Itineraries, Travel

Aloha Nui Loa – Honeymooning in Maui

When I first brought Hawaii to the table as a prospective Honeymoon destination, Jeremy was skeptical. In his mind, Hawaii was overrated and overdone. But after a couple days in Maui, he realized there’s a reason why everyone goes there. For me, Hawaii is not just your typical beach destination, but a beautiful island with a rich history and vibrant culture. To all my friends planning a trip towards the Pacific and for ones who just want to hear about our time, this is for you:

Day One: Settling in

Instead of staying at a hotel or resort, we stayed at an Airbnb condo in Lahaina. We loved feeling like we were coming home every night and we miss that beautiful space in many ways. As incredible as many of the Hawaiian resorts look, I loved getting to live further away from areas that were more developed. Additionally, our hosts provided everything that we could have wanted including a full kitchen, beach towels, and a washer/dryer.

The Wrangler:
One fun fact about our honeymoon is that we did all of our planning in Hawaii, apart from our accomodations, travel, and transportation. After I put up a fight for a budget car, Jeremy persuaded me to agree to a Jeep Wrangler for the week. Our white wrangler became one of the highlights of our trip and would be a recommendation for anyone wanting to do heavy driving around the island.

Exploring Front Street
Our first taste of the island was driving down to Front Street in Lahaina for dinner, which had the perfect balance of tranquility and nighttime bustle. I loved that as you walk down the street, the ocean is on your right and shops, galleries, and restaurants are on your left. We stopped at Luna Cafe for dinner where Jeremy got his first taste of Katsu and I had a special with Ahi Tuna.

Day Two: North Maui

Continuing our exploration of Lahaina, we stopped for breakfast at Slappy Cakes, a restaurant where you can design your own pancakes at your table. Jeremy and I weren’t interested in the pancake making portion and opted to sit at the bar instead, which meant bypassing the wait. Slappy Cakes quickly became a favorite of ours because the breakfast was incredible. My order was Uncle Benny’s Eggs Benedict which included Portuguese sausages, Maui onions, and, of course, scoops of white rice. Jeremy opted for these German Chocolate Chip Pancakes that were way too sweet for me, but he loved them enough to get them every time we visited.

After breakfast, we went back to down to Front Street for some shopping. While browsing around Billabong, we learned that most sunscreens incorporate an ingredient called “oxybenzone”, which has been killing many of the coral reefs around Hawaii. The damage has been so extensive that Hawaiian lawmakers are actually considering a ban on the chemical in order to protect their reefs. (Just something to consider as we all purchase sunscreen!)

Lunchtime meant finally getting some grocery store Poke – one of the things I was most excited for in Hawaii. On the island, Poke isn’t seen as trendy “ethnic” food like it is now on the mainland. In Hawaii, you can pretty much stop at any grocery store and just like a typical meat and produce section, there’s usually a fresh Poke counter where you can buy all sorts of fresh, raw fish. While in Maui, we frequently stopped at Foodland where they had numerous Poke flavors to sample and purchase by the pound. It was heavenly.

After treating ourselves to a couples massage, we continued our slow day by grabbing dinner at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, a Hawaiian fast food chain. Over some plate lunch items and spam musubi (which Jeremy did not touch), we watched Moana back at our AirBnb and then promptly fell asleep halfway through the movie. Classic us and a great first full day in Lahaina.

Day Three: Beach Day

Jeremy and I decided that day three would be a dedicated beach day. But how on earth does one even go about choosing what beach to go to in Hawaii. As I ate breakfast, Jeremy put together a brief presentation of Maui’s top beaches and after a compelling proposal (this is a normal thing in the Leong household. We became real friends in an instructional design class and often make powerpoints and proposals for each other just for fun), we settled on Makena Beach.

On the way, we stopped at Foodland to pick up beach items and snacks (more Poke for me). Once we got there, Jeremy napped and I felt like I was ten again. I spent most of my time wading into the water cautiously throughout the day, but never going all the way in even though I really wanted to. I would sit on our towel and then inch back into the water, until finally, after much encouragement from Jeremy, I slowly went deep enough to be treading water and balancing with the waves. It sounds so silly, but I was so proud of myself and it felt amazing.

