Visiting Maui Part 2: Wailea-Makena


If you read Part 1 of my Maui travel blog, then welcome back! We're just leaving behind the rugged hills of Maui's Upcountry and headed for the posh and manicured area of Wailea-Makena. If you didn't get a chance to read part one yet, click  HERE or stay with me for now, and then circle back to Part 1 to catch up. The order doesn't matter. :)  

During our few days in Wailea, Josh and I did aaaaall the relaxing resort things, plus we enjoyed a grand luau, scoped out local beaches and blowholes, ate at some stellar restaurants, and attended a church service where both English and Hawaiian languages are spoken. 

From Kula we drove about 40 minutes to get from the mountains down to the beach. The mountains went from being our vantage point to being the view from our new hotel room. Beautiful to see up close or from afar, these mountains catch a ton of rainfall a year (Hana gets 400 inches!), which is why the vegetation is so gorgeously green and lush. 

Country Club Chic 
In terms of vibe, Wailea is the preppy cousin to Kula's wild-growing grasses and ancient trees. The meticulously groomed landscaping of Wailea reminded me of a tropical version of Hilton Head and even of my own neighborhood, where a full-time crew maintains the greenspace and fills the flower beds with fresh offerings every month. All of Wailea is pretty stylized in terms of construction and traffic lights. Think Pebble Beach + Polynesia.  

The accommodations in Wailea are pretty swanky, with an upscale country club feel, and most of them have the words "golf" or "tennis" linked to their names. Definitely time to make use of the Lovey and Thurston Howell section of my suitcase. #resortwear  #bighats #bigsunnies

Charge it to my room
This might sound silly but staying at a place where you don't have to be concerned with carrying a wallet for a few days really enhances that carefree vacation feeling, like you've got no troubles and need nothing on your person. Now that I'm a mom, not having to hold babies or baby things or carry a purse is an immensely rare treat, and that physical lightness makes me feel free as a bird. Savor that freedom by staying at a resort where you need nothing but your room key, and if you have a semi-responsible travel companion, let him/her hold it so that you're traveling ultra light.    

Josh and I stayed at Makena Beach & Golf Resort. I wish that you could stay there too, BUT the resort is presently undergoing total redevelopment, so pick a resort, any resort, and you'll enjoy a few well-deserved days of luxury and leisure with the same amenities that we had. 

Gorgeous beach and wedding spot (on the cliff) at our resort. 
Seussical Palms 

Our resort, like many others, offered beautiful water features throughout including a sparkling pond teeming with koi fish. And let's not forget the open-air atrium style architecture. There is something really magical, though a little alarming, when a bird swoops past your head at the check-in counter or brunch.   

Here are the koi and for fun, the signature drink named after them. It's a pretty cocktail, swirling with glimmering shades of orange and yellow. 


Mix in blender with crushed ice:
1 oz Passion Orange Juice
2 oz Mango
½ oz Sweet & Sour
1 ¼ oz light rum
Blend and pour into 12 oz glass filled with
½ oz Strawberry Puree
½ oz Vanilla Ice Cream
Make it a Maui cocktail with a cherry and pineapple wedge garnish

Outdoors we had our pick of amenities like golf--both miniature and full-size, badminton, tennis, and snorkeling. There were private pool and beach cabanas, outdoor spa tents for massages by the ocean, yoga classes on the beach, and excursions to Molokini crater and coral gardens.  


Josh sprang for a private beach casabella, one of those beach chair-bed hybrids with a convertible canopy for shade. Renting one can set you back around a hundred dollars for the day, but it was a great investment for the day that we decided to veg out by the ocean from sun up till sun down and gave us shade anytime we wanted it. It also came with ice and bottled water service. Plus, the padded mattress feels much better than the standard beach chairs we had on other days.  


The sand in this area of beach is golden shade and gritty, made of coral and seashells. Hawaii has a variety of sand colors including red, black, and green. We saw black sand beaches on the last blog post during our journey on the Road to Hana. Back home in SC, our sand is more powdery than gritty and the color is more khaki. It's softer sand than Hawaii, but let's face it, it isn't Hawaii. Gimme that brown sugar sand!     

Josh and I gave snorkeling a try, but I found the surf a just little too heavy for me to feel really comfortable, since I'm just a so-so swimmer anyway, which was a shame because it wasn't too much further out to sea that the resort had a cool archway in the ocean where they were creating a small reef. 

Josh and I also called dibs on badminton whenever the net was available. We even used the resort gym a time or two. One afternoon we played in the pool, and since we had just finished training for and completing a sprint triathlon together the month before, we enjoyed goofing off by seeing how rapidly our amateur swimming form had declined on strokes and flip turns. Then we pizza'd poolside because we were enjoying ourselves too much to venture out for lunch. That's what's great about resort life. You can stay in the resort bubble and have a blast or set out for other adventures. 


