How is it already September? It still feels as if summer just arrived and now we can already feel fall nipping at our heels. I can’t believe the season of BBQing, slip and slides, and road tripping is nearly over. That being said, I feel as if we’ve taken full advantage of the summer months. Let’s do a little recap.
If you haven’t noticed, we have been racking *Fuel Rewards® savings to use at participating Shell stations. You can still earn Instant Gold Status if you sign up for the Fuel Rewards program and immediately start saving 5¢ per gallon (up to 20 gallons per visit). I can’t tell you how much we’ve saved by simply keying in our rewards number at the pump. Our Fuel Rewards savings have allowed us to take our summer travels even farther.
As you can see, our summer was both hectic and glorious. We’ve had our fair share of adventures both at home and abroad. And if there’s one aspect that has been consistent with each month, it was the sheer amount of miles we’ve invested on the road. We’re still enjoying watching our savings stack up with Shell and the Fuel Rewards program. Our only wish was that there were Shell stations for us to use on our European adventures. Imagine the savings!
Start saving and sign up for the Fuel Rewards program here. It’s free and took me about 60 seconds to complete. You can even link a card to earn more savings on your everyday purchases. Plus, once you’re signed up, you can send your referral link to friends and family so that they can join the Fuel Rewards program. The first time a friend uses the program by earning a reward or using their card at a participating Shell station, you’ll instantly earn 25¢/gallon. Watch your Fuel Rewards savings add up. There’s no limit to how many friends you invite or how many times you earn. And stay tuned to see how far our Fuel Rewards savings take us this fall.
Thanks for coming along on our summer travels. We’re excited to spend some time at home and truly embrace the autumn season. Our house already smells of cinnamon and joy.
Now that I’m older, more established, and have a baby, I tend to search for hotels based on comfort and quality. If the property comes with chic decor and caters to my inner interior designer, even better. I don’t know what rabbit hole I fell down when I came across Marriott’s Autograph Collection’s newest hotel, The Laylow. I was scrolling through Instagram late one night and was instantly enamored with the bright palm wallpaper of the hotel’s bedrooms. A quick internet search yielded photos of stunning mid-century modern decor (my favorite!), in-room ukuleles, a retro coffee shop, and a vibrant tiki bar. I was instantly sold.
As you know, we’ll take any excuse to visit Hawaii. Our latest trip took us to Oahu to film a secret project (details coming!) that we’re so excited to share with you. Once the project wrapped, we had a week on the island and decided that it was the perfect time to stay in one of Waikiki’s newest and hottest hotels.
We only had one night available to spend in Waikiki and knew that it had to be at The Laylow. Check-in was a breeze and we definitely felt the aloha with the vintage hula dancers greeting us at the counter. I think I need a wall like this in our home.
Chris wasn’t exactly thrilled at spending only one night at a hotel. I told him to trust me and that it would be worth it. Boy, did I show him. He was instantly enamored with the cool vibe of our room and the special touches that made it feel like a home away from home. The bookshelves actually had books on them (which shouldn’t be an anomaly when you think about it) and the ice bucket was accompanied by a stylish golden pineapple (which are so in right now). Our room also came with a working ukulele. I was able to knock out the three songs I can play and Holden obliged us with a little dancing. Thanks for the confidence boost, kiddo.
All in all, if we were to ever be fortunate enough to live in Hawaii, I’d want to decorate our home with the same aesthetic of The Laylow.
While we were perfectly situated near the beaches and nightlife of Waikiki, we only left the hotel to eat dinner. Other than that, we literally hid out at the aptly named hotel bar, The Hideout, and spent time in the pool. It was exactly the break that we needed from our busy filming schedule the week before. And bonus: Holden actually voluntarily got in the pool. He saw Chris swimming and I could barely throw his swim diapers on him before he practically tossed himself in. You guys, we finally have a water baby!
And our stay at The Laylow wouldn’t be complete without trying coffee from The Hideout. We should have known it was going to be delicious as soon as we heard that the beans come from Stumptown Roasters. My latte was perfect. So perfect that I put it on my list of top five coffees I’ve ever had. That’s high praise coming from someone who hunts down java around the world and lives and breathes the stuff.
The Laylow is definitely a hotel that we’ll stay in again. We really enjoyed the retro laid back vibe and how you truly feel that you’re escaping the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. Even with the mid-century modern touches and stand-out decor, we found our room to be incredibly child friendly. There was very little that Holden could get into. In fact, we simply pushed the drink tray back from its perch on the tv stand, and we were good to go.
The Laylow is win-win for those that want to be near all of the fun and sun of Waikiki, yet have the option of a calm and relaxing escape. We stuck with the latter and have no regrets. With a room as cute and comfortable as ours, why would you want to leave?
What do you look for when it comes to a hotel? Do you value price or comfort more? Let us know in the comment section below.
