Kohola is the Hawaiian word for Humpback whales. And Humpback whales are not the kind of creatures one sees frequently close to shore while vacationing, except if you find yourself in Hawaii during the winter months. Weighing up to 40 tons, these long distance travelers migrate to Hawaii to mate, give birth and nurse their young each year. Humpback whales are often spotted off the islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe. As Gary and I have discovered that as intimidating as these mammals appear, they can be equally entertaining.
Our vacation of land, air and sea was again an impromptu trip. The beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui was our next exploration and Gary had a volcanic hike, island helitour and whale watching on his mind. The minute I learned of our whale watching excursion, I became anxious and the experience of a good old’ luau had escaped me. On our daily walks along the jasmine fragrant pathway along the beach to the heights above the ocean, I was constantly on the lookout for these extraordinary creatures, of which I was fortunate to spot at two different locations.
When we arrived in Maui it was already dark, so Gary and I picked up our rental vehicle a lesson we learned after having limited access on our previous travels due to lack of transportation, and with the aid of his android navigational system we found the Fairmont Kea Lani resort with ease.
Located on the South coast of Maui, the Fairmont Kea Lani, Kea Lani meaning white heavens is set on 22 acres of oceanfront property and lush gardens. It is an extension of luxury hotels throughout the world that offers elegant accommodations.
Upon check in we received a traditional Hawaiian welcome, no hula dancers just the beads and rose necklaces along with a delicious blend of passion fruit, mango cocktail from the gracious staff member at the hotel. We then proceeded to our one bedroom garden view suite with limited ocean view. The suite was beautifully decorated, spacious and outfitted with a high tech entertainment system, double sinks, full bath and shower, male and female robes, king size bed, spacious living space, wet bar, mini kitchen equipped with a microwave, compact refrigerator, and a coffee and tea corner with Fairmont’s signature tea collection; and a private balcony.
I instantly fell in love with the unisex fragrance concoctions of lotions, soaps, shampoos, etc., that were provided. The light blend of cumin, cedar, and amber are from the New York boutique perfumer Le Labo Rose 31 made exclusively for the Fairmont hotels worldwide.
After settling in, we heeded to the shuttle driver’s advice, to rest for at least 24 hours before indulging in the islands temptations and attractions. At only 9:30 pm Hawaii time, we were off to bed.
The following morning we woke before sunrise. Along the oceanfront is a ingeniously designed pathway that begins at the Fairmont’s property, and is about 4 miles round trip. I was surprised by the amount of foot traffic along the path that meets the areas other resort properties, the Marriott, Four Seasons and the Wailea properties, all enjoying a brisk morning’s workout and leisure walk. We also had various sightings of the island’s green sea turtles and other marine lives.
I am not much of a workout fanatic but I was impressed with the benefits offered to premier members of the Fairmont’s President Club. Members get to stay active with complimentary in room delivery of Adidas shoes, workout apparel, yoga mat, stretch bands, pre-loaded mp3 player and more. All these are based on member’s preference and sizing updated in their profile. A nominal fee applies to club level members. For outdoor enthusiasts, they also offer BMW cruise bikes, giving guests a chance to explore their destinations.
The Hawaiian islands are a series of volcanoes rising from the ocean floor at 20,000 feet above sea level. Maui is made up of two of those volcanoes with the highest and most visited, Haleakala (House of the sun) rising up to 10,023ft.
On day two of our visit, Gary and I ventured out beyond the grounds of our hotel into the regions highest point, into the Summit of the Haleakala National Park at an elevation of over 10,000 feet. Before leaving the hotel we were warned to wear warm clothing as the temperatures sometimes drop below 30 degrees. Once at the summit, it was frigid. We did a quick tour overlooking the crater and NASA observatory at the peak of the Haleakala where life still breathes in an almost barren land of remnants of burnt rocks from a dormant volcano. The journey through the clouds to the top was a breathtaking and scenic drive which took about 1 hour and 30 minutes from bottom to top. There are several lookout spots along the way that allowed us to stop and gaze out into the horizon. The park is a nature lover’s paradise with numerous spots for hiking. Along the winding road, the hillside is dotted with rare and beautiful blooms of indigenous plants and bikers getting their fill, up and down the road. Exploring the volcanic landscape, I was intrigued with the dynamic of the land with areas appearing barren while other areas flourished with rare and exotic plant and animal lives.
