Maui


This is Alexei again.  The day I came back from summer school, mom told me that I was being put in charge of making the golf reservations for our trip. I immediately began thinking about the last time I was put in charge of making reservations (when I reserved a table for dinner at THE WRONG RESTAURANT), but later realized that this would be a prime opportunity to redeem myself.

Since our Wailea golf plans were not in my hands, I was only responsible for setting up the other two rounds planned for this trip. I immediately called Kahili, my favorite course on the island, to book a tee time. I love the fact that when you call and mention a time you want to play, they always will have at least 4 alternates both before and after your requested time. Also it is very likely that if you have less than a foursome, they will still let the group go off without assigning you someone who makes your local pro look like a hack. Never good for the ego…

The great view from one of the tees at Kahili

What astounds me is how well the Kahili staff manage a busy, well-filled course. They do a wonderful job of getting people started on time, making sure they are playing at a consistent pace, and helping you pack after the round (they put the bags in the trunk for you). I feel like this organization must be run by someone from the German public transportation system to be so efficient…

For those who may have played here before, but not in the last 10 years, the course has changed. It was bought by a Japanese company about 8 years ago, who has since poured lots of money into redoing and maintaining the course.

The course itself is in very good shape. The bunkers actually have sand in them, the greens are nicely manicured, and the fairways are firm but not rock hard. Small things, but they are not always available at other courses on Maui. Duffer alert:   Kahili isn’t affected by the wind as much as King K. due to their lowered position on the hill, but it still plays a large part in determining which club you’re going to hit.

Beautiful, well tended greens

There are quite a few places on this course where you can get into some serious trouble, and I speak from first-hand experience. Kahili must have double the number of trees as King K (and trust me… I know them all), as well as a few water hazards which stretch the length of the tee box to the green. However, since every cart has GPS with a full color layout of the course, it is easy to see where the trouble is before you manage to hit into it. Staying out of the trouble is another matter.

Another reason I like Kahili is because it is the one course on the island where I am usually able to play a relatively decent round of golf. I know this will be the first course I call to book a round for our next trip.

May the Golf Gods be with you.

This is Alexei again. On my quest for finding the next golf course to play on our trip, I added a new phrase to my vocabulary… a reciprocal membership. I had no idea such a concept existed. I mean, if you belong to a country club, you can get your pro to contact another pro at a different country club and he will get you and 3 other players on for a small fee? Genius.

Having visited the island a million times (not to mention being stationed on Oahu for a few years as a Marine), Papa has been able to play pretty much every course on the island. Needless to say I was shocked when I found out that he too had never been able to play the only country club on the island. Luckily for us, this turned out to be the missing piece in the proverbial puzzle. After weeks of trying to find a 3rd course to play, Papa told me he was going to get us on at the King Kamehameha Golf Club.

Now, I assume the size of the bargaining chip in this reciprocal membership thing is proportional to the prestige of our home course. Needless to say, it took less than a week for Papa to call me and say that the head pro at his club was able to get myself, my uncle, and his friend on “King K.” without any hassle. I guess this is the way people treat you when they find out you belong to a world-class country club. Sweet.

All of this sounds fine and dandy right? Yeah, well my uncle’s friend told me 4 days before we were supposed to play that he asked one of the locals about the course, and the only comment he received was “be prepared.” Apparently the greens are killer and the wind slaps your ball down like the hand of God. I wasn’t too concerned, because I face these challenges every time I play Papa’s club, the only course where the greens are so fast that they actually have to slow them down for the professionals.

I should have been very, very worried.

Everything they say about King K is true. The greens have a mix of fast and slow bits all in one hole, and are close to unreadable. The wind, even at 10am, was strong enough to require two clubs up or down – depending on which way you were facing. The good news is there really isn’t much trouble to get into, since all the fairways are pretty open. However, whenever we DID see trouble, I somehow managed to hit in it.

I knew it was going to be a rough round when my 2nd shot on the par 5 first hole was heading straight at the pin, but hit a sprinkler head and bounced 50 feet behind the green, finally resting in the roots of a tree. To think that I would have been putting for an Eagle 3, when in reality, I finished with a double bogey 7.

The only thing that kept me going past hole 9 was the breathtaking view of Haleakala and the valley below. This course is a couple hundred feet higher than the neighboring public course Kahili, making the scenery even more spectacular than its sister course. Also, kudos to the greens keeping team. They keep this spectacular course in tip-top shape for all of its 50 members and their guests.  Amazing.

After finishing what turned out to be a very rough round, I was looking forward to dining in the restaurant located in the multi-million dollar Frank Lloyd Wright designed clubhouse. Since it was late,  we opted to get a bite to eat at Buzz’s Wharf on the way back to Ka’anapali.  Bad choice.   I ordered clam chowder, and a few hours later found  my choice rivaled my uncle’s decision to order lasagna in Ireland… I paid for it by sleeping most of the night in the bathroom.

