Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Day Five - Ulua Beach

Today was another day Mike had to travel for work, this time heading to Oahu. I decided to take advantage of being near another good snorkeling beach, Ulua. First, we ate breakfast at the hotel. They have a huge, very good quality, complimentary breakfast so we took advantage of that each day. After breakfast, we packed up a beach bag and our snorkel gear and had the shuttle driver drop us off at Ulua Beach.

The beach was similar to Napili, in that it was a cove and each end was bordered by rocks. Ulua flowed into another beach, though, so the rocks on the one side were bordered by great shade trees and then the beach continued, easily walkable from Ulua Beach. Skylar wasn't interested in snorkeling, so I headed out with Braden and Ava.

Ava was soon over the snorkeling, she just wasn't into it today. Braden and I spent a good hour and a half out there. We saw similar fish to what we had seen at Napili a few days before, but this time also a Moray Eel. I'm not a fan of eels, they are too similar to snakes, but thankfully it stayed low on the floor of the ocean. Braden and I were on the hunt for sea turtles but sadly never saw any that day nor the whole time we were in Hawaii. We joked that they lure visitors to Hawaii with the promise of seeing sea turtles but they don't really exist in Hawaii ;)

After about two hours we decided we had had enough fun in the sun and called the shuttle driver to take us back to the hotel. We ate lunch in the room and then swam for a bit again. I also did some laundry. We grilled out some delicious steaks for dinner after Mike got home. Another glorious Hawaiian day done!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Day Four - Moving to Wailea

One of the reasons we were able to travel to Hawaii was also because Mike has some work operations here. He flew here for work so I built a family trip around that. Today and the next two days he needed to travel to each of the main Hawaiian islands for work while the kids and I hung out at the Residence Inn in Wailea. We had to get up early this morning and pack up and drive the 45 minutes to Wailea so Mike could unload us and then drive back up to the airport to catch his flight to the Big Island.

The Residence Inn had only been open a week. Everything was brand new, clean, and smelled of new carpet and paint. I hauled our luggage up to our room and unpacked. It was a good size for our family, two queen beds and a large pull out sofa. We also had a full kitchen which was nice! There is a Whole Foods on Maui right near the airport so I had Mike stop there on his way back this day to stock us up on food to grill as well as some produce and other items we needed for the next couple of days.
The Residence Inn, Wailea

After the kids and I unpacked, we had the hotel shuttle driver drive us to Monkeypod Kitchen, an ecclectic restaurant I had read about and had been wanting to try. It was a short distance from the hotel but it was also uphill and very hot so we opted for the comfy ride!

I loved my meal of pork tacos and the kids raved about the fries and chicken wings. The kids also enjoyed "real" sodas, made with natural cane sugar. I also had to try the pie that is raved about so I got a slice of coconut pie to go. It was delicious!
Lunch at Monkeypod,delicious!

Once back, we swam for a bit in the large pool - compared to the other resort this pool was very quiet! After a while we tried the putting green and then Mike came home and we grilled out for dinner.
Playing on the putting green

Once we were settled for the night, we realized our air conditioner wasn't working! So, late at night, we had to pack everything up and move to a new room. It was a pain, of course, but at least we had a/c!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Day Three - Iao State Park

Today was a day I was ready for - some adventure! I enjoy the beaches and pools but definitely need some action after a few days.

We drove about a half an hour into the center of the island to Iao State Park, arriving just after 9 am. When we arrived, there were still parking spots available in the small parking lot, however when we left about an hour later cars were waiting for people to leave, so I recommend arriving early! It costs $5 to park but there is not an entrance fee.

At the entrance

There was a nice paved path from the parking lot into the valley. There is a short path to descend, taking you past many beautiful plants. The ascent up to the viewing platform of the Iao Needle gives you a beautiful view of the valley below as well as the Needle. This is a great photo op, as everyone stops to take photos here.

The incredible Iao Park

The park was gorgeous, a surprise for all of us. The beautiful verdant mountains and deep valleys are haloed in clouds and are so dense and pretty. The Iao Needle, the centerpiece of the park, juts straight up almost 2200 feet in the middle of the valley. It has important connections to Hawaiian history, too, as it was the location of the battle between King Kamehameha and Maui's army in the late 1700s in his quest to unite the Hawaiian islands. He won!

After an hour we headed back to the car and back to the resort for more swimming and sunning! We grilled again, this time delicious hamburgers, yum!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Day Two - Snorkeling Napili Beach

On our third day we were ready for some snorkeling, and we knew the best snorkeling was early in the morning. We were still getting up pretty early due to the big time difference between Eastern time and Hawaiian time, so we were up and ready by 7:30 a.m. We drove a short distance from our hotel to Napili Beach. The beach was in a cove with rocky shores on either side and it was so pretty. The rocks also meant great snorkeling!
Napili Bay Beach

Skylar hadn't tried snorkeling on our trip to Grand Cayman last year so I really wanted her to try it this time. She did try it but wasn't a big fan so she ended up spending her time hanging out on the beach. Mike, Braden, and Ava spent a lot of time out snorkeling, as did I. We were excited to spy some humuhumunukunukuapua'a (Hawaii's state fish) as well as many other varieties of tropical fish!

