Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Aloha! And reasons I love Maui...

If I had my way, we would visit Hawaii every other year for vacation.  Unfortunately, Hawaii is rather far away and rather expensive.  And don't get me started on the flight there.  Luckily, Hawaiian Airlines now has direct flights from JFK to Oahu but the flight is still roughly 11 hours on the way there.  It's a long flight but I think it's totally worth it.  Just look at that picture above of the black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park.  I was playing with the various settings and filters on my camera a bit, but it really is that gorgeous.  Waianapanapa State Park is on the road to Hana, which (if you haven't done it before) is one of the craziest drives I have ever done.  The road itself is a tiny little 2 lane-road that has 54 one-lane bridges and something like 600+ hairpin curves.  The drive is about 50 miles from one end to another, but it takes 3 hours to drive those 50 miles.  And then you have to turn around and go back.  The day we drove the road to Hana we left our hotel just before 6:00 am and didn't return until after 7:00 pm.  We were staying on the other side of the island from Paia (which is where the trip really kicks off) so it took us an hour and a half or so to get there, but we were still out and about for 13 hours.  And we didn't stop at half of the stops.  Some people split the drive up over a number of days, which is what you really have to do if you want to enjoy each stop along the way, but we packed it all into one.  If you ever think about heading to Maui I highly recommend the drive.  Bring tennis shoes and a water bottle because there is a fair bit of hiking, along with a good camera to catch some pictures of beautiful beaches, waterfalls and other scenery along the way.  And don't forget your swim suit.  If you want a more relaxing day in Maui you can always hit Kaanapali Beach (picture below).  It's so pretty.  

More (including more pictures) after the jump!

Beyond the beautiful beaches and scenery, Hawaii has great food.  For obvious reasons their pineapples cannot be beat.  But you can also find amazing Asian food and Asian-influenced food.  We visited Nutcharee's Authentic Thai Food (which is essentially a shack on the side of the road in Hana) on the road to Hana after I read about it on Yelp and had some of the best Thai food I have had in a long time.  Their crispy opaka with green mango salad (pictured above) was probably the best thing I had on my entire trip.  The opaka was beautifully fried and the green mango salad was bright, fresh and delicious.  I loved it.  We also had a really nice Panang curry with lightly seared ahi tuna.  Another Yelp find was a restaurant called Star Noodle.  I didn't realize until I spent a little time digging around online that the former chef at Star Noodle was a Top Chef finalist.  We went to Star Noodle twice.  Our first meal there was wonderful, our second a little less so.  Strangely, their noodles are probably my least favorite thing on the menu.  The noodles weren't bad by any means, but they just weren't as good as some of the other dishes.  If Star Noodle was in NYC I would go back for their pork buns and their take on banh xeo (aka Vietnamese crepe with pork and shrimp) alone.  Yum.  But I probably wouldn't bother with the majority of the noodle dishes, with the exception of their "Lahaina fried soup" (which were actually stir-fried tapioca starch chow fun with pork and bean sprouts).  Their Singapore noodles were pretty good too, with a nice curry flavor and really nicely cooked shrimp and chicken.  But I wasn't as sold on their garlic noodles and their ramens, all of which were good but not quite as good.  They had a number of other dishes that we tried the second night that would have been quite delicious, had they not been over-salted.  Oh well.  We had a few other meals that don't quite bear mentioning, but I was pretty happy with the meal (their pizzas and French dip are both pretty tasty) and the beer we had at Maui Brewing Co.  They have a few pretty decent beers that they distribute (including their Coconut Porter and Mana Wheat), but their brewery has about 20 other beers that they only serve on tap at their brewery.  Many of those beers are infused with fruit, which would violate Alex's "don't fruit the beer" policy but some of those beers were really good.  My favorites were a San Diego-style IPA called Freightrains  and a Belgian-style beer called La Perouse that infused with local tangerines.  There was another beer infused with black peppercorns and watermelon that was among the most interesting beers I have ever tried.  I'm not sure if I could finish a pint, but I really enjoyed the taste I had in my flight of beers.  I also had perhaps the best donuts of my life in Hawaii at T Komoda Bakery in a town called Makawao.  I don't even like donuts but once again Yelp gave me a recommendation that I thought was worth checking out on the way to Hana.  Their mac nut stick donuts (aka donuts on a stick) were shockingly good. 

Given the time and expense of traveling to and from Hawaii it is probably going to be at least a few years until I make it back, but I can't wait until I do.
Kaanapali Beach

Flowers on North Kaanapali Beach with Molokai in the background

Hamoa Beach 

Hawaiian state flag north of Hamoa Beach
Lahaina fried soup at Star Noodle

Banh xeo at Star Noodle

Singapore noodles at Star Noodle

Donuts (the mac nut stick donuts are on the far right) and a cream puff from T Komoda Bakery

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