Saturday, March 01, 2008

Maui

I am happy to report, Maui is still here in all of its beauty. As the plane descended I could see it spread out below, resplendently green, looking like a tropical version of Ireland.

In some ways it seemed like a longer flight than the one to Australia last year, even though it was a good eight hours shorter altogether. I think that is partly because the flight to Australia was on Qantas, and the seats were appreciably larger with a lot more leg room!

DH and have been coming here since 1982 - before we were even married. In the early 80's, as some of you may remember, it was the heady time at the dawn of the "frequent flier" era. Free tickets abounded, with airlines fighting over who had the best awards. At the time, DH was going on numerous business trips to California and piling up miles galore on United Airlines, and I did some traveling of my own. And back then, for 75,000 miles, you got two free FIRST CLASS tickets plus four nights free at a Westin hotel.

The airlines even had deals where you could get these free tickets by traveling a certain number of flight segments in a given amount of time, which encouraged the dedicated frequent flier to opt for flights with several "legs" rather than non-stop direct flights. Once, in order to earn my next free ticket to Hawaii, I was short two segments and time was running out. So we booked the shortest flight we could find, which was from Hartford, Connecticut to Providence, Rhode Island. We drove the 2-1/2 hours to Hartford, and DH waited there while I got on the plane, flew to Providence, stayed on the plane, turned around and flew back to Hartford. I got off the plane, $90 poorer, but richer by two segments that earned me a free ticket to Hawaii. A worthwhile deal.

This bounty translated into several memorable trips to Hawaii for us.

Our first trip was in November of 1982; we visited four of the Hawaiian islands in 12 days, to see the differences between them, as neither of us had ever been here before. We spent two nights on Oahu (had to see Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial), two nights on the Big Island of Hawaii (stayed right by the active volcano in an old hotel called the Volcano House, where Mark Twain once stayed), four nights on Maui (in the Westin Wailea hotel, for free) and then five nights on the Garden Isle of Kauai.

We loved all of the islands we visited, but realized we liked Maui the best, as it had the perfect combination of natural beauty and good restaurants!

Since then we've made numerous trips back to Maui, have visited the much less touristy island of Molokai (the location of the now-defunct leper colony run by Father Damien), and even taken a day trip by catamaran to the island of Lanai, which at that time was mostly pineapple farms; now it has several expensive luxury hotels.

There have been many changes, of course, since we've been coming for the past 25 years. The airlines have all cut back drastically on both their frequent flier awards and the services they offer on the planes. Now we would have to use some huge number of miles to fly first class, so we opt for coach. And where we once were served by flight attendants garbed in Hawaiian Aloha shirts for the men and flowered dresses for the women, they now wear traditional uniforms like any other flight attendants. Gone are the orchids on your tray (yes, you got them even in coach) and the macadamia nuts. Heck, we didn't even get peanuts on our flight this time! And we had to buy a sandwich. Oh well, with Hawaii, it's all about the destination, although it was nice when the journey was also a pleasure.

Maui itself has seen changes too numerous to mention, but being me, I feel compelled to mention some of them. In 1982, the town of Kihei (which is where the condo we stay is located) was a sleepy little town with no traffic lights, with a narrow two-lane road sparsely populated by locals who would drive along at about 20 miles per hour, in no hurry whatsoever, on island time. There was one mall, called Azeka Place, and a couple of small restaurant complexes of reasonably priced, unique food. One was a great place called The Outrigger, which was right on the beach. Another was La Familia Mexican Restaurant, which had a happy hour at sunset and everyone would gather and drink frozen margaritas and watch the sun set on the bay across the road.

There were a number of condo complexes tastefully situated along the beach, with stretches of natural brush and terrain in between. The ocean was visible for most of the drive along the road.

Today South Kihei road is lined on both sides with enormous strip malls populated with fast food chain restaurants, grocery stores and souvenir shops, and farther up the road, many additional condominium complexes on both sides.

