Hawaii : Haleaka-what?

“Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful of your life.”

While we usually try to be pretty active on vacation, we don’t regularly get up at 4 am to watch the sunrise, but we were told this was a must do.

Haleakalā is a mammoth shield volcano that forms more than 75% of the island of Maui. Haleakalā translates to “House of the Sun” and while watching the sun rise at 10,023 feet, I could see why. We stood above the clouds as the sun rose. It was out of this world. It felt like the closest I’ll ever get to experiencing Space. (Mainly because I don’t think I’ve ever have Richard Branson “go to space” kind of dough and also, space scares the shit out of me. I’ll just stick to exploring this planet, thanks.)

← This is what the road looked like, no joke. I was super nervous taking us up, this coming from someone who usually doesn’t have a fear of heights. I had never driven anything like this though — it was still dark and the road seemed to drop off to our death, with very few guard rails to protect us. It wasn’t an impossible drive, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re a Nervous Nelly behind the wheel, can’t see well in the dark or have any fear regarding heights and dormant volcanoes.

We got up to the top with just enough time to park and scamper up to the viewing point as the sky began to light up.

V Important Side Note: it was FUCKING FREEZING. Like Boston in February cold (and if you recall from my last post that’s what we were trying to escape when we flew 12 hours to the tropics). Naively we thought, we’re coming from the worst winter Boston has ever seen, we can handle a little chill at 10,000 feet and go for a nice hike. To give you an idea, this is what we wore and it was not enough, not by a long shot. Do yourself a favor; bring a hat, gloves,multiple layers of clothing & a warm beverage if you can find anyplace open at 4am. The sunrise was magnificent and I can’t recommend it enough, but we couldn’t scamper back to the cars fast enough.

Kula Lodge & Restaurant

If you know me, you know my devotion to and infatuation with breakfast and brunch. So naturally, that was my first priority after navigating safely down the volcano. (Side Note: it is much easier to drive down than up, plus you will have sunlight to guide you on this leg). Upon trekking back down the mountain, make sure you stop at Kula Lodge for some tasty A.M. treats with a view. We got down there just as they were opening at 7am, got a table and a chance to discuss what we just experienced. I suggest the pancakes with toasted macadamia nuts. And put tons of coconut syrup on that shit. SO GOOD.

Coolest plant ever. No idea wtf it is though.

After you eat, make sure you take a walk outside. The grounds of the lodge were spectacular. They have so many flowers and plants that I had never seen before. These babies here…no filter needed.

We didn’t have much of an agenda for the rest of the day, but luckily there are a ton of cool things within a 10 mile radius. This area’s called Upcountry and for how rural it is, its got a lot goin’ on. This made me happy, since after that trek up the volcano, I wasn’t up for too much more driving. After breakfast we stopped by the Alii Kula Lavender Farm. Pretty, but not a lot there in the way of activities (and I love me some activities), so I bought some face wash and then insisted we high tail it to MauiWine, which blends two of my favorite things: alcohol and history.

Historic Hula Circle

They do a complimentary tour and tasting. We had an awesome tour guide. Definitely over the hill, but with a free spirit and a sweet-ass vest/cowboy boot combo ensemble, she was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. After our encounter with her, my friend Jess proclaimed that she wants to be her when she grows up. Move to Hawaii and make wine? Now that’s a retirement plan I can get behind. Forewarning, the tasting is three small sips of wine. I was a bit underwhelmed despite really liking the pineapple wine. I found out afterwards that they do not have a consumption license, hence the very small pours during the tasting. Nonetheless, I really liked the Maui Splash, so much so that I brought a bottle back to our hotel.

Our day was pretty spectacular overall, but the highlight for me involved goats and cheese.

Some people know of my fondness for goat cheese, but fewer know of my obsession with the creatures that produce it. I love goats. It started sometime in high school and I don’t remember why but whatever. First things first, this place is a bit off the beaten path. While driving here I definitely got the feeling like I was trespassing on a private road, so just know that going in.

TAKE US HOME!

Take the tour. It’s $8. I can’t remember our tour guide’s name, which is probably best, because I’m about to make fun of him a bit. He reminded me of Paul Rudd’s character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a surfer dude who probably smoked away a few too many brain cells. He was harmless though and knew his stuff about the goats, their mating processes (felt like he joked about goat sex a little too much) and how they make all of their delicious cheese. We spent a good amount of time petting and feeding the babies, during which I thought about how I could possibly smuggle one back on the plane with me. My favorite part though was at the end when we got to try some of their cheese.

“Lunch”

We got a few little samples of some of their most popular flavors and then I convinced the girls that we needed to eat more of it. I’m an adult so I deemed it appropriate to have wine and cheese for lunch. They have so many varieties to choose from, I could’ve put away two of these little plates myself if I put my mind to it. The three of us agreed on Mandalay (apple, banana, curry),Olé! (jalapeños, artichokes, lime juice, cilantro), Men’s Challenge (horseradish), Garden Fantasia (fresh garden herbs), Rolling Green (fresh garlic chives) & Mango Supreme (fresh mangoes, mango chutney). I want to say we paid $10-$15 for this sampler. Well worth it in my opinion. It was a very cool place, run by very cool people. Two thumbs up.

Next on the agenda was the Ocean Vodka distillery which was right next door. Again, we did the tour ($10 this time) which included some samples and a shot glass. We had a lovely tour guide (Yo, Adrienne!) who was passionate and knowledgeable and a former mainlander hospitality worker like us. Unlike most vodka, theirs is organic and made from sugar cane (EFF YOU GLUTEN).

Such a sucker for packaging

Through an aggressive distillation process incorporating minerals from deep ocean mineral water they are able to make one eco-friendly and tasty ass spirit. Everyone who works at the distillery is involved in every stage of the process, from harvesting the sugar cane to bottling the final product. I was falling in love with the idea of quitting my job and moving to Maui to make vodka when Adrienne mentioned the cane spiders. Dream squashed right then and there. Go ahead and Google them, they’re foul. My only regret that day is not buying a huge bottle of this stuff and bringing it home.

This post has gone on long enough. Bottom line, if you’re in Maui, go to these places. I know Hana gets a lot of love (and deservedly so, it’s what I’ll write about next) but Upcountry is definitely a hidden gem of Hawaii.

{Originally posted October 29, 2015}