Monday, October 3, 2011

The Valley Isle: Maui, No Ka Oi

I've been on a hiatus for 2 weeks because, you guessed it, we were in the Aloha State of Hawai'i. Actually, we were only in Hawaii for a week. The other week was spent getting back in the groove of things at home and at work. And plus, we were getting things set up for our daughter's first day of preschool this week. So its been quite hectic around the house this past week.

Our Hawaiian vacation was a long time in the making. Two years, to be exact. We've been holding off on vacations until hubby finished school. But all we did in the past 2 years was daydream about the day we get to finally go back to Hawaii for a vacation. And as soon as his last semester of school started, we began planning and booking our trip to the islands to not only celebrate hubby's finishing school and passing his boards, but to also celebrate our 8th anniversary. We've had this trip booked for 7 months and have been counting down the months and days since then. I guess you can say that this was a long awaited and well-deserved vacation. And so the next series of posts will be dedicated to our Hawaiian vacation.

Because this vacation was a long time in the making, we wanted to go all out and visit 2 islands. Whenever we go to Hawaii, we only usually go to the main island of Oahu. We've only been to one other island on our honeymoon, which was the Big Island of Hawai'i. And so we decided to add Maui to the mix of islands we've visited.

Maui is called the Valley Isle because of the numerous large valleys on the island. Maui is not as commercialized like Oahu is. Maui has more of its countryside preserved, whereas Oahu is almost overpowered with high rise hotels and tourists.

(the view from our room)

After a long day of travel, we finally arrived at our hotel at the Westin Maui Resort and Spa in the late afternoon. We settled into our room and decided to have dinner at one of the hotel's restaurants, 'Ono Bar & Grill, which featured traditional American favorites with an island twist. Like this plate of onion rings topped with furikake seasoning:

Furikake is a mix of different seasoning and shaves of nori/seaweed. I learned on this trip that almost everything is topped with furikake, which gives the dish a good and slightly salty taste.

A traditional Hawaiian meal usually consists of Kalua pork, which is the infamous roast pork slow-cooked in the ground. I love Kalua pork, so when I saw that they served it in a sliders form, I was all over it. The pork was so flavorful. And not too salty, unlike some Kalua pork I've had. Serving this with a side of taro chips really completed the meal.

Hubby ordered the Kahuna Dog, a traditional hot dog, topped with their house chili that is slightly sweet, cheese and other toppings.

What was great about this restaurant was that kids ate free for each paying adult. So our daughter's meal of spaghetti was free. A plus, especially since everything sold in Hawaii can be pretty pricey.

Our body clock was pretty much still on Pacific time, so after dinner, we turned in early. Besides, it had been a long day and we were very exhausted.

(our first Maui sunset. Breathtaking.)

Our vacation package included free daily breakfast buffet, again at 'Ono Bar & Grill. The breakfast consists of the typical pancake/french toast/waffle choices, eggs, and breakfast meat (bacon, sausage or Portuguese sausage, which happens to be my favorite), fruits, bread, and cereals. A pretty good spread.

And the view wasn't bad either. We were given a choice to eat poolside, or with an ocean view. And of course, we asked for the the ocean view.
(our view every morning at breakfast.)

After we were stuffed with our awesome breakfast, off we went to start our activities for the day. Everyone I knew who's been to Maui told me that I HAD to the road trip to Hana. Its literally about 4 hours of a road trip, filled with 600+ sharp turns on the side of a hill heading to the town of Hana. And along the way, you'd encounter several waterfalls and amazing views. Supposedly, there really wasn't much to Hana, but everyone said that it wasn't about the destination, it was all about the experience of the drive. I knew going into the road trip that I may not be able to make it all the way to Hana because I get car-sick pretty easily. Needless to say, we only made it about a quarter of the way and about an hour-and-a-half of driving, that I asked hubby to turn the car around. I got seriously car-sick. And I figured, the further we went meant it would take twice as long to get back. My stomach wasn't gonna handle another minute. So we made frequent stops when we headed back to get fresh air. Hubby and I were quite disappointed. Aside from the views of the ocean, we didn't see any waterfalls. This was pretty much a wasted road trip. I could've been sitting on the beach. Oh well.

After finally making it down to a smoother ride, my stomach went back to normal and we began to get hungry. We wanted to eat where the locals ate. And what's more local than a plate lunch? I read a lot of great things about Aloha Mixed Plate on Yelp, so we decided to check it out.

A mixed plate lunch is a typical Hawaiian meal. Its origins began in the early plantation days, when plantation workers of different ethnic backgrounds (native Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, Filipino) brought and shared their native specialties with one another. And the "mixed plate" was born. Aloha Plate Lunch specializes in different mixed plates, and is always served with a couple of scoops of steamed white rice and macaroni salad. We started our meal with the garlic fries, again topped with furikake.

I ordered the BBQ mixed plate, which consisted of BBQ chicken, teriyaki beef, and kalbi short ribs. So "ono" (good/delicious).

Hubby ordered the Hawaiian plate that consisted of Kalua pork and lomi lomi salmon.

We had planned on eating light for lunch because we were going to a luau for dinner, but we just couldn't resist the plate lunches. Its one of our favorite things to eat. And we ate it all up.

After our meal, we headed back to the hotel for a quick dip at the beach before our luau at the hotel.

(sunset before the luau)

We've been to quite a few luaus in Hawaii since our honeymoon. Its a very touristy thing to do, and we vowed to not do it often (or at all), but this was our daughter's first experience in Hawaii. What better to experience Hawaii than to party it up "Hawaiian style" with a luau. Besides, I want some more Kalua pork :)

While waiting for the luau to start, we were served with a bottomless supply of drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). I wasn't much of a drinker, but since I was on vacation, why not? I had a few sips of the Mai-Tai and the Blue Hawaiian, which was quite good and not too strong on the alcohol. Yeah, I'm a light-weight.

Our first course was an array of pupus such as lomi lomi salmon (raw salmon ceviche), poke (ahi tuna), salad, and pipi kaula (beef jerky).

Our main course consisted of Kalua Pork, of course, teriyaki beef, and mahi mahi.

And finally, for dessert, we had a macadamia nut tart, pineapple upside down cake, Kona chocolate cake, and haupia (a Hawaiian coconut dessert).

During the meal, we were entertained by dancers performing an array of Polynesian numbers.

The luau was a great way to end our Anniversary day and the end of our stay in Maui. Our stay on Maui was pretty relaxing. Residents of Maui take pride in living there. We were glad to have experienced this other island because now we understand why "Maui, No ka oi" (Maui, the best).

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