With our five-year wedding anniversary falling in May and a baby due in August, we decided it was the perfect time to splurge and go on a big vacation to celebrate both exciting events. After a lot of consideration and what seems like almost every warm destination off limits due to Zika, we ultimately decided on Hawaii (ok, it wasn’t a hard decision!). So we cashed in a bunch of air miles/points and flew (first class, woo!) to Maui where we spent five nights at the Sheraton, a gorgeous resort at Kaanapali Beach, near the town of Lahaina in West Maui.
(that bump, though!)
Our favorite thing about the Sheraton was the kiddie pool, which was awesome for Joey. It was her first time in a pool and she LOVED it. The kiddie pool was only a couple of feet deep and had a little wall that she could hold onto to walk back and forth (she’s not walking on her own yet). We also swam with her and went around the lazy river a few times holding onto her. She even figured out how to kick her legs and “swim!” She would have happily stayed in the water all day every day if it weren’t for annoying parents who didn’t want her getting sunburned! Plus Joey still takes two-hour naps in the morning and afternoon… which also meant Andy and I left Hawaii with NO TANS, uggh!!
The ocean was a whole other story. Joey was not a fan of the waves, even the small ones, and wanted nothing to do with going near them. That was fine with us, though, since cleaning sand off a baby is the worst! (How does it get everywhere so fast?!)
We wanted our trip to be super relaxing. With me 25-weeks pregnant and Joey 15 months old, we had no interest in planning a ton of activities and excursions. We mostly wanted to hang out at the pool, hang out on our balcony reading or watching Netflix while Joey was napping (sometimes with fruity drinks!), and driving the 15 minutes into Lahaina for good food and walks through town.
It rained our last day and a half there, which was a real bummer, and even worse, it dropped to only 65 degrees. I ended up having to buy a sweater! (The first few days were in the low 80s, so a nice, comfortable temperature.) To beat the rain, we went to the Maui Ocean Center, which is considered one of the best aquariums in the country, and it was really great. Joey loved seeing the fish and kept pointing at them and saying “ooooh!” So cute. We’d highly recommend a stop at the aquarium even if you don’t have a rain day!
We also did A LOT of eating. Maui is seriously pricey when it comes to food (and pretty much everything), so we tried to keep our expenses down as much as possible with some casual meals mixed with fancier ones. We also ate fruit and muffins from the grocery store for breakfast in our room each morning. Here are some of our Maui restaurant highlights:
Lahaina Coolers — this was one of our best meals in Maui. I had coconut crusted fish and Andy had a garlic shrimp skillet that were both phenomenal (and I don’t usually even like shrimp!!).
Paia Fish Market — amazing fish tacos for a reasonable price in downtown Lahaina (Andy preferred the chicken tacos but I’ve literally been daydreaming about the fish tacos since we left). We went here for lunch twice!
Aloha Mixed Plate — relatively inexpensive option in Lahaina with a laid back, beachside vibe, and the kalua pork sandwiches with guava BBQ sauce are fab.
Cafe des Amis — on our way to the Road to Hana (ugh) we stopped for breakfast in the beach town of Paia where everyone either had a surfboard or a yoga mat. This super cute cafe has great crepes and smoothies, and the boho-styled patio is adorable. I would have liked to spend more time exploring Paia because we peeked in some cute shop windows and I liked the vibe of the whole town.
Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice — so so good and, honestly, much better than we expected. We’d had snow cones before at like the county fair, but this ice was so fine and the flavors so much more complex and interesting, it was delicious.
Feast at Lele — I know luaus are sort of cliche and touristy, but when in Hawaii… right? Besides, I loved the idea of taking Joey to a real luau since we threw her a luau-themed first birthday party in January — Joey Lulu’s Luau!!
The Feast at Lele is considered among the best food in Maui, which makes it so much less cliche. This was definitely our favorite meal of the trip. It’s a 4-course served meal, plus appetizer, dessert and open bar, not a buffet like most luaus, at a private table (a lot of luaus are family seating), and each course includes three dishes to share — that’s a ton of food! We ate things we’d never heard of before, certainly had never eaten, and even Joey tried and enjoyed everything. There were a couple things I couldn’t try because of being pregnant (like ceviche, which I love), but every single thing we did have was delicious, including the drinks! (Non-alcoholic pina coladas for me!) In between courses, there were performances by dancers and musicians representing different Polynesian cultures.
The whole night was really fun, totally different from anything we’d normally do, and the three of us had an awesome time … up until the very last performance when there was fire dancing and the crowd got loud. Joey got scared and kind of freaked out for a couple minutes, but she handled the rest of the three-hour meal amazingly and had a great time like the rest of us. It was totally worth the cost for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Ok, not every trip can be perfect, even in Hawaii. Besides the crappy weather at the end, there were a couple of other duds that I might as well mention just in case anyone else is planning a trip to Maui:
Baby beach in Lahaina — we’d read great things about this beach in a few “what to do with babies/toddlers” guides, but it was not good. The beach itself was kind of sketchy and dirty, and the water was a lot rougher and deeper than I expected. Since Joey was freaked out by the waves, we spent approximately 45 seconds here before giving up and driving back to our resort’s pool.
