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We had been to Palauea Beach during our previous trip – it was one of my favorite places to snorkel. Since I had bought a new underwater camera for the trip, I was really looking forward to snorkeling here again.

It is one of the many amazing and scenic beaches of Wailea, however there are no services (outhouses only – no showers), no lifeguards, and parking is along the street where you can find it. But once you walk the short path through the trees to the beach, you are treated to a pretty sweet view:

Palauea Beach, Maui

I was a bit surprised at the size of the waves this time. During our previous trip it was very calm here. We are good swimmers so we headed out into the water to check it out. But with the waves being so big it was not a huge surprise to find the visibility was very poor – we could not see much at all. We swam out quite a ways hoping that it would get better once we got out away from the shoreline. But the farther from shore we got, the water remained the same. It was not long before we decided to head back to shore.

Palauea Beach, Maui

We had come to the beach well prepared however, and had brought the boogie boards as well. (we learned our lesson from not having them at Napili). It worked quite well to go out about waist deep, wait for the right wave, and enjoy the ride. I got a few videos of my brother enjoying the boogie boarding:

Although the waves started to get bigger:

After swallowing a fair bit of water that became the last ride of the day. It was back to enjoying the sand and the scenery. The beach was not very crowded, but there were quite a few other people enjoying the boogie boarding as well. The waves were quite large near the rocky point where most of the good snorkeling is located. There was one brave/dumb couple attempting to snorkel out there. We were a bit worried about them, but they did make it back to shore safely. Definitely not a place I would be swimming though:

Big Waves at Palauea

I am definitely looking forward to checking out Palauea beach if we make it back to Maui again in the future. Even with out the amazing snorkeling we still had a lot of fun here – what a great beach.

Palauea Beach, Maui

 

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We noticed a new restaurant near our condo at the Maui Banyan – the 808 Bistro. Which was convenient, as we had also seen it on TripAdvisor as one of the top restaurants in Kihei.
808 Bistro Maui Entrance

Our first trip here was for breakfast. I had the Banana Bread French Toast, and it was some of the better banana bread I have eaten. It comes with only banana bread though, and could have used a side of something. If I were to order it again I would look for something on the menu to add with it:
808 Bistro, Maui

My mom was pretty happy with the fruit bowl as well. It had a great variety, was a good size, and came with a side of their tasty banana bread:
808 Bistro, Maui

Shauna and Kevin ordered the focaccia breakfast sandwich with egg and portugese sausage. It came with a side of delicious hashbrowns. It definitely looked and smelled the best. They both said it was awesome, and I wished I had ordered it as well:
808 Bistro, Maui

We came back the next day for dinner, after our day trip to Napili Beach. We arrived just after the opened, and were able to take advantage of the early special. You get to choose a salad, main dish, and desert all for $23. And they definitely did not hold anything back on the portions. We got a good sized cesear salad, which we paid a bit extra for since we had read on tripadvisor that it was very very good – they make the entire thing on site. It certainly lived up to the hype. The pork chop dish was very good as well. We got two full sized porkchops, and were only able to eat one. The other one made a great lunch the next day. Shauna ordered the bread pudding, while Kevin and I got the brownie. We were all very happy. Shauna said it was one of the best bread pudding’s she had eaten, while the brownie was served hot over vanilla ice cream. These were quite big as well, but we took our time and managed to eat them all.

Pork chops at the 808 Bistro:
Pork Chops @ 808 Bistro, Maui

Bread pudding at the 808 Bistro:
Hawaiian Bread Pudding @ 808 Bistro, Maui

 

The 808 Bistro is definitely one of the best restaurants we found on the island of Maui. The food was great, the portions were large, and the service was very good. Overall it is an exceptional value and we are looking forward to returning here on our next visit to Maui.

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We had been to Honolua Bay during both of our previous trips, so we knew it was one of the places we had to visit again during our most recent trip in April 2011. The first time we stopped here we were amazed at the lush green rainforest you walk through on your way to the beach. We went snorkelling that day, and were very happy with the water clarity and number of fish.

On our second trip the surf was up. There were no snorkelers and a whole lot of surfers. The waves were quite big, so we did not even bother trying to enter the water.

So this time we were not sure what to expect. We brought our snorkelling gear though, and remained hopeful the water would be calm. We got to the pullout overlooking the Bay, and were very happy to see that not only was it calm, but the charter boats were anchored and lots of people were in the water snorkelling:

Beautiful Honolua Bay

We then began to wonder whether or not we would be able to find a parking spot. There is no parking lot at Honolua Bay. You just have to find a spot along the edge of the road, which becomes rather difficult when it gets busy. One important thing to remember is that you should not leave anything in your car. When we returned to our car we found that the car directly across the road from ours had gotten its windows smashed. A police officer was there talking with them, and we overheard that they had some fairly valuable stuff stolen. Apparently break-ins are quite frequent here.

