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Tropical Paradise

December 5, 2011

In our first year together, on one of those dates where you share your dreams and personal secrets (but not the really deep ones since you don’t want the other person to know how screwed up you are just yet) Eric mentioned that Hawaii would be a neat place to travel as he’d never been. Not being aware of my great planning skills and not giving much thought to his earlier comment, Eric went on about his regular business. A couple of days later he received an email from me with a Thanksgiving trip itinerary to Kaui, HI. The subject read “Do you want to go?” From that day a small tradition was born. As most folks dust off the roasting pan, pull out their  grandma’s pie recipe, and start prepping for the Thanksgiving feast, we escape Seattle’s rainy November weather into the tropical Hawaiian paradise (assuming no conflicting trip obligations).

Although we were very fond of our two trips to Kauai, this year we decided to check out the famous honeymooners’ spot – Maui. Kauai set a pretty high bar, as the greenest of the islands where lush jungle movie scenes are filmed in movies like Jurassic Park and King Kong. Even still, Maui did not disappoint.

Weather

With warm winds, mild temperatures in low 80ies and sunny skies, you could not ask for a better vacation spot than Hawaii. I recall on our first trip to Kauai, one of the locals told us: whenever it rains, just get into your car and drive 15 minutes and it’ll be sunny again. And if you stick out the short early morning showers, there is a breathtaking view worth every raindrop.

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I kept waiting for unicorns and leprechauns to show up, but this was real after all. Smile

Beaches

We stayed at the Royal Lahaina Resort which was located on the West side of the island, right in the middle of the Maui touristy spot. The entire hotel strip is built right next to the  Kanaapali beach which is miles long and has calmer tides. The nice thing about the Royal Lahaina Resort is that it is separated from the rest of the hotels by a golf course, so if feels a bit more secluded while still walking distance to various restaurants and bars.

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We got a great deal on an oceanfront cottage, but the hotel was nice to offer us an option to switch to an oceanfront view in their new tower, which had an amazing view of the beach and the private area where we observed 3 weddings while drinking local ale and munching on pita chips. That’s what I call real life entertainment!

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Since we stayed on the west side of the island, there were no beautiful sunrises over the beach. As most normal hotel residents snoozed in the early mornings, I took a chance to skinny dip at dawn (only once on the first morning, and I kept my bottoms on, but still pretty wild Smile with tongue out).

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We did enjoy some amazing sunsets with the sky turning bright pink.

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Maui has dozens of easily-accessible beaches so, wherever you go, you will hit a beach, some nicer, bigger, sandier than others. We ran out of time and did not get to visit the red and black beaches. I had to settle for the plain beige-colored ones. There is always the next time.IMG_0126

Adventures

One of our favorite ways to explore Hawaii is on foot. We took a couple of awesome hikes this trip.

Seven Secret Pools Hike

This hike is the best on the island and offers a taste of everything you’d ever want to see. It’s pretty tricky to get to and requires driving 25 miles each way on a one-lane windy Hana road. The drive itself is spectacular and filled with amazing views at almost every mile marker. But if you  are prone to motion sickness (like me), than you either take you anti-nausea medication (unlike me), or skip all the stops and try to take long breaths and not think about what your breakfast is doing in your belly. IMG_0298

The hike is about 2 miles each way and starts off with beautiful views of the jungle.

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Watch out for the steep cliffs. Good thing there are signs everywhere, otherwise I might have missed the giant cliff. Winking smile

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About half a mile in, you can deviate from the main trail to take a dip in an infinity pool. Eric chickened out did not want to get his feet wet. It took me about 5 minutes to get in – the water was ice cold and full of pointy rocks. I was proudly posing for my photo as a 12 year old jumped from the overlooking cliff.

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Then you will come across a giant tree where a family of hobbits (or a single Eric) can live.

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There is a bridge overlooking some small waterfalls and a stream.

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The bridge leads you to the most amazing Bamboo forest (which was the best part IMHO).

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The hike ends at a ginormous waterfall.

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Oh, did I forget to mention there were like 5 more waterfalls along the way?

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Plenty of opportunity for scenic pictures and goofing around.

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That’s me pretending to drink out of the waterfall as per the directions of my photographer.

Lastly, more pools at the bottom of the hike filled with tourists (least scenic frankly, but it makes for a great people-watching spot).

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At this point, I’d found two unknown fruits which I were so special that I had to pose with them. Later they were tossed out after concluding that they were rotting mangoes.

Acid Rock Blowhole Hike

Our next hike was not as tropical but still super cool (sadly, all the best hikes are on the east side of the island and I just could not take another two-hour 25-mile car-coaster ride).

We drove about 12 miles north from our hotel and parked on a dirt road to jump like mountain goats hike down to the bottom of the coast. 

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We got as close as we could without getting soaking wet from the waves to see a blowhole spit out 70 feet of water – an ocean fountain. In the first photo the blowhole is dormant, then it’s starting to build up…

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And here it explodes behind me with all its mighty glory.

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After that we drove back to check out the Dragon Teeth which are lava formations right on the edge of a small cliff that looks like a mouth of a dragon (who obviously never brushed his teeth).

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In case you are wondering what I am pointing at, I had a cute but crabby neighbor.

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We hiked along the black rock beach:

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…and came across some pools where the water was calm and warm. Of course I had to climb in while Eric hopped around me from one stone to the next. All that “rocking out” made our backpack roll down into the water, but nothing got ruined.

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Food

As you probably guessed, this is my favorite part of a any vacation and as usual I have taken more photos of food items and me joyfully consuming them than anything else. I think it’s only fair that I don’t attempt to cram them into this post and instead tell the full tale of my culinary exploration in my next post.

[Jane Asks]: What are your Thanksgiving traditions?

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