Haleakala Sunrise and the Road to Hana

I’m going to start by saying that I don’t recommend that people try what we did.  We went to Haleakala and did the Road to Hana in the same day.  It made for a long day and we only went as far as Hana on the Road to Hana because we were spent (there are couple of sites past Hana on the Road to Hana that many people want to see like the O’heo Gulch Pools a.k.a. The Seven Sacred Pools).  And I don’t mean to be a downer on the Road to Hana, but honestly I could have done without doing it.  It was a beautiful drive and we saw beautiful sites.  But it was long and windy, and for people prone to car sickness – difficult.  Our kids were whining well before we got back to Paia.

We started out our day early, leaving the hotel at about 4:30 AM.  That sounds worse than it was.  Since we were still on East Coast time, it really didn’t feel early (since it was 9:30 AM on the East Coast).  The sun was set to rise at about 6:45.  We got to the summit at about 6 AM and there were already a lot of people there.  And unfortunately, we had a terrible day for seeing a sunrise at Haleakala.  The outside temperature was 32 degrees and there were strong winds.  On top of that, the entire top of the mountain was in a cloud.  So we did not get to see the sunrise.  And our kids were complaining the entire time when were weren’t in the Visitor’s Center.  That just the luck of the draw.  It seemed like most days we were in Hawaii had similar weather at the summit.  As you can tell, my kids were not happy.

After the disappointing sunrise, we started as our trip to the Road to Hana.  One item I suggest you get for the Road to Hana is the Gypsy Guide.  It is a GPS that gives you information about sites to see based on your location.  This device has information for most of the roads you will travel in Maui.  It cost us around $40 for a day, but I think you could also get it for about $100 for 3-4 days.  After renting one of these, I figured there must also be a phone app with similar functionality.  I’m not positive, but it seems like Maui GPS Tour Guide has similar functionality.  It’s $2.99 in the iTunes app store for the base software and then you pay additional amounts for each tour you want (i.e. Road to Hana $5.99, West Maui $3.99, Haleakala $3.99, South Maui $3.99, Central Maui $3.99 or $11.99 for an All Tours Bundle).  There aren’t a lot of reviews on the app and cell phone service is spotty to non-existent on the Road to Hana.  But it could be a big cost savings so it might be worth looking into.

There were 2 narrators on the Gypsy Guide - a man and a woman.  The woman narrated the Halekala tour and the man narrated the Road to Hana tour.  Our kids are Pokemon fans so we nicknamed them Jessie and James.  That made it fun for them.  We’d make comments like, “Oh James, you don’t steer us wrong.”  And whenever we stopped somewhere, the boys would ask if we made sure to put James away.

I highly recommend getting a Gypsy Guide or the phone app.  The Gypsy Guide had a list of the top 5 places to visit on the Road to Hana.  James gave descriptions of many places around the way, but the device would make a special sound if the site was one of the top 5.  Having this device allowed the freedom of just enjoying the views because we didn’t have our heads in a tour guide book.  (I was quite thankful for that because I think I would have gotten car sick really fast if I was trying to read a tour book while we were on those windy roads.)

As recommended in our tour guide books, we stopped in Paia to get a picnic lunch (we had already gassed up before heading to Haleakala – otherwise we would have also gassed up).  There are several places you can get a picnic lunch at in Paia.  We got ours at Anthony’s Coffee Company.  And our lunch was really good.  If you’re staying in the Ka’anapali Beach area, you might also consider going to C.J.’s Deli & Diner.  They also do a picnic lunch for the Road to Hana.  And it was one of my favorite places to eat on Maui (I’ll write more about it in another post).

Here are a few pictures from the Road to Hana.

Painted Eucalyptus Trees at Ke’anae Arboretum (one of the coolest trees I’ve ever seen)

Ke’anae Peninsula

Wai’anapanapa’s Honokalani Beach (black sand beach)


Booking Special Time with Cousins

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a very large family.  I have 10 siblings, my husband has 4 and my kids have 21 cousins.  My side of the family is mostly split between Buffalo and North Carolina.  We try to make one trip out to Buffalo a year.  It’s only about a 7 hour car trip so we drive there.  North Carolina, on the other hand, is quite a trip to drive.  But I really want my kids to know their cousins. 

