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Re: Something Fishy's Maui and Lanai Trip Report, Courtesy of Delta Day 1, Sunday:

As always, click on any picture to see it in full resolution, along with more info (exposure, map, etc.)

We got to JFK bright and early, and headed to the lounge. I met up with a couple more DDF'ers who were flying to LAX, also on glitch tickets :D. In fact another DDF'er had planned to fly on my daughter's ticket (as we didn't bring her in the end), but in the last minute decided that he can't really pass for a 2-year old girl...

After davening shachris and eating a quick breakfast we went to board our flight. First class on the MD-88 was... well, better than coach. At least my knees weren't banging into the seat in front of me.

Takeoff from JFK - the A train, Cross Bay Boulevard, and Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge:

The Kosher "meal" was (surprise!) fairly terrible:

The person sitting next to me had ordered the far more gourmet-sounding salmon and cheese dish. We had quite the laugh when the flight attendant brought him a bagel with cream cheese and lox ;D.

After a short and uneventful flight we landed in Atlanta. We hung out in the lounge again during our very short layover, and then headed to the gate. This was going to be the first time either of us had experienced a "real" premium cabin, plus this was also the longest flight yet for both of us. Needless to say, we were pretty excited.

We were welcomed aboard and found our seats. Amid many "Aloha"s and "much mahalo"s from our Hawaii-based crew, we took off.

Our seats were 1C and 1G, located in the "nose" of the cabin. According to Seatguru these seats are not recommended due to high traffic volume. I have to say that this was definitely not our experience; in fact I highly recommend these seats over any other for people traveling together. At no point during the 9+ hours in flight did I feel bothered by any traffic; the seats are private and partitioned enough that I didn't even notice when someone went by. On the other hand, these are the only seats in the row, so you really don't see anyone else 99% of the time. It felt cozy and private.

Long way to go:

Lunch was an improvement over breakfast, but not by much. The potatoes weren't half bad; the pastry on the left may have been good, if only it hadn't been frozen solid. The couscous on the other hand still haunt my nightmares sometimes:

The beds were fantastic. For a guy who's 6'-8" and gets crushed in a standard coach seat, being able to sleep like this - comfortably - is just amazing. The Westin Heavenly bedding was just that - heavenly:

After a couple of hours of rest we awoke for dinner service (it was around 7pm eastern time). Dinner ended up being the same stuff as lunch, but with the frozen pastry replaced by chocolate mousse. We sent everything but the dishes and mousse back, and asked the crew if they could warm up a couple of Pom meals for us. They were extremely accommodating, and within a few minutes we were feasting happily:

The mousse as it turned out was sublime. Perfectly creamy and chocolaty, it made a perfect end to the meal:


We landed in Honolulu right on schedule, and rushed to sort out our luggage. Remember - our actual itinerary was to continue to Kauai. The skycap at JFK refused to short check our bags, so it was tagged all the way to Kauai.

I want over to the gate agent and told her that I'm not feeling well and will probably be spending the night in HNL before continuing on the Kauai, and could she please help us retrieve our luggage ;). Withing a minute she had printed out a couple of tags and directed me to baggage services. Five minutes after that, I was in line with my luggage checking in to my separately purchased flight to Maui ;D.

Our ride to Maui:

Hawaiian Airlines KSML :P:

Flying over the uninhabited island of Kahoʻolawe:

Molokini Crater, and our first glimpse of Maui:

We landed, collected our luggage, and went to get our rental convertible. At one point I had 8 different reservations running, and kept on updating them as the prices fell. In the end Enterprise turned out to be the cheapest.

Our Mustang didn't have much trunk space...:

Off we went to Kula, to the cottage we rented via airbnb. We arrived a little over half an hour later, to find this perfect little slice of heaven waiting for us. The cottage was bright, airy, and set over a stunning orchard and nature preserve. It was also 3000 feet up the slopes of Haleakala, so the views were absolutely insane.

We went for a short stroll in the garden:

Self portrait (that's the cottage in the background):

Each afternoon we were treated to other-worldly sunsets. I don't think you can imagine a more perfect sunset the first night in Hawaii:

Last light - you could see the island of Lanai in center-left:

A perfect ending to a perfect day.

November 19, 2014, 01:02:31 AM
Re: Hidden City Ticketing
My grandmothers been usining hidden-city since way before the interweb was around.

Good travel agent.

