Lu and I are HUGE beach people. when we were deciding where to go on our babymoon, we had limited beach options due to the ZIKA virus risk. it was either Florida, Bermuda, or Hawaii. since we always go to Florida to visit my family, that didn't seem special enough. Bermuda seemed special, but we wanted to take a long-haul trip to somewhere we may not get to go to for a very long time (who wants to take a baby on a 20 hour door-to-door trip?!)
thus, we settled on Hawaii. after doing our research and looking into the various islands, we decided Maui was the one for us - a good mix of untouched beauty and nice places to stay.
we had saved up all of our credit card points and miles over the years to splurge on first class tickets (with the beds!) and booked the trip back when I was about 12 weeks pregnant. we were so excited to experience Hawaii - when people talk about it they said it's "heaven on Earth" or "it's absolute paradise!" needless to say, our hopes were very, very high.
to be fair, I'm going to divide the trip into two parts, based on the weather (because our experience of Maui was starkly different on the sunny vs. rainy days, of course.)
and let me first just preface this post with a few notes:
- I pride myself on being super honest and transparent about EVERYTHING. if I don't have a good experience, I'm not going to say "oh yay, it was great!" I'm not one of those Instagrammers who paints this false, pretty picture that everything is great 100% of the time. what's the point in that? it's helpful for no one! SO, I'm writing this post and putting it ALL out there.
- I think it's important to know the person writing a travel recap and what kinds of vacations that person likes. everyone vacations differently. for example, some people hide under umbrellas and sit by the pool/hang by the resort the entire time. some people like to eat the same thing every single day and do the same thing. we are NOT those people. we like to go out and explore - we LOVE the sun and the beach (my husband is from the Caribbean!) and we like meeting people outside of the resort. another thing to note is that we like to get out of our element when we're on vacation - eat differently, do things differently. for example, we don't want to go to a restaurant in town just to order the same things we order at home. we don't grocery shop while on vacation - we eat all the local food, we try new things. most importantly, we like to experience the places we visit through the lens of those who live there, so we try to follow the advice of locals while we're there and try not to just stay at resorts. that's our vacation mantra.
- when we vacation, we like to go on vacation. vacation to us = leisure. we always go in with a top 3 list of things to do, but we don't set itineraries, we like to go with the flow. we like to let the destination dictate the experience, not the other way around.
part 1: the first three days (sunday - tuesday)
we arrived to the hotel at about 6:30pm. we checked into our room at the Andaz Hotel in the Wailea area of Maui, got dressed, and headed to dinner at the ka'ana kitchen, a resto on property. it was a "farm to table" theme which was cool - the menu is set each day, depending on what the chef finds and creates. the meal was okay, not the best food, but I also couldn't indulge in raw fish (because I'm pregnant!) so I didn't get to taste some of their signature dishes. overall, it was a good meal with friendly service!
now. if you follow me on Instagram, then you know that I we had issues with the weather. now, normally I would have been OK with a couple days of rain and clouds, but after not having taken a vacation for 6 months and having high hopes for a relaxing, beautiful babymoon, the trip got off to a rocky start.
what I will say is that the mornings were always beautiful and peaceful. absolutely tranquil. it was a true morning paradise, so my days always started off super blissful. the hotel was quiet, the palm dreams swayed, you could hear the waves on the beach, and the sun was strong.
we woke up and had breakfast at the hotel. my jaw dropped when I saw that the buffet (per person) was $47!!! but TBH, it was worth every penny - it was such fresh fruit, perfectly cooked eggs, and amazing pancakes. I have been craving oatmeal in this pregnancy, so I had oatmeal with some Justin's almond butter I had brought in my purse (knowing that hotel peanut butters are always Skippy or JIF and loaded with sugar.)
the first full day we were there it MONSOONED. I've never seen rain such hard! and it wasn't the kind of storm you get in the tropics in the Caribbean or Florida - it didn't budge. it rained from 12-7pm, nonstop. we were trapped in our rooms. sure, I read a little and chilled, but it was hard to relax when all you have been looking forward to is laying on the beach for months. I think I was still in a high-strung NY state of mind, to be honest.