The forest you walk through on your way to the shoreline is pretty amazing, worth the trip on its own even if you dont go in the water:
Honolua Forest

Tropical Forest at Honolua Bay, Maui

Trail to the beach:
Walking down the path to Honolua Bay, Maui

We took everything we had brought along for the day down to the beach with us. Shauna wasn’t interested in snorkelling, so she sat on the beach and watched all of our stuff. She did have some company though:
Beach cat

I should also mention that the ‘beach’ at Honolua is a lot like many of the beaches we saw on the Big Island… lots of rocks and not a lot of sand…

The rocky beach at Honolua Bay

But we were not here to enjoy the sand, so we headed out into the water. Like many beaches, the water closest to shore is not very clear. But once you get out away from the shoreline it begins to get better and better. I had read that the right side of the bay has some of the best snorkelling on the island of Maui, so we headed that way to check it out. Once we got past the tour boats the water became very clear:

And this one out a bit further:
Needle-fish

I was really keeping an eye out for turtles, since this was only our second time in the water, and we had not seen any at this point in the trip. We never did see any turtles, but the variety of fish was quite impressive:

Parrotfish

Puffer Fish

After a while we decided it was time to head back to shore. It was approaching lunch time and we figured Shauna would be getting bored back on shore. It turns out she was having a great time. There were a few cats wandering the beach, one of which decided to stop and have a nap beside her.

As we were swimming back towards shore, I decided to swim along the edge of the coral where the water drops off and gets quite a bit deeper. I figured there would be a better chance of seeing turtles and other various marine life we had not seen in the shallower water. But of course I would never have imagined the sight that suddenly appeared before me:

Honolua Shark

It was about six feet long, and resting on the bottom about twenty-five to thirty feet down. I looked up to show my mom and brother, however they were a little ways ahead of me with their heads down snorkelling, and did not see or hear me. I snapped a few quick photos and continued on my way. It was resting in a crevasse among the coral, and I was happy that it did not seem interested that I was there. There was a Fish of Hawaii book back at the condo which I used to decide this was a Grey Reef Shark. The book had all the shark species that are found in Hawaiian waters, and I really enjoyed looking through it. Since the water was pretty deep, and it was sitting in a fairly dark crevasse, the photo did not turn out the clearest. But from the photo and the vision that was etched into my memory, this shark did not have any black or white tips on the fins, and the fin shape/size did not seem to fit any of the other descriptions. It was pretty amazing to see in the ocean, and not just an aquarium tank like all the sharks I had seen before.

Photo of Honolua from above:

Honolua Snorkeling

Looking at the rest of my snorkelling photos from our trip, the water at Honolua was by far the clearest of the places we tried. I still have not been out to Molokini though, and hear that it is even better. I just can’t work myself up to paying for a snorkel tour, when I have been able to have such a great time swimming from shore. My mom, brother, and I are all very good swimmers though, so I would recommend taking a snorkel charter boat if you are not comfortable swimming about the Pacific Ocean. And of course you should always check the ocean conditions before you go. As we got farther out into the bay we did notice a current pulling us out towards Molokai, which was a definite reminder we were not swimming in conditions similar to the lakes back home.

Looking back towards the rocky beach:

View of the Beach at Honolua

After we got out of the water we headed back to Napili Beach for lunch at the SeaHouse Restaurant, before heading back up the Northwest Coastline past Honolua. It was one of my favourite days of the entire trip. Here is a view of the water at Honolua looking down from the far side of the bay as we returned from the Nakalele Blowhole:

Honolua Bay

I really wanted to get back up to the water at Honolua for a second time during our trip. But since it is a good hour’s drive from our condo in Kihei we were not able to fit it into the rest of our busy plans. I would have spent the entire trip snorkelling if I could have, but there were so many other things to see and do on the island.

If you have the time, are in the area, and can pack light (don’t leave anything in the car) then I would absolutely recommend checking out the water at Honolua Bay. I should also mention that this is one place I would consider taking a charter tour, to avoid having to worry about the car being broken into. The snorkelling is definitely worth it – at least in the summer months when the water is calm. In the winter months I will stick to watching the surfers from the lookout above.

