Thursday, April 21, 2016

Hawaii Travel Diary: Maui Part 1

**Please excuse the radio silence around here. I have just been out of the swing of things and feeling unmotivated and mostly uninterested in dealing with my super slow laptop. But I thought I better recap our time in Maui before I forget all the details.

As much as we loved our visit to Pearl Harbor, the next time we come to Hawaii (and gosh I hope there's a next time) we are booking a direct flight to Maui! The second we stepped off the plane, it was like we finally exhaled and knew this is where we would truly be able to relax and reconnect. Unlike Oahu, we had zero plans for our time on Maui. We upgraded our rental car to a convertible (why the heck not) and cruised with the top down past farm lands, with the mountains in the rear-view mirror, and the ocean at our side as we made our way to Wailea and our perfect resort. There are several different popular vacation areas on Maui (Kaanapali, Wailea, Lahaina) and though I say this with no concept of the other areas... Wailea is definitely the best one! It was exactly what the doctor order (and what my doctor husband needed), quiet, not that crowded, and fewer kids screaming marco-polo in the pools.
When we pulled up to the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, we instantly knew we'd booked a winner. It's always a risk booking a hotel in an area you've never been to before (and this hotel is only about 3 years old so there's not as much online) but I was so glad it was beyond all my hopes and expectations. It's not the stereotypical (sometimes tacky) Hawaii look. It's very modern, all open to the breeze coming off the ocean, and the decor blends in perfectly with the scenery (there is even sand in the lobby).
We were draped in leis and handed lavendar lemonade and directed to choose anywhere in the lobby to relax while they checked us in.  One of the hostesses gave us a little tour and then lead us to our room. Again we'd arrived close to sunset, so we threw on bathing suits and headed out to explore the property before dinner. The Andaz has three infinity pools, a lagoon, and an adults only tranquility pool. It also has the easiest beach access and it doesn't share it's beach with any of the other resorts so it felt very private.
We headed back to our room to change for dinner at Ka'Ana Kitchen, the resort's farm-to-table restaurant.  This was definitely our favorite restaurant of the week and we ended up coming back for our last night as well.  They have an assortment of small plates and large plates that you can pick and choose and share. The best thing hands down is the Ahi Tataki with the burratta cheese and local tomatoes. You wouldn't think seared tuna and cheese would go together but oh. my. word. I'm still dreaming about it.  
Tuesday we woke up bright and early, lathered on the sunscreen and headed down to the beach. Two chairs and an umbrella were set up for us and we grabbed our complimentary snorkel gear to explore the rocks and coral right off the shore.
The rest of the day kind of runs together in a relaxing haze of toes in the sand, a dip in the pool, a nap in the shade before we moseyed on back to our room to change for our dinner reservation at Mama's Fish House
It ended up being more like a late lunch since 4:30pm was the only reservation available but that worked out great since we'd skipped lunch that day, planning to stuff ourselves on fresh fish and Hawaiian fare at this famous spot. Mama's Fish House is in Paia, about 30 minutes from our resort so we left early and got there with plenty of time to enjoy their envious view.
All the fish is caught daily, and the menu changes based on whats available. I had maybe the best seared ahi tuna of my life, and we loved the relaxed style of the restaurant, but it was definitely the most expensive meal of the trip and if we're being honest we both preferred Ka'Ana Kitchen. 
Since we had an earlier dinner, we got back to our resort around sunset and grabbed our books and headed to one of the hanging beds scattered about the property to enjoy the fading light and warm breeze. The perfect end to a perfect night!
Somehow we ended up sleeping until almost 10 am the next day which is quite impressive considering we went to bed around 10pm. Wednesday was another beautiful day but really windy so after our lunch at the Bumbeye Beach Bar, we retreated to our room to watch netflix and chill and ended up taking a two hour nap. What are vacations for if not to fill your sleep bank?? 