people told us to drive to other parts of the island because there are "microclimates" and any one part of the island can have opposite weather. well, the entire island was under a cloud for sunday, so we couldn't escape it.
we stayed at the hotel for dinner and went to Morimoto, which was really incredible. the service was amazing and the food was so flavorful and well designed. a little nervous about eating too much high-mercury fish on the trip, we split an unbelievable tempura calamari salad and I had the "angry chicken." the best calamari salad I've had in my life, literally. we went to bed with happy tummies.
after that $47 buffet, we decided to rent a car and venture out to get breakfast (Lu wanted acai bowls.) with so much fresh fruit, I knew the acai must be amazing. we first went to the gym and got in a solid 50 minute workout. the hotel gym was great - it overlooked a pool and had all the equipment you could ask for and it was very clean. a great amenity.
then, after a quick Google search, we found Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade. it was only a 10 minute trip down the road to Kihei, the town above Wailea (which was where our hotel was.) hands down the BEST acai bowl I've ever had - and only $13! I topped mine with almond butter and bee pollen!
a quick note: the Andaz hotel has an Enterprise rental car service on property - VERY convenient and easy).
after breakfast, we came back to the hotel and laid out for an hour or so before the clouds rolled in. so, we hopped in the car and we drove to Lahaina which has a cute little beach town with lots of shops and restaurants. it was bustling and we stopped in at Lahaina Fish Company because we wanted to be on the water. it was actually a pretty amazing meal! I had a Tofu Curry and Lu had a poke-style rice bowl. after lunch, the rain crept in again, so we drove back to our hotel. in retrospect, I wish we had kept driving up towards Kapalua Bay!
we got back to the hotel and grabbed a drink at the bar and hung out a bit before going back to the room to get ready to have dinner at our first off-site dinner location: Spago Restaurant at the Four Seasons hotel. it was fun to get dressed up and venture out for dinner. the Four Seasons hotel is a HUGE hotel - multiple pools, decks, restaurants. not our scene, but if you're with a family or like those kinds of hotels, it would be great. we prefer more boutique-like properties. the meal was really delicious - we had a fish in a Hong Kong sauce that was good and then a really tender, juicy pork chop. the views from the restaurant were beautiful, also.
we woke up, got another workout in, and went straight to the pool, because it looked really nice out. unfortunately, it didn't last and by 10:30am, it was cloudy and started to drizzle. SO, we took this as a sign that we needed to splurge and get a couples massage at the spa on property.
the spa was gorgeous and had amazing amenities. I got a prenatal massage (my first!) while Lu (in the same room) got a deep tissue massage. it was an amazing massage and I fell asleep! it was a riot getting on the massage bed (they have special pillows for your belly), I basically fell off ass-naked and Lu had to pull me back up.
after that, we had lunch at the bar and chatted with the bartenders about Hawaii. it was a fun little afternoon with drinks (mocktails always, for me) and great conversation. we got ready for dinner and were able to see a little bit of a sunset for the first time on the trip! it was still really cloudy, but the sky definitely turned some beautiful colors.
we went to Monkeypod for dinner, a restaurant by Merriman, a chef there who has three amazing restaurants (we ended up going to all three.) although the restaurant itself has kind of a chain vibe, the food and service (and apparently, the mai tais) were all amazing. we ordered a flatbread pizza made with all local ingredients, a salad, and I had the fish tacos. the food was super fresh and flavorful. AND we had the best dessert of our trip there - a chocolate mousse pie. INCREDIBLE.
part 2: when the vacation truly started (wednesday through friday)
THE ROAD TO HANA. our absolute favorite day.
we rented a car at the Budget nearby (the hotel has a complimentary shuttle and brought us there) because the Enterprise wasn't open that early. Lu excitedly popped into his Ford Mustang convertible and off we were.
there are two things we did that made our Road to Hana trip unforgettable:
- download the GyPSy Road to Hana app. It's $4.99, but worth so much more. it doesn't use any data and doesn't require WiFi/service, so it still works while you're driving along the Road to Hana, where there's not much service. probably the best $5 I spent all trip! the narrator (we nicknamed him Gary - SUCH a Gary) basically tells you when a recommended stop is coming up, tells you about it, and then prompts you when the turn is so you can go in. we plugged our phone into the car (to keep it charged) and synced up the Bluetooth so you could listen to music AND have the App on so it would talk when a spot was popping up.
