Waking up on Monday morning after returning from paradise vacation 2.0 sucks. There is no luxury cabana by the serenity pool, no beach-side walks, no mid-morning Mai Tai, no afternoon spritzes from Rowena, no casual dining in the ocean air restaurant, and no ocean view bedroom. But those are just some of the reasons we decided to celebrate our 30th anniversary at our favorite location in Maui at the Four Seasons, version 2 of the best anniversary vacation. I spent three months planning for this reboot of our prior visit five years ago. It turned out so great we did not want to leave.
Mountain Top Sunrise
We awoke at OMG-thirty Friday morning to make our way to Hawaii. Three ﬂights and 17 hours later, we found ourselves back home at the Four Seasons, Maui. By the time we drove from the airport to the hotel it was 10:00 PM, we were wiped, and we had an early start, so we crashed for the night…. well part of the night.
If Friday morning was an early start, Saturday was off the charts. We headed up to the top of Mt. Haleakalā and no matter who I asked, everyone at the hotel recommended leaving by 2:30 AM. No, that’s not a typo. I don’t care who you are or where you come from, 2:00 AM alarms are not welcome. Somehow, we managed to drag ourselves down to the lobby for a cup of coffee and a muffin before gathering the blankets and towels for our trek up the mountain top.
Standing on the dark, cold mountain top in the middle of the night, we still didn’t quite understand why we began so early, that is for about ten minutes. When we looked back at the parking lot below the summit, the lot that was empty but for five or six cars when we arrived ten minutes before was completely full. Within minutes, people were jockeying for prime positions at the summit. Lucky for me, the Four Seasons advised us to leave at 2:30 AM, so I had the perfect position and a great parking spot 100 yards away.
While we were waiting for the sun to peek above the horizon, someone noticed the incredible light show from the stars above. It was honestly one of the best viewing of stars we had ever seen. So, I began trying to capture the show.
It wasn’t long before a glow of orange began to show up on the horizon so I adjusted my camera to capture our home star. As much as I planned to run my camera in time lapse mode, I opted to manually fire and adjust hundreds of shots during the sunrise. I just couldn’t trust a single setting or my skills adjusting the settings while the camera was in time lapse mode. Note to self: Practice time lapse shooting for next time.
I had so much fun capturing the sunrise, I barely noticed how cold my feet and butt became, that is until Deb offered me a towel to sit on. I finished with this one last shot and then had to capture the moment with a shot of the two of us on the summit with the observatory in the background. Deb was a real trooper waiting for me to take all those shots.
Before we headed back down the mountain, we stopped at the lower observation point and took a few shots of the volcanic crater. It was like looking at a moonscape or Mars. Too cool.
Our trip back down the mountain was quite stressful, so much so I am in no hurry to return. It was bad enough that there was no shoulder on the mountain road or that every switch back looked like it would send us tumbling to certain death, but our rental Jeep peals were awkward. All I could think of was catching my foot as I switched off the gas, missing the break and launching us down the rocky cliffs. I managed to make it, slower than many of the people I let pass, but I avoided disaster.
While we were at the pool, I called the front desk to say that our partial ocean view wasn’t partial at all. This is something I don’t do. In fact, I felt guilty asking because I am am not that kind of person. About an hour later, they called to inform us they found a better room they hoped would suit us better. Yeah, this view from our room is much better.
Tomorrow it’s decadent luxury.
We decided to spend Sunday in decadent luxury at the serenity pool. I reserved a premium cabana. Deb was so cute as we walked through the pool area. She said, “Honey, it looks like the best cabanas at the end of the pool are already taken because they have towels on the chairs.” I said, “Yeah. I am pretty sure one of those is for us.” As we confirmed we had the pick of the two best spots in the pool, I got the biggest hug.
The rest of the day was pretty quiet. But watching the games on our private TV and this view were priceless.
I should mention that with the 2:00 AM wake up the day before, our clocks were still off. So, when we awoke at 4:00 AM, Deb suggested to go to the beach and catch some stars before the sunrise. How could I resist? We were already up and we had nothing else to do. These are the shots I was captured from the beach.
I discovered manual mode on my DLSR. Yes. I know manual mode has always been there but I finally discovered how to use it. I must say, I was pleased with the results.
Deb took a shot of me geeking out in the sand after the sun came up. Then, as we walked from the beach back to the serenity pool, I had to shoot this beautiful view of the hotel grounds looking north at what’s known as West Maui. It looks like a separate island but it’s actually attached by a low-level land mass between the two former volcanic mountains.
Paradise 2.0 is coming together well. After another fulfilling day, we settle into bed with another gorgeous scene from our veranda. From our room, we see West Maui in the distance over the trees and through the bay.
