Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Highway To Heaven

Last night, after settling in at our hotel, we ventured out for dinner in Maui's upcountry (north/northwestern part of the island). At the suggestion of our friend Scott, a big-time foodie, we went to the Hali'imaile General Store and the recommendation did not disappoint. The General Store is the creation of celebrity chef Bev Gannon whose numerous accolades include a James Beard nomination and several commendations from travel magazines. We ordered incredibly well, if we do say so ourselves -- Kaberi had the salmon with tobiko aioli and Vik had a sashimi Napoleon that were both out of this world. Kaberi also satisfied her sweet tooth with an outrageously-delicious banana caramel cheesecake. We toasted the start of our trip over a spetacular meal and a sunset view and drove contentedly home afterward.

The next day, we got an early start on the day and embarked upon the Road to Hana, a picturesque little oceanside hamlet on Maui's southeastern coast. The Road to Hana is affectionately referred to as the "Highway to Heaven" for its breathtaking vistas. It winds 57 miles clockwise around Maui's eastern coast and encompasses numerous lookout points fronting small waterfalls, tropical rain forest and expansive coastline. The road is in itself exhilarating to drive (although it is much more gentle of a drive after being repaved a few years ago) with its windy sweeps, 180 degree turns and numerous one way bridges.

On the drive back, we stopped at Wai'anapanapa State Park (near mile marker 32) for a pleasant hike past the black sand beach and sea caves (one of which forms a natural stone arch). Just in case you wanted to know, black sand beaches are formed when volcanic lava meets the ocean and shatters. The ocean waves then naturally crush, churn and sift the particles into sand or in Wai'anapanapa's case, small pebbles. It made for a stunning view and an engaging hike. Kaberi convinced herself that she'd worked off the honey-roasted macadamia nuts she'd been shotgunning during the drive.

After making our way back westward, we stopped in at H.A. Baldwin Beach Park near the very cool North Shore town of Paia for a barefoot sunset stroll along the beach. The park was formerly a private entertainment area for Hawaii Sugar Company employees and is named for a former Hawaiian congressman. We ventured in to get our feet wet but nearly got upended by a rogue wave. It impressed upon us the wisdom of never turning your back on the ocean. After drying off, we made our way to Mama's Fish House at the suggestion of our friend Bill in Chicago, who is a longtime Maui vacationer. Even though we only ordered an entree each, the meal was definitely a splurge. But the sound of the waves lapping nearby as we sampled the lemongrass-cilantro salmon and macademia crusted mahi-mahi made it a luxury we did not regret.

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