Once our son arrived, we knew that we needed to introduce him to Hawaii immediately. We figured the best opportunity would be for my grandma’s birthday. Holden was six months old, already an expert flier, and the perfect age for an ocean introduction.
Or so we thought.
We were so used to traveling at our usual baby-free pace that we encountered quite the wakeup call when we arrived on Oahu with our son. Turns out, babies aren’t big on road trips. They don’t particularly enjoy watching you eat shave ice, malasadas, OR pancakes. In fact, since Holden was living solely off of mama’s milk, he couldn’t have cared less about what we put in our bodies. Oh, and the beach? That was a big no-go. The sounds of the waves and the cool ocean water sent our little guy into a panicked frenzy. We had never seen him scared of anything before. It broke his daddy’s heart but the truth was that our baby was terrified of the ocean (even though he loved eating the sand).
Needless to say, that trip didn’t exactly go as planned. It was another great lesson in how our lives change once we have kids. That doesn’t mean that traveling with a baby isn’t feasible or fun. You just have to alter the way that you travel to accommodate your wee wanderer.
Enter the new Discover Your Aloha tool. Expedia and The Hawai’i Tourism Authority partnered to bring future Hawaii visitors a unique way of exploring the islands. Using cutting edge facial recognition software, guests are invited to watch a short video while allowing the program to monitor their facial reactions. Once the video is finished, the viewer is then assigned a Hawaiian animal guide. These guides offer unique perspectives and recommendations for each island.
If Chris and I were to have taken the test a few years ago, we would have definitely been assigned Pua’a as our animal guide. Pua’a, the pig, is known as an adventurous pioneer. Pua’a is the type of guide that recommends climbing hidden waterfalls, ATV adventures, and swimming with manta rays to his guests. While we still love a good adventure, our focus has shifted. We are now more excited to share the world with our sweet babe than to go surfing at Waikiki or ziplining down a mountain. Our Hawaii animal guide reflected that shift in our priorities. Both Chris and I were assigned He’e as our animal guide. It’s no surprise that He’e, the octopus, is the warm hearted guide that loves providing fun and intimate experiences for his guests. He’e’s focus is to share the aloha of the islands with those closest to him. Perfect.
Armed with our recommendations from He’e, we were prepared to take this trip at a slower pace. We still managed to fit in all of our usual activities on the island, but we spread them out over our entire stay instead of one or two days. And thanks to He’e, we also added two new stops to our itinerary.
Chris and I had actually visited Kualoa Ranch previously when we were on Oahu for our honeymoon. While Kualoa offers a wide variety of adventure activities (from horseback rides to ATV adventures), we opted for more family friendly tours. To make the most of our trip to Kualoa, we booked two tours with the buffet lunch in between.
Our morning adventure was the Catamaran Boat Tour that launched from Kualoa’s Secret Island. The ninety minute tour had us cruising around the windward side of the island. We sailed around Kaneohe Bay, searched for baby turtles in the reef, and took photos of iconic Mokoli’i island (locally referred to as China Man’s Hat). Holden thoroughly enjoyed his first boat ride and seemed to like the soft breeze that came across the water. I was grateful that we chose the morning sail as we probably would have roasted if we went out in the heat of the day.
Once we docked, we were ushered to the dining hall where two large buffet tables greeted us. Chris and I piled our plates with kalua pig, steamed rice, ribs, shoyu chicken, chili, and delicious kimchi. We barely had enough room for the pineapple upside down cake- but don’t worry, we managed. After lunch we had an hour to kill before our second tour. Holden napped in his stroller while we wandered the ranch and hung out with a few of the resident horses.
Once it was time, we jumped on a large bus for our afternoon Hollywood Movie Sites Tour. This was an activity that I was really looking forward to. Some of my favorite movies have been filmed at Kualoa. It was fun to see where blockbusters like Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, 50 First Dates, and Battleship were shot. We even stopped and took pictures in front of the Jurassic Park sign.
Holden did surprisingly well. There were other babies on the tour and he had fun smiling and laughing with everyone on the bus. He got a little cranky towards the end and eventually passed out on my lap as we made our way back to the office. We were really proud of the little guy as it was a long day and he maintained a smile and his charm throughout the day. Full disclosure: he passed out hard on the way back to our hotel.
The second big recommendation we received from He’e was a trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center. The last time I had been to the PCC was nearly ten years ago. I was thrilled at the opportunity to go back with my husband and son in tow.
The Polynesian Cultural Center is a theme park that features-you guessed it-the Polynesian islands. We sprung for the Ambassadors package which included entry to the park, a buffet dinner at the Ali’i luau and dinner show, and tickets (with prime seating) to the “Ha: Breath of Life” evening show. The park is composed of six authentic villages from Pacific cultures: Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii, Fiji, Aotearoa (New Zealand), and Samoa. Each village offers a variety of traditional performances and games to wandering guests.
