It’s funny, even when you are jet-lagged and exhausted Maui can’t help but hug you with its warmth and make you feel so happy and alive. I had just arrived as the sun was setting over the Pacific: pink hugging the horizon, swept by vibrant orange, yellow and indigo. I stood on my tip toes pressing my hips against the balcony railing while throwing a smile across the Hawaiian islands as palms swayed in the foreground as if to say “hello and welcome to Paradise.”
I couldn’t help but laugh as this was technically my third encounter with Hawaii. The night before I hopped on my plane my mother was ever so kind to remind me that my first visit was in utero as she was a few months pregnant with me when she relaxed on the warm beaches of Maui. On my “second” visit to Hawaii I spent a week adventuring through Oahu on the solo. At the time I was hopping across the Pacific bound for home after several years traveling abroad. My carefully thought out route would take me from Sydney to Toronto via: Fiji, Hawaii, Vancouver, Chicago, DC, NYC, Boston, Cape Cod and Montreal. I always have a way of making a journey as complicated and memorable as possible.
Widely trumpeted as the world’s most glamorous vacation destination, the island of Maui offers quality beaches, variety in jaw dropping landscape and a vast range of thrills for adventure travellers and culinary aficionados. For many a visit to Maui is a once in a lifetime vacation recounted at dinner parties and day dreamed about during abysmal grey office hours in the middle of winter. The islands whimsical paradise is on par with the lush romanticism offered by Bali, Borneo and Belize. Even before my plane hit the tarmac the views from my window were enough to take your breath away.
I was excited to be spending my week in Maui between two luxury hotel properties. I started my island adventure living in upscale Wailea, a resort community which offers luxurious golf courses, glamorous condominiums, haute couture shopping bonanzas and is home to a string of 5 Star Hotels. I spent my first few days at the palatial Fairmont Kea Lani, the only all suite and villa luxury oceanfront resort in Hawaii situated on 22 acres of tropical landscape.
My final days on the island were spent on the east coast relaxing at Travaasa Hotel Hana. Dubbed as Maui’s last truly Hawaiian place and recently ranked as the No. 1 Resort in Hawaii by Conde Nast Traveller’s 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Travaasa offers weary travellers the unique opportunity to disconnect, relax and explore the road less traveled. Located in the town of Hana on the eastern tip of Maui, Travaasa Hana is the first resort on the island to greet the sun rise. Set amid rolling grass fields and palm trees above Kaihalulu Bay, it is here where those looking to immerse themselves in authentic Hawaii will find the greatest satisfaction. The original property first opened in 1947 and through the years has enjoyed many concept iterations. Today the resort boasts stunning sea ranch cottages, world class spa and a experiential program which encourages guests to hop on a horse, snorkel with the local fish, laze by the pool and keep fit during early morning yoga classes.
I was thrilled to be visiting Maui as a Canon Canada Ambassador via their #blogtography program. This would be my third sponsored trip (see Beaver Creek Wine and Spirit Festival and Dubai for my other 2013 Canon adventures). I’ve now had a few months to get used to my new Canon EOS 6D DSLR and I think my photos are really starting to pack a punch! The following are my personal tips and tricks when shooting with your DSLR in Maui Hawaii. Just in time to inspire you to capture the best pictures of paradise on your next winter “fun in the sun,” vacation:
1) Every tourists on a beach-centric vacation wants to come home with a fantastic photo of the sun rising or setting over the ocean. If you’ve filled your passport with stamps to the very last pages you’ll be well aware that anyone can take a picture of the sun as it wakes or prepares for slumber. Before shooting set your camera to Aperture Priority and use f/8, f/11 or f/16, let the camera set your shutter speed. Swap your picture style to Portrait as this particular setting brings out the pink and red tones in peoples skin and enriches the colours you’ll be capturing of the horizon. If you are on a beach be sure to include a palm tree or lawn chair in the foreground. I was up at 4am to catch the sunrise in Hana and included a black silhouette of the surrounding sea ranch cottage facade to set the scene at a lush luxury resort. You can also adjust your exposure compensation to slightly underexpose your image, this will increase the colour intensity of the shot.
2) For those looking to record their vacation accommodation sometimes a picture or two just won’t do. More and more tourists are using their cameras to create HD Video tours of their vacation suites which they upload to youtube and share with friends and family. Before you start shooting be sure to set your camera to Auto and select a Movie Recording Size of 1920 x 1080 at 30 fps (via the Q Button) to ensure you are capturing the highest quality video. While filming remember to minimize the amount you move your camera. You’ll notice in my video tours I narrate while slowly panning across the suites landscape. If your hotel room has two floors, a patio, separate bathroom space or an outdoor garden you want to capture be sure to break up the tour into segments so you can capture the essence of each space. It’s easy to upload your files and string them together on an editing program before you export a final copy to share. And if you do plan on editing what you’ve filmed, use the neutral picture style – this will give you the greatest ability to adjust the colour tone of your video footage in post production. Remember that audio recording can be manually controlled in the menu – or turned off all together if you want to add background music to your video.
