Rob Oxford: If Not Today, To Maui

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles warming themselves in the sun
at Ho’okipa beach

Text and photos by Rob Oxford

“I just flew in (from Hawaii)…”, but unlike radio personality Robert Q. Lewis (who famously coined the phrase),…“my arms aren’t tired”. I am, however, ready to go back and at the time of this writing, it’s only been a week.

This is my second trip to the island of Maui and neither trip would have been possible without the expertise, planning, and generosity of my in-laws. They’ve made Maui a regular destination for the last several years and going with someone who knows the “lay of the land” certainly has its advantages.

As a kid in Texas, our Spring Break destination was always Mexico. Usually Cabo, Cozumel, Puerta Vallarta, Cancun or Matamoros, just across the border from Brownsville, TX. I’ve been everywhere south of the border and I’ve always had a great time. But now, after having experienced the splendor of the 50th State, I see no reason to go anywhere else in search of paradise.

Luau at the Grand Wailea

Our first trip to the island as a family was three years ago and over before we knew it.

Sunset at Lahaina

We tried to do everything, spending more time in our rental car than we probably should have, but there’s just so much to see. Beautiful picturesque beaches, palm trees and lush green hills where sugarcane and pineapple once grew in abundance.

Now, if you’re expecting a history lesson, you’ve clicked on the wrong link. I’ll leave that for the locals who grew up on the island.

Some will have a different perspective on tourism and the growth and development of Maui, but the fact of the matter is “if you leave it as you found it,” none should have a problem with your visiting.

Yes, Hawaii can be expensive. But if you know how to budget, it can also be the trip of a lifetime.

A common first stop for island visitors is the Costco in Kahului. If you’re staying in a B and B or Condominium, stocking up on breakfast, lunch and snack items is essential and will save you money for dinner out at any number of fabulous restaurants.

Because most everything is shipped to the island, items most of us take for granted can be extremely expensive. Running across the street to the little market in Kihei (where we stay) because you ran out of milk, can set you back $8.00 for a half gallon.

Parking lot security at Costco

The Costco is also where you’ll find great deals on beach towels, snorkeling gear (which if you indeed purchase, you’ll need to remember must be carried back with you on the plane) and discounts on everything from luaus to Whale Watching tours. Also, they have the best parking lot security on the island.

Once you have arrived at your home away from home and unpack, the pool or beach is most often your first destination. Make sure you pack your swimsuit last, so it’s easy to find.

After a few days of soaking up the sun and if you have access to a vehicle, you may want to take a drive and head “upcountry” on the Hana Highway.

Just before you reach Ho’okipa Beach you’ll find the famous Mama’s Fish House. Although one of the more expensive restaurants on the island, the food, service and views are why this particular destination is recognized world-wide.

At Ho’okipa itself, you’ll find dozens of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles warming themselves in the sun and some of the best waves on the Maui coastline.

Kevin Cabrera and Ehukai Awo
Lifeguards at Ho’okipa

A mecca for surfers of all ages since the 1930’s, you’ll also find Kevin Cabrera and Ehukai Awo, two of “Maui’s finest,” constantly on alert for surfers in distress.

A little further up 36 (Hana Highway), the quaint little hamlet of Paia has several interesting shops and is home to Charley’s.

Famous for welcoming many notable musicians to its stage, Charley’s is also where Willie Nelson has breakfast…”eggs over with a side of bacon” when he is staying at his place on the island.

Charley’s is also known to have hosted some pretty interesting celebrity card games in the past.

Paia is also where Pat Simmons Jr. (son of Doobie Brothers co-founder Pat Simmons Sr.) grew up and where he is raising his family.

I was fortunate to hear Pat perform during my recent trip and credit him with explaining to me what it means to “live aloha”.

Pat Simmons, Jr. and son Malu

To reach the artist village of Makawao and somewhere, the well-hidden vacation home of Oprah Winfrey, you’ll need to take Baldwin Ave. or Hwy 390 out of Paia.

There, local artist Sherri Reeve, with her colorful creations, has caught the eye of another island resident, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.

Famous for his fashion statement, Steven can occasionally be seen wearing some of Sherri’s brightly colored shirts and scarves.

Another must see is Haleakala National Park. 10,000 feet above sea level, the crater is famous for its breathtaking views, especially at sunrise.

Although the drive is manageable on your own, there are several companies that offer tours complete with hotel pickup, drop off and breakfast at the famous Kula Lodge. For the more adventurous, cycling down the mountain is also an option provided by several tour companies.

Snorkeling with Triggerfish

Before deciding to take the “Road To Hana,” one must understand that most of the stories are true.

The road is narrow and winding, and those who travel it daily have very little patience for the “Malihini” or tourist, wanting to soak up every single nuance of the upcountry.

Most of these people are NOT on vacation and after a long day at work, simply want to get home to their families.

That of course is understandable, but the “Road” offers a view into Hawaiian life not seen from the beach towns of Kihei or Lahaina.

The roadside stands of fresh fruit and flowers, the Bamboo Forest or the Seven Sacred Pools must all be seen to be believed.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Because you are up at 5:30am and still on Pacific Time, pop into the Cinnamon Roll Place on S. Kihei Road… they know me quite well, I can assure you. Later on, its Cones on Kihei.

If these delectable waffle cones and the hand-dipped ice cream are good enough for Alice Cooper or Clint Eastwood, they’re good enough for you.

1967 Shoreline High School
graduate Captain Don Burns

It would be extremely difficult to pick a favorite adventure during our recent trip, but at the very top would certainly be snorkeling with the crew of the Seafire.

Owned and operated by 1967 Shoreline High School graduate Don Burns, the trip out to Molokini Crater is incredible and extremely affordable. Equipment, snacks and knowledgeable narration is provided by a staff who absolutely love what they do and it clearly shows.

So, if you’re a fan of sea creatures, this is a must! Dolphin, White-tip Shark, Moray Eel, Humpback Whale, Green Hawaiian Turtles and every color of tropical fish you can imagine only inches from your mask.

Not to be overlooked is a day trip to Lahaina. With its rich history including the Banyan Tree, the Lighthouse (originally built in 1866), Bubba Gump Shrimp, Margaritaville, Kimo’s, the various outlet and jewelry stores that line Front Street, (Mick) Fleetwood’s Restaurant and the accompanying Morrison Hotel Gallery, Lahaina’s unique charm makes it a desired destination for people from all over the world.

Finally, if you’re wanting to really experience “Hawaii” and the true feeling of Ohana (family), there are any number of luaus happening nightly that will provide an abbreviated but informative look into the Polynesian culture. You can’t beat good food, the hula and a mai tai at sunset.

I truly hope that very soon you’ll get the opportunity to visit Hawaii. When you do just remember to “leave it as you found it”

Mahalo nui loa


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