Snorkel Boat at Honolua Bay, Maui

Snorkeling at Honolua Bay, Maui

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Napili Beach

We had stopped at Napili Beach during our 2009 trip for lunch at the SeaHouse Restaurant. So we knew we wanted to go back again during our latest trip. It was the perfect place to stop for lunch after a morning snorkel trip to Honolua Bay. It was a bit of a challenge to find some parking, but once we found a spot we headed for the Sea House Restaurant. It was not too busy, so we got a table right at the front along the edge of the beach:

SeaHouse Restaurant

The view of the beach from the restaurant is quite impressive. You can just see Lanai on the left, and part of Molokai on the right. We saw a few brochures that said you can sometimes see whales from here as well, but we didnt see any on this day – although we werent here during peak whale season either. But we had seen plenty of whales the day before on our amazing whale watch adventure . The photos above and below show the view from our table, with only a small row of plants and a walkway between us and the beach:

SeaHouse Restaurant

The waves were pretty big, and there were quite a few boogie boarders. We enjoyed watching them try and catch the big waves as we enjoyed a cold bevarage while we waited for our lunch. We had only planned to go snorkeling on this day however, and had left the boogie boards back at the condo. Too bad because it looked like a lot of fun. We definitely would have tried it out if we had the gear. They would start quite a ways out, and attempt to ride all the way up the beach. Only a few were successful, and only on the biggest of waves. There were also a number of people waiting closer to shore and taking a shorter ride up the beach. Many of the smaller kids were waiting here, and it looked like they all were having a great time. One or two of the waves even washed all the way to the top of the beach, suprising the poor sunbathers who had been laying there peacefully and dry.

But since the waves were too big for snorkeling, and we had just been to Honolua before lunch, we decided to head up the coast and do a bit of touring. We stopped at Punalau Beach and the Nakalele Blowhole, but did not make the adventure all the way around the coastline on the crazy road we had travelled in 2009.

Napili Beach, Maui

A few days later we decided to head back to Napili Beach – this time it was the destination, not just a stop along the way. We emptied the closet at the condo, loading up the car with the boogie boards, beach mats, cooler, and snorkel gear as we wanted to be prepared for anything. We were really looking forward to trying out the boogie boarding, however the waves did not cooperate for us. They were almost non-existent this time, and the water was quite calm. But since we had brought our snorkel gear… I was happy to take the opportunity to check out the marine life.

We did not get very far out at all, when I noticed my brother waving me over. He had spotted a snowflake eel swimming along. I tried a few photos, but they didnt turn out the best. So I figured I would try a video, although I thought it was a little longer than this…

We saw a few more eels throughout the reef as well, which was kind of surprising since we didnt see even one at any of the other places we snorkelled.

Napili Eel and Fish

The water was not the clearest, especially closer to shore. But I was impressed with the amount and variety of fish we saw here:
Napili Fish and Coral

Napili Fish

Napili Goatfish

Unicorn Fish

My brother and I are both good swimmers, so we ended up quite a ways out from the shore. But we did notice the current pulling us out to sea pretty good, in the direction of Lanai, so we decided it would be best to turn around and head back closer to shore. I would definitely reccomend checking out the ocean conditions before heading out. There are a lot of good websites out there with this type of information. I liked this website for checking the ocean conditions. Although it doesn’t seem to have Napili Beach listed specifically.

View looking back towards the beach:
View from the Water

Here is the view from Napili Beach looking towards the island of Molokai:
Napili Beach

Overall we had a great time, and really enjoyed this beach. I do like the central location of Kihei, and really like our room at the Maui Banyan, but if I was going to stay anywhere else this would likely be the place. Such an amazing beach, and so close to Honolua (another of my favorite spots – blog post to come shortly). This part of West Maui is a bit out of the way from the other things on the island that we enjoy though, such as Haleakala, Hana, and Wailea. But there is so much to see and do near Napili that you could definitley make an amazing vacation within this area as well.

Clear Water at Napili Beach, Maui

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Maluaka Beach was one of my favorite places to snorkel during our previous trip. So of course it was the first beach we went to swim at. The beach is located in south Wailea, on the island of Maui. The Makena Beach and Golf Resort is the only resort at this beach. Looks like an amazing place, but much like the other Wailea resorts is pretty pricey.

Maluaka Beach

The waves were a bit bigger this time, and the water was not quite as clear as it was on our last trip. But we had a great time here once again. A number of the charter snorkel tour boats bring their customers here, usually after their morning snorkel stop at Molokini. Since my brother and I are good swimmers, we had no problems with swimming out to where the boats anchor.

The first day we came here, I was really happy with all the different kinds of fish. No turtles hough, but I still had a great time in the water. This was the first time I was able to try out my new Canon D10 underwater camera as well. I was pretty nervous to put it in the water at first, but quickly learned to trust that it would be fine doing what it was made for – taking pictures while snorkeling.

