Vacationing at Valley Isle

In the middle of the Pacific, on a tiny island known for its rainbows, lush tropical forests, dormant volcano, and beautiful beaches, is a small high-rise condo called, Valley Isle Resort.

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My husband and I were lucky enough to call the corner suite on the ninth floor “home” for two weeks during our honeymoon, and we loved it so much that we stayed again on our most recent visit in January. Valley Isle is located in Kahana–about a ten minute drive North from the bustling, ocean-side town of Lahaina, and it’s a short drive away from my favorite beach on the island: Napili Beach.

Valley Isle Resort

The resort is beautifully landscaped with gorgeous Hawaiian flowers, shrubs, and many palm trees surrounding its perimeter, and just off the grassy lawn is a very nice (and long) stretch of sandy beach. Valley Isle offers many amenities including a small pool with lounge chairs, a poolside bbq area with three different grills, free-parking, and (in most cases) wifi. Snorkeling here isn’t the best, but the swimming is good, and we love getting out on the water to paddleboard in the mornings before the afternoon winds pick up.

Valley Isle Resort

The best part about this beach-front property is that every single room has an ocean view so you won’t miss those incredible Maui sunsets–I would recommend reserving a room ending in 04-10 as those rooms are literally right on the ocean. During whale season we enjoy hanging out on the balcony to watch the whales frolic out in the ‘Au’au Channel between Maui and Molokai.

Valley Isle Resort

The balcony view from the Corner Unit (910)

Valley Isle Resort

Looking down from the penthouse condo #1210

During our stays, we enjoy visiting the farmers market at the Honokowai Marketplace just down the street (they have AMAZING homemade Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies), and you can’t stop by the farmers market without visiting the Fish Market right next door. Delicious, caught-that-day-fresh fish grilled to your liking back at the resort, fresh local vegetables grown on Maui, a few Mai Tai’s, and homemade Mac-Nut cookies set the tone for a perfect evening. I don’t know if there’s anything better than enjoying an ocean-view dining experience from the privacy and comfort of your own balcony.

Valley Isle Resort

I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but when my husband and I travel we prefer renting condos as we like to have some extra space and most importantly, a kitchen. We always save a significant amount of money by cooking a few meals in the condo instead of going out every time we need a drink, meal, or even a snack. Valley Isle isn’t a five-star resort, however it is a comfortable ocean-front–and beach-front–condominium with exceptional views of Molokai and Lanai.

Valley Isle Resort

An updated Kitchen and my favorite part of the condo: the second Balcony right off the bedroom. There’s no greater sound than falling asleep to the waves every night.

The one downside, if there is a downside, is that in the fall of 2012 the health center that was connected to the resort was destroyed by a fire. Unfortunately the entire situation appears to be on “Maui Time” in regards to building permits, union agreements, zoning approval, and so on, so the health center and gym has not been rebuilt (yet). The resort grounds are still immaculate and it won’t impact your ocean views, but you may notice the construction barriers when you park your car in the parking lot (but you’re not going to Maui to hang out in the parking lot). :)

Valley Isle Resort

We will be back Valley Isle, Aloha!

**Please keep in mind that some condos in the Valley Isle Resort are independently owned and therefore, I cannot guarantee the quality of each room. Everyone has different styles, expectations, and needs, and the experience shared are mine and my husbands alone.**

Do you prefer staying in condos or hotels when you travel?

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An Open Water Celebration!

HOORAY!

ScubaI am happy to announce that my sweet husband received his Open Water Certification this weekend! After weeks of class, studying, and practicing skills, he was able to complete the necessary dives and demonstrate the required skills to complete his certification. I am so excited for him and happy to have a dive buddy for life! :)

Congratulations, sweetheart! Here’s to some fantastic diving in Thailand!

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The “Other” Sweetheart Rock

Heart Rock in Maui

When I posted the above photo on my personal Facebook account I had so many friends and family ask me, “Is that for real?” or “Is this photoshopped?” And to those that asked about the photoshopping, thank you for believing that my skills are THAT good. ;-) I can see why people would think the latter as heart-shaped cutouts aren’t the “norm” in lava rock, however this rock near the Nakalele Blowhole is indeed real.

