MauiOn The Road - Maui
Maui Is More Than Just A Pretty Face
By: Jules E. Beuck and Rose Botkin-Beuck
Photos by: Rose Botkin-Beuck

When Hawaii is mentioned some of the things that immediately come to mind include sun, surf and sand. In our never ending search to bring our readers the information they need when planning a trip around the block or around the world we dragged ourselves over to Maui. Maui is a gorgeous island, but it is more than just another pretty face. We will now let you know what you can do in addition to taking advantage of the sun, surf and sand.

We spent much of our time on the Western shore of Maui. There you tend to find yourself in the city of Lahaina. This is a town that reminded us a lot of the city of Avalon on Catalina Island (this is not a bad thing). There are a number of shops and bistros for folks to spend their money. There is also a pier where from various excursion tours leave.

One of the first things we did was take a ride on a submarine. Atlantis Submarine runs continuous tours from Lahaina Harbor. Now this is not a semi-submersible sub (although that is offered in Lahaina as well), but an actual submarine that totally submerges and takes you on a tour of the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. You board a water shuttle at the harbor and are taken out to meet the sub. The shuttle rendezvous with a tugboat that acts as a stabilizing anchor for the sub. In this way it is easier for customers to access the submarine.

You have to be able to climb down and up a ladder to access the sub. When fully loaded, the submarine submerges 135 feet and travels the ocean bottom. We saw many species of fish from the sub's port hole windows. Every person has a window seat and we were able to take good pictures through the window.

A guide narrates and describes what is being seen. If you get to sit forward enough, you can look out the captain's window as well as the window in front of you. One of the things we found out is that nautical predators use the sub as a shield so that their prey will not be able to detect them until it is too late.

Atlantis Submarine owns a sunken ship and the sub took us over to see it. It was very interesting to see how many fish have taken up residence in the sunken ship.

The submarine is run on electric batteries so there is no polluting of the ocean. The experience was very cool, we highly recommend it and it is one we would love to repeat. Find out more at www.atlantisadventures.com or call (808) 973-9815.

After getting off the submarine we walked around Lahaina's Front Street. We stopped in at the Lahaina Heritage Museum located in the Old Lahaina Courthouse. The museum has the original Hawaiian flag that was taken down when Hawaii became a US territory. It had been saved by the postmaster on duty at the time and was returned to Lahaina in the 1950s by the postmaster's son. There are a number of exhibits on the history of Hawaii and Lahaina in particular. In back of the museum is part of the foundation of an old fort and many cannons that were scavenged from sunken ships and used to defend the island.

MauiIn front of the museum is a Banyan tree that is 123 years old. With the care and help of local residents it has grown to become very large and intricate. We cannot describe it in enough detail to give it justice. Sufficient to say that it is very impressive to view. Admission to the museum is free and hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Those are some of the things you can do in Lahaina during the day. Now let us move on to things to do at night. Lahaina is not one of those towns where the streets are rolled up at dusk, there are plenty of places to eat and enjoy nightlife. Many of the usual restaurant chains are located in Lahaina so if you are looking for something familiar there is much from which to choose.

However, if you are looking for something that is unique to the island, then David Paul's Lahaina Grill is the place for you. This upscale bistro opened in 1990 with 55 seats, it now sports 155 seats. The tables are set with linen tablecloths that are themselves covered with butcher block paper. The lighting is muted and impressionistic paintings line the walls. A bar area is in the front while you wait for your table and there is a pastry bar in the back.

Hot sourdough rolls and garlic butter are brought to the table as you try to decide what to order.

We started our meal with a Dungeness crab and tiger prawn cocktail that was just superb. The cocktail sauce was a bit spicy but worth it. For our main dishes we ordered Kona coffee-roasted rack of lamb and steak Christian.

The steak Christian is a filet topped with a potato wrapped prawn served on top of garlic infused mashed potatoes. The steak was tender and delicious and the mashed potatoes definitely added to the meal.

The rack of lamb was tender and also served on the garlic mashed potatoes. Both meals were garnished with steamed carrots and asparagus.

For dessert we had the sorbet sampler (three types of sorbet whose flavors are regularly rotated) and the turtle caramel cluster ice cream, which is served in a twill almond cookie cup.

We do not drink alcohol, but for those who do there are two wine lists and there is a sommelier on hand to help with your selection.

Our experience at David Paul's was a good one and one we recommend. Go to www.lahainagrill.com or call (800) 360-2606 for more information.

We also caught a very unique show in Lahaina called "Ulalena." Put together with the help of the folks at Cirqué du Soleil, "Ulalena" combines Polynesian entertainment with Cirqué du Soleil panache. The show blends Hawaiian myth with Hawaiian history as it tells the story of the island of Maui with acrobatics, music and dance.

The stage is equipped with elevators and a turntable to move the actors around. The narration is in English but most of the singing is in Polynesian dialects. There are numerous costume changes and props.

At one point a rainforest comes to life to perform as a  percussion ensemble. There is visual humor, such as when the half hog Kamapua relentlessly pursues the volcano goddess Pele and seriousness when the island natives are introduced to firearms by Captain Cook.

