Mahalo-giving In Maui

3 Jan

Must Do in Maui

  • Maui Brewing Kihei
  • Kohola Brewery
  • Road to Hana
  • Late night sushi at Sansei

Eschewing the typical Thanksgiving for a tropical retreat proved to be a great idea this year. With plans in place to visit my family for Christmas and a trip to Ohio to meet Danielle’s new nephew and attend her grandpa’s 100th birthday party set for early December, we had family obligations locked down and nothing planned for Thanksgiving. A random “hey, why don’t we go to Hawaii?” was thrown out by one of us and promptly agreed upon the other (I don’t remember who did which). We had never been to Hawaii together, and Danielle had a good high school friend who lived on Maui. Armed with a shit ton of mom-gifted hotel points and ample vacation time, we booked our tropical Thanksgiving and set sail (flight) towards the island of Maui.

We left for Hawaii on Thanksgiving day which is actually a great day to travel on. Airports aren’t busy as most people fly before or after Thanksgiving and not the actual day of, and people are generally in a cheerful and thankful mood, making airport bar conversations all the more jolly. During our layover in Denver, I had a Priority Pass-bought Boom Sauce by Lord Hobo at Timberline Steak & Grille. I was very thankful to be drinking such a good and free beer. The long leg of the flight was 7.5 hours, plenty of time for Danielle and I to do some movie watching.

After landing in the naturally air conditioned airport and picking up our rental car, you can take one guess where we headed next. You’re right, of course it was Maui Brewing Company! Their production brewery is basically on the drive from the airport to Lahaina where our hotel was (give or take). It was a beautiful facility reminding me of some other really nice regional breweries (Avery, Stone, Surley, etc.). We settled into our patio seats, and I ordered up Makena Cloud, a nice hazy IPA to get the party started. Their draft list had ~20 beers, most of which were brewery only releases. Mosaic Mo’ Betta was the other IPA I had, and it was likewise a solid tropical haze bomb. The food we had was good from the calamari and pork belly bao appetizers to the turkey sandwich Thanksgiving day special (because it’s not Thanksgiving without some turkey!). After eating, we both picked up some swag and a mixed 12-pack of cans for our hotel. With a very early morning ahead of us, we made the drive over to our hotel, and I drank a Maui Big Swell IPA before hitting the hay.

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About that early morning I just mentioned: we woke up at 1:30 AM! Our bodies were thankfully fooled into thinking it was 5:30 because of the time change, but it was still difficult. The reason for waking up at such an absurd hour was that we were going to watch the sun rise at the top of the Haleakala volcano and then bike down the mountain. We had an hour drive to the meet up spot where a bus would drive us to the top starting just after 3 AM. The tour company, Bike Maui, and our guide did an excellent job of telling us the history of Maui, how the volcano shaped the island, and how people have lived there. Plenty of humor and anecdotes were thrown in as well. 20+ hairpin switchbacks and constant ascension eventually led us to the top, just over 10,000 feet from the sea level we would soon be able to view. To secure a good spot for the sunset, we arrived early and proceeded to wait around an hour. It was cold as hell and windy, and I did not dress appropriately. Even with the wind gear and gloves Bike Maui provided, I was constantly shuffling my feet to try to generate some heat. The pain was worth it as nature’s show began. We were blessed with beautiful clear skies and a perfect view of the sunrise. It was a truly breathtaking spectacle. While I would probably not wake up that early again to see it, I’m very glad that we did and that the weather cooperated. Apparently the day before it was raining with 40+ MPH winds, and you could barely see the sunrise. Check out this show that we got to soak in!

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Awed by nature’s beauty, it was time for us to hop on some downhill mountain bikes and wind our way down the mountain. Being the devilish fellow I am, I had to pack a couple beers for the journey. DDH Ghost In The Machine proved a perfect companion for our ride, and we took a little break on the side of the road to enjoy the suds and the view.

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I loved the ride down, but it’s not for someone who isn’t confident on a bike. Going 30+ MPH on roads that are sometimes narrow and often have cars passing can be a little harrowing, but I never felt unsafe. The tour company drills in safety from the first words out of their mouths, and all cyclists and drivers I saw respected each other. We stopped for breakfast at Kula Lodge and enjoyed the experience. They have a beautiful garden terrace in the back of the restaurant offering incredible views of the island. Our food was good, and I washed mine down with the requisite morning Bloody Mary. We finished up our ride back at Bike Maui and then made the drive back to the hotel.