There is a whole other highway that has been completed that runs parallel to the original road, also lined with condos and shops. There are several street lights on Kihei Road, the road has been widened, and the traffic could be in New Jersey as it whizzes by. Now they are widening the road from the airport to a four-lane highway.

That's the bad news. The good news is, we don't have to go there once we get our groceries and stock up for the week (or two, depending). The condo where we stay is the last one, on North Kihei Road, and beyond it is nothing but wilderness.

The rest of the island is much as it once was. Drive through green fields of sugar cane to the eastern side of the island and there is none of the modern chaos that little Kihei has become. Drive up the Haleakala Highway to the top of the dormant Haleakala volcano and enjoy the peaceful, starkly beautiful terrain. Drive around the back of the island, through the artsy little town of Paia (home to ex-hippies and surfers who enjoy the waves at the beach there), through the rain forest to Hana, then back via the other side of the volcano, where the mountain slopes steeply down to the sea, punctuated with a few cinder cones that formed 200 years ago in the last lava flow.

Drive to the "upcountry" where the weather is cooler and the views spectacular, and the old cowboy town of Makawao beckons with its little shops and boutiques and several good restaurants. Walk on the beach past the Kealia Pond Nature Preserve and watch the whales spouting in the bay. Explore the old County Seat, Wailuku, home to a local theater group and some great Thai food.

Yes, it's all still here, as long as you close one eye to the overdevelopment that threatens ominously in certain areas. If it is kept contained where it is, Maui will continue to be the island paradise it always has been. Let's hope the good people of this island know the gem that they have and don't allow it to be sullied irreparably in the name of progress.

On a more mundane note, I am happy to report that, as you may have guessed, our condo has wi fi and I am able to both blog and read blogs! So my vacation is complete! I'll post some pictures when we get around to downloading them. Yes, we've already taken several!

I am continuing to watch the news about the upcoming primaries and have read that Obama and Clinton are now in a dead heat in Texas. I'll be following this closely in the news and on the blogs!

23 comments:

Omyword! said...

How perfect. Mauigirl is in Maui. Yay! I know you'll have a wonderful time and thanks for making me feel like I was there again, even though I haven't been there since the 70s!

Liz said...

Sounds wonderful! Have a great time and come back relaxed and recharged. With lots of photos!

Mauigirl said...

Great, glad it's bringing back memories! The 70's must have been really wonderful here.

Thanks, Liz, will take lots of pictures and share them!

Dorothy said...

How wonderful, don't work too much Hawaii is magnificent. We haven't been back for over 4 years. Made me want to go again.

Looking forward to seeing your photos..

My best, Dorothy from grammology
remember to call gram
www.grammology.com

Larry said...

You can take the city out of a city girl, but you can't take Maui out of Maui girl!

DCup said...

Lucky you! You are in one of my favorite places on the planet!

Enjoy!

Distributorcap said...

aah Hawaii -- america's shangri-la. sounds great

i have never been there.....yet

i remember those frequent flyer reward days in the 80s and 90s --- i fly a lot for work and had piled up over 500,000 miles in like 2 years. i went to Europe TWICE! (once business class) and actually gave a friend mileage to the caribbean as a wedding present since i had so many miles.

and the segment thing. i once flew from dallas to houston VIA KANSAS CITY to get more segments! and since i always flew american (and texas was my territory) no matter where you went you had to go back to Dallas.

Dr. Zaius said...

You are so lucky! We are going to have an ice storm here. Please post pictures!

Femail doc said...

Maui and wifi, sounds like heaven. Snowing like mad here, big fat flakes piling up fast. Looking forward to pictures!

Mauigirl said...

Hi all! I promies to post some pictures in the next day or two - DH has to download them as I never know how to do that (too lazy to learn). He took some shots of whales out in the bay this morning, I think one of them may actually look like a whale tail so I'll definitely show that one!

DCap, thanks for sharing your memories of the old days of the easy free tickets. I love your segment story. I think my husband took a convoluted trip like that once to get the segments too.

