but is better for boogie boarding when the surf is a little up. Kam III is instead defined by its large lawn towards its south end, making it a good place for a picnic or to toss a ball or Frisbee around. It’s not uncommon to see locals holding huge birthday parties here. On weekends, you’ll almost always see a bouncy castle for the kids here, as well as the Maui “wrestling club” wrestling early in the morning, and a prayer service on Sunday mornings. [I admit I have always secretly wanted to get in on the wrestling action but am rightly afraid the locals will kick my ass with prejudice. For me then, the prayer service should be held before the wrestling group meets.] As with Kam II, there is only road side parking here.

Kamaole Beach III, panoramic view
What I like about the Kam beaches collectively is that because it’s all vacation rentals and locals in this area, you don’t get the snootiness that sometimes rears its head down in Wailea. The Kam beaches are also better for sunsets than the Wailea area beaches since you get a better look at Molokini due to the angle of these beaches and you get a better look at whales during whale season from the Kams. Although all three beaches are very close to the road, you rarely hear the traffic. When you do, it’s usually because you’re at Kam II.

All three Kamaole beaches have lifeguards and bathroom facilities.

DIRECTIONS: Right off South Kihei Road between the Chervon gas station and the Kihei Boat Ramp. Can’t miss ‘em.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Honolua Coffee Company, Wailea

Coffee, how do I love thee? Far too much. That’s why I only drink it once a week and when I do, it’s almost always Honolua Coffee Company’s coffee. There’s no two ways about it; Honolua Coffee Company at the Shops at Wailea has the best coffee in South Maui and probably the island of Maui. (The only other business in Maui that comes close to good coffee is Anthony’s Coffee Company in Paia, where Paia will be the subject of another blog here shortly.)

Now, if you’ve done any research on coffee in Maui and read bad reviews about Honolua Coffee Company on TripAdvisor or Yelp, I believe those bad reviews are generated either by competitors, people too familiar with Starbucks sugary and burnt coffee, or people who are just plain impatient. Or all of the above. The fact is that this company gets it right consistently. Sure, sometimes when there is a long line they get backed up and your drink takes some time, but ‘dis ain’t da mainland, brah; ‘Island Time’ is no joke and this small operation doesn’t have 2-3 baristas going full throttle because YOU have no patience. Sorry, pet peeve of mine there. Both their hot drinks and cold drinks are always done to perfection, never burnt, and not overly sugary or chocolaty like you get in most coffee shops. And, the majority of the time the service is cheery, though there is one cashier some mornings who looks like she could care less to be there. Still, she does her job and the job here is coffee, so I always forgive her.

A few other things: I also love the pastries here, especially the cinnamon bun. Usually you don’t get what you pay for food wise in Hawaii, but this is one large chunk of bread. Seriously, where do they get this thing? Eating it always makes me feel guilty to the point I wind up trying to run it off later in the day. Also, the employees DO NOT like it if you are on your cell phone when trying to order and I don’t blame them. They want to get your order straight and you being on your phone doesn’t help. In fact, it’s rude on your part. And no, your defense is not “that’s just the world we live in now.” Besides, this place is the only place to get coffee in Wailea unless you want Starbucks from your hotel’s “café” so deal with it. I'm going to Honolua Coffee Company.

Sorry for sounding like I was on a high horse here. It’s the coffee talking :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cafe O'Lei, Kihei

There’s something you should know about south Maui – there aren’t a whole lot of good restaurants in this area. Sure, you could go to nearby Wailea if you’re willing to spend some bucks, but Kihei itself isn’t exactly a foodie’s paradise. There are some really good mediocre restaurants, though, such as Café O’Lei.

Located between Kam Beach I & II in a strip mall, Café O’Lei is a mixed bag. The décor is pleasant enough with its pseudo-Pan-Mexican vibe, but not so much that it saves the restaurant’s ambiance from spectacular views of the adjacent parking lot. Still, the décor beats that of most Kihei restaurants. What the décor does not make up for is the spotty service. Most of the times I’ve been here, your server will be attentive exactly when you don’t want them to be and then disappear for a good 15-20 minutes. We did have a great server last time, however; I believe his name was Ty. He was super friendly without BS-ing you and not overly attentive.

