Saturday, August 4, 2012

Pictures Speak

Sunset at Kealakekua Bay

Akaka Falls

Hiking at the end of Chain of Craters Road

Our view at Kealakekua Bed & Breakfast

That's Clay paddle-boarding!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Magical Maui

The Cliff's Edge, Maui

Maui holds a wide array of natural wonders. For me, the expansive ocean vistas never get old. I get a thrill each time we turn a corner and there it is again -- the grand Pacific ocean with sunlight dotting across. Sometimes we see it from afar in all its grandeur, and sometimes we see it up close and enjoy the lapping of the waves on the sand. There are times when it is calm, welcoming us to jump in for a swim and snorkel, but sometimes the view has it crashing up against volcanic rocks which provides a dynamic and somewhat earth-shaking excitement. As we have driven around Maui, it seems the longest we go is 10 minutes before taking in these sights, but typically it is much more frequently than that. With my love of these views, it is no surprise that we are staying at The Cliff's Edge which provides this vista right from our lanai.

Earlier in our time in Maui, we traveled to Hana, a sleepy little town that comes after a bracing 35-mile drive on the narrowest winding road, with approximately 50 one-way bridges and multiple hairpin turns, with lush mountains on one side and the ocean below the cliff on the other side. When a car came toward us from the opposite direction, there was a friendly unspoken debate of who would squeeze through first! Those 35 miles took almost 3 hours to complete, but it was never boring. I felt like I was driving through the garden of eden as I was surrounded by greenery, ancient trees, colorful flowers, and seemingly countless waterfalls. Take a look, and imagine the ocean just off to the left:

Speaking of those waterfalls, my travel partner cannot get enough of them. Small waterfalls dribbling down a few rocks, or large waterfalls crashing down the face of a mountain, Clay enjoys each and every one. I began to feel a bit about waterfalls the way I feel about churches in Italy, but I never tire of the look on Clay's face as he takes in yet another cascade. We took a hike on the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls where you get very up close and personal with a 400' waterfall, so I share with you here the destination and, of course, the journey included numerous waterfalls along the way.

Aside from the dramatic driving and interesting hiking, a favorite part of my 2 night stay in Hana (you need no more than that) was our cottage at The Guest Houses of Malanai. There was something utterly charming about the cottage and its setting that made me feel like my life was a movie (but it's REAL!). Maybe it was the bountiful front yard that faced that wonderful ocean I could look at every day and night, or maybe it was the coziness of the cottage with its fresh flowers everywhere and quiet Hawaiian music playing upon our arrival, or maybe it was simply the quiet relaxation of Maui seeping into my bones after the rigorous ride.

Our Cottage in Hana
Departing Hana, we had a little more treacherous but even more beautiful driving along the south shore of Maui as we headed to the crater at Haleakela. After some remaining frightening miles with stunning views through the rain forest, the terrain turns volcanic on the dry side of the island, making the topography suddenly appear other-worldly. What a change! The sun was shining on us in our convertible car but I could have sworn I was driving along the craters of the moon. The climb to Haleakala takes you from sea level to 10,000' on a fairly gradual, far less daunting route. I was more impressed by the crater at the top than I expected to be, taken in by the various colors of volcanic ash and rock which reminded me of both Waimea Canyon and the Grand Canyon. And this is all within a half a day's drive of that lush garden of eden in that sleepy little town of Hana!
Our cottage in Hana
After days of hiking and driving, we arrived at the beautiful and serene spot you see at the top of this post, and enjoyed a fine meal at Haliimaile General Store. Again, I feel like my life is a movie (but it's REAL!). Imagine filming overhead from the sky onto the rocky shoreline of Maui, dotted with homes and vast natural gardens, and the footage zooms in to find a pool with only a few lounge chairs for a handful of guests. There on the open air lanai, I sit at my iPad scribing this post looking over the ocean and breathing in the sea air. The Cliff's Edge, while quite modest in its amenities, has likely the most magnificent view and setting of anywhere I have stayed in the world. I doubt I will want to leave. First some kayaking and snorkeling, though, before heading on to The Big Island for our remaining days in Hawaii.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Actively Relaxing

How much activity can you squeeze into three days? If you know Clay and me, you know we can squeeze in a lot, and if you know me well, you are asking yourself "She is in Hawaii; why can't she just sit still and relax?" The marvelous thing about our first days in Hawaii is that I have been able to actively relax, just by having a good deal of relaxing activity.

Just the beginning
Just the beginning
We have been staying at Santa's By the Sea in Haliewa on the north shore of Oahu. That is about 35 minutes drive from Honolulu but feels a world away. There is one magnificent beach after another, and our comfortable and spacious room at Santa's sits right on the beach you see above. We have snorkeled at Turtle Beach and Shark's Cove (don't worry - no sharks!), Clay has paddle-boarded at Haliewa Bay, and we took in views of many others.

At LEAST 4 feet long!

