Sunday, December 21, 2014

Maui Trip

When we plan a trip, we do ask our friends on what to do and their experiences. So I thought writing about my trip would help my friends who would want to get some details. But that necessarily does not mean you have to read this whole blog to get the main points. So here are the main things in a nutshell, and you can read on if you want more details:)

  • Any trip with a baby, and if you want to find time to enjoy the place like Maui where there are lots of activities, in my opinion would require minimum 5 days. A week is much better as that would give you space to relax a bit. We did a 7 day trip where two days went for travel, and we had 5 full days in Maui.
  • Finding the accommodation in Maui Kai Suit #804 ( through Vacation rentals worked the best. With a child, we wanted a kitchen and was surprised to find that the whole condo had an amazing view of the ocean right in front of it and was well equipped with practically everything we would need for a stay in Maui. Binoculars, Beach chairs, fully equipped kitchen, Snorkelling gears, books, toys for children, adult board games, you name it and still was secluded unlike the big resorts.
  • With a 15 month old, I really benefited by renting crib, car seat, bob stroller( was useful for treks), and high chair from Nokaoi Baby rentals in Maui. They were responsive and on time. This also saved us from carrying the portable crib and car seat to Maui.
  • Staying in Kaanapali was great, as most activities were in and around that area.
  • Cooking 2 simple meals a day and eating out once, worked so well, especially when you have a child  and also when you were on road trips. It saves time and also money:)
  • Snorkelling: If you are not great swimmers, then definitely practice snorkeling first in Baby beach or Mile marker #14 before you go on a snorkeling tour with a group. You could also do a private snorkeling tour catered to beginners in snorkeling. After this you can book a group tour where they would take you into the ocean. I did the opposite and would have benefited with more practice.You might want to book the private tours well ahead.
  • Hana: Researching on the important spots to view along Hana highway is important from a time perspective, if you want to do the trip in a day. We did not do that, and I kinda missed the Kahanu gardens and also Hamua beach. We stopped initially at twin falls and felt we could have easily passed it and saved about 2 hours. Also don't try to drive late along Hana highway because of all the twists and turns. We kept a time to return and stuck to it, and was safely back home. You could try staying at Hana if you would like to explore more stuff like Red sand beach and 7 sacred pools.
  • Haleakala : If you are not able to make it to sunrise in Haleakala, make it to the sunset. With a child we felt that was more feasible than driving at 2 AM in the morning. And the sunset was breath taking as well and something that we would always cherish. This place is really very cold, imagine freezing temperature with high winds blowing. So please dress very very warm. We took all our warm clothes and it really helped us and kutty survive the cold while we waited for sunset.
  • Definitely, if you can, do take a room with the view of the ocean. its simply a new experience and makes you feel special to have the ocean right in front of your window.
  • I found this guidebook in our condo at least 3 days into the trip, but loved the way things are explained here. Its called the "Maui Revealed - The Ultimate Guide book" by Andrew Doughty
  • I really felt the GoPro camera for under water shots would have been great for this vacation. So those who are keen on getting some underwater shots, do take it with you.
  • Booking a rental car earlier on is a must, especially when you are traveling during major holidays or weeks in December and November. There is a lot of rush during that time and I have heard people end up not getting a rental car.

Our trip to Maui! - Day 1 : Flight and Maui Kai!

This is our first actual vacation with Tara where we have to fly. The trips that we have done with her so far are all by road. We did do a 3 day trip with her to Pismo beach when she was 4 months , and was alarmed by the amount of stuff that we had to pack for 3 days. The trunk of our CRV was full!
So now we are going for double the time- 6 days and we are flying.

Usually before a trip we do a lot of research on activities, eat outs , hikes that we can do etc. I did an elaborate research for Europe when we went in 2012 and it was well worth it.

But this trip, there has been no time due to work, and multiple other commitments. Thankfully there was one day that I could WFH due to heavy rains in the Bay Area, and I packed all my clothes on that day.
But packing kutty's stuff and Sree's stuff were left. We started in the evening on 13 Dec and could complete only by 12:30 or so as we had to manage tara and she refused to sleep for such a long time in the night. And finally slept only by 12:00.
After we packed everything, here is a pic of what it looked like.

Three big suitcases, three carry ons!

