May 21, 2014

Maui Travel Tip: What to Know About Haleakala

One of the most interesting places to visit on Maui is Haleakala, the 10,023 ft. volcano which makes up the east side of the island.  There are two facts that surprise many visitors:  it is not a dormant volcano, it just doesn’t erupt very often, only every 200-500 years.  (The last one was 200-250 years ago.) And the moonlike depression in the center is not a true crater; it’s simply a product of erosion.  But everyone refers to it as a crater because that’s so much easier to say!
The moon or Maui?
Astronauts actually did lunar landing training here.
Haleakala is not a quick side trip to be checked out on a whim.   The drive one way takes 2-3 hours depending where you start, and the last hour is spent on 25 miles of twisting road and switchbacks.  It’s not a difficult drive, as the road is wide, paved, and well-marked.  And the views are spectacular.  But you have to take your time, and watch for cyclists.  Anyone prone to car sickness might want to give it a second thought.

Here we go!
One of the straighter sections
And you need to know what to expect.  Here are few tips before you head up to the summit:

Bring your own food and drink – It’s at least an hour drive back down the mountain to get to any restaurants or other services. 

Prepare for high wind – I suggest women bring a scarf they can tie around their chin, especially if they have long hair that will poke them in the eye or get stuck in their mouth.  A knit cap works if it fits securely.  Even a hat with a chin strap can get pulled off easily in the strong gusts.

Wishing I had a scarf right now!
Wear sunscreen – The sun’s rays are especially damaging in the thin atmosphere.

Bring layers to keep warm, and raingear or a water repellant jacket – It can be hot & sunny at sea level but wet & misty at the summit.  Even if it’s a clear day, the temperatures are much lower and the wind makes it feel much colder.

Bring binoculars – You will have panoramic views of the entire island, and can even see all the way to the Big Island on a clear day.

Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in the distance
Watch the time if heading out on a trail into the crater - Distances are deceiving because of the lack of perspective, and a landmark may be much farther away than it appears.  Also remember that it will take twice as long to climb back up as it does to go down, and it will feel more strenuous due to the elevation.   Once the sun goes below the rim to cast shadows, temperatures drop very quickly, so don’t head out too late in the day.  (This one I can vouch for from experience!)
The trails down there are much further away than they look!
If you want a truly memorable experience, watch the sunrise from the summit.  This takes an especially hardy traveler, as you have get up insanely early while on vacation, and withstand temperatures that can dip below freezing.  But it’s worth one of the most beautiful and unique sunrises you will ever see.  And to add to the adventure, ride back down on a bike with one of the tour companies!

Sunrise circa 1988. I don't expect it's changed much.
A van full of thrill-seekers parked at the summit.
A nice stop on the way back to sea level is Grandma’s Coffee House, a family-owned business that has been roasting coffee on the premises for four generations.  It’s small and simple, but the food is good and reasonably priced, including  large sandwiches, homemade desserts, banana bread, and of course, excellent coffee.

Lots of Grandma's pies in that case
For helping planning a fun and memorable trip to Maui, contact me at suzette@family-treks.com.

May 8, 2014

The Fairmont Kea Lani - A Little Slice of Heaven on Maui

Kea Lani means “white heaven,” and it doesn’t take long to see how perfect this name is for one of my favorite resorts on Maui.  Whenever I walk into the Fairmont Kea Lani’s beautiful lobby, the Mediterranean style architecture and expansive, lush landscaping makes me feel like I’ve just entered paradise.
Here are some of the other reasons I, and many of my clients, love the Kea Lani:

It’s the best suite value on the island.  All the accommodations are800 sq ft one bedroom suites, and the starting price point is comparable to standard rooms at other hotels.  Other properties have a limited number of suites so they charge premium rates.  The entry foyer and bathroom are also very spacious, so there's plenty of space to store bags, snorkel gear, etc.
One Bedroom Suite (king or two doubles plus sofabed)
Spacious lanai with views of Molokini and Kahoolawai
It’s in a quiet but convenient location. Wailea is a serene, country club setting, with much less traffic than Kaanapali or Lahaina, but there are still many restaurants and shops just a few minutes away.  A stroll along the oceanfront pathway leads to other resorts, offering lots of dining options in walking distance.  In Kihei, just 10 min away, is a shopping center with a full size grocery store and Hilo Hattie's. 
Oceanfront lawn
It’s elegant but laid back.  Everyone can feel at home at the Kea Lani.  Service and accommodations are five star, but nobody is pretentious.

It works for everyone.  There are 3 swimming areas to accommodate all ages: an adults only pool, a two level family pool with water slide and swim-up bar, and a wading pool for little ones.  There are plenty of public spaces, so families can feel comfortable letting their kids play on the lawn and in the pool, while couples can find a quiet spot to relax (including a hidden hot tub).
Family pool, water slide, swim-up bar & grill
Adult pool
Lots of lawn with ocean views,
 plenty of chairs for everyone
It has a great beach. The beautiful crescent beach is public, like all beaches in Hawaii, but since there is no public parking nearby, it gets little use by non-hotel guests.  There is good snorkeling right off-shore, and it’s common to see turtles.
Polo Beach
Complimentary outrigger canoe experience
Oh, those villas! If you want more space and some of the conveniences of home, like a private plunge pool, full kitchen and washer and dryer, then book a 2 or 3 bedroom villa.  There is a large lawn in front, with plenty of space for kids to run around, and the beach is a just a few steps beyond.  They are perfect for larger families, multi-generational groups, or couples traveling together.
Oceanview villas
Villa living room and kitchen
Villa plunge pool

(You can read a testimonial from one of my clients in the the April issue of Virtuoso Traveler.)

Here’s how you can get even more value at the Fairmont Kea Lani:

Register for a Fairmont President’s Club number.  There is no charge, and you get extra benefits including free high speed internet (an upgrade to business premium at the Kea Lani), discounts in the spa and store, complimentary use of bikes, and in-room delivery of Reebok shoes and apparel, yoga mats, and stretch bands.

Let me book your stay so you receive Virtuoso amenities.
 These include daily breakfast for two, an upgrade on arrival (based on availability), and a welcome gift valued at $100.  Plus my fantastic contacts at the resort will personally take care of your reservation, and ensure you have a great suite.
Buffet breakfast
For help planning your Hawaii vacation, contact me at suzette@family-treks.com.

Another day in heaven ends