I knew my cousins on my mom’s side of the family very well.  All of them lived in the Buffalo area and we spent nearly all major holidays together usually at my grandparents’ house.  I hardly knew the cousins on my dad’s side of the family since most of them lived in California.  I loved that I was so close to my mom’s side and regretted that I didn’t get to know my dad’s side.

One huge benefit of this travel game that we play is the experiences that you can gain.  I love taking trips to far away places and what those experiences can teach my kids.  But I also love that it affords us the chance for them to get to know their family who live further away better.

I have a sister who is only 1 year older than me and we both had kids around the same age.  And both of our first 2 kids (she has 3) were boys.  The 4 of them have so much fun when they see each other.  This year, my sister and I thought it would be fun if my older son could visit them for a week during the summer.  (I think my younger son is still too young to spend a week away from home.)  We signed her younger son and my older son up for the same summer camp.  This type of experience would have been quite expensive to consider before starting this travel game.  But it will cost very little out of pocket to make it happen because of the travel game.

I still have money from a travel voucher we earned by being bumped from a flight on our way back from Wyoming last summer.  We used some of the vouchers to book our trip to Disney, but we still had about $500 left.  That amount could have totally coved my son’s ticket to NC if I was willing to let him travel alone.  However, I’m not comfortable with that yet, plus I’d really like to see my family.  So I’m going to flew there and back with him.  I will only stay for the weekends flanking the week he’s staying.  And I will book a separate ticket to be home during the week he’s there.  I will probably end up paying a total of $200 out of pocket.  That is so worth it to me to give my son the gift of a week with his cousins, aunts and uncles in NC.

So think outside the box when planning your travels.  It doesn’t always have to be to exotic locations.  Think about the experiences that you can gain.  The world is your oyster. ;)

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Hyatt Regency Maui – Activities

There are many, many activities, shops and restaurants at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa.  We attended the Drums of the Pacific Luau and our kids attended Camp Hyatt at night while we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Japengo.

Last year we attended the Royal Lahaina Luau.  We were worried that it wasn’t going to be good based on the review on TripAdvisor.  People were rather harsh, especially about the buffet.  We really enjoyed the show and the fact that they had a kids buffet.  This year, we decided to try a different luau to get a different perspective. So we decided to attend the Drums of the Pacific Luau since it was located right at the Hyatt Regency.

The location for the Drums of the Pacific luau was definitely better than the Royal Lahaina luau.  The food for adults was also better, but I did miss having a kids buffet area.  I’m not a drinker so I can’t really tell you if there were major differences in the drinks.  They both served mai tais as the main drink for the adults.  At the Drums of the Pacific you could also get beer or wine.  But I have to say that I enjoyed the Royal Lahaina performance much more.  The Drums of the Pacific show had a fashion show of different ways you could where pareaus (sarong).  And there dances were slower paced with several of them telling a story.  After the performance at the Royal Lahaina performance last year that was very upbeat, I wasn’t expecting so many slow songs.  And considering the Royal Lahaina luau was less expensive (especially if you have kids), I would recommend it over the Drums of the Pacific.

Before we left for our trip, we decided that we should treat ourselves to a nice night out alone.  Using Hyatt’s e-Concierge service, I set up reservations for the kids to attend Camp Hyatt while we went to Japengo.  I got a confirmation email from Hyatt for both reservations.  Camp Hyatt opens at night at 6PM.  Our reservation for Japengo was for 6:30.  We decided we’d take the kids down to Camp Hyatt at 6 and walk around on the beach until 6:30.  However, when we got down to Camp Hyatt, it was closed; all the lights were off and the door was locked.  We walked down to the Concierge Desk to find out what happened.  Long story short, they lost the reservation.  At one point, they said it wasn’t even possible to book Camp Hyatt through e-Concierge.  I then showed them the email confirmation which showed that it was possible and which concierge had confirmed the reservation.  This may sound like a little nightmare, but it really wasn’t.  The concierge who assisted us was absolutely wonderful.  She got someone up to open up Camp Hyatt, talked with the manager about the situation (who asked for a copy of the email so he could look into it) and called Japengo to let them know we were on the way.  We got there right at 6:30.  They also reimbursed 50% of the Camp Hyatt charge.

