Five must-do adventures on Maui

Any trip to Maui from the mainland incurs a bit of jet lag. Once that subsides, and the Mai Tais have been sipped, its time to get out and discover all the adventure the island has to offer. Maui has over 120 miles of coastline and offers endless opportunities for water sports such as kayaking, diving, snorkeling, surfing, paddle boarding, and kite surfing. Land-based adventures usually involve hiking or cycling. The island is incredibly bike-friendly with bike paths found on most major thoroughfares. Some visitors even take to the air in small aircraft to see the island from above.

Helicopter tour of Maui and Molokai

No trip to Hawaii is complete without a helicopter tour. Magnum P.I.’s TC was the king of the island choppers back in the day, but now it’s Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. Blue Hawaiian is the only operator serving all four major islands in the Hawaiian archipelago. The tours of Maui are unparalleled, and for those who have never had the experience of flying in a helicopter, the eco-star and a-star class choppers offer a smooth ride. Watch the weather forecast (almost always the same) and ensure there isn’t a strong rain forecast.

If it’s jaw-dropping scenery you want, use Maui as your jumping off point and tour west Maui and Molokai by air. The waterfalls of Molokai drop over 3,000 feet to the ocean and have been used by Hollywood in such blockbusters as the Jurassic Park series. This tour lasts nearly an hour and takes the flier over west Maui and to the sparsely populated island of Molokai. Once there, the pilot will hover over immense waterfalls, slide up into the crater, and follow an ancient river meandering from the summits. Remnants of the huge man-made fishing ponds used for centuries by the locals can be seen from the air. Tour prices start at $138.95 per person.


Bike down Haleakala

By far one of the most popular adventure excursions on Maui is the bike ride down the 10,000 foot-high Haleakala. This is the larger of the two volcanoes on Maui and certainly the most visited. The upper portion of the mountain is protected as part of Haleakala National Park.

Starting early in the morning, and I mean 3 AM early, descenders are picked up by the tour companies and hauled up the slope in vans. Those who try this need to remember that the summit is near 10,000 feet above sea level. Early morning temps can drop into the 30s. Dress appropriately by wearing layers and don’t forget the sunscreen. Once the riders descend through the cloud layer they’ll find themselves humming down the twisty roads at high speeds in the blazing sun.

Several companies offer these trips and most offer very similar services. Shopping around will win you the best price. Many bikers end their trip in Paia a funky little town on the coast with a decidedly bohemian feel. Celebrate your accomplishment with a brew at one of the local haunts and get some hippie-watching in.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user gabriel amadeus)

Learn to stand-up paddle board

It’s easy to get the fever to be on a board once you’ve driven any stretch of coast in the Hawaiian Islands. Watching surfers catch a wave and ride its crashing edge in to the shoreline will have you asking yourself, “Could I do that?” Surfing takes quite a bit of dedication and practice, however, and a much quicker way for the land lubber to sprout sea legs and get up on a board is to try the sport of stand-up paddle boarding.

The sport is true to its name in that it requires a board, similar in shape to a surfboard, and a paddle. The paddle has a crooked end and is used to steer the rider – no fancy footwork needed. Decent balance is a must though. Finding your body’s center over the board and getting the paddle in the water as soon as you get up are the keys to this sport. Lessons are offered at Makena Beach and Golf Resort in Wailea. The lessons are given by staff members who adore the sport and have the patience of a saint. A one-hour lesson will cost $60 and will have even the most uncoordinated up and paddling by the end.

Take a boat to Molokini for world-class snorkeling

Snorkeling off the coast of Maui is a popular activity. There are many places to rent snorkel gear around the island and locals are willing to share some of the hot spots. “Turteltowns” are the name given to areas near the shore where turtles come to feed on plant life growing on the rocks. Be forewarned, snorkelers must keep a distance of at least ten feet from sea turtles at all times or they risk a fine of $10,000!

To get the most out of your snorkeling experience on Maui though, it is best to take a snorkel tour to the small island off the coast, Molokini. There are several companies offering this service. Or if someone in your group has boating experience the best way to go is to rent your own boat. There is only one company that rents boats to tourists on Maui and that is Sea Escape Boat Rental. They rent a Glacier Bay 2240sx which can accommodate 6-7 people. It helps to share the $140/hour price for rental. The snorkeling off Molokini is phenomenal. Huge schools containing hundreds and even thousands of fish team around its rocky shores each day. Sea turtles frequent the island and so do snorkelers. Arrive early to avoid the choppy waters that tend to flare up in the afternoon. Expect a crowd but spend most of your time on the right and left side of the crescent-shaped part of the island. This is where the fish like to hang out and do their thing. With Sea Escape you pay for your own fuel and snorkel gear is an extra $10 for each set.

Hike the hidden waterfalls on the road to Hana

Driving the road to Hana is a rite-of-passage for anyone living on or visiting the island. On the eastern side of the island, Hana gets much more rain than the western side and stays lush and green for most of the year. It is also on the steeper side of Haleakala which means dramatic dropping landscapes full of waterfalls. Hana is known for being remote — so remote, in fact, that getting there takes the better part of a day. There are serious restaurants, and Oprah decided to buy a home there. When you have to get away from the misery of being a gazillionaire you might as well do it in paradise.

The road to Hana is a twisted roller coaster ride along a rough coastline. There are several places where the road narrows to one lane and traffic has to yield in order for everyone to get through peacefully. If you get car sick easily, stay away. If you don’t have trouble with car sickness, and you want to see sweeping panoramas of undeveloped tropical coastline, hit the road. During the course of the drive you’ll find that there are several spots to stop and pull over. Many of these pull-outs have trail heads that lead to magnificent overlooks and to tucked-away waterfalls. Some are well marked, and some are not marked at all. The guidebook Maui Revealed devotes a section to the Hana Highway and uses mile markers to guide the driver to each of the sweet spots.

Maui isn’t a place that can be seen in a matter of a few days. It takes at least a week to adjust to the time difference and to the slow pace of island time itself. To really get the feel for Maui get out on the water, roads, trails, and into the skies to see what lies beyond the fences of the resorts. You’ll have plenty to talk about in the hot tub that night for sure.

Survival guide app

No one likes to think of the bad things that could happen on a trip. But what would you do if you survived a plane crash, were caught in a terrorist attack, or encountered a tsunami while on vacation? Well wonder no more iphone users. The SAS Survival Guide has been around in book form for over twenty years but now there’s an app.

John “Lofty” Wiseman spent years as a soldier and instructor for the SAS, an elite British fighting unit. In the app, Lofty guides the reader through a myriad of nightmare scenarios. Stranded atop an icy mountain? Covered. Need to know what local plants are edible? Check. Stuck in a forest fire with no obvious escape? No worries. The guide provides detailed information on all these would-be disasters. The app will cost $6.99 at itunes and is compatible with the ipad and ipod touch as well.

Although the guide is a great read, and the bulit-in survival quiz is fun for parties and around the campfire, the practicality of using it on-demand in some of these situations is questionable. For instance, if your plane were to crash land in the ocean your cell phone would be wet and useless. Then what? You are stranded on a mountaintop in the Himalaya and your phone runs out of battery. Tough luck. To get the most out of the guide read it before the disaster strikes.

The app holds interest by utilizing several interactive features including the survival quiz, an instructional video, and even a morse code feature that will turn your iphone into a beeping/flashing communicator. These make it fun for the user to learn a bit more about surviving if and when disaster strikes. That can’t be a bad thing when the shit hits the fan.

Best shoes for summer travel

Traveling in the warmer months of the year can present unique apparel challenges. When preparing for a trip to the lower latitudes or destinations where water will be a major factor, certain considerations should be made. One important decision is the choice of footwear. There are few shoes that can do it all, but some can accommodate a variety of warm-weather activities.

The beach trip – One of the most common summer trips is that relaxing stay at the beach. Even if the plan is to lounge the day away reading the latest Grisham novel, there will always be walking involved. The shoe choice needs to fit comfortably and be able to get you to and from your seaside accommodations. The shoe also needs to be well suited to handle sand and water, and sometimes both simultaneously.

Chaco has created an ideal beach shoe with the Hipthong Pro. Available in men’s and women’s models, this fashionable sandal has no rear strap for easy removal when you’re ready to kick your feet up in that beach chair. The unique strap system holds the shoe on the foot well, despite the lack of rear support. The footbed also has an arch which is lacking in many low-end water shoes.
Price – $85 at ChacoUSA.comThe business/pleasure trip – It can be difficult to find time for ourselves with the hectic schedules we adhere to these days. Many spend much of their travel time while on the clock. Occasionally though, the opportunity presents itself to escape from the meeting room and get out and explore or relax.

