Visiting Maui Part 3: I left my heart in Lahaina (ooh na na)

Aloha again, m'dear! 

Here we are with the third and final post of our tour of Maui. The trip up to now was nothing short of amazing, and this third and final stop is my favorite. How have you enjoyed the trip so far? It truly was a dream vacation and I could talk about it all the time. Put Maui on your bucket list and HMU if you need ideas of what to pack or where to stay or what to do or how much things cost. 

Also, if you missed the previous Maui posts, here are links. You can read them in any order you like; I took them chronologically: 

Part One: The Upcountry (charming and rugged, includes Road to Hana)

Part Two: Wailea-Makena (posh and upscale, includes grande luau and fancy restaurants)

So here we go, our last stop on the 10-day Maui vacation of a lifetime, and we're heading to Lahaina, Napili, and Kapalua. 

The Vibe: Time to Downshift 
Leaving Wailea with nearly a week of adventure already under my belt, I had no clue what to expect out of our last stop. Josh is our vacation planner, and he's darn good at it, so I just pack and wait to be dazzled by his ability to create an outstanding vacation itinerary. 

When we pulled into our new digs at Napili Surf, I was momentarily skeptical. We had just left gorgeous and upscale Wailea, and Napili's itty-bitty cinder-block check-in office was cramped and lacking atmosphere compared to the Makena's grand entrance. My expectations re-calibrated accordingly... BUT unassuming check-in office, aside, Napili Surf turned out to be my favorite place that we stayed.   


Home Away from Home aka I could get used to this...

We rented a VRBO 1960s-style condo with nothing between us and the Pacific Ocean but a sliding glass door and a small grassy pad speckled with colorful blooms and lounge chairs. It was super chill with a soundtrack of people splashing in the surf and waves lapping the shore of Napili Bay, which looks like it could be the set of one of Elvis's three Hawaii movies. Very charming with retro postcard styling. 

Napili Surf even welcomed us in true Hawaiian spirit with a fresh pineapple, cut and wrapped, waiting for us in the refrigerator of the condo's kitchen. Aloha! 

Every unit at Napili is different, as is the name of the game with VRBOs, and I loved our condo's groovy sixties style with a dash of Asian influence by way of Zen Shoji sliding doors and large-scale tropical fabric. The space was certainly not as swanky as Wailea and I loved it even more for being homey and relaxed, a place made for padding around in sandy bare feet and wearing your bathing suit all day long.  


Had we planned for it, we could have stayed at Napili Surf for more of the trip and made meals in our condo's kitchen to save money. Thankfully, there was a McDonald's nearby, and we were able to manage our food spend with a few breakfasts and lunches from the Golden Arches.  

Pineapple Breezes
As compared to manicured and posh Wailea-Makena, this last leg of our Maui tour in Lahaina was relaxed and beachy-keen. Instead of nicer resort clothes, these parts called for the most laid-back tank tops and flip-flops, which was perfect as we were feeling really at home in Maui. A long vacation is great because it takes a couple of days to solidly shake off the real world and adjust to the time difference. Maui is 6 hours behind the east coast, and the first few days' conversation were often punctuated with announcing what time it is back home. By this leg of the trip, we were very much on Maui time and were having the requisite "could we live here?" conversation. ;) Truly, everyone does this. That's when you know your vacation is about to be over. 

ACCOMMODATIONS LINK:  Napili Surf Resort   

So Turtle-ly Awesome 
Several times a day sea turtles would gather right beside the shoreline outside our condo to feed on the mossy rocks in the ocean shallows, and the event never got old, always drawing a crowd. It is illegal to touch sea turtles in Maui because too many people don't know how to behave themselves around a turtle, trying to ride them like ponies, so you're encouraged, nay expected, to just look and keep a safe distance. Our pictures reflect both zooming in and turtles that approached us.   



When it came to enjoying the water, we did a couple of cool things down the road in Lahaina. 

