Destinations · Hawaii

The little island of Lana’i

Puu Pehe – Sweetheart Rock in Lanai

We were in the early stages of Hawaii trip planning last year when my niece Rachel’s husband, Ben, became the pastor of the United Church of Christ congregation in Lana’i City, Lana’i. Although Ben arrived ahead of the family, by early summer they and their two daughters Eliza and Emi were settled in, and Rachel started work for the Lanai school system. We didn’t want to miss seeing them, so we inserted a night’s stay in Lana’i into the middle of our Maui week.

Lana’i is the smallest inhabited island in the Hawaiian islands and is roughly shaped like an apostrophe. In the early 1920’s it was purchased by Dole Corporation and became the largest pineapple plantation in the United States. The pineapples are gone now. Business magnate Larry Ellison owns the whole island. He took over an existing Four Seasons hotel, and is now trying to transform it into a more health-and-wellness-focused enterprise.

You can get to Lana’i two ways: by airplane, or by ferry from Lahaina in Maui. We chose the latter option, and joined the day-trippers heading for the beach on Lana’i with their coolers and beach chairs. Several people were also headed to the Four Seasons with enormous suitcases. The ferry takes about an hour, and we enjoyed the ride.

A look back at Maui and Lahaina

On the ferry to and from Lana’i, we spotted many whales. On a whale watch tour, the boat stops when a whale is sighted so that everyone can watch it, ooh and aah, and take pictures. A ferry boat doesn’t stop or try to get close. When we first saw a whale on the ferry, I tried to angle for the best picture. For the most part, they were too far away. I gave up, and discovered that I really enjoyed seeing them a lot more without trying to get a picture when they appeared over the water. I just let the whales be, observed them, and scouted for others in the sea.

A puff of water on the glistening sea is all I captured of this whale before I put the phone down.

When we arrived in Lana’i, Ben and his youngest daughter Emi were there to greet us. It was about eight miles up from the harbor to the town of Lana’i City. “City” is really a misnomer for this little village without any stoplights!

The UCC church, with their home – the parsonage – on the right.
Dole Park, across from the parsonage, looking much like the Wisconsin that they left behind

The businesses of Lana’i City are the “houses” lining the park.

The court house!
One of the two grocery stores

The groceries on Lana’i come by barge. If the barge runs late the week that it is expected, the store shelves start to run thin.

Ben and Rachel drove us up further on the mountain for some great views.

Maybe you can just make out the “shipwreck” on Shipwreck Beach at the bottom of this picture. It’s an abandoned barge.
The “breezeway” between the islands of Molokai and Maui
Former pineapple fields
Ben, Rachel, Eliza, Emi, and…wait! What’s Cal doing in the family photo??

We visited Lana’i cemetery.

While we were there, Rachel and Ben did some great “tag teaming”. From the cemetery, we went off with Ben and the girls to hike a trail that Ben wanted to explore and hadn’t been on yet. Rachel met us at the bottom, when we finished, so that we didn’t need to make a round-trip hike back up the mountain.

Rainbow Bark Eucalyptus trees, the first that Ben had seen on the island
Looking down on Lana’i City

The picture above gives a closer view of the Cook pine trees. I’d seen them on the other islands, but not as much as I did on Lana’i. They are what gives the island that “Wisconsin” feel.

Remember that scene at the beginning of the “Sound of Music” where Maria twirled and burst out with “The hills are alive!”? That’s exactly what this little meadow full of wildflowers felt like. We had been hiking through the woods, and then came upon this. In actuality, it is the old golf course for the Four Seasons. We could see golf balls embedded in the path. Larry Ellison has already transformed part of it into two different ropes courses. I think this one looks like an absolute blast:

Has it happened that you saw something on Facebook, and years later, it still stuck in your mind? That happened for me when I saw the Lana’i Cat Sanctuary posted several years ago. The founder, Kathy Carroll, was dismayed about the number of feral cats running all over the island. Having the cats at the sanctuary not only cares for their health but also controls the numbers, and protects the bird population. There are over 600 cats at the sanctuary. Seeing it on Facebook was one of those “ohhh, I wish I could visit” moments and I was purely tickled that I could see all those cats, and the sanctuary, in person!

Joy!

You could adopt the cats, and I picked out a couple that I would have loved to take home, but Rachel and I agreed that any cat would be happier here. Lots of friends to play with, people that visit for affection and attention, trees and structures to climb on, hammocks and other warm places to nap, and food to eat…what’s not to love?

Two cats in a mango tree
A volunteer came into one of the enclosures we were in, and all the cats in there came running!

I could post a whole lot more cat pictures but I will spare you for now. I was delighted to meet Kathy in her husband Mike’s art gallery in Lana’i City, and we purchased one of his pictures to put in our our RV.

My roots are in the midwestern United States. I can’t imagine being able to enjoy every Sunday afternoon at the beach, but that’s what Ben, Rachel, and their girls do. What a great place for kids to grow up. They got into suits, packed up snorkeling and beach gear, food, and off we went to Hulopo’e Beach. Rachel walked us up onto the bluffs, where we were standing on ancient lava flows, for the view of Sweetheart Rock that you see at the top of this blog.

