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Aloha Part 2: Kapalua and Wailea

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Planning a Hawaiian vacation can be difficult because each island is so different and it can be hard to figure out which one(s) to visit. You can’t do them all but wouldn’t that be amazing? I would say choose Maui if you’re looking for a good mix of nature and villages/towns. Compared to some of the other islands, Maui is actually pretty commercialized but it makes for a great first trip to Hawaii.

Once you’ve made the decision to visit Maui, another important decision to make is which part of the island to stay in since each part has its own vibe and personality. We could not make up our mind so we decided to try out 2 different parts—the northern tip known as Kapalua and the southwestern corner known as Wailea. Both are great but it depends what you’re looking for.

KAPALUA

Located about an hour from Kahului airport (the main airport in Maui), Kapalua feels a bit remote. The community is built around the famous PGA golf course in the green, lush surroundings. There are only a few hotels and many condos in this exclusive neighborhood. The only swimmable beach in this area is Kapalua Beach because the more north you go, the more exposure the island gets to the open ocean and the rougher the waters get. Choose Kapalua if you want peace and quiet. This is a great location for a honeymoon, naturally, but when and if you get tired of the seclusion, it is just a short drive into the old whaling village known as Lahaina filled with shops, restaurants, casual bars, a marina and a fantastic sunset.

Dragon’s Teeth in Kapalua

Dragon’s Teeth in Kapalua

Views from Kapalua

Views from Kapalua

WAILEA

Wailea on the other hand feels a bit busier and has more of a resort-town feel to it. This is the area that you will find hotel after hotel lined up along the beach. There is no town center like Lahaina to visit but there are some restaurants located outside of the resorts in small shopping plazas. There are more beaches for swimming on this part of the island since the water is a bit calmer and there is a fantastic paved path along the beach perfect for strolling around sunset. The big advantage of this area is that the weather tends to be less rainy and a bit warmer than the northern part of the island. It is also closer to the airport—about 30 minutes. Choose this area for more predicable weather and closer proximity to the airport.

Four Seasons Wailea by day

Four Seasons Wailea by day

Four Seasons Wailea by night

Four Seasons Wailea by night

WHERE TO STAY

In Kapalua, if the budget allows, both the Ritz Carlton and the Montage are great. Choose the Ritz for more of a hotel experience with an amazing spa (maybe the best on the island) and for the pool area which is impressive. Choose the Montage to be closer to the swimmable beach and to have a full gourmet kitchen. Also the Montage is much smaller (only 50 residences) so less of a crowd. In terms of more budget-friendly options, the Westin and the Sheraton in Ka'anapali, which is the area adjacent to Kapalua, have a lot to offer for the price.

In Wailea, you have much much more to choose from. For a splurge, go for the Four Seasons. Although the property itself is not very new, the rooms have been recently renovated. And you really can’t beat the service (think pool attendants that polish your sunglasses and spritz you with Evian water). For a hip, fresh new product go for the Andaz which tends to attract more young couples. And for something a bit more budget-friendly the Marriott Wailea just went through a huge renovation and would be a great option.

TIP: Realistically you will be spending a lot of time at your resort so my best advice is to book the best possible hotel (and room) that you can afford. You will want to spend time by the pool or at the beach or sitting at the bar watching the hula dancers. You will be happy you splurged for a room with a view (sunset mai tais on your lanai? yes please!) Sure Hawaii is about the adventures but it’s also about taking in your beautiful surroundings and doing nothing.

The pool at the RItz Carlton Kapalua

The pool at the RItz Carlton Kapalua

WHAT TO SEE & DO

A vacation to Maui can be as action-packed or as relaxing as you want it. If you decide to venture outside the resort grounds there is plenty to choose from.

Make sure you do the Road to Hana which takes you down a windy road through the rainforest. There are tons of impromptu spots to pull over and snag a photo or you can download a guide on your phone (i.e. Shaka Guide) which will tell you where the cool spots are. I would dedicate an entire day for this and note that it is not possible to drive all the way around the bottom part of the island so at one point you will have to turn around and backtrack.

While I did not personally do this, another popular activity is to watch the sunrise from the summit of the Haleakala volcano. There is a paved (but windy) road to the top for vehicles but the view from what I hear is well worth it. The volcano is located in a national park of the same name which is home to cool things like lava flows, waterfalls, bamboo forests, and natural pools which you could explore after sunrise.

If you have time, visit the cute little town of Paia which is at the northern part of the Road to Hana and not far from the airport. I recommend walking around and staying for lunch or dinner at one of the best restaurants on the island, Mama’s Fish House.

And it’s like stating the obvious to mention that Maui is home to many beautiful beaches, including Makena State Park and some with black lava sand.

The above is just a sampling of what to do on the island and there is so much more! Or you can be like us and just RELAX by the pool, sipping on things that come in a pineapple…

TIP: I highly recommend renting a car for maximum exploration potential. Most, if not all, of the above activities require you to have a car and it is worth it to be on your own time. Driving around the island was not hard and far less stressful than driving in Boston or on the 405!

