Friday, April 8, 2011

Hiking in Maui on the Kapalua Resort Trails

Getting on the Shuttle at Kapalua Resort
We had heard about the hiking trails over at the Kapalua Resort in West Maui and were determined that before returning home to Canada we would experience what my hiker friend calls, the most awesome hike she has ever been on! She had told me that it was just like being in Jurassic Park.

Belle and Gordon were enthusiastic about the idea so we all piled in Gordon’s silver caddie, and drove to the Kapalua Adventure Center where we had to catch a free shuttle to the trail start.

Cook Pine
The ride took us through a beautiful private residential neighborhood, with pricey, extravagant homes and sweeping views through the golf course and down to the ocean. The streets on either side were lined with Cook Pines from Australia, apparently brought over so that sailors would have replacement wood in case a ship mast needed repairing. In about 10 minutes we reached the trail head and we were on our own to explore the trails.

Starting the hike
Years ago, back in the 1920s this area was all part of the Honolua Ranch and the plantation manager was a man named D.T. Fleming. You may have heard of the popular Kapalua beach that was named after him. Fleming was a man with vision and took it upon himself to search the world for various plants and trees that would flourish in Maui’s tropical environment. As a result the Maunalei Arboretum was born, with the plantings encircling the mountain top like a lei.

Well sign posted trail

We were armed with a map and the trails were safe and well marked, so we made our way upward into an amazing jungle setting of vines, ferns, gigantic trees, and plants both familiar and unique.

Bird's Nest Fern
Belle, who used to own a flower shop, pointed out a bird’s nest fern, so named because of its resemblance to a bird’s nest. Most of the trees had identifying plaques and came from faraway places such as India, New Zealand and Australia.

Some of the most impressive were the huge Rubber tree from India, a New Zealand Kauri tree, the Hoop Pine from Eastern Australia and a Banyan tree forest with ginormous specimens.

A giant plant that looked like a banana tree turned out to be something called a Traveler's Palm.

Traveler's Palm
Rubber Tree from India

New Zealand Kauri Tree

Pu'ukukui Watershed Preserve
There were loops you could take which always brought you back to the main Honolua Ridge trail and once we had made our way up to the summit we were treated with an awesome view of the Pu’ukukui Watershed Preserve, a rainforest area and one of the wettest places on the planet.

From here people had a choice to do an additional six mile hike down which would take them back to the resort center. We decided to walk back the same way we had come, do a few loops and take the shuttle back to the resort.

Banyan Tree

Once back at the resort we were hungry from our adventure so enjoyed a nice lunch in the deli/restaurant. Another great place for a nearby lunch is the popular Honolua Store, a historic area landmark, where they have a full service Expresso Bar and Deli offering breakfast and lunch.

Shuttle Schedule
One the way home we all agreed, that the hike was amazing and we are so proud that Maui has its very own Jurassic Park, thanks to the hard work of D.T. Fleming some 80 years ago. We will definitely tell our friends about this unique Maui activitiy, and we'll be back next year to experience it again.

Kapalua Resort also offers zipline tours and is home to some great beaches and a fantastic walkway along the ocean. For more information visit their website at Kapalua Resort Adventure Center.

You may want to consider staying in a vacation rental on the west side of Maui so you will be closer to these great activities. Try Ideal Vacation Rentals for some lovely condos in the area and the rest of Maui.

Friday, April 1, 2011

2 for 1 Maui Whale Watch with Boss Frog

Ever since we arrived on Maui we have noticed a big banner on the lawn of the Kihei Longs Centre. The sign says “Boss Frog’s Dive and Surf 2 for 1 whale watch. $29.95 for 2 people” We thought we would give it a try, so signed up with friends Belle, Gordon and Debbie for the 1:30 adventure. Our destination was slip 87 in Maalaea Harbour and on arrival we lined up to sign in and wait to board the vessel. Luckily for us, Marine Naturalist Katie Grove-Velasquez was on hand to tell us all about the wonderful animals we were about to see face to face. She started by telling us that whales have been her passion for the last 18 years, and it turns out that she is extremely knowledgeable on the subject. As a retired teacher I was very impressed with her presentation which included photographs, examples of real whale teeth and baleen, and a wealth of information about whales. If you haven’t already you may want to read the post Humpback Whales of Maui.
Crew members Andrea and AdamCaptain Ed
Once on board Frogman II we were introduced to Captain Ed and his crew Adam and Andrea.

Captain Ed gave us safety instructions and a heads up about the “heads”, which differ from other toilets in that you can’t throw any paper products etc. into them. He nicely volunteered crew member Andrea to fix the problem if anyone should forget. I think she preferred her other job as bar tender and assisting the passengers as needed.
Service with a Smile
Finally we left the harbor and headed out to find whales. The captain had already been tipped off by another boat, about some activity going on at a certain location. As we approached we had to stop 100 yards away from the pod, as required by Hawaii state law. Suddenly Katie called out that we had been “Mugged on Maui”, which means that the whales had decided to swim very close to our boat. This meant that we were held hostage until they decided to leave and I didn’t hear anyone complain. It turned out that the pod consisted of at least 2 male animals who were pursuing a female, so they were in angry competition.

Needless to say it was very exciting and we had front row seats to watch a breach, tail slapping, and other mating activity. I guess in whale land the females are larger than the males and they rule, so it is one big fight to see which lucky suitor will win her hand and swim away to the deep to do their thing.

Belle managed to take these awesome photos of a breach, and fluke going down.   Thankyou Belle!!!!

Finally the whales decided it was time to leave, and since some of their activity took place under water, Katie said that it was unsure if one of the male whales had won or if they were still going to continue the competition elsewhere.

On the way back to Maalaea we had another treat watching a baby whale learning to breach with Mom close at hand.

Coronula Barnacle
Once back in the harbor, Katie had yet more goodies up her sleeve, and she laid out some handouts about whales for us to take home. There was also an interesting specimen of a coronula barnacle which had been taken off a deceased humpback whale.

I would rate this whale watch very high for three reasons. Firstly the captain was very skilled and we felt confident in his hands. Secondly the crew was fun, helpful and very friendly. Thirdly having a qualified naturalist on board, giving a running commentary of everything we were seeing, made the adventure so much more meaningful than past whale watches we have been on. Oh and I forgot to add that $29.95 for 2 people is a steal for such a memorable afternoon!!!! You can find more information at the Boss Frog Website.

Marine Naturalist Katie Grove-Velasquez
Katie has been the Marine Naturalist on various whale watching vessels around Maui. Her fascination of whales also takes her to Prince Rupert and Alaska to watch and study the Hawaiian Humpback whales in their feeding grounds. We feel that Boss Frog’s is very fortunate to have her on their vessels to share her expertise with Maui visitors. Katie also confessed that she is a children’s author and is now writing a series of books centering around marine life with stories that offer life lessons while imparting true facts about the ocean and its creatures.

Why not stay in a Kihei vacation rental, and you won’t have far to go to slip 87 in Maalaea Harbor to catch Boss Frog’s 2 for 1.