By Valerie Savino
Early fall in Seattle is generally nice with warm sunny days and cool evenings, but as we get into October, the rains return and the days become dark and dreary. Despite the rainy weather, October has always had a warm place in my heart. Robert and I were married in October.
Having both been married before, we decided not to waste our hard-earned money on an elaborate wedding, but instead to spring for a special honeymoon on Maui. Maui is absolutely beautiful in October, even though it is considered the off season. We were able to get a good deal on airfare and a condo in Honokowai for a week. Saving money always makes Robert happy, so being able to cook most of our meals was music to his ears.
After a quiet six-hour flight to Honolulu, we hopped on a small turboprop plane to Maui. In those days, there were no direct flights from the mainland to Maui, and the airport was very small with one main building. When we landed, they wheeled out the stairs to the plane so we could disembark. The first thing I remember was how sweet the air smelled. The flowers were everywhere and quite fragrant. We quickly collected our luggage and picked up the rental car, a Toyota Corolla.
Following the map, we easily made it to our condo without incident. The condo was old, but still in nice shape and very clean. There was a vine of jasmine outside the lanai, and a view of the pool and the rocky shoreline. We quickly changed into our bathing suits and headed for a sandy beach we had seen nearby to go swimming.
As we approached the beach, we noticed the flags that were warning us not to go into the water. It was a little windy, and the flags were warning of a strong undertow. Robert was not worried. He was used to swimming with an undertow from his experiences with the beaches in North Carolina. I walked up to the water and was immediately crashed by a wave. It dragged me along the rough bottom and scraped up my foot a little. When I finally got out, Robert was nowhere to be seen. He had dived under the wave, and now I could see him being rolled along on the bottom. In a panic, I ran down to the water and tried to grab his arm as he rolled by. I am not a strong swimmer, but I did have strong arms, so I was able to pull him out, gasping for air and a little worse for the wear. At least I would be married for another day.
After that adventure, we decided to get some wine, beer and something for dinner at the small, local grocery store. Robert was shocked at the prices, but we found something suitable, then headed back to the condo for a nice evening on the lanai. Wine makes everything better, and soon we were happy and ready for bed.
The next morning, I looked over the glossy tourist brochures I found in the lobby of the condo. There was an assortment of sunset dinner cruises leaving out of Lahaina nightly. We decided to go down to the harbor and check it out. We walked up and down, looking at the boats and trying to figure out which was the best deal. Robert likes steak, so we signed up for a sunset dinner cruise for that night which featured prime rib and unlimited Mai Tais. Robert likes a bargain. Also, I think he liked the girls dancing the hula with coconuts for a bathing suit top.
That evening we parked the car in a gravel lot near the marina and headed to our cruise. The boat was a very large, catamaran style vessel with ample space below and bench seating on each side of the upper deck. We took a seat and smiled as the waitress came around with the Mai Tais. They were a shocking color of red and tasted like Hawaiian Punch with lots of rum. We drank them down and had some more. Soon, the waitress came around with the prime rib main course. On a flimsy paper plate, she handed us a large hunk of beef, some salad with Thousand Island dressing, and a baked potato with a pat of butter and a roll on the side. We also received one napkin and some cheap plastic silverware. All of this had to be balanced on our laps. There was no table. We had to hold our drinks in one hand, balance the food, and try to cut the prime rib with the other hand. I was tempted to just pick up the meat and bite off a chunk like a caveman. I figured out that I could hold the plastic cup with my teeth so that I would have two hands to cut the meat. This worked OK until the boat started rocking in the wind. I finally gave up and drank the rest of my dinner. I was missing the sunset anyway, which was far more spectacular than the food.
Once it was dark, they herded us downstairs for the floor show. We sat around on some folding chairs and watched a “Don Ho” type singer do his lounge act. Robert was happy when the coconut girls showed up to dance the hula. The singer kept trying to get people to come up and dance with the girls. “Anyone here celebrating an anniversary?” he would say. “Let’s all give the Smiths from Iowa a round of applause. Come on up here and dance the hula!” When he asked about honeymooners, Robert shook his head and gave me dagger eyes. There was no way he was going to dance the hula! Besides, we were pretty drunk by now and really needed to get off the boat.