- don't stop at every stop on the way to Hana. this was crucial. we successfully did not hit a bit of traffic on the trip - we never got stuck behind lines of cars or tour buses. we flew right through, making the trip so much better. on the way out to Hana, we stopped twice. on the way back, we stopped about 2-3 more times. ZERO TRAFFIC. just the gorgeous Road to Hana and each other.
the Road to Hana is basically a 50 mile road that leads to the town of Hana. the town itself isn't very special, it's all about the journey/the road trip. the views of Maui are stunning and this is when we fell in love with the island. it was so lush and gorgeous and serene and peaceful.
what we realized is that this side of the island - referred to as "the north shore" - is the lush part and where our hotel was is known as the "desert" (because APPARENTLY it never rains and it's much flatter.) I found that Wailea and Kihei and that area just looked like California, almost less beautiful. and wailea was full of strip malls, Taco Bells, and things like that. but the north shore? STUNNING.
ALSO what I will say is that I was surprised by all the restroom stops there were - I was 26 weeks pregnant and had no issues finding a bathroom, ever! so don't let that be a fear/discourage you from Road to Hana! and we didn't even bring snacks - just water and we were fine.
here are the stops we made ON THE WAY TO Hana:
1. Paia Bowls - when you first start on the Road to Hana, you enter Paia town, which is an adorable little surfer town that we fell in love with. we stopped at around 7:30am for acai bowls for breakfast! the place is adorable.
2. Waianapanapa State Park - the Black Sand Beach. WOW. Lu and I were blown away. We drove about 1.5 hours before we stopped and it was well worth the wait - this beach was incredible. Exactly what I imagined Maui was like - just stunning views, crashing waves and a surprisingly comfortable black sand beach. We spent about 1.5 hours here, laying out, jumping in the ocean and people watching. It was really special.
2. Wailua Falls: this was the first and only waterfall we stopped at. I am not a huge waterfall person, but I knew we had to see one and it was pretty beautiful.
3. Haleakala National Park: we stopped here as the final stop on the way to Hana. It was a little past Hana and it was a nice little workout hike through the park and to see the Seven Sacred Pools. again, I'm not a HUGE waterfall/pools fan, but the lush surroundings were gorgeous. it started to drizzle a little so we had to take cover under a tree for 5 minutes, when I snagged this picture:
here are the stops we made ON THE WAY BACK from Hana:
1. Da Fish Truck: we were very hungry at this point and we happened to stumble upon a sign that said DA FISH TRUCK and it seemed up our alley and we pulled off. it was a little stop with a bunch of surfers and locals. there was a blue food truck and I ordered a Fish Burger and Lu got the Poke Bowl. best fish burger on the island - one of the best meals ever!
2. Shaka Pops: this was right next to the area with the food truck. we spotted it as we drove away and did a full 360 to come right back! I got the "no sugar" pop (Coco Hana Banana) and it was INCREDIBLE, omg. Lu got the Lava Flow (something coconut-y). we were in heaven. there was a sweet Venezuelan woman selling the pops from a little ice cream cart.
3. Coconut Glen's: one of my Inspiralized readers told me about Coconut Glen's vegan coconut ice cream, and despite having delicious ice pops right beforehand, Lu made us stop. I'm so glad we did - hands down the best vegan ice cream I've had in my LIFE.
4. Ke'anae Peninsula: this was probably the most gorgeous stop - it was about 4pm and we wanted to stop here to get Aunty Sandy's banana bread but it was closed. instead, we got to experience this gorgeous stop. Lu hopped into the water and I sat on the edge and basically bathed myself - we were so hot and the water felt amazing. it was gorgeous and clear.