Here is a large school of yellow-stripe goatfish that was swimming around. I wasnt sure if there were a few schools of them, or if I just kept seeing the same school as I swam about the reef:

School of Goatfish

I also saw a bunch of Moorish Idols, and was happy with the way the water’s surface showed up in this photo:
Moorish Idols

As you can see here, the water was not the clearest. Visibility was still quite good however, and the colors of the coral showed up quite well:
Maluaka Coral

We tried out Palauea a few days after the first trip to Maluaka, but the visibility was not good at all. So we decided to head back to Maluaka. I am not sure why, but it was still relatively clear once again. We had not gone too far out when we finally spotted a turtle lying on the bottom. It just layed there looking up at us, and had a fair bit of sand on top of it – so it must have been there for a while:

First Turtle of the Trip

We continued swimming out towards the tour boats, figuring the water would keep getting clearer as we got further from shore. It stays relatively shallow for quite a distance from the shore, providing lots of great reef to observe. As we got closer to the boats, the number of snorkelers began to increase. I heard someone about thirty feet ahead, in the direction we were swimming, say they had spotted a turtle. It was a younger child, and his siblings/parents did not seem to believe him as he was the only one in the group to spot it. All of the sudden it swam right in front of me, and only five feet away. Luckily I was swimming with my camera on, and I was able to get a quick photo:

Green Sea Turtle

I turned to try and find my brother, to make sure he was looking as well. But he was heading off in the other direction, and did not realize it was there. I got one more photo as it continued swimming off towards the bottom:

Swimming Away

By this time we were getting quite a long way from the shore where we had started. Although we did get a pretty sweet view of the black sand beach located between Maluaka Beach and Little Beach. But the current was starting to pick up a bit, as were the waves. So we figured we should start making our way back to the beach. We saw a lot of different fish along the way back to shore as well. But no more turtles. I had hoped to get back one more time before we left, but just ran out of time.
View of the black sand beach:

Makena Black Sand Beach

Overall I was very happy with the new underwater camera. I read a lot of reviews, and checked a lot of the groups on Flickr, to try and figure out which brand offered the best options. All of our other cameras are Canon, so I was searching rather hard to try and find one that might be able to top the Canon D10. In the end, I decided I really liked the photos and color produced by the D10, so decided to stick with the Canon. You definitely have to take care of the seals though. I noticed a few times when I was cleaning it that a few small sand particles were trying to stick to the seal. One thing I was worried about was the number of reviews from all of the various brands that mentioned their camera had flooded and no longer worked. But my D10 survived the trip, and I look forward to using it again in the future.

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We decided prior to our trip that we really wanted to check out a whale-watching tour during our next visit to the island of Maui. We had been there twice before, and had seen whales from shore both times, but wanted to get a closer look at these amazing creatures. We decided to book a tour with the Pacific Whale Foundation. They are a non-profit organization dedicated to research, conservation, and education, and are experts on all things whale-related.

Here is my favorite photo I took during our whale-watching adventure:

Humpback Whale

We waited until we arrived on the island to book our trip, to make sure the whales were still there (whale season starts in November and ends in April). But with all the action we observed on our first night at Secret Cove Beach, we realized that a whale-watching tour was definitley something we wanted to try. We tried to book online through the Pacific Whale Foundation website, but had a few difficulties with their website. It turns out they had just switched over to a new site, and some of the updates were not working as planned. They were aware of the problems, and working to fix them. Since their office/store was only a 10 minute drive from our condo in Kihei, we decided to just drive over and make the booking in person. They are located right beside the Maui Aquarium in the town of Ma’alaea.

We booked a two hour whale-watch tour, beginning at the Ma’alaea harbor at 8am. We figured the calmer morning waters would be better for sighting whales. Once we had checked in that morning, I noticed a map of confirmed sightings outside the building. It showed most of the activity occuring closer to Lahaina, their other departure location. So I thought perhaps we had chosen the wrong location. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about.

It is a quick 5 minute walk from the store down to the wharf. Before you get on board they take a photo of your group. You can then purchase an 8×10 copy of the photo for $10 at the store upon your return. It turned out quite nice, and we ended up buying it. We were right up near the front of the lineup to get on the boat. They make a call for any PWF members – who get priority boarding and their pick of the seats. The members all seemed to sit up at the front of the boat, so we figured we might as well sit there too. (We got splashed a bit on the way back once the wind started to pick up – cool and refreshing – and they were amazing seats otherwise)

Ocean Discovery

Once the boat gets away from the harbor and out on the ocean you are allowed to move about, and check out the other areas of the boat. So choice of seat did not end up being a big deal. Once the action started nobody on the boat was sitting down.

