It took me 52 years and 6 days but I finally made it to Hawaii. All in good time, I reckon—it’s probably a good thing I didn’t visit the islands in my prime or I may never have come back to the mainland. Had I gone when I was younger I’d have likely ended up either working as a sandwich artist at Subway or unsuccessfully pitching time-shares; living in a van down by the beach, and surfing (though likely not very well). I’m well past my prime now, however, and I feel mostly confident that I can enjoy Hawaii occasionally without it becoming a threat to my current lifestyle and commitments on the mainland.
I’ve always had a vision that Hawaii would be akin to a sort of Fantasy Island and my expectations were handily exceeded thanks to splendid travel companions, and perfect weather the entire week we were there. Actually any weather in Hawaii would have been an improvement over the dreary crap we left behind when we took off from Sea-Tac International aboard a Hawaiian-themed 737. Western Washington had just received (another) deluge of unseasonably warm weather and heavy rain that caused our limited mountain snowpack to melt and rivers to flood. It seemed the best way to deal with the Pineapple Express was to go straight to the source and confront it head-on. Upon touching down on Maui it was immediately clear that we’d made the right decision.
We did the typical touristy thing, staying on Maui at The Whaler at Ka’anapali beach. Our 3rd floor room (Tower 2, room 373 to be exact) may not have had a grand ocean view, but we did have a unique view of the loading dock area and dumpsters: a glimpse into another side of paradise that most tourists never imagine exists. The garbage and delivery trucks came and went with the rhythm of the ocean, affording me the opportunity to connect with the working folk on the islands. This kept me grounded—a reminder that even in paradise, people have to work.
To be fair, I should note that we did have an alternative ‘garden view’ and even a peak-a-boo view of the ocean if we leaned over the railing of the lanai and stretched our necks.
Our room was spacious and well appointed: a full kitchen allowed us to prepare a few meals in exile from the expensive restaurants that could be found up and down the beach. We knew going into it that Hawaii comes at a cost—I’d been told that everything is expensive, and it was. But it was worth it. This was a family trip that included Mrs. UA and our two children. Schpanky would turn 21 while we were there so that was a bonus feature of the trip. We were joined by good friends who’d been to this very spot several times before and had things dialed in. It came as a relief to have someone else making the important decisions so that all I had to do was tag along, enjoy the occasional Mai Tai, perhaps a few Longboard lagers, and a cup of Island Vintage Coffee each morning—all without a care in the world. The toughest decision I made all week was which Hawaiian shirt to purchase: I labored over the decision for several days, but in the end the fish theme won out. It somehow seemed fitting, and it was also the cheapest of the contenders so it had that going for it as well.
What the trip was not was a fishing trip, and frankly I didn’t mind. It seems I don’t fish much any more anyway, so this vacation was a nice continuation of that theme. We kept busy frolicking in a wide variety of other ways and when we weren’t busy with specific activities we simply lounged in the sun on the beach, and occasionally by the pool. Just being there in the perfect 78-80 degree weather was enough—anything beyond that was gravy. With regard to structured playtime we did spend a half-day with Kapalua Ziplines, which was great fun after the fear of equipment failure (and subsequently plummeting to one’s death) went away. Mrs. UA was dreading this activity but even she managed to enjoy herself, after the initial run.
If you’re ever on Maui and want to do this sort of thing I highly recommend Kapalua Ziplines—it was only a few short miles north of Ka’napali so we didn’t have to waste precious hours getting to and from the place. There are some great views to be had from 2000 feet up a mountainside, so that alone was worth the excursion.
While the ziplining was fun, the highlight of the trip for me was, and I can probably speak for everyone else, a snorkeling excursion on our next to last day on the island. Our Island Boss (aka Cruise Director) booked the trip on the Queen’s Treasure, a gorgeous 65′ catamaran that picked us up on the beach right in front of the hotel. We boarded at 9 AM and ran south to Olowalu Reef. The ocean was exceptionally calm and it only took us about 45 minutes to reach our destination. Olowalu Reef is one of the top snorkeling locations on Maui and it quickly became clear why. I won’t go into detail—you can find scads of info if so inclined—but suffice it to say it was amazing. The weather could not have been better; the lack of wind made for exceptional underwater visibility and lighting.
I was a SCUBA diver many years ago. All my diving was in the cold, dark waters of the Pacific Northwest (Puget Sound and the San Juan islands); never in tropical waters such as what we encountered on Maui, where visibility seemed nearly endless. This was my first opportunity to use my Nikon AW1 under water and it performed better than I had hoped. Aside from the ‘auto’ mode, the AW1 has several “creative modes” for shooting in a variety of conditions: this includes an underwater mode specifically for snorkeling and diving (to a depth of 49 feet). Mind you I am merely a hobbyist photographer, but I think you’ll agree that the photos below are pretty darn good (no Photoshop was used other than to crop a few of the images and add my © watermark). We snorkeled in water that ranged from approximately 8 to 25 feet deep, filled with breathtaking underwater scenery that included coral, reef fish and more reef fish. And turtles (more about the turtles next week). I’d have loved to see some of the Manta Rays that inhabit the reef, but that was not to be. For now let me leave you with a few shots of various reef fish we encountered (click to enlarge the photos if you feel so inclined)
Anyway, mahalo for stopping by.
Jump ahead to Part II if so inclined.