• Two first class tickets to/from Maui:  225,000 American Airline Advantage miles (points) + $30 in fees
  • An ocean-front room with lanai at the Grand Wailea Waldorf - Astoria for 8 nights:  280,000 Hilton Honors points (+ $0 in fees...:)
  • A rental car from National Car Rental for a week and a day:  70,000 Hilton Honors points + $100 in fees (more or less)
  • A wonderful vacation in paradise for Mr. T and me:  priceless!

We're back!  At least, we are for the most part.  My body may physically be in HPNC, but my brain must still be on Aloha Time...running slowly and six hours behind.  I don't feel jet-lagged, but I do have my days and nights a bit mixed up.  Staying up til 1:00 a.m. here.  Trying to sleep in until noon-ish, if the dogs would just let me.  Maybe I'm trying to stay on vacation. 

Mr. T seems to have made the transition back to the real world OK, as he is off to Raleigh today.  Me?  I'm trying to make a dent in the mountain of dirty clothes, while I tackle the 201 emails in my inbox and the 576 photos we took on two digital cameras.  I'm working on a DVD complete with Hawaiian music to commemorate the well as a Photo Book, hence the reason I stayed up so late last night.  I'm also searching for someplace that will develop a couple of disposable cameras we used for our underwater shots.  Thought I'd take a time out to post today. 

We had a fabulous time celebrating Mr. T's Big 6-0h birthday all last week.  That photo up there (above) was taken on our first morning (Saturday) when we awoke to find that our "ocean-view" room had been upgraded to "ocean-front." Since it was dark when we finally arrived the night before...and we were so exhausted after an 18-hour travel day that took us from Raleigh to Chicago to Los Angeles to Kahului, Maui airport to the resort in Wailea, HI..., we didn't realize just how close to the Pacific ocean we had been sleeping.  We opened the shutter-style sliders that had successfully covered the sliding glass doors onto the lanai to that stunning, breathtaking view.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Get the camera!

Day One started with room service breakfast, served on our lanai.  How absolutely lovely.  We then spent the rest of the day recuperating and relaxing on the beach and in the ocean.  We also took a walk around a portion of the grounds of the Grand Wailea resort, which is over 40 acres, all told.  There are beautiful waterfalls, fountains, statues, sculptures, flowers, paintings, and mosaics everywhere you look.  Even a chapel with the most amazing stained glass windows (left).

In the heat of the afternoon sun, we did take a break from the beach to drive to the local Safeway for some necessities:  milk for my coffee (as I can't stand that powdered stuff in the packets), juice, yogurt, bagels, cream cheese, and water, Diet Pepsis, beer and wine...and a Styrofoam cooler to keep everything cold.  The hotel provided the ice for the cooler (which we kept in the ginormous bathtub)...and their own wonderful Hawaiian-grown coffee for the in-room coffeemaker.  As much as we enjoyed that first breakfast, we weren't eager to spend that much money for room service every day...and we really didn't want to get dressed to go to one of the restaurants on property at the start of our day.  We loved the view from our lanai, and we intended to take advantage of it as much as possible!  We even found a pizza place, The Round Table,  in the Safeway shopping center; take-away pizza and some local-brewed beer (Fire Rock Pale Ale)  on our lanai for the front-row seat on our first sunset (right).  Perfect.  We're starting to relax now!

Day Two began at 3:00 a.m.  It was Mr. T's birthday, and we wanted to see the sun rise on the top of Haleakala Volcano...a two-hour trip up and around one of the winding-est roads you can ever imagine.  In the dark.  Even with our early rise, the summit (10,023 feet) parking lot was already full by 5:30 a.m. on this holiday weekend, so we were directed to another viewing point, Kalahaku Overlook, at 9,324 feet.  A bit lower, but still cold (49 degrees) and still above the clouds (as you can tell in that photo, left) and with a better view as it turned out.  Not only did we get to see the sun rise at about 6:04 a.m. ...amazing..., we also got to see a rainbow in a valley whose view would have been blocked at the summit.