After baking in the sun and soaking in the water for a couple of hours, we packed up our towels and headed to the Shops at Wailea. While creating our itinerary, Jeremy really wanted to go to a Luau, which I wasn’t as keen on. Even though we decided not to sign up for to watch one, it worked out because we got to catch a performance by a local Polynesian dance studio. We watched students of all levels perform traditional Polynesian dances from Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, and more. After doing some shopping and picking up a ukulele to bring back to DC, we left the shops and found some nearby restaurants. MonekyPod was recommended to us by a friend and had an incredible menu, but because it was mainly seafood (Jeremy is not a fan #sadlife), we opted to eat some great Mediterranean food at Pita Paradise.

Day Four: Hana

The Road to Hana is one of those must-do, all day Maui itinerary items, so I’ve dedicated one whole post to it here.

Day Five: The Ranch and the Ocean

We were up bright and early for our final full day in Maui and headed to Mendes Ranch for a morning of horseback riding around the island. If you know anything about me, you probably know that I don’t like animals. The first time I rode on a horse, I was forced to get on by my parents who were convinced that it would be good for me, even though I sat on the horse crying. Despite my horse history, I, for some strange reason, was looking forward to horseback riding with Jeremy. I guess I was still feeling brave! We were each assigned to a horse based on the skill level that we chose. After some convincing, Jeremy chose beginner with me and we were paired with two incredibly gentle and (semi) obedient horses, Kahlua (Jeremy’s) and Little Foot (mine). Because Kahlua was a lead horse typically used for tours, Little Foot followed and mimicked whatever she did.  For the next two hours or so, we walked on a trail around the ranch and saw many beautiful views of the ocean. It was truly incredible. The most memorable point of the ride, however, was “running” the horses. Not trot, but full on run. In an effort to not be lame, I joined the pack, got in line, and feared for my life as my horse ran at full speed up the hill. I truly have no idea how throughout history, people regularly ran horses while doing things like shooting. IT’S HARD. Not only do I have zero leg strength, but because I’m so light, I spent more time in the air than on the saddle. I had moments during another run where I was begging Little Foot to stop running. Jeremy, on the other hand, has legs of steel and spent his runs snapchatting and having the time of his life. He describes the experience as the closest thing to glory.

Limping off our horses, we got back into our Wrangler and decided to get lunch in Kapalua, the Northern Part of Maui which we had not yet explored. We ate at Pineapple Grill, but didn’t realize until we got there that most of the area consisted of resorts. Overall, the restaurant, which is on a lush golf course, wasn’t anything to write home about and the area was a bit too manicured for my taste.

We finished the night off by taking a dinner cruise off Lahaina Harbor. On a previous trip to Kauai, my family took a catamaran ride around the Napali Coast where we had dinner, lay on the nets, and watched the sun set. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to do a full catamaran experience this time around, so we opted instead for a simpler dinner cruise to spend our last night out on the water with a view of the Maui coast. Jeremy and I got a table for two and had a four course meal made with lots of local ingredients. Even though it wasn’t super long and the food wasn’t life changing, it was certainly nice getting to end the night on the water and looking at the mountains that we had grown so attached to.

Heading into Maui, I was excited, but don’t think I remembered quite how much I loved Hawaii. As cheesy as it sounds, Maui quickly felt like home. The thing I miss most is getting to drive through the island with the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. I’m not sure when we’ll visit the island again, but I’m already counting the days until “hellos” are “Alohas” and “thank yous” are once again “Mahalos”.

The Highlights
Food
Luna Cafe – Hawaiian
790 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761

Slappy Cakes – Hawaiian/American
3350 Lower Honoapiilani Rd #701, Lahaina, HI 96761

L&L Barbecue – Fast Food / Hawaiian
Old Lahaina Center 170 Papalaua St

Pita Paradise – Mediterranean
34 Wailea Ike Dr, Kihei, HI 96753

Activities
Makena Beach
6600 Makena Rd, Kihei, HI 96753

Shops at Wailea
3750 Wailea Alanui Dr, Wailea, HI 96753

Mendes Ranch
3530 Kahekili Hwy, Wailuku, HI 96793

Pacific Whale Foundation (Dinner Cruise)

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