We had been looking forward for months to a last hurrah before baby Lucia makes her arrival–a family vacation to Maui, Hawaii! Kevin’s mom and our good family friend Judy joined us. We were finally going to use Kevin’s flight benefits for the airlines he works for and we were anxiously watching the flights to/from Maui to see how booked they were getting as the days passed. It was our first time flying standby and it’s a tricky business: we had to book our lodging for the week and hope beyond all hope that we’d be able to get a flight there to even use the lodging we paid for (and on the flip side, hope that we’d make it home okay and not have to stay a night in the airport or a cheap motel near the airport!). We had to pay in full a couple of months in advance (because so many places were getting booked up) and there weren’t many good options for places that would give us an actual refund if we didn’t show so it really was like playing the lottery in a way. Luckily, it all worked out beautifully and we ended up having 50 extra seats on the way home and over 100 extra seats on the flight there so we were given a row to ourselves!
We enjoyed seven nights and eight days in paradise and it was a wonderful way to kick off the third trimester of Lucia’s pregnancy and to enjoy our little family of three before our newest addition joins us.
Tuesday, Jan 27
We were up and at ’em at 4:30am getting our final things together so we could be at the airport by 7am. Sirena had been looking forward to getting on the airplane for weeks now so the whole way to the airport we were talking to her about how much fun we were about to embark on (this girl loves her airplanes!) The flight was just shy of 6 hours long which is the longest flight she’s been on and she was a real trooper, even snoozing on Daddy for about an hour.
Enjoying her first in-flight movie! “Book of Life”
So happy to have arrived! On the shuttle to pick up our rental car
We rented a sweet ride for our trip…a Jeep convertible! I was grateful to be able to sit shotgun for the majority of the time (I could not be squished in the backseat with the car seat the whole trip with my big ol’ belly and Dorothy and Judy agreed) but the times that I did ride in the backseat I could empathize with D & J that the backseat wasn’t nearly as comfy as the front seat. So next time around we may need to reconsider our car choice! But the convertible top and the way it handled rough terrain were really great.
After getting to our condo (a nice little 2 bedroom place a 1/2 mile from the beach in the town of Ka’anapali, just north of Lahaina) and unpacking our bags, we decided to have an early dinner at the Maui Brewing Co (which had yummy food and drinks, just crazy steep prices for any little add-ons which at other places would be included at no-cost). After dinner and on our drive back to the house, we made a quick stop at the tiniest little beach just south of Pohaku Park. We wanted to watch the sunset and thought this little patch of sand and beach would be a great backdrop. To our astonishment, after jumping down onto the sand from the lava rocks bordering the beach and the highway, we were greeted by two exhausted sea turtles taking a break just on the shore (we were feet away from jumping on top of one of them, we had no idea it was there!) It was the most incredible way to spend our first evening in Maui, watching the sunset and enjoying the company of two beautiful creatures.
Splashing her toes in the warm(ish) Hawaiian waters for the first time!
Wednesday, Jan 28
Hawaii is two hours behind California time (at this time of year, they don’t observe Daylight Savings Time so half of the year they’re three hours behind us) so we were all bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed at the ungodly hour of 4:30am! After hanging out at the house for a bit we decided to venture out and we were the first customers at Slappycakes, a fun restaurant where you cook your pancakes at your table. After a yummy breakfast we went to Safeway to buy some groceries so that most of our lunches and about half of our dinners could be eaten at home so we could save some money. After dropping our groceries off, we turned right around to enjoy the mid-morning at Launiupoko Beach Park–a toddler’s swimming paradise! It had a tiny little wading beach blocked by rocks that let ocean water come in gradually and didn’t get more than 2-3 feet deep. Sirena had a blast playing with her bucket and sand toys (thank you, Auntie Judy!) and testing her swimming legs in the warm waters.
We went back to the house so that Sirena could enjoy a much-needed nap while Dorothy and Judy went down to the beach closest to our house. We kept the evening pretty low-key with a BBQ dinner at home and then took to the main drag of Lahaina (the only real downtownish area on the island), Front Street, to watch the sunset, window shop, and enjoy the first (of many) Hawaiian gelatos.