So, are you up for a hike to the Nakalele Blowhole and Sweetheart Rock? (the original sweetheart rock is off Lanai, so I’m calling this the “other” sweetheart rock). 

Sweetheart Rock

You’ll need directions:

  • From Lahaina/Ka’anapali/Kahana head North on Highway 30. (Side note: Highway 30 will eventually turn into 340). 
  • The Nakalele Blowhole is between mile marker 38 and 39 (about a 30-40 minute drive from Kahana).
  • At mile marker 38.5, turn left and park in the dirt parking area. There will be other cars parked on that side of the road so you know you’ve reached the right spot.
Heart shaped rock Maui

View from the parking area

What you’ll need:

  • There is no shade on this trail so bring a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of sunscreen. You may want to consider hiking in the morning when temperatures are lower.
  • Bring a LOT of water
  • Hit the restrooms before you come. There is a port-a-potty on site, however the vendor asks for a $2 “donation” for use. Can you actually call that a donation? 
  • Your camera–duh! ;-)

The hardest part about this hike is that you hike uphill on your way back, and did I mention that there is no shade? It can get HOT, so take your time and enjoy the views.

PS. I hiked in flip-flops but it’s not recommended…when will I ever learn??

Sweetheart Rock

Warning: This is not a waterpark! :)

Sweetheart Rock Maui

The trail…basically big boulders and dirt

Sweetheart Rock

Aloha!

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What’s in a Name…

After an eventful dive at Molokini Crater, the anchored was lifted and we cruised north to our next dive destination of the day. Along the way, the Pride of Maui offered an incredible lunch buffet which included hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, pasta salad, vegetables, rolls, dessert, and more–and they will also provide vegetarian options if you give them advance notice.

Located on the western side of Maui just offshore of the small town of Olowalu is a dive site known as Turtle Town II. The beautiful West Maui mountains are the perfect backdrop against the crystal clear turquoise sea, and with minimal waves and excellent visibility we could see the colorful reef more than 30 feet below the surface.

West Maui Mountains

This kind of looks like a watercolor, but I assure you that it was taken with my GoPro Hero3+

Our second stop of the day was a location known as Turtle Town II.

Now, let’s cut to the chase…one would expect that at a location called “Turtle Town,” your chances would be pretty high of seeing a specific type of wild animal, you know… specifically speaking… maybe some sea turtles, for starters.

Orrrrrrr Not.

Unfortunately for us, the Honu were not home that day, however, the fish were friendly so I spent some time trying to capture my new friends on camera.

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Turtle Town II

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The Pride of Maui is a great choice if you’re looking for an activity for your whole family. They offer snorkeling, snuba (which is sort of an “intro” to scuba diving), and of course, scuba diving. Snorkel excursions are offered morning and afternoon, and they also offer whale watching tours, as well as sunset cruises.

Enjoy whale watching (in-season), breakfast, two different ocean locations to explore, lunch, and an open bar on the cruise back to the harbor (21+, obviously); prices for the morning snorkel start at $91+tax, including the discount to book online. I’ll admit that I was worried about the amount of people who were on the boat that day, but somehow they made it feel less crowded than it really was. Mahalo Pride of Maui!

Turtle Town II, Pride of Maui Turtle Town II, Maui

 Aloha!

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Through the Looking Glass

I’ve heard a rumor that most people wait to travel once they’re retired–when they have more money or more time–but if you’ve followed Pictures and Plane Tickets for a while then you know that I don’t believe the hype. I’m a firm believer that tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone, so we must make the most of today! (Besides, when I’m retired, I’m pretty sure that I’ll be spending my days near the ocean with a good book, I won’t be up for 36 hours of continuous travel on a plane, train, bus, or ferry… that’s just me though.)

When I graduated from college over five years ago, I only dreamed about becoming a world traveler. Many of my classmates (including myself) were in the midst of an arduous job search–it was the great recession of 2009, after all–and throughout the endless applications and interview opportunities, I dreamed about visiting far-off exotic destinations, as well as going on my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Norway with my grandmother. Looking back, I honestly never thought that I would see so much in five short years.

