Monday, January 26, 2015

Hawaiian Islands Travel Series: Kihei and Makena, Maui

Day 2: Southern Maui: Kihei and Makena

*Disclaimer: This article is presented as fiction, not fact. Names have been changed for the sake of privacy.

Read Day 1: Lahaina, Maui here.

SOUTHERN MAUI is pretty famous for luxury resorts, terrific snorkeling, and nudist beaches, if you’re into that. One of its most highly anticipated snorkeling spots is Molokini Crater, a crescent-shaped islet a couple miles from Maalaea Harbor in Kihei. Other boat departure points are Lahaina Harbor on the west side, Kai Kanani in Makena, and Kihei Boat Ramp. Once in the deep waters of the crater, snorkelers can explore a colorful reef and see hundreds of feet down. They might even have the chance to see a whale shark or two.

Molokini Crater. Photo courtesy of I Travel Hawaii.
 My boyfriend and I debated heavily about doing Molokini. People we talked to, including Maui locals, advised doing it at least once. Ultimately, our tight budget ruled it out, but I would recommend it. There are a variety of boat options to choose from, if you’d like to choose a leisurely all-day catamaran adventure like Aloha Blue Charters offers, or a zippy adventure aboard Blue Water Rafting.

A neat little church near our snorkel spot.
We drove to the southern end of Maui from Lahaina. Kihei looked like a smaller version of Kahalui: densely-populated with more brand name stores. The roads are eventually flanked by hotels and resorts on all sides as you drive closer to Makena in the far south. I remember my boyfriend and I were astounded at the lack of visible Starbucks on Maui, but the friendly server at Peggy Sue’s told us Kihei had one.

Speaking of Peggy Sue’s…let’s talk food. There is a strip mall off of South Kihei Road, which is pretty easy to spot. There will be an Amigo’s Mexican Restaurant on the street corner. We ate at three places there: the aforementioned Amigo’s; Peggy Sue’s, a 50s-style milkshake and burger joint; and Coconut's Fish Café, which we’d heard offered mouth-wateringly delicious fresh fish at decent prices. My recommendation? Eat your meal at Coconut's Fish Café: I had this wasabi ahi burger that was gone in about two seconds, and my boyfriend had the famous fish tacos. Hop over to Peggy Sue’s for milkshakes. The service there was extremely friendly and accomodating; when the lady heard I was a fan of salted caramel mochas, she whipped me up a milkshake version not on the current menu. Last, maybe have a drink or two at Amigo’s. The service was good, but the food was sub-par chain restaurant fare.

Ulua Beach

Of course I talk about dining options first, but we did do some exercise before enjoying our well-earned meal! We ended up snorkeling in Makena…where, we’re not exactly certain. Originally we were trying to find Five Graves. We found this neat shady secluded spot where a lot of divers were getting ready…but it looked a bit too treacherous without aqua socks. So we ended up at what I believe might have been Ulua Beach, or as we like to call it: “Sleeping Turtle Point.”

It was easy snorkeling; the current got a little rougher when snorkeling around the outcrops. We snorkeled a fair ways along the coast before meandering back and finding our sea turtle fast asleep again.

I would have liked an extra day to explore Makena. It has some fantastic white sand beaches. However, we’d booked our next accommodation on the northeast shore of Maui. It was time to brave the Hana Highway.

Read more in the Hawaiian Travel Series:
(0) Intro: Welcome to Maui
(1) Day 1: Northwest Maui: Lahaina

Upcoming: Day 3: Central Maui: Paia and Makawao

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Year of the Boar: Tica is Published!

Woohoo! Another book to add to the Changeling Sisters Series!

Goes along well with the Hawaiian Islands travel series, doncha think? Another post on that coming soon.

I ended up having to substitute a grave accent for the Hawaiian ʻokina, because Kindle doesn't support that character. However, it still came out looking like an apostrophe. If anyone has any pointers on that, let me know.

Without further ado, here is the Amazon link. Available in Kindle format on any type of electronic device!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Changeling Sisters #1.5 Year of the Boar: Tica will be released on Amazon 01/17!

Check out on Saturday, 01/17, for the release of Changeling Sisters #1.5: Year of the Boar: Tica!

If you haven't already, take a sneak peek on here.

To celebrate the first Changeling Sisters novella, The Tribe of Ishmael (Afterlife Chronicles I) will be free 01/17 - 01/18 on here. Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

November 2014 Book Review: Prophecy


By Ellen Oh

~Book Review~

Prophecy (The Dragon King Chronicles, #1)

IT SUCKS when you are born with yellow eyes and everywhere you go people accuse you of being a “demon!”…if only they knew the truth.