When the boat finally docked, they gave us a lecture about drunk driving and about how marijuana was illegal in Hawaii, so we better be careful on the way home. We decided to walk around Lahaina for a while to sober up. We checked out some of the shops, but most places were closed, except for the bars. We wandered around the park with the Banyan Tree, but it was so dark that we could hardly see. Someone approached us to offer some Maui Wowie, but we politely declined, after all, it was right outside the police station! We finally found our car and headed home, tired but happy.
We slept in the next day and thankfully recovered from the rum filled adventures of the night before. We decided to take a ride up the coast to Napili Bay, where we were told there was a small charter company that took snorkeling trips to the bay at Lanai. We found the office and signed up for an all-day trip that included breakfast and lunch, for later in the week. We spent the rest of the day hanging out at the pool and enjoying the beautiful scenery. That evening, we decided that we would drive up to the summit at Haleakala the next morning to see the sunrise. The tourist brochures showed spectacular pictures of the volcano and also the beautiful Road to Hana. We decided to do both.
We got up very early the next morning while it was still dark. We put on our bathing suits under our clothes and grabbed our coats to wear at the top of the mountain. Haleakala, House of the Sun, is 10,023 feet high. The average October high temperature is 56.8 F and the average low is 41.3 F. We would need our coats to keep warm while watching the sunrise. We stopped at Denny’s for breakfast before heading out.
The road to Haleakala was completed in 1935. It is a two-lane highway with many switchbacks and drop-offs. The mountain is said to be home to the grandmother of the Hawaiian god, Maui. According to the legend, Maui’s grandmother helped him capture the sun and force it to slow its journey across the sky in order to lengthen the day.
Even with the sun’s slower journey, we still didn’t make it to the top in time to see the sunrise. Our Toyota Corolla was just too tired to go any faster that a slow walk. When we reached the parking lot, the other tourists were returning to their cars. They were exclaiming how beautiful the sunrise had been, and how lucky they were to see it. One person even said that it was almost a religious experience. We hurried over to the observation platform and looked at the valley below the summit. It just looked like a field of boulders with some sparse vegetation. So much for a religious experience.
We headed back to our car in time to see a bunch of bicyclists donning their safety gear and listening to the instructions of the guide. We hurried into the car and started down the hill, but not quite fast enough to avoid the bicycles. They mobbed our car and skidded around us on both sides. Robert tried not to hit anyone as we picked up speed going downhill. The car was much faster going down that it was going up. Just then, we noticed that there were Roadrunner birds standing on the side of the road. As we approached, they would dart out in front of the car and we would have to brake to avoid hitting them, too. This was getting crazy! Bicyclists to left of us and Roadrunners to the right. Robert finally made a game of it and started aiming for the Roadrunners, but they quickly caught on and stayed out of the way.
When we reached the bottom, there was the sign for the Road to Hanna. We turned off to the right and followed the signs to the famous highway. The Hana Road was completed in 1926. It has 617 hairpin curves, 59 one-lane bridges and at least as many waterfalls. The speed limit is 25 MPH, and it takes 2.5 hours to get to Hana on a good day. It took us about 6 hours to make the roundtrip.
The scenery is spectacular. There were waterfalls everywhere and gorgeous views of the ocean and the beaches far below. There must be twenty different colors of green in the vegetation. The road itself seems to be carved into the cliff wall. I don’t know how they built such an engineering marvel. Once you commit to the road, there is no turning back. The biggest drawback is the 59 one-lane bridges. You have to stop at each bridge to let the on-coming traffic through before you can cross. After about 30 stops, we got behind the 7-Up delivery truck, who wasn’t stopping for anyone. Things went along a lot faster after that, which was a good thing, because Robert was getting a little frustrated with the whole trip.
We stopped once, at the black sand beach, but found the sand to be sharp and difficult to walk on without shoes. It was sticking to our feet and making us miserable, so we went back to the car. At the village of Hanna, there was a small trading post that had some groceries and tourist trinkets.
