Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Maui: Lahaina

Our primary reason for visiting Lahaina was to board the boat that would take us to the Atlantis Submarine from Lahaina Harbor. It was nice to have a motivating reason to visit Lahaina and presented the opportunity to travel a portion of the picturesque Highway 30.

Lahaina offers the Lahaina Harbor, but it also presents many other things popular with tourists such as art galleries, restaurants, and numerous shops (including small local shops, the Lahaina Cannery Mall, and the Outlets of Maui). Lahaina also features several places of historical note including the Pioneer Inn where we picked up our tickets for the Atlantis Submarine Ride.

After the submarine ride, we sat down in Lahaina's Lahaina Banyan Court Park (also known as Lahaina Courthouse Square or Banyan Tree Park) to eat the lunch that we had packed. The massive banyan tree that is the focal point of this part provides appreciated shade and an aesthetically pleasing environment for enjoying lunch or a break from other activities. I was disappointed to see parents encouraging their children to climb and sit on this banyan tree despite signs stating that people should not climb it.

Lahaina is a popular tourist destination and I have read that its parking can be difficult. We had no issues finding a parking space because we were willing to use the paid parking, but we also arrived in the late morning. There did seem to be fewer spots available later in the afternoon and I can imagine it's more difficult to find spaces in more popular times than June.

A week in Maui is not nearly enough time to see everything in as much depth as it deserves. Although I enjoyed our brief visit to the town of Lahaina, I would have liked to have had more time to spend there than the few hours we had.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Maui: Atlantis Submarine

One of the activities on Maui that seemed to appeal to people of all ages in our group (from young child to older adult) was the Atlantis Submarine Ride. There is also an Atlantis Submarine Ride on Oahu, but the Maui one departs from Lahaina Harbor in west Maui. A boat takes passengers to the site where the submarine emerges from the previous submarine trip so that the riders can see what it looks like upon emerging. After the riders from the previous trip disembark from the submarine and step onto the boat, the riders for the next ride get onto the submarine and the submarine descends.

The submarine takes its occupants on a small cruise underwater (reaching depths of roughly 100 feet) and around an artificial reef arising from the intentionally sunken Carthaginian. The submarine captain does a nice job of attempting to maneuver the trip so that occupants on both sides of the submarine can see interesting schools of fish and other sights from their own side of the submarine. I felt like the cruise itself wa appropriate in its duration and it seemed popular with passengers of all ages.

I was very impressed with the organization and people running Atlantis Submarines Maui. They were courteous, professional, helpful, and made it fun for everyone. When I was pre-ordering the tickets online before we traveled to Hawaii, one of their representatives called me at home to make sure that I hadn't overbooked when I arranged for tickets for my own family and the family of my brother with the same number of family members and same last name. As I was explaining the two orders, the woman who called realized that I qualified for a generous discount that I had not been aware of and offered to apply it to our purchase. I found the service related to the excursion itself to be similarly helpful.

The photographs I have included in this post do not do the views of the underwater marine life and formations justice. Although there are a few things about the submarine cruise that appeal to children, it is still an interesting ride with fascinating views for the adults. For those of us who don't scuba dive, it's a great opportunity to see different things in water this deep than we can see when we snorkel.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Maui: Iao Valley State Park and Iao Needle

The Road to Hana is probably the best known part of Maui for being lush and green. However, Iao Valley State Park is very lush and green and is more easily accessible than the Road to Hana. Iao Valley State Park and its most recognized feature, the Iao Needle, can be seen in a matter of minutes, but offers additional interesting scenery that can warrant a little longer stay.

Iao Valley State Park features the Iao Needle, Iao stream, multiple and relatively easy small hiking trails, and lots and lots of green. The potential setting of mist and clouds in the vicinity add to the visually stunning scenery and make for many photographic opportunities.

As of this writing, Iao Valley is the #4 attraction on Maui according to TripAdvisor.

The parking lot is decently sized, but not enormous. Fortunately, the park can be covered in as little as half of an hour and, for most people, probably in not more than a couple hours, so parking spots should open up frequently as needed.

The next image shows the parking lot (and restrooms) from one of the short trails.

The short trail to the Iao Needle gets most of the attention, but there is another short trail that breaks off this trail and rejoins it later that has quite different sights to see. The next series of images show looking over the mini valley that break-off trail goes into and some of the vegetation and scenery down in that area.

The Iao Valley is lush and green because there's water everywhere. The air is humid and there are numerous streams and mini-waterfalls.

Iao Valley State Park offers the Iao Needle and numerous other visual delights. The whole thing can be seen briefly in less than an hour and more comprehensively within two hours. It's easily accessible from Kahului Airport (OGG) and some of the more popular lodging areas in Maui (5 miles/15 minute drive from Kahului and 15 miles/25 minute drive from Kihei). We enjoyed Snow Ice at Snow Factory in Wailuku after seeing Iao Valley and the Iao Needle.