Our only group photo on the trip!
Incredible sunset, amiright?!
It’s official: Sirena loves gelato.
Can’t ask for a better view while eating gelato!
Thursday, Jan 29
Thursday was set aside for our big travel day…we were going to drive the infamous Road to Hana! (Kevin was so looking forward to this day…he LOVES driving, especially windy, gravelly roads…and especially in a convertible Jeep). We woke up really early (jet lag was working in our favor that day) and set out mid-morning.
View from our convertible top
We followed along closely with the “Maui Revealed” guidebook that Kevin bought a year or two ago which talked about both the super popular spots and the not-so-well-known gems along the road, using the mile markers to point them out. The first part of the drive there were a ton of overlooks to stop at and take photos of the breathtaking coastline.
Looking out onto Honomanu Bay
We took a hidden dirt road (thanks to the guidebook) down to Honomanu Bay and enjoyed stretching our legs on the black sand (rocky) beach.
Throwing rocks in the ocean, her favorite
She even got Mama and Grandma in on the action. Kevin took this series of photos as we threw our rocks into the ocean.
Proof that Kevin was on the trip, haha!
The Road to Hana during the peak tourist season is well known for incredible waterfalls around every turn. The guidebook warned that at certain times of year (come to find out, late January…) there isn’t much water flow to speak of for a lot of the waterfalls they describe and we quickly found that out after trying to get our eyes on a bunch of them. That just means we’ll have to come back, I guess…
At the urging of the guidebook, we took a small road into Ke’anae Peninsula and village for some awesome views and delicious banana bread and shave ice at Aunty Sandy’s roadside stand. Across the street from Aunty Sandy’s was a beautiful spot to take photos of the crashing waves against jagged lava boulders which we spent some time at before indulging ourselves in the sweet stuff.
Sirena mimicking the crashing waves
Walking the rock wall to Aunty Sandy’s (and hugging her baby Honey real tight)
Um…delicious. This was our favorite shave ice on the island that we tried this trip.
We got back on the road and shortly thereafter were met with tons of red brake lights just ahead. We had heard at Aunty Sandy’s that there was a lot of construction going on and that the road might be closing at some point but we didn’t think it’d be so soon! We were stopped for a few minutes before we started seeing some cars up ahead turning around and talking to each car on the way back. The driver told us that they were closing the road and that we should all just head back. We were so bummed!! We thought we’d wait it out a bit and the poor fools who listened to that guy really missed out because not 5 minutes later did they start letting traffic through (no joke!)
From the Hana Highway section of the guidebook, one of the places I was really keen on visiting was Ching’s Pond. Most drivers don’t even notice the amazing waterfall and swimming hole just below the road but with the help of the guidebook we knew where to pull over and make our way down an extremely steep hill to this real gem. One of my favorite things is to swim in rivers and swimming holes like this (even more so than the ocean to be honest) so I was beyond excited to check it out. Of course the water was freeeeeezing so I hesitated quite a bit before being urged by Judy to get in the water already because she knew I’d end up regretting it later. Kevin jumped in first and Sirena joined the both of us for a 10 minute dip in the super refreshing waters.
My idea of paradise
We enjoyed our lunch on the rocks and were pleasantly surprised (or horrified, depends on which of us you’re talking about!) to be entertained by a guy who climbed up to the bridge where cars would pass and proceed to jump 25 feet down into Ching’s Pond below. We had read in the guidebook that if you were lucky you’d get to see some locals do it but it urged extreme caution because there is literally zero margin for error with this jump. The guy we saw did it twice and we all held our breath each time his feet left the platform!