We walked from village to village, sampling traditionally made treats in Samoa, twirling poi balls in Aotearoa, and throwing spears (Chris’ personally favorite) in Tahiti. Holden (clad in his adorable aloha shirt) was entranced with every stop and loved interacting with the traditionally dressed villagers. Our travels through Polynesia worked up quite the appetite and we were more than ready for dinner once it was time for the Ali’i Luau.
The Ali’i Luau did not disappoint. The buffet featured all of my favorite food from the islands. We piled our plates with kalua pig (traditionally cooked underground in an imu), lomi lomi salmon, fresh poi (that Holden scarfed down!), taro rolls, braised teriyaki beef, and honey-roasted sweet potato topped with shredded coconut. I was worried that the luau was going to be kitschy and over the top, but I found the food to be authentic and the performers engaging. There were even fire dancers!
Holden’s bed time happened to hit near the middle of the “Ha: Breath of Life” evening show and we ended up sneaking out a little early in order to avoid a meltdown. I think we were all exhausted from our day of adventure at the Polynesian Cultural Center. As soon as we arrived to our hotel, our heads hit the pillow and we were OUT.
While our trips to Hawaii have been modified with the arrival of our tiny traveler, we have to admit that we absolutely loved this trip. Holden was at the age where he was curious and engaged. It was fun to witness Hawaii through his eyes. We can’t wait to see what he thinks of our next visit.
Stay tuned as we continue to discover our aloha on Oahu. Next up, a tour of the three stunning properties we stayed at while on the island.]]>
Byodo-In Temple is a replica of the temple of the same name just outside of Kyoto, Japan. It was built in 1968 as a way to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. Byodo-In actually means, “Phoenix Temple.” This is delightful because the phoenix is a personal emblem of mine. I’ve worn a small phoenix pendent on a wrist cuff for the majority of my life.
The temple grounds are tucked at the base of the Ko’olau mountains. Curled like a tiger at the foot of the sheer cliffs this hidden sanctuary is a perfect spot for reflection or just to escape the chaos of Oahu. At the entrance to the temple there stands a massive bell, like a sentinel. You can pull back the large log hanging before it and ring the bell for good fortune. Personally, my favorite part is to buy a little bag of koi food at the gift shop and feed the fish and birds. It is supposed to bring good karma, but it was is a sweet way to spend an hour in the heat of the day. The low peal of the bell pulses through the grounds, filling each corner with its music.
When Tawny and I stumbled into this little spot back then I didn’t know what an impact it would have on us. As Tawny stood in awe of the old growth bamboo forest that laps at the edge of the temple I snapped a shot of her.
Today, this shot is our touchstone for Oahu. It the line by which we measure our lives.
Now, we come back to Byodo-In every time we return to Hawaii. That ends up working out to be around 2 to 3 times a year. Each time we take the same shot.
This errant quest for something new has turned into a tradition all our own. Something from her island that we discovered. This last week we took our usual picture and it was markedly different. We have a new addition to our crew and a part of our story that is fully unwritten. Six months along, Tawny looks a little bit different now. The reality of us having a baby is starting to hit me like the clear ring of the bell at Byodo-In.
It is impossible for me now to not consider what traditions our little man will consider important. So many of the traditions and stories that my own parents gave me are navigation aides in my adult life. Every time I go on a hike in a cedar forest I take a piece of bark from the trees for protection, all because of ghost story my father made up when I was a child. I double honk my horn each time I drive away from a friend of family member’s home before a big trip because my mother always did on the family ranch. These little customs are part of the fabric of my life and are woven into the folklore of my existence. Soon they will be my son’s too. Will he come back to Oahu, years after Tawny and I are gone, and mark his life by the growth of the bamboo? What will he glean from us?
Some day my son will inherit my phoenix pendent, as well as the tradition of this temple. The symbolism is too thick not to savor.
Travel is intrinsic to my life, and to Tawny’s life. It is who we are in so many ways. As we chart our next year I need to start considering the unforeseen echos that each journey will have on shaping the form of my kid, on the man to come. It’s a little heavier than just looking up cheap airfare, but wildly more exciting.
While I have no idea what is to come, I do know (with complete certainty) that I am excited for it. I am proud of this tradition. Whether it resonates with him or not, I am happy to give this little piece of us to him for his own story.
Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
There have been so many times that I wanted to just hire a professional like Ben Herndon to follow us around and make us look AMAZING. As it turns out though, that is an option.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Flytographer, they are the premier travel photo company. You book a session in a city that you’re traveling to, set up the meet, and then one of their uber-talented photographers (usually a local) shows up and captures you and your family/lover/friend/pet in action. You can book 30 minutes to 3 hour sessions or do a custom shoot. What you end up with is 15-90 flawless frame worthy shots to let you remember your trip forever. We hooked up with Flytographer in Slovenia last year and had such a great time that we decided to do it again this year to mark our babymoon.
