A little video I made including some of our photos from the two islands: Oahu and Maui (Many of the pix are iPhone shots)
*** Note: This is a fairly long post about my stay on Maui. There is a lot of the usual travel stuff, including tips, recommendations, and my favorite points of interest. If you’re not into reading all of that, AT LEAST skip to the last section in this post, titled “A day I will never forget.” If you’re a regular here at the Pixel Diaries, you don’t want to miss this part! ***
In my last post, I talked about our stay on Oahu, with its Waikiki nightlife and surfers’ paradise. After Oahu, we made a little island hop over to Maui, where there was a lot going on. We were picked up at the airport by our friend Steve, who out of sheer coincidence, was visiting the islands the same time as us with his wife, Beverly. (You might hear me talk about Steve and Bev a lot, as we are always meeting up with them in Las Vegas, their home town.) As if that wasn’t enough, our friend Diane happens to LIVE on Maui, so our first evening there was somewhat of a reunion!
We started our first full day on the island with a whale-watching boat ride with Ben’s friends Mark and Shayla, who are Maui locals. It was great to get out on the water and see the coastline from that perspective. Hawaii is just so beautiful and alive with tropical colors. Even though we only saw a few whales from a distance, we had a great time, just taking everything in. Later that same day we went out exploring with Steve and Bev, visiting a few beaches on the southern part of Maui. We also grabbed lunch at an awesome little fish market and cafe called Eskimo Candy. If you’re ever on Maui, I highly recommend it, even if you’re just grabbing stuff to go. Their spicy ahi was amazing!
Ben also taught a 3-day photography/Photoshop workshop on Maui with the Institute of Visual Arts, run by Randy and Becky Hufford. We stayed in Randy & Becky’s guest house, nicknamed the “Pineapple Love Suite,” and while Ben was teaching, I went out and explored Maui. (Just as in Oahu, I felt guilty wandering the island while Ben was inside teaching!)
Iao Valley State Park
While I was out exploring on my own, I referred to the Maui Revealed guide, which is both a book and an iPhone app. I used the app. If you’re ever going to visit the island, I recommend reading the book before you go, and using the app while you’re there. It has a map feature that can show you all the points of interest in your general area. It also still works when you have no cell signal. The first place I explored was Iao Valley State Park, which turned out to be a great place to explore if you only have a few hours. There were a handful of short hikes, through the lush, green rainforest, and the most picturesque view in the area was the Iao Valley Needle (You can see it in the pic above).
Before leaving Iao Valley State Park, I opened my trusty Maui app and decided that I would head to a beautiful scenic overlook on the northwest part of the island. I had no idea what I was in for when I set out! From the map it looked like a pleasant drive along the island’s coast. I DID drive along the coast, but the drive was far from pleasant! Picture a narrow, beat-up road that was so windy and full of hairpin turns that you never really made it over 10 mph. And you wouldn’t WANT to go over 10 mph because the road was lined on one side by a rock wall and the other side by a sharp cliff that overlooks the water. In other words, you try to type one text message while driving this road and you will most likely become a permanent fixture on the bottom of the pacific ocean. No joke. To make things worse, the road was only wide enough to fit one car, but it was a two-way road. So if another car is coming your way, one of you has to find a spot to inch over enough to let the other pass. If this isn’t possible, you have to drive backwards down the windy road until you find a place wide enough. (I encountered this situation a number of times, once with a darn school bus!) In case you were wondering, this road is called Kahekili Highway, and I will most likely never drive it again. If you’re on Maui, and you decide to go that route, may the force be with you! On the PLUS side here, when I finally got to my destination, the view was amazing. I was most definitely rewarded for making the treacherous drive! You can see my view in the shot above.
The Road to Hana
The next day was Maui road trip day with Beverly. For years, I had heard stories about the famous “Road to Hana,” and I finally got to make the drive that day. We started off in the town of Paia and went all the way to Hana, stopping at all the interesting places along the route. If you’ve never driven this road before, it’s good to keep in mind that it’s all about the journey, not the destination. There’s not really much IN Hana, but there are tons of scenic places to stop along the way. Even if you don’t get out of the car, you’ll enjoy the incredibly lush foliage on either side of you, and there are several waterfalls you can see right from the car. Of course, we actually got OUT of the car.. a lot! We stopped at some waterfalls and short hikes, but the following places were my favorites:
• The Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees: We found these suckers around mile marker 10 and they just blew me away! They looked like something that would come out of a Dr. Seuss book!