I have to mention at this point that Sirena had been a bit under the weather a few days leading up to our trip. She was sniffly and congested off and on but we took our chances and she had been doing pretty well up until this point, just a little extra clingy with me. Our Road to Hana trip took a turn for the worst about 20 minutes after Ching’s Pond when we made a pit stop at Hana Bay. Sirena started complaining about her “owie, ear” and Kevin and I immediately freaked out that she had an ear infection that we had previously been clueless about. I picked her up and held her for about 10 minutes and she was crying and complaining about her ear and we couldn’t seem to distract her. Hana Bay is basically at the complete opposite end of the island from our condo so we were feeling really screwed but not totally hopeless at this point because although she was upset, she wasn’t out of sorts (…yet). We were kicking ourselves for not bringing the Tylenol that I had so thoughtfully packed from home but left at the condo (because why would we need Tylenol on the Road to Hana?!) but we thought that she had been in such good spirits and was such a trooper that things should be manageable. Boy, were we wrong.
This is the part of the trip that we lovingly call “The Road from Hell.” We were in basically the most desolate part of the island on the roughest, bumpiest, most windy part of the Hana Highway. There were no towns, no drug stores, NOTHING for two hours. Sirena was in complete and utter turmoil for the entire 2 hours we were on that part of the drive–she tried so hard to fall asleep but every damn bump and turn would wake her up and she’d be screaming out in pain. Each time she’d wake up she’d cry out, “Hold me, Mommy! Hold me, Mommy!” over and over again and all I could do was hold her hand and try to comfort her as best as I could squished in the backseat next to her (and Judy helped with trying to comfort her as best she could squished on the other side of the car seat). The drive was pure torture, that is no exaggeration at all. We were all so utterly helpless–all we could do was keep driving as fast as we could to just get to the next damn town where they had an Emergency Room we could take her to. As we were approaching the town of Kula, Sirena changed her tune from, “Hold me, Mommy!” to, “Save me, Mommy” and it absolutely broke all of our hearts. We finally made it to Kula and followed the signs to a windy road up the hill a bit to the hospital. As we turned the corner I started to freak out a bit because it was getting dark and the hospital looked like it came straight out of a scary movie (looked like an old insane asylum!) Once we saw the ER it looked a bit more normal but I was starting to question our decision to go to this hospital to be honest! Turns out it was a beautiful hospital with an incredible view and we were in and out of ER in…get this…thirty minutes.
Squeezing Daddy so tight
The doctor was great and gave Sirena some much-needed Tylenol which worked quickly and eased her incredible pain. We drove about 10 minutes to the closest pharmacy and picked up a prescription for her ear infection. From Kula we had another 45 minutes but luckily at this point the road was smooth and fairly straight so Sirena was able to pass out for the remainder of the drive and stayed asleep until we got to the condo and quickly passed back out for the night.
The grown-ups stayed up a bit to unwind from a crazy stressful day with late night pizza and beer/wine. What…a…day.
Friday, Jan 30
For good reason, we took it easy on Friday to let Sirena recover from such a traumatic experience and heal up as best as she could. We headed out to Kapalua Beach for some snorkeling for the grown-ups and wading in the water/playing in the sand for Sirena.
Only Kevin, Judy and Dorothy went out snorkeling this day and they say it wasn’t the best waters for snorkeling. In fact, there was some gnarly coral that banged ’em up pretty good (I won’t name names 😉 ). Yikes!
Sirena passed out in the car just as we left the beach and so the grown-ups got lunch to go from a mixed plate spot that had great reviews. It did not disappoint! Super yummy, local food. Just what the doctor ordered.
We had a relaxing afternoon at the house and took to Lahaina for dinner at Cheeseburger in Paradise. My mom’s husband’s daughter (you following?) is the niece of the owners of this chain of restaurants (I lost you, didn’t I?) so we were excited to check it out (and had a super helpful VIP gift card that Steve let us have to help pay for our meal, thank you Steve!) There was a musician playing great music during the meal, we had a great view of the moon over the ocean behind us, and the food was yummy so it was a great choice! And we finished off the (what turned out to be a super late) evening with some window shopping and yummy gelato.
You can’t really tell but Sirena is actually wearing the souvenir we bought for Lucia…an 18 mos shirt! I couldn’t believe it when I walked in the room and she had it over her head, haha. We proceeded to buy her a matching one, this time a size 3T. 😉
A giant flip flop is just asking to be climbed on, right? She then proceeded to put it on the ground and pretend it was a surfboard, entertaining the two shopkeepers. Hah!