When mixing a business trip with a little R & R, consider a versatile shoe that won’t be too casual for work yet will still get you where you want to go comfortably. For the men traveling on business, the Merrell Neptune not only looks fabulous under a pair of khakis, but the Ortholite footbed cradles the foot for support and will be ready to hit the streets later. Businesswomen will appreciate the Merrell Brio. This flat is anything but flat inside as it also includes an Ortholite footbed. The deceptively supportive soles will keep feet comfortable in the office and at the museum later.
Brio Price – $80 at Merrell.com
Neptune Price – $100 at Merrell.com

The walking trip – Theme parks, music festivals, and urban explorations come to mind when we think of the walking trip. An eight hour stint wandering cobbled streets, eating funnel cakes, jumping on and off trams, and sweating your way through lines is no time to wear uncomfortable shoes. Keeping your feet cool and dry will at least make the day less grueling, and there won’t be the need for a foot soak when you collapse in the room later.

The Saucony ProGrid Ride 3 has a long name but is long on features as well. The performance interior lining wicks (pulls away) sweat from the foot. Both the men’s and women’s versions have midsoles that absorb impact. They are designed to be neutral trainers, so they can accommodate a wide variety of foot types.
ProGrid Ride 3 – $95 at Saucony.com

The active trip – Some of us, myself included, love to explore our natural world during the summer. Hiking, biking, paddling, and climbing our way through national parks and wilderness areas can be a great way to detach from the bustle of city life and get some exercise at the same time. When embarking on a trip packed with this much activity though, the right shoe is key.

The Keen Newport is a classic example of a shoe that can function in the toughest situations and also wears well for casual daily activities. The Newport is a sandal-style shoe with a Vibram sole for gripping slippery terrain and a tough toe bumper to keep your piggies safe.
Price – $95 at KeenFootwear.com

The flying trip – If we want to get far away, and get there quickly, we will most likely be flying the friendly skies. Since you will need to easily slip your shoes on and off in security, as well as have enough support to walk those long terminals, these trips may require a little more planning. The Crocs Melbourne and Melbourne Shecon not only have the slip-on factor covered, but also make for great walking shoe with their ergonomic squishy soles.
Melbourne Price – $55 at Crocs.com
Shecon Price – $45 at Crocs.com

Summer is the high-season for travel, and there are few items we pack in our suitcase more important than our shoes. Choosing the right footwear for a summer trip could mean the difference between blisters and bliss.

Naked Cowboy versus Naked Cowgirl

The Naked Cowboy, a Times Square icon, has filed a cease-and-desist order against a fellow public performer for infringing on his trademark. The Naked Cowgirl, a former stripper, has been performing in the cowboy’s territory lately and isn’t budging. Both performers wear limited clothing, a cowboy hat, and play a guitar for tourists visiting Times Square.

The Naked Cowboy, Robert Burck, is reportedly seeking $150,000 from the Cowgirl and has asked that she sign a franchise agreement which would require her to pay $500 each month to use the name and likeness. When asked how she felt about the situation, she replied, “Why doesn’t he sue the people that make the Naked drink.” There has been no comment yet from the Naked Juice camp.

Burck, who has been performing in Times Square for years, last made headlines when he decided to run for mayor against Michael Bloomberg.

Connecticut family spends seven years sailing the world

For one Connecticut family of four, a sailing vacation turned into a seven year adventure. In 2003 the Hopkins family decided to take their 32-foot boat for a long holiday to visit exotic locations. Seven years later, they are settling back into life in the US.

During the voyage the family hit several continents including Africa, Asia, North America, and South America. Their longest stint at sea lasted 36 days and the longest time they spent on land was a 15 month residency in South Africa. The family stayed in a place as long as it felt comfortable and then packed up the boat and moved on.

The two daughters were five and eight-years-old when they departed and were home-schooled during their travels. Learning to live in cramped quarters was one of the biggest lessons the girls came away with. As for the parents, they’ll be starting new careers as high school teachers now that they have this life-changing experience under their belts.