My favorite part is how stunning the shots are. Tawny and I use our Slovenia shoot for everything from Christmas cards to marketing material. We have them framed and set as desktop backgrounds, etc.
Don’t just take my word for it though. Get ready to have your mind blown by sexy romance and take a peak at the results of our shoot on Maui below. Then go out and book a Flytographer shoot. We give them our highest review.
Click A Picture to Expand Gallery
To see our Slovenia shoot CLICK HERE.]]>
In the memory, the pool was a magical place with hidden hot springs steaming at the peak of small volcanoes and with rope swings and sandy beaches.
“Over the years I even began to think that perhaps the pool was a fantasy. After all I couldn’t even remember where I was when I visited it.”
This is burned into my mind. Now that I’m 30 I know how childhood memories can distort like a water stained picture left in the flooded basement, becoming grander than the reality we see as adults. Over the years, I even began to think that perhaps the pool was a fantasy. After all, I couldn’t remember where I was when I visited it. I used to tell Tawny about sliding down lava tubes and riding a giant inner tube up the caldera of a volcano as it filled with water. She approached these memories with an acceptable level of skepticism.
Two years ago, we were invited to come stay at the Grand Wailea on Maui. The property is so intricately designed and thoughtfully laid out that you feel like you’re entering a dream or a work of art. The resort begins with a waterfall as you pull up and a massive statue of King Kamehameha, spear in hand. As you enter the massive open air complex you are surrounded by water and a lush jungle. The sky pours into the courtyard and bronze figures of Hawaiians blend with the shadows. The real magic for me though began when we turned the corner and saw the pool.
As we came over a small river studded with languid koi, the pool began to take shape. It was instantly as if 20 some years melted away like cotton candy in the rain. It was all there. The river, the bridge, the pools, the mosaics. Not as I had remembered them. They were even grander.
As it turns out, my mom had brought me here over two decades ago for a medical conference she was attending. The pool was as real as I had imagined it.
*Be sure to click and drag the photo for full 360 experience!
Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
You can start at pool #1 and take a series of slides down to the main pool. Through rapids and winding rivers, all along jungles and past caves and grottos. Better yet, the grotto has a full bar in it! Something I had completely missed as a child. The thing that truly blows my mind is the water elevator. Yes. A water elevator. The world’s first. There is a small silver door at the base of a two story volcano. When the keeper of the door waves you in, you swim into the opening and find yourself in the center of a volcano with a massive inner tube inside that has seats on it. Find a spot and take a seat as the volcano starts filling with water. In the course of about 5 minutes the whole caldera fills up and you can swim out at the upper most pool. In essence, you could go from top to bottom of the pool all day and never leave the water. Trust me, I know. I’ve done it.
My favorite thing to do is to get a floaty ring and drift along the lazy rivers all day long, stopping only to pick up a pina colada or to hit up one of the seven water slides.
I could honestly spend an entire day in this pool. The part that excites me the most is the thought of our own little baby on the way. (Tawny did want me to mention a special disclaimer that she is in fact six months pregnant in the video.) Here I am, thirty years old, and I am instantly transported back to childlike wonder and elation the moment this pool comes back into view. It’s like meeting an imaginary friend in real life, or finding out that magic is real. That is a gift that I cannot wait to give to our own little man soon.
The Following video is shot in 360. Please make sure to use a compatible browser. *It should NOT look like a wide squishy panorama. It should move when you move your smart phone or use the toggles on your video screen.
Both of my parents were essentially raised on the island of Oahu. It’s where they met, fell in love, and eventually had me. Hawaiian culture is prevalent in our day-to-day lives. I still remove my shoes when I enter a house. I speak pidgin with my grandmother and other relatives still residing on the islands. I’ve taught Chris to say “pau” when he’s finished with something and “ono” when a meal is particularly delicious. And SPAM, rice, and eggs is one of my favorite breakfast meals of all time.
I have always felt close to the islands and I’ve really enjoyed introducing Chris to the nuances of Hawaiian culture. It’s been even more fun to explore new islands together. Just in the past two years, we’ve been to Hawai’i (commonly referred to as the Big Island), Kauai, and Lana’i- all islands I had never visited before.
As a child, I had been to Maui a few times but remember very little. Fortunately, Chris and I had the opportunity to visit last year for the first time and quickly fell in love with the island. We were thrilled when we learned that we were going to go back for our annual Expedia Viewfinder summit and this time we’d be with some of our favorite friends and travelers (click here to check out our fellow Expedia Viewfinders).
With a full seven days on the island, we knew we would have plenty of time for fellowship, exploration, and food. Lots of food.
