June 11, 2012

Magnolia Travels, Part II: From Kauai to Maui

Small Town Coffee, Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii

I would like to dedicate the second part of my travel posts to one exceptionally spectacular day spent on the islands of Kauai and Maui. The morning after our adventure at Hanalei Pizza, we said a somewhat sad goodbye to our beautiful Princeville dwelling and headed south, hoping to catch some views of the stunning Waimea Canyons before our flight to Maui. For breakfast, we stopped in Kapaa at the tiniest, earthiest, chillest coffee shop possible: Small Town Coffee. This place was everything we dreamed of. Sitting comfortably in a gravel lot, STC was built around a miniature Japanese garden, complete with miniature koi pond and ceramic knick-knacks. Chickens and bikes cluttered the courtyard and to the side was a lean-to housing a table of very chill regulars chatting over cigarettes. In the shop were tiny mosaic tables, clutters of wall art, and an ad for housemade hemp milk. Vegan pastries and muffins sat underneath the glass display and a chalkboard of drink options stood behind the counter. My man immediately lit on the item appropriately titled "The Andrew" and the concoction was just about as perfect as Andrew himself: iced tea and mango juice.

A strong cup of coffee and a coconut oat muffin later, we were back on the road heading towards Waimea Canyons and already thinking about our next meal. There is something a little surreal about driving up a mountain with the Pacific sweeping to your left and rugged jungle canyons rising to your right. Island winds also do strange things to the terrain here: the windward mountainsides began to look almost desert-like, a characteristic that only got more remarkable as we approached the canyons. And these canyons were truly spectacular. Greener than the Grand Canyon but nearly as majestic in scope, they stretched as far as the eye could see with steep lush cliffs and sparkling rivers flowing below.
Happily, seeing the canyons meant something else: it was time for lunch. And lunch meant island burgers. We drove back to Lihue and stopped at the tiny beachside Kalapaki Beach Hut. Our burgers had bacon and grilled pineapple and were served with a side of salty taro chips. This was the best burger we had all week. The combination of bacon, beef, and sweet fruit was perfect for a post-canyon, pre-flight outing. The taro chips, purple in color and tasting like a combination of sweet potato and turnip, were outstanding. We sat under an umbrella and watched small boats in the harbor. A rooster skipped around the hut's red clay outdoor floor, looking for scraps. The Beach Hut was just what we needed to say goodbye to the stunningly gorgeous island of Kauai.
We arrived in Maui just as the sun was beginning to get big and golden and evening-like in the sky. Driving to Kaanapali, the shining Pacific with its white beaches stretched to our left. The mountains to our right in central Maui were even more desert-like than the ones in Kauai; small farmhouses dotted the landscape and twiggy trees hinted of controlled burns that had recently occurred on the mountainside. The wilderness feel melted away as soon as we approached Lahaina, and was gone completely in Kaanapali, where we settled into our oceanfront room and planned our evening.
This was the evening of sangria, chips, and live music. The evening of watching the sun set over the Pacific and reflecting on the happiness of the day. The evening of discovering Maui Brewing Company and the Bikini Blonde lager. Two whole days of beach and sun and meals stretched out in front of us. In retrospect, most of our best meals were behind us but some of the best drinks were yet to be tasted.
"What the sailors really come to shore for..."
Coming up: seaside lunches, cocktails, gelato, and even more pizza on Maui. Stay tuned for the third and final installment of Magnolia Travels!

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