Monday, November 27, 2017

Spring Break 2017 - Atlantis, Bahamas

Spring Break 2017 started out at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. We then moved on to Florida where we met up with my sister and her family for some final days of fun at Disney World!

Our travel day to the Bahamas started early. We drove to Nashville and flew from there to Charlotte and had a very quick connection on to Nassau. Once we landed in Nassau we were on the runway for almost an hour just waiting for a gate to open to park the plane. That was tough! Once we were in the airport we then had a very long immigration line to deal with. Unfortunately, the taxi I had reserved ahead of time had been waiting for a very long time. I had planned to add the option for a small additional fee for him to stop at a grocery store on the way to the resort. However, by the time we were finally out of the airport all grocery stores had closed.

When we got to the Atlantis Resort we were amazed at how massive and beautiful it was! The sun set really early so by the time we got to our room it was starting to get dark, so no time for water fun. We did, however, walk through Marina Village to find a dinner spot. We started at The Burger Shack, as that is usually a go-to type of food while on vacation with the kids' food allergies. They were completely inept at dealing with food allergies and didn't even know what kind of oil they used. We also waited a substantial amount of time to just be served water. The service here was slow and the wait staff seemed uninterested in their customers so we were actually happy to leave.

We found Bimini Road in Marina Village and they were able to accommodate the allergies. They had a good system in place which made me feel better! We were pleased with the ambiance of this restaurant and had a delicious dinner here. When we finished our dinner and headed outside, it was completely dark, except for the lights on the yachts in the harbor and the decorative lights around Marina Village. Live music was going strong and we had a great time walking about. We finally headed to the room to get some sleep so we could get good rest before our fun-filled days ahead!

Atlantis Resort at night

During our stay here we got breakfast to go from the ala carte cafe and took it outside to eat every morning. From there we would find lounge chairs and start our water fun for the day. The kids loved trying all the water rides, including the iconic Leap of Faith. At one point we were all on the not-so-lazy river and my mom accidentally went another way. She ended up going down several water slides that she had no intention of doing! A couple hours passed and she finally found us - that is one con to staying at such a huge, sprawling resort -it's hard to find your party if you get lost!

Fun in Atlantis

The beach was fun for a bit, but quite rough, we all got tossed around quite a bit and decided it was too much for us. We spent most of our time in the pools, The Current, and water slides. Our favorite dinner was at the upscale Virgil's BBQ, which overlooked the water.

Beach fun and our favorite restaurant at Atlantis

Overall, Atlantis was fun for a few days. Our kids were at the perfect ages to enjoy all the rides. I wish that the beach had been more enjoyable but you can't control Mother Nature, that's for sure!

Kids at the Atlantis Resort, Bahamas

Monday, November 6, 2017

Day Nine - The Road to Hana

On one of our last days on Maui, we decided to drive The Road to Hana. The Road to Hana follows the coastline of northern and eastern Maui. This is the rainforest part of Maui - gorgeous canopies of bamboo, tropical flowers, and various other flora were abound. It is a must-do in my opinion.

After breakfast we packed up for the day and then headed to Whole Foods. I had read that there aren't stores along the way, except for small stands selling smoothies and banana bread, so bringing some essentials along is a must.

Mike took the top off the Jeep as we set out on The Road to Hana so could get the full experience while driving along. Well, no sooner were we on our way than rain started. We were suddenly in a downpour and had to pull over to get the tops back on!

Our first stop was at mile marker #2, the Twin Falls. This is the first real stop on the Road to Hana with a cool trail that meanders past bamboo forests, beautiful foliage, and leads to viewing some pretty waterfalls. I also had to buy a small loaf of banana bread, as that is one of the recommended things to do at these roadside stops!

Twin Falls, Road to Hana, Maui

From there we opted to drive a bit before stopping again. We wanted to scoot past the crush of tourists and then stop when it was less crowded. Not to mention, due to the rain and our recent hike at Twin Falls, we were muddy and wanted to enjoy the Road to Hana from the car. We continued on for a bit to Kaumahina State Park. We decided this would be a good stop for lunch and stretching our legs. It was still very wet from the rain so we didn't use a picnic table, rather just ate sitting in the jeep. As soon as we pulled in suddenly hordes of people pulled in and the line to the bathroom was very long! After our lunch break, we were on our way again.