Yes for 6 days we had 3 check ins and 3 carry ons!!!
Inspite of renting car seat, stroller, tub, high chair and crib in Maui so that we can avoid carrying too many things, we still ended up packing diapers, wipes, clothes and extra clothes, some toys, her bath toys, bath soap and oil and jackets and socks and caps. Blanket. And crib bumper. So almost two suitcases filled these and then one had full of my clothes.
We also took laptop, camera, iPad, chargers etc.

Hemal( our Neighbour ) came in the morning to drop us at the airport and he was shocked to see the amount of luggage. It almost looked like we are going to be in Hawaii for like 6 months!

Thank god, we decided not to carry rice and curry powders!. To tell you the truth, the thought did cross our minds and we were in half minds. Yes guess thatz what parenting does to you. Anything you can do to make sure your child eats and sleeps well so that you can be peaceful and enjoy the vacation, you will be ready to do. We are not paranoid parents. That I know about ourselves. But we are parents who love to get some enjoyment for ourselves in a vacation and parents who does not want to buy everything new from Costco while on vacation when you already have it.

So after Hemal dropped us and failing to get seats together in the plane, we are on our way to
Maui with no clue as to what it had to offer.

The plane ride felt long. Especially because kutty did not sleep for a long time and we had to take turns taking care of her. And finally she slept the last one hour or so. I watched a bit of the movie dark swan when I could. Kutty did have some cheese and grapes in the plane .
We also met some friend's friend and family travelling to Maui too.

The landing in Maui was pretty scary. There was a lot of wind and the plane was shaking. I was so scared that I had to clutch Sree's hand so tight and close my eyes.

We landed and then we walked over to the car rental place and got the car. The car seat which we had rented from baby rental was deliverd there and Sree fixed it. We then made a trip to Costco which was right near airport to buy some essential eatables like milk, bread, eggs, for everyday breakfast.

Then we drove 20 miles to Maui Kai which was the name of the building where we had rented the condo.
The first impression of Maui for me was that it looked like organized Kerala.with palm trees all around, the weather, the buildings. We drove and reached Maui Kai and after speaking to a very nice receptionist we went to our condo #804

The moment we entered the condo we were so speechless. It was very tastefully done and the first thing you notice is the wall to wall windows overlooking the ocean! It was amazing. We have never ever stayed or taken a place like this ever in any of the vacations we have made. To see the sea outside your window was very cool.
We loved the condo and it had everything. Utensils, cutlery, plates, glasses , books, TV etc. and we had table and chair placed right by the window so we can have our meals facing the sea.
See the link below for the pictures of the condo and you will understand what I am talking about:)

Also kutty's high chair, tub, stroller , crib everything was set up there and they had also provided bumpers, crib sheets and blanket along with it , so we need not have brought these. Sree brought all our suitcases up to the 8th floor and after settling a bit, we went down to the beach.

We walked along the beach and also made kutty feel the water. She was a bit scared so did not want to push her too much the first day.

We walked along the beach..and it was beautiful like a scene from the movies. Took some pics in our iPhones.  And we also met a very nice couple who told us a few key places to go to in Hawaii.

After this we came back, gave kutty a bath in the kitchen sink. The tub was not working. We then gave her dinner, and rocked her to sleep
We both freshened up and decided to watch a movie, but soon got tired and went to bed.