• Upper Waikani Falls (Three Bears Falls): This is a triple waterfall between mile markers 19 and 20. From a photographer’s perspective, this was awesome, and it’s right on the side of the road, so it’s easy to pull over if there aren’t too many cars.
• Halfway to Hana: There is actually a little food stand/shop titled “Halfway to Hana” and the banana bread is awesome. Get some (Though keep in mind that you’ll only have about three thousand more opportunities to buy banana bread on this road.)
• Wai’ anapanapa State Park: Don’t worry. It took me about three days to learn how to pronounce that too. This park is beautiful, especially if you can go off-roading a bit beyond the camping area. Beverly clued me in on that little secret, and after driving through the forest a bit, we were able to pull off and walk out to the rocks where the water met the land. It’s not a beach, but more of a lava rock terrain where the water comes crashing up against the coast. Beautiful!
The road BACK from Hana (and a major driver fail)
When we reached Hana, instead of turning around and going back the way we came, we continued in the same direction to make the full loop around the eastern side of the island. I’ve got to admit, the drive BACK was just as spectacular as the drive THERE. The terrain turned into more of a countryside, lined with beautiful mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. We stopped a LOT so I could shoot loads of landscapes. Each stop was more beautiful than the last, and as the sun got lower, the light was amazing. Bev and I were laughing at ourselves because every time we peaked over a new hill, we would both oooh-ing and aaahh-ing. At one point, I pulled over, super excited to shoot the light on the mountains, and ran around the back of the rental jeep to get my camera gear out. As I was reaching into my camera bag, the car started moving away from me! Yup. In all my excitement, I had forgot to put the car in park! Way to go, Karen. Bev got a kick out of watching me run after the car, cursing my head off. I’ve got to say, jumping into an unmanned, moving vehicle was a first for me.
Just when we thought we were going to book it back to town, we see a big group of tourists on the side of the road, waving their arms and pointing somewhere over the ocean. We’re just thinking, “crazy tourists” until we pass them and I see it in my rear view mirror. It was a full rainbow, starting off in the mountains and ending in the ocean. Neither words nor photos could do it justice. Magical was the word we used, and it was the perfect ending to an awesome day.
A day I will never forget (and the absolute best way to end our Hawaii trip)
On our last full day in Maui, Ben was finished his workshop so he was free to explore with me. Since we were both hoping to shoot a bit, we decided to explore a little more on the Road to Hana. Ben hinted that we might be spending the night near Hana, but he was acting a little mysterious about the whole thing. I didn’t ask questions. I just rolled with it as I usually do. Unfortunately, it was pretty overcast and rainy for most of our drive, so we didn’t go on a lot of hikes. We spent a good amount of time shooting some waterfalls and overlooks. Eventually, Ben said he was going to try out a side road toward Nahiku. We winded down toward the coast and ended up right on the water, where you could look down and see miles of beautiful Hawaiian coastline. We walked down to an area that was a bit secluded, with woods on one side and the ocean on the other. We just kind of hung out there for a while, in each others arms. I was thinking that it couldn’t really get better than that. I was wrong, because moments later Ben asked me to marry him.
Words just can’t explain how surprised I was. I didn’t truly believe he was serious until he pulled the box out of his pocket. I burst into tears and must have cried for at least 15 minutes! After those 15 minutes Ben reminded me that I’d not yet given an answer! “A thousand times, YES!” was my response, once I finally found words again. There is nothing I would love more than to grow old with Ben. And of course I don’t actually mean the “getting old” part (though it sure beats the alternative!). One of my favorite quotes, which is featured on the sidebar of this site, is that “Happiness is a journey, not a destination” and I fully intend to share that journey with Ben. He is the love of my life, my friend, my lover, my partner and often times my sanity! I’m tearing up again as I type this, because I’m just so darn happy!
We did end up spending the night in the Hana area, and went out to a very nice dinner to celebrate and let things sink in a bit. Ben even called my dad and asked for permission to marry me. My family loves Ben to death, so I think they threw a little party that night back in Jersey! We flew out of Hawaii the next night, and I think this is a good place to wrap up this post. Life is good.