Apparently the Alaska flight in from the mainland is the first flight of the day and so we were the first people in an otherwise deserted airport. We flew first class (best use of MVP miles ever), were among the first few off the plane, and it was spooky seeing the empty airport.
Leaving ourselves so little time to plan and pack we chose to overpack for our trip: bring more than we need and decide what we'll actually use when we get there. We decided, early on, that we'd check a bag so we had more than enough room for anything we wanted (eg, my wet suit for snorkeling). We ended up checking one large luggage and one rolly bag and carrying on another rolly bag and our two backpacks. If you overlook the waiting for your luggage at the destination airport it's actually really nice to check luggage rather than carry it on, and I only am reminded of this when I do check luggage. No worrying about finding room in the overhead bins, no dragging 25 pounds of clothes and toiletries down an infinite concourse, no embarrassment when TSA pokes through everything in front of the other passengers as you're just trying to get to your gate.
Check in at the resort wasn't until 3p, and it being 10a now we needed to figure what to do. While waiting to pick up the car at Enterprise, Melinda saw an ad for Air Maui on the back of the driving map. One quick phone call later and we had an afternoon appointment for their complete tour of the island. Excellent. We also asked around for if there were a good aquarium and were told about the Maui Ocean Center, in south Maui. We've seen some very good aquariums lately (in Chicago and at Monterey Bay) so we head out to add to our collection.
The Maui Ocean Center is a set of buildings at viewing stations in an open air arcade. It's not all that big but easily holds our attention for a few hours. We get there in time to see a couple of divers feed the fishes and sharks in their big tank, which includes a pedestrian tunnel running through and along one edge of it. The fish, rays, and sharks in the tank are all but tame, it seems: they come up to the divers and nuzzle them until the divers give them mussels or other tasty treats. The puffer fish is especially humorous in this behavior, helped also by its amusing expression. We also visit their touch tide pool and pet some sea stars; we learn that baby sea turtles are naturally buoyant and adorable; and we learn how the native Hawaiians farmed fish (it involved attracting young fish through a barred passage then feeding them to the point the could no longer leave). I always figured that the way to see fish in Hawaii was by snorkeling but seeing them all here had the added benefit of seeing their names and being able to read about them. And not fussing with a leaky face mask.
Following the Ocean Center we head back north to the 'Iao Valley. I've heard it's a lush and beautiful area and it's one of the things I wanted to see when I was on Maui a few years ago with work but missed. The drive isn't long -- the island just isn't that big -- but the change from the south side of the island -- arid and warm -- to the valley with its lower clouds, lush green vegetation, and heavy humidity is stark. We walk the very short distance to see the 'Iao Needle which, to be frank, I was a little underwhelmed by. I guess the guide books and the hype lead me to expect an enormous monolith or something else truly noteworthy. I mean, sure, it's neat to see this big sharp stone in the ground but it didn't seem all that tall. Or maybe it's just that the gestalt of the valley, with its high walls and ubiquitous vegetation and water was already pretty impressive.
Okay, enough for this entry. Next entry: helicopter tour; the resort; dining at Spago.