5. ho'okipa lookout/beach: the last stop was this beach that we fell in love with. it was where all the windsurfers go and all the surfers go when JAWS isn't good conditions (JAWS is a massive wave break that's really only active in the wintertime.) the beach was beautiful and it wasn't too crowded and we laid out for an hour. it was the perfect end to the Road to Hana.
after the beach, we showered outside (where everyone rinses off) - Lu brought shampoo and soap. I had brought a dress and underwear/bra, so I changed in the car/Lu held up a towel for me. then, we drove straight to Mama's Fish House for a 6:45pm dinner reservation. definitely the best meal we had in Maui - it was on a gorgeous piece of land, right on a beach and we got a beautiful table right by the beach. it was stunning and our waitress was INCREDIBLE. we ordered way too much food, had way too much dessert and way too much fun.
at this point, I was in love with Maui - or at least this side of Maui. I felt at home. the other side was just way too commercial. the North Shore is much more chill.
we woke up exhausted - and slept in until about 8am. we had breakfast at the hotel and laid by the pool for a little bit until the clouds rolled in again. we were so excited to head back to our favorite little beach - our found sliver of paradise. we got in the car and drove to Paia Town to have lunch and hang by Ho'okipa Beach all day. the drive is only about 30 minutes from Wailea, so it wasn't too bad. we walked around Paia town and got to experience all the little shops and cute gelato shops and such.
we stopped at Cafe Mambo where Lu got some amazing kalua pig and I got a veggie tagine over quinoa. the food was simple but fresh and flavorful! great meal. we were also just so happy to be back in the sun (there were zero clouds!) and back in our favorite part of Maui. after lunch, we hung out at the beach ALL day. it was a gorgeous day!
we came back to the hotel, grabbed a drink, and watched the sunset - it was the best one yet, but not a full sunset just yet. we met a sweet honeymooning couple from New Jersey and ended up having an incredible meal on property at Morimoto again (we were tired from all the travel and there was so much on the menu we wanted to try!)
we went to the hotel's gym in the morning, for a quick 35 minute sweat. afterwards, Lu wanted those acai bowls from Wow Wow, so we went there again.
after that, we came back to the hotel and laid out until about 12:30pm, when the clouds inevitably rolled in again. we got RIGHT BACK in the car and headed to Paia for lunch (I wanted to try Paia Fish Market) and better weather. we didn't love our meal at Paia Fish Market but the ambiance was great and we were just so happy to be out of Wailea. we got gelato after and then drove to Ho'okipa Beach to lay out again for a few hours.
it looked like it was clearing up in Wailea towards the early evening, so we packed up and headed back to the hotel in hopes of catching a good sunset. on our way out, we stopped at a little produce truck to finally try Hawaiian banana bread - we ate the WHOLE loaf right there in the car. it was everything I hoped it would be (and organic!)
we were right about the sunset when we got back to the hotel! we FINALLY got a beautiful sunset and snapped LOTS of pictures.
after dinner, we drove the hour drive to Merriman's Restaurant in Kapalua Bay. we had already missed the sunset because we watched it at our hotel and it was dark by the time we arrived, so we couldn't really check out what the restaurant is known for (the views!), but the meal was AMAZING (omg the lamb chops and the bell pepper soup, so fresh!) the waiter was so kind to us and even brought us out a celebratory dessert! it was the perfect end to our trip! in retrospect, I would have watched the sunset at Merriman's, so if you are thinking of going there, make sure you do that!
we had to wake up early to return the rental car and get to the airport, so we had breakfast at the hotel and headed out.
we got home around 6:45am and got right in bed and slept until 12:30pm. my family came over at 2pm to celebrate Father's Day and then later that night after they left, we crashed with full hearts! we are so happy we got to experience Hawaii - it was on our bucket list, after all.
will we ever go back? probably not. for being a twenty hour door-to-door trip, it's just a bit much and we MUCH prefer the Caribbean (us East coasters are spoiled having it right there!) however, we appreciate Maui for what it is and are so grateful that we got to visit and spend our babymoon there.
what I will say is that I came home feeling fully rejuvenated, relaxed, and excited to have this baby! his parents can't wait to take him to see the world!