Spring getaway: Maui in March | VailDaily.com

Spring getaway: Maui in March

Caramie Schnell
Vail, CO, Colorado
Caramie Schnell/cschnell@vaildaily.comA full moon illuminates the sky above Kihei just before sunrise. Coloradans beware: Your first few days in Maui you'll likely awaken well before the sun rises.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series. Check next Sunday’s High Life section to read the second part.

It’s a different kind of sun worship. In Maui, every evening at dusk people stop in their vacationing tracks to watch the sun dip into the ocean. It’s true what people say, every sunset in Hawaii is beautiful; some verge on spectacular. And it never gets old – even for the locals.

“I’ve lived here for five years and I still try to go outside at sunset every day,” one waitress told us as we craned our necks to see the splendor.

Come March, many Vailites get their own version of island fever – me included – so it’s interesting that just a week on a true island can cure the is-it-summer-yet blues. Over the years, I’ve taken spring break trips to plenty of beach climes – Mexico, Costa Rica and California among them – but none were as memorable as a family trip to Maui I took earlier this month with my aunt, my mom and her boyfriend.

Making waves

The day before we were to leave, my aunt woke me with news of the impending tsunami headed straight for our much-anticipated destination. But thankfully the stacks of T-shirts at souvenir shops on the island declaring “I survived the tsunami,” are funny more than true. Though most of the shore-side resorts moved their guests to rooms above the second floor, there wasn’t much of a tsunami to speak of and certainly no damage.

It was raining – pineapple showers as locals call them – when we arrived in Maui after a 6-1/2-hour flight from Phoenix. Not to worry, my brother told me over the phone, it’ll stop in five minutes. And he was right. The sun soon shone and a rainbow, our first of dozens, filled the sky.

After picking up the rental car, and a quick stop at Costco for supplies for the week, we headed for Kihei where my mom had booked a timeshare for the week. We pulled along the side of the road in order to catch our first sunset. As the blazing sun slipped into the shimmering Pacific, I inhaled deeply. I could live here, I thought. That same thought has been scrolling through my head since.

Listen to the locals

For the first of many times, we took a local’s advice – our rental car agent – and headed to Cafe O’Lei (2439 S. Kihei Road/808-891-1368) for dinner. Though the sun had just set, it was nearly 10 p.m. according to our stomachs, which we soon filled with tasty crab cakes and chicken lettuce wraps. The star of the meal was the two sushi rolls prepared before our eyes since we opted to sit at the sushi bar in the back rather than wait for a table.

Before heading to bed, we snuck across the street to the ocean and stuck our toes in the warm surf. The evening was particularly bright thanks to the full moon and glancing up, I noticed a white half circle in the sky. Yep, a full moon rainbow.

Across the street, a security guard confirmed our suspicion.

“Did you see the full moon rainbow?” he asked as we walked near him. “You’re lucky. I’ve lived here my whole life – 30 years – and it’s only the second one I’ve seen.”

A surreptitious sign indeed, we mused aloud.

Wildlife watching

The next morning we took the Honoapi’ilani Highway toward Ka’anapali Beach. November through May is the best time to see the humpback whales who prefer to give birth to their babies in the warm Hawaiian waters. We stopped at the McGregor Point Lookout to see the first of many whales. Spout after spout of water shot from the ocean and we even saw a tail or two.

After shopping and a leisurely lunch in busy Lahaina, we headed a few minutes down the road to the Hyatt Regency Maui, at the south end of Ka’anapali Beach. The hotel is located on 40 sprawling acres of beachfront property. There’s a veritable water playground with pools, slides and waterfalls in front of the 800-room hotel. From our room’s deck we got our first look at the perfectly manicured gardens below, which are home to koi fish, black and white swans, a family of pink flamingos, an African grey parrot, East African crowned cranes and even a handful of African black-footed penguins. Just beyond, the blue ocean stretched out as far as the eye could see and we soon realized our deck might be the best vantage point to watch the many whales cruising along the shoreline.

A Hawaiian celebration

Like many big Maui resorts, the Hyatt puts on an elaborate luau, called Drums of the Pacific. Upon entering the outdoor terrace, we were handed mai tai’s and a seashell lei was placed around our necks.

The evening began with the blowing of the conch shell and some history about the luau. Next up – the unearthing and presentation of the whole, pit-roasted pig. Soon we were helping ourselves to a buffet-style feast that included traditional Hawaiian dishes like salty lomi lomi salmon, pickled raw tuna poke and the fall-off-the-bone tender kalua pork, which was best slathered in the fresh mango salsa served alongside. As we finished our piled-high plates, the show began – perfectly-tanned, partially-clothed Hawaiian men and women told the tale of the first Hawaiian islanders’ migration to the islands with their performance. The highlight of the show was the fire-knife dance. Buyer beware though, this three-hour show was a bit crowded and highly produced, replete with flashing stage lights, so if you’re looking for a more traditional, smaller-scale experience, you might want to consider another of the many luaus to choose from.

Read the second half of this story in next Sunday’s High Life section.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.

Support Local Journalism