Road to Hana
The last time we were in Maui, we took the road to Hana and ended the day at Moma’s for dinner. Why not try a second time? We could stop and see things we missed the first time. Yeah, pretty good idea.
Just like the last time, we stopped just outside of Paia on the north shore at a place called Hookipa Lookout. The pictures above are from the lookout. It is shaping up as an excellent day.
The next stop was the Garden of Eden. There is no doubt that this place is some form of Eden.
After the Garden of Eden, we stopped on the road to look back at Honomanu Bay. Then we headed down to Ke’anae Point. We did not see Ke’anae Point last time, so it was a treat to see it this time.
Next on the journey was Upper Waikani (Three Bears) Falls (MM 19), one of the best falls on Hana Highway. We stopped at Waianapanapa State Wayside Park (MM 32) – One of the only black sand beaches on the island of Maui but it became so cloudy and rainy, the pictures I took didn’t turn out very good. So, the next stop was Wailua Falls (MM 45) one of our favorite stops along the drive. There were kids jumping from the cliff into the water below the falls – even a couple older guys trying to prove something.
We reached Hana after noon, so we stopped at Hana Ranch Restaurant for Hawaiian barbecue. The rain kicked in just before we arrived and subsided just in time for us to get back on the road to the last stop of the day at Seven Sacred Pools.
We finished the day at Mama’s Fish House and had a fabulous dinner. I wasn’t able to get any good pictures because the skies unloaded with rain so I included a shot from 2011 above. Can’t leave that shot off.
Anniversary Day – Tuesday
On our anniversary, after breakfast we treated ourselves to a massage. After that, we relaxed by the beach, enjoyed our mid-morning Mai Tai and spritzers from Rowena. Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for dinner at Nicks next door in the Fairmont Hotel. When we returned to our room for the evening, the hotel treated us again with a bottle of champagne.
It’s hump day and we didn’t have anything planned. Well, originally we were going to snorkel but neck surgery made that a challenge. But after the excitement we had up to now, it was nice to have nothing planned. What do you do in paradise when you have nothing planned? Answer: Whatever happens.
Back in 2011, the Four Seasons served brunch with these fresh-hot donuts called malasadas.But the hotel stopped making them, so I had a goal to find a local place that served malasadas. According to the bellman, the best and closest place to find fresh malasadas is at Homemade Cafe in Kehai, just 15 minutes from the hotel. It wasn’t hard to find the shop and boy was it worth the trip. They were hot, fresh, and delicious.
From Kehai, we decided to explore the island. Since we were half way to West Island, we just hugged the water and drove up to Lahaina. I didn’t even pack my big camera, just the little Panasonic. Unexpectedly, in late morning light, I noticed this lush mountain scene and had to turn around to catch it.
In town, we enjoyed walking through the numerous art studios getting ideas for shots. Deb found this cool Banyan tree in the middle of town.
In one of the studios, I admired one particular shot printed on silver. The gallery salesman told me that the shot was take at “Secret Beach” just south of our hotel. He warned me that it’s often a busy beach with wedding ceremonies. I couldn’t resist. After dinner, Deb and I raced back to find this not so secret beach so I could see if I could recreate some of the shots I saw. You tell me what you think.
Today, we planned to sit by the pool for the morning then head to Lahaina to make some sunset pictures and have some dinner. Well, the day turned out to be perfect.
As long as we have come to Maui, the wind and waves always kicked in about 11:00. You can set your watch by it. Not today. Today, the weather was perfect, just enough breeze to keep it comfortable but not so much that the waves were too rough.
Deb and I spent more time in the ocean today than we have all week. It was truly a perfect day. In fact, Deb said that this was as good as our day at the infinity pool in our cabana.
But all good things must come to an end. It was time to head back to Lahaina to make some pictures and grab dinner. My whole goal for the day was to capture the sunset from the north end of Lahaina.
While we waited for the sun to make its bed, I noticed the moon peeking out from above the west mountain of Maui. I had to capture it.
Last Day in Paradise
Our return flight on Saturday was late, so we had another full day to enjoy paradise before heading home. The hotel gave us a late check out so we could enjoy the pool before heading out. Paradise Anniversary Vacation 2.0 was a fabulous success. Our only wish is to make it last longer.
Before we headed to the airport, I had one goal to make some pictures on the north shore of the wind surfers since the weather didn’t cooperate on Monday. From the wind at our hotel, I anticipated a big wind the north shore. That is an understatement as the wind was fierce. I could barely hold my camera still to take the shots.
You can tell from the video how windy it was. At least I was able to catch some good shots and Deb played spotter for me. Thanks, Maui, for another awesome vacation. We’ll be back.