 Maui Trip - Day 2 - Lahaina, Napeli Beach

Kutty woke up at 5:30 today because of the time difference. So we had to wake up too.  We fed her and then watched the sea for a while and I had the brilliant idea of dipping her in the pool. So off we got ready and went to the pool. Sree tried the coffee in the hotel, and it was bad. Also the pool had not opened. Pool opens only at 9 and we were at the pool at 8! Things are slow at Maui. So we checked with few folks and they said there is a good coffee place down the street. So we walked down the road a bit and hit the farmers market where we checked out some dips and fruits and bought some hummus and fruit. The "Bad Ass Coffee Company" place was right across the farmers market, and we went in there and got coffee, coffee grind and hot chocolate. According to sree the coffee was amazing. Good place. Small but tasty stuff. We then hit a local grocery store from where we bought some rice and baby food for kutty and a shampoo for me.
We walked across to a park on the side of a beach but it was too chilly and kutty was so sleepy that we decided to walk back. One the way back, we stopped at the swimming pool. Its a small pool, but there was no one there. It was all for ourself. That was fun. Anu tried to "swim" and as usual it was hilarious to watch that. We spent an hour at the swimming pool. Kutty slept in the stroller in the walk back, so we did not wake her up at the swimming pool. Once back in the room, we had lunch and then started to Napili beach. We got lost and we have to ask people to find the place. The beach was beautiful and reasonably crowded. The sea was a bit rough, but not bad. We found a place to keep all the things and went to wet our feet. Kutty has fun too. The look on her face when a wave hits her feet was priceless. She seem to scold the waves when it did not reach her feet. After that we went to "Sea House" restaurant. Its a nice restaurant on the beach with great views. We decided to sit outside as we were wet and sandy. It was happy hour time and there were small places for $6-$8. We had a few small plates and all were very good. After that, we came back home, changed and dressed up and left to see Lahanai downtown. Lahanai is a small town with all the necessary trourist traps in place. We walked the length of front street and were asked atleast twice if we need "help" in booking anything, which we had to politely decline. We wandered around looking for a place to eat. The problem with such touristy places is that almost every restaurant screams trourist trap with bad food and exhorbitant prices. I did not want t oeat in places like that. While we were walking around, we saw a small open food court like area. There were a fewpeople sitting there and eating food and having shaved ice. We decided to check it out. The place was called Lahanai Luna Cafe. We ordered fish and chips and their tree house salad. THe food was very good and we planned to eat there on friday. There was also a shaved ice place next door and we got a "micro" shaved ice. Me and Anu could barely finish it. Micro is not micro afterall. I dont want to tink how big their normal sized shaved ice would be.

After that, we walked back to the car and drove back to the apartment. Overall a very nice day

Taru enjoying Napeli beach

Sree and Taru waiting for the waves!

Maui trip - Day 3-Snorkelling and Luau

So today we woke up around 6:30 as I had booked a snorkelling trip for myself. Sree and kutty dropped me at kaanapalli beach hotel behind which was a harbour so we could load from there. But unfortunately because of the turf, we were asked to go to another place and board from there. So Sree and me drove to  front street area where he dropped me again. Sree was not accompanying me as he would get sea sick and also we could not take the child, so only one of us  could do snorkeling. I had booked this with Trilogy tours( and they had amazing reviews and are one of the best in Maui for snorkeling. 
We had to wait for a while to get started and then we were taken to the Harbour  area and we boarded the boat from there. It was around 8:30 in the morning and it was chilly and the sea was a bit rough. I made friends with a couple with a kid and she was really nice. They had practiced a bit of snorkelling at their pool the previous day. We started off on the journey and it was beautiful to see the islands from the middle of the sea. 
We were also able to catch 2 whales on our way. That was a highlight! I could see their tails very clearly as they dived into the ocean. They also provided us with cinnamon bun and apple juice for breakfast. The boat was harbored at an area which was good for viewing the reef and and turtles. Guess it's called turtle town.
I had no idea about snorkeling so I was even unsure how to put the mask on. Then I looked at others and figured that out, but felt really lonely stepping into the ocean. I was panicking at so much water and was in constant fear of drowning and that too the feeling that I am in the middle of the ocean did not help. I looked through my goggles and I could see the bottom of the ocean. And I also saw a school of fish like you see in the movie 'Finding Nemo' and I also saw a sea turtle! I was so happy that I could see atleast this. Many folks went far into the ocean and they could see the multi colored reef it seems and also loads of turtles! I tried to muster my courage and move further, but water started seeping into my nose and mouth and I kept panicking and coming back. I went up and asked the crew what I was doing wrong and they said it's all abt learning to breathe throught the snorkel. I kinda expected them to help me out/ teach me as there was just me and my friend who needed the help. But they were not too forthcoming. And I was feeling frustrated that I could not go to the middle of the ocean. They are the best snorkelling tour on the island, but if u are a beginner in snorkelling or have fear of water, they are not going to go out of their way to help you get the experience. But I am still glad I did the trip, as I could see the whales and the turtle and fish. Next time I do snorkelling, I am going to make sure I am a better swimmer and practice with the gear. 
My friend dropped me after we reached mainland and that was a huge help as kutty was sleeping and Sree did not have to come and pick me. 
I was a little dejected with not being able to see the reef much, but soon was busy getting ready to watch the Luau. 
The Luau we booked was Old Lahaina Luau, and it was clear that it's purely only for tourists. The set up was good and the food was good too. Kutty enjoyed sitting with a hawain lady and playing with some hula dance props. The hula dance itself looked synchronized and I am sure it requires lot of strenght and practice, but whatever story they were trying to convey was not that clear. Well, being a classical dancer, I feel the Indian dance forms have a wider vocabulary and movement to carry off the story telling aspect.
Kutty stayed quiet for almost 2 hrs, only the last hour, she was a little restless, but Sree took her to the back and she was fine. 
After Luau, we came back to the hotel and called it a day.