I have to say that the valleys, foliage, flowers, and waterfalls are breathtaking and so worth the hairy drive! While the road is surprisingly well maintained, there are many spots where you need to yield to oncoming traffic as the road narrows to one lane or it's a one lane bridge. I was glad Mike was driving! We kept on driving all the way to Hana and once we arrived we took the road down to the bay. The beach here was very small and very rough, but still pretty. We stopped at the bathrooms which were very unkept! Still we were glad to have that option vs. port-a-potties we had seen along the way. I also treated the kids to soda and they were happy with that!

Some sites along the way

Our first stop on the way out of Hana was the beautiful Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach. We had a hard time finding parking so had to drive around the cramped, busy lot for a bit. We finally found a spot and then hiked down to the beach. Mike went for a dip and said it was really refreshing, although it was very rough. There were many signs posted about currents and that made me glad we didn't bring the kids' swimsuits! We also checked out a cool cave that opened to the ocean on the far end. The waves came crashing into it which made me nervous when the kids wanted to stand close as the waves crashed out just as quickly as they crashed in! As we turned to go out it was hard for our eyes to adjust to the light coming in through a whole overhead and Braden tripped over a huge rock in the way. Poor guy hurt himself a little. Just a note to really watch your step in the cave! Once we hiked back up we wanted to hike to the cave that once held the ancient princess, according to Hawaiian legend. Princess Popoalaea was forced to marry chief Kakea, much to her dismay. She and her faithful servant fled to this area and hid inside a lava tube near the black sand beach. The chief searched and searched for her and finally saw her reflection in the water from her hiding place and it was here that she was killed. Just a neat bit of Hawaiian legend to go along with the amazing scenery!

The black sand beach

From here we stopped twice to look at waterfalls and then we had our fill. It took a bit to get back to the main road and we were glad that the windy road was behind us! Bucket list check for Road to Hana!

We stopped at Whole Foods again as Mike and I wanted to grill some chicken and mashed potatoes. Once back at the resort Mike and the kids swam while I tossed in a small load of laundry and organized our luggage. We grilled our dinner and had a nice final dinner here!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Day Eight - final snorkeling

Today was our seventh day so we had to return our snorkel gear today. After breakfast we headed down to the beach to snorkel for a bit.

The water was a bit rough and I never was able to get back in to snorkel. Mike did a little bit but the kids felt it was too rough. Instead, we rented boogie boards for them at $15/each from the resort, but they did all have fun with it so it was worth it!

Boogie boarding in Ka'napali

We eventually made our way back to Lahaina to return our snorkel gear. After dropping it off we then headed to Ululani's Shave Ice. We all opted for the micro size this time as that is truly more than enough for each of us! When we were done we had a few things to pick up from the grocery store for our final days in Hawaii.
Ululani's Shave Ice was fantastic!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Day Seven - Happy 10th Birthday, Ava!

Today was Ava's 10th birthday! What a great place to spend it, in Hawaii. We went down for breakfast as usual, but I had picked up some Pop Tarts for a special birthday treat for the kids. After we ate we packed up and headed to where we thought we'd be staying next, the Marriott Wailea, which was about a half mile from where we were at the Residence Inn.

We had planned to use points for our stay at this hotel and were excited to move right to the beach again. Mike is a platinum elite with Marriott and with that comes some perks, including early check-in. Our room was to be ready at 9 am so we had packed and left our Residence Inn location early, expecting to have time to unpack, swim, and then get ready for a fun evening ahead.

Our room wasn't ready until about 1 pm, they said. We were disappointed as that threw a loop in our plans. We had them hold our luggage while we explored the property.

Pretty Wailea

The property was beautiful, with pretty rocky spots to stop and take in the views of the ocean, beach, and outlying islands. Unfortunately there was A LOT of construction going on here. We were aware there would be some construction, including only two pools being open, one adult only and one for everyone. The kids pool that will be coming looked great, but unfortunately it won't be open until December 2016! I was actually very surprised at the amount of construction going on here. Golf carts of workers were driving everywhere, leaving muddy tracks on the Wailea Coastal Path. There was all sorts of construction noise to the point I could barely carry on a conversation with Mike. I told the kids to sit in the shade on a bench while we chatted. We both agreed that the construction would put a damper on our stay here as so much was closed off and the noise was very very noisy! He got on the phone with Marriott and we cancelled our stay here, thankfully got the cancellation fee refunded, and book back at the Marriott Ocean Club where we were so happy before. Unfortunately there was no availability with points so we had to pay out of pocket for it. At the Marriott Wailea, however, we still would have owed about $700 in resort fees on top of using points so we felt it was worth it. Once that was settled we got our vehicle loaded back up and headed back to the Marriott Ocean Club in Ka'anapali.