Kira the Demon Slayer sees demons.  They are nasty, ugly, and they can disguise themselves as humans. Kira does her best to fight them, but she’s against other enemies, too—the human kind. As the only female fighter in the King’s army and with her strange yellow eyes, there’s a lot about her that folks don’t understand. Luckily her family, including her cousin, Prince Taejo, are supportive of her. Indeed, Kira may be the only one who can help Prince Taejo become the Dragon King and drive the demons off.

Set in magical feudal Korea, this is an ideal book for younger readers. There is fighting, magic, and cool supernatural creatures who help or hinder Kira on her quest to find the Dragon King’s treasures. Adults will most likely be bored by the simple characterization and unsurprising plot twists. The most conflicted character is Shin Bo Hyun, son of the enemy commander who finds Kira attractive. The tension always seemed to spice up whenever he was on scene.

I am interested to see where this series goes because there aren’t too many YA fantasy books on Korea out there (See my review of Christina Farley’s Gilded here). However, I’d like to see more soul to the series. I’ve been told that Kira is tough, but I haven’t been shown that unique, endearing side of her that sets her apart from other tough, kickass girls in the YA fantasy genre. If Kira’s fierceness could be developed a bit more to be distinctively Kira rather than cartoon warrior, then this would become a more memorable series. Characters aside, the historical and mythological aspects of Oh’s alternative Korea are a delight.

Recommended for fans of: Susan Ee (Angelfall), Emily Rodda (Deltora Quest), Jay Kristoff (The Lotus War trilogy).

Upcoming Book Review: The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Córdova

Monday, January 5, 2015

Hawaiian Islands Travel Series: Lahaina, Maui

Day 1: Northwest Maui: Lahaina

*Disclaimer: This article is presented as fiction, not fact. Names have been changed for the sake of privacy.

Lahaina sunset
 THE FIRST PLACE we stopped in Maui was a Krispy Kreme. We didn’t have a choice, really. The “hot doughnuts” sign was on. I am happy to report that the Krispy Kreme in Maui’s main airport city, Kahului, is as good as anywhere else.

Our car rental was from Enterprise. I have consistently been impressed by Enterprise service in the Hawaiian Islands. They are a bit more expensive than Thrifty or Budget, but I have never had any problems with them. They are fast, convenient, and reliable. You get your car and go, with none of that awkward “would you like to upgrade your car? Are you sure? Suuuuure?" sales pitch. Enterprise also has discounts if you have a Costco or AAA membership, and they may offer kamaʻaina deals.

We still hadn’t hit the beach yet. Instead, we drove to the Costco in Kahului and stocked up on food supplies. In case you haven’t heard, Maui is e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e. If you aren’t eating out every night like a baller, than look up department stores around the north central Kahului area and stock up there. I would also recommend filling up gas at this Costco before dropping your rental car back off for the best price.

Driving around Maui is easy. There are plenty of signs, and once you get out of Kahului, there’s only fields and highway. I should make an amendment here and say that finding your way in Maui is easy; other things, like driving difficulty, varies if you’re going to take the Hana Highway to the east.

However, we weren’t going east yet. We were spending our first two nights in Lahaina on the west Maui coast, about a 30 minute drive from the airport. We cruised along Highway 30, enjoying the coastline and stopping to buy avocados and pineapple at roadside fruit stands. On this trip we really went nuts for avocados. They're so nice and creamy.

Ruins of an old military fort in Lahaina

Lahaina has a reputation for being the touristy destination on Maui. Yes, it is touristy. It is also full of history, because before Honolulu, it used to be the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom. After that it was a main whaling hub. As such, there are still many historic buildings wedged between young hip businesses on the famous Front Street along the ocean. Behind Front Street is a residential area, and overlooking all of Lahaina are great mountains.

Historic home
Of course we were staying in the heart of Front Street. Ha! No, way too expensive. Instead, we decided to try, which lists vacation rentals. I was skeptical at first. Make sure to verify that the person posting a vacation rental actually is the owner and NEVER pay by wire transfer. Protect yourself, people, and do your homework on a listing. That being said, our first experience using was a great one. We found a vacation rental in the neighborhood right behind Lahaina’s Front Street: VRBO Listing #319782.

Private jungle patio
Now, I wasn’t too sure about this place because it had all 4-5 star reviews (If you can’t tell, I’m a suspicious sort—surely something must be wrong with the place!). However, “Anna” earned all of those great reviews for a reason. Our studio was tucked right behind the main house in a magnificent garden, and we had our own private patio to cook on and enjoy Maui morning breakfasts outside. Anna came from a French background and was an absolute pleasure to talk to. She made us feel completely at home and offered us a cooler, snorkeling gear, and surfboards to borrow for free. Also, she doesn’t charge a cleaning fee as opposed to most vacation rentals. Overall, our vacation rental was charming, affordable, and had a great location. It was only a 5-10 minute walk to Front Street and the beach; I did not want to leave. If you’re looking for something less pricey than a hotel but more private and cozy than a hostel, then try out a vacation rental.