Lounging by the pool

Lounging by the pool

Adult pool at the Four Seasons

Adult pool at the Four Seasons

Having a little too much fun!

Having a little too much fun!

WHAT TO EAT & DRINK

In Kapalua, the place to be is Merriman’s. Book a table for sunset—both the meal and the view will be spectacular. Or opt for Happy Hour at the outdoor lounge which has daily live music, yummy cocktails and pupu to snack on. Also, don’t miss Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop for sandwiches and pastry which is on this part of the island just outside Lahaina.

In Wailea, don’t miss Monkeypod which is by the same owners as Merriman’s but more gastropub-by than fine dining. Also Morimoto at the Andaz has great sushi. Even if you’re not staying at the Four Seasons, I suggest you go for a drink in the lobby lounge just before sunset. What’s so special about it you ask? Well there is a torch lighting ceremony every night with live hula dancers. Totally worth it for that $20 mai tai!

Wailea Beach at Four Seasons

Wailea Beach at Four Seasons

FS Wailea with views of Molokai in the distance

FS Wailea with views of Molokai in the distance

If you’ve made it this far, mahalo for reading! Now who wants to go to Hawaii?

P.S. Hawaiian Airlines recently announced non-stop service from Boston to Honolulu starting April 2019. At over 5,000 miles and 11 hours there/10 hours back, it will be the longest domestic flight ever (a little avgeek fun fact). So get ready Bostonians, you soon will get to hear ‘aloha and mahalo’ over the loud speaker at the airport. Something about it just gets you excited!

Rainbows are a regular occurrence in Kapalua

Rainbows are a regular occurrence in Kapalua

That day we returned to Honolulu Airport twice after takeoff…and this might be our broken plane!

That day we returned to Honolulu Airport twice after takeoff…and this might be our broken plane!

Aloha Part 1: Waikiki and Pearl Harbor

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Hawaii has always been on my bucket list but living in Boston made it hard to justify traveling so far for the tropics when we could just hop on a short flight to the Caribbean. But as soon as my husband and I moved to the West Coast we made it a high priority to visit.

Before rushing to the Hawaiian Airlines website we had to figure out where exactly we were going. I admit we had little knowledge about this volcanic archipelago so we had to do our homework. One of the hardest parts of planning a trip to Hawaii is deciding which islands to visit since they each have their own vibe and landscape. Ultimately we landed on Oahu and Maui, which are great islands for a first time visit to the Aloha state.

Most flights to Hawaii land at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) in Honolulu which is on the island of Oahu. The city of Honolulu itself is pretty busy and might not be exactly what you’re looking for out of a Hawaiian getaway but Oahu is the island where you will also find famous Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor and the World War II Memorial, the big green dormant volcano that is Diamond Head, and the big surf of the North Shore. Go to Oahu if you want a beach city vibe with history, surf culture and convenience.

WHAT TO SEE & DO

  1. Waikiki Beach - It might not be the most remote or beautiful beach (though the view looking towards Diamond Head is pretty spectacular) but it is the most famous. Whether it’s from Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Magnum P.I., or even Don Draper and Jessica Fletcher, we all know of this place thanks to pop culture. The beach is always too crowded and a bit touristy, but it’s wonderful to look at from the private lanai of your hotel room. It doesn’t hurt to take a stroll along the sand and stop for a mai tai at Duke’s either.

  2. Pearl Harbor - This place speaks for itself and is a must-do whether or not you are a history buff. There are several exhibits but the most famous is the USS Arizona which is the battleship that sunk on December 17, 1941 bringing down over 1,100 people with it. Tickets must be reserved in advance and are released 60 days prior at 7am Hawaiian Standard Time. If you are unable to snag tickets do not worry, they are released again 24 hours in advance. Tickets can be purchased online here or by calling 1-877-444-6777. If you still are having trouble, they release a bit more the day of but you must show up in person. Go early for the best chance because they sell out very quickly. Admission is free. NOTE: As of today, 10/23, the USS Arizona Memorial itself is closed due to repairs. It is currently unknown when it will reopen but in the meantime visitors are still able to watch the documentary and hop on a boat to the memorial, they just won’t be able to disembark. Updates can be found here.

  3. Diamond Head - Another popular activity is to hike to the summit of the Diamond Head crater. The journey is about 1 hour along a rugged trail but you’re rewarded at the top with beautiful panoramic views of the island. More information can be found here.

  4. North Shore - No trip to Hawaii would be complete without a little surfing. This part of the island is where world renown surfing competitions happen including the Billabong Pipeline Masters. But if you’re not a pro there are also surf schools located here as well so you can give it a go on the longboard.

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WHERE TO STAY

Dozens of hotels line touristy Waikiki Beach so you will have plenty to choose from depending on your budget. Wherever you stay, I recommend upgrading to an ocean view room which will have beautiful views of the beach and was the highlight of our stay at The Royal Hawaiian, one of the most historical hotels in the area.

