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Another beautiful sunset in Hawaii
Maui Sunset!

Observing Maui

by Martin Green

Maybe it’s the ocean. Maybe it’s the beach. Maybe it’s the sound of the ocean waves breaking on the beach. Maybe it’s the warm humid air. Maybe it’s the tall palm trees swaying in the wind. Maybe it’s all of these. Whatever it is, there’s something about a tropical vacation, in this case a week in Maui, that drains away all your cares and leaves you relaxed, with perhaps just enough energy left to signal for another Mai Tai or Pina Colada.

My wife Beverly and I had been to Hawaii twice before. The first time, many years ago, we went with our three sons and spent most of our time in Oahu, going to the Polynesian Center, visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial, joining the crowd on Wakiki beach, going to a luau, in other words doing all of the typical tourist things. Hardly relaxing. The second time, about three years ago, we went to Maui for the wedding of our son Michael (to Bridget), an exciting time but again not too relaxing.

This spring we decided to return to Maui on our own, to do nothing in particular, and this is pretty much what we did. As we didn’t know anything about Maui we chose to stay at the same hotel, the Royal Lahaina, as we did when there for our son’s wedding. We discovered that the hotel had been considerably renovated, and also that their prices had considerably risen, since the last time. But we’ve always found Hawaii to be expensive, even on that first visit. I guess it comes with being a string of islands in the middle of the Pacific and having to import so many things. Someone I talked with there told me the situation had worsened as land that had been used to grow food is now being used for housing developments. In any case, I decided to just charge everything to our hotel room so as not to receive a daily shock, saving this for a one-time blow when checking out.

We did find out there was an advantage to being seniors as we were upgraded to a room, on the seventh floor, with a full ocean view. We spent a lot of time just sitting on our little balcony watching the activities on the ocean, sailboats gliding by, and on the beach, kids playing in the surf. And, for the first time in our travels, we actually saw whales. Before this, if there was a whale-sighting on, say, a cruise, we’d always be on the wrong side of the ship. Maui was a big whaling center between 1825 and 1860 and today humpback whales journey from Alaska to Maui to give birth, and I suppose to enjoy the warm waters, from January through March. On our second morning there, we heard about whale-sightings at breakfast and figured that as usual we’d missed them. But then we returned to our room, went out on the balcony and there they were, jumping around in the water. We could finally say we’d seen whales.

We also spent a lot of time in the hotel restaurant, which is an open air place looking west out on the ocean. As the restaurant was open air, we usually had a number of small birds joining us in our meals. It was always pleasant starting the day with a leisurely buffet breakfast. It was also pleasant to have dinner there while watching the sun set. The hotel has a nice custom of having three of their young male employees blowing conch shells to signify the sunset and then lighting torches around the pool while Hawaiian music plays for two young ladies in Hawaiian dress gracefully dancing.

We didn’t spend all of our time loafing around (and eating) at the hotel. The big tourist thing in Maui is making the drive to Hana, around 617 curves and over 51 one-lane bridges to see, as the guide books say, spectacular cliffs and waterfalls, tropical streams and waterfalls. In our younger days we might have made this trip but somehow it sounded too arduous for the way were feeling and besides we’d have to get up early and miss our buffet breakfast.  

So we passed on Hana, and also on a luau, but we did  rouse ourselves enough to take a tram (free) to the nearby Whaler’s Village, twice, and the tram and a bus (one dollar each) to Lahaina, three miles away. I’d noticed that all the men in Maui dressed casually and that most wore some kind of necklace. In other places, the necklace-wearing might have seemed odd but in Maui it seemed natural. As soon as we entered Hilo Hattie’s in Lahaina a nice Hawaiian young lady placed a shell necklace around my neck so I too joined the crowd. Aside from its restaurants and shops, we discovered that Lahaina has many, many art galleries, a sort of Pacific Carmel, and many of the artists were quite good. (As Beverly is herself an artist and our house is filled with her paintings, we looked, chatted with the gallery people, all very friendly, but didn’t buy anything).

Whalers Village, like Lahaina, has enough shops and restaurants for an afternoon’s visit. It also has a Whalers Museum, where I obtained my information about Maui’s whaling history. I also learned that while whaling might have been a profitable industry for some, a common seaman made all of about $30 for a four-year voyage. I’ve mentioned that things in Maui were somewhat expensive. In Tommy Bahama’s I saw some colorful shirts that looked nice; they were over $100. The place to shop in Whalers Village for economy-minded tourists is the ABC Store, where we bought the traditional chocolate-covered macadamia nuts to take to the folks back home. One more note on economics: admission to the Whalers Museum is free.

Although we didn’t do much, time in Maui somehow went by and there came our last evening there.   We had our last sunset dinner and our last sunset drink. The next day we’d return to our home in Roseville, California, where we had to do something about the ground cover that had been killed by the winter’s frost and attend to all those other household matters and then there’d be Iraq and Iran and North Korea and the latest worldwide epidemic. But for the time being we'd just watch the sun disappear into the Pacific while the sound of the waves lapping up on the beach lulled us into soft contentment.

Okole Maluna
Aloha from Martin and Beverly!
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