The kids had fun snorkeling, Ava even found a lei wash to shore!

And of course, whats a day at the beach without some beach gymnastics?!

After some time, we were ready to head back to the hotel where we ate lunch and swam in the pools again. For dinner we ate at Ka'anapali Grill, which is in our resort. It was very good, but very expensive!

At our resort

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Day One - Settling in on Maui

Today was the day we hit the grocery store and rented our snorkel gear for the week.

First we stopped at Snorkel Bob's in Lahaina, which was recommended by fellow travelers as well as noted in my Fodor's Hawaii book. They were super helpful at explaining the differences among masks and getting us sized for what we needed. We each got our own bag of gear for the week and were on our way.

Next, We shopped at Safeway for groceries in Lahaina as it was close to where we were staying in Ka'anapali. They had a good selection of organic items as well as other miscellaneous items we needed for the week. We got stuff to grill as there are quite a few barbeque grills at our resort.

We headed back to the resort to unload our gear and swam a bit more in the pools and the beach. We grilled hot dogs for dinner, everything tastes better grilled beachside! We also caught one of the many amazing sunsets we'd see on our trip from the lawn of our resort, which is just steps from the beach.

Sunset at our resort

Another day done!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hawaii - Travel Day

As usual our travel days are long! I booked another set of tickets via flight miles and chose the best possible option for those tickets. That option included driving to Chicago's O'Hare airport, catching a 5 am flight from Chicago to Phoenix, and after a short layover continuing on to Maui. The drive was fine, getting up at 2:30 a.m. for the flight the next morning was hard! I ended up with a migraine after the early rising and long travel day so I won't be scheduling that early of a flight again!

Our flight from ORD to PHX was around 3 hours and then we had about an hour and a half layover in Phoenix. We accessed the American lounge, which was nice for us to spread out in comfy chairs, have plenty of room to charge our devices, and have some good options for breakfast. Soon, we boarded our flight to Maui. We lucked out as no one booked the window seat next to Mike and Skylar so we were able to spread out some. I noted what a peppy bunch the passengers were when traveling to Hawaii! Everyone seemed happy and excited, as were we! The flight took about six hours and soon we saw a little bit of land in the distance, how exciting, we were approaching Hawaii!

I spy Hawaii!

Once we landed, we collected our luggage and headed to the car rental. I read that renting a Jeep in Hawaii is fun, especially if planning to drive the Road to Hana, which we were. We lucked out in that we got the last white jeep with removable tops, which we took down for our drive to the hotel.

We arrived at the Marriott Ocean Club, on Ka'anapali Beach, and were so impressed! There were several pools, the main pools all flow into one another with slides and waterfalls, volleyball net, and hot tubs. The best part is you overlook the beautiful beach with a clear view of Lanai in the distance. The walking path is so pretty as well, it takes you to other resorts along the beach.

Our room was a nice surprise as well. It was quite large and great for our family to spread out in. We had a king size bed in the bedroom, lots of space, and a full bathroom. The kids slept in a pull out sofa in the living room and we also had a rollaway. There was a full bathroom there as well and a kitchentte. It makes breakfast, lunch, and snacks so easy having that in the room.

Our one bedroom/two bathroom suite at Marriott Maui Ocean Club

I unpacked while Mike took the kids to explore a bit. Later that day we swam in the pools. We were excited to be in Hawaii!

Yay, Hawaii!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Roman Forum

From the Colosseum we then headed to the Roman Forum, which was very close by. I do wish we had booked a guide for this. The ruins were incredible but it would have been even more meaningful if we had a guide to explain it all a little deeper. We did our best to make our way through on our own self-guided tour, wandering about in amazement.

We were especially intrigued by the area where Julius Caesar's body was burned. A hump of dirt remains and coins and flowers are still brought daily in honor of the slain emperor.

Temple of Caesar in the Roman Forum

Sights within the Roman Forum

We spent a few hours here and then started slowly making our way back home. On the way, I knew we needed to stop at Trevi Fountain and be total tourists and throw coins in to ensure a future trip to Rome!
The Trevi Fountain where the kids tossed coins in to ensure a future trip to Rome!

Rome was absolutely incredible - from it's people to it's architecture to it's history to it's food - the ambiance was always perfect which made it one of those destinations that touched us deeply. Staying in the Trastavere neighborhood was perfect - it was a good, central location to the sites we visited as well as providing that quintessential Italian ambiance one hopes to experience when visiting Italy. On our very last night, Skylar, Mike, and I roamed around looking for last minute souvenirs. We loved the small piazzas and fountains we passed with people sitting in these sort of "outdoor living rooms", living the dream of people watching from their perch as the sun set on this amazing ancient city.