Monday, April 29, 2013

Hawaii Photos #4: Accommodations

During our time in Hawaii, Chris and I stayed in a wide variety of accommodations, everything from a B&B to a condo to a tree house.

A lot of people have asked us why we stayed in so many different places, rather than just picking a hotel in a central location as a home base, like most people do. Yet, when we got there, all the locals told us we were doing it "the right way." So here's why: waayyyy less driving and getting to see more.

On Maui, some of the best attractions were really just drives. The road to Hana, for example. Of course, this drive had lots of stops where you could swim in waterfalls and get yummy food and so on. But the road after Hana was much more desolate without many real "attractions." But it was possibly the most beautiful thing we saw and not a lot of people do it because they take most of the day driving to Hana, so then they turn around and head back to their hotel on the west side of the island because there isn't a direct loop around. Just the scenic loop that is totally worth it. So by staying at the beginning of the road to Hana, in Hana, and then over on the west side on consecutive nights, we were able to take our time seeing nearly the whole island. No backtracking and no driving super late to get "back".

The only downfall of this plan is that it was crazy time consuming to plan. I had to do a lot of research and contact a lot of condo owners individually. There aren't a lot of cheap hotels in Hawaii, so rather than go broke staying at resorts, we went mostly with condos, one B&B, and as I mentioned, a tree house. All of these places had to be emailed for availability, prices, etc. It was a huge pain, but it made our actual trip much easier and more seamless. So if you have the time before you go, I recommend this strategy.

Anyway, here are the pictures!

Haiku Plantation Inn
This B&B was set up in a very old plantation house with a lot of character. The owner was very nice (even if she did forget we were coming) and we had a delicious breakfast the next morning. At first Chris was worried about the lack of air conditioning, but the room really cooled down at night and it was super comfortable (this was the case everywhere we stayed. Never had air conditioning and never needed it).

Our room had a private bathroom and beautiful built-in bookshelves full of awesome Hawaiian photos, artwork, and artifacts.

And I totally loved the eclectic look of the place, including this adorable Mod Podged stool.

The owner told us to grab a couple glasses of wine from the fridge, so we helped ourselves and relaxed on the front porch in the evening. We were surrounded by tropical plants and all sorts of animal noises permeated the night. It was very nice, but we were eager to really start our Hawaiian adventure the next morning.

Super cute bathroom.

Built-in bookshelves in our room.

The Tree House
The craziest place we stayed during our trip was definitely the tree house. Well, the Tree Pavilion, to be more precise. We booked it as a surprise for Courtney and Brad, so when we met up with them, we just had them drive behind our car as we navigated over to it ... except you couldn't drive the whole way. Eventually, after driving down the rockiest, bumpiest road you can imagine for five minutes, we were confronted by this sign:

So we parked the cars to the side of the "road" and gathered our belongings for the night. That was when I noticed this other interesting sign dangling from the trunk of the Mustang we were driving.

And here I thought I was prepared for every emergency. That one hadn't occurred to me. Way to keep it real, Ford.

Here you can sort of see the rocky road we were driving on, completely walled in by jungle.
We found a little path with hundreds of steps up through the jungle, so we grabbed our gear and headed up. Eventually, we found the first tree house:

This one was being rented out by a very nice couple that lived on the other side of the island. They gave us a little tour so we could see that this one really was built in three levels around a tree. It was pretty spectacular.

But since that tree house only slept two, we continued on our trek up the mountain to the tree house we had booked for the night. And I gotta say, it also made a pretty spectacular first impression.

This structure was only one story, and while it was surrounded by trees, it wasn't really in a tree. But it was still completely awesome.

Here's the view from the other side. The structure in front is the bathroom!

Another shot of the hilarious bathroom facilities. And check out that awesome outdoor shower! It was connected to a tankless hot water heater, so we actually ended up using it to take nice lukewarm showers. Pretty fantastic.

Here's Chris's recreation of his shower time. haha

I have to admit, I was pretty impressed by the bathroom. Working plumbing in a screened-in room. What else do you need in Hawaii? Why not commune with nature while you're on the commode?
Here's a better view of the stilts that the house was on.

The best view, obviously, was from the porch, overlooking the jungle and the ocean. (It's hard to see the ocean in these pics because it was overcast. But you could see it well in person. Gorgeous.

Inside, we were treated to mosquito nets over the beds ...