While most of the crowd made their way back down the winding road, we drove up to the summit for the view...which was so clear this morning that we could easily see the Big Island of Hawaii in the distance, with the peaks of volcanoes Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa visible, rising above the clouds.  We could also see down "our" side of Maui to Wailea well as the cruise ship entering the port near Kahului on the other side of the island (where we spotted the rainbow earlier). 

That's a photo (right) of a chukar we took at the summit...we were just fascinated by all the birds we don't see in North Carolina.  We chatted with a park ranger (as this whole area is a National Park) about some of the birds we had spotted, and she directed us to a natural area called Hosmer's Grove near the entrance to the Park (back down the winding road)...where we found a huge stand of eucalyptus trees, but too many children playing too loudly in the nearby camping ground to spot many native birds.  Still, we got to see rain in the rain forest area of the island...rain and sun at the same time!

As we made our way back to sea level, we toured through the Up Country of Maui, starting with coffee and cinnamon rolls at Grandma's Coffee House.  Then on to the Tedeschi Winery (didn't care for the pineapple wine, but loved the white chocolate candy) and then to the Surfing Goat Dairy Farm (loved the cheese).  Saw the lavender farms...and lots and lots of sugar cane, waving in the wind.

We finished the Big Day at Mama's Fish House, a highly-recommended restaurant in Paia, on the north side of the island, where we saw yet another beautiful sunset.  (Follow that link to listen to some great Hawaiian music by HAPA. Just minimize their window to allow the music to keep playing, while you return to this site in another can hear the music while you continue to read.) The food was fabulous, as we had heard (the Park Ranger nearly swooned when she found out where we were going that night) and read (great reviews on Trip Advisor)...fresh everything...the service excellent...expensive, yes, as is everything on Maui, but well worth it for the occasion.  They had even created a birthday card in Hawaiian and placed it on our reserved table.  Every person who stopped by the table wished Mr. T "Hau ' oli la Hanau, Thomas!"  Our waitress snapped that shot of us just as we were finishing our last bites of macadamia nut-encrusted mahimahi stuffed with lobster, shrimp, and crab, served with jasmine rice (me) and seared salmon with tropical fruit salsa (Mr. T) (left).  Then, she served him a complementary ice cream sundae with fresh coconut slivers!

Day Three was a "rest day."  After breakfast on our lanai, we got our color-coded bracelets (a requirement by the resort to use the pool and beach facilities:  towels, chairs, umbrellas, etc.; they use a different color for each day of the week) and blue-striped beach towels, which we used to "reserve" a couple of chairs near the in-pool, swim-up Volcano Bar, where a waterfall runs all day (as you see in that photo of my toes and the pool, right).  Yes, the pool could be a bit noisy, since it was a kid-magnet with all of the rushing river rapids and water slides, but we needed a break from the sand in our suits.  And they kept the music playing all day long!

Before beginning our pool-side tanning and reading session though, we took a stroll on the beach walkway that ran in front of the resort, heading to the right/north of the property...30 minutes out, 30 minutes back.  A nice stretch of the legs.  This gave us the best views of the Ma'alaea Harbor, on the West side of the island, as well as the West Maui Mountains and Iao Valley State Park area.  We also spotted some folks snorkeling around a reef (left) and decided we'd like to try that, too.  We'd do the walkway the other way (south) tomorrow.  So much to see, so much to do.  Must remember to relax and decompress.

As the day before had been a big food consumption day (and Day Four promised to be another one), we gave our tummies a rest day, too, with snacks by the pool for lunch and Subway sandwiches on the lanai for another wonderful sunset supper.  We'd gotten some of the goat cheese spread at the Dairy...add crackers, fruit, and pour a little wine...and we were in the zone.  The Happy Zone!

I'll give us all a break and save the rest of the story for another post.  Come back to read about our snuba sailing excursion to the island of Lanai, our harrowing ride on the road to Hana, and our up-close look at a stingray and a hammerhead shark, as well as our dining experiences at Pacific'o in Lahaina, Buzz's Wharf in Ma'alaea,  and Humuhumunukunukuapua'a', right here on Grand Wailea.



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