DINE-amite Dinners
While we called for room service burgers for dinner one night (check out that view from our room ^^), we also scoped out two amazing restaurants in Wailea: Monkeypod and 5 Palms

Pictures from Monkeypod's Facebook page 

Monekypod is all about the craft of food, drink, and design and is lead by award-winning chef Peter Merriman who has spent his career advancing Hawaii's culinary. Monkeypod is his own concept, with lively atmosphere and a cool balance between being well-designed but not overly formal, which is tougher than it sounds when being so close to Gucci, Prada, and Tiffany stores.  

I ordered the Poke Tacos from the appetizer menu knowing that I was going to have the gelato and sorbet flight for dessert (and I didn't plan to share!). Josh had a Maui Cattle burger. He's a connoisseur of burgers, the way some dudes are with craft beer or whiskey, and he orders them nearly everywhere unless he's having a steak. Josh isn't easy to please either,and he prefers no gourmet gimmicks (like the peanut butter and jalapeno jelly burger he tried in West Va and did NOT like). He would make an excellent Burger Critic, and I can just imagine world-renowned chefs trembling with fear when Josh orders the house burger off their menu.       


The second of our off-site dining excursions was to 5 Palms. You can check out the 360 degree view here. This is a three-dollar-signs place, so expect it to set you back a good bit. You'll eventually get somewhat used to the shocking sticker price of all things, especially meals, in Maui. By the end of our trip we were cruising through McDonald's for breakfast and lunch to reduce our food spend.  

Pineapple Creme Brulee
Picture from 5 Palms Facebook Page 

At 5 Palms, Josh enjoyed a fantastic filet, and I had some gorgeously presented tiger prawns with pineapple mango salsa that were so pricey that I'm surprised they didn't offer financing. But, you know, when in Rome/Maui, right? This was the fanciest place that we went to for dinner, and the view was outstanding, literally just a few paces off the sand. It was exactly the kind of island scene you'd expect with teak wood chairs and cone torches lighting the path. I was even That Girl with my fabulous vacation dress and a plumeria flower tucked behind my ear. Blame Maui. It makes you seriously think that you can pull off island style anywhere, even once you get back to the mainland. It's the Jamaican equivalent of having your hair braided. It works while you're on vacation (even that is a little questionable) but best to just leave it there. 


Here I go again... 

AND again. #thatgirl #youcantellimatourist #enoughalready

It's every tourist's rite of passage to attend a luau while visiting Hawaii. We chose Te Au Moana (The Ocean's Tide) at the Maui Marriott. Find it here. Note that a good luau is also a fairly pricey endeavor of around $120 per person. Yup, per person. Remember, this was our posh leg of the trip. We cut back in other areas to offset these few days in resort-ville. On that note... 

Tangent 1: It's no secret that a trip to Maui isn't cheap. Of all the Hawaiian islands, Maui has a reputation for being the most expensive, and within Maui, Wailea is definitely upscale. The few days in Wailea felt almost sinfully extravagant, and if you have to nix one of the stops on your tour of Maui, for me it would be this one in favor of the more relaxed and quaint Kula and Lahaina. Was Wailea amazingly beautiful and enjoyable? You betcha. Still, I rank our other stops ahead of this one. I would say that my Love It scale goes: Lahaina, Kula, Wailea. So stay tuned for the third installment of the Maui blog next week when I share my love for Lahaina. 

All that said, I would NOT want to miss out on this luau, so even if you forego Wailea, plan to attend one of the luaus hosted by Tihati Productions (there are 10 around all of Hawaii). 

Tangent 2: The beautiful lei around my neck in these pictures is still going strong, hanging in my guest room as part of the Hawaiian decor. If you read my first post about Maui, you may remember that I said you'll want to come home and decorate your house in all things Maui to keep the spirit of Aloha close. We have framed photos and maps of Maui throughout our house. As for this lei, I brought it around with us from Makena to Lahaina in a ziploc bag. I misted the lei each day to keep it fresh, and once home I hung it up to let it dry out. It's faded and brittle now that it's dehydrated, but it definitely gives my guest room a touch of aloha.  

Seashell quilt for a Hawaiian plantation feel, some fun tiki vibes in the pillows, plus the speckled pillows remind me of lava fields.  

Cell phone pic I took of a rainbow over Kapalua 

So back to the show... Luaus are a fun and beautiful combination of  dinner and a show that tells a story and celebrates Hawaiian and Polynesian culture and the people's love for the land. The luau that we chose is hosted by the longest running production company in Hawaii, and it was obviously a well-oiled machine from start to finish with plenty of neat pre-show activities to do, an abundance of food and drink, and a general smoothness of managing large crowds of hungry folks that I, as a former wedding planner, admire. :)  

The meal presentation was ceremonious, with the star of the meal being carried out in grand fashion, before the buffet line opened up. There's no shortage of amazing local eats from fruits to sides of purple potatoes. This buffet is all you can eat, so don't be shy about going back for more.  

The oceanfront location of Te Au Moana means that you get to enjoy dinner, a show, and a gorgeous golden sunset from your seat. Because the sunset is a spectacle in and of itself, the show factors it into the performance really nicely.