The morning after my graduation celebration, I read through my graduation cards filled with love, well wishes, and congratulations, and there was one beautiful statement that has stuck with me throughout the years:

Frank Sinatra Quote

Read it again. This time, slowly, and with purpose:

The Best is yet to Come.

It’s true, isn’t it. And the fact that I believe that statement to be true makes my heart fill with happiness. We are in charge of our path in life and we can drastically change our lives depending on how hard we want to work.

On a weekly basis I have readers email me to ask how my husband and I travel so much. And while the answer is simple, we prioritize and we budget, I think that the biggest hurdle people face is the challenge of dreaming. There’s a famous saying that goes, “If you can dream it, you can do it”–and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for those feel-good-kinds of quotes… Yet, dreaming allows me to push the boundaries. When I think about my Bucket list and my 101 goals list, both of those lists started from dreams; sometimes I feel like the bigger the dream, the harder I work to make it become a reality. And then the cycle starts all over again: the more I dream, the more I explore, and the more I explore, the more I dream about my next adventure.

No matter how big your dreams are, reach for them! The only person who can stop you is yourself. The path to your dream may not always be easy, but neither are most things worth achieving.

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What is your biggest dream?

Get more posts like this one delivered straight to your inbox when you subscribe to my blog by email (I pinky-promise not to send any junk mail). :) And for your daily dose of Wanderlust follow me on Instagram (@picturesandplanetickets). TheLadders.com reached out and asked me to share my advice to recent college grads, and while every path and goal is unique, my advice is simple and directed at anyone who is willing to follow their dreams. Aloha!
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Descending into Molokini Crater

On our first two visits to Maui, Cody and I never got around to visiting the Molokini Crater. Crazy, right? Well the third time was the charm, and since I was certified this time around, I was able to schedule a scuba dive down into the crater. After browsing a few websites and looking through Maui Revealed, I found that the Pride of Maui offers scuba diving alongside snorkeling, and because Cody isn’t open water certified yet (only two more weeks to go until his certification!) I figured this operation would best suit both of our needs.

It was a beautiful, sunny morning when we pulled into the Ma’alaea Harbor and as I looked out over the ocean I was surprised to see no waves. On our hour-long sail south towards Molokini Crater, the smooth glass-like surface made for killer views of the gigantic humpback whales that could be seen from every angle of the boat. Before I knew it, it was time to plan our dive and gear up.

Almost as soon as the boat was anchored at the extinct volcanic crater just off of Maui’s south shores, we plunged into the crystal-clear water below.

Pride of Maui Molokini Snorkel

A transformation occurs during your first few minutes of diving; up at the surface you can hear the commotion of the other guests, you can hear the waves slapping up against the boat, and you can taste the salt water as it splashes across your face. The surface can be somewhat chaotic, however, the moment that you begin your descent you transcend into peace–it is quiet except for your thoughts, and the sound of your regulator as you breathe. All of the commotion at the surface is replaced with schools of fish and beautiful coral formations.

Molokini Crater

I began my descent and looked around to investigate my new underwater world–when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it happened…

It became hard to breathe.

I could feel my heart begin to race under my wetsuit.

My breathing became shallow and rapid.

The more I tried to pull for a breath, the faster my heart tried to beat, and as the panic washed over, I looked around and felt as if the entire ocean was closing in on me.

Molokini Snorkel

(Okay, TIME OUT…! I should probably mention at this point that I am incredibly claustrophobic. I know, I know, I’m a diver; and diving and claustrophobia typically don’t go together. My diving friends have asked me how I feel underwater and I’ve always explained that I don’t feel confined, I feel free. I could never do a cave dive, or explore tight spaces underwater–my heart is racing and my palms are getting sweaty just thinking about it–but give me the wide open ocean and I feel fine scuba diving).

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.

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So, now that I’ve shared one of my biggest fears, let’s get back to the story…

You can imagine my complete fear when the claustrophobia panic began to seep into my brain at 60 feet underwater… It was a vicious cycle: a challenge to breathe, which made me feel confined, which increased my heart rate, which made it harder to breathe. I knew that I had to calm my racing thoughts and steady my breathing, however, my initial thought was that my dream of becoming the Little scuba diving Mermaid was over almost as quickly as it had started.