First we did a guided ocean kayak tour, which I confess, scared me something fierce. I'm very skittish about and respectful of the ocean's inhabitants, and I fully support their right to attack me for being an intruder in their aquatic home. I'm one of those people who breeches out of the water like a whale when a stray piece of seaweed grazes my toe. So being close enough to kiss the ocean's depths on a teeny-weeny kayak was panic-inducing for me, but I wanted Josh to get to experience the fun, so I took one for Team Wise. Good news is that I'm a quiet panicker, keeping a poker face and not saying a word, so no one was the wiser that I was quaking in my aqua-socks from the time we shoved off until we returned to dry land. 

Josh gave the kayak tour a big thumbs up, and having survived it, I give it a good rating too. And props to me for sticking with it because someone in our group DID back out before we even made it to the ocean. Guess I'm not alone in my life's mission to not become a shark's breakfast...  

Helpful Hint: We kayaked early in the morning when waters and winds were very calm, and thankfully we only encountered some cute fish and sea turtles. I just never relaxed or stopped scanning the waters for a tiger shark that might mistake my kayak's silhouette for a yummy seal.  

By contrast, one of the most relaxing excursions we embarked on was a sunset cruise out of Lahaina Harbor. The trip took us, plus a dozen or so other visitors, around the island for a two-hour tour of the Maui coast. Chocolate, champagne, and other libations were plentiful, as were glorious views of the sunset from a beautiful vantage point. This was the perfect way to wind down the daylight hours, enjoying the wind in our hair and taking in God's nightly painting of the sky. 

Just look at our faces that clearly say, "everything I need to know about sailing I learned from a Ralph Lauren ad." 

Where my home state of South Carolina has sunsets that are intensely pink (and stunning), Maui sunsets are 24-karat golden peach (and also stunning).    






Here are a few other sunset shots too from different places around Maui. 




Gorgeous, right??? And here's the cool part that I never thought about until I was writing this post: Hawaii's sunset is Japan's sunrise (duh, Japan = Land of the Rising Sun). I have never had reason to consider where exactly the sun morphs from setting to rising, though it is glaringly (get it?) obvious to me now. Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia are in the first-dibs on the day club too. I can imagine the sun sinking round the bend, pouring itself a quickie cup of coffee, shoving a breakfast burrito in its mouth, swiping on some Chapstick, then getting right back to work.  Speaking of burritos, I'm getting hungry...

Eating Lahaina Locaaaal (Sing it to the tune of La Vida Loca--you know you want to!) 
Also in Lahaina, we explored the Front Street area scoping out local shops for souvies and eats. We were successful in finding both, hitting up  Lahaina Pizza Company  for dinner and grabbing ice cream after we walked off the carbs. Lahaina Pizza Co is always busy and serves up deep dish style pizza. Prepare to bloat. 

Another food stop we made in Lahaina was  Leoda's Kitchen & Pie Shop. It's very Insta-chic with its clean kitchen aesthetic, farm fresh ingredients, and yummy house-made pies. The night we went, there was a semi-private wedding reception going down, so the wait time was longish but the comfort food was amazing and the peanut butter chocolate pie was a thing of legend. Think pot pies, hoagies, burgers, and sides like garlic aioli fries and scalloped potatoes.   

See what I see? The Upcountry's plentiful lavender infused in Leoda's dish... my favorite dessert of all, creme brulee! If I had to pick a dessert to represent me, I'd choose creme brulee. Sounds fancier than it is, has a slightly crispy exterior that's just a front for a soft middle, and keeps up with the trends by way of flavor makeovers, including the trend du jour, lavender. Also me.   

Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you can eat at Leoda's any time of day. How about coconut French toast to jump start your morning? Or banana pancakes made with locally grown nan-ers and macadamia nuts. Or for something more savory, a plate of seared ahi benedict.

Lastly, another great eatery during this leg of the trip was  Sea House Restaurant, located on Napili Bay on the opposite end from our condo. 

Voted the Best Happy Hour on Maui numerous times, Sea House has it going on with their drink menu, which you can view  HERE.  I recommend some of their clever and savory appetizers like the Maui Beach Balls and Crispy Kapalua Rolls. 

Josh and I walked to Sea House on the street side rather than the beach to avoid getting super sandy on the way to our last dinner on Maui. And seriously, this pic below was the view on the entire walk there. I'd say Maui was courting us like a contestant on The Bachelor, whispering sweet nothings along the lines of, "Sell all your belongings and move to Maui." 