Our dining options on this trip were mainly grab-n-go sandwiches, and light bites since we spent most time away from base. For the first morning we fed our systems with healthy fill from the Fairmont sumptuous buffet breakfast consisting of French toasts, eggs benedict, everything omelet and of course sweet indulgences of freshly baked pastries. This was a popular choice among hotel guests.
We also stopped in at a famous eatery housed in the Day’s Inn, called Sorrento’s. Our colleagues from Las Vegas recommended we stop in to check out the islands sunset, and their creative and delectable cuisine. We dined on veal shank in between sips of nick sunset cocktail, as we watched the sun meets the sea.
Since we were often on the road, Gary and I also checked out some local spots for the remaining mornings, Kihei Caffe marks the spot for breakfast and Da Kitchen a local dive that serves Hawaiian fares was our lunch stop for katsu moco-crusted chicken on fried rice, white rice, vegetables, meat loaf topped off with medium fried egg. After our long hours touring Maui, and picking on small bites here and there we were too full to dine at any of the fine restaurants at the hotel.
We arrived at the Kahului heliport early to do our pre-departure check-inn which included a safety briefing, and weight and balance compliance check. On board our Sunshine helicopter with two other couple and our pilot, we fastened our seatbelts to capture West Maui by air. Maui No Ka Vi! Maui’s best! The Circle Island Tour was our package which offered highlights and spectacular vistas of Maui’s rainforests, valleys and coastline. We explored the lush mountains with close ups of the Wall of Tears where the mountain served as a spectacular backdrop to over seventeen cascading waterfalls. We flew through rain showers in the Launiupoko and Ukermehame valleys, unbelievable view of the Haleakala crater, the hidden pools. In a voyeuristic and paparazzi mode, we had brief glimpses of celebrities George Harrison, Owen Wilson, and George Clooney’s Hana Town vacation homes. Surfs up in Ho’okipa a popular windsurfing beach area. Other scenic lookouts included views of acres of pineapple and sugar plantations and the giant Jurassic Rock where they filmed the movie, Jurassic Park. Close to landing we flew over the massive wind generators above Ma’alaea which produce about 9 percent of the island’s energy.
Although luau is a huge Hawaiian celebration not to be missed, we were disappointed that were unable to participate in any of the activities as our dates for lei-ing were met with late reservations or activities were not offered on that particular day.
Booked through the Pacific Whale Foundation an organization that supports whale researches and protection, and operates out of Ma’alaea Harbour. We set out on our adventure, within minutes after departing the launch we spotted surface activities of spouts and flukes through our binoculars and lenses. Shortly after that, we were upon a school of six to seven whales frolicking close to shore. For two hours we were entertained by this group that was engaged in a variety of high energy behaviors. We were thrilled with their acrobatic display of fins and tails from the blow, peduncle arch, fluke up dive, to the pec slap. My lens were literally focused on every movement of these mammals hoping for even a brief moment where we would see a gigantic leap from the ocean to display their full bodies. We later learned that the whales were in a mating chase or pod of one female followed by males, and it would be very vulnerable for them to expose themselves like that. We also had a chance to listen to several minutes of complex sounds from a hydrophone that was lowered in the water to give us an opportunity to listen to a whale song. Sounds that were repeated and lasted up to 20 minutes. This is said to be done by the male. However, scientists have not yet determined the purpose. We were fortunate to have the all girls power team who shared their expert knowledge of these fascinating creatures in the wild.
While back at the hotel we relaxed with sips of the Fairmont’s signature organic herb and fruit teas to prepare for our journey home to Miami. As we reflected on the days past, I enjoyed my favorite tea, the kea lani orange pineapple with light blend of hibiscus, apple, rosehip, orange peel, brambleberry and chicory. Even though we missed the spellbinding performances and traditional Hawaiian celebration, Luau, we both agreed that this trip to The Valley Isle, Maui is the best travel experience, yet.
This was our Hawaii. Mahalo.
Maui, Hawaii | March 25-29 | 2012 | Daedrian McNaughton & Gary Sandelier