We had fun exploring the tide pools. The more I looked, the more I found: brightly colored fish in the deeper pools, sea cucumbers and anemones clinging to the rocks, crabs, and shells. There is more life in a tide pool than you can ever imagine.

The tide pools at Hulopo’e Beach

By the time we returned to the beach, there was not much time before we needed to catch the ferry, so we didn’t change into our suits. As I’ve said in earlier blogs, we have our suits, but we’re never in the sea!

A great photo taken by Eliza

A large part of Ben’s congregation is made up of families from the Micronesian island of Kosrae. They are mostly employed by the Four Seasons hotel. It happened that on the Sunday morning we worshipped with them, they were celebrating Ben’s one-year anniversary. This was followed by a potluck lunch. Because of Covid, several of the ladies prepared plates for everyone and delivered them out to the church lawn. Mixed in with some of the typical food on my plate were several Kosraean delicacies. It was another of those times when I had no idea what I was eating, but it was all delicious.

Of course, the pastor’s family received a lot of the extra food. Rachel packed a little box for each of us along with an American cupcake. When we arrived off the ferry and back in Lahaina, we dined sumptuously under the big banyan tree. It was a wonderful finish to our Lana’i weekend, and we are very grateful to our hosts for having us. It’s always special to share family time in unexpected places!

Next time – our last stop, the Big Island

Destinations · Hawaii

All Around Maui

Palm trees blowing in the wind near Paia, Maui

Trip planning for our stay in Maui sort of evolved. We ended up staying in two different places during our week in Maui. In Paia, on the eastern side, we were at the beginning of the Hana Highway. Paia tends to get a lot of high winds and is the wetter side of the island, although we didn’t see rain when we were there. Later in the week we moved to Lahaina, on the northwest side, which is where all the hotels and famous beaches are.

There were two small beaches on either side of our condo near Paia and, to our delight, both included sea turtles.

The sea turtles can look like large rocks if you’re not paying attention. We were enjoying some time on the other beach near us when we realized that we were sharing the beach with the turtles.

We discovered the Paia Fish Market restaurant in Waikiki and loved it for the delicious seafood at a reasonable (for Hawaii) price, as well as the Happy Hour mai tais. They have a handful of restaurants around the Hawaiian islands, and we were able to walk to another one in Paia. In Waikiki, I had a blackened mahi mahi over a salad, and it was the best. This shrimp dinner, however, ran a close second.

In Lahaina, we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast, and could walk into town. The first thing that caught my eye in Lahaina was this ancient banyan tree.

It is just one tree, spread over the courthouse lawn by way of aerial roots, and is over a century old. It is the largest banyan tree in the U.S.

I would have loved to delve into the history of Lahaina a little more, but there wasn’t time. The historical buildings we passed on our walk into town were all closed on the day we were there. This was the Seaman’s House, built in 1833, on the commission of King Kamehameha III. A little later it became a hospital for sailors. In the early 1800’s, Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The main road, Front Street, dates back to that time. The street now is typically packed by tourists for shopping and dining.

North of Lahaina, we hiked the Kapalua Coastal Trail. The beach at Kapalua Bay has been rated as one of the world’s best.

We walked on lava beds left by ancient volcanoes, and looked across the water to the island of Molokai.

The boardwalk on this part of the trail was built to protect sensitive dunes. It overlooked beautiful Oneloa Bay.

The trail ended at D.T. Fleming State Park. The beach here has also been rated one of the world’s best, and here we were treated to another view of Molokai.

We took a drive up the northwest side of Maui.

We turned around after seeing Nakalele Blowhole.

Although the drive around Maui’s north shore was nowhere near as challenging as the road to Hana, it did involve some curves and twists and we had been adventuring for a good part of the day. Cal pulled over at a trailhead for a break. The trail at our stop was too inviting, though, so I went off to explore. Thanks to a guidebook I looked at later, I found out I had been in the Honolua Valley, on the trail to Honolua Beach

The forest was hushed, with no sounds except bird songs and rooster calls breaking through the stillness. There was just a little bit of creepiness. Would you keep going if you saw these signs? My curiosity won the day. I’m happy it did, because this walk was one of my best memories of Maui. The light filtering through the majestic trees made it a place of indescribable beauty, and I had to stop and take in the awe of that moment in that place.

I did finally find the beach. It was almost entirely enclosed by the bay, and very rocky.

Back in Lahaina, we attended a luau. Old Lahaina Luau was highly recommended by our bed and breakfast owners. That was maybe because it was within a short walk from there, but still, we enjoyed the evening.

There were several courses to the meal and more food than I could eat. I tried to pace myself and not eat everything in each course, but the deliciousness kept coming. This is not an inclusive list, but the meal included: taro chips with taro hummus, poke, guava rolls with honey butter, roasted pumpkin, a “luau pork” plate which included laulau – pork wrapped in a lu’au leaf and other pork meat, and that came with bland poi to soak up the saltiness, an “entree” plate of chicken, steak, and fish, and a dessert plate which included a mango coconut bombe. Whew! I was feeling bad about all the food I was returning uneaten. Our server reassured me that the luau company has a farm where they grow all their own food. The uneaten food returns to the pigs on the farm. Those must be some fat pigs!

