Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Observations & Thoughts After Visiting Maui

Ka'anapali Beach, Maui

My sweetheart and I just returned from our first visit to Hawaii. Here's some thoughts and observations I generated from our trip halfway across the mighty Pacific.

How to Know You're in Hawaii
In my travels, I've always been interested in identifying landmarks, physical features or manmade structures that can tip me off as to where I am if I were an alien life form cruising on by. Here's some examples:

Los Angeles – an eight-lane highway or the Hollywood sign
Amsterdam – picturesque canals or a plethora of bicycles
Rio de Janiero – Sugarloaf Mountain or Christ the Redeemer
Bangkok – tuk tuks or short non-pervy-looking men saying “You want boomboom?” as you walk by.

Anyway, you get the picture.

After Mari and I picked up our rental car and rolled out of Kahului Airport, the first manmade feature that struck me as Hawaiian were all the shaved ice shops or stands we saw. The first one we saw was a joint called Surfing Monkey Shave Ice.

I knew we'd have a fun trip after I saw that sign.

Hawaii Says Fuck You, Billboards
While surfing around for a list of bodacious beaches on Maui, I came across a fun fact: there are no billboards in the entire state of Hawaii. The state has outlawed them since 1927, the longest such law in the United States. They realized it's better for the human spirit to be surrounded by natural beauty than having advertising smut littering their landscape. Go figure.

Good for you, Hawaii! (And props to Vermont, Alaska and Maine for alsoprohibiting billboards.)

Littering Fines
While we drove around west Maui, I noticed highway signs stating that litterers would be fined $1,000. Again, I think this is an example of Hawaiian law demonstrating and reflecting how their people care for their environment. In California we have signs that state litterers may be fined $100 - $1,000, but it's not a concise, steep first-time fine like in Hawaii. And you know what, it shows: the highways we transversed were pristine and clean compared to ones in California. The only other American highway I've seen that was that bereft of litter was Oregon. And guess what?: littering is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $6,250 or imprisonment up to one year in Oregon, accordingto the National Conference of State Legislatures.

No Judas Priest in the 808
Maybe it's different on The Big Island or Oʻahu, but they sure love chillaxing, super-tranquil music on Maui. While we took a breakfast pit stop at LuLu's Lahaina on our first morning there, I boldly predicted we would not come close to hearing any music resembling Judas Priest on the island. By then, I had abundant evidence: all the lilting-lullaby-guitar music played on our Hawaiian Airlines flight; the native Hawaiian folk music played through the loud speakers at the airport; and all the reggae playing from Native 101.7 FM, one of the few radio stations we could get a signal from our ride, which Mari dubbed “#1 Super Fun Car.” (More on our car later.)

And you know what, I was right. For the four days and nights we were on Maui, the hardest song I heard that was not from my iPod was Joan Jett's “I Love Rock 'n' Roll.”

Selfie Stick Sighting #1
Our first selfie stick sighting came on our first afternoon in Lahaina. Mari and I were checking out the ginormous pool souped up with waterfalls at our resort. That's when we saw—surprise, surprise—a young blonde and her friend laughing and smiling as they held a selfie stick and what I assume was a waterproof camera in the pool. Mari and I shook our heads. Sure, it's a large pool—larger than any pool I've seen, but really? You booked a stay at the Hyatt Regency Resort Maui to film and take pictures of yourself in a pool? It's just a big fucking hole filled with chlorinated water. Really?

Did she take her selfie stick to the bathroom and film herself dropping a turd into the toilet? I somehow doubt it. Nothing brag-worthy about such pictures, right? Right.

Lahaina = well-earned name
Our Maui Driving Map explained that “Lahaina” means “cruel sun.” “La is sun, and haina is cruel or unmerciful,” it states.

Boy is it an apt name. Back in August my parents and I visited New Orleans. On clear afternoons the sun over New Orleans was not as mercilessly hot as what Mari and I felt in Maui. That sunlight felt like it was searing my skin—and I'm a brown boy who usually doesn't shy from it. But that shit was serious.

The legends are true: Hawaiians are seriously into Spam!

This mountain, this Endcap Totem to Spam, was sighted at the Safeway in Lahaina. Since we're not regular Spam consumers, Mari and I didn't even know they had all these different flavors. On our first Safeway run back on the mainland, we did indeed see many of these flavors, but nevertheless, we were impressed. Despite being the 40th most populous state in 'Murica, Hawaii consumes more Spam than any other state.

Selfie Stick Sighting #2
This one was a hoot. Sighting took place on our second day there. Mari and I went out to the beach beside our hotel. I was reading a book when I noticed a Latino couple—a good-looking couple—camped out on towels neighboring us. First, I saw the couple wade in the water for a while, snapping pictures of themselves. About a half hour later, Mari and I saw him filming himself with his selfie stick as he walked along the shore. He had the camera pointed toward the sand, toward us. Mari photo-bombed (that's my first time writing that term) Mr. Hunky-Self-Absorbed-Much? by flipping him off when the camera was pointed in our direction. Perhaps he saw this in replay, which is why he proceeded to continue to walk along the shore to film himself as though he were the star of his own informercial.

Mr. Hunky-Self-Absorbed-Much? in action

Apparently Mr. Hunky-Self-Absorbed-Much? traveled across half an ocean to film himself smiling and walking along the beach. The sad thing is he is not the only one. And this is what our species has degenerated to—traveling not to wholeheartedly see and experience new lands and people, but to get that perfect picture, that perfect video to post on Instagram or Facebook. To get maximum Likes. To present this idyllic front to others—to oneself. This is partly why he traveled to Maui.

Sometimes I can't wait until we're all extinct.