I tried to block out the panic the best I could by focusing on the marine life around me… I studied the coral formations, my eyes followed the schools of fish as they danced through their underwater home, and in this process I somehow managed to slow my breathing and push the panic to the back of my mind.

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Molokini Crater

The moment that I finally slowed my heart rate, my dive master signaled that he saw a shark; and while I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins again, this time it was not due to panic, it was due to excitement. I dropped down to 100 feet (the deepest I’ve gone so far), and the black tip reef shark was just out of reach as he slept on the crater floor 20-30 feet below.

Molokini Crater

The signal for “Shark”

Molokini Crater

Do you see the shark?

We continued our exploration of the reef, and throughout the thirty minute dive the challenge to breathe continued as I tried to mentally adjust to the tight regulator (the regulator is your breathing apparatus–aka, your air source). Having a tight regulator basically means that it is harder to take a breath than compared to regulators that I have used in the past. Breathing should be easy underwater and the settings on this regulator made it much more difficult than it should have been–there wasn’t anything wrong with this device, I just wasn’t used to it.

Molokini Crater

Peek-a-Boo

We found an octopus

We found an octopus

Molokini Crater

Back at the surface, I mentioned the struggle to breathe to my dive master and he switched out my regulator for our second dive. I was slightly hesitant to dive again after my underwater panic attack, however, part of me wanted to confirm that it was just the tight regulator and not in fact my claustrophobia.

So, after our hour-long surface interval, I pushed through the hesitation and began my descent on that second dive; and within seconds I realized the new regulator worked just fine. I was almost overjoyed to the point of tears… my dream of becoming a Little Mermaid wasn’t ruined after all…

Molokini Crater

Scuba Selfie!

PS. I want to apologize about the low-quality photos. I shot this dive with my Go-Pro and without an additional light at 80 feet below the surface the colors and the quality suffer. I decided to add these photos to the post even though the quality is sub-par because a good friend of mine once said, “The only bad photo is a photo you don’t take.” :)

Have you had to face or overcome your biggest fears? How did you handle it?

Posted in Hawaii, Maui, Risky Business, Scuba Diving, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Paddleboarding the 808

Hey guys! Okay, by now I’ve told you almost a million times that I love the water. One of these days (not soon enough) I will live close to the ocean so I can experience its magic on a daily basis, and until then, I’ll try to be patient and keep visiting as often as I am able.

With this love of water comes a desire to try all types of water activities: wakeboarding, water-skiing, snorkeling, swimming, scuba diving, surfing… I’m up to try anything out on the water, (anyone know where I can rent one of those jetboards??) :) Anyways, as I was creating my 101 goals list for the second time I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to add a new water sport to the list: Paddleboarding.

Paddleboarding

Our oceanfront condo in Kahana was located along a nice beach with beautiful views of Molokai and Lanai just offshore. The calm waters provided the perfect place to try paddleboarding for the first time and I couldn’t wait to get started.

I made the call to 808 Boards and talked to Danny who happily asked what kind of paddleboard we wanted… uhhhh….. ?? Good question. How about one that floats and comes with a paddle. :) When I explained that we had no experience and I didn’t know what board to rent, Danny suggested the perfect starter board (it’s a ten x 32 if you’re wondering). A 24-hour rental is $45, and the best part about it?? Danny delivered it right to our condo because we were so close to their location in Napili. Thanks, Danny!!

Paddleboarding in Maui

If you have ever tried surfing or wakeboarding, paddleboarding will be a breeze. I think the most difficult part for any first time paddleboarder is getting your balance as you cruise the waves. My husband and I spent almost the entire day out on the water playing; I could have easily spent DAYS out there enjoying the beautiful weather, the amazing scenery, and the turquoise, crystal-clear, ocean.

Paddleboarding4

Paddleboarding2

Would you try paddleboarding?

Get more posts like this one delivered straight to your inbox when you subscribe to my blog by email (I pinky-promise not to send any junk mail). :) And for your daily dose of Wanderlust follow me on Instagram (@picturesandplanetickets).
Posted in Hawaii, Maui, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments