“Jobs fill your pocket, adventures fill your soul”
-Jaime Lyn Beatty
I covered so much ground when I visited Maui last month that I couldn’t share all the highlights in just one post. Not only did we spend a lot of time in our old favorite Wailea, we also explored downtown Paia, which led us to new places to dine and to shop. For the first time ever, we drove up the road to Hana for a spell. We also revisited Mo’Ono Bowl at the food truck park we ate at last time we were here (and it tasted just as good as the first time) . In addition to that, we sampled the best shave ice on the island. But first, let’s talk about our favorite of all the experiences; the afternoon we spent being delighted by Maui’s most beautiful tourists: the whales.
A visit to Maui in February, during the height of the whale season, can fill a stay with even more beauty and magic than usual. We scored ocean tour tickets and headed over to the harbor at Ma’alaea Bay to take a whale watching eco-tour staffed with marine naturalists at the Pacific Whale Foundation. Founded in 1980, the Pacific Whale Foundation is Maui’s top-rated whalewatch tour provider, as they draw from nearly four decades of whale research and ocean conservation.
On a sunny mid-morning, group of about 80 of us boarded our tour vessel. We were lucky enough to score a small table for 2 on the upper deck of the boat, providing us with an amazing view of the action. We excitedly pulled out of the harbor and out into the open water, ready for one of nature’s most spectacular shows.
For the next two hours, we were amazed and delighted by several whale sightings both near and far, most notably the boat-side appearance of an adorable newborn calf about a week to ten days old, as estimated by our guide.
Not long after this adorable baby dazzled us with her unbridled energy and beauty, her submerged mama whale rose up from the depths to take center stage and remind us all who was really in charge.
Our guides led us on an educational journey, making sure we understood where to look and what we were seeing. They explained how a whale’s migratory experience is about feeding in nutrient rich cold water and giving birth in the comfort of warm water. At one point our guides turned on one of the hydrophones they use to capture the sounds whales are making so that we could all hear the high pitched noises the whales make while communicating with each other. It was an amazing way to spend a couple of hours and our tour time passed quickly. Afterwards, we walked directly from the boat over to the Ma’alaea General Store to enjoy savory turkey club sandwiches for lunch.
The next day we traveled to Paia to explore the north side of the island. Our day trip resulted in an extraordinary cup of coffee and event filled shopping. We stumbled upon a new up-and-coming refreshments destination, Sip Me.
Light, bright and airy, this is the kind of coffeehouse you want to spend the whole morning in- and maybe the afternoon, too. Founded in Makawao in 2015, Sip Me boasts 4 Maui locations- 2 in Paia, the flagship in Makawao, and a new location opening soon in Kahului. Sip Me sources their coffee from Maui Oma, the island’s premier coffee roaster. The menu is surprisingly completely local and organic, and has something for everyone: craft coffee, artisanal loose leaf teas, cold pressed juices and smoothies, and a lovely variety of fresh delicious pastries, as well as gluten free and vegan offerings.
After stopping in to enjoy a Café Au Lait and some out-of-this world local coffee cake while taking in the view from the front picture window, we walked our freshly caffeinated selves outside and continued down Baldwin Ave. toward the Highway to Hana to explore Paia’s many stand alone shops.
We first stepped into Biasa Rose on the Hana Highway, a large boutique carrying a wide variety of merchandise. They feature both men’s and women’s wearables, home goods, accessories and gifts. The staff are warm, welcoming and experts on their product offerings. We especially loved their selection of greeting cards and picked a couple up to take home.
Another favorite stop was the Mermaid Inn, which is filled with island themed beachy chic ladies gifts, jewelry and clothing. A colorful selection of sun dresses and swimsuit cover ups was merchandised cleverly alongside an array of mermaid themed wearables and décor items. When lucky enough to be in Paia, we highly recommend a visit to this gem for reeling in unique gifts for all the sun loving sirens in your life.
At the end of the afternoon in Paia, we found ourselves craving something cool and refreshing. Now shave ice is available just about anywhere on the island- but that doesn’t mean you should stop just anywhere to get yours. Luckily I have a local expert (my sister) who moonlights as a guide to Maui’s best of the best. Experts all agree that Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice is undoubtedly the best. The Ululani menu lists a Maui-inspired selection of flavors (the Haleakala, The Lahaina, The Ka’anapali) and also uses Maui-made Roselani’s ice cream to sweeten up their offerings. We ordered a lemon, lime and blue raspberry bowl that not only looked pretty but tasted like heaven. Especially because we also added a hidden macadamia nut ice cream base to our cone order.
There were other memorable experiences on this visit as well ( like seeing Lauryn Hill at the MACC, thank you Jason!!), but every great adventure must come to an end. In the blink of an eye, my departure date was upon me and I was once again faced with the bittersweet reality of returning home to California. As my plane ascended the sunlit island and headed east, I took my last longing looks back at Maui and waved a fond farewell. Luckily, it’s only a matter of time before that line between the sky and the sea calls me back to my sweet island home away from home again.
Lisa Ihnken ©2018 All Rights Reserved