Bitchin' Camaros
Take note, apparently red, yellow and white Camaros are the rental car of choice for vacationeers on the island of Maui. Mari and I saw them everywhere. The parking lots at the Hyatt Regency Resort Maui were teeming with Camaros. Other popular cars included Mustangs and convertibles, which made absolute sense. When in Hawaii, you know...

Parking Spots
On a related note, I noticed that all the parking spots I saw in Maui seemed noticeably small compared to ones I've seen on the mainland. I swear, if I could go back, I'd bring a tape measure to confirm this. I also noticed that natives are adept at backing their cars into tight parking spots, which reminded me of Peruvian drivers. (You get more points in my book, Hawaii!) I hope someone reading this will confirm that parking stripes are narrower in Maui. I'd love to know why this was done because it's obviously intentional and not the work of Bart Simpson.

Bart re-painting the parking stripes one inch shorter
My theory: Hawaiians have narrower parking spots to discourage people from driving large gas-guzzling vehicles. If so, I think it's working because: 1) Mari and I did not see a Hummer anywhere on the island, 2) the largest vehicles I saw was a big pickup truck driven by the proprietor of a taco cart in Lahaina and one of those black Fed-looking SUVs.

If You Like Beer...
pass on the decent but pedestrian offerings from the Kona Brewing Co. you'll inevitably come across on the island. Grab some Maui Brewing Company beer instead. (I, Juan Alvarado Valdivia, pledge that I was not paid for this endorsement.) Their Big Swell IPA is solid but I also tried their Imperial Coconut Porter. Fuck me. That. Was. Good.

Fun Fact About Larry Ellison
If you're a Golden State Warriors fan, you know Larry “Rich Fucker” Ellison nearly bought the team in 2010. During my snorkeling tour to the island of Lanai, 8.8 miles west of Maui, our guide told us Ellison owned the island. Bought it for $300 million. It's a big island. 140.5 square miles of mostly unpopulated land.

Poor Larry. Couldn't buy himself a basketball team so he bought a Hawaiian island instead.

The Hyatt Water Slide
The Hyatt Regency Resort is a fucking production. There's no other way to concisely put it. I've never stayed in a place like that but I will say this: the 150-foot water slide into a pool is pure simple genius. Fun for kids, young adults and old farts alike! Once I zipped into the dark tunnel, I screamed for the remainder of the ride with earnest thrill, zipping blindly from turn to turn until I got shot into the pool.

It's a miracle I only rode it twice in a row.

More Weird Human Behavior With Electronic Photographic Devices
On our last day, Mari and I frolicked in the ocean at the beach by our hotel. Our beach towel neighbors were a middle-aged Asian couple. We were out in the water for quite a while—at least an hour. That couple was there for about the same time. Other than going about shin-deep into the waves, we never saw them go into the water even though they were donning swimming gear. Instead, they waded by the shore taking turns photographing each other. The young bikini-clad woman in particular kept repeating the same shot where she hopped over a teeny wave, smiling at the camera. She must have done that like ten times—not that we were counting. It seemed very curious. Why would you fly out all the way to Hawaii, come out to the beach if you're not going to get into the water? Perhaps they couldn't swim? I don't know. It seemed like their primary purpose was to photograph themselves at the beach since we didn't see them sunbath or read or smoke a cigarette or whatever it is people do on the sand.

#1 Super Fun Car
Now we arrive to the part of my travel post where I bequeath some advice: if you are thinking about renting a car from Kimo's Rent-A-Car, you might want to consider getting a car other than what they call an “Older Compact”—if you care about appearances. It's aptly named. Believe me. Mari and I found out in less than a second when we first laid eyes on the red Toyota Matrix we rented. I'll let the pictures do the talkin'.

Here's a few unlisted features that #1 Super Fun Car sported:
  1. The horn didn't work. (That's got to be against some law, right? After I banged on what is supposed to be the horn a couple of times, I feared we would end up like the Volkswagen van in Little Miss Sunshine.)
  2. The glove box would not open since the handle was broken off long ago.
  3. The driver-side window made this awful screeching sound whenever you rolled it up.
After she first sat in the car and looked at the door handle, Mari's exact comment was, “Am I going to be able to get out of this thing?” And who can blame her for thinking that:

That lump of electrical tape is the driver-side door handle.

That said, the AC worked. The car got us around just fine—and we had no fear whatsoever that any schmuck would attempt to steal it. (If anything, that would've been a hoot and a half.) And it was a nice compact size, which proved helpful time and time again when we parked throughout the island.

Last story about #1 Super Fun Car: on our third day on the island, the “Matrix” sign on the back of the car broke off when Mari merely closed its trunk. We just laughed. We kept the sign. When we returned it to the Kimo's shop, homeboy walked around the car to inspect it for any damage. When he raised the trunk door, I grabbed the Matrix sign. I handed it to him. “This fell off,” I said. “Oh, yeah,” he said, “as long as the fender didn't fall off!”

Inside, I was laughing when he said that. I suspect Mari was too.

And one of the first things he said when we dropped off the car was: “It's an interesting car.”

Truthful Understatement of the Year.

One thing I wish we did but didn't—and Mari and I talked about it—but I wish we had taken #1 Super Fun Car up to a hotel attendant for valet parking. 

That would've been hidden camera gold.

Mari with #1 Super Fun Ride


  1. Could be the horn didn't work on purpose. It's a major no-no to honk at anyone while on the island, bruh. Of course, if it's to get someone's attention for safety, then you're just doing a solid. But honking out of impatience or frustration is most un-excellent island life etiquette.

    1. Ah, I see. I was, of course, thinking solely about safety. : )

      I wonder if anyone has ever driven over 70 mph on Maui!