The luau dancers were very entertaining. I can’t imagine knowing how to hula, and then doing it well enough to perform it every night as they do. They were a fine finish to our week in Maui.

Next time – We visit the tiny island of Lanai

Destinations · Hawaii

The Road to Hana, Maui

The Hana Highway, or “the road to Hana”, runs for 52 miles down the eastern side of Maui from the city of Kahului to the little village of Hana. The scenery contains lush and tropical rainforest with breathtaking ocean views. But here’s the kicker: the road is winding and narrow, with 59 mostly one-lane bridges and 620 curves. That’s just one way. Once you get to Hana you have to turn around and do it all over again unless you have a high-clearance vehicle. The road deteriorates into dirt after Hana.

The road to Hana captured my imagination long ago. It was the main thing I wanted to do on Maui. Other people might come to Maui for its world-famous beaches or sunrise on Haleakala, but for me it was that road. We rented a car on Maui but I was not about to subject Cal to the wicked drive; we both wanted to just enjoy it. I found an Airbnb in Paia, on the road to Hana, nine miles from the Kahului airport where we flew in, thinking that would be a handy place for a tour to pick us up.

I booked the tour through Valley Isle Tours and found out that there was no pick up in Paia. Tours do not generally just pick people up off the street, they pick up at hotels. I realized when we arrived that there are no big resort hotels in Paia and, anyway, our tour started out with breakfast at the Maui Tropical Plantation. We had to drive there, on the other side of Kahului, to meet our group. Almost everyone else had already been picked up at the tourist hotels on the east side of Maui. No matter to us, Paia was a beautiful stay in and of itself.

We had a delicious continental breakfast at the Maui Tropical Plantation.

This is called “The Gear Pond” and contains equipment salvaged from two sugar mills. Back in the day, sugar cane production was an important source of income for Maui.

There were twelve of us in a van with huge windows for our tour. Nothing much bigger than a van would fit on the road. We set off, back past Kahului, past Paia, and we waved hello to our condo.

We made a first quick stop to view some beautiful rainbow bark eucalyptus trees. They were brought to Maui as a wood burning source for the sugar industry, and are now considered invasive. The bark of the tree sheds annually to expose the green inner bark. As it matures, it changes into different colors.

We drove on, with rainforest on one side, ocean on the other.

Our next stop was Aunt Sandy’s for banana bread. Munching on banana bread while enjoying the sights is a don’t-miss thing on the Hana Highway. Our little loaf was still warm from the oven.

Ke’anae Park is just down from Aunt Sandy’s.

Back on the road, we went through a switchback with a beautiful waterfall.

We had some time to wander around more waterfalls at Puaa Koa State Park. On our way back, later in the day, this was a swim stop. People were in the water here and we watched a couple brave souls jump from the top of the falls.

I stopped to admire a red ti leaf, and put myself in the picture to show how tall it was. Residents use the red ti leaf for landscaping.

I guess looking at waterfalls makes you hungry again, because next up was a stop at Coconut Glen’s for ice cream. Of course we had to sample some because they make their own. I had one scoop each of the coconut and pineapple banana. Lots of coconuts were laying around to make more ice cream for the tourists.

Cal is always happy when he has a dish of ice cream in his hands!

There are only a handful of red sand beaches in the world, and we went to one of them. The cinder cone hill above Kaihalulu Beach has iron in it and is constantly eroding.

Crabby but cute!

After our lunch stop we headed to Waianapanapa State Park for its black sand beach. This park was my favorite in the day for its stunning beauty.

The lava rock here was huge and in interesting formations.

We had changed into swim suits because this was supposed to be a beach stop. Upon getting down to the beach, we discovered that the waves were too rough and only the bravest were willing to negotiate them. As usual, we are always ready for a swim but we never end up in the water.

No matter, there was a lava tube here which I wanted to explore.

It was a little scary at first only because I didn’t know where it was going to come out. I was on my own with this one because Cal was more interested in watching the wave action. It was high and wide enough for several people to be in there at once. At first there was only a shaft of light from the entrance, but then the tube curved around and ended at the water. Wow! That was pretty amazing.

The guide had kept up a running patter of conversation all day about what we had been seeing. He was an incredible font of information about every mile on the road that we covered, including names of all the plants and trees, native Hawaiian culture, and family members that lived on the road and that he had spent time with as a child. We drove through Hana, a picturesque little town. It would be fun to stay in a Bed and Breakfast in Hana, but I wouldn’t want to have to drive the road to get there. We passed a taro farm. After all the taro I had seen or eaten to that point, it was interesting to see.

On the ride back, however, our guide largely fell silent and made us listen to his crooning along with the music he played over the loudspeakers. I suppose you have to do what you need to do when you drive the road to Hana every day. We did have one more stop and, ironically, it was not far from our condo. We were able to see sea turtles here.

There were cars and people everywhere, but these turtles had found a quiet and secluded spot. The beach here was popular for windsurfing.

What a spectacular day we had on the road to Hana. Cal was very happy he didn’t have to drive!

Next time – more Maui adventures!