That’s the mantra my 9 year-0ld nephew Harald (he chose his blog-name after the famous Nordic hero) travels by.  We’re not talking about a small plastic shovel, either.  This is a metal spade of medium size and good quality.  Perfect for a born digger.

Bro and Alexei enjoy Harald's Sand Bar while Harald works on the water diversion.

Give Harald a shovel and a vast expanse of beach, and he’s as happy as a clam.   Literally.   He will dig and build all day, and be completely exhausted by 6pm.   He’s the perfect kid.

He builds cool stuff too.  The other day he decided that what our beach needed was a Sand Bar.  So he built one – with excellent engineering.  It had cool benches and a table in the middle where we could put up our feet and place our beverages in comfort.

Both Harald’s dad and Alexei were the envy of the beach as they sat and enjoyed a cool drink, the waves, and one very busy kid.

Harald putting the Army Corps of Engineers to shame.

Next, Harald decided the Sand Bar needed to have a moat around it so when the tide came in it would flood around the structure, and not get the people sitting inside wet.

Did I mention he’s 9 years old?

I wondered what happened to the E gene (engineering gene – don’t tell me it doesn’t exist!) in our family.  It’s pretty obvious Harald has it.  He proceeded to dig a moat around his Sand Bar that could have been used around a levee.

If the Army Corps of Engineers have a talent scout, they really need to check out Harald.  The kid started building with blocks as a baby, and hasn’t stopped since.

Harald's pyramids, paddle, shovel and boogie board. Just what every engineer-in-training will have on holiday!

The next big event was Harald reproducing the Pyramids at Giza.   Seriously.  With the aid of a paddle, he not only built the three main pyramids, he also did an irrigation moat around them and a levee wall to keep them protected from the high tide.  He learned his lesson from the sand bar.

Yep.  9 years old.

Building is not all Harald does.   He also likes to bury things.  Shells, rocks, people – you know, just the stuff all normal genius-kids like to do.

I’ll leave you with a pic of Harald and his good buddy  who was also on Maui with his parents.  If this is what Harald does to his best friends, it would be interesting to see what he does with people who tick him off.

I really do need to keep up favorite auntie status.

This kid is going places!

Watch out - Harald wields a mean shovel!

I’m a huge fan of farmer’s markets, and if I HAVE to go shopping, I much prefer to patronize local growers and traders than huge megasuperwhatevers.  Here on Maui there are a few small farmer’s markets that pop up in parking lots, at beach parks, or just off the side of the main highway.  In most cases, they’re just one or two small growers that have their produce on tables behind their truck.   Those guys tend to move around a lot, so if you see one, stopping is a good idea.  It’s a bit harder to find one that is stationary and regularly timed since they rarely advertise.

Alexei choosing the perfect tapenade and mugging for the camera.

The one thing they all have in common is delicious produce picked at the peak of ripeness, and you can’t beat it for flavor.  I’m also a bit of a nut for organic produce, and that’s very hard to find at supermarkets.

Just be sure to bring your own reusable bags – Maui County does not allow plastic bags to be sold at any foodstore.  I never travel without a couple of lightweight grocery bags, and a large selection of mesh fruit and veggie bags.  Two years without store bags is my running record, and one of the ways I’m trying to be green.  Every little bit helps.

There’s one particular market near our condo that runs three times a week.  It’s run by a local organic market in Honokowai, and they’ve converted their parking lot to hold tables and awnings.  The market is from 7:30 to 10:00am Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – get there early because the good stuff goes fast.   The tables are full of boxes of local fruits, vegetables, breads (including gluten free), salsas, guac, spreads, dips, local honey and whatever you can think of.  They also give free samples of some of their more luscious fruits to entice the punters to buy more.

And before I get inundated with email, no, I don’t cook  while on vacation.  This stuff is for breakfast and lunch only.  That I do fix, while Vlad and Alexei enjoy their kona coffee and guava juice on the lanai.  They take ME out to dinner, so it’s all good.

Our usual haul includes:

  • Maui Gold pineapple – it has a lower acid-content than the usual kind that you can find on other islands, or on the mainland.  The fruit is a deep gold and is incredibly sweet.  Don’t cut out the core – that’s the sweetest part of the fruit and is edible.  Eaten with the tarter portion, it creates a nice flavor mix.

    Doesn't this look yummy?

