Getting to Hawaii was the real goal of this west coast adventure. It would be state #45 for Katie and #39 for me. We gained another 3 hours through the time difference and sat through another 5 ½ hour plane ride between San Francisco and the island of Maui. We managed to cram our 7 bottles of wine into the larger rolling suitcase by wrapping them in pairs of jeans and hoodies, and praying. Luckily, no broken glass when we picked it up at baggage claim, despite watching in horror as it tumbled down the conveyor belt like a very expensive bowling ball. We stepped onto the sidewalk and were greeted by an explosion of sunshine and a lot of alohas. We were also greeted by several wild chickens who were casually roaming around the rental car lot, drawing little to no attention from employees. Normal occurrence?
The drive from Kahului airport to the town of Kihei (pronounced kee-hay, as a guy in a saloon later informed us) gave us our first glimpse of the geography of the island. We thought that the TV show “Lost” was filmed in Maui (we later discovered that it was O’ahu), but that’s exactly what it looks like, to the point where I became mildly paranoid that the misty hills in the distance were housing the show’s smoke monster. The brief drive to our hotel cut through long stretches of open road, which made my heart flutter with a familiar emotion. The mountains were sweeping and majestic, and tiny lights flickered in distant towns. Even though every island is unique, the landscape in Maui is exactly what I expect to see when I think of Hawaii. The natural beauty is so striking and undisturbed that it consumes you instantly.
The town of Kihei was on the quiet side and more detached from the tourist-laden mecca that we would have seen in the northern town of Lahaina. After getting ourselves acquainted at the poolside bar (happy hour at 3pm?), we ventured off to explore the local beaches, where we stayed until sundown. The water shimmered with a perfect shade of nearly neon-blue, and the setting sun created postcard-worthy silhouettes behind the dozens of palm trees. Most places don’t tend to look exactly like the pictures you see in movies or on TV, but this one did. It looked exactly like the postcards. We found a nice stretch of Keawakapu Beach to plop onto the sand, which was surprisingly quiet aside from a handful of women who were fishing while their toddlers danced around their feet. I probably took 100 photos of the sunset alone, which would have seemed thoroughly excessive except that it was that awesome. Each time the color changed or intensified and the shadows of the surrounding land deepened, I felt compelled to document it through my clicking camera. I needed to burn it into my brain. Our only snafu was leaving the Napa Valley wine in the hotel room…
On our drive home, we frantically pulled into a parking lot of a collection of pricey-looking private villas in order to snap ONE MORE sunset photo. After we finally managed to peel ourselves away from the drug-like orange glow, we headed off to dinner at Café O’Lei, which sounded just kitschy enough to still be manageable.
Dinner was super tasty, between the mango martinis and the crock of their famous French onion soup, which required you to plunge your spoon through a thick layer of buttery baked filo dough and into a flavor-punch of tangy soup and gooey Gruyere cheese. It was restaurant-famous and well worth it, but sharing is caring. That warm cheese and crusty topping sticks to your bones and fills you up fast. I probably could have had a second one and called it a night.