November 25, 2014, 10:53:33 AM
Re: Something Fishy's Maui and Lanai Trip Report, Courtesy of Delta Day 2, Monday:

We woke up on Monday to a beautiful Hawaiian morning, with nary a sign that two hurricanes had passed through only days ago; everything was quiet. However, as we were to find out, there actually were two remaining effects on the island. The first was that the storm had completely stopped the usual trade winds; instead of the normal, constant ocean breezes, the air was absolutely, perfectly, still. Without the trade winds, you suddenly remember that you're in the tropics; the day was to turn out extremely hot and muggy. Thankfully, as the week went on the winds came back, but on this first day the exceptionally hot weather made us skip out on a few hikes that we had really been looking forward to.

The second thing was that the storms had completely churned the ocean up. Most lifegaurded beaches were closed to swimming, and all beaches had extremely dangerous surf. Stirred up water also means that the waters were far from their usual clarity. This also slowly returned to normal as the week wore on, but again it limited us as far as activities went.

In any case, we had plenty of things planned and so headed out for the day. We stopped at Long's Drugs in Kahului for some essentials, and headed toward the infamous "Over the Top" highway. This road follows the northern flanks of West Maui Mountain, and is similar to the Road to Hana, but shorter and less lush. It is also has no traffic, no guardrails, is not completely paved, and has miles of one-lane stretches along sheer cliffs. In short, my dream road :D.

Most people who drive this road (and there aren't many!) drive it from West to East, since this would keep them on the safer inside of the road. We took it East to West, so we were driving along the cliffs most of the time:

(This picture is a video freeze-frame from a GoPro that was suction-mounted on my side-view mirror, hence the low quality. All other pictures with the nose of the car in it are freeze-frames too.)

Following the contours of the mountain, the road climbs up and around ridges, hangs on to the edge of the cliff, and slowly meanders down into the jungle valley. Up another ridge, and back down again.

You could see the road cut into the cliff, climbing up and disappearing around the ridge:

At points the road was a good 500 feet straight up:

At every turn, in every valley, a different stunning view would appear:

There were many one-way stretches and bridges:

We made a quick stop at Curley's fruit stand for a quick stretch and picked up some local passion fruit at 25 cents each:

I was driving merrily along on one of the no-guardrail stretches, with nothing but a 12-inch embankment between me and the cliff, when the thing every driver on this road dreads happened: I found myself face to face with a row of cars. Hawaiian etiquette dictates that the driving going uphill should be the one to back up.

Yay, just yay.

Luckily, there was something resembling a turnout a short way behind me, so I didn't have to back very far.

(This GIF is obviously sped up; I did not back down that road anywhere near as fast.)

We had originally planned on doing the Waihee Ridge and Ohai trails, but had to skip them due to the extreme heat caused by the hurricanes. Now having a more open schedule then we had anticipated, we were on the lookout for something different than the typical stops, preferably something with air conditioning ;). Our chance was not long in coming - spotting an 8-foot giraffe made out of driftwood on the side of the road, we turned down the driveway to investigate.

The place turned out to be the Turnbull Gallery, an eclectic place filled with stunning artwork and sculptures made be local artisans:

"Angel Dance":

The prices were right too; I was sorely tempted:

A cool coffee table:

We spent some time looking around, and had a nice schmooze with Steve, who was working on his latest sculpture in the back.

It was a nice stop, but if you're on this road and the weather is cooperating there's really no reason to stop in - take a hike instead.

On the road again:

More jaw-dropping views around every bend:

And my personal favorite:

Presently the road opened up a bit as it turned somewhat inland and passed some large ranches:

If you gotta be a cow, I think there's no better place you could hope to live:

We rounded the famous Kahakuloa Head (the cows above are actually grazing on the east side of it), and headed up to the other side to a pullout with some amazing views:

On one side of the pullout was the Head:

On the other was the ocean crashing relentlessly against the cliffs:

And in the middle was the oddest ice cream stand you will ever lay eyes on ;D:

Onward we went to the Acid War Zone, which would take us to the Nakalele Blowhole. The description of this hike in Maui Revealed is fairly accurate, but there are simply too many false trail and tracks for the directions to be very helpful. It's in a spot like this having the companion app is incredibly useful. Simply make sure that you're not straying too far from the blue line and it's impossible to get lost.

The views from the hike are absolutely incredible.