I captured a few of my highlights and posted them to our Instagram account:
A photo posted by Tawny and Chris (@captainandclark) on
This is how we #pictureMaui. Look at the view from our home for the next 7 days at @GrandWailea Ho’olei A photo posted by Tawny and Chris (@captainandclark) on
Making beautiful leis at @FairmontKeaLani. They smell amazing! #PictureMaui A photo posted by Tawny and Chris (@captainandclark) on
A photo posted by Tawny and Chris (@captainandclark) on
Red sand beaches of Hana. We dig them. #PictureMaui #TeamHana A photo posted by Tawny and Chris (@captainandclark) on
A photo posted by Tawny and Chris (@captainandclark) on
While our last trip to Maui was simply magical, this time was a little different. In so many ways it was even more special than the first. I think what set it apart was the people that we were able to share the island with. Chris and I loved coming back to our Grand Wailea Ho’olei Villa that we shared with Kent and Canaan from No Vacation Required. It was fun to just hop over next door where Rick and Sandi (Midlife Roadtrip) and Kara (The Vacation Gals) were staying and borrow a cup of
sugar wine. This sense of community–if only for a few days–really made Maui seem like home.
The best part was being able to share Maui with friends. To watch as they hunted for the perfect malasada. Or to be there when Sandi tackled her fears and stood proudly on her board while SUPing at Makena Point with Hawaiian Paddle Sports. I loved watching our troop make their own personal bowls of poke and witnessing everyone’s creativity emerge while stringing our own leis.
Meals were obviously a personal favorite. Whether it was a locally foraged dinner at the Grand Wailea’s Humuhumunukunukuapua’a or unique Hawaiian fusion at The Fairmont Kea Lani, there’s nothing better than good food enjoyed with great people.
What I took away from our time on Maui was that I have an overwhelming pride in my culture… but also in these people that I have come to call family. I feel so blessed to be able to work alongside this talented group of travelers and writers. I love our camaraderie and sheer love and respect that we have for one another.
And this. I love this photo that the NVR guys took. I feel like it encapsulates all of the love and excitement we have when we’re together.
#TeamHana ready to hit the road for a #picturemaui day! Excited to see what #TeamUpcountry is up to. #lethawaiihappen A photo posted by NVRguys (@nvrguys) on
“She used to talk about her great-grandfather, George, who was the first of her family to come to Hawaii from the Philippines. He was a stowaway on a merchant ship.”
I had never been to Oahu before Tawny came along. I had been to Maui, and docked once on the big island to refuel for an around the world voyage, but never Oahu. When Tawny and I first started dating she always told me stories (mostly about the food) of Oahu, the land of her birth. She used to talk about her great-grandfather, George, who was the first of her family to come to Hawaii from the Philippines. He was a stowaway on a merchant ship. All of these were stories she used to entice me to go with her. It wasn’t until we got engaged that we started to talk seriously about coming to the island together, not as stowaways, but as a real couple. This trip is now my third time to Oahu, and it feels different.
I wasn’t prepared the first time. I wasn’t prepared for how overwhelming the landscape would be. When I thought of Hawaii I thought of beaches but never the sheer, impassible, razor-edged mountains that sever the island in half. You can see all the pictures you want of the Hawaiian islands but it will never prepare you for how sweeping they are. The island of Oahu is divided right down the center by a mountain range. This effectively gives us the windward side (where the predominant winds blow from the Pacific) and the leeward (a calmer and sunnier side) of the islands. Tawny’s family lives on the leeward side. This is where my courtship with Hawaii began.
In so many ways, Tawny and I have a similar lineage. Our people just came to their homelands on different ships.
That connection feels important somehow; as if we were two souls that got separated a long time ago and are just now finding one another. That first trip, back in 2013 was a wild ride. Not only did I get to drink in all the majestic and gut-wrenchingly beautiful landscape, but I was able to meet all of Tawny’s family for the first time. Tawny’s dad, a haole like me (“white guy” in Pidgin) warned me that it might be a lot to take in the first time. Tawny herself warned me, countless times, that I probably wouldn’t be able to understand grandpa. Certainly not on the first trip. Maybe not ever.
That was never an issue. The first time I walked through the door, Grandpa hugged me and said, “Wow. He tall. Good. He change all the lights.”
That set the tone for the rest of our relationship.
He never did ask me to change a light.
That first morning I got to sit down with grandma. I asked her, “What’s the story of great-grandpa George? I heard he stowed away on a ship and sailed away to Hawaii to escape the Philippines.”
“What you talking about?” she asked me. Shaking her head. “Nooooo, my dad come to Hawaii from outside Cebu, Philippines. My mom was born here on Hawaii, and she had to get married to someone working on the islands so that she wouldn’t get sent back to the Philippines.”
“Wait. What about someone stowing away on a ship and sneaking into Hawaii? That’s what Tawny told me.” I was very confused at this point.
“What you talking about? Sneaking on a ship? Maybe George? George the Loner. Yeah, he came later. He knew the family.”
That’s all it took for my world to be rocked and for Tawny to have to come into the kitchen and relearn her whole family history. We were both enthralled.