Oh yeah, the food! Something Café O’Lei does do right is their seafood. The Blackened Mahi Mahi and Macadamia Nut Ahi are always done correctly. I would also say that their sushi is above average in taste and presentation. Be warned though that on a busy weekend night, they sometimes run out of sushi before 8:30pm. They also get their onion soup right; it’s not overly salty or weighed down with a block of cheese like it is done in most restaurants. I can’t say much about any of their meat dishes. I’ve never thought enough of any meat I’ve eaten here to give it a second thought.

Despite the mediocrity of Café O’Lei, it is very popular. That said, I STRONGLY recommend making reservations. We never have had to wait very long when we make a reservation but have seen many people wait our entire meal for a table because they neglected to do the same. So, make a reservation @ (808) 891-1368.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Keawanaku Beach, South Maui

This is a beach in south Maui hidden south of the lava fields of La Perouse Bay. It is sometimes referred to as ‘Death Beach’ by my wife due to the large, dead, bleached pieces of coral that she thinks looks like skulls against the beach’s black and green sand. It’s very secluded here; not many people visit this beach since it’s only accessible by hiking in or by boat. The people who do go here usually appear later in the day it seems. I’ve been to this beach at least half a dozen times and have only seen a small handful of people in the morning hours, when is when I usually go (since the winds really pick up around La Perouse Bay after 10am or so). Chances are if you come here early, you’ll be by yourself. That can be a good thing or bad thing – good if you just want to sit quietly in the sun or shade of the trees, or bad if you try to swim here. Fact is, of all the times I’ve been here I’ve only seen the water calm enough to enter once. Unfortunately, I did not have my snorkel gear with me. Too bad, because the underwater topography and fish you can see from up on the rocks to the left side of the beach look like it would make for amazing snorkeling. The right side, though, I wouldn’t go near even if the water was calm seeing how one rogue wave would smash you against the jagged rocks. (The wave action tends to push water into the rocks on the right and drives that energy across the beach – not safe! And, if you get in trouble out here, help is a long ways off.) Still, I love going to this beach since it is quiet and secluded and even mostly protected from the trade winds that blow through this area 99% of the time. If you want to see a nice slide show video of this beach, click here for Hawaiian O’Brian’s site.
Directions: From La Perouse Bay, hike along the shore to the south/left. You’ll eventually come to a lava field where ahead of you, you will see some trees WHICH IS NOT KEAWANAKU and a rock wall on your left. Turn left through the wall before you walk into that tree-y area (which hides its own rocky beach, fyi) and about 100 feet in turn right at the sign so that you’re on Hoapili Trail/King’s Highway. This rocky ‘highway’ can have loose footing but believe me, it’s nothing compared to walking through the lava field itself. (You did bring footwear you don’t care about, right?) Go about .75 miles on this trail and to your right you’ll see the beach. You can’t miss it; it’s an oasis in the lava field. Turn right on one of the worn paths to the beach. Oh, one more thing, BRING WATER and maybe some food. There ain’t no civilization out this way.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ulea Beach and Mokapu Beach, South Maui

Ulea Beach and Mokapu Beach: (It’s really just one beach separated by a few trees and a bit of lava) I’ve somehow managed to miss visiting this beach until late 2012. I didn’t know what I was missing! This is a fantastic beach that fronts several luxury condos in the Wailea area. At about a quarter mile long featuring good views of Molokini and Lanai, the swimming here is fantastic, particularly in the middle of the beach where it is sandy and as long as you stay within the confines of the rocky points. The snorkeling is great, too; both ends feature beautiful coral and a high fish count. Now, I’ve heard people argue that the north end of the beach is better for snorkeling but personally I’ve had better luck finding turtles and eels around the rocky point to the south. I have also found that the further out you go, the stronger the current and wave action is at this beach, though I don’t know why that would be. (Most south Maui surf is pretty safe most of the time. I don’t know what’s different here.) The north end of the beach is popular with divers, so be aware of that if deciding to set up camp at this end. As for the little spit of sand called Mokapu Beach on the north side of Ulua Beach, I can’t say that I find it is anything to talk about other than it connects you to Keawakapu Beach if you want to take about a mile long walk along the beach(es). There is another walkway above the beach, a paved path that extends past this beach north to the southern end of Keawakapu Beach and south going past the Grand Wailea to the Fairmont Kea Lani. This path, known as the Wailea Beach Path, is about 1.5 miles from end to end.