The snorkeling at Shark's Cove was nothing short of fantastic. Getting into the water from the rocky shore was less of a challenge than I thought it would be, and there sure was a big pay-off! The multi-colored fish were plentiful, and some were very large. Clay is a terrific snorkeling partner who led us through all manner of nooks and crannies to see some gorgeous tropical fish.

In addition to enjoying beaches and water sports, we have seen some of Clay's friends from years ago. We took in a ukelele festival and an arts festival, and Clay took me on a tour of Punahou School, famous for being the school that President Obama attended but even more important for being the school where Clay began his teaching career. The drive along the coast from Haliewa to Honolulu was spectacular, and was a highlight of my time in Oahu. Lush gardens on one side of the road faced by magnificent seacoast and palm trees on the other side.

Our favorite moments, though, have been relaxing at our guest house, reading the Sunday paper or enjoying dinner on our gazebo. The sunsets have been magnificent, the sleep has been deep and, yes, I am decompressing from my busy life in the Big Apple. Tuesday morning we fly to Maui, and we begin with the drive on the famous Hana Highway. Having heard about this for so many years, I am more than ready for this exciting trip.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Planning for Paradise

After months of planning, we are a mere week away from our big adventure to Hawaii. We are confirming our flight reservations, reserving a car service to the airport, and double-checking our accommodations to make sure the dates match the days we expect to stay in those locations. Clay and I are reviewing maps together and making some initial plans for our first days in Oahu.

We are flying direct from Newark, our preferred airport in the NYC area, to Honolulu, which is a 10 hour flight. We put a high premium on non-stop flights in order to avoid delays, crowds, airline bureaucracy, and the deadliness of airports. When we booked the flight many months ago we decided to fork over the additional money for the extra legroom seats figuring that we would never remember how much we spent once we went, and that is proving to be true. And I am sure I will be grateful for the extra room on the very long flight.

After landing in Honolulu, we will start by staying in Haleiwa, on the north shore of Oahu, at Santa's by the Sea. It is truly right on the beach, and I was simply taken by the name. It is a Bed and Breakfast that has only one room so we were lucky to get it. I am already dreaming of having my coffee in the gazebo overlooking the Pacific Ocean as I overcome jet lag while staring at the sea. Could be rough, right?

The current focus of my planning is learning to blog using my iPad. I am trying an app called Blogsy that promises to import this blogpost right into Roaming the Roads where you are reading this now. Testing it out before we go, I apologize in advance if there are some goofy aspects to this post or the early ones of the trip. Part of the experiment includes being able to post a photo, so here goes a gratuitous import:

Clay's Hawaiian-inspired 50th birthday party
Clay's Hawaiian-inspired 50th birthday party
See you from Hawaii!


Sunday, June 10, 2012

How Do We Get There?

I am often asked how we plan our trips. How do we choose where to go, where to stay, where to eat, what to see? For some people the research involved is work. For Clay and me, it's half the fun. We keep a running list of "Dream Vacations" and as each of our trips comes to a close (usually in the airport for the return flight), we look at that list for destinations that offer something different to what we just experienced. After European cities, we might head to hiking in the American west. After an island getaway, we might plan something athletic.

Of course, duration of vacation will play into our choice. Four days offer one kind of trip, two weeks offers something altogether different. Once the destination is chosen, we look at maps and start reading. I am often the initial navigator, deciding what is possible in a given amount of time, and how much time we may want to spend someplace and how much travel time is involved. This summer's trip to Hawaii includes 3 islands with 5 separate destinations, and we decided how long we would be at each place after finding out what each island offered and what appealed to us and for how long.  No matter - I already know it won't be enough time!

Some of our favorite sources are, TripAdvisor, Kayak, Hipmunk, Journeywoman, and all those that I follow on my Twitter feed (@TravelFan15).  We spend time at our dining table with maps open, computers charged, and iPad handy.  If we have friends who have traveled where we are going we shoot off emails asking for recommendations, pro and con.  We compare notes from other travelers, eliminate places based on comments of kindred spirits, and take heed to our particular turn-off: long responses by innkeepers, et al, to reviewers' less-than-flattering reviews.

An important and valuable aspect of this is that we know what we like and what we don't like so we are able to pick and choose informatively.  Even if you've traveled only a little, you can surely make a list of what attracts you, what you like to do and don't like to do, as well as personal pet peeves and deal-breakers.  Keep those in the front of your mind as you plan, and pay attention!

As noted, this summer's journey is to Hawaii, specifically Oahu, Maui, the Big Island.  We go this time with an advantage since Clay has lived in Hawaii and knows it well.  More important, is that he knows that I like to stay in small, quiet places near beaches, and we both want to snorkel and kayak at a leisurely pace.  We compared a lot of Bed & Breakfasts and Inns, far preferable to us than large resorts, and chose based on location, recommendations of other travelers, cost (of course), and general appeal.  Stay tuned for the outcome.  As I write this, our departure is just over a month away.  'Still time for more planning!
Lovie, of course, helps with the planning