Note the island of Molokai off in the haze on the horizon:

Dangerous and mostly inaccessible tidepools:

You could get some sense of scale from the tiny people perched on top of the cliffs:

Soon the landscape changes from dry scrubland to the tortured rocks that gave this hike its name - they really do look like they were dissolved by acid. In reality it's the tons of saltwater coming out of the blowhole that's been wearing down these rocks for who knows how long:

Rock detail:

After about half an hour's hiking you get to the blowhole itself. The waves are constantly pushing masses of water in underneath the lava shelf, and every minute or so this water sprays out of a small hole with tremendous force. While I was there the water easily reached a good 60-70 feet every other time. The spray from this column of water reaches dozens of feet all around and was exceedingly refreshing in the stifling heat:

When the burst is over all this water flows back into the hole, creating pretty dangerous conditions. You have to maintain a safe distance, or you could be swept away by the rushing water on the slick rocks:

Here's a video I took, complete with some slow motion footage:

Heading back we took the blowhole trail instead of doubling back through the acid war zone. The trail climbs more than 200 feet over a pretty short distance, and is very steep in parts. Being an out of shape lump, I was pretty winded by the time I got to the parking lot - which was still a 15 minute uphill hike up the road from the acid war zone lot, where my car was parked.

We then headed to the Dragons Teeth for a quick hike, where the surf was still going bonkers from the hurricanes:

Here, too, the unrelenting ocean had carved interesting patterns in the rocks:

The highway past Dragons Teeth:

By this time it was late afternoon, so we decided to skip our plan of exploring Lahaina. Instead we took the still-under-construction Lahaina bypass around the afternoon traffic. Only part of the bypass was completed and open to traffic, and we didn't come across another soul on the road. The views were stunning, and very different from what we had seen all day. Instead of lush jungle and raging seas, there was the green and brown slopes of West Maui Mountain, lit up by the setting sun:

Making a new friend:

I also took a few beauty shots of our car:

Back on the main road past Lahaina, I stopped for mincha. And just in case we hadn't seen enough beauty that day, we were treated to another incredible Maui sunset:

Then it was back in the car for the long drive back home.

December 14, 2014, 01:37:05 AM
Re: Something Fishy's Maui and Lanai Trip Report, Courtesy of Delta Day 4, Wednesday:

Today we woke up bright and early to be by the airport for our 6:30 AM flight to the island of Lanai.

Lanai is a small island off the southwest coast of Maui with one tiny community of around 3000 people. The entire island except for the airport and beaches is now owned by Larry Ellison, the 5th richest person in the world. Other than  two or three main roads, the island is crisscrossed only by 4WD dirt tracks. The main activities on the island are off-roading and swimming in remote and otherworldly beaches.

The vast majority of visitors (and there aren't many) who come from Maui take the Expeditions ferry out of Lahaina. Right away it didn't seem very practical - we would have to drive all the way from Upcountry to Lahaina, and then the crossing itself takes around an hour. Had it been whale season I suppose it would have been more enticing, but in the summer it's just a not particularly pleasing, bumpy trip. At $30 per person, per way, it wasn't cheap either.

Looking around some more I discovered that Mokulele Airlines is running a $39 fare sale Maui to Lanai - and my dates fit perfectly!

Mokulele is a hinky dinky airline who flies tiny little 7-passenger Cessna Grand Caravans between some of the islands. In Maui they fly from the commuter terminal, so no lines, no TSA, none of that garbage. For only $9 more per person per way than the boat, we would be getting a fantastic and unique flight, plus get there far faster as well.

So off I go to book - and hit error after error. None of the dates on sale were pricing out properly, no matter what. Calling customer service I was told that there are only a limited amount of these tickets per day, and they were all sold out. I pointed out to her the fact that for the entire week around my dates there was not a single ticket sold yet on any of their flights (they were all showing 7 seats available - the entire plane). I may as well have talked to the wall. Limited quantity blah blah blah.....

So I HUCA'd - and got the same lady ;D. Turns out they only have one CS rep. Oops ;). So I switched to email support and got their only email rep, who - luckily - was very helpful. First she couldn't find any record of such a sale, but thankfully I had screenshots. A while later she emails back - they had found the sale, but the person who loads the fares onto their website is on vacation now, so no fares could be loaded until he comes back. Oy oy :D.

After a couple of days I hear back from her - they guy is back at work and the fares are loaded. Five minutes later and I was booked  ;D.

The commuter terminal:

We parked our car in the lot on the right and were checked in 20 seconds later. After a couple of minutes a lady went around announcing that whoever is going to Lanai should follow her onto the tarmac.

