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.

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!