Ten miles past Hanna, is the State Park with the Seven Scared Pools. The Pools are freshwater and very cold. There were once used exclusively by Hawaiian royalty, but now belong to the people of Hawaii. We walked a half mile through a banana forest to reach the pools. When we reached the pools, we sat down to eat our lunch before exploring. As soon as we were done eating, we were mobbed by the “hippies” who lived at the pools. They wanted to know if we had any spare change, cigarettes or extra food we didn’t need. One lady wanted my empty pickle jar so she could drink the brine. At that time, it was free to enter the State Park, but now they charge a hefty fee, which helps to keep the park safe and clean for the visitors. We gave them what we could, then hurried away to take a dip in the pools.
The pools are quite lovely, but are very cold, and at that time, they were littered with trash. We waded in, but quickly exited because we were very chilled. I don’t know how those Royal Hawaiians could stand the frigid water, which originates from the snow fields on Haleakala. We sat in the sun on the large boulders which surround the water and watched as some other people were diving into one of the upper pools from high above the surface. We could see the ocean far below, glittering in the sunlight.
After a while we were almost dry, except for the seat of our bathing suits, so we decided to hit the road for the drive back. The return journey was long and arduous. The traffic was very slow, although Robert had learned much from the 7-Up truck experience with the bridges, and tried not to stop for everyone. We eventually made it home, with some very soggy butts to show for our long journey. At least it was sacred water.
We enjoyed a few days at the beach and the pool, then, before we knew it, we were coming up on our last day. This was the day we had booked the snorkeling trip, which looked like it would be lots of fun, and a great way to end our honeymoon. Like I said before, I’m not a strong swimmer, and it didn’t help that Robert kept singing the song from Gilligan’s Island the night before. “This is a tale of the castaways, they’re here for a long, long time. They started out that fateful day on a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour.” I didn’t sleep much that night.
The next day I donned a new bathing suit which I had purchased just for this day. I was a little skimpier that my other one, so there was some very white, untanned skin around the edges. Better lather up the sunscreen!
We headed out to Napili Bay, which is a beautiful little cove, north of Honokowai. The boat was a small catamaran, just the right size for our group. It had a covered area topside with nice bench seats. They gave us some pastries and coffee for breakfast, which was delicious.
We were originally supposed to sail over to Lanai, which has a sheltered bay to snorkel in safely, but the winds were too brisk to enter the bay, so we sailed out to the middle of the channel between Maui and Lanai. They anchored over a coral reef and handed out the snorkeling equipment, with instructions on the proper use. They also gave us some bread to feed the fish. There were a few people who were scuba diving also. The boat was rocking a bit in the stiff breeze, as they lowered the steps to the water. The scuba divers went first, then we all lined up to take a turn.
The water was surprisingly warm, and the high salt content makes it quite buoyant. I easily slipped in and started snorkeling. The colorful fish were everywhere. It seemed like I was swimming in an aquarium. How delightful! I pulled out a loaf of bread and stared feeding them pieces. I was collecting a small crowd of fish when suddenly, hundreds of fish came out of nowhere and rushed past me. I turned around to see Robert, waving his entire loaf of bread back and forth in the water. What a feeding frenzy! Unfortunately, he was attracting more that pretty fish, and the eels started coming out of the deep coral to see what was going on. I quickly scrambled back to the boat. No more snorkeling for me! I enjoyed the rest of our trip sitting in the sun on the deck. We had a satisfying lunch of sandwiches, fruit, chips and beer. It was beautiful and relaxing. What more could you want on your last day in Hawaii?
When we got back to the condo, I realized that I was very sunburned in all the places that were very white that morning. Sleeping was quite uncomfortable and the trip home on the plane was torture, but I know it was my own damn fault. I am much more careful these days about sunscreen.
All in all, it was a memorable trip. We both fell in love with Maui that week and have made many return trips since. We are planning to go there next year for our 35th Anniversary. This time I will remember to use lots of sunscreen. Oh yes, and they lost our luggage on the way home.