Maui: Old Lahaina Town

SEE THOSE TINY DOTS in the middle of the ocean? I’m on one now — the island of Maui in Hawaii, the remotest population center on the globe, 2,500 miles from anywhere.

I’m here to visit my daughter, Zoë. I’ve been to Maui before. I’ve blogged about the old plantation cottages and famously twisting mountain roads and spectacular sunsets, even written an article about Maui’s charms for Coastal Living magazine.

Lahaina cottage, hardly visible behind the greenery

This is the first time I’ve been here in winter, though, when humpback whales in the hundreds give birth and raise their calves in the channel between Maui and neighboring Lana’i. You can see their fins gliding through the water even from the beach. The other day, I added a signature Maui experience to my list — my first whale-watching cruise ever, on the Hula Girl, a 65-foot catamaran, below (my daughter works on the boat).

From the deck, we saw baby whales breaching — that is, jumping clear out of the water, as if for joy. It’s not known exactly why they do it, but it sure looks playful (not my photo, below;-)

In another exciting marine life encounter, while snorkeling today at Airport Beach in Kaanapali, I followed a huge sea turtle along the coral reef for about 3 minutes, coming within two feet of it.

I’m based in the town of Lahaina — a onetime whaling village, now tourist mecca — on the leeward (sunny, calm ocean) side of the island. That’s Front Street, above, early in the morning before the tourist hordes arrive.

My hotel, below, the historic wooden Pioneer Inn, feels just right.

Built by an Englishman named George Freeman in 1901, it has an authentically nautical vibe left over from the days when its bar and 35 rooms were occupied mostly by rowdy sailors.

Now it’s surrounded by shops selling aloha wear, bad art, shave ice, etc., but I don’t mind — not even The Parrot Guy taking photos of visitors posed with his colorful birds, who  create quite a racket.

Dan’s Greenhouse is a second-floor shop on Front Street selling bonsai and exotic tropical plants approved for export, along with talking birds and mini-pot belly piglets

We spent a couple of days in Hana (subject of my next post), then braved the partly unpaved, cliffside route around the southern rim of the island. But besides these classic Maui adventures, I’m getting a kick out of all the little things that set Hawaii apart from the other 49 states: roadside fruit stands selling tiny ‘apple bananas’ 5 for $1, muu-muus on a dry cleaner’s price list, unimaginably fragrant flowers everywhere. Only in Hawaii does it not feel ridiculous to pluck a hibiscus blossom or plumeria, below, and tuck it behind your ear.

Best Lahaina food discovery so far: Star Noodle, below. a cool spot in an unlikely place (an industrial park in the hills above town), serving Asian fusion in a design-y setting.

Grilled Brussel sprouts with kim chee puree, pan-roasted local mushrooms, garlic noodles, scallops and asparagus…all very healthy until the waiter foisted upon us some upscale malasadas, a dessert brought to Hawaii in the 19th century by Portuguese who came to work the farms — fried dough balls, 3″ in diameter, swathed in chocolate and butterscotch sauce, with a side of banana ice cream and a handful of chopped peanuts for good measure.

The Buddha next door: Zoë lives very near the Lahaina Jodo Mission, which also has a most impressive pagoda and massive gong that rings 11 times each evening

New-to-Market Maui Plantation Cottage 499K


THIS 1939 PLANTATION COTTAGE in upcountry Maui, an area of rolling hills and lush farmland, has just hit the market. It’s near the low-key town of Makawao, 15 or 20 minutes inland. Sweet, is it not?


Though the listing says 519K at the moment, the price on the 3BR, 2 bath cottage being dropped to 499K, with taxes under $200/month. It’s owned by Cherie Attix, who runs the Hale Ho’okipa B&B, where my daughter and I spent a few lovely days last November.


Read more about it below, and go here for the full listing and lots more pictures of the interior and the surrounding property.


The Cutest Plantation home in Makawao is up for grabs! An arbor covered walkway leads to the French doors that open into the living room. The large kitchen features a built in pantry with glass doors, an island with gas cook top, and a monkeypod bar [ed. note: ???] with a pass through to the living room. This 1939 old style charmer has three bedrooms, two baths and new addition. The addition with vaulted ceiling, sky light and hardwood beams makes a great living space, office, art studio, or a private area with it’s own covered lanai and separate entrance and yard. Addition’s bath has a walk- in tiled shower. The lot was landscaped with privacy in mind, is fenced, gated, and planted with fruit trees and flowers. From the porch swing on the covered lanai enjoy the view of the neighboring pastures and grazing horses. Only a short walk to Makawao schools, shops and restaurants. Welcome Home to country living near the heart of Makawao town. Listing Agent is owner.





Upcountry Maui Plantation Cottage 260K


HERE’S A LITTLE SOMETHING to dream on as we enter the coldest, darkest days of winter: a well-priced — no, for Maui, crazy cheap — new-to-market 3BR, 1 bath plantation-style house ‘upcountry,’ a part of the island that’s more rolling hills than rolling surf.


I was alerted to it by Cherie Attix, proprietor of Hale Ho’okipa, a historic B&B where my daughter and I  stayed for a few wonderful days last month. Cherie, in addition to inn-keeping, is a real estate agent, blogger, and all-round Maui booster, having moved there from California some three decades ago.


Cherie writes: “Here is a cute oldie in Pukalani…probably 1930s to ’40s…I have not done a walk-through, but heard the plumbing and wiring are new….super cheap, on a nice size lot on a quiet street.”