Dr. Z and Femaildoc, thanks for letting me know about the ice storm and snowstorm...makes the weather here all the more enjoyable, LOL!

Dorothy, I think you should plan a trip here as soon as you are able to! You will definitely deserve it!

DCup, it is hard to beat these islands, that is for sure. I love Maui and am also really looking forward to going back to Kauai next week as we haven't been there for 20 years and really never explored it completely.

Larry, I try to always keep a little piece of Maui in my heart when I'm away!

Inarticulate Fumblings said...

OK, that's it! We have been to 30+ countries but after reading this post, we have no doubt that Hawaii is on our "up and coming" list (state or not!!).

TomCat said...

Maui, it sounds like you're having a blast, so I'll wear my sweater and envy you. On the down side, Bush is still pResident. :-(

TomCat said...

PS - look here:

http://politicsplus.blogspot.com/2008/02/award-for-excellence.html

Mauigirl said...

Tomcat, yes, he's still there - but not for that much longer! ;-)

Thanks so much for the award over at your place! I will be sure to pass it on!

Candace said...

Sigh. What a dream vacation! Are you a "Lost" fan? They film it on one of the islands over there, but I forget which. Looking forward to pics!

Kuanyin said...

Welcome Home! How do you like the vog? :-) Seriously, this is the worst vog I've ever seen and keep waiting for it to magically disappear.

FranIAm said...

Sounds perfect. I have been to Oahu 7 times (6 of them on business) and to Kauai 3 times - 2 of them over the weekend when I was in Honolulu for business.

Anyway, I want to come to Maui one day.

As for the freq flyer stuff, I remember those days. They are LONG gone!

Mauigirl said...

Inarticulate, I just realized I didn't respond to your comment - you definitely must come here! And explore all of the islands while you're here - they are all different and wonderful in their own ways.

Candace, I was watching Lost a bit in the beginning but found I was getting "lost" if I missed an episode because then I didn't know what was going on! I wonder if it's filmed on Kauai; it has a lot of rain forest and the beaches are more deserted than those of Maui. Kauai is where a number of movies, including South Pacific, were filmed.

Kuanyin, I hadn't noticed a lot of vog here although Monday it was kind of hazy - maybe that was from vog? (For anyone who doesn't know, vog is the fog that is caused by the volcano on the Big Island).

Fran, you got a lot of good trips for business! The best one I ever got was to San Francisco one time. Another time I got to go on an advertising shoot in LA, which was fun. But usually my trips are much less exciting!

TomCat said...

You're most welcome and quite deserving.

Christopher said...

Maui (like all the Hawaiian islands) is simply splendid.

I love Maui and the trip to the peak of the mountain in the center if the island. I think it's the highest point in Hawaii.

Kauai is glorious and maybe my favorite. It's smaller, and so diverse, with the Na'pali cliffs and the 400 waterfalls, and Waimea canyon on the other side. Even the Cocoa Palms resort is whimsical and retro.

Heck, I love Honolulu. Oahu is a treasure trove of great finds, from the urban to the remote and such a great vibe.

I could definitely live there.

Mauigirl said...

Thanks Tomcat!

Christopher - I know, it's hard to decide which island is the best, isn't it? We actually came here thinking we might buy one of the condos in the place we stay, as an investment and eventually a place to retire to - but found out that because it's leasehold, and the lease runs out before we'd be dead (LOL!) that the math just didn't add up. Apparently there is no guarantee the landowners have to renew the lease. So perhaps we''ll look on Kauai! We would definitely like to live in Hawaii in our retired years!

Freida Bee said...

Aha- My Statcounter did not lie and you are in Hawaii. You are so lucky there's wi-fi. I had no such luck on my last vacation.

Mauigirl said...

Hi Freida Bee! I know, it's frustrating not to have it. When we go to Cape Cod we are always trolling around town looking for wi fi to hook into as the cottages we stay at don't have it.

Next week on Kauai I'm not sure we'll have it directly in our condo but the website for the place says they have a wi fi hot spot so at least I'll have access somewhere!