The flight before ours preparing to taxi:

Heading out to our ride:

Not a bad looking bird, I think:


The pre-flight safety demo was epic: the pilot twisted around in his seat and rattled off the no smoking, no cellphones spiel in about 15 seconds flat:

I was assigned (by weight, supposedly) the back seat, which was actually a bench across the entire width of the plane. It was also the "exit row", so I had gobs of legroom and space:

(Yeah, yeah. I'd like to see you find a size 21 sneaker that looks less crazy  >:(. At this point the soles were being held together with crazy glue, as they had been shredded on the lava the day before. They would not survive the day :'()

Waiting for an Hawaiian inter-island flight to land before we could taxi:


West Maui Mountain (you could see the Over the Top road and Kahakuloa Head all the way on the right):

The craggy, eroded south side of West Maui Mountain:

The Kaheawa wind farm:

I wish all airplanes had such large and beautiful windows:

Approaching Lanai - it's a dry, arid, dusty place:

Manele small boat harbor (where the ferry from Maui docks) is on the right, and the spectacular Four Seasons Manele Bay is on the left:

Note the reef on the right side, off Manele Beach. It's one of the best snorkeling in Hawaii, and that's where we were headed first:

Approaching the airport:


The flight turned out to be tremendous fun. The views were incredible, the plane was unique and comfortable. As far as the smoothness of the flight, it felt exactly like riding in a minivan. We were doing 60mph, and every bit of wind felt like a bump in the road. Considering that most people don't take a helicopter ride on Maui (at least not as many as do on Kauai or the Big Island), this is a great - and relatively cheap - alternative. Of course it doesn't compare, but it's still fantastic.

Other than a couple of hangars and the like, this was the extent of the airport:

Gotta love the high-tech flight info board :D:

There are two places that rent Jeeps on Lanai. Dollar is quite popular, but they have far too many rules - you can't drive to certain places, and if you do any damage to the Jeep you're screwed. Maui Revealed however mentions a place called Adventure Lanai Ecocenter which has far better prices, no restrictions, and better service. There are also Hummers available from a third company, but these are quite expensive and don't really add anything over a Jeep.

I made my reservation with Adventure Lanai Ecocenter over the phone. The owner, Mikey, wouldn't stop talking - he told me about the sights to see, the history of the island, and made fun of New York weather. We arranged that he would meet us at the airport with the Jeep.

I had read reviews online that what he does is meet you at the airport, then asks that you drive him back home to Lanai City (more like Lanai Village, in reality). People were complaining about this "waste of time", but after my phone conversation with him I saw that he's a real character and looked forward to meeting him.

When we landed, there he was waiting for us, looking even more like a "character" than I expected.

Besides his rental business, he also grows "herbs" for "medicinal purposes":

On the way back to town we had a great schmooze about the island.

Up until a few years ago Dole Pineapple owned the vast majority and grew pineapple on about 90% of the land. When they pulled out of the island, the economy tanked and unemployment soared. In 2012 Larry Ellison bought the island and started to put it back in shape. He has full control over everything that happens on the island, and is more or less the only employer. The two run down hotels were turned into world-class and ultra-expensive Four Season resorts, and he reopened the farms. Instead of pineapple, he started growing all manner of odd crops. As we drove Mikey pointed out palm farms (the trees are sold to places like Texas, which doesn't have any native palms), grass farms (the most expensive golf course turf in the world comes from here), and all sorts of organic fruit and vegetable farms.

One thing we saw a disproportionate amount of that morning were grass mowing crews. Turns out that a few days earlier Larry had issued an edict that all grass on the island be cut to two and one-quarter inches; not more and not less. All these crews were busy bringing the island's grass up to snuff.

I asked Mikey a question that I had been wondering about: don't the locals resent living under what's essentially a king, who's every whim they have to bend to? His answer was very simple: "Yes, we totally resent the fact that everyone on the island has their own house, instead of the homelessness epidemic there used to be. We totally resent that everyone on the island now has a job. And what we resent most of all is being able to send some money to help out relatives on the mainland instead of the other way around".

According to Mikey the only people who are resentful at the moment are the gardeners. Instead of using their weed whackers all willy-nilly like they've always done, they now have to use motorized mowers which they claim takes all the fun out of it. You can't get the 2-1/4" precision needed with a weed whacker...

Right outside the airport:

As soon as we turned out of the airport and onto the main road, we started to "feel" Lanai. It's not something that can adequately be described in words; it just a certain level of tranquility, of relaxation, that I have never felt anywhere else. You could practically feel your bones melting away. The island is not particularly pretty, but it has this silence around it.

