Ride the Wild Surf in Maui, a tour of the lonely north shore road, and...aloha
WAILUKU, MAUI, HAWAII - That was a crazy, crazy day. I woke up at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel to absolutely thunderous surf. The breakers were hitting the beach at three to four feet, which is high even for winter.
Most folks stood on the beach in safety, but a few youngsters (mostly) braved the big waves crashing on the sand. I went in for a few minutes but steered clear of trying to body surf a wave that was pounding down on the sand with what looked like hurricane force. It was a great reminder of nature's power, although it meant I couldnt' get in any snorkeling up at Kapalua or Napili Beach as I had hoped.
I was treated to a fabulous lunch at Pineapple Grill at the golf resort in Kapalua, right on the lovely Bay course. There was a great Asian-inspired beef short rib dish and a good dish with clams and truffle butter. Tops was a serving of what they call forbidden rice; a black rice from China that they cook al dente and then finish off with coconut milk. Outstanding stuff, so thanks, folks.
As I was saying yesterday, Maui used to rely on the mainland for most of its food. But the Pineapple Grill says it gets 85 per cent of its material from the Hawaiian Islands, and that's called pretty sustainable food sourcing I think.
I wanted to drive the north shore to get to Wailuku, which is where I was staying the night due to a 6:26 a.m. flight to Honolulu, so I drove up past Kapalua to famous Honolua Bay. I'd seen three or four foot waves there before, but these were 10-feet and occasionally surging, I think, to as much as 15 (the photo here is actually one of the smaller ones). Huge waves; just crushingly large. A couple guys had some bad wipeouts, but a few had long, zig-zagging runs up and down the huge, curling faces of the waves and had to have lasted half a minute. I can surf a little at tame places like Waikiki or Lahaina, but anything over two feet and I'm toast. Watching these guys was just tremendous, and I can only imagine the size of the surf on the north shore of Oahu, home to famous surf breaks at Waimea Bay and Banzai Pipeline. (I actually saw some pipeline-like tubes at Kaanapali, which was awesome).
From there I wound my way up towards the northern tip of the island, but not before running into Mel Witt. I don't want to spoil my Maui story for our Grand Tour series, so lets' just say Witt is a former NFL player who now resides in a ramshackle "house" at the side of the road and dispenses water, banana bread, hand-made jewelry...and funky poetry. He also likes to embrace any young ladies who happen to come by, as you can see.
It's a beautiful part of the island that looks, at times, more like the coast of Ireland or Scotland. The green, jagged faces of the West Maui Mountains appear above you, but down near the water it's scrub trees and red rock or lava rock, with enormous blue-white waves crashing heavily onto the land after making a journey from somewhere near Alaska or northern British Columbia. There's a blowhole that spouts water high in the air after every wave hits an underground cavern, and not far along a pretty narrow road is the tiny village of Kahakuloa, one of the last old-time outposts in Hawaii. There are only a couple of hundred residents, and it's a half hour drive along a tiny, tiny road to Wailuku. But it's got a lovely church and a couple stands for banana bread or fruit juice, not to mention tremendous views of a giant rock called Kahakuloa Head.
All in all, a wonderful drive. Not as long as the drive to Hana. Not as pretty in some eyes, but I think it's marvellous and I'd highly recommend it for a nice afternoon. It was perfectly clear all the way from Kapalua to Wailuku, a town that has come a long way. Market Street in Wailuku has some nice restaurants and some cute shops and a cool gallery run by Pat Masumoto called Galerie Ha, who has a sweet painting near her desk of her with her mother. Awwwwww......
What was more amazing than the clear weather all the way around the north end of the island was a clear view this morning of the top of Puu Kukui, the mountain that dominates West Maui. It's the second wettest spot in the world, with hundreds of inches of rainfall every year. The top is almost always shrouded in heavy cloud, but today it was as clear as could be.
I've been to Maui 15 or 16 times (sorry), and usually spent a week or so. And I'd never seen the top of the mountain, so it was a HUGE thrill to spot it out the window of my plane on the way to Honolulu. The guy I was sitting next to, a Maui resident named Larry who's a great guy, said he'd NEVER seen the top of the mountain, so it was a wonderful way to say aloha to my favourite place in this wonderful, wonderful world. I HATE leaving this place, but it's not bad at all this time as I'm flying in a couple hours to Sydney, Australia; next stop for the Toronto Star Travel department's GRAND TOUR. Look for the Maui story in the Saturday paper in a couple weeks, with Sydney coming in a little later.
Thanks again to everyone at the Paia Inn, Mama's Fish House, Hotel Hana-Maui, The Grand Wailea, Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, the Napili Kai Beach Resort, Merriman's restaurant, the Pineapple Grill and the very cute Wailuku Inn, as well as the funny guys at O Saigon cafe in Wailuku. And special mahalo to Charlene!
Aloha, Maui, and a hui hou (until we meet again). Oh, and one last sunset shot, this one from Napili Beach!