... rustic wooden handles that I totally want to recreate ...

... and a propane stove for making tacos. Talk about convenience! Courtney even browned the soft taco shells so we were pretty much living in the lap of luxury. Can you say crispy goodness?
To go along with the spectacular view, there was a hammock stretched across the porch that was a huge hit. Everyone wanted a turn relaxing in it.

But Courtney was not willing to give it up ...

Eventually, once they had toppled out, I got my turn in the hammock, though.

Oh, and if you're wondering where Courtney and Brad slept, there was a loft with two small beds up top, and another twin bed in the main room. But did they sleep there? No, of course not. They slept on the porch floor. Haha Apparently being screened in was not adventurous enough for them. They needed the full outdoor experience.

Maalaea Banyans Condo
Our last stop on Maui was much less rustic. Right on the ocean, a few minutes from the harbor, we pretty much had every convenience imaginable.

The condo had a nice little living space with a tv (that's right electricity. Go big or go home! haha), a kitchen, washer and dryer, indoor plumbing in the SAME building we were in, and a private bedroom. Courtney and Brad had pleasure of sleeping on the pull-out sofa bed (better than the porch floor!)

Maku'u Cottage
On the Big Island, we sort of landed halfway between the tree house and the condo. This cute little blue building was our cottage. That lean-to on the right is where the washer and dryer were kept.

The main room had a little living area and a huge bed for us. The tv was stocked with a couple DVDs, including this awesome DVD called "Volcano Scapes 3". It was made in the late 80s, so everyone had awesome hair dos and clothing, but the footage is amazing. It shows the destruction of Kalapana Village, just down the road from this place. We visited what was left of the place - it's mainly just lava rock now. So crazy.

Also inside the cottage, the little kitchenette was super useful. I made bacon and eggs in the mornings, and we enjoyed cheese and wine in the evenings. How classy.

This place was fun because there were lots of animals that lived on the property, including these sheep, several dogs, a very friendly kitty, and any number of roosters and chicken.

We also loved this place because it had a beautiful in-ground pool. So when Courtney and Brad ended up crashing with us for a night, we had the pool all to ourselves for a super fun night swim. Just watch out for Courtney's surprise cannonball attack. She makes Brad throw her at people. Yikes!

Kona Condo
On the other side of the Big Island, we stayed at a lovely place with this view from the porch. Again, hard to see, but it was a nice ocean view. There was also a hot tub on the porch, which we never had a chance to use.

I sort of got lazy about my picture taking by this time, I guess, because I don't have any pictures of this place. But it was nice and clean inside. Another one-room deal with a private bathroom and an exterior entrance. The owner lived upstairs and was very friendly.

Just like most of the places we stayed in, this one had windows all around the exterior walls, and the glass panels were like mini blinds, so they never really closed all the way. Apparently that's not necessary in paradise. Besides the slight lack of privacy, we really enjoyed how the buildings embraced the outdoors on the islands, rather than shutting it out. Too bad that's just not possible in Syracuse. Anyone want six feet of snow blowing inside the house? lol

But anyway, we enjoyed all the places we stayed, if for no other reason than the opportunity to enjoy scenery like this.

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hawaii Photos #3: Plants

With a mother who was florist for much of my childhood, I would probably get in trouble if I traveled to Hawaii and didn't take any pictures of the local plant life. So without further ado, I give you my little photo tour of the flora on Maui and the Big Island.

Twin Falls Farm
One of our first stops on our drive to Hana was at Twin Falls farm. As it turns out, the "twin falls" were little more than a babbling brook, but the path around the property was lined with a lovely variety of plants, pictured below.

Wasn't sure if I was supposed to post this picture in the Food or Plants category. haha I guess Chris got confused as well. Yummy bamboo?

Stops Along the Way
We continued our drive to Hana and found many sweet little nature trails tucked away, just off the road. It was nice to get out and stretch our legs every so often, and to see the variety of plants, which was astounding.

Not to mention we enjoyed getting to see the Hawaiian tradition of posting signs whenever possible. All over both islands, many locals posted handwritten signs in their yards to mark them as private, request drivers to go slow, promote the fruit their were selling on the honor system, and more. But this sign, obviously a bit more official, was my favorite.

And the sign told the truth. Check out the work this little tree was doing. It was growing its leaves in a spiral pattern up the trunk. How crazy is that?