And no, Mikey didn't share any of his herbs with us ;D; you'll find online that this feeling is extremely common to visitors to the island.

We drove for miles without seeing a soul; whoever we did meet greeted us with a wave or shaka (that's the Hawaiian greeting Mikey's doing in the picture above). Even in town - every person on the street, every oncoming driver, even a group of kids, all waved to us. Pulling out of the gas station into traffic was almost an ordeal. "You go first". "No, you go first". "After you..." After a minute or two I gave in and went first. During this whole time there was a line of cars being held up - and what do you think they did? The waved at me! For someone who's driven in New York all his life, it was a bit freaky to drive in such an environment ;D...

The main highway on Lanai:

The weather of the day was typical Hawaiian - bright and sunny here, cloudy and threatening half a mile over, but warm and delicious as a whole.

Driving down the main street in Lanai City:

The only gas station on the island (amazingly enough their prices weren't insane by Hawaiian standards):

Lanai City must be one of the most misleading place names out there - Lanai Village would have been far more appropriate. This is just about the entire town:

So we dropped Mikey off at his house, and he loaded up the Jeep. Unlike the other rental place, he includes beach chairs, a cooler, and snorkeling or surfing gear (which we didn't need as we had brought our own). The Jeep itself was a 4-door Wrangler Unlimited Sport. Mikey gave us a hand-drawn map of the island as well as the important dirt tracks, along with a mountain of tips only a local would know, such as which rock on Shipwreck Beach we could expect turtles at between 1 and 2 o'clock (and turtles there were, right on schedule!).

Unfortunately, one of the things were had wanted to do most - the Munro Trail - had been permanently close to motorized traffic. No matter; there were plenty of other options. Off we headed to Manele Bay, one of the best snorkeling spots in all the islands.

Heading down to the bay:

Manele Bay is a spectacular bay on the southeast side of the island, and is quite close to Maui. The ferry puts in just on the other side and is about a five-minute walk away.

Since Lanai is arid, there is hardly and runoff so the ocean around it is crystal clear, second only to the Kona side of the Big Island. But unlike the Big Island, there are only a fraction of the amount of visitors here; that means far more fish and healthier coral. The reef here is famous for it's underwater topography, which looks like miniature canyons and ridges (it is actually sometimes referred to as an underwater Bryce Canyon).The beach itself is a perfect crescent of golden sand, fine and clean.

The water itself was still suffering the aftereffects of the double hurricane, so it was actually quite cloudy. However, even in this less than perfect state, it was still absolutely spectacular and the best snorkeling we had had, ever. I could only imagine what it would be like in normal conditions...

The surf was a tad choppy, but since there are no real places for the waves to bread offshore, once you were in the water is was completely calm; you'd just go a bit up and down with the swells. It was getting into the ocean which was tricky. At one point I got hit by a wave and drilled into the sand multiple times head over heel, but other than getting exfoliated by the sand in places that should not be exfoliated I was perfectly fine :P.

(A note about the underwater pictures: this was the first time I had done underwater photography of any sort, so the pictures are definitely not up to my usual standards. I had no underwater lighting, and it was all taken blindly with a GoPro (no way to see your composition or what you've shot). Some are still images, while others are video screen grabs, so these would be even lower quality. Add the fact that the water was far from its usual clarity......The vast majority of these picture were taken at depths of 15-20 feet.)

Looking back at the beach:

Most of the beach drops off to simple sand:

It's off to the left where the spectacular reef is.

Three Black Triggerfish, known as Humuhumu'ele'ele in Hawaiian:

Hawaiian Sergeant:

Orange-Spine Unicornfish:

Yellow Tangs:

You could see some of the interesting topography:

Blue-Spine Unicornfish:

Yellow Tangs and Orangeband Surgeonfish:

Brown Surgeonfish:

Another Black Triggerfish:

Something Fishy Fish:

After a couple of hours of snorkeling Manele Bay we reluctantly packed up and headed to Shipwreck Beach, a wild remote beach only accessible by 4WD. The snorkeling is not supposed to be too good, and the channel between Lanai and neighboring Molokai is frequently to dangerous to swim. However, the appeal of this beach lies in its raw beauty and remoteness. Miles and miles of sand, an amazing view of Molokai, a WWII shipwreck, and not a soul around.

Mikey had pointed out on his map a spot along the beach where he had a so-called clubhouse. According to him, we could expect turtles to swim up to a certain rock in front of the clubhouse between 1 and 2 o'clock. We figured we'll see how well Mikey knows his turtles...

Leaving Lanai City and heading down to the ocean, the road starts out paved, but quickly turns into a deeply rutted and sandy track.

You could see Maui to the right, and Molokai to the left:

Before we know it, we were driving over this:

The "road" varies from dried mud, to rock, to deep sand. We were having the time of our lives speeding like maniacs, the Jeep bucking and bouncing. There wasn't anything that stood in our way; we just bounced over it. In fact we were having so much fun that we drove certain crazy stretches of the road over and over a couple of times  ;D:

Eventually we got to the "clubhouse". No word on how many serial killers were living in the compound:

The ocean was quite calm, so we went for a quick snorkel. However, the water was not very pretty, plus there weren't many fish or any reefs. To top it off, the area is notorious for it's shark population. Between the murky water and being this far from civilization we got out of the water pretty fast.

Instead we hauled out and got settled for some hardcore relaxation. Heaven on earth:

Right on time, a line of little bobbing heads became visible off in the ocean off to the right. The turtles have arrived, right on schedule :D. I counted at least 8 turtles; there may have been more. I got into the ocean hoping that they'll come up to me, but they were too skittish and went wide. The one turtle who let me come close enough to touch turned out to be a floating coconut ;D.

Funnily enough though, when I went over my videos from that time, I found out that a turtle had come up to within 6 inches of me. I was so focused on the ones avoiding me that I didn't even notice him at the time:

(Yeah, epic pictures 8). I know.)

The shipwreck off in the distance (this is a crop from a far larger picture, hence the blurriness):

All too soon it was time to leave the beach, and the island:

Back to Lanai City, where we picked up Mikey, and on to the airport:

You could think this guy is flying Air Force One, not a tiny puddle jumper :D:

Safety briefing:

Coming in for landing in Maui, over the sugar fields:

I was far too tired to shoot a proper sunset that night, but our little cottage looked spectacular in the late afternoon light:

Overall, I'd highly recommend Lanai as a day trip for anyone staying on Maui, especially if you could fly. It's unique, quiet, and is a fascinating place. But most of all is a feeling which can't really be described - a sort of deep relaxation, or peace. Even while running around all day there was always this tranquility.

That day on Lanai was the first (and so far only) time I told my wife, "forget about the stupid camera, I'm having too much fun". I was just in a different zone. (And let me reiterate: I did not try any funny herbs of Mikey's ;D)

Off to bed for an early night; it's sunrise on Haleakala tomorrow. One of the most spectacular things I have ever witnessed, yet one of the most irritating.

January 19, 2015, 02:11:03 AM
Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings

 ;D ;D ;D

February 07, 2015, 09:26:19 PM
Re: Something Fishy's Maui and Lanai Trip Report, Courtesy of Delta Day 9, Monday:

Today was our last on the island.

I woke up before dawn to see if I could catch a nice sunrise over Hana Bay while my wife slept in. The hotel is fantastically located, just a two-minute drive from Hana Bay and down the street from the Red Sand Beach trailhead.

The beach at Hana Bay is a beautiful crescent of black and white sand with a long jetty off to the right, where I set up and watched the sunrise. After the craziness of the day before, this was a nice change of pace. It was quite lovely sitting there all by myself while the town behind me slept:

First light hitting Hana and Haleakala behind it:

After sunrise it was still quite early, so I decided to head over to the world-famous Red Sand Beach (actual name Kaihalulu Beach). The advantage of going this early was two-fold: I was dying to see (read:photograph ;)) the beach, while my wife wasn't interested at all. And at 6:30 in the morning, it was virtually guaranteed that I'll have the place to myself.

Getting to this beach is difficult - and dangerous - in the best of times. The trail consists of a notch in the cliff, often only a couple of inches wide. The cliff and trail are both made out of loose volcanic cinders, which makes for extremely unstable footing. The ocean here is ferocious; at times you're 40 feet above the waves crashing on the boulders below. One wrong step and you're toast. The many exposed tree roots along the trail serve as both occasional handholds and terrifying stumbling blocks which have to be climbed over. Thankfully, the trail isn't very long, maybe 1000 feet or so.

I parked at the trailhead (facing the correct direction! The cops here are bonkers about that.) and headed out. It occurred to me (premonition :o?) that no one knows where I'm going, so I texted my wife my plans along with my GPS location. The trail is not exactly deadly by any stretch of the imagination, but should I slip or something it could be hours before I'm seen.

