We arose at 4:20am, quickly donned winter coats, and headed out for the winding uphill climb to Haleakala Observatory. We parked the car at 5:30am and walked to the observation tower; it was 20-something degrees outside and windy, but we were determined to experience the famous Haleakala sunrise.
Unfortunately, the dense cloud cover prevented our seeing quite the sunrise I’ve heard about and seen in pictures, but it was still a worthwhile experience and the first time I’ve seen the sun rise with a bunch of eager strangers at 10,000 feet.
Around 9am, we descended a bit and went by the visitor center, where the children could turn in their junior ranger workbooks and earn more badges and patches for their backpacks.
Then, we hiked a portion of the Sliding Sands trail, which is the closest experience I’ll ever have to hiking on Mars, unless Space X seriously speeds its progress.
And then we drove a bit down the mountain to hike Hosmer Grove Loop trail, which was more like walking on Endor, but with better-clothed Ewoks.
We left Haleakala National Park and stopped at Kula Country farm to pick strawberries for a mid-morning snack and then pressed on to Wailea to have lunch at Pita Paradise (a suggestion from the tour book “Maui Revealed“) that included an ice cream baklava cake that has to rank as one of the best desserts I’ve eaten anywhere, ever. This was also a good place to take off our winter clothes and dress like we were in Hawaii.
Our next stop was Makena State Park, or “Big Beach,” for some good old fashioned family time on the shore. See how happy I am with Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” in my hands?
A few hours later, we checked into the Royal Lahaina Resort in Lahaina, which we chose because we found an online coupon for it (but really liked), and we wanted to stay in Lahaina that night to eat at what’s often lauded as the best restaurant in Hawaii (and top 25 in the U.S.) — Lahaina Grill. I’d been looking forward to dinner there for weeks. My son impressed our server as the specials were being described, by asking what kind of fish is used in the filet mignon.
The meal was excellent. We shared snapper and shortrib entrees and then several desserts with several coffees. I loved every aspect of it and would consider it one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
Given how early our day began, we were all exhausted when we got back to the hotel at 9:30pm. The next morning, the children would have their first surfing lesson!