The Pink Palace, as it is informally known, goes back to the days where people used to arrive by boat to Hawaii. Because these guests would have just spent days looking out at the ocean, most of the rooms were designed to face inwards into the beautiful gardens of the resort. Today, there is also the Mailani Tower which offers private lanais with ocean views overlooking Waikiki Beach. While the views from the Mailani Tower cannot be reckoned with, the rooms itself are a bit generic. For the most charm, opt for a room in the historical building but know that they do not have lanais.

If Oahu is the only island you will be visiting or if the crowds of Waikiki don’t appeal to you, the resort area known as Ko Olina located west of Honolulu is a great option. If the budget allows, the Four Seasons Oahu is the way to go.

Stay tuned for my next post about the island of Maui. Mahalo!

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A Weekend Jaunt to La La Land

As many of you know, my husband and I relocated to the West Coast from Boston a couple of months ago. The original plan was to end up in Los Angeles, but our plans changed a bit when my husband got a job offer in San Diego that he could not pass up. But we are close enough to LA that it's now my new favorite for a weekend getaway. 

I know there are tons of people who can't stand LA but maybe they have not been to the right places? I dunno, because I LOVED it. LA reminds me of a sunnier, more spread out version of New York City. Lots of energy but not too much (because after all it IS California we're talking about) and made up of a bunch of neighborhoods all with their own personality. So just find your groove and you too will learn to love LA.

By no means am I an expert in this city, considering this was my first real visit (can't really count the night before my Mexican Riviera cruise in '09) but I can promise you that these things will not disappoint:

Hollywood Boulevard & the Walk of Fame - Okay so this one might disappoint. It's kinda gross (this is where Vivian was picked up by Edward in Pretty Woman...) but it's fun to look for your favorite stars. No need to spend more than an hour or two here and avoid the Chinese Theater if crowds are not your thing--it's like Times Square. TIP: To maximize your time, look up the location (by block) of your star in the search bar here so you're not wandering around aimlessly. 

Su Sussudio... 

Su Sussudio... 

Space, the final frontier

Space, the final frontier

Jessica Fletcher <3

Jessica Fletcher <3

Hollywood Sign - Nothing defines LA more than this and the best view is from Griffith Park. But if there are events being held at the park making it impossible for you to get there (need I mention the awfulness known as LA traffic?!), the next best thing is to head up into Hollywood Hills to Runyon Canyon Park. The view of the city and the mountains are spectacular and you're able to spot your famous sign.

Tough to spot in the haze!

Tough to spot in the haze!

Rodeo Drive - Don your best outfit, don't forget your wallet and take a stroll down this beautiful boulevard lined with designer shops and fancy cars. Big mistake. Big. HUGE.

Gorgeous Via Rodeo

Gorgeous Via Rodeo

Beverly Hills - Home to gorgeous parks and streets, celebs, Rodeo Drive, icons like the Beverly Wilshire Grand and the Beverly Hills Hotel, and the best show of the 90s (but if you want to see the Walsh residence, you'll have to drive to the 'burbs...Altadena to be exact).

Welcome to BH 90210

Welcome to BH 90210

Palm tree-lined streets of Beverly Hills

Palm tree-lined streets of Beverly Hills

West Hollywood - If Beverly Hills is the Upper East Side of LA, then West Hollywood is the Village. This neighborhood feels super trendy/cool and has more going on than adjacent Beverly Hills.

In LA, even the Restoration Hardware is beautiful

In LA, even the Restoration Hardware is beautiful

If you're curious about where to eat, some memorable places include Mario Batali's Osteria Mozza (reservations needed) and the Neapolitan pizzeria and craft cocktail joint Sotto (also need reservations) for dinner. Check out Bouchon in Beverly Hills, perfect for brunch or lunch on a lovely outdoor patio (don't forget to pop into their bakery for a treat and keep your eyes peeled for celebs). For top notch espresso drinks and delish avocado toast, visit Comoncy in Beverly Hills.

And lastly if you're curious about where to stay, first choose your neighborhood (like Beverly Hills or West Hollywood..really I don't know where else you'd want to be) and then see what's available in your price range, roofdeck pool a plus. We landed a good rate (and wanted the Starwood points) at the hip SLS but some other good options are the Mondrian, the Viceroy and the Montage. Enjoy!

Rodeo Drive, oh how I wish I had unlimited funds to spend...

Rodeo Drive, oh how I wish I had unlimited funds to spend...

The Beverly Wilshire Grand

The Beverly Wilshire Grand

The Walsh residence in Altadena

The Walsh residence in Altadena

Melrose Place! For Kyle :)

Melrose Place! For Kyle :)

Volare....

Volare....

Frank Sinatra (tough to read)

Frank Sinatra (tough to read)

For you Auntie Barbara :)

For you Auntie Barbara :)

I love Samantha from Bewitched!

I love Samantha from Bewitched!

Princess Grace

Princess Grace