Taking the trail nice and slow, it took around 10 minutes until the bend where the beach appears. What an amazing sight! A little beach, red as can be, sat nestled underneath a towering red cliff. A line of jagged rocks stand sentinel and protect the beach from the ocean's fury, where gentle waves lap quietly.

I stood there drinking in the view, when suddenly drip, drip, SPLAT!

In the space of two minutes, the sky had gone from sunny to dark and stormy. The skies opened and it started pouring.

I knew that I couldn't remain there; there was no shelter whatsoever, and the distant rumblings of thunder could now be heard. Everything I had read about this trail said the same thing: do not even attempt if it has been raining. Nowhere were there instructions on what to do if you're stranded...

The trail was becoming more dangerous and slippery every minute. I whipped out my camera, took two pictures through the rain (priorities ;D!), and tried to figure out where to go. I couldn't head down to the beach, since the trail got even steeper in that direction. The only solution was to head back before the trail became impassable.

The return trip was harrowing. The rain had loosened the zillions of cinders on the trail, and every step was a fight to keep from slipping off the edge. If I tried to grab onto the side of the cliff for support I just came away with a handful of cinders. At this point it was lightening as well...

After half an hour or so of this I finally made it back to the car, soaked to the bone but happy to be back on terra firma :D.

It of course goes without saying that as soon as I got into the car the sun came right back out ;D ;D ;D. But success: I got my pictures and made it back alive  :P:

(Unfortunately, the rain made the reds appear brownish. Too bad... But I like the pictures anyway.)

In hindsight, I think it was incredibly stupid of me to head to that beach by myself, without checking the weather forecast and taking along any rain gear. Lesson learned.

After all this it was still quite early, so I headed for another photo stop at Koki Beach, around 10 minutes down the road:

I then headed back to the hotel to begin the days "official" activities. The plan was to head to the Venus Pool after breakfast, hang out there for a while, then back to the hotel to check out. However, when we arrived at the pool's trailhead, there were seven cars parked there already (even though this was still quite early in the morning). This meant that there were at least 15 people sharing the pools already, and this obviously didn't appeal to us in the slightest.

When we had checked into the hotel the night before, we were given a schedule of the following day's activities. These were all free for guests, so we decided to take advantage of 'em. We figured that since we're paying so much more for the night than we had originally planned we may as well get our money's worth. We were also in the mood of something more toned-down, after yesterday's (and this mornings!) excitement.

Unfortunately our first choices didn't fit our schedule, so we went with the archery instructions. It was just us, the instructor, and two other guests, and in a lovely setting up-mountain from the main hotel grounds. While not a typical "Hawaiian" activity and not something we would ever have planned on ahead of time, we ended up enjoying it a lot (even though it turned out that we were terrible at it ;D).

We checked out at around 11, and headed back on the the Road to Hana and towards 'Ohe'o Gulch. This is better known as the Seven Sacred Pools, and is part of Haleakala National Park. If you pay the entrance fee for the summit you could show your receipt here and get free entry withing three days. However since we had gone up for sunrise five days ago, we had to pay again. No worries; it was only $10 or so.

The Pipiwai Trail is also here, and is up the mountain from the parking lot. The Pools are in the opposite direction, towards the ocean. Our plan was to head down to the pools, and then do at least two miles of the Pipiwai Trail (till the bamboo forest).

In the parking lot we bumped onto the local Chabad Shaliach and a couple he was escorting. We had a nice conversation, and he suggested we join them on the Pipiwai. I was more interested in the pools, so we declined. (This would turn out to be one of the only regrets we had on this trip.)

The hike down to the pools was longer than it seems from the maps, so it took us more time than expected to get down. Quite frankly, I was disappointed when we finally arrived. The place was packed - there were literally hundreds of people in a fairly small area. True, the falls and pools were beautiful, but you had to see past the group of teens climbing behind the falls, the busloads of octogenarian slowly picking their way from rock to rock, and the piles of kids running every which way.

I had envisioned a quiet and peaceful spot; instead I got a zoo. Supposedly the place is supposed to be empty before 1 o'clock or so (when the RTH day-trippers arrive), but that was definitely not the case that day.

Most pictures of the pools look about the same, so I wanted to see if I could get something unique. Careful positioning enabled me to get a fresh perspective on the oft-photographed scene:

By the time we got back up to the parking lot we were hot, tired, and disappointed. We decided to skip the Pipiwai Trail and move on. Now we were wishing we had gone with the Shaliach earlier; I'm certain it would have been far more fun. From the short conversation we had he definitely came across as someone who it would be great to spend more time with.

