I've been going through all sorts of #SLAMsquad2016 (SLAM = Stephanie, Lily, Alana, Molly) withdrawals as of late. Spending a week or so in Maui with some of my favorite humans was nothing short of glorious. Growing up in a place most people refer to as paradise, I'm not sure I fully grasped how lucky I was until I moved away. And honestly, I kinda forgot how fortunate I really was until this last trip home, when I was able to look at Maui through fresh eyes. Visiting Maui with two Maui newbies, Molly and Steph, was in some ways like visiting Maui for the first time. Watching Steph and Molly take in the deep blues of the ocean, the powder white sand beaches, and the mesmerizing sound of waves crashing on the rocks, I felt myself falling in love with Maui all over again. It's easy to forget how magical it is to look up on a quiet Maui night and watch the stars sparkle brighter than you thought imaginable if it's something you've been doing your whole life. And to share all of that with friends? Dreamy.
From left to right, top to bottom: Molly sipping on a garden-to-glass cocktail from The Banyan Tree, rainbow shave ice from Ululani's, me and Steph enjoying some post whale watching Dole Whip soft serve, humpback whale's tale, the beach in front of The Ritz Carlton, mini poke cones at The Ritz Carlton, Steph dipping her toes in the ocean in Kapalua.
If you're wondering why it's taken me so long to share our Maui experience with all of you, it's because every time I sit down to tell you about it, I get wrapped up in all the wonderful times we shared and get lost reliving all those moments. I mean where do I start? I could start by telling you that our first stop was Tamura's Fine Wine where we picked up poke bowls (yes, from a wine shop) or that our second stop was Oluwalu to eat our poke bowls on the beach and dip our toes in the ocean before running back to our Jeep with sandy feet and full bellies. I could tell you that the car buzzed with the anticipation of all that was to come and that we were all smiling from ear to ear, despite the fact that we had gotten up way too early that day to start our adventure. I could even tell you about how Steph and I giddily ran (literally ran, the asphalt was crazy hot) into Longs Drugs barefoot to pick up Local's slippers and sunscreen. But all of that doesn't even begin to sum up our first few hours on Maui and if I kept sharing at that pace, I'd be writing a novel, not a blog post. So instead of penning a novel, can I share the top ten reasons I re-fell in love with Maui?
From left to right, top to bottom: 'ele'ele kalo (taro) growing at Hoaloha Farms, Lily walking into Aloha Farm Stand at Maui Tropical Plantation, Molly, Lily, Steph, and I in the pineapple fields, Maui Gold pineapples, fresh produce at Aloha Farm Stand, 'ele'ele taro root at Hoaloha Farms, rainbow in Makawao.
Reasons I fell in love with Maui all over again (in no particular order).
1. Whale Watching. TBH (to be honest), it's been at least a decade, probably closer to two, since I last missioned out on a boat to watch for humpback whales. Whale watching season in Hawaii is from November through May, but in reality most of the humpback whales head back to Alaska around April. I crossed my fingers and toes that we didn't miss them and thanks to the skilled Trilogy crew, we spotted quite a few!
2. Shave Ice. I used to stop for shave ice after almost every Sunday hula performance and continued to do so long after, but, enjoying it with friends who were experiencing it for the first time, what was familiar and comforting quickly became exciting, exotic, and extremely addictive. Think macadamia nut ice cream and pillowy soft mochi balls topped with powder fine shaved ice, heavenly syrups flavored like mango, lychee, lilikoi (passion fruit), and coconut, and a light (or generous) dusting of li hing mui (salty dried plum) powder. While we visited a couple spots, my favorite shave ice is def from Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice!
3. Kalo (Taro) Farm. Visiting Hoaloha Farms was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Bobby Pahia radiates passion and you can't help but marvel at the beauty of the kalo (taro) fields. It's hard to believe that at one point there were over 300 varieties of Hawaiian taro growing throughout Hawaii!
4. Ritz Carlton Spa. Before you go judging me on this one, know that I have only had one facial in my entire life and hated it. Hated it because my skin broke out and I was not the least bit relaxed while receiving the treatment. My facial at the Ritz Carlton Spa in Kapalua forever changed my view of all spa treatments. I left the spa feeling refreshed and my skin really did look bright and glowy thanks to the combination of Eminence Organics and the capable hands of my facialist.
5. Pineapples. I've never actually visited a pineapple farm until this last trip home, but it was so much fun eating freshly picked pineapples in the fields with my girls!
From left to right, top to bottom: view from my room at the Grand Wailea Hotel, shave ice from Local Boys Shave Ice, me wearing the lei po'o (lei for your head) I made at Feast Maui, close up of the lei po'o, Haleakala sunrise, me taking in the view from Haleakala wearing my favorite Incase camerapack, baby goats at Surfing Goat Dairy, pastry haul from La Provence, pastry case at La Provence, baby goat at Surfing Goat Dairy, loaded fries, salads, and burger from Maui Fresh Streatery, Sheldon Simeon's Hearts of Palm Dish from Ag Fest, Iao Needle at Iao Valley State Park.
6. Haleakala Sunrise. Waking up at 3 somethin' in the morning to drive to the top of a mountain isn't usually that high up on my list of anything, but trust me when I say it's worth it to see the sunrise above the clouds! Watching the sunrise on Haleakala is one of my all time favorite things to do when I'm home and it never gets old. It takes your breath away every single time!! Local tip: post sunrise, head to La Provence in Kula for some of the best pastries on Maui (they open at 7 am).
7. Ag Fest. Maui County's Ag Fest takes place on the first Saturday of every April and is held at the Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapū. It's an awesome event that brings together farmers, chefs, and the community while celebrating Maui's agriculture and the role it plays. The girls and I were lucky enough to attend and help judge the Grand Taste
8. Poke Bowls. If you know me, you know I love me a poke bowl and being part of Molly and Steph's first Maui poke bowl experience was everything. We stopped at Tamuras Fine Liquor but I also highly recommend Oki's in Foodland Kahului. Local tip: take that poke bowl to go, grab a Hawaiian Sun, and post up at the beach.
9. Iao Valley. Lush doesn't even begin to describe this place. Just west of Waikapu, Iao Valley State Park is magnificent with an abundance of greenery, ice cold ponds, and the iconic 1,200-foot Iao Needle. The girls and I took a much needed hike through Iao Valley and as cheesy as it might sound, emerged refreshed and rejuvenated.
10. Feast. Maui is a small island, so small in fact that one of my favorite new finds, Feast Hawaii, is produced by my middle school soccer coach! Feast is an event series that pairs local Maui chefs with inspiring artistic experiences such as wreath and lei po'o (leis or wreaths for your head). On our last night together on Maui, the girls and I attended Feast's Spring event at Lumeria Maui and learned how to make lei po'o and were treated to a beautiful vegetarian meal. It was the perfect way to end our stay on the island!
Above: Steph, Lily, and Molly stepping on stones in Iao Valley.
A huge mahalo (thank you) to Visit Maui for an incredible week in the Valley Isle!