Continued (page 2 of 3)
The most popular choice, and arguably the best on the island, the Old Lahaina Luau, was booked months in advance, so we opted for the Feast at Lele on the beach in the old whaling town of Lahaina, seven miles south of Napili. Four Polynesian cultures were represented in food and music, and the dancers were as intoxicating as the steady stream of mai tais. In fact, I liked them so much (the dancers, that is), I wanted to go back the next night, but Garrett felt that "luau" could be duly checked off the to-do list.
The following morning we reported to the Royal Hawaiian Surf Academy for our lesson, also in Lahaina. The waves were unusually choppy that day, making it not only extra difficult to stand up on the ten-foot boards, but also to keep them from bonking other students on the head or floating away. I got up on one of my first attempts, and Garrett on one of his last. He was so pleased with himself that he rode that wave all the way into the stone retaining wall, garnering a bloody knee. Recalling I'd read somewhere that sharks can smell blood in the water from miles away, I was ready to go back to land.
Next on our list was a trip to the slopes of Haleakala (Hawaiian for "House of the Rising Sun"), Maui's volcano. There, in a sweet-smelling eucalyptus forest, we jumped off 300-foot platforms, suspended only by harnesses attached to pulleys that slid on steel cables. Our small group yipped and screeched like a bunch of deranged flying squirrels, enjoying ourselves immensely and even forgetting our fear of heights.
We picnicked at Hosmer's Grove near the summit, where the wind was blowing hard and roiling clouds blocked most of the crater from view. (The crater is technically more of an erosional valley, but that just doesn't have the same ring.) It's a mesmerizing lunar landscape of dark reds, greens, and browns. The extremely rare silversword plant grows only on Haleakala's upper slopes and blooms just once in its lifetime of 50-odd years. We hiked along the crater's crumbly lava stones—appropriately called the Sliding Sands Trail—for a couple of hours. It's a day-and-a-half hike all the way around the treeless crater for sturdy souls (and soles). In the visitor center, ranger Paki Williamson shared the saga of the Tahitians who settled the area 1,300 years ago.
Garrett finally got his round of golf on a championship course, and I spent the afternoon at nearby Slaughterhouse Beach, where I was rewarded with the sight of porpoises at play. Then it was time to set off for the more rustic lodgings we'd chosen at the other end of the island. We hit the road to Hana, a narrow, twisty track that hugs the rocky northern coast. Many consider the road to Hana an activity in itself. It's no more than 40 miles long, yet it has so many S-bends and one-lane bridges that it takes hours to travel. A soft rain was falling, so we put the top up, popped a CD of traditional Hawaiian music into the stereo, and wove our way past cascading waterfalls and fragrant forests.