I still haven’t described the beach: sand as white as flour and an ocean of teal deepening to sapphire toward Lanaʻi across the channel. After taking a dip, we strolled around the start of Front Street. It travels along the waterfront, past the Water Sports harbor, past the Giant Banyan tree(s) park (It looks like eight different trees but they are all intertwined), past restaurants and souvenir shops, to end at a giant strip mall. We were here over Labor Day Weekend, so there were big blow-out sales at Coach, Tommy Hilfiger, and Gucci if that’s your thing.

Water Adventure Sports harbor
During midday, the southern end of Front Street was completely empty. We were super hungry, and we found a small organic smoothie shop called Bamboo Fresh tucked away in the middle of the square. We honestly didn’t know what we were in for: the wraps and smoothies were the freshest, most mouth-watering things I’d ever tasted in my life. Their prices were extremely affordable, considering all of the ingredients were locally grown. The owner was behind the counter that day. After personally making our meals, she chatted with us about her goal to keep Bamboo Fresh this way and make the business grow—although it wouldn’t be easy. The property rental cost to own a business in Lahaina grows steeper every year, and businesses have to work together to keep each other afloat—because the landowning association certainly isn’t sympathetic. I really hope this hidden gem stays in business, because their food tastes so light, flavorful, and rejuvenating. It made me a bit sad, to be honest, that we don’t eat like this every day. Expect a small wait while your food is prepared, but you can taste the love.

You have to look really carefully to find this place.
“In one corner, we have processed food! In the other, we have Rosemary Blue Sage with Maui-fed beef, the Ahi Garden Wrap, or a Tofu n’ Spice! Bamboo Fresh: hale of fresh coconut, bananas, starfruit, ginger, pineapple, garlic, baskets of kale, frothy organic smoothies—!” Okay, I’ll shut up and give you the link to pictures: Bamboo Fresh Yelp Reviews.

One mistake we made was to stick with a familiar restaurant instead of trying something new. On our last night in Lahaina, we ate at Hard Rock Café, which was all fine and delicious, but after checking with some locals at Maui Built, we realized we should have checked out Cool Cat Café near the giant Banyan Tree park. They have been voted best burger on Maui for 11 years!

The Banyan Tree square
Always be aware that Maui shops will open late and close early. Make sure you figure out when a place will be open instead of assuming it will be. Overall, I would definitely recommend spending two nights or so in Lahaina. The nightlife was lively, and it makes a good, memorable launch spot to explore northwest Maui, or down south—where great snorkeling awaited us.

Lahaina at night
Read more in the Hawaiian Travel Series:
(0) Intro: Welcome to Maui

Upcoming: Day 2: Southern Maui: Kihei and Makena

Friday, January 2, 2015

Hawaiian Islands Travel Series: Welcome to Maui

Introduction: Welcome to Maui

Image courtesy of Map Hawaiian Islands Map.

Sunrise outside of Wai'anapanapa State Park Campground

THERE ARE EIGHT MAIN ISLANDS in the Hawaiian Island chain and thousands of tiny islets and atolls that stretch far out into the Pacific. The eight main islands in order from youngest to oldest are: the Big Island (Hawaiʻi), Kahoʻolawe (US military zone), Lanaʻi, Maui, Molokaʻi, Oʻahu (most populated/Honolulu), Niʻihau (Hawaiian ancestry only may live here; others may visit by invitation), and Kauaʻi (some 5.1 million years old!).

Snorkeling near Makena Beach

The Hawaiian Islands are known internationally as a tropical paradise, but each one is unique. On the Big Island, you can find everything from active lava to snow atop Mauna Kea, and on Kauaʻi, you can explore Waimea Canyon, which, I shit you not, looks exactly like a mini-Grand Canyon (located Arizona and Utah).

Waimoku Falls
Maui is known for its glorious white-sand beaches, epic snorkeling adventures, the notorious one-lane Hana Highway, and the 10,000 ft Haleakalā National Park where the rare Hawaii state bird, the nēnē, and the enigmatic ahinahina (silversword plant) can be found. My boyfriend and I were lucky enough to travel around Maui for about a week. Just one week! We did what we could and have spent the last few months wishing we could go back. 

Wai'anapanapa State Park

 Here is what this Hawaiian Island Travel Series: Maui will cover:

(0) Intro: Welcome to Maui
(1) Day 1: Northwest Maui: Lahaina
(3)Day 3: Central Maui: Paia and Makawao
Ahinahina: silversword
Haleakalā National Park

Along this journey, we stuck our toes in black, red, and white sand beaches. Enjoy!