Our dinner at Japengo was incredible!  I had read reviews on TripAdvisor where people complained about the price.  It’s a fancy restaurant overlooking the ocean at a resort on Maui – do you really expect it to be inexpensive?  We were seated outside near the ocean.  Our waitress was attentive without being annoying. And the food was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. We got sushi and the crab and shrimp cakes as our appetizers and loved it. I got the Tengu Seafood Grill and my husband got the China Town Chow Fun for our entrees. I seriously wanted to lick the sauce off the plate it was so good.

And while we were enjoying our dinner, our kids had a great time at Camp Hyatt.  They made “stained glass” crafts and watched the Smurf movie.  It was an amazing end to an amazing vacation.

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Amex Business Gold – 75,000 point sign-up bonus – TODAY only

I was on Yahoo today and saw an ad for an American Express Business Gold card with a 75,000 point sign-up bonus.  You have to spend $10,000 on the card in the first 4 months to get the sign-up bonus.  The annual fee of $175 is waived for the first year.  This deal is valid for today only.  Here’s the link if you’re interested.

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Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa

This is the first post in the trip report of our trip to Maui.  I will have posts about: the Hyatt Regency Maui in general, Hyatt Regency Maui activities (including the Drums of the Pacific Luau, Camp Hyatt and Japengo), Ka’anapali Beach, Haleakala, the Road to Hana, the Pacific Whale Foundation, and the Northwest region and Iao.

We were so fortunate to stay at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa.  Last year, I applied for the Hyatt Visa which came with 2 free nights at any Hyatt property.  I also got the 100,000 point bonus Capital One card.  I redeemed the points for $1,800 worth of Hyatt gift checks.  We stayed at the property for 6 nights, our kids went to Camp Hyatt for 2 hours one of the nights, my husband got mai tais at the grotto bar and we went out for a fancy dinner at Japengo.  Our out of pocket expense at check out was….about $60.

The Hyatt Visa gave me platinum status with Hyatt until February 2013 (so about 2 years).  One of the benefits of platinum status is you get “a preferred room including rooms on higher floors or larger rooms, based on availability upon arrival”.  We booked a standard double room and we were given a partial ocean view room!

Our room:

The grounds:

Our kids loved the pools.  They mainly stayed in the kiddie pool area.  The area in the pictures below show this.  There is one area where the water is only about 1 – 2 feet deep (where you see all the floating animals).  This area also has a small slide for the little kids.  The area right behind that area (beyond the nets) is around 5 feet deep.  There is a much larger slide that empties into that area.  Kids must be at least 48″ tall to go on that slide.  The slide empties into water that is about 9 feet deep.  My older son, husband and I loved the slide.  My younger son wasn’t tall enough to go on it but he loved the smaller slide.  The larger slide take 5 – 7 seconds to slide down.

There is a larger pool area that we didn’t spend any time at.  The water is deeper – 4 feet and up.  Between the kiddie pool and the larger pool is a cave area that has waterfalls at both entrances.  The grotto bar is located in the cave.

About the only “complaint” that I have is that I wish there was a pool area where the depth was around 3 – 3 1/2 feet deep.  There were some areas, right where you get in that were around that depth but they quickly got deeper to around 5 feet deep.  The kiddie pool was quite shallow and 5 feet deep is too deep for most kids.

I had read some reviews on TripAdvisor that weren’t so favorable.  Many people talked about some construction that they were doing to update the hotel.  I’m happy to say that that seemed to be over when we were there.  We saw no signs of construction.  And as you can tell from our room pictures, the hotel is very up to date.  There were also some comments on TripAdvisor complaining about parking.  We had absolutely no issues with parking even when the luau was happening.  There are 4 parking lots that you can use.  Two are fairly small in the front of the hotel (to the right as you’re entering the resort).  There’s also a rather large parking lot in the back of the resort (the entry is to the left right before the circle for valet parking).  We never had a time when we couldn’t find parking in one of those 3 lots.  However, if those are ever full, you can also park in the self-parking lot near the golf course.

We loved our stay at the Hyatt Regency Maui.  We found everyone we encountered to be very friendly.  The grounds were absolutely beautiful and the kids loved the pools.  There was so much to do at the resort and it’s located at Ka’anapali Beach.  I would definitely recommend this resort to friends.