Our Maui Family Adventure
Jill Romano, January 2021
Note (November 2021): When I traveled to Maui with my family group of 11 in January 2021, things were different with stronger COVID restrictions. As of 11/8/21, if you are vaccinated and complete the pre-trip online paperwork for the state of Hawaii, it is much easier to go. The governor of Hawaii has announced that the islands are welcoming all vaccinated visitors. Non-vaccinated travelers must present a COVID test from one of their specific laboratories. Also, due to a rental car shortage, our travel advisors will make you have your rental car reserved before booking anything else.
Hawaiian Airlines flights
I always enjoyed flying with the local airline – I feel like the trip begins the moment I step on the plane. At the SFO check in counter, you will be asked if you are registered on Hawaii State website. If you are only bringing carry on and go straight to the gate, no one will ask you about registration. It is not mentioned onboard the flights either. Be sure you are registered so there are no surprise refusals of entry when you arrive in Hawaii. Hawaiian Airlines is in the SFO International Terminal and there was only one small food outlet with bakery items, sandwiches, salads and drinks to eat before your flight or take onboard. All bottled water now in refillable bottles.
Of course masks are required at the airport and during the flight. We boarded from rear of aircraft (1st class could board at any time), and our plane was only 1/3 full. The Hawaiian Airlines crew was masked and greeted us with a sanitizing towelettes. Be sure to download the Hawaiian Airlines app to your phone or tablet for streaming as there is not any seat back entertainment on the flights. The first class section had regular meal service and economy offered bottled water and sodas as well as hot breakfast sandwiches.
Arriving at Napili Surf Beach Resort
My family and I stayed at the Napili Surf Beach Resort. Just steps from Napili Beach and overlooking neighboring Moloka’i and Lāna’i islands, this resort is within walking distance to both fine and casual dining, the Kapalua Coastal Trail, golf courses, nature hikes, and multiple bays suitable for snorkeling, paddle-boarding, and surfing. It is the ideal place for anyone seeking a boutique beachfront vacation experience. The resort offers recently renovated one-bedroom and studio accommodations featuring fully-equipped kitchens, private lanais, and air conditioning. They are still offering their 2x week yoga classes.
As with most resorts in Hawaii now, the Napili Surf is a Touchless Check-In. They have not had keys for years. They texted us a link to register (with car details for parking tag) and then texted the code for the front door of our unit. This was easy for us as returning guests but not so easy for a first time guest. They will still help you out at the front desk if needed.
We went to Kimo’s in Lahaina for lunch. It felt much the same as it always has and they have a fair amount of outdoor tables…but with fewer travelers it was easy to get in. This likely will not be true during the festive season. Downtown Lahaina was a ghost town…did not see hardly a soul walking along Front Street….at 1pm, shocking! When I mentioned about stopping at the ABC store (don’t we all?!) the waitress said she would check to see which ones are open. We went to the ABC Store in the Lahaina Gallery shopping center. While the parking lot was fairly full, I think it was more for Longs Drugs and Safeway. The rest of our crew went to Costco for the big “shop” and they said the crowds were not very big either. Lahaina, the town, closes down about 9:00pm. There are some shops open, many of the restaurants have outdoor seating but I recommend calling ahead.
Recommended Maui Restaurants
If you are traveling with a group, call the restaurants in advance to see how many people can be seated together. Local capacity requirements do change. We ate at:
- Honu, Ma’la and Frieda’s – same owner, located just bend the Lahaina Gateway shopping center, water front.
- Star Noodle (reservations recommended) A new outdoor dining place on the water front. Next to Frieda’s.
- Maui Brewing Company: Indoor dining only – the kids went.
- Leilani’s in Whalers Village (same owners as Kimo’s) Okay for drinks and pupuu’s. Has outdoor seating.
- The Fish Market – highly recommend for those that want to cook themselves.
- Mamma’s Ribs & Rotisserie – great chicken and ribs
- Kitchen 5315: It just opened at Napili Shores. We got take out one night – pretty good!
Our Family Snorkel & Whale Watching Adventure
We booked a private trip for 11 with the Magic Mermen aboard a custom built boat operated by owner/captain Derek with Samantha and Nate. Normally they provide a lunch but due to Covid, only fruit, water and fruit juice/sodas. They allowed us to bring our own lunch and drinks. With a custom trip, they worked with what we wanted to see/do. We were very lucky and saw lot’s of whales, including some with calves and were able to spend as much time as we wanted. We snorkeled at Olowalu, just south of Lahaina. Both Nate and Samantha were in the water with us, (both locations) taking time to show and explain what we were seeing, We spotted sea urchins and even an eel – yikes! They provided styrofoam noodles, boogie boards, life jackets as well as snorkel and fins. We saw more whales on the way to our next snorkeling spot – Mala Wharf. Usually it is very busy, it’s one of the best places to see Honu (turtles) as they come here for the “cleaning station” where the fish clean/eat the bacteria off the green sea turtles – fun to watch! We also saw a eagle wray and a white tip reef shark. This was a four-hour trip and one I can highly recommend!
One great tip: they used Johnsons No Tears baby shampoo as a defogger in our mask’s and it worked great!
There was not much traffic at the Maui (OGG) airport, so we easily made it from Napili to the airport with a stop for gas in about an hour. There is a gas station just past the Ocean Center or a bit closer to the airport (if you have not been in awhile, the new road does not go through town, so fewer options) and easy car return. They are managing access to the tram to the terminal, to keep everyone distanced.
HA only staffs First Class check in, Economy is at the kiosks and then a Drop Bag line. All easy these days as there are so few travelers. There are no shops open on the departures level. TSA pre-check had no lines, even regular security line moved quickly. After security upstairs, there was only Starbucks, Sammy’s ( pre-made sandwiches, chips, hot dogs and hamburgers) and one small convenience store open. So, do your shopping before you get to the airport! The “fruit security” screening was done inside the gate area.
Again on the flight, they served water, sodas and a sandwich. First Class was serviced either a meat or pasta and dessert. The crew definitely kept on eye on folks for mask usage. My husband forgot to put his mask back on after eating and they nicely reminded him to do so.
All in all, it was a wonderful family escape and worth the time it took for everyone to get registered online. Hawaii is always a good idea!