The Tiki Gods are Smilin’ on Me – Part 1

Posted on February 3, 2013


A huge tiki stands at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel

Nothing puts a temporary damper on a Hawaiian vacation quite like a day of monsoon-like rain. That’s why I’m plunked inside my condo blogging, looking at the grey Pacific on the shores of Kauai, instead of lounging on the beach just forty feet outside my patio door. I feel a little like a small child with her face pressed up against the window, waiting for the storm to pass so she can go out and play again. (And if you think you can still get around in the warm Hawaiian rain, think again. Almost two inches of rain is in the forecast today, with a wind behind it. I’ve already been out in it today, and it’s definitely kinda miserable with flash flooding in some areas.) The Garden Island wouldn’t be so lush without the rain, so I will try to remain positive that it will pass at some point and I’ll go back to slathering on the sunscreen. Here’s some of the highlights of my Hawaiian vacation so far…

I love vacationing; it’s the travelling portion that often sucks. Airports, it seems, are full of grumpy employees wishing they were going somewhere else. In January, when that “somewhere else” is a tropical destination and you’re leaving the frigid climates north of the 49th Parallel, envy overrides courtesy. I get that, since I’m usually the one shovelling snow off someone else’s driveway about this time of year while they vacation away somewhere warm. Once settled on the plane, however, it’s about finding your “happy place” amidst fussy children, cramped spaces and jet engine drone. But a gin and tonic – or two – and noise-cancelling headphones make the long flight that much more bearable.

Poolside view of our hotel on Maui

My destination for the first half of the vacation is Ka’anapali Beach on the island of Maui. Hubby and I were blessed to first visit the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, advertised as the most Hawaiian resort hotel on Maui, two years ago. It is one of the older, original beach hotels in the area, and is genuinely family (ohana)-oriented. Many of the staff there are family members and long-term (30+ years) employees. The promotion of Hawaiian culture is what they are famous for, and each year the employees come together to work on a special Hawaiian feature. In 2010, a genuine Hawaiian outrigger canoe was completed by all the staff, and is proudly displayed in the garden courtyard.

Hotel staff built this authentic outrigger canoe named Ka’ilila’au.

There is a touching story of how the tree was selected in memory of a deceased native child, and whose ashes were taken out to sea by his family on one of its early ocean journeys. We were fortunate to witness one of those launches. Hawaiian crafters work at tiki carvings, palm frond weaving (hats, baskets, etc.), lei making, drum making and whale bone carving. They even teach classes to the guests for some of these crafts. Nightly displays of hula dancing and authentic music make this place a gem in experiencing traditional Hawaiian culture.

Nightly hula dancers entertained us.

Hawaiians love to eat all day – and drink every night. At the risk of sounding like a booze hound, I have found the most interesting people hanging out at the hotel’s Tiki Bar and Grill, not just at Happy Hour, but into the evening hours. There are travellers from across the globe sharing stories and adventures. It’s a great place to be a fly on the wall, so to speak.

The liveliest place after dark is the Tiki Bar and Grill.

The liveliest place after dark is the Tiki Bar and Grill.

That is where one of my two “Maui fellas” work. Dale starts his shift behind the bar around 4 o’clock, just as the heat of the day is starting to taper off and the surfers are coming off the wave curls. He is a widower in his 60’s, referred to as “Uncle Dale” by the returning hotel guests and locals, and he greets everyone with a genuine “Aloha!” He has so many stories over the thirty-plus years that he’s been bartending at the hotel, that he’s recently produced a CD of his anecdotes. And his Mai Tai’s are by far the best on the island! In fact, on our last night at the resort, even Elvis showed up for a pina colada from Dale. Now that proves the Tiki Bar is a happen’ place to people watch!

Dale mixes up a few Blue Hawaiian specials.

Dale mixes up a few Blue Hawaiian specials.

My other Hawaiian beau, Meke, is a middle-aged guy of many talents. He is a roaming musician and singer frequenting the fancy hotels along the beach resort corridor on afternoons and evenings, and a craftsman in his off hours. He’ll share his banana bread with you while weaving you a brimmed sun hat made from palm leaves. His smile is infectious and his memory for tourists’ names is nothing short of incredible. It’s a good thing that Hubby isn’t jealous of my temporary infatuations with these two charmers.

Hubby and Meke at breakfast.

Guess who I ran into at the bar – Elvis!

Although Maui’s attractions are diverse, two sights that called us back a second time were the gorgeous beaches and the road trip from Kahului to Hana. One afternoon, while paddling in only about four feet of ocean and trying not to be swept out to sea with the strong currents, Hubby and I were suddenly greeted by a large sea turtle who swam past us, popped up his head in greeting then went on his way. (I don’t think I will ever watch “Finding Nemo” the same way again. I almost expected him to say “It’s cool, dude!”, just like the sea turtle Crush.) It was quite an experience to have such a large creature an arm’s length away. Wow!

There really was still so much on our itinerary that we wanted to see and do on Maui. It was just the first island on our vacation. We were just getting started