"Ulalena" is educational about Hawaii in general and Maui in particular, in ways that a traditional Luau could never be. It is not as busy as a usual Cirqué show but in some ways this enhances the show. The show is presented Tuesday through Saturday at 6:30 p.m. It runs a quick 75 minutes. Call toll free (877) 688-4800 or go to their Web site at www.ulalena.com.

This only scratches the surface of what Lahaina has to offer, but that is for our next visit.

Not all of our time on Maui was spent on Lahaina. One day we decided to turn our rental car south and explore some of what Maui has to offer besides Lahaina. Maui's highways are basically two lane affairs with plenty of stoplights, so if you have the need for speed Maui is not the place for you (at least not on land). However, there is lots of beautiful scenery as you pass the ocean on one side and mountains on the other. Driving in Maui kind of reminded us of traveling Highway 1.

Our first stop on our jaunt was the Maui Ocean Center in Wailuku. As its name implies the Maui Ocean Center is an aquarium dedicated to the marine life of the Hawaiian Islands. The Center opened in 1998 and has continued to expand its offerings ever since.

MauiAt the Center you will find exhibits such as the Living Reef and Hammerhead Harbor. In the Open Ocean exhibit there is an acrylic tunnel where you can look into a tropical tank and watch as sharks and giant rays float over your head, similar to Shark Encounters at SeaWorld. This was the first time we had actually gotten to see a ray from underneath. The Center has a special offer for certified scuba divers. For a fee, divers get to dive into the 750,000 gallon Open Ocean tank and swim with the sharks and rays. This is a chance to swim with marine life not often seen when diving in the ocean. Family members can watch the divers in action from the tunnel. You never know what animals will be in the tank, as the Center constantly rotates animals back to the ocean.

One exhibit we particularly enjoyed was Turtle Lagoon. Here green sea turtles on loan from the Center on Oahu swim in a viewing tank that allows visitors to watch the turtles on top of the tank or through a view window as they dive to the bottom of the tank. This exhibit is part of a hatch and release program where these magnificent creatures will be released back into the wild.

There are two restaurants at the center. The Seascape Ma'alaea Restaurant has a varied menu that runs from Cajun seared ahi to fettuccine carbonara. You can enter the restaurant from inside or outside the park. For quick take out there is the Reef Café.

Between SeaWorld, the Long Beach Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we in California are kind of spoiled when it comes to venues of this type. The Maui Ocean Center still has enough unique exhibits that a visit there would be worthwhile. For a $2 rental fee, you can get a digital audio guide that will narrate information on what you are looking at. We took advantage of the guide and found it quite helpful.

For more information on the Maui Ocean Center go to their Web site at www.mauioceancenter.com or call (808) 270-7000. It is open every day from 9 a.m. Closing hours vary by season.

After the Maui Ocean Center we drove over to the Lao Valley State Park. At this park you can take a walk to view some of the waterfalls for which  Hawaii is famous. It was raining the day we got there, so we did not feel comfortable taking the walk because we were not sure of our footing so our stay at the park was short. We did get to see some interesting rapids though.

From the State Park we went to the Maui Tropical Plantation. Here we got to take a tram ride through this plantation where they have a small field of most of the money crops of Hawaii such as papaya, guava, mango, macadamia nuts, coffee, avocado, bananas and sugar cane. There was even a coconut husking demonstration in the middle of the tour. The driver explained what the crops were and their history in Hawaii.

Also at the Plantation are two spider monkeys. It was never explained to us what the significance of the monkeys to the plantation was. Only one was out the day we were there, but it was very active and quite entertaining. It seemed to like the attention.

You can learn more about the Maui Tropical Plantation at their Web site www.mauitropicalplantation.com or by calling (800) 451-6805. We thought the plantation was cool and will go back should we get back to Maui again.

MauiAfter a day as busy as that we were tired so it was back to the hotel to sit by the beach and watch the sunset.

Now we would like to tell you about some adventures in the air and on water, as well as a traditional (at least for tourists) luau we attended.

Let us start with our adventure on the water. We have mentioned the beautiful sunsets on Maui. We thought it would be cool to check one out while on the water. Consequently, we found ourselves at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel to catch the Trilogy Excursions Sunset Sail. Unfortunately for us we picked a night that was overcast with choppy water.

However, in the tradition of the show must go on we still got a twilight cruise even though there was no real sunset to be seen. Trilogy Excursions works hard to give a complete experience. Included in the ticket price is a two hour ride on a 54-foot catamaran, hot and cold appetizers (there was enough for us to actually make a dinner out of what was offered), cold beverages and filtered water.

The ride was rather bumpy, in fact it kind of felt like a two-hour roller coaster ride. Fortunately, the sky was clear enough to be able to enjoy the scenery of the islands that were visible. For those brave enough there were a couple of trampolines on the catamaran for folks to stretch out on as they enjoyed the ride.

The staff was friendly and courteous and answered all questions put to them. We found the experience to be a fun one and one we would not mind repeating (hopefully on a day with smooth waters and a gorgeous sunset). Trilogy Excursions offers a number of sailing tours in addition to the sunset sail. Go to their Web site at www.sailtrilogy.com where they have some Web specials or call (888) 225-Maui.