That was the pace of the first trip. Me learning Pidgin, “Why do we say, open the light, not turn it on?”
“That’s how it is, yeah,” Grandma says. (You have to add the yeah to the end of most sentences.)
“But we say, kodakum (take a picture)?”
Or I was meeting the family. “This is Aunty Lee,” Grandma tells me.
“So, she’s your sister?” I asked.
“No. She lives next door, yeah.”
“Everyone is aunty,” Tawny tells me (a month too late).
I got to know the family. I got to know the story. (The real one.)
Grandma and Grandpa BarutGrandma’s family. She’s the second from the left. You can tell because she always wore a different outfit than the rest of the family. “Pretty, yeah?” she asks when you point her out.
There was exploration. That trip was the first time I would see Byodo-In Temple. The phoenix temple. It’s our little sanctuary, hidden behind a graveyard on the windward side. We go there and feed the koi fish and ring the bell before I light incense for our ancestors. I always try to remember my own grandparents, who formed so much of my narrative today. They never stowed away, but they were pioneers. All of them. Today, Tawny and I go back every time and take the same picture, measuring our lives against the bamboo. Tradition is important, yeah.
Tawny took me around the house that she knew her whole life. She played the ukulele for us, and took me to the secret beaches of her youth. We roamed the whole island trying to uncover which memories of hers were real and which were fables.
That first trip, I was inundated with Hawaiian knowledge. Uncle Ron (actually an uncle) sat me down the first night to watch The Night Marchers. It’s a film that recounts the legend of the Night Marchers. They are the spirits of ancient Hawaiian warriors that return at night to protect sacred areas on the island. You can tell when they are coming because you see the torches and hear drums. To avoid harm, you need to get naked and lie face-down on the ground. When they see you in submission they will pass on by. Uncle Ron told me that the H3 Interstate was built across sacred ground and that a lot of the old-timers on Hawaii won’t take it, even though it is the fastest way across the island. I laughed a little the first time, but we took the H3 once and our transmission blew out. So, you can draw your own conclusions.
King Kamehameha unifying the Hawaiian islands. Coincidentally he is also driving his enemies off the cliff that overlooks H3 today.
No matter what you think, there is a magic here. You hear it in the way the people talk story about sacred areas. You feel it in the rain on the windward side. I saw it one time, when a group of native Hawaiians got together to roast a pig the old way, buried in the ground, surrounded by heated rocks. They buried the pig in the “imu” outside of a local church. They offered us Heineken and the chance to come back tomorrow and join them in the feast. There is real magic in the traditions and events, like the Merrie Monarch Festival. An annual event where elite hula dancers join together in Hilo, Hawaii and have a three day showcase/competition of hula. Real hula. Traditional hula, the kind that tells stories, and keeps history.
This is Hawaii. I get that now. There was supposed to be magic in the humuhumunukunukuapua’a, but of course, I had never seen one. It’s just fun to say.
From Merrie Monarch Festival 2015 – Shared from MANA Magazine, via Facebook.
On my second trip back to Oahu, it was for our wedding reception. This time I was in deep. I could speak Pidgin, understand Grandpa, and eat all the raw fish that Tawny still hates (for whatever reason.) Good thing too, since the family came out in force. Everyone who couldn’t make it to the mainland, came to the reception Grandpa and Grandma threw us.
This time, I was really family. I started to recognize the highways, and know which shop sells the best shave ice (it’s Matsumoto’s by the way.) I could tell the windward from the leeward side and knew which one was my favorite. I could tell you why the imu was important and why hula tells the story of the people, or that only men did hula in the old days. Hawaii had somehow become mine, a piece of it did anyway. Or maybe I became a part of it.
My dad is in Oregon right now, chasing our legacy, our story. He is finding a sense of place. As a counter point I’m here in Hawaii. We went to see Grandpa’s grave site today. He passed the spring of 2014, but I had gotten to know him. I had the chance to carry that piece of him in me, and make it mine. We’re family now. All of us. All of this on the day that I finally got to swim in Hanauma Bay. This was quite the feat, since the weather, or the jellyfish, or the tourists have always been too bad for us to get in.
It wasn’t the perfect water or the labyrinth of reef that made the bay so special today, it was the fish. Deep in a cove on the edge of the blue, where the current ran cold and wild into the sheltered bay, there was a lone humuhumunukunukuapua’a. It was the first one I have ever seen in real life and it was even more beautiful than I ever imagined. It flicked away into the ocean after a bit, but for a moment it wove itself into my story, and maybe I made it into his.
A scenic helicopter ride with Air Maui
We had literally been on the island of Maui for about twenty minutes before we whisked ourselves off to Air Maui for one of their famed helicopter tours. After a brief yet thorough safety video we found ourselves strapping ourselves in to our bird. Channeling our inner Maverick, we donned our aviator sunglasses and took to the skies high above Maui. Guys, if you think Maui is pretty from land, just wait until you see it from the air. It’s breathtaking. The lush valleys, mystic volcanoes, and gorgeous beaches were so pretty they hurt our retinas. We caught sight of a few paragliders careening off the sides of steep hills and watched as they soared over the island.
