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February 27, 2006

-- Travel --

Having it all in Hawaii

By Sean Soltys

You can’t beat the paradise of Hawaii.

My family’s taken many great vacations over the years, but our trip to Hawaii – filled with spectacular sights and exhilarating experiences– topped them all. From the views off 500 ft. cliffs overlooking water, parasailing 800 ft. in the air and catching a wave in Maui’s surf, Hawaii was an awesome experience.

Instead of island hopping like some travelers, we chose to remain on Maui for the duration of our stay. Besides the fact that it costs an arm, a leg, and a few toes for a family of six to catch a flight every few days, we heard that Maui was the most authentic island of them all. We weren’t disappointed.

 

We stayed on Maui for 11 days in the wonderful town of Ka’anapali at a resort named the Ka’anapali Ali’i. “Ali’i” means “royalty” in Hawaiian and that’s exactly how they treated us.

Our condo had three bedrooms, a kitchen and dining room, a living room, two bathrooms, and our own lanai, which is a private porch. Luckily, the condo had more televisions than Best Buy, so I was able to keep up with all of the important sports news throughout the trip. Even in paradise, priorities are important.

I went snorkeling at many great locations around the island. One of the most crowded snorkeling places was right at the end of Ka’anapali beach at a rock named “Black Rock.”

I’m not going to share with you what color the rock was, but I will say the snorkeling was indeed popular. With more humans floating around than fish, the snorkeling was decent, but not top notch. I saw only one turtle and a limited number of fish.

I might have enjoyed it more had I not had an unexplained goggle malfunction within 15 minutes that left me unable to snorkel.

Probably the best snorkeling I saw in Maui was at a very remote and hard to find black sand beach named, naturally, Black Sand Beach. Instead of a crowd, there were only about five people snorkeling – six if you count the man with a Speedo and goggles in the shallow water.

It may have been empty because the rocks covering the seafloor made it a poor beach for swimming. When my dad and I swam around a large rock formation that separated the beach from the scuba area, we were amazed by all the colorful fish and the large sea turtles. As we swam into a little area surrounded by rocks on three sides, there were at least four turtles, each about four feet long, within 15 feet of us. At one point, my dad looked to his right and discovered that a turtle was swimming right next to him, prompting him to scream underwater and swallow a mouthful of salt water.

What’s Hawaii without catching a wave? Along with my sisters and my dad, I took surfing lessons. After the initial “safety lesson” on shore, we set out to hang 10.

During the “safety lesson,” I learned two valuable lessons: Sitting on a surfboard for over five minutes can be extremely uncomfortable, and using a surf-school’s supplied rash-protecting shirt is a bad idea if you have a sense of smell. With a bit of a push from our instructor, we all managed to get up a few times while my little brother and my mom cheered embarrassingly loud from the jetty.

The next day we rented a surfboard so we could practice our newfound skills. Although none of us managed to ride a wave completely without the push from our instructor, we all were able to hang 5 or 6 after a few tries. At 80 degrees, the ocean water was very comfortable, and the large waves in the afternoon not only made for great surfing, but also for great boogey boarding.

We soon got bored with traditional boogey boarding so we tried different variations, such as the classic board-reversal boogey board and the more advanced, lie-on-your back-and-get-a-face-full-of-sandywaterboogey boarding. We called it “street boogey boarding.”

Now that I look back at it, it makes no sense because you can’t boogey board on a street. But regardless of our fantasies, it was fun. Though inviting, the ocean was not the only water to lounge in along the Ka’anapali beach strip. Each of the seven resorts had its own unique pool.

After a while, the fairly traditional pool at our condo began to get boring. The other pools looked more appealing, so my sister and I scouted them out to get a sense of the security at each one. All of the pools besides ours required a wristband for swimming, but we were determined to sneak a swim in every one of them. We managed to pull off our covert swimming caper unscathed in about an hour and a half.

The award for best pool, we decided, should go to the Hyatt Regency. That hotel’s huge pool included a waterslide and many caves. Our award for best security went to the overall worst pool, which was at The Whaler, where we ended up sneaking through bushes at the back of the pool to get in.

Of course, we couldn’t leave Hawaii without going to a luau.

We chose to go to the concierge recommended luau at the Marriott called “Drums of the Pacific.” After a delicious traditional meal featuring a pig that had been roasted for12 hours, hula dancers took to the stage. We saw all kinds of Hawaiian traditions, capped by a great performance by a man spinning lit torches at alarming rates.

Probably the worst choice we made during our vacation was traveling the Road to Hana. Called “themost beautiful road in the world” by some, we were intrigued and felt we needed to do it.

Unfortunately, it did not nearly live up to the hype. It was raining off and on all day as it always does in the rain forest part of Maui, and the sights and hikes were less than amazing. It took six hours to travel the length of the narrow, winding road, and the best parts were not the sights, but the drinks.

On the sides of the roads were little stands where they sold smoothies sweetened with fresh sugar cane juice in local flavors such as papaya, passion fruit, and pina colada.

If the Road to Hana is “the most beautiful road in the world,” I’d hate to see an ugly street. Along the sides of the road were many abandoned, rusty, ruined cars. So if you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, I suggest you either travel the Road to Hana or contact Rupert Holmes immediately.

On the last full day of our trip, we went parasailing off of Ka’anapali beach. It was both thrilling and relaxing at the same time. At 800 feet in the air, it’s very quiet and there’s a great view.

Still, I’m not sure what I enjoyed more – the parasailing or the look on my mom’s face when the assistant in the boat told her stories about the ones whose parachutes had fallen off.

Parasailing and papaya, surfing, scuba diving and sea turtles, black sand beaches and fabulous hotel pools – Hawaii has it all.


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