Our adventure in the air was courtesy of Alex Air. Alex Air has been in business for more than 35 years and offers helicopter tours of Maui and surrounding islands. The helicopters seat about five or six passengers. Alex Air provides headsets that not only let you hear the pilot's narration about the facts, history and legends of what is being flown over, but also allows the passengers to interrupt and ask questions (which were always answered patiently).

The day we took the tour we were supposed to fly over Maui's volcanoes and east end but (again) Mother Nature was not with us, as it was cloudy and overcast. Consequently, our pilot took us over the west end and Molokai'i. He was able to fly in close to waterfalls that might otherwise be seen from a distance or only be reached by a day's hike. He took us over spots that had been used in the making of "Jurassic Park" and other movies that had been filmed on Maui or Molokai'i. At the end of the tour we were given a video of Maui as seen from their helicopters. For your own Maui adventure in the air go to their Web site at www.helitour.com or call (808) 871-0792.

On our last night on Maui we took in the Drums of the Pacific Luau and Show. The show featured traditional Hawaiian dancing and presentations such as fire eating and dancing. The unearthing of the luau pig and tiki lighting were demonstrated. The plentiful buffet not only had shredded pork, but beef and chicken as well (not to mention the ever-present poi). There were samples of songs and dances from such Polynesian cultures as Samoan, Fijian, Tahitian, Tongan, Maori and, of course, Hawaiian. This show is at the Maui Hyatt Regency. Call (808) 661-1234 or go to their Web site at www.maui.hyatt.com for more information on the luau.

One place we wanted to get to but ran out of time for was Ali'i Kula Lavender. This is the only place in the world that has certain types of Lavender that bloom all year round.

"People want to see, touch and learn about Lavender," says owner Ali'i Chang, the Lavender Engineer. "Lavender is kind of mystical and mysterious to many. We've found that people are interested in learning about lavender, and began offering Garden Tea Tours and Garden Culinary Luncheon Tours as part of our agricultural operation to educate the public of its uses. We currently have over 45 different varieties of lavender."

The farm offers walking tours - often led by Ali'i himself - that begin with lavender tea and lavender scones (custom lunches for individuals or groups also are offered, as are wreath making tours). Call (808) 878-8090 or point your browser at www.aliikulalavender.com for more information.

That covers Maui but we did leave Maui for a fun day on the island of Molokai'i.

It is no secret that the islands of Hawaii are popular vacation destinations. People love to go there but when they come back they often bemoan the fact that Hawaii is getting too built up and commercial. Molokai'i is still unspoiled and charming while offering all that lures people to visit Hawaii.

Molokai'i can be reached by either island hopping from Maui or O'ahu or by ferryboat from either island. We took the Molokai'i Princess from Lahaina Harbor on Maui. The seas were pretty rough but it was still a fun ride and on our way back to Maui we actually saw a rainbow over the ocean.

MauiWhile on Molokai'i we visited the Coffees of Hawaii coffee plantation where we picked up some souvenirs for friends back home and walked a huge white sand beach. We had the whole beach to ourselves and were amazed at this beautiful spot that goes unused and unappreciated.

At the Molokai'i post office we were able to "post-a-nut."  You are actually able to mail coconuts from this post office. We mailed three, including one to ourselves.

Molokai'i has a lot of historical significance. For example, formerly a leper colony where the famous Father Damien resided, Kalaupapa is now a National Historic Site and still home to the few former patients who chose to remain there. Access is, by law, strictly regulated to those 16 and older, and only permitted if invited by a resident or by tour via Damien Tours of Kalaupapa. This is something we left for when we return. For more information, visit the National Park Service's Web site www.nps.gov/kala

Molokai'i is home to the only barrier reef north of Australia. It also sports the highest sea cliffs and numerous waterfalls.

There is an annual hula festival as the island is considered the place where hula dancing was invented.

We did not stay overnight on Molokai'i, but checked out a couple of places to do so for when we return. The Lodge at Molokai'i Ranch is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. It looks like a ski lodge that slid down the hill to a beach. It is very elegant. It will provide you with all the luxury you can handle.

We also visited Hotel Molokai'i. At Hotel Molokai'i we enjoyed lunch and found that this facility with A-frame cabanas gives the full Hawaiian experience without taking a big bite out of your wallet. There are traditional luaus, free Hawaiian entertainment, a gorgeous beach, full service restaurant and concierge service, outdoor pool, and hammocks on the beach. Go to their Web site at www.hotelmolokai.com for more information.

On Molokai'i you can golf, surf or do any of the things that you go to Hawaii for without feeling that you are being squeezed out. Driving the island is a breeze because there are no stoplights.

Molokai'i is a Hawaiian hidden treasure that will take you back to a Hawaii unspoiled by time. For more information about Molokai'i contact the Molokai'i Visitors Association at (808) 553-3876 or at www.molokai-hawaii.com.

The trip definitely rocked and like all good trips it left us wanting to go back for more.

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