While a normal course of action would lead one to nap after waking up at 1:30 AM, we chose to stay awake, shower, and meet Danielle’s friend for some food. The late lunch spot was Aloha Mixed Plate, an open air restaurant situated beautifully on the beach. I drank a Mai Tai and other fruity cocktails and shared the namesake dish which was just alright overall. The shoyu chicken was the best meat on the plate. After lunch, we walked around Lahaina and eventually settled into Captain Jack’s where the happy hour was good and the drinks were strong. The affable bartender and locals hanging out at the bar provided good conversation while a sitting drunk lady provided entertainment as she poorly attempted to sing along to the guy playing cover songs on his ukelele. A well-made and fairly priced Mai Tai was followed up by a Maui Pau Hana Pilsner as my libations of choice. Post-happy hour we walked around Lahaina and did some shopping for family and friends. With the sun about to set, we bought some canned beers from a store, found a spot along the shoreline, and brown bagged it while admiring the natural beauty of Hawaii.

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We were determined to fight through any tiredness and jet lag, so we had to keep the booze train rolling. Koholā Brewery was a short walk away, hidden down a dark alleyway in an office complex. It was a laid back spot with a taproom carved out of the brewery. I tried a sampling of their beers with my favorite being their No Foam, No Glory Hazy IPA and the nicely tropical Pineapple Blonde. We met some Germans who had been traveling around the Hawaiian islands, and we talked about similarities and differences in our beer cultures.

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With some time to kill before a sushi reverse happy hour, I popped on Google looking for nearby cocktail bars and found Sly Mongoose just down the street. When walking directions had us taking a circuitous route to get there, I asked some locals for advice, and they told us to hop over a fence and walk through abandoned train tracks as a shortcut. Their advice was spot on, and this random adventure was perfectly complemented by the quirky and extremely friendly dive bar we found ourselves at. The bartender and patrons had all obviously been frequenting Sly Mongoose for years, and they all welcomed us as family. They were a little surprised to see tourists at the bar, and we got some good history on the establishment. The drinks were poured super strong and were cheap. If you’re looking to get drunk on a budget in Maui, you can’t go wrong with Sly Mongoose.

Sushi happy hour at Sansei began at 10 PM, and we made sure to Uber and arrive on time to secure a prime spot at the bar. Not only was all food on the menu ½ price, it was also karaoke night! Through the recommendation of Danielle’s friend, we had stumbled into an amazing thing. Foodwise, we stuffed ourselves with top notch sushi for ~$60. The sake inevitably added to that price, but it was still a great deal. Despite there being legit singers, the karaoke was a little too old school for our liking. I can only hear so many Elvis songs before I need something else. We finished our meal and did not hang around much longer. Exhausted after a long day, we crashed once making it back to our hotel.

We eventually woke from an epic slumber and needed some pool time. The adults only pool was chosen, and a Parish DDH Operation Juice Drop was the beer of choice. It’s nice to BYO really awesome beer on vacation and sure beats paying resort prices for lesser beer. We met up with Danielle’s friend again for lunch, this time right next to our hotel at Monkeypod Kitchen. Their Mai Tai was rumored to be pretty great, so I started off with that (the rumors were true) before moving to an always delicious Imperial Coconut Porter from Maui. I love how the coconut shines in this brew and compliments the surprisingly thick body of the big porter.

The afternoon was wonderfully lazy as we relaxed on the beach and by the pool. We had made dinner reservations at the restaurant Danielle’s friend managed, Gerard’s. The French inspired regional cuisine was amazing. I had some of the best escargot of my life, and the steak with its pinot noir reduction was killer. The meal was decadent and accompanied by many drinks excellently crafted by our manager friend whose heavy pours may or may not have had me feeling a little sleepy at the table. The food and booze coma was real, and I was done for the night after an Uber ride back to the hotel.

We wanted to do some hiking Sunday, and that’s exactly what we did. We chose to drive around the West side of the island and got to see some pretty awesome sights. A hike near the Nakalele Point Lighthouse led us past a small blowhole and down to the large Nakalele Blowhole and heart shaped rock. It’s pretty funny to see random bursts of water shoot into the air, and it’s a great spot to grab some photos and videos. My hiking beer of choice was Tombstone’s Double Dry Hopped Wet Hop Pale Ale. Full of fruity citrus from the Citra dry hopping, the unique flavors of the wet hop made this a very tasty Pale Ale whose enjoyment was only enhanced by the beautiful views.

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A late lunch was had at a liquor store. Hold judgement in making fun of us because Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors had some of the best poke I’ve ever had in my life. The ahi tuna was super fresh, and there were ~10 different seasonings to choose from. In addition to the incredible poke, Tamura’s has a solid (but not amazing) beer selection. From my knowledge there isn’t a great bottle shop on Maui, and Tamura’s supposedly has one of if not the best selection.