Back on the road:

Past the park is where the road stops being the lush Road to Hana and turns into the wild "other half". Though technically called the Piilani Highway, it's generally referred to as the other half of the RTH. The road here starts out as a one-lane, generally unpaved road hugging the cliffs. Soon it passes through shrubland and pastures, which eventually changes into bona fide desert, not unlike the American Southwest. Finally it climbs Haleakala's flanks and back to greenery and Kula.

On this half, the road is more about the jaw-dropping scenery than activities, waterfalls, and the like. There's not much to do here, but I found myself pulling over and gawking at the scenery more often than on the first half.

(Fair warning: there are lots of road pictures coming up, as that's the star of the show here.)

The first part of the road is an astonishingly beautiful nail-biter:

Some spots are downright alarming:

Some areas had guardrails...:

...but most didn't:

In some areas the guardrail has simply given up:

The one-lane bridges are even hairier here than the first half:

A curve in the road takes you back to the jungle for a moment, and reveals a tiny but stunning beach through the foliage. Perfect spot for lunch:

Many people think that a regular car can't make it all the way around. This is simply not true. In fact, there are many large tour buses doing it just fine. Whenever we had one of those behind us, I'd pull over and let him go ahead. That let us keep our pace nice and slow:

A tiny, localized rain shower up ahead:

Rain like this means just one thing, so I promptly put my wife on rainbow-spotting duty ;D. Not five minutes later she called out a target:

The other side of Haleakala's Kaupo Gap:

Another beautiful double rainbow:

Slowly the road went from green jungle to scrubby land. With this change came the cows: dozens of them, in multiple herds, meandering mindlessly wherever they pleased:

The landscape changed yet again, this time to desert. Without thick foliage in the way, you have marvelous views of Haleakala on one side and the ocean on the other. The road itself is often visible for great distances, a winding ribbon wending its way to the horizon.

Every rise and every bend provides yet another - and completely different - vista:

The Pokowai sea arch is off to the left:

One of the most incredible-looking areas on the island is on this part of the road. In between mile markers 28 and 27, the road takes a nearly 180-degree turn around a hill. At you round the turn, your breath is taken away. The road falls sharply away from you, revealing a landscape that would feel at home in Utah or Arizona. This is the Manawainui Gulch, a deep, dry canyon which makes its way down the mountain.

The road drops 123 feet in around a tenth of a mile - that's a 40-degree grade. For comparison, the maximum allowed grade in the Interstate highway system is 7 degrees.

When people think of Hawaii, something like is is not what they imagine... The diversity on this island is unbelievable.

On the other side of the bridge the road climbs back up:

After this some plants start to appear again, as the road turns more inland towards Kula.

Someone appears to have had a lot of fun on a motorcycle here:

It was getting late in the afternoon when we came to the Auwahi Wind Farm overlook:

A shower over the island of Kahoʻolawe:

A cinder cone from Haleakala's last eruption:

The darker looking area on the left (in front of Kaho'olawe) is the Molikini crater:


My wife dared me to drive with the roof down and wearing my snorkel gear. I added a lei for good measure ;D:

(My motto in life is "Why be normal when you could be yourself" 8).)

Once you're back upcountry, green abounds:

Back in Kula, it's off to our cottage to pick up our luggage:

We had just enough time to our flight to collect our stuff and have dinner. One incredible Hawaiian sunset later and off we were, homeward bound.

The end :D

May 31, 2015, 09:03:35 PM
Re: Funny Tweets
June 12, 2015, 05:54:12 PM
Aurora, Storms, and Snowpants: An Icelandic Saga by Something Fishy, whYME, and ChAiM'l
August 01, 2015, 11:57:21 PM
Re: Best of DDF Oldie but goodie... Still my all-time favorite DDF anecdote.

Suave, in his Cambodia TR:

I bribed the Guard $1 at the Anti-Corruption Unit to let me into the building - Just for the novelty.

December 16, 2015, 11:32:04 PM
Re: A Glimpse of Patagonia: Joe's El Calafate Trip Report Awesome so far, looking forward to the rest. Patagonia has been on my bucket list for a long time.

My favorite part so far - around 1.5 seconds in, I see that you were planning this trip report already ;D ;D ;D:

December 22, 2015, 11:58:23 PM