The captain said to keep an eye out, and if anyone spotted anything to make sure and point to get the crew’s attention in case they hadn’t seen it yet. We hadn’t got far out of the harbor, when I started seeing some splashing right in front of the boat. I thought it might be some dolphins, but it turned out to be a school of flying fish. Very interesting creatures, but not what we were looking for. I tried to get a few photos of them on the way back to the harbor, but it was quite a challenge to photograph a fast moving fish from a moving boat.

It did not take long after leaving the harbor for the captain to spot a whale spouting in the distance, about two miles ahead towards Kahoolawe. We thought that simply meant we wouldn’t be getting a refund (you get a free second trip if no whales are spotted), and that we had missed the only whale of the trip. But it soon became clear this would not be the case. We kept getting closer and closer, and the whales kept getting bigger and bigger. But then they disappeared and were gone. And the search began once again. We then found a small group of four or five whales and got a bit closer than the first whales:

Group of Whales

But these too disappeared rather quickly, so it was back to the lookout post. I enjoyed this part as well, scanning the horizon for any sign of activity. Within a few minutes some more whales were spotted back towards Maui, so we headed back in that direction. There ended up being quite a few over there, and we ended up with whales in a number of directions. There are laws against approaching within 100 feet of the whales. Once you begin to get near the 100 foot zone you must turn off the motor, and the whales can then choose to keep moving or to come in for a closer look. With a number of whales around us, they cut the motor and turned the boat off completely. It was amazing to just be floating out on the ocean with the whales – and very peaceful.

WhaleWatching Tour

They turned on the underwater hydrophone, to see if there were any whales singing  in the area. As soon as they turned it on it was so loud that they had to turn it down! They said there must have been a singer very close for it to be so loud, and seemed quite excited. I took a video of the ocean and the sound, but didnt capture any whales at the surface… at least at first:

All of the sudden, on the other side of the boat, a mother whale and baby surfaced within a few hundred feet of the boat. They kept getting closer and closer.

Maui Whale Watching

The baby popped its head straight out of the water a few times to have a look around.

Baby Humpback

We figured the show was over, and that they would head on their way as they started to move off in the other direction. But then the baby decided it was not done with us yet, turned about and headed back towards the boat – with the mother whale right beside it of course. I managed to get a quick video:

And a few photos of course:

Here They Come

There were a lot of people up against the rail of the boat near the front, so I didn’t have the best view. My brother was looking out the other side of the boat for other whales. As I was rushing towards the back of the boat, I told him ‘we need to get to the back of the boat right now’. We got back there just in time to see them swim by within twenty feet of the boat. The water was so clear you could see them perfectly (if only we had the polarizing filter attached at the time):

Close Encounter

Even the PWF staff on the boat were very excited that the mom and baby had gotten that close to the boat. They were right there at the edge watching along with the customers. It was absolutely amazing to see them that close – an unforgettable experience.

Baby Close-Up

On the way back the PWF staff said that our trip was probably one of the top five whale-watching tours they had done all season, which is pretty incredible since we were right near the end of the season (the whales are there over the winter from November through to April).

There will likely be some more photos to follow as well, especially once Shauna gets some of her’s uploaded. All of our whale-watching photos were taken with a 50mm lens and a 85mm lens. No super zooms or telephoto shots. It was amazing to be so close to so many whales.

Photo of the mother whale swimming alongside the boat:
Tail Waving

and under the water:
Under the Water

At one point another adult whale was heading straight for the boat as well, and seemed like it would dive right under us. I headed for the far side again to watch it come out the other side, but did not see anything. It must have dove straight down, or made a quick turn before it got under the boat.

Once the mom and baby headed on their way, we were able to start the boat up once again (our two hours was almost up). As we were heading back to the harbor a whale suddenly popped up and spouted within 100 feet of us – which is very close when you are cruising along. The captain cut the motors immediately and the surprised staff came back over the intercom. They said that they are not often surprised like that, but had no idea this one was coming up right there. Only a few of us got up to head for the rail on the side of the boat this time, too much action for them already I suppose. This whale just kept on its way however, and was soon out of the 100 foot zone. So the engines were turned back on and we began our trip back to Ma’alaea harbor.

Humpback

Even if we had only seen a whale or two it still would have been a very worthwhile trip. The views of the islands were incredible with Maui, Lanai, Molokini, and Kahoolawe all in sight. But with all the up close encounters it was a trip that will never be forgotten. I absolutely recommend that you take two hours from your trip to get out on the waters and try a Pacific Whale Foundation whale watching tour.

Maui Whale-watching

Whale-Watching

Beside the Boat

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