Maui below as ominous clouds move in!

Kind of cruel of me to be submitting this article about wonderful Hawaii when my Wisconsin friends are experiencing bitter cold weather, but maybe the vicarious enjoyment will warm them up.

I had been to Oahu four times during my Navy days, and Laura had been there with her family 50 years ago, so Maui seemed like a great pick to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. An easy five-hour flight for us out of Oakland, but double that at least from Wisconsin.

You know Hawaii is pricey, so when I tell you first class plane tickets and four-star hotel for five nights is $3,000, you are not surprised. A car rental for six days adds another $300, and of course you have to eat when you are there! You have to attend at least one luau when you are there and that starts at $250 a couple. I probably should mention that most hotel charge an additional $25 per day 'service charge' and $20 per day parking fee. Well, you get the idea!

Maui consists of a west lobe of land and a much larger east lobe connected by an isthmus. The west lobe contains a single volcano covering a good portion of its center and blanketed in clouds much of the time. The east lobe also has a single volcano but it is much larger and its 10,000-foot peak and wetter, jungle environment offers great hiking and birding opportunities.

We chose the west side because it is on the lee side of the island and its quieter surf and drier climate favored our snorkeling and hiking objectives. Additionally, getting around was much easier, and the attractions in the popular town of Lahaina were appealing to us.

The primary airport is located at Kahului at the top (north) of the isthmus. After a quick shuttle to Avis, we managed to pass through a mix of highways onto 380 and eventually to 30 that took us south then west to north around the entire perimeter of West Maui along the coast through Lahaina and arriving at our resort in Kaanapali in just 40 minutes!

Did I mention it was raining? Laura had been tracking this front for a week before our arrival and the grim forecast was rain our entire stay! While the sun peeked out enough the first and last day, and the rain occurred only periodically each day, we did manage to get in some beach walks, open air shopping, and some laying around time.

The Sheraton was isolated from most of the other hotels, so we enjoyed rather quiet beaches, and vicinity walks without feeling overwhelmed by flower-shirted tourists at every turn. The surf was pleasantly mild but the overcast skies kept us from snorkeling because fish viewing was so limited in dim water.

View from our room at the Sheraton was delightful! Now if only the sun stays with us!

A stroll around the grounds revealed a well cared for facility, plenty of water-related recreational opportunities, numerous lounges everywhere, an outdoor bar, and a unique wrap-around pool that allowed a complete circuit around a good share of grounds.

Shopping at an adjoining hotel and taking the shuttle downtown Lahaina kept us entertained on days when the periodic rain made beach use unpleasant. The retailers were all friendly, and we didn't experience the high sales pressure so common in similar tourist areas.

One day of heavy rain we decided to tour the coast of West Maui to enjoy more of the island's aesthetics, and to visit a national wildlife refuge we had seen in the literature.

This rare shorebird is called an Aoa bird (Cliff Germain will have to check this spelling!)
and is only found in the Hawaiian Islands

Always the trooper, Laura wouldn't let a little rain keep her from enjoying Hawaiian wildlife!

The wildlife area had a splendid boardwalk extending more than a quarter-mile out into an estuary adjoining the open ocean allowing up-close look at wetland wildlife.

Aw yes! Lauras happiest on a beach but would be happier in the water !

The luau was the highlight of our stay and well worth the expense not only because of great Hawaiian food but because the entertainment was so delightful.

Watching swaying hula dancers and Hawaiian warriors is quite a treat!

The male dancers are also very entertaining, especially when fire is involved!

No matter what the weather, Hawaii is guaranteed to enthrall and entertain. If it's romance you are after or, like us, your objective was to celebrate an anniversary . . . well, it's perfect!