At Old Lahaina Luau with Hula teacher

Maui trip - Day 4 - Hana Highway

We woke up around 6:30 today as we wanted to start on our trip to Hana. I had heard 'Road to Hana' but never read too much abt it, as I did not have the time prior to the trip. We heard the drive would take time and that it was windy.
So though we wanted to start much earlier, considering kutty's sleep and all packing that we had to do, we could only start by 8. We stopped at a small town called Paia and went and had small breakfast and coffee from Anthony's coffee shop as I had read. After which we changed kutty, as she needed a diaper change and started on the journey. 
We stopped over at a lookout where we could see some incredible surfing done by people. The waves were predictable and the surfers having fun. After a few minutes here, we drove to twin falls which was at mile marker 2. It was almost a mile trek to see the falls and in between we had to cross a stream too. With kutty, diaper bag, stroller etc the trek was very difficult. Sree especially had to walk with no shoes in between and he hated that. The trail was slippery and crossing the stream and going over narrow bridges to reach waterfall was really nerve wracking. And finally we reached the waterfalls, and we felt it was not worth so much effort. We trekked back and by the time we reached the car it was almost 12. 
We drove to the Garden of Eden next and loved it. We could see a lot of different vegetation and liked the entire garden. It's very properly maintained. Looked and felt a lot like walking through a Kerala plantation ground.
We had our lunch here and also changed kutty. We also enjoyed watching the ducks and peacocks here. They were so cute.
Then we started off again to Kahuna gardens which was at mile 31. The road was windy, but beautiful! We crossed Honomanu bay, couple of falls by the road. The road also led to a tunnel of green trees where we could see every shade of green. This was beautiful. An old sedan was in front of us, and he was driving at 20 miles and Sree was going crazy. In between kutty had to be changed  and we had to stop at a market/ stall area which looked so shady and dirty. There was also rains in between. After this we reached Kahanu gardens at 3:45 only to see that they are closed. This garden is the entrance to Hawaii's biggest temple , and I was pretty upset I missed it. If only we had not spent so much time in twin falls! Alas! 
We stopped at a banana bread stall and asked the owner for some info. I am sure we could have got better Banana bread in the next stall which we found after this one.
We then drove to Waianapanapa national park and was stunned with what I saw there. The black sand beach was worth all this drive! 
Kutty enjoyed the beach. It was full of black sand from the lava eruptions!  I also saw a tunnel (tube) made of lava. This was a beautiful moment for me. Well worth it. 
We then drove to Hana, since we came all this way and it looked a sleepy town, but we did not want to explore further as it was already 5, and we did not want to drive through the rainforest in the dark. 
So we headed back, the beautiful drive again and by the time we reached hotel, it was already 9. On our way back we went to "Mama's Kitchen" in Paia, but they had a long wait time that we decided to pass. 
Kutty took a while to sleep, but me and Sree were dead tired. 

I later read in a good guide book that, past Hana is the hamoa bay that is beautiful, and also a red sands beach and also Venus pool, blue pool and 7 sacred pools. These were marked as real gems in the book. So next time I am in Maui , I am going to check theses out! I definitely should have read the guide book Maui Revealed before we started on Hana.