For the evening, we had booked a sunset booze cruise with Danielle’s friend and her husband. Hors d’oeuvres were served along with a limited open bar, and suffice it to say that I drank quite a few mai tais and other fruity concoctions. The weather was beautiful, the views were beautiful, and obviously the sunset was beautiful. The price for the cruise wasn’t too bad, and it gives some amazing views of the island you won’t see from land. We weren’t fortunate enough to see any whales as it was still early in the season. I’ve heard that going in December or January guarantees you seeing multiple whales, so that’s something to keep in mind if that’s high on your list of Maui desires. After returning to shore, we hung out with the friends for the night, bouncing from the beach to a cool local dive bar (Nachos Grande) to their apartment. Having locals show you around is always a great thing to have when visiting a new place.

Monday had arrived, and the road to Hana was our big plan for the day. We chose to do the drive backwards, starting on the south side and making our way around the east coast of the island. The scenery is unsurprisingly beautiful, and the drive itself is insane. Narrow roads wind their way up and down the side of the volcanic mountain, and the road surface quality ranges from newly paved asphalt to pothole littered concrete to dusty dirt. As you’re traveling through a tropical rainforest for part of the drive, heavy fog and rain are common occurrences. Blind corners force you to honk your horn and pray that some maniac doesn’t come fishtailing around into a head-on collision. There exists tons of guides recommending things to see and do on the road to Hana, so I won’t go over an exhaustive list. Beautiful views are constant, and we chose to visit some of the more unique natural formations along the route. There are beaches consisting of several different colors of sand, and we checked out the red and black varieties, both requiring a small hike to reach. At the Black Sand Beach, waves crash into the jagged rocks along the coast creating massive water explosions. Danielle went the artistic route in capturing the moment

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while I unsurprisingly went the more beer-centric route.

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We made a stop in the quaint town of Hana for lunch. While our Thai food was uninspiring, the town was very cute and offers a glimpse into traditional Hawaiian life. The Hana Lava Tube was very cool albeit something I would probably only do once. The natural cave was formed by lava flow, and you’re able to do a self-guided tour of the cave and read various facts posted on signs throughout. This was the only sight we paid to see on our day trip, but there are some other parks you also have to pay to visit. The bamboo forest was very cool but perhaps illegal? There were some signs posted that it was private property, but we saw other people making the journey through the tall bamboo. It was an almost otherworldly experience walking through the bamboo as its height and density blocked out most sunlight. There are very narrow walking trails carved through the dense thicket, and it would be difficult for a larger person to traverse the path. Not one to pass up on a photo op, I discovered a wild DDH Ghost amongst the bamboo.

Sitting pretty in the bamboo forest

The sun was setting as we were finishing up our drive, and we made one final stop to view Jaws, the massive waves that form near Kapakaulua Point. The surfers were in for the day, but we were still in awe at the huge 30-40 foot  waves constantly breaking. During the day time in the winter, this is a primo spot to watch amazing surfers tackle the daunting waves.

After driving back and cleaning up, we had dinner reservations at Japengo nearby our hotel. The restaurant overlooks the ocean and has a very nice ambiance. In addition to the large amounts of sushi I ate, we had a bottle of sake, and I had a sidecar of Pau Hana Pilsner. It was a very nice dinner for our final night in Maui, and the food was phenomenal. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again.

During our final day in Maui we wanted to get Danielle on a paddle board for the first time, but unfortunately the surf was too strong. Beach and pool time would have to suffice. An all-too-appropriate Bikini Blonde was my poolside beer of choice. While packing our bags back in the hotel room, we sipped on a delightful 4-year-old Shadows of Their Eyes from The Rare Barrel. The dark sour packed a big tart punch yet still managed to be pleasantly smooth. After packing, we met Danielle’s friend for a final lunch at Thai Chef. This was some legit Thai food, making up for the bland dishes we had in Hana the day before. I had the Pad See Yew and washed it down with an Overboard IPA from Big Island Brewhaus. After lunch we did some final gift shopping in Lahaina and then made a stop by the original Maui Brewing brewpub. The nicely fruity and hazy POG IPA was first up, and I followed that with a Hop Kine IPL which was accompanied by some inspiring artwork by yours truly. Laulima Belgian IPA was the last beer I had before we had to leave for the airport in time to make our flight. We had been told the best fish n’ chips on the island was at Stinger Ray’s in the airport, so we had to test that assertion. While I wouldn’t say the fish n’ chips was mind blowing, it was definitely solid, and the Bikini Blonde and Fireball shot made things that much better.

Our tropical vacation had sadly come to an end. Maui is an expensive land of incredible beauty, and we had gotten to experience a fair amount of it during our ~6 day trip. We’ll definitely be back in the future to do some of the things we missed out on. Until next time, aloha!

Britt Antley

Britt is a native Texan, lived in Houston for 12 years, and is excited about his recent move to the Big Easy (although his liver is having second thoughts). His liver is also not nearly as proud of his 7600+ Untappd uniques as he is. Stupid liver. He loves flavorful complex beers from juicy IPAs to fruited sours to barrel aged stouts, and he has vowed to some day be buried with a 4-pack of Yellow Rose.