We checked in but our room wasn't ready yet so we drove a short distance north along the beach to Duke's for lunch. The kids happily ate their burgers and fries and Ava had a delicious birthday lunch of her favorite - ribs! I had to also try the Hula pie, which was a suggestion from my brother who had eaten there before. It was huge! It was delicious but I ate about 1/8th, warning, several people can share this!

My hula pie

Our room was now ready so we headed back to the hotel, excited to check in and swim again as we knew the place. We were disappointed with our room, sadly. It was half the size of the previous one, with a mini fridge, one bathroom, and we were all in one small room. Thankfully we were able to get a rollaway bed so we all slept comfortably but we missed the space we had with the first room. Mike tried to get us moved but they weren't able to do so. I guess we expected the same room as before seeing as how we paid the same. But doing it the same day I guess you get what you get.

In the afternoon we got ready and headed to a luau! I thought this would be a fun way to celebrate Ava's bday.

We arrived at the Sheraton, just up the way from our resort, and checked in. We were greeted with beautiful flower leis and Mai Tais for the adults and fruit punch for the kids. It took me a bit to find the right person to talk to about the food allergies. I had called the day before and the person who answered the phone was very helpful and promised to send an email to the luau manager. When I checked in the lady simply stated there was no note on our account. I finally found the luau manager on my own and she walked me through the buffet. She wasn't really able to provide me with information as to ingredients, but luckily a chef was there. He also wasn't able to state the ingredients with 100% certainly but gave me a little bit better insight that the manager. I finally decided we would really limit the kids foods here. One thing they did do which worked great is let us go first. I'm sure a lot of people were curious why our table in the middle went first but oh well! Safety first! This way we didn't need to worry about cross-contamination from other guests, such as using the same spoon for multiple dishes - that is very dangerous when dealing with food allergies! We settled on salad, veggies, and the pork for the kids, and they really liked all of it. The pork was definitely the best part of the buffet, the rest was not my taste, although Mike found it all pretty good. I personally didn't care for the desserts, they were just ok. The drinks were ok as well, I tried another mixed drink, the kids had sodas, Mike beer. It was all just ok, nothing exciting.

The show itself was pretty good. They did the usual asking guests to come up to hula, and then did various Polynesian dances from various Pacific Islands. They also asked who was celebrating birthdays and Ava was one to stand up. She and other birthday guests were sereneded with Happy Birthday from other luau guests as well as the host - how fun! The best part of the show was at the end with the fire dancers - the kids especially loved that part. Once it was concluded, we stopped to buy the family pic they took of us at check-in as it was actually a pretty good shot of all us - a rarity!

Luau time, Happy Birthday, Ava!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Day Six - Last day in Wailea

Today was the last day at the Residence Inn as Mike finished up his final day of work. A meeting on Maui and a flight to Kauai finished up his work here.

The kids and I started the day like every other with our leisurely breakfast at the hotel. Afterwards, they played on the putting green while I did laundry and then we ate lunch in the room. We swam for a bit again and then got ready to head to the Shops of Wailea.

Playing mini golf on the property

The Shops of Wailea is basically an upscale collection of outdoor shops, including stores such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and even stores like Gap and Banana Republic. We enjoyed shopping at the ABC store where the kids picked up more souvenirs and I got Mike and I each a shirt from Malibu Shirts - great quality and made in Hawaii! You have to be careful when souvenir shopping here. Many things I looked at were made in China or Indonesia. What is the point of a souvenir from Hawaii that is not really from Hawaii?

After a bit of shopping, Mike met us here and we headed to Monkeypod for dinner again. Braden had been begging for Subway ever since we arrived in Hawaii so he just ate fries at the restaurant while the rest of us ate dinner. We then got him his beloved Subway for after. Mike and I took a slice of coconut pie back to the hotel and ate it outside by the outdoor fire tables as the kids swam as the sun set. It was a nice last day in peaceful Wailea!

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.

Snorkeling Ulua Beach

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!