At black sand beach - on the way to Hana. Mile #32

Maui trip - Day 5- Haleakala National Park

We woke up late today, and after breakfast, we decided to take kutty to the pool. It was fun to see her reactions and how she is enjoying it:). A highlight was that we were able to see a rainbow across the sea right through our window:)
After this , we got dressed and started off to the Haleakala national park. The drive was beautiful. This time I was prepared. I read the guide book:). On our way we saw cows and horses. At mile marker 18 was the Leleiwi lookout. I went down first and in 5 mjnutes reached the lookout to see the crater. Then Sree went. We then went up 4 more miles to the summit and visitor center. Kutty who was sleeping the whole journey woke up and had to be changed. So we stepped out to change her in the bathroom and it was windy and cold. Very windy and very cold. Thank god we had brought warm clothes. We covered kutty up with cap, jacket and socks and a blanket, and then saw the spectacular view of the crater. 
We walked down the sliding sands trail a bit and it was beautiful to see. I should pat kutty and us on the back as we decided to hike inspite of the freezing temperature. Kutty was totally enjoying. 
She never complained. 
We then went to the summit to watch the sunset. We waited in the cold and the wind and sunset was a surreal experience for us. It was beautiful to be over clouds and see this. Wish we could have done sunrise too. But no regrets! 
We then gave kutty food, and started drive back. Half way, kutty cried and had to be changed so we stopped at Kula Inn and changed and started back. We had dinner at Castaway cafe, which I have heard great reviews about, and reached back to hotel. Kutty emptied the soup we ordered for her.

Sliding Sands trail


Maui trip- Day 6-Blow Hole, Snorkelling, Whalers Village

Today we had plans to see two places. One was the Nakelele blow hole and the other the Olivine pools. 
We started out to the blow hole and it was not too far away, around 8 miles from our hotel. The road was again windy, but not too bad. The blow hole was amazing to see. We both took turns to trek down to a spot closer to it. The trek was too steep to be done with a baby. After this, we went in search of the Olivine pools, but missed it and went a bit further through a very narrow road in the mountains and it was very scary. Then we came back and I had an adventurous time going through these unused trails to see if it leads to the pools. Finally we saw it, and the pools were so down, and the trek was super risky, that we decided it was not safe to go all the way down with a child. So we enjoyed it from a distance, and started back.
After a quick lunch and change of clothes at hotel, we went in search if the snorkel shop to rent gear. And we were guided to ' The Snorkel Shop' where the lady was nice enough to explain snorkelling to us. And she also guided us to two beaches, baby beach and mile marker 14 where she said the water is shallow.
So we rented good fitting gears from her and headed out to baby beach. 
We loved it and it's a great place for kids. There is no view in itself, but u can see tonnes of kids playing and the water is very safe. So we were also able to practice our snorkelling fearlessly and I was so happy to see couple of fishes even in shallow waters. Kutty enjoyed so much! We had also rented a boogy board for her and she loved floating on it also. She loved the water and she enjoyed the tiny waves hitting her. Priceless. We then went to mile marker 14 and did snorkeling there too. But still was not too confident to go into deep waters. But I did see quiet a bit of fishes there, but no beautiful reef. Thatz what I think you can see only in the Molokini area or deep in the ocean. 
After we both snorkelled for a bit, we went over to Kaanapali beach, and roamed around Whalers village and had dinner there. Whalers village was nice and they also had a live band playing there which adds to the ambience. After this we left to Old Lahaina town, for having the shaved ice once again. Roamed around a bit, had shaved ice and got back to hotel.

Kaanapali beach sunset
Sree snorkeling - can u see him?

Blow hole

Maui Trip - Day 7- Back home

Last day! woke up early to pack before kutty woke up. After packing, went down to the lobby to spend some time watching the ocean and also chatted a bit with the receptionist. We then went to Snorkel shop to return our gears and then left to Bad Ass Coffee place to have a cup of coffee and hot chocolate. After this we returned back to hotel, cooked a small breakfast, fed kutty and then just sat around and did some final packing. Around 11 AM, we started off to the airport. After returning the car and the car seat to the baby rental person, we just had lunch at the airport, and hanged around at the gate. Most of the crowd where coming into Maui this week, and only few were leaving, so could see the excited happy faces on so many of them who were about to start their vacation, and I remembered the same last week this time, when we entered Maui. Taru was a bit restless in the plane due to lack of sleep, and finally she slept for 2 hrs while we caught up on a very nice movie called "The 100 foot journey". Anything related to cooking, Sree would automatically be interested and this one was a good one, but we could not complete it as Taru woke up and then wanted us to entertain her again. We got down at San Jose airport, Hemal was there to pick us up and aunty was so nice to have sent across a lot of food for us for dinner.We had dinner, and crashed for the day.

As always, every trip is memorable, but this one is the first major one with kutty and will never forget the smile on her face whenever a wave splashed on her:)

More pics from our trip to Maui are here