Maui Trip Report: August/September 2011

Kapalua sunset
Kapalua sunset from Oneloa Bay

As I mentioned yesterday, we’re back from 11 days in Maui. This trip was our fifth to the Valley Isle and, still, we feel like we need to return for new experiences.

I’ll be writing many more details about individual aspects of our trip. In the meantime, I wanted to provide you with a summary of what we liked and didn’t like on this trip in case you’re planning your Maui visit.

Where We Stayed

We spent the first six nights at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. We had high expectations and they were met at this luxury resort. We’ve loved the Kapalua area ever since our first stay in the villas in 2003. By the way, their best deal starts at $399 per night and includes daily breakfast for two. See my full review of Ritz-Carlton Kapalua.

We ended our trip with a four-night stay at the newly rebranded Hana resort, Travaasa Hana. We felt like we’d taken a step back in time to the real Hawaii on a relaxed pace. See my review of Travaasa Hana.

Where We Played

A semi-private, guided-tour of the Road to Hana with No Ka Oi Adventures – Wade’s knowledge and expertise of the Road to Hana definitely provided me with many new experiences that I may not have ever discovered on my own. See my full report on touring the Road to Hana with No Ka Oi Adventures.

We did some great hikes and walks around Kapalua, the Kipahulu area of Haleakala and around Wailea.

Horseback riding along the Hana coast was superb! Jolynn lead us through Hana Ranch land by the coast for gorgeous views. One interesting tidbit I’ll go ahead and share is that Jolynn’s grandfather and friends climbed to the top of Alau Island to plant those curious palm trees you see on top of the island. (See a photo of Alau Island.)

Surfing Goat Dairy Farm – because when you think of Maui, you immediately think of petting goats and tasting goat cheese, right? Winking smile A short tour at Surfing Goat Dairy was a fun side trip in the upcountry and definitely something the kiddos would enjoy. See my review of Surfing Goat Dairy Farm.

Two self-guided garden tours – one at Kahanu National Tropical Botanical Garden off the road to Hana and Kula Botanical Garden in the upcountry. I rate Kahanu Gardens a four out of five with its beautiful coastal views and peeks at the massive Pi’ilanihale Heiau. I rate the Kula Botanical Garden a three out of five. It’s a fairly small garden with some lovely protea flowers.

We tried SNUBA with our friends at Trilogy. Unfortunately, we both failed at this first and possibly our last SNUBA attempt. We snorkeled instead and got to see some honu (Hawaiian sea turtle). So, all wasn’t a loss during our SNUBA experience.

Andy had a blast at the Maui Photo Festival!

While Andy was in the photography festival, I did a bit of exploring on my own. I wanted to go back to Iao Needle to see if I could capture a better photo for our collection. I was disappointed to find that they are now charging visitors $5 per car to park. (Hawaii residents don’t have to pay.) On top of having to pay to park, the restroom facilities were closed. These were the same restrooms that were open and worked back when parking was free. Grr! There was no security in the parking area either. I wouldn’t mind paying such a steep parking fee if they provided security so that your car didn’t get broken into and they had proper restroom facilities. What a rip off that they charge a fee and don’t even offer basic services! They did have a few port-a-johns that were disgusting, of course. (On a side note, just to top off my frustration, someone literally tried to break in the port-a-john that I was using. I had to yell several times that it was occupied. Double grr!)

We got some great spa treatments at Hana Travaasa and Ritz Carlton Kapalua.

Where We Ate

We always aim to try new restaurants with each island visit because we want to be able to provide you with a list of the best restaurants. Here are the new restaurants we tried this time:

Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea – excellent, fresh, relatively inexpensive food in a casual atmosphere. I think I heard about this one from my friend Nathan, after he described his Maui foodie experiences. Andy loved the Banana Cream Pie. He said it was one of the best desserts he’s had in Hawaii. We highly recommend Monkeypod Kitchen!

Star Noodle in Lahaina – Wade from No Ka Oi Adventures told me to try this place and he didn’t steer me wrong. We stopped in for lunch and loved this Asian Fusion fare. Prices were reasonable and the food was very tasty. We highly recommend Star Noodle.

The Beach House in Kapalua on DT Fleming Beach – Believe it or not, there’s not a plethora of restaurants right beside a beach. That’s one of the reasons that The Beach House is so special. The food is very tasty, though not light on your wallet as a burger and fries will set you back $18. The views, oh the views, they make dining here worth it, though. It’s generally only open for lunch.

The Banyan Tree in Kapalua – Good food and good views. The appetizers are very generously sized. We found we didn’t need entrees after having appetizers. At The Banyan Tree, they provide a delicious nut and spice mixture called Dukkah along with olive oil for bread dipping. I kept raving about it to our waiter and he provided the recipe.  If you are a vegetarian, you’ll love all the options available on The Banyan Tree’s menu.

Coconut Glen’s between mile markers 27 and 28 on the road to Hana – Wade of No Ka Oi Adventures stopped here during our day touring the road to Hana and beyond. What a yummy treat to try coconut candy and ice cream made of coconut milk. You really ought to experience this tasty stop off the road to Hana. Here’s my post about Coconut Glen’s off the Road to Hana.

Merriman’s at Kapalua – We actually liked the view better than the food here. The sunset view was super.  I don’t know if we hit this restaurant on an off night, but the food was nice, but didn’t blow us away. For the elevated prices here, I recommend it for sunset pupus (appetizers) and drinks only.

Lahaina Grill in Lahaina town – When I was recently voting for my favorite Hawaii restaurants in the HONOLULU Magazine Hale Aina Awards, I noticed Lahaina Grill was on the list and knew I had to give it a try. The food was pretty tasty, but didn’t knock our socks off. The atmosphere here is very lively, e.g. loud. I think maybe this popular restaurant is not for us because we prefer a more relaxed atmosphere. There’s no view here and parking in Lahaina town is a pain in the rear.

As much as we try to force ourselves to only go to restaurants we’ve not yet tried, we can’t resist going back to some of our favorites. We like to call these visits quality control checks to see if these restaurants still worth recommending. Here are the restaurants we revisited and still love:

Pineapple Grill – We first tried Pineapple Grill in 2009. Everything was delicious! In our opinion, Pineapple Grill serves the best food in Maui. Period.

Honolua Store in Kapalua – We found ourselves walking to the restaurant for a light, inexpensive breakfast almost every morning when we were staying in Kapalua.

The Plantation House in Kapalua– We tried The Plantation House on our very first visit to Maui in 2003 and haven’t missed going there on each return visit.

Haliimaile General Store in Haliimaile – We have a new tradition of having our last Maui meal at Haliimaile before flying home.

I’ll be updating our list of best Maui restaurants soon.

So, that’s the skinny on this trip to Maui. As I mentioned, I’ll be detailing most of these experiences in future posts. In the meantime, do you have any questions about this trip?

8 comments
  1. Looks like you had a pretty full week-and-a-half in Maui. Sounnds like I’m not the only one who has trouble with watersports. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone! My one question is: if the Ritz-Carlton offers breakfast with their best offers, why go to the Honolua Store for breakfast? Why pass up a free meal for even an inexpensive one? Honolua also serves a good lunch–I know, we ate there ourselves!

  2. Sheila, thank you so much for the details. I’ll be staying at the Kapulua Villas connected to the Ritz beginning Nov 2nd. Thanks for such detailed information. This helps alot.
    Will get back to you with questions I may have.

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