Saturday, Jan 31
After a fairly laid back day and how well Sirena was doing we decided to do another big trip (this time with her antibiotics and plenty of Tylenol on hand) on Saturday. Our destination? ‘Iao Needle with lots of stops along the way.
Our first stop on our West Maui excursion was to Nakalele Blowhole–described by the guidebook, “the ocean here has undercut the shoreline, pounding underneath the lava shelf, where it spits through a human-sized hole in the lava. The blowhole varies tremendously with the tide and size of the surf” and we were lucky that we got here on a good day. There was plenty of action from the blowhole even as high up as we were (we weren’t feeling adventurous enough to walk all the way down with Sirena). The sign at the top of the hill said, “Warning: Stay clear of blowhole. You can be sucked in and killed. This is NOT a water park.” You don’t have to tell us twice with a pregnant lady and a toddler!
Checking out the blowhole down below
Thar she blows! (You knew that was coming, right?)
Shortly after the blowhole, the road narrowed dramatically to one lane and began its extremely windy ascent up through the mountains. For this whole part of the drive, we had to keep our eyes peeled for oncoming cars and yield to them as best we could on the side of the highway. You could tell who was a local and who was a tourist by the speed with which people took those turns. Some of those people were insane!
We came across an overlook a few miles from where we parked to walk to the blowhole and we got a great birds-eye view of it:
Incredible view of the road ahead!
At the urging of the guidebook, we kept our eyes peeled every turn for a tiny little village called Kahakuloa which claimes to have…get this…the “best banana bread in the world.” Lots of small roadside stands sell banana bread but the guidebook claimed that the banana bread at Julia’s roadside stand was hands-down the best so you know we had to check it out. Turns out not only was the banana bread the bomb, they also sold an amazing coconut candy and a passion fruit butter to spread on (thick!) on the slice of banana bread. Heaven!!
Sirena enjoying her coconut candy and the view of the taro fields below Julia’s stand
View of Kahakuloa Village as we made our way up the mountain again
We made another stop a few miles up the mountain at the Kaukini Gallery filled with beautiful art/souvenirs/jewelry…and a much-needed restroom! After that point the windy, narrow road widens and straightens out into a two car highway and we made our way to Central Maui for the main attraction: the ‘Iao Needle in the town of Wailuku.
View of the ‘Iao Valley
Before making our way up the many stairs to the ‘Iao Needle lookout, we had a nice picnic lunch on the grounds and enjoyed the overcast weather for a change with about 5 minutes of sprinkling. Such an incredible spot for lunch and taking in the awe-inspiring sights.
It was a good hour of driving through the central part of Maui and back up along the West Maui coast back to our house and luckily Sirena napped most of the way. We were itching for some more beach time and pulled over at Mile Marker 14 for what we heard was some incredible snorkeling. Turns out the snorkeling was just meh but the beach and water itself was calm and warm and basically perfect to end our day.
We had a BBQ dinner at home and could barely keep our eyes open past 9pm so we called it a night!
Sunday, Feb 1
We had another chill day planned for Sunday (aka Super Bowl Sunday for people who actually enjoy football, haha). Kevin, Sirena, Dorothy and I took a drive to a coffee farm and to the now closed Sugar Cane Train to take some fun photos of Sirena on an abandoned train (one of her faves). We did a little souvenir shopping, had a coffee, and went back to the house so Sirena could nap…but she didn’t (it’s like she knew her time in Hawaii was running out so she wanted to enjoy every last minute of it!)
After a little lunching on our patio we decided to take a dip in the pool to take advantage and to spend some time as a family. I didn’t get any shots at the pool itself but here are some shots of our sun-kissed beauty around the complex after pool time:
Enjoying the view at lunch
Sirena’s third most favorite thing: MAPS!
Her new “silly face.” She does it all the time!