I had a blast adventuring through Maui’s island paradise. From farm tours to decadent spa treatments, endless feasts to bamboo forest hikes here are my list of must do’s on your next trip to Polynesian Paradise:
Sips and Nibbles
I enjoyed many a fine feast in paradise with highlights including breakfast at Fairmont Kea Lani + dinner at Ko, lunch at Monkeypod Kitchen, snacks at Hali’imaile General Store, dinner at Kauiki, and an aal fresco Feast at Lele.
Culinary Tourists looking to meet farmers and producers face to face have lots of options. Hawaii is of course famous for its coffee beans but I was looking to visit quirkier offerings. Surfing Goat Dairy is owned and operated by a German couple who has a penchant for chevre. Guests to the farm have an opportunity to meet and greet herds of excitable goats as well as learn about the cheese making process, finishing with a sampling of the dairy’s award winning chevre and chocolate truffles. Just down the road Ocean Vodka offers guests a tour which starts at a sugar cane farm and ends inside a bottling factory. Fans of France will adore the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm which offers a pleasant bouquet as soon as you step out of your car. At the gift shop guests can buy a wild variety of lavender infused beauty products, epicurean food items and tea + scone best enjoyed on their back patio which offers stunning views of the valley below. Final stop would be with Maui Gold, the islands favourite pineapple which has been raised to showcase an extra sweet flavour and low acidity. You’ll find boxes of these on sale at the airport so be sure to grab a few to take home. You’ll be hosting a Pina Colada Party soon enough!
A Quick Stop in Lahaina
During the 19th century Lahaina served as the capital for the entire Kingdom of Hawaii, but has barely grown since then and could almost be mistaken for a peaceful, tropical village. Be sure to visit Baldwin Home, a look into the Christian Missionary way of life as well as the Lahaina Jodo Mission which was founded in 1912 with the support of many Japanese immigrants working in the sugar and pineapple plantations. Driving in to Lahaina be sure to stop for a sweet snack at Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop which serves up award winning cream pies by a rather studly staff of surfers. Book your dinner for The Feast at Lele in advance, one of the islands most sought after culinary experiences which pairs Polynesian cuisine from Hawaii, New Zealand, Tahiti and Samoa with traditional dance.
In October every community in Hawaiian spends a week celebrating this joyous festival. I was fortunate enough to enjoy a parade in the small town of Hana where a royal procession kicked off the festivities followed by boy scouts, antique cars, motorcycle gangs and Hawaiian princesses on horseback. After the parade the entire town feasted on local street food featuring fresh fish, pork tonkatsu and clay oven pizza.
Exploring Hana’s Natural Wonders
The east coast of Maui offers plenty of jaw dropping scenery and reminds me of the age old saying “mother nature only reveals herself to those who press her closely.” The following are two fantastic day trips where a swimsuit and camera are a must to make the most of it.
Wai’anapanapa State Park: a short and easy trail descends from the parking lot to a beautiful little cove famed for its shiny black pebbles and fine black sand, affectionately referred to as Black Sand Beach. After relaxing on the beach hop in the ocean for a dip before paying a visit to the parks famous cave system, a collapsed lava tube which holds two successive grotto-like pools.
Haleakala National Park: A visit here offers unforgettable scenic wonders as well as a healthy dose of exercise. Two trails offer fantastic treasures for those willing to hike through the heat. Best to start with the more rigorous Pipiwai Trail which is ranked as one of the best hikes in Hawaii. Adventure seekers explore lush bamboo forests, scale canyon bridges and end at the towering 400ft Waimoku Falls. Once back at the Rangers Station finish the day on the Koloa Point Trail which leads to Kipahulu Falls and the Seven Sacred Pools. A picture perfect rolling waterfall where exhausted hikers can rest, relax and refresh.
Glider Plane Thrills
My final adventure in Maui started at the Hana Airport when I boarded a sleek white glider plane and catapulted into the bright afternoon sky. I had a wee square in my window to shoot pictures of the Maui coast. We soared through cumulous clouds that you can easily get lost in, their own landscapes make you forget that land lies below. My pilot eventually turned off the engine, propeller coming to a slow halt (which is a little unsettling) and then we spent the next few minutes gliding across the rugged Maui coast soaring on nothing but a gust of air.