To that point, Maui sees tons and TONS of folks who give in to the siren song and make the move to Maui. Most live on the island for about two years before returning to the mainland according to locals that we talked to. Visiting Maui is expensive, living on Maui is even more expensive, and friends and family don't come visit as often as you'd like because, oh yeah, it's expensive. Jobs don't pay so hot and real estate is priced sky-high. There's no shortage of articles about making the move to Maui so Google if you want to learn more--the good, bad, and blunt. In writing this post, I got sidetracked by so many of these articles that I'm now getting ads for Maui real estate. Whoopsie.  One article pointed out, for my fellow South Carolinian's, that we must not underestimate the pain of longing for peaches when living on Maui. So noted.       

So back to that last dinner in Maui... it was gorgeous and delicious! One of the coolest foods on Maui is the purple sweet potato. If you need some convincing,  Here is an article extolling the virtues of the Hawaiian sweet potato. I needed no convincing; they had me at being pretty. 

In Lahaina, I found plenty of gift shops for t-shirts since I love collecting cute tees from our travels. There's also a few large general store type shops with wood-carved pineapple bowls, kukui nut necklaces, ukeleles, Kona coffee, macadamia nuts, and Hawaiian quilt potholders, which are must-haves to remind you of the Aloha spirit once you're back home on the mainland. (You can also get them from Amazon but it's just not the same.) 

Even if a souvenir seems cheesy, you owe it to yourself to get a coffee mug or tee shirt or trinket tray that will put a smile on your face once you're back to the Real World. The more reminders of Hawaii that you surround yourself with, the more you will feel like you never left the island and the easier it will be to deal with catty coworkers or tantruming toddlers. Because whenever you use your Maui souvenir, at the corner of your mind will forever be that "I Just got back from Maui" feeling, even if it's been months or years since your trip. For coffee lovers, I highly recommend some  Hawaiian Isles Kona Coffee Co joe, and for those who like a good surf tee, try Honolua Surf Co, a Hawaiian-based chain with online shopping.  

Also, skip the natural souvenirs. Leave shells and rocks in place. The guidebook we read, plus plenty of websites, made mention of how sacred the natural stuff is and how scores of visitors SEND BACK rocks and shells that they took once they get back home and experience what seems to be a rash of bad fortune. Even if you don't believe in bad luck or superstitions, just leave the nature where you found it and treat yo'self to some locally-bought puka shells. 

Shore Thing
Near the very end of our trip we took a short drive to Kapalua, home of Maui's Ritz Carlton Resort and Hawaii's best golf course. Exploring the area revealed even MORE gorgeous coastline. Big surprise, right? I admit that I was surprised to see rolling green hills and waving grasses that reminded me of Ireland, if Ireland was at a costume party wearing a coconut bra.

At Kapalua, there were million dollar homes to my left (sorry, not pictured for privacy), and stunning ocean views to my right. The cliffs are gorgeous and as impressive as the homes. Plus, we saw plenty of sea turtles and a ladder down to the ocean that made it easy to dip a toe in the Pacific. 

After Kapalua we drove north about 8 miles to find the Nakalele Blowhole and Maui's heart shaped rock. This picture from that location now hangs in my living room and just might come with me to Lowe's to paint-match so I can slap a coat of this perfectly frothy, not too dark, not too light shade of Pacific Blue water on my kitchen walls.

But Seriously Folks
Let's talk about the wonder of the Nakalele blowhole. It comes with warnings which must be heeded. 
First, you will need to park and make sure not to have any valuables in the car. Find it at mile marker 38.5 and plan to walk a ways. We wore sneakers for this jaunt and still slipped a lot.  

Next, once you reach the blowhole, respect it. As the sign says, it isn't a water park. We saw signs celebrating loved ones, including teenagers, who died at the site. Truly, when I saw the blowhole, I could see why people mistake it for benign. It's a small hole, the size of a tire or so. The spray, while climbing high, is a beautiful, whispy jet of mist like something you might see at a water park. See? 

It all seems like good fun. Visitors giggle when it spouts. BUT it's what you don't see, and what I did not see until writing this post, that reveals why the blowhole is so dangerous. Courtesy of Photonomous on, here is a view of the lower level of the blowhole from the ocean perspective. 