All in all, if you can get past the hype, and are lucky enough to play this course, do it… Just accept the starter’s invitation to eat at the clubhouse after the round.

This is Alexei again. Today I played Makena North in Wailea, accompanied by my uncle and his friend . It is a short 45 minute drive from Ka’anapali provided you do not get stuck behind an “environmental truck” on the one lane highway to the middle of the island. As if the blistering 35mph pace we were driving wasn’t spine-tingling enough, the smell of manure and fertilizer wafting through the cabin of the convertible Mustang was so pungent that it successfully woke me up at 7 in the morning.

Once we arrived at the course – 20 minutes late – I noticed smoke coming out of our friend’s ears. I find it ironic that someone who has the reputation for being late to everything, because of an inherent lack of a sense of direction, would get upset at us. No worries though, as we found out from the starter 10 minutes later, the course has been dealing with some problems filling their reservation books. He mentioned that they only had 18 people booked to play the next day! Unfortunately after the first 4 holes I began to see why.

Don’t get me wrong, the course is in a beautiful location, and some of the holes have the most amazing views of Molokini, Kaho’olawe, and Lanai – but the greens keeping needs CPR, or a portion of the federal stimulus package. The ground was so wet that any ball, regardless of how high or low it was hit, would plug in the fairway. On the off chance that you had a nice lie, the divot made by the second shot would probably remove more grass than a shovel. I must have run out of divot mix by the 6th hole, and it’s no wonder they give you two or more wet towels to wipe off your clubs… I wouldn’t doubt that the cleaners had to use a gallon of bleach to clean my towel.

View from the green of the 13th hole at Makena

Now I really hate to rag on a golf course, especially one that worked as hard as Makena to make our round enjoyable. The cart lady who enjoyed flaunting her silicone chest, was seen on every other hole in case you ran out of refreshments. At the end of the round, the starter greets the players with the choice of a cold or hot towel scented with something that resembles a watermelon jolly rancher.

My recommendation after the round is to skip the 19th hole at the clubhouse and go to Jaws for your after-round grub. This food truck has the best fish tacos on the island (yes, I think they are better than the ones at Kimo’s).

Another view from Makena

Will I come back to this course?  I’m not sure.  There are plenty of other courses on that side of the island that are in much better shape, so at this point, I’ll have to say No.  Also for you seasoned Hawaiian travelers/golfers, the south course (the one that borders the ocean) is out of business. It was bought by a development company who ran out of money during the recession, and now 14 of the holes have been left alone and have weeds in excess of 5 feet growing on them. However they are planning on opening up the nicest 9 holes to make a 9 hole course sometime in the future, so stay tuned.

Just be sure to ask for a couple of buckets of divot mix before starting your round.

Hello readers, this is Alexei.

Never in a million years did I think mom would ask me to write an entry for her blog. Turns out I couldn’t have been  more wrong. I can’t quite picture myself being one to gossip about inappropriate beach wear, discussing the best spa treatments (everyone knows the answer to that is the hot stone massage), and I certainly refuse to partake in shopping for new art and carpet for the condo… that’s my parents job. Fortunately for me, I instead got to play golf this vacation, and a lot of it. Even though my game was not in tip-top form, I was still able to enjoy it… most of the time.

I have played my fair-share of courses on the island, so here is an abridged version of the courses I’ve either heard of or played sometime in the past.

Ka’anapali: They have two courses, the Royal and the Kai which stretch from our condo complex all the way to Whalers village. I have never played either of these courses mainly because of the ridiculous price for two courses that look like a bad muni ($235 for the Royal and $195 for the Kai), and the fact that any stray hook or slice (depending on which side of the highway you are on) will result in a 10 car pileup. I wonder if that would constitute a free drop?

The best part of this golf “resort” is their driving range package deals. They sell 6 or 10 bucket packages with the 10 costing $65 and the 6 around $40. They are open from sunrise to sunset, however they do close the range from 12-1 and whenever they need to retrieve the balls (the cart doesn’t have a metal cage). Note: If you drive longer than 250 yards, you won’t be able to use your driver on the range without the guy in the shack freaking out. I’ve found sticking with the 9-iron keeps you out of trouble.

Kapalua: High handicappers beware, the Plantation course will tear you to pieces. This course has got it all: high winds, frequent rain showers, plenty of weeds and places to get into trouble, and menacing greens. Although, I would expect nothing less from the course that hosts the annual Mercedes Championship. I was lucky enough to play this course 6 years ago, and my most vivid memory was having to go into the pro shop after 9 holes to buy more balls for myself and my dad… it was that bad. I could probably manage it now, but that is after many, many lessons and 2 years of high school golf. I have not had a chance to play the other two courses, the Village and the Bay (I assume they are easier than the Plantation).