  • Papayas –  There are two types of papayas sold locally.  Regular Hawaiian papayas have a deep orange-gold color inside and are yellow-green mottled on the skin when ripe.   Sunrise (or strawberry) papayas have a similar skin, but the inside is a peachey-red color – just the color of the sun as it rises over the ocean.   Both are best eaten with a wedge of lime squirted over the top.  Scoop out the seeds, squeeze the lime in the cavity, and devour.  Ambrosia!
  • Apple-bananas.  These little bananas are 4-5 inches long and have a slightly apple flavor.  They’re very different from the ones you get on the mainland, and once you try one, no other banana will satisfy you.  They’re high in potassium and absolutely delicious.
  • Lilikoi (passionfruit).  These little fruits are best when perfectly ripe.   Don’t let them over-ripen – the taste is just not the same.  It can be tricky to find the ones that are ready to eat.  Have one of the experts show you the best ones to buy.
  • Dragonfruit – the yellow-skinned ones with the white flesh are my favorite.   I got hooked on these pretty fruits in SE Asia, and the local Hawaiian variety is just as good as the ones I used to devour in Thailand and Malaysia.  Peeled and sliced, the white flesh with black seeds are slightly tangy and very refreshing on a hot day – they have a kiwi-like flavor that is lighter and a bit sweeter.  Careful of the red dragonfruits – they’re a bit sweeter than the white, and are great in salads, but the juice stains and WILL NOT COME OUT of clothes.   Yes, I did learn that the hard way.  I go with the whites since I’m basically a klutz, and tend to wear what I eat.
  • Kula greens – these baby lettuces are grown on the cool slopes of Haleakala and are full of flavor.
  • Heirloom tomatoes – the volcanic soil in Hawaii produce some of the best tomatoes in the world.   Try one and you’re spoiled.  Wow.
  • Local cheeses, dips and spreads.  We usually indulge in the garlic-olive cream cheese for morning bagles, as well as the tapenade, and spicy and pineapple salsas.  The tapenade this market sells is superb.  Just the right amount of garlic, and a great mix of olive types – all locally grown.   Add some crackers and lunch and evening appetizers are thereby taken care of for the duration of the trip.
  • Local honey – there are a whole lot of very happy bees on the Islands, and the beekeepers make some of the best honey in the world from the tropical flower nectar they produce.   One of my favorites is the honey made from macadamia nut flowers.  Try it.  Trust me, you’ll take home a few jars.
  • Local breads – home-baked sweetbreads and locally baked breads abound at these markets.  Our favorite is a sweet pineapple bread made by a very nice lady who lives in Napili and sells her wares at the market.   She also has a series of gluten-free breads that look pretty good.  Haven’t tried them, but they seem to sell well.

When you visit a farmers market, just don’t be surprised when you go up to the checkout table if the guy tells you that you need to bag your own stuff because he’s “just not feeling it today”.   This is Hawaii, where Hang Loose is not just a term, it’s a lifestyle.

Home again, home again, jiggety jig.  Time to make a really good breakfast for the boys.

Hang loose.

There is never a shortage of things to do on Maui.  In the more than 25 years that we’ve been coming regularly to the Ka’anapali/Lahaina area, we’ve done a whole bunch of things that appealed to our interests.  Please note each title is a link to the adventure described.

Atlantis Submarine - this is the only one that actually submerges.  It goes down to the bottom of the channel and you can see incredible marine life.  They bought the old Carthagininan sloop a few years ago and scuttled it in the middle of the channel.  It is now a reef, and home to a variety of endangered marine species, all under the watchful eye of the University of Hawaii marine biology department.  Very cool, and worth every penny of the $100 or so per person to go and see.

Reefdancer Yellow Submarine – it’s more of a glass-bottomed boat that floats around off the coast and in the harbor, but if you don’t want to submerge, or are claustrophobic, it’s a good way to see some of the marine life that lives close to the coastline.

Jet Skiing – Alexei does this at least once every time he comes here.  They start from a public park just before the Ka’anapali complex.  Pontoon boats take you out to a floating wharf, and there you pick up the jet skis.  You can reserve either 30 minutes or one hour and off you go.  There is a course you’re restricted to, but it is challenging – especially when the trade winds are blowing, and the ocean is a bit choppy.  Beware – you WILL hurt the next day!

ATV – this is a huge favorite of ours.  You are taken by van into the hills above Lahaina, and shown to your 3-person ATV.  The course they take you on is challenging, and the views are amazing.  The dust kicked up is even more epic.  We rented camoflage clothing from them (highly recommend that!) and they supply the helmets, goggles and bandanas that you wrap around your face.  At the top of the course, they have some crude waterslides that go into a natural pond.  Great for the 7-9 age group, but no great shakes for adults.  If you don’t have kids, take the ATV only tour.  It’s better.  One last word of warning – wear clothes you don’t want to keep.  The dust will NOT come out of anything you wear.  You will also be cleaning dirt out of your ears for about a week.