(this enormous banyan tree in Lahaina is crazy — pictures can’t do it justice)
Road to Hana — so according to all the guides this is one of those must-do things in Maui. It’s basically a long, windy, scenic road through stunning rainforests, with a lot of stops to see waterfalls, beautiful beaches, parks, etc, on the way to a cool little town called Hana. After reading a lot about it, we decided to give it a try, thinking we’d maybe do about half of the day-long drive and turn around, because we really didn’t want to make Joey spend a whole day in her carseat, and we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of the hikes carrying her and with me pregnant, anyway.
The night before, I downloaded an app that uses GPS to tell you exactly where you are on the tour, what’s coming up and what’s worth stopping at, which sounded pretty awesome. So we go to get on the road and… turns out you need to download an additional thing within the app to actually use the guided tour, which is like $6, so I go ahead and buy it but then there’s not strong enough cell service and I can’t get it to download, and I got super grumpy at this point and was mad about wasting $6 and that we wouldn’t have this (potentially) really awesome, necessary guide. You can buy a CD guide apparently, but I didn’t know where, and who uses CDs anymore? We decided to keep going anyway and just figure it out using the maps, websites and travel guides I had pulled up on my phone, but then we lost all cell service and therefore all of my websites went blank and we had nothing. Grrrr.
(there’s a waterfall in this picture. sort of.)
We drove to the twin falls, which is essentially the first stop, did the walk to the waterfall, which I’d read ahead of time is the considered the easiest and most accessible waterfall to get to (but not stroller-friendly). The falls were ok (we couldn’t get close enough for much of a view, to be honest — I thought you could go right up to them, but they’re really off in the distance through the trees… maybe we just didn’t go far enough? But we followed the crowds.) By then we knew we weren’t going to have a good time and decided to just give up. Without a map or guide it was going to be way too much trouble to continue, and we didn’t even think to plan ahead to bring bottled water or snacks or anything. Mostly because my end goal was some famous Road to Hana banana bread! We planned to try again the next day, with lots more preparation, but it ended up being rainy and the road is considered too dangerous in the rain.
Some people we talked to later said they actually got stuck on the road due to a mudslide earlier in the week, couldn’t turn around and had to wait on the road for hours until it was cleared. Yuck! They called it the Road to Hell and said it was totally not worth the hype. So. Maybe it’s great, maybe it’s not. I think it just depends on your circumstances, luck and ability to plan ahead (which I thought I had done considering how much I’d read about it). I really have no desire to go back and feel mostly kind of annoyed we wasted half a day on it when we could have been enjoying sunshine! But I still do want that banana bread. (Maybe I’ll just make some!)
Overall, though, Maui was so awesome and the perfect vacation for a young toddler (and an old pregnant lady!). We had the BEST time. Maui is super laid back and quiet, so it was just what we wanted. I’m sure we could have packed a lot more in if we had wanted, but we loved the slow pace of our trip. Every place we went was kid friendly, and we were all able to have a really nice family time. Of course we wish we’d been able to stay a few more days and enjoy some better weather (and gotten tans!), so we’re already daydreaming about a trip back to Hawaii… ten-year anniversary maybe??!!
After leaving Hawaii, we flew to San Francisco where we stayed with Andy’s cousin and his family in Oakland for a few days. And can you believe, after leaving 65 degrees in Hawaii, it was in the 90s in Oakland… where it’s almost always 65!! Sigh. That part of the trip was also so much fun, and totally different. We loved spending time with family and Joey had the best time playing with all her second cousins.
We enjoyed one of the best ice cream sundaes I’ve ever had at Fenton’s Creamery in Oakland, which I insisted on going to after recently seeing it mentioned on Food Network as one of the best desserts in the country! (We had this month’s special: a “fluffernutter” sundae with chocolate peanut butter ice cream, chocolate marshmallow ice cream, hot fudge, peanuts and mini marshmallows — I would fly to Oakland to get one RIGHT THIS MINUTE if I could! Not kidding.)
We also had some amazing burritos at Taqueria El Buen Sabor in The Mission district of SF (birthplace of the American-style burrito). We stopped there randomly only because it was the closest burrito place to where we were meeting Andy’s cousin at Dolores Park, and really lucked out with awesome burritos — and this is coming from Andy who is a true burrito connoisseur.
So happy anniversary and happy babymoon to us! Now we just have to figure out how to get ourselves back on east coast time (do we have to?) and go back to our real lives (again, do we have to?!)…. At least until next week when we’re flying out of town AGAIN!