After exploring west Maui, we made our way over the choppy Pailolo Channel to the island of Moloka’i. This island of natural beauty is home to some of the world’s tallest sea cliffs and majestic waterfalls. What isn’t the island home to? Traffic lights. That’s right, the island boasts only one resort (the Aqua Hotel Moloka’i) and a whole lot of nature. While we have yet to step foot on the island, we can tell you that the island looks magical from above. The ocean surrounding Moloka’i had its perfect ombré shades of blue and the island itself was so green with lush vegetation. Moloka’i is an island that is definitely easy on the eyes.
Our helicopter tour around Maui and Moloka’i was one of our favorite ways to explore the islands. We were able to get a lay of the land and see parts of the island that we couldn’t have covered during our short stay. Definitely give Air Maui a try the next time you find yourself on Maui.
Soaring with Proflyght Paragliding
Let me be completely honest here. Chris and I have done some crazy stunts when it comes to heights. We’ve both gone skydiving, bungee jumped, zip lined, and an array of other adrenaline inducing activities. I’ve told friends and family that I would do each one of those again if the opportunity arose. I could not say the same for paragliding.
Our first paragliding experience was in South Korea. The language barrier made it difficult for me to understand what was required of me as a tandem passenger. Before I made my harrowing run down the steep embankment I watched as another paraglider got himself stuck in a tree. He was still in said tree when it came time for me and my guy to take off.
When my instructor and I were finally in the air, I found that I could hardly relax and take in the scenery as one of his gadgets was frantically beeping at us. I couldn’t understand what he was saying in Korean and only heard “Little problem. We go down”. Umm…there are only so many things that “we go down” could mean. After a million horrific ways of plummeting do the ground crossed my mind, I was informed that it only meant we had to descend sooner than more of the other riders. Needless to say, my first paragliding experience was very brief and less than ideal.
Our experience with Proflyght Paragliding was vastly different. Dexter, the owner of Proflyght Paragliding was onsite to ensure that we knew exactly what to expect from our experience. He was extremely thorough, patient, and he put all of my inhibitions to rest. We were paired up with our tandem instructors (Chris even got to go with Dexter) and we ascended up a windy road to Haleakalā.
The day couldn’t have been more perfect. There was barely a cloud in the sky and the views from our launching point on Haleakalā left me breathless. One-by-one, I watched as Chris and Alex (our amazing travel companion from Alex in Wanderland) scurried down the hill and then took flight. I found myself almost itching to join them in the air. When it came time, my capable instructor and I did that awkward run down the slope (especially awkward as I was a good foot shorter than him) and soon found ourselves soaring high above the treeline.
Those first few seconds in the air are magical. All you hear is the wind as the trees get smaller and smaller beneath you. You can feel as the parachute catches the wind and you continue to soar higher. Similar to our helicopter ride, I was able to see so much of the island from our little slice of heaven in the sky. I looked down on the nearby lavender farm, spotted the beautiful resorts and beaches in the distance, and was even able to make out the figures of other paragliders in the distance.
My absolute favorite part of the experience was when we went on what my instructor called an “aerial roller coaster ride”. We spiraled toward the ground, turning one way and then the next. I didn’t think our ride could get anymore thrilling so imagine my surprise when my [very] trusting instructor asked if I wanted to try steering. My gut reaction was a “helllll no” but I decided that it might be the only chance I get. He showed me how to hold the reigns and guide us either left or right. I was able to complete a couple of spirals and head us towards our landing spot. I might have a future in this paragliding business after all.
I absolutely loved our time in the skies with Proflyght Paragliding. It’s a great outfit for the experienced and newbies alike and I would highly recommend a flight the next time you find yourself on Maui. Stay tuned for more adventurous posts from our time in the island. There’s surfing, outrigger canoeing, volcano cycling, and waterfall rappelling to come.
A big mahalo the Maui Visitors Bureau for hosting us while on Maui. As always, our thoughts and opinions are our own.
You see, there’s only been one trip to Maui that I remember-and barely at that. It was a butter and booze-filled vacation to Maui that lasted a couple of days to celebrate the big 3-0 of one Traveling Philosopher. We were only on the island for a few days and we didn’t stray far from Lahaina. Instead of staying in a hotel, we decided to rent an adorable house (complete with hot tub and huge backyard) where we barbecued, tanned, and enjoyed our down time on the island. While I loved every minute from that trip, it’s safe to say that we didn’t really get out to explore much of Maui.