We had planned to go into Lahaina and find something easy for dinner that night but, still feeling a little out of it from the surplus of sleep, we decided to skip right to dessert and grab shave ice a little closer to our hotel instead. And after our perfect sweet treat, we made it back to the hotel in time to enjoy another beautiful sunset. 
Oh how I miss that view!! I want to keep reliving this vacation so part two of our time in Maui is coming up next.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hawaii Travel Diary: Pearl Harbor

I don't think I really believed we were going to Hawaii until the wheels touched down on the palm tree lined runway. And even then, it didn't quite feel like our vacation had started because when you come out of the airport you're reminded that Honolulu is actually quite a busy city, not just a vacation spot, with tall buildings, and a lot of traffic, that just so happens to be lined with miles of sandy beaches. We grabbed a cab and hurried on to our hotel, hoping to get checked in and get our toes in the sand before the sun set. Along the way we noted Tripler Army Medical Center set up a bit higher above the city. It's pink and has a great view of the ocean and happens to be where my mom was born which I think is just the greatest coincidence.
Since we were only going to be on Oahu for two nights we booked a more reasonable hotel so we could really splurge at our second destination in Maui. The Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa was a good spot for our quick stopover. We didn't rent a car here but we were close enough to walk to a lot of restaurants and it's set right across from Waikiki Beach of course.  We got checked in and immediately threw on bathing suits and practically ran to the beach to catch the sun as it sank into the ocean. Our first of many beautiful sunsets in Hawaii checked off we headed back to the hotel and jumped into the pool before grabbing dinner at the hotel's poolside bar.  We headed to bed, completely exhausted from our day of traveling and looking forward for our first full day in Hawaii!
The next morning we woke up nice and early, thanks jet lag, and I was fully able to appreciate the view from our room. Though we both agreed that Waikiki was a little too crowded and crazy for the relaxing vacation we had in mind, it was fun to see all the surf boards dotting the ocean every day all day. We grabbed a bagel from the coffee shop in the hotel and then ordered an Uber to take us to Pearl Harbor.
I think most people back on the East Coast expect a Hawaiian vacation to include Pearl Harbor- I know we did. And even though we were probably more excited to get to Maui, T.J. and I both agreed that to not visit would be "un-American".  Pearl Harbor is a national park and therefore free to visit, however they only have a certain number of tickets available each day for the USS Arizona. If you don't want to get there right when the gates open to ensure you get a ticket, you can pre-book online the day before (they become available 24 hours in advance, 7am Hawaii time, for a $1.50 processing fee) which is what we did. Then you only need to get there an hour or so before your scheduled ticket time to walk around the visitor center. They also have an audio tour you can pick up which guides you along the shoreline and through the museums providing you more information about the sights.
(The anchor recovered from the USS Arizona- just to give you an ideal of the scale of that ship.)
(The beautiful harbor, with active Navy ships and the USS Arizona memorial in the distance.)

The shoreline is dotted with palm trees and the water is calm and clear blue. It's hard to picture the horror and chaos from that day in December set against such a beautiful backdrop. We quietly wandered through the two exhibit galleries that paint a picture of what it was like to be stationed here in 1941, and give you a reminder of what the world, and the build up to our entrance into the war, looked like.

Before you board the boat that takes you out to the USS Arizona, you gather in a theater to watch a short documentary about the events leading up to that day and the actual attack. They remind you that the USS Arizona is the final resting place of the crewman who sank with the ship, and that we are to step onto the memorial in solemn silence and respect.
The memorial hovers over the remains of the ship, now resting peacefully in the shallow water. Fish swim through the ruins and you can see oil still slowly leaking into the harbor as you look down into the remains of the Arizona.  
A placard reads: "This memorial honors the fallen crew of the USS Arizona and all those who died in the attack on December 7, 1941. The remains of over 900 Arizona crewmen rest beneath you within the sunken battleship... The Shrine room beyond displays the names of the 1,177 Arizona crewmen lost in the attack. Another list honors Arizona survivors who have rejoined their shipmates in the waters below." 
It gutted me to read all those names, and to see the front two shorter pillars listing the men who survived that day but died either later in the war, or even many years after it ended, and then decided to have their ashes returned to Pearl Harbor to join their brothers in the Arizona.

Though visiting a national cemetery is not exactly what you think of when you picture a romantic vacation, it was important to us to go and be reminded of the cost of freedom, the price paid at this place at that time in our history. It's a place you disembark from with a heavier heart and a deeper understanding of the honor and sacrifice of the men who served. It also made me look at the servicemen and women I know now, all one hundred percent volunteer, my husband included, with a deeper sense of appreciation and respect of what they may be called to do. Though it was strange to see people posing for a selfie in front of torpedos, or face-timing their family from the shoreline (is it just me who thinks that's odd and more than a little disrespectful???) we thought the trip to Pearl Harbor and the time spent at such a beautiful memorial was well worth the layover.

We took an uber back to our homebase, and spent the rest of the day enjoying the sun shining generously down on the shores. We were only on Oahu for less than 48 hours as the next day we headed on to Maui, and both agreed that's when the real vacation started!