Pukalani Country Club: Don’t be fooled by the “country club” facade, as this is just your typical municipal course. At 80 dollars, it is not terribly cheap, but still good value for the money… or so it used to be.  It’s a good course to visit if you’re new to golf, or not at the top of your game.  Beware – there are a lot of hacks on this course, and if you get behind a foursome enjoying way to many adult beverages, you could be in for a very long day.

Dunes at Maui Lani: I have not had a chance to play this course, but from what I can see from the highway, it looks pretty nice. I’ve heard from sources that it’s a relatively easy course.  Yeah, I’ve heard that before.  Still, I look forward to playing it at some future date.

That is all for now. Stay tuned for other course reviews.

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!

It was our first day on Maui, and the Travel Gods  already scored their first point on this vacation.

At Kahului Airport’s baggage claim, Alexei and I retrieved our two suitcases, and Alexei’s golf clubs. We were rolling them along to get to the rental cars when some dude failed to estimate the amount of effort he needed to expend pulling his suitcase off the carousel. He fell backwards, breaking his fall on Alexei’s suitcase. The dude was OK, but the suitcase handle snapped off, thereby rendering it useless. One point for the Travel Gods.

Our first stop after picking up the rental car was now the Kahului Costco, to replace the damaged suitcase. The Costco Experience always reminds me of that scene from Spaceballs where Mel Brooks as Yogurt talks about the importance of ‘moichandizing’. You know, Spaceballs-The-Lunchbox – Spaceballs-The-Flamethrower – and so on. We spent a few minutes wandering around like lost souls before we found Kirkland-The-Suitcase. After signing the adoption papers, it became a part of our family. Problem solved.

Take that, Travel Gods. We’re not going to let this get us down. Not here.

On our drive to our condo, Alexei plugged his iPhone into the car stereo so we could relax to some nice music. As we rounded the corner to the oceanfront highway and the views of deep blue ocean shading to bright turquoise, our chosen selection was Handel’s Water Music. Breathe….. Breathe……

Ah the lovely waterfront in Lahaina...

By this time we were starving. Our first tradition, after dropping our stuff off in our condo is to immediately head to Lahaina and lunch at Kimo’s for their incredible fish tacos. Sitting on the patio with the waves gently breaking below the railing is the best way we’ve been able to find to start the de-stressing process. Ahhhhh. Lahaina……

Dinner that night is another tradition. We always go to the Hula Grill Barefoot Bar at Whaler’s Village. Their crab and macadamia nut wontons are the stuff of legend. I’ve never been able to replicate the soy-mustard dipping sauce, but it has to be the yummiest decongestant ever invented. Listening to the Hawaiian slack guitar music, sipping a Plantation Lemonade, and watching the moonlight playing on the ocean in the background is the perfect way to start a vacation.

Sunset view at the Hula Grill.

Mahalo, Travel Gods – The game’s not over yet.

Few things can throw women into a tailspin more than shopping for a swimsuit. 100 years ago it was simple. A nice little cami and some poofy knickers with stockings were the going thing. You could hide a lot in one of those little numbers. Top it off with a fetching cap with a bow, and you were ready for the beach.

Now, fashion has decreed that it’s all out there to be seen. No mystery, no hiding little imperfections – hey, no hiding ANYTHING. Anyone who’s been to a beach lately knows just how bad people can look in the Wrong Suit.

Hence my stress.

Going through my options prior to my Maui trip, I stopped to ponder this bit of life’s unfairness. What will work with my middle-aged body? Being in the middle of a bad case of menopause, seeing myself in one of this year’s swimsuits is a whole new experience in angst. I kept thinking “when did THIS happen?”. Not that I ever got an answer, mind you…..

Swimsuit manufacturers make their suits for teens and twenty-somethings that anyone over 30 looks terrible wearing. Then they make some suits for people who are over 80, with industrial-strength underwires and unflattering flower prints in chartreuse and electric blue. There is nothing in between. Women of ‘a certain age’ are a large segment of the discretionary income market, and I would think designers would fall all over themselves to tap into a group of people who have money to spend. I was ready to drop some serious cash per suit, if it fit and looked good.  Silly me.

I’m not asking for much. An age-appropriate suit needs to cover much of the bust in a flattering and supportive way. Nice colors that can be found in nature, with a little fun embellishment would be good too. Add a little tummy control to cover that small bump caused by childbearing that only goes away with surgery, and women will flock to your racks in the store. A short, flirty skirt is not only flattering, but for those of us over 50, it’s a public service.   Why does this combination not exist in this year’s collection?   The designers must be men.

After all the angst, I’ve decided to stick with 2 suits I already have, done by designers who really understand the lucrative boomer target market. They were expensive, but worth every $$$$, and I hope they’ll live for a few more years.

I’ve reallocated my swimsuit budget this year to spa treatments. After all this stress, I need some pampering. And yes, I’m going to ROCK those suits at the beach.

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