Maui - West side


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North America » United States » Hawaii » Maui
April 2nd 2010
Published: April 18th 2010
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Once we arrived and got settled in our B&B, we set out to check out the beaches. West Maui is supposed to have the most beaches of any of the islands. The beaches in Kihei, although highly recommended by our hosts, proved to be less than we expected. There was some sand but only a narrow strip, and some waves with mostly rocky bottom, but we didn’t find them very inviting, although, in the right light, there were some nice photo spots.

Farther south, towards Wailea (where the fancy hotels are at that we couldn’t afford to even think about staying), there are nicer beaches for both swimming (Kamaole Beach Parks I, II, and III), and for snorkeling (Ulua Beach Park), and many others that we spent a bit of time at. The snorkeling, while OK, was not anywhere as good as we found on the big island. The wind was always too high and stirred up the water making it murky looking, and dangerous for us beginners to get too near the sharp rocks.

Heading north towards the area heavily populated by expensive condo complexes is the Napili coast, where the beaches are rough and pretty, but the water is not safe for swimming. So, we spent a couple of days beach time in the south west shore, taking pictures, laying on the beach, and taking short dips to cool off - still a very nice way to spend part of a day!

We visited the historic town of Lahaina. In whaling days, it was the whaling capital of Hawaii. Nothing to be proud of now, but part of its history. We thought we would find some interesting old buildings, but the buildings just look old - like those in any old town. None of the Spanish Colonial influence here. More like an western movie set if anything. Now, the main industry is tourism, and all the shops along the waterfront street are souvenir shops and art galleries and restaurants. The prices are as high here as they were in Kona, so we continue to pack lunches and eat out as little and as cheaply as possible. I guess we don’t eat out much at home, so we didn’t have anything to compare these prices to except prices in Mexico, which isn’t a fair comparison I guess. And we are finding that if you are in a place long enough, you find where the places are to shop, and look for specials and sales, just like at home, so maybe it isn’t so bad after all.

One day we took a trip around the north-west side of the island. We had heard that it was a scenic drive, but the road gets narrow and twisty, and after a certain point, highway 30 turns into highway 340, and rental cars are not allowed to travel there. We intended to go as for as a little town called Kahakuloa, which according to the maps looked like it was about where rental cars should stop and turn around. At least I thought we intended to turn around. Steve had other ideas!

The road was so narrow, that there was only 1 ½ lanes, making it hard to pass anyone going the other way. To make it more interesting, the road twists and turns around high rock walls, and you can’t see someone coming around the corner at you until you get there - and the road falls away to the ocean on the other side. Turned out that once we got to the town, we were already past the point where we should have turned back. We stopped at a little road side stand and bought a loaf of still-hot banana bread from a couple who live in the little town, and grow taro, the starchy staple of the Hawaiian diet. I rested there for a bit, and got my stomach back under control before heading on.

We thought that since we were this far already, we might as well go ahead. Well, the road got even narrower, down to only one lane with no lines. There were a few spots with a little dirt shoulder where one car could pull over a bit when cars met, but the corners were narrow and without any view of what was coming at you. Sometimes, cars had to back up until a wider spot could be found so they could pass. Steve is a very careful driver, and quite enjoyed the drive, but I was terrified on this road! No wonder the rental cars don’t want you to drive it! Anyway, we made it safe and sound, and got lots of pretty pictures. We have included a map of the highway so you can see how twisty it is.

One thing I didn’t mention about the middle part of Maui is that it is one of the few places that still grow and process sugarcane commercially. Both sugarcane and pineapple used to be grown on many of the islands, but both industries have mostly shut down here now in favor of places like Mexico and Central America where the climate is similar but the wages are cheaper. We didn’t know that sugarcane grows to be about 12 feet high! And also that they stop watering it when it is ready to harvest so that it dries out, then burn the fields before harvesting (to remove the outer leaves). One of the days we were there, one road was shut down for part of a day because one of these fires had gotten out of control.

We had been looking for some traditional Hawaiian music like we had found in Hilo (on the big island), without much luck. Seems most of the places that have bands are performing for the younger crowd and play whatever they will dance to. Through our hosts at the B&B we found out about a concert up at one of the condo complexes in Napili that happens once a month called Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar. In slack key, some of the strings are slacked from the standard tuning, with the thumb playing the bass while the other fingers play the melody and improvise in a finger picked style. The end result sounds like there are several guitar players, just from one talented player. The roots of slack key can be traced back to the 1830s when the guitar was brought over to the islands by Spanish and Mexican cowboys. When these cowboys left, they also left their guitars, and the Hawaiians adapted the music they had learned to their own culture, tuning each guitar to match the key of the vocals and handing down inventive tunings through the generations. It is easy to hear the country roots of the music, but it is different - more laid back, more melodic, and very definitely Hawaiian. We were not supposed to take pictures or movies there, but we sneaked a couple of quick pictures of the guys on stage anyway. It was just two of the “Masters”, and for some of the songs, two students. Nothing more was needed! These fellows have put out CDs that have won Grammy awards for several years - they are that good. The wind was so strong that it kept rattling the canvas covering of the place we were in, and the sound of it competed with the performers. But even so, they just laughed about it and talked about worse winds that they have had to deal with in the past. All in all, it was a great evening.





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