It's about 2p now, more or less, and we have a 2:30p date with a helicopter so we head back to the airport to find Air Maui. The heliport is a strip of corrugated steel buildings each with the banner of a different helicopter company. Air Maui was at the very end and in their waiting area we found we were well early. We're eventually joined by two other couples, one honeymooning from NYC and another couple of guys from Seattle. We'd planned to take the "complete island" tour but are told that Haleakala is closed in by clouds so the tour there wouldn't be great. Instead we're told we'll tour half the island and also Molokai. Sounds fine.
We pile in to the helicopter, Melinda and I on one side in the back. Unlike on my first helicopter ride, on Kauai about 10 years ago, on this ride the doors are closed. Just as well as we go through some rain later on. The ride was great, as usual -- I'm a sucker for helicopter rides. We fly over fields of sugar cane, head around the north and west edges of Maui and on to Molokai. Along the way we climb up along the face of one ridge and as we crest the ridge the pilot lets the helicopter sort of dive back down for a second or two. Just enough to surprise all of us on board -- he'll do this roller coaster trick a few more times, too. We're all okay with it, except the guy from Seattle sitting next to me. I think he'd have been just as happy with no change in g.
The pilot is a native Hawaiian and tells us a few stories of Hawaiian lore as we go along. Most of what he covers is just humor patter, though. For example as we take off he plays an iPod soundtrack first from Apollo 13 then from Star Wars. I'd have rather liked more educational patter but [shrug].
Along the tour we see several water falls, some hundreds of feet tall. We find a few "velcro goats" along the cliff walls. We fly out to Molokai across the channel, about 15 miles, maybe? I noticed we were flying at about 110 knots. We head out about as far as Kalaupapa, Father Damien's colony for the treatment of Hansen's disease. Then, back to Maui, around Lahaina and the West lobe of the island, and across the center on the way back to the airport. We don't get close enough to see Wailea or our resort, I wonder actually if there's an agreement that the operators don't buzz Wailea or Kihei, only Lahaina. Dunno. Finally back at the airport and out the door.
It's now past 3p and fair game to check in to the hotel. We head back out on the highway again, crossing this section of road for the third of many trips, and find our way to just about the end of the road when we reach the Four Seasons. I recognize some of the roads and businesses along the way, having visited Maui three years ago (for work) and staying at a nearby resort. This knowledge eventually helps us -- we drop in to a Safeway and a few other stores in a few days.
Near as I can tell all of Wailea is built around about five resorts: the Grand Wailea, the Four Seasons, the Fairmont, and a few others whose names I don't recall. Each resort is massive, housing maybe 200 rooms, but not massive in the Las Vegas we're-showing-off sort of way. We head down the drive to the Four Seasons and are greeted by a team of valets and bellhops. Our luggage is sent off on a cart, the car is escorted away, Melinda and I get leis, and we're given tropical tea while we're checked in to the room. The entrance way opens up to a large courtyard, all open to the air, of course (with some storm shutters carefully tucked away into the walls, I noted). There's not a lot of people around right now, maybe just a few; certainly, there's more hotel staff than guests, so near as I can tell. We get checked in, given keys to the room, and a bellhop shows us to our room.
We're staying in room 613, on the 6th of 8 floors in the resort, in an "Ocean Prime View" room. The resort buildings form a large U open to the ocean and we're half-way down one leg of the U. The room is situated well, though, as none of the rooms behind us have any view onto our lanai, and the rooms ahead of us don't obstruct our view of the ocean. Inside the room there's a king bed, sitting area with couch, coffee table, desk, and chair, and an enormous bathroom. I've stayed in hotel rooms smaller than the bathroom. It has a soaking tub, shower, toilet in an attached water closet, two basin vanity, and lots of gratuitous space. Waiting for us on the coffee table are petit fours that we happily enjoy as we enter. About 10 minutes after we arrive there's a knock on the door; it's a bottle of bubbly and a rose for us; I'd told the front desk this was our honeymoon. Very nice.
We make plans for the rest of the evening. We call to the concierge to make us reservations at Spago, one of the resort restaurants (and a Wolfgang Puck restaurant), and Melinda makes a spa appointment for later in the evening. We lounge around a little bit until dinner then head down.
In Spago we're seated side by each and facing the lanai and the ocean, and with our timing (dinner at 6p, I think) it's perfect for us to watch the sun set while we eat. Our overpacking the day before is now turning out well, us having brought some nice resort wear along with. Dinner is delectable. I have a seafood risotto appetizer and pork chop entree. (I feel a little weird ordering a pork chop when we're in the middle of the ocean but it really sounded good and I remind myself I was feeling really ill just the night before, so maybe a lot of fish isn't perfect, anyway.) Melinda has a ... I think Thai curry something or other, and something else tasty for her main course. We can't find any way to finish everything but the food is so good it's relaxing. We're stuffed before the main course is over so we plan to come back for dessert on another night.
Melinda's spa appointment is right after dinner so we get going on to that. I spend the time walking around the resort a little bit. I find the game room which holds a few pool tables, foosball, tabletop shuffle board, and some Xbox machines. I shoot a little pool but get distracted by the CNN report about the San Bruno gas line explosion. All they say on TV is that it happens "near San Francisco" so I head to the internet to see exactly where it's all happening. I also head out around the pool and toward the beach on my walk. I walk past maybe 5 or 6 people on my entire sojourn; apparently Thursday nights are quiet nights at the resort.
Melinda's back from the spa around 9p. Despite the early hour we head to bed around then -- Hawaii is three hours off from California so it's nearly midnight to us, and we woke up early to catch the flight.
About tipping. I'm pretty well calibrated for how to tip at a Best Western or even a Marriott -- $100 or $150 per night hotels. I'll leave a few dollars on the pillow each day for the maid, I'll tip a bellhop about $1 per bag, and that's about it. But on the first day at the resort I feel awkward because I don't know what's appropriate for tipping. I'd brought a bunch of $2 bills with me, and I use them for a while, but the hotel room is way more expensive than any Marriott I've ever stayed at; do you tip in proportion? I eventually get a supply of $5 bills and use them for tips -- for the valet, for housekeeping, for anyone bringing things to our room. I'm sort of worried that I still wasn't a very good tipper, and I never found a way to thank the concierge for helping us with a great many things during the trip. Oh well; next time I'll be more prepared.