Showing us the way home
Before we left Maui we all wanted to make another sunset visit to Pohaku Park where we made the unexpected sea turtle discovery our first night on the island so we decided to do that this night. The turtles were out as we had hoped and we enjoyed watching the sunset on the little patch of sand with our new local friends.
Auntie Judy showing Sirena something fun
After the sun set we made our way back out to Lahaina for some dinner. We had no idea that it would take us over an hour to find a place to eat! It was already getting late and we walked up and down Front Street trying to find a place that everyone wanted to eat, had decent reviews and had a nice ambiance, wasn’t ridiculously priced, and would seat us right away. We were starting to go nuts because we weren’t able to find a darn place when we finally stumbled upon Captain Jack’s that turned out to be a great dinner (and it was across the street from where we started our search, go figure!) After dinner we had another yummy gelato which made it allll better.
Monday, Feb 2
We started out fairly early that morning to take a drive down to South Maui on the west coast to check out some of the beaches near the docks where we’d go out on our whale watching/snorkel tour midday. On the way there we stopped at an overlook that was always super crowded because of the great vantage point for whale watching.
We drove through the towns of Kihei and Wailea and found our way to Makena Beach for about an hour of swimming.
From the beach you could see Molokini Crater off in the distance where we’d be snorkeling just a few hours later!
After our quick beach trip we packed back into the Jeep and made our way back up the coast to the docks to climb aboard the Four Winds boat. The boat ride was at least an hour long and it covered some extremely choppy waters. I was having a hard time keeping comfortable holding onto Sirena (and trying to keep her from flying off the bench) and keeping my own huge pregnant belly from jumbling around too much. I kept a close eye on the Molokini Crater (our final destination) and hoping that we’d get there sooner rather than later! There were some whales spotted on the way there but I wasn’t able to focus too much on them under the circumstances but Kevin got some good shots of them:
Once we docked at Molokini Crater (which is actually pretty rare for the afternoon snorkel trips, most days the afternoon tours have to go somewhere else because the weather doesn’t cooperate so we were very lucky to get out there!) the waters were extremely calm and incredibly clear and blue. Sirena and I stayed on deck the majority of the time, eating lunch and watching overboard while K, D and J snorkeled. Judy came back aboard when there were around 20 minutes to spare for snorkeling and offered me her wetsuit jacket so that I could take a dip which I appreciated so much! I hadn’t planned on snorkeling but it was so glorious and I’m really glad that I was able to get out there. Sirena even climbed down the steps (wearing a life jacket of course) and sat on the bottom step with me kicking her legs in the water and enjoying some “swim” time herself. It ended up being a really perfect afternoon.
We spent maybe 3.5 minutes at the glass bottom of the boat but it was cool while it lasted
The ride back to the docks was much more pleasant and I was able to actually enjoy the view!
Sirena decided to drive us home…
We finished the busy day out in the sun with a low-key dinner at home. About an hour before Sirena’s bedtime, Kevin and I finally made our way out for a “date night” while Dorothy and Judy helped put Sirena to bed. We didn’t do anything huge because we were both pretty exhausted and we still had some souvenirs to buy so we did some shopping, walked down Front Street holding hands (and not worrying about a toddler running around, what a relief!), and enjoying some gelato (for me) and shave ice (for Kevin). It was nice to have a couple of hours to ourselves before our trip came to an end the next day.
Tuesday, Feb 3
Our final day in Maui arrived and we spent the majority of the morning cleaning and packing. We left with just enough time to grab some lunch before heading to the airport. We could not believe that not 5 minutes from the airport and returning our rental car we got hit by another car! Long story short, there didn’t end up being any damage on our car (the other guy couldn’t claim the same) and we were able to leave with no issues at all (thank goodness!) The timing was unbelievable and I’m just so happy we didn’t end our trip on a bad note.
We got to the airport with about 10 minutes to hang out at the terminal. The flight home was not as easy going as the first (Sirena was exhausted and had a harder time napping but luckily she eventually conked out) and we finally touched down at LAX to make the last leg of the trip home. Home, sweet, home.
We had an amazing time in Maui but we really were so glad to be home. Can’t wait for our next family vacation…as a family of four!