This is a Hala tree - the roots grow above ground.
Tropical Flower Farm
Near the end of our drive, we came across this little place. We thought it was just a shop, but a sweet girl came out and took us on a free guided tour of the property. She identified all the different plants, told us stories, and let us take pictures. So nice.

They also had a greenhouse full of beautiful orchids, and it was just too tempting not to ship some home.

One of the odder flowers in the greenhouse we were considering purchasing.
Our guide also explained how they graft the orchids on to trees so they can have them grow anywhere, not just out of the ground. After this, we actually did see orchids growing out of trees around both islands.

Waianapanapa State Park
Say that name five times fast. haha

This was where we first met up with our friends Courtney and Brad. The ocean views were amazing (more pictures to come), but the plant life was also very pretty.

This plant is called Naupaka.

Not sure, but I think that's a Monkey Pod tree next to Courtney, Chris and Brad.
After the park, we made our way to our nearby accommodations for the night: a tree house. And as to be expected, the flowers and plants were abound there, too. See that huge flower in the middle of the room next to the ladder? (It was a cut stem the caretaker had placed there, but still cool.)

And of course, the view from the tree house was pretty amazing and full of awesome flora as well.

The tree on the right with the red/orange flowers is an African Tulip tree.
The caretaker had also left us with this awesome arrangement of flowers grown on the property.

Random Others
I totally loved the way this tree had grown up like a snake.

And these were just so bright and cheery, like flowers but better.

I Like Big ... Trees
One of the most famous types of trees in Hawaii is the Banyan tree. We had the luck of finding of couple of these massive guys. The neat thing about the Banyan is that is sends roots down from its branches into the ground.

The Banyan tree picture below covers two-thirds of an acre. Yep, that's all one tree in the picture below. All those "trunks" have the same root system and are part of the same tree. Look closely and you can see that the branches between each "trunk" actually connect to one another. Like that big branch that stretches across the middle of this picture. It is part of the system on the left and the one near the benches on the right.

Over the River and Through the Bamboo Forest
In the park that contained Ohe'o Gulch (aka the Seven Sacred Pools), we made a trek through a pretty bamboo forest. It was nuts to see how tall those trees grow, yet they are so skinny. It seems like they should just fall over.

This part of the forest was insane. I couldn't get my camera to capture it accurately, but when you entered this area, it got so dark you had to remove your sunglasses. It was like entering a room in a house. Completely walled in with just a little light trickling in from way up high.

Impressive Gardens
When we arrived at our condo in Maalaea Harbor, I was pretty impressed with the landscaping and all the flowers all over the place. I thought it was super sweet and photo worthy.

But then we went to the Big Island and stumbled across a botanical garden just north of Hilo.

And that's when I realized it was like I had never seen flowers before in my life. This place was bursting with all sorts of beautiful flora. If I remembered the names of any, I put it in the caption under the picture. The rest you'll have to just make up a neat name for, I guess. lol

Beehive Ginger (originates from Thailand)

Cat Whiskers

Flower-loving tourist

Elephant Ear

A crazy huge Elephant Ear

This guy was standing guard over the pretty flowers, I guess.

Pineapple plant

My favorite part of the whole place was the Orchid Garden. So gorgeous! I'd never seen so many different types of orchids in my life. And the little well with a bucket full of orchids was just too too adorable.


I liked this guy because his leaves were red on one side and spotted green on the other.

Last Few Plants (I Swear)
Here's a few more stragglers from my 9GB of pictures I took. (In other words, prepare yourself for a lot more pictures in future posts.)

When we contracted a guide to take us out across the lava rocks to see molten lava actually flowing into the ocean, she shared with us some local legends and stories, as well as a description of one of the few plants that actually lives out there in the barren lava wasteland.

The one pictured below is very young, but they grow to be tall trees that are used as a common source for wood on the islands.
Ohia tree. It's always the first to grow after lava destroys an area and can survive almost anywhere.

This flower was just pretty and on the back porch of one of the places we stayed.

And finally, I was super excited to see what coffee looks like in plant form. Here it is. Kind of not what you expected, right?

Coffee tree at Kona Joe's. Those are coffee beans!

Ok, that's all! Another category down. Next on the list is either accommodations or activities. Still waiting on pictures from Brad and Courtney, so I'm still holding out on a few of the best categories. But it's Hawaii, so they're all good. :-)