This time was going to be different. We were hooked up for the Maui Visitor’s Bureau #seeMaui campaign. Chris and I had the privilege of staying at two of the island’s prized hotels: The Grand Wailea and The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. Now, a little back story on Chris. The captain had also been to Maui twice before, the last time being when we were there for the birthday shenanigans however, the first time he set foot on the island was for a conference that his mother was attending when we was a wee boy. The only thing that Chris could recollect from his vacation to Maui was an awesome hotel water park that included a lazy river and water elevator (whatever that even is). Knowing Chris, I thought that he made up this whole magical water park in his creative imagination but he seemed to bring it up every time we encountered a hotel with a sub par pool.
Well, spoiler alert. This water park of dreams does exist and just so happens to be at the Grand Wailea. We’ll spill all of the juicy deets below.
The Grand Wailea
There’s a lot that can be said for this paradise within paradise. The Grand Wailea offers a little something for everyone. While some might enjoy the 20+ shops, beautiful Botero collection, or the three (count ’em, three) championship golf courses, we concluded that our two favorite aspects of the Grand Wailea are its spa (in particular the Terme, which we’ll get to later) and the ridiculous
pool water park.
Now, as I previously mentioned, this just isn’t your regular run-of-the-mill hotel pool. No my friends, this is a water park that caters to children and adults alike. Nine pools on six different levels are connected by a river that features a lazy current and titillating rapids. Grab a floaty and kick back as the river takes you around the park. If you’re of age, float to the swim-up bar and order yourself a fruity Hawaiian cocktail.
If you want to enjoy the water without the shrills of gleeful children in your ears (but also sans lazy river), head to the Hibiscus pool. This pool (and two jacuzzis) are reserved for the 18 and older crowd. If you want to get real fancy you can even reserve a cabana for your day at the pool.
Speaking of relaxation, the Grand Wailea’s Spa Grande has been voted one of the top 10 spas in the United States by Condé Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure magazines. While skeptical at first, I was soon won over… and that was before I even stepped foot into my treatment room. Spa Grande offers its patrons what it refers to as a “terme.” An hour before my rhythmic lomi lomi massage, I found myself entering a Roman-like bath house complete with soaking tubs, saunas, massaging waterfalls, and Swiss jet showers. I thoroughly enjoyed the five specialty baths that were Hawaiian island themed. My favorite was the Oahu bath (sure, I’m biased. It’s the island of my birth), which contains a blend of bamboo green sea salt, Hawaii spirulina, and organic seaweed powder. The benefits of this bath are to help tighten the skin, reduce the appearance of cellulite and relieve fluid retention – what’s not to love?
Continuing the theme of water, we found ourselves drawn to the mermaid fountain situated front and center of the property. Legend has it that if you make a wish, throw a coin, and successfully make said coin into the mermaid’s shell, your wish will come true. Chris and I both made it into the shell and while it’s bad luck to tell you what I wished for, let’s just say that I’m fully anticipating a return to the Grand Wailea in the near future.
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua
The second half of our stay on Maui was spent at the welcoming Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua. There are some hotels that just smell incredible as soon as you’re on the premises and this is one of them. I don’t know if they pump some hibiscus-plumeria scent through the vents, but this place smelled heavenly.
OK, enough about the smell. What we loved most about this hotel was its friendly staff and its dedication to preserving Hawaiian culture. Let’s start with the fact that every single employee that we encountered greeted us with either a warm “aloha” or “how are you.” We even had a full conversation in the hallway with an employee who seemed generally interested in how our day went. Talk about the aloha spirit.
Upon first arriving to the hotel one might wonder why it isn’t situated directly on the beach like most hotels on the island. We learned that once construction started on the Ritz-Carlton, ancient bones were unearthed and discovered. Instead on infiltrating this sacred land of Hawaiian ancestry, it was decided to preserve the burial grounds and build the hotel a little farther back. We applaud the decision to forgo the beachfront property in order to protect cultural lands. Dumbledore would award at least a bazillion points to the Ritz-Carlton. If you feel like you’ll miss having the beach near, never fear! It’s an easy walk from the hotel and is a great launching point for kayaking and canoeing.
If there’s one thing we have to recommend for visitors to the Ritz-Carlton-and, well Maui in general-it is Kai Sushi restaurant. Award-winning Chef Tadashi Yoshino served up some of the finest grade sushi and sashimi we have ever laid eyes on. Menu items even cater to those that might have an aversion or allergies to seafood, like moi. The braised shortrib potsticker practically dissolved in my mouth. Chris, on the other hand, ate exotic roll after roll and later declared that it was the best meal of his life. Now that’s high praise.
The next time you find yourself in Maui, treat yourself to a stay at either The Grand Wailea or The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. Between the crazy water parks, mind blowing food, and cultural integrity, what’s not to love?
Have you been to Maui? Where did you stay? We would love to hear your stories in the comment section below.
A big mahalo the Maui Visitors Bureau for hosting us while on Maui. As always, our thoughts and opinions are our own.]]>