I will inform you that this beach gets crowded, especially on the weekends. Now keep in mind that this beach has only one small parking lot for its public access. So if you want to come here from outside Wailea you’ll want to get here by nine in the am to snag a spot. From the parking lot then, it’s a short walk to the beach. There’s a rinse off area and restrooms between the parking lot and beach but there are no lifeguards here.

Driving directions: Drive south on Wailea Alanui Drive. Make your first left past all the construction for the Andaz hotel (still under construction as of Jan. 2013). Welcome to Ulea Beach’s small parking lot. If you see the Shops at Wailea, you’ve gone past the parking lot. If driving north on Wailea Alanui Drive, it’ll be your second beyond the Shops at Wailea. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Maluaka Beach, South Maui

Maluaka Beach, south end looking north
Maluaka Beach is without a doubt, one of my favorite beaches in the world. Sometimes called Makena Beach – which is incorrect; Makena Beach aka Big Beach is further south – is a nice stretch of white sand that fronts the Makena Beach and Golf Resort. I like this beach because during the week it’s usually not crowded at all and as such, is generally quieter than most Maui beaches. Yes, sometimes a snorkel tour boat roars and lands itself smack dab in the middle of the beach to pick tourists up, but that’s usually as loud as it gets. And of course, the earlier you get to this beach the quieter it is. (Get there before 10am and there’s hardly anyone ever here.) This beach has a small amount of shade on its south end where a tree shadows a lawn overlooking the beach and has a small cluster of trees shadowing the rocky point at the north end.

What’s best about this beach is the snorkeling; it’s simply great for beginners and intermediates. The water is usually tame here unless the trade winds are kicking or it has just rained, which can make the water murky. As with any beach, the surf can be a little cloudy near shore anyway but usually the further you go out, the clearer the water becomes. As a snorkeler, you’ll want to head to either end of the beach’s rocky points, though I feel the south end of the beach is way better in terms of coral and the chance to see turtles (which is not to say the north end of the beach is not worth snorkeling). But, if the water is too rough for snorkeling and you still want to splash around, just grab your boogie board. I never go to the beach without one, even if I just use it to sit on or put my gear on.

Lastly, since the ocean is usually agreeable in south Maui, particularly in the winter months, the waters down this way are good for kayaking and paddleboarding. You can rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards from the activities kiosk near the south end of the beach, but it’s much cheaper to rent gear from places like Maui Dive Shop, Snorkel Bob’s or Boss Frog’s and bring those items yourself.

Oh, I almost forgot! If you want to explore a bit, walk the rocky shoreline towards the south and you’ll find a black sand beach. If you’re thinking about going up and over that red hill you see here (Pu'u Olai), keep in mind two things 1) The slopes are very steep on this side of the hill and 2) on the other side of the hill is Little Beach, where nudists frolic. You’ve been warned!

Maluaka Beach, north end looking south
Driving directions: Assuming you’re not staying at Makena Beach and Golf Resort, drive south on Wailea Alanui Drive. If you want to go to the north end of the beach, veer to the right onto Makena Road. [If you miss the turn you can turn right on to Honoiki Rd, then left onto Makena Road.] When you see Keawalai Congretional Church on your right, immediately past that you will see a parking lot on the left. Parking is free and there are restrooms here. Then, keep walking down the road a few hundred feet until you see the beach access on your right. [Note: If bringing a lot of gear to the beach, you may want to drive to the access point and drop the stuff off with whomever you came to the beach with.] If you want to go to the south end of the beach, you can actually keep walking down the road until you get to a paved path that crosses in front of the hotel, or drive to the other end (recommended). To do that, go past the initial right onto Makena Road and take the next right onto Makena Road, which is past several roadside vendors. This road will take you to another free parking lot which you will see on your right, or there are a few slanted parking spaces near the turn around point a few feet further on. Walk the path toward the hotel, then turn left when you see the beach. There are restrooms at the entrance to the beach, too.