Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Revisiting Maui

(Note: I  wrote this sometime October 2009 but I never got the chance to publish it. It seems apropos to upload it now with my approaching trip to Hawaii.)

Me at Mama’s

We’ve been saving all our dollars for this: a meal at Mama’s Fish House. As soon as our plane lands on Maui’s OGG airport, we look for a rental car with a GPS navigator, and punch the address of this culinary gem in Paia. Few would argue that it’s the best restaurant in Maui; some even go as far as to say that it is the best in all of Hawaii, although I’m sure Roy’s will have something to say about this. No one will, however, be impervious to the charm of this restaurant.

Tender and flavorful mahi-mahi

Mixed fish in Panang curry

Nestled in a beautiful coconut grove on a secluded white sand beach, with an adjacent inn for those who wanted the guarantee of a great meal, the restaurant was just what we needed after our morning flight. The menu changes daily, depending on the day’s fresh catch. The specialty, needless to say, is seafood. So I order mixed fish (Ahi, Ono and Mahimahi) sautéed in Panang Curry and coconut milk, with Mama’s mango chutney, heart of palm, macadamia nuts and jasmine rice. My companion opts for the mahimahi stuffed with lobster, crab, Maui onion and baked in a macadamia nut crust. Both were delightful, although I was secretly pining for the succulent clean-tasting meal of my company. The restaurant itself was a delight, decked with local art, stunning hand-carved shields, and bamboo overhead lamps that danced with the breeze. I stretch my limbs and take in the view. If this were a portent of things to come, this trip will indeed be paradise.

Scene from Jurassic Park

Since our hotel check-in is at 3 p.m. we still have time to have a taste of the Road to Hana, touted to be the most beautiful drive in America. We drive slow, taking in the beach to our left, dotted with strong, limber windsurfers who skillfully maneuver their boards on the rough waves. It is a sight to behold. We know we are well on our way to Hana when the road starts to narrow and twist. We pass through one-lane bridges, thick overgrowth, and zigzag roads. It doesn’t take long for me to realize that this drive is not for me. Our destination is the Garden of Eden Arborateum 40 minutes away (it felt longer). Upon arrival at the garden, we pay the $10/person entrance fee and absorb what we can. Most of the plants are fern-like, palm, and ornamental. We are elated to see the Manila Palm native to the Philippines, and the strawberry guava that a tour guide recently mentioned. We aren’t dressed properly for the hike to the waterfalls so we just take pictures from a distance. The view of Keopuka Rock, which appeared in Jurassic Park, makes us want to see the film again.

Superb dinner at Kobe

We are all sunshine again once we are out of the thick canopies and hairpin turns of Hana Highway. We check in at Outrigger Aina Nalu at 4p.m. and are pleased to find that our studio is clean and well equipped, with a coffeemaker and microwave oven and, our sleep-inducer, cable TV. A welcome surprise is the free wi-fi. The hotel is a five-minute walk away from Lahaina’s main thoroughfare, Front. St., where all the shops and restaurants are located. We doze off longer than we planned so by the time we step out for dinner it’s a little past 10. Most of the shops are closed but we read in one of the tourist brochures that there’s a Hard Rock Café a few blocks away. We assume it closes late so we head towards that direction. We are surprised to see the chairs stacked on the tables and a lone staff moping the floor. One by one, the restaurants we pass flip their CLOSED signs on the door, including ABC store, which we relied on for late-night munchies in Waikiki. I resign myself to going to bed hungry so we turn left and head back to the hotel. Then I see the red sign of Kobe restaurant still lit up. We hurry to get to the door before the sign is dimmed, and we’re happy that the lady accommodates us, apologizing that we can only order from the sushi bar. We’ll take what we can get. We order a mixed seafood sushi (nigiri) and a casserole called Dynamite, which goes really well with steamed white rice.

A walk in the clouds, literally

The following day, we wake up at 2:45 a.m. I had doubts about getting to Mount Haleakala early enough for sunrise but I guess jetlag is working our way. We leave the hotel at 4 a.m. The drive to the gate of the park takes an hour and a half but it’s still a long way off from the crater and with the twisty turns and the elevation, we get to the top just a little past sunrise. The lookouts are packed with early-risers all bundled up in winter jackets and blankets. I wish I brought either, because the minute I step out of the car, it was winter in Lake Tahoe once again. I could hardly bear the cold so, after a few snapshots, I take shelter at the enclosed pavilion. Thick clouds have gathered at the crater, adding to the surreal atmosphere.

Coffee and breakfast (gone)

The trip to the crater primes up for breakfast. We proceed to Kula Lodge where I have a waffle with Kula strawberries and my companion, what else but bacon. The meal is forgettable but as we walk out, we spot the Kula Marketplace, which offers some of the best crafted items we’ve seen in Maui. Works of local artisans are showcased here and I find myself coveting some of the fine jewelry. The lady manning the store offers us a taste of sweetened coconut, which is a version of our bukayo. I buy two packets and a pair of porcelain earrings made by a local artist.

Waiting for Tedeschi to open

We drive to Tedeschi Winery, which we earlier planned to skip but changed our minds seeing that we have so much time in our hands. The tasting room is still closed. It opens at 10 a.m, which is 15 minutes away. We while away the time at Ulupalakua Ranch, which is a deli and souvenir shop in one. All we come away with is a green mug because soon we notice other visitors entering the winery, which is housed in a pretty white timber cottage. The benches and tables on the grounds are inviting of a picnic, which we would have happily obliged if we hadn’t had a full breakfast. My friend jumps in for the tasting, $10 for a shot of your choice of four wines, of which the rosee was the best on final verdict.

Kaanapali beach

Before driving back to Lahaina, we decide to drop by at the old cowboy county of Makawao, which is now overrun by art galleries. We walk around, check out a few art stores and the glass-blowing shop, which is unfortunately closed. It would have been a nice stop for lunch but we are still full, and sleep is starting to catch up with us. We arrive at Lahaina just a little past noon and spend the entire afternoon for siesta before catching the sunset at Kaanapali. In hindsight, it would have been a better option to stay in Kaanapali because we enjoy the company of other tourists and it had a wonderful view to boot. That gives us another reason to go back.

Trip Notes:

Apart from my usual travel reference, Tripadvisor, another helpful website is Alternative Hawaii . If you plan to drive around the islands of Hawaii (very highly recommended), their drive guides are indispensable.

We gave the traditional Hawaiian plate lunch a try but we didn’t find it particularly appetizing. It’s usually comprised of two scoops of rice, a scoop of macaroni salad and an entree, which can be either Korean kalbi or meat jun, Chinese char siu roast pork, Philippine pork adobo, Hawaiian kalua pork (a luau favorite), Japanese katsu or salmon teriyaki, Portuguese sausage, American-style beef stew, or loco moco — a hamburger patty and a fried egg. The only option offered to us was kalua pork. Anyway, give it a try. After all, it is inexpensive.

For our travel arrangements, we opted for a Hawaiian Airlines flight and hotel package. We paid $420 for 3D/2N package at Outrigger Aina Nalu inclusive of airfare.

1 comment:

  1. (Note: I wrote this sometime October 2009 but I never got the chance to publish it. It seems apropos to upload it now with my approaching trip to Hawaii.)limo kaanapali



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