America II - for those who love sailing, they’ve taken one of the racing yachts used in one of the America’s Cup several years ago, shortened the mast, and turned it into a daily performance sailing experience.  For those of you who love to sail, this is amazing.  They amble out into the channel, get into the 6 foot waves and higher trade winds by Molokai, and put up the sails.  The boat immediately goes sideways, and you FLY through the waves, grinning hugely.  It was the MOST fun of anything I’ve done here, but I love to sail.   Alexei and Vlad were severely  traumatized, and refuse to go on any boats now as a result.  Wimps.

Haleakala - the drive up to the crater is beautiful, and the views once you get up there are really something to see.  There are a few options, depending on your tolerance for exercise and sleeping patterns.   If you like bike-riding, taking the 4am shuttle up the mountain on one of the bike tours and then riding down the mountain right after sunrise is a true experience.  If you are really lucky, the Travel Gods will put in a good word for you with the Weather Gods, and you might even get a day without too much cloud cover obscuring the views.  If not, the pink glow that is all around you through the clouds at sunrise is also a nifty thing to see.   If you do take the bike trip, please be careful.  The road can be very dangerous and every year a few tourists don’t make it down the mountain in the way they originally expected.   If you don’t like bike riding, and aren’t too keen on sunrises, driving up the mountain on your own is nice as well.   Just be very careful of all the bikers when you’re driving up and down the mountain.

Snorkeling at Molokini - This is something great to do once, and is usually done the first time you visit Maui.  You go on a catamaran from Ma’alena, and speed out to the small atoll between Maui and Kahoolawe.  There you will see a lot of beautiful fish, several turtles, and if you’re really lucky, some dolphins feeding.  The boat captains are usually very amusing.  The one my brother and his family took said at the beginning of the boat ride that if you were wearing a speedo, you didn’t get lunch unless you said “Go Bears”.   Although I sympathize with the sentiment, I’m not sure I would say that to paying customers, but hey – this is Maui!

The Road to Hana.  OK – we really got bit on this one, I must confess.   Perhaps it’s because I get car sick, or perhaps because when I spend 4 hours in a car I like there to be something really worth while seeing at the other end of the trip.     As it was, we visited the 7 pools, or 7 puddles, as it really should be named, thinking it would at least be worth the drive.   The Travel Gods were really laughing that day.  The drive would be somewhat nice, it is rather pretty, but it’s very, very crowded, and you really creep along at 10 miles per hour, breathing in the exhaust of all the cars in front of you.  Add to that a dearth of rest-stops, and you have an experience that may not be what you want.  Those t-shirts with “I survived the Road to Hana” aren’t referring to the road – they’re referring to all the people who were stuck in a car filled with kids in the back seat for 6 hours and ended up not going insane.

Whale Watching – Whale watching is in the winter.  In the summer, the whales are in the northern pacific.  If you’re here in the winter, you can’t miss any of the dozens of whale watching expeditions that leave from just about every spot that boats can put into.   Be careful which one you choose – there are a lot of scams out there.  Talk to the concierge of your hotel to get recommendations.

Parasailing - this is available primarily in the resort areas of Maui – Wailea, Hana, Ka’anapali and Kapalua, but may not be everyone’s cup of tea.  That said, being strapped into a harness and towed behind a boat while flying in the air for 10 minutes may appeal to a good many readers of this  blog, and be worth the $125 that you would spend.  If you’re afraid of heights, or don’t like getting wet, you may want to skip this activity.  I will say, it is beautifully quiet up there, and it certainly is nice to get a great view of Maui.

Ziplining – If you have children under 10, you won’t be able to bring them to this extremely fun activity.  If you have older children, or are traveling sans enfants, this is one activity you should not miss.   It’s exciting to go speeding along above the vegetation, and the thrills are awesome.   There are a few places scattered throughout the island that do this along the mountains. Check with your concierge to find the nearest facility.

Horseback riding – There are several outfits that take groups in various areas on the island.  I can recommend riding in upcountry Maui or in the Kapalua areas.  Horses can go places where most wheeled vehicles can’t and if you’re into nature, plants and incredible volcanic formations, I recommend this activity.  They can usually take children over 7, so it can be a good activity with your youngsters.

Booze cruises –  These sunset cruises usually feature incredible sunset pictures along with loud music, mediocre appetizers (sometimes  dinner), pedestrian alcohol and really bad wine.   There are a couple of up-market cruises out there that have decent food and wine that won’t give you a headache, but they are pricey.  Do your research before selecting one of these cruises.  Your stomach will be glad you did.  Word of warning -if you get seasick, don’t take one of these cruises.  Please.

Golf – Maui is a golfer’s paradise, but this activity is not one in which I can comment with any authority.  My son Alexei did the entries here on golf, being our family enthusiast.  Read his entries under Golf in my categories to the right.

Whatever you end up deciding to do, bring sunscreen, a hat, a camera and your enthusiasm.  It’s a lot of fun.  Enjoy!

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