Granted, the place needs work, but it’s livable. And who wouldn’t want avocado and orange trees in the backyard?


For 26 pictures and more details, click right here. Or call Cherie at 808/281-2074. Soon.

I Get Around


Fine row of 19th century storefronts, Northern Liberties, Philadelphia

I’VE BEEN MOVING AROUND SO MUCH LATELY, my head is spinning. Hence the random assortment of images in this post.

A few days after moving into my new apartment in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, I took off for a week in Maui. I was back in New York all of two days before heading down to Philadelphia to meet a new tenant and a painter.


Federal-era corner building in Northern Liberties, Philly, now a popular brewpub

Got to hang out in Brooklyn another couple of days…


Flatbush Avenue’s own Flatiron building, near Bergen Street

where I did much of my Thanksgiving food shopping at Damascus Bakery on Atlantic Avenue it Brooklyn Heights. It has become a full-service Middle Eastern grocery in recent years. I went there primarily because Sahadi’s, the old standby, was mobbed, but I’ve since decided I much prefer the offerings (below) from Damascus anyway — all tops.


Meanwhile, Sahadi’s opened a pop-up holiday gift store, below, on the same block, for those food gifts (pistachios, dried fruit, candies, sticky baklava…) everyone likes.


Then I high-tailed it to Ancram, N.Y., in Columbia County, for a high-spirited Thanksgiving weekend with cousins.


Impeccable three-story eyebrow colonial, Ancram


Quintessential Hudson Valley dairy barn, late 18th c.

Hope you all spent a satisfying Thanksgiving with people you love.

MAUI: Over the Top from Wailuku


A WEEK IN MAUI exhausted my supply of superlatives: spectacular, magnificent, stunning, incredible…not to mention oohhh and aaahhh. Maui is all that, as was confirmed again by a 20-mile drive (at 10-15mph) on Tuesday along the island’s northeastern tip — a drive often likened for scenic beauty to the more famous Road to Hana at Maui’s other end.

This northern road, below (Rt. 340; officially, Kahekili Highway, though no one seems to call it that), weaves along an ancient coastal footpath, providing awe-inspiring views of the ocean, verdant hills dotted with the occasional cattle ranch, and dramatic rock formations.


I had been wussy about this drive at first. It sounded treacherous. The breakfast conversation at our B&B in Wailuku was all about the road: how it was vertigo-inducing and only wide enough for a single car. Many maps indicate a dotted line, with the words “4-wheel-drive vehicles only,” which my rented Ford Focus was not.

Eventually I agreed to give it a go, with my daughter Zoë at the wheel (she’d driven it before). It was thrilling, and felt perfectly safe. There’s enough land between the edge of the road and the drop-off to the water that I didn’t ever feel we were about to go over a cliff. There are railings or fences along most of it, and it’s decently paved, if narrow (we did have to back up, carefully, in several places to give those coming in the opposite direction the right of way).


Part of the fun was stopping in the remote and enterprising town of Kahakuloa, above, deep in a valley, where local residents have set up colorful stands selling dried mango slices, fresh cut pineapple  in Ziploc bags, and home-baked banana bread to sustain hungry travelers.

Having survived the drive, we explored a couple of the rugged, windswept beaches on the north shore of Maui, uncrowded except for a few snorkelers and surfers, then made our way back to Wailuku via the regular highway — roundabout but relatively quick. We had a delicious, inexpensive Vietnamese dinner in Wailuku at A Saigon Cafe.


The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono, above, home base for my last three nights in Maui, is a rambling 1920s house inside a leafy gated courtyard. The inn’s ten large rooms and public spaces, decorated with bamboo furniture and flower prints, have an Old Hawaii feel.



The inn is quiet and comfortable, and they think of everything: roll-up mats and towels for the beach, healthy snacks available at any hour of day or night, guidebooks to Maui’s history, flowers, fish, and birds in every room. Janice Fairbanks, who runs the inn with her husband Tom, whips up banana/macadamia nut pancakes, fresh fruit salads in scalloped-edge papaya cups, and other scrumptious breakfast treats every morning. Below, our Lokelani room.


The centrally located town of Wailuku had a bustling commercial center before the advent of nearby shopping malls. Now it has a sleepy little historic district with a 1928 Art Deco movie house, below, now used for community theater productions, as its centerpiece.



Wailuku’s main claim to tourist fame is the jungle-like Iao Valley, with its 1,200-foot-tall ‘needle’ of basalt, below.


This area was the scene of a bloody battle between Maui warriors and forces led by King Kamehameha, who sought to unify the Hawaiian islands (under his own rule, of course) in the 1790s. We found the state park at Iao Valley thronged with families trekking through rainforest glades, and exploring the bite-size native botanical garden, below.



Below, how bananas begin.


A visit to Wailuku’s 1833 Bailey House, below, now a museum of Hawaiian ethnographic and missionary history, with its lovely collection of local landscape paintings done in the late 19th century by Massachusetts-born missionary Edward Bailey, was a fine top-off to my Maui experience.


Of course, I couldn’t resist snapping a few examples of Wailuku’s older bungalow-style houses, below, on our way out of town.



All good vacations must end, sadly. This is my last Maui post; I wrote most of it on the plane en route to JFK and am now back in the land of the brownstones. But my head is still in Hawaii. If anyone has Hawaii tips,  please share them in the comments. I know I’ll be back.