The blowhole is part of a giant ocean cave of lava rock. As the surf crashes, water floods the cave, makes a fun spout up above at the surface of the blowhole, and then recedes with the potential to suck in anyone standing too close to the hole. Imagine the suction to be like the tool the dental hygienist uses to get water out of your mouth during a cleaning... times a hundred thousand. 

The best word of caution that I recently read was to stick to dry rocks. Some have slipped on wet rocks and been injured or sucked into the blowhole, so merely avoiding sticking your face over it isn't enough to ensure safety.  For best results, keep a respectable distance as you would a wild animal.

Also, I feel badly that I have not said this in my posts yet but one rule of thumb for visiting Hawaii is to never turn your back to the ocean. Rogue waves can come along and sweep you into the surf. There have been 20 water deaths on Maui in the past six months, many of them involving visitors being swept off of rocks by waves. Exercise good common sense.

Now on to more romantic things...

I Heart Maui
You've probably seen this rock on Pinterest or Instagram. It's become a social media darling and a fantastic spot to propose, announce that you've gotten enagaged, take engagement pictures, etc.

To see the rock, hike down toward the blowhole and once you can see the blowhole, turn and look back toward the path you came down. As you look back to where you came from, you'll see the heart-shaped rock on your left.  Take pictures from every angle through the heart for ocean and landscape views.

One last stop
Before we say farewell to Maui, we've got one more secret stop. The Olivine Pools. Located 4 miles past Nakalele blowhole, the olivine pools are swimmable tide pools set off the beaten path, though these days they are very popular thanks to the book Maui Revealed. What used to be isolated is now like a water playground but way less safe. That said, if you are planning to visit Maui and really want to check out these tide pools, then I recommend that you take the time to read THIS article for important safety measures (like keep valuables on you and leave your rental car unlocked to avoid getting your windows broken by smash-n-grab thieves).

As with Nakalele, exercise an abundance of caution when hiking to the pools. The terrain is uncertain, slippery, and quite steep. Just this past March, a man died trying to save his teenage daughter who got pulled into the surf. There's enough tragedy around these pools to tell you to be cautious, but I won't tell you to skip them on your itinerary because these turned out to be quite serene for us and a nice adventure. You simply have to always scope out the ocean conditions and tide before you walk down to the pools. Stay along the interior pools and keep an eye on the ocean at all times. We called it a day when the waves got larger and larger and the sea spray went from mist to more aggressive splashes.

You say goodbye, and I say aloha.
All in all, we saw so much of Maui, more than the average vacationer tends to, according to Josh, who crafted our amazing itinerary to maximize the sights we saw. We circled around the entire island, went up to the hills where many locals reside, to popular beaches and beaches often unexplored. We learned how to pronounce words in Hawaiian language (hint: every letter gets pronounced), and even got acquainted with the local McDonald's. 

If you make the trek to Maui, going back home won't be an easy trip and not just because of the annoying in-flight Lego Movie on a flight full of morose people who are also sad to be leaving Maui.

You'll feel like you're forgetting something. You are. You'll realize that you've left a piece of your heart behind on Maui, but you'll also be filling the empty space with the spirit of aloha that doesn't leave you. I gag at how corny that sounds, because let's face it, it IS corny, but it's also true!!! 

Post vacation depression is a thing, and after Maui, it's almost guaranteed to happen to you. You're not the same person you were when you left for vacation, and that's a good thing! Go ahead and get back on your time zone, empty your suitcases, and get that laundry going, but after doing the necessary, extend your vacation state of mind as long as possible.

Some easy ways to do this are to find someone else who has been to Maui to relive the magic with. Make time to order prints of your photos and actually put them in an old school album (Josh does this for us and I love it!) or order a Chatbook of your photos. Order some super affordable prints from Wallpics to hang around your house, and while you're at it, redecorate a guest room or small space with Hawaiian flare. My guest room, soon to be Iris's big girl bedroom, is full of Hawaiian influences and artwork, and I'll be passing that on to Iris, who already adores pineapple print anything.

I'm totally here for you to answer any of your Maui questions from logistics to finances to recommendations. And I think you can tell that I'm really keen on talking about Maui, so let me know what questions come up as you plan your Maui trip.

Stylishly Yours,


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