The luau also includes fire dancers, a little fun for the kids, and some always awkward audience participation. There's just nothing like a mainland tourist trying to wiggle his hips to set the audience atwitter. :)

After the big luau we spent the rest of our time in Wailea checking out more low-key scenes like the beaches.


Big Beach, (Wear) Little Beach 

Makena Beach State Park or Big Beach, is a well-loved spot because the sand stretches to almost 100 feet in most places. It's beautiful, protected from the trade winds, and food trucks operate in and just outside of the park. Makena Beach is an alternative to more crowded beaches like Lahaina and Kaanapali. While the surf is too big for little kids and weak swimmers, watching other surfers is a pretty fun sport.

If you don't do your research, there's a surprise waiting for you there too. Just past Big Beach is a tall lava outcrop separating Big Beach from Little Beach, where people wear little to nothing. I'm not prudish. I just wasn't aware of this until I was watching a silver fox body surf. He had these cool flipper-like gloves on his hands and was navigating the surf pretty skillfully. He rode into the shallows with a wave and when the swell receded, I discovered that those gloves were all that silver fox was wearing! Then I scanned around with a more watchful eye and noticed that people that I assumed were wearing blush pink swimwear were not, in fact, wearing any swimwear. I chuckled and pointed this out to Josh who was taking pictures of the water. I told him to keep his lens pointed left so no one thought he was being creepy.


La Perouse Bay-watching
We left Big and Little Beaches behind to explore some lava fields on the way back to the resort and found some neat blowholes (it's okay to giggle) that entertained us for at least an hour. What is it about a water spout that is so captivating? 

Before I share endless pictures of the blowhole, let me mention that La Perouse Bay is the southernmost place that you can explore Maui by car. The road is winding and bumpy so you've got to take it slow, but you'll enjoy scoping out some of the most opulent houses on the island. Mauians don't sell out their celebrity residents so you won't find a map of the stars for LaPerouse Bay but I read that a small group of paparazzi has taken up residence there so there's bound to be someone of note living along the bay.  

Speaking of... here's one now. 

Kidding. I can't afford a speck of lava rock on LP Bay where a half acre of land will cost almost two million dollars. 

La Perouse Bay is great for dolphin watching. Not so great for swimming given how strong the winds are which make the waters very choppy. 

The lava fields are really cool to explore but I highly advise bringing along closed in shoes like water shoes or sneaks for this trek. If your foot so much as rubs up against lava rock, you'll get a cut. I also suggest having some band-aids in your bag. I cut my big toe and ankle just minding my own business.  

One of the most entertaining sights was this blowhole/sea arch that put on a show to rival on orca whale exhaling. We watched this happen over and over and over, taking a million pictures of it and even videoing the surge of sea spray. Hey, it's one of the most affordable things to do in Maui and provides seemingly endless fun. 



Something important to keep in mind about blowholes is that they are not a waterpark, as someone kindly scrawled on a sign at the Nakalele blowhole that we'll see more of in our next post. 

You certainly don't want to be cavalier about the ocean in Maui, from the blowholes to the strong surf to the creatures that live in the waters. The ocean anywhere is a powerful force and complex ecosystem. Be smart. In the case of a blowhole, keep your distance enough to not get sucked out to sea.  


Don't you feel so refreshed after all that sea spray? They say that the ocean is God's natural healer, and salt water + coconut breezes = an elixir to cure whatever ails you. Speaking of God and His creation...

Sunday Morning Maui Style

We usually attend church services when on vacation. In a pinch, when we can't find a similar denomination near our hotel, we catch a service on tv or listen to our home church's audio sermon in the evening.

On Sunday of our trip, we walked about a mile to church service at Keawala'i Congregational Church, a Christian Hawaiian church located on the ocean.

Founded in 1832, the church was originally constructed of grass and was later rebuilt as a stone building. It was refurbished in the 1950s after the depression years saw church fixtures and even hymn books pillaged. More renovations came with each passing decade as maintaining a church beside the ocean isn't an easy task. In the 1990s the douglas fir floors were replaced with ohi'a, a wood that is native to Hawaii (and therefore more likely to hold up, presumably?).

This church is small with membership around or under 50 people and it takes great pride in its history, in passing their heritage on to future generations of Christ followers. During services, you can hear both English and Hawaiian languages spoken. The wooden floors are beautiful, by the way, and I love that there are grass fans in the pew pockets. After the service we enjoyed some refreshments outside before heading back to our hotel to check out and head over to Lahaina.

Oh and guess who wore a flower in her hair to church? Yep, #thatgirl. #alohafever #tourist

So that's our travel log of Wailea-Makena. I'll leave you with a few beautiful pics of the golden Maui sunsets from Wailea and I'll see you next week for our final installment of our Maui travel blog where I'll tell you all about the coolest place to stay on the island on what ended up being my favorite leg of the trip. Stay tuned and have an awesome week!

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