Category Archives: USA

Along The Road to Hana

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I have always wanted to drive on the Road to Hana since I saw it on some travel channel years ago.

In one of our earlier versions of the trip plan, we planned to stay overnight in Hana and explore the Seven Sacred Pools and hike in the vicinity.

Of course, this time we didn’t really want to change hotels etc. So we just decided to do a day trip. Drive as far as we could go and then turn back. the trip was more about the journey than the destination.

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We didn’t want to wake up early just to complete the drive. The drive one way is about 45 miles and there are several guides/maps that list what to do mile by mile. The roads hugs the coast and crosses many single lane bridges as it winds its way to Hana. On a busy day there is a pile of cars and that tends to slow folks down. Most folks tend to drive all the way to Hana, have lunch there and then stop at different attractions on the way back.

We took it easy and left Wailea after breakfast and decided that we will probably go up to mile marker 17 or such and then head back.

First stop – Paia Town

This is the last big town before you embark onto the road to Hana drive. We stopped here to pick up picnic lunch, water and use restrooms before continuing further. Didn’t really spend much time here though it has some excellent shopping opportunities – jewelry, clothes, restaurants etc

With our lunch packed we headed to our first real stop on the drive.

Mile Marker 2 –  Twin Falls

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Varun hates long drives. To get him excited about the trip we told him about waterfalls and how he could splash in them and get wet. In fact the only reason he agreed to sit in the car for this long was to see waterfalls. So, we were very happy to find a decent waterfall right off the bat. Parking was a bit tricky here as this is the first stop on the trip and almost everyone stops here but we managed to find one along the road. Varun hiked the almost one mile gravel trail to the falls.

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Flowers, fruits, singing and dragging a stick behind him helped him walk on the uneven trail.

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The falls were strictly ok but Varun loved getting wet in the big pool.

And holding a big green gecko on a stick.

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As a reward for walking, we treated him to coconut water and bananas at the fresh fruit stand right outside the trail head to the falls.

Exhausted he slept in the car. So now, we had a dilemma – should we stop along the way and carry him or drive a bit further and then stop on the way back. We decided to do the latter.

We stopped and ooh-ed-aah-ed at the views from the car but our real next stop was in Ke’anae Peninsula.

Mile Marker 16.5 – Ke’anae Peninsula 

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Tall waves spraying over rocky lava coastline, taro fields, a beautiful old Hawaiian church and not to mention the most amazing banana bread. Need I say more why we stopped here. Shaved ice was heaven. It was dramatic and hypnotizing. Inviting us to stay, lay a blanket and have a picnic lunch right there.

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The open green fields next to the church would be perfect for Varun to run around but he was still asleep.

We sat there taking in the dramatic scenery and munching on the warm banana bread and then drove down further south to see more waterfalls and coast.

Mile Marker 25 – Nahiku Landing 

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Nahiku landing promised a drive through forest and a hidden waterfall on the beach. We though this would be perfect for Varun. Wake up from his nap, have lunch on the beach and then spend time in the waterfall before heading back. The drive was beautiful. But unfortunately the waterfall had dried up. We met another couple who hiked around the beach to find the waterfall with no luck.

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This was the least touristy spot on the drive thus far and the solace was very comforting.

Varun was a bit disappointed about the waterfall but was happy to see the giant waves splash on the rocky shore below.

We decided to head back as it was past 3 by now and see if we could wrangle in one more waterfall stop on the way back.

Mile Marker 17 – Pua’a Ka’a Park & Falls

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We stopped at the Pua’a Ka’a park for late lunch and rest room break. Across the road there was a small waterfall and Varun was very impatient to cross a little stream to reach it. He wanted Vipul to help him jump from one rock to another while crossing the stream. The water was a bit cool to actually bathe in but it was fun splashing around in it.

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We spent some time here and then decided to drive back home. Clouds started gathering and it was bit dark. We drove back playing car games like I Spy games and  asking him to recognize animal sounds.

It was a lovely day out – away from the resort to see the real Maui.

I am sure areas around Hana are even more prettier but we got a glimpse of it on this lush green tropical drive. Wonderful seascapes, quaint one lane bridges, thick bamboo forests and taro patches. A must do while on Maui.

Magic Of Maui

December in Maui

We were in Maui for a week in December.

After Dubai and before starting our life in San Francisco.

Hawaii has always been our milestone destination. For our fifth anniversary we were in Oahu ( after Australia) and our first baby moon we were in Kauai. It made sense to continue with our Hawaii theme for our 10th anniversary as well as second baby moon (if a vacation with an active 3-year-old when you are at fag-end of second trimester can be called as any kind of “moon”).

Maui has always been an elusive destination for us. We have planned to visit many times before Varun. We almost had purchased tickets but something or the other was always in the way. This time we wanted to visit Maui as we started our second phase in US.

I wasn’t sure how I would fare the long flight from India to US. I wanted to see if I could manage another 5+ hours flight so we booked our tickets fairly late minute.

Where We Stayed 

December in Maui

Since we had “researched” the island earlier, we knew where we wanted to stay. It was either Lahaina in West Maui or Wailea in South Maui. Both have excellent sunset views, calm crescent beaches and luxury resorts catering to every whim you would have. We didn’t really plan to do much of sight-seeing anyways so we didn’t really care to be in center of things.

December in Maui

Based on the deals that we saw at that time, Four Seasons, Maui was booked. And boy was it a fantastic choice or what. Luxurious expansive rooms, water views, top-notch service and little details that make your stay memorable. Its expected at a resort like this. What really blew me away was their kid friendliness.

December in Maui

Little robe for Varun? Check

One Planet Lotion/Shampoo/ Bath wash for kids and babies? Check

Complimentary Pool/Beach toys ? Check

Complimentary kid friendly books, video rentals? Check

Kids for All Season – A complimentary play area with activities (gecko hunting, swimming, beach combing etc) and toys for kids including meals and snacks ? Check

The last one was so loved by Varun. Between that and the beach he couldn’t decide where he wanted to go.

But it was not overrun with kids. There was a separate adults only area with swim up bar and infinity pool , up and away from the chaos of kid and family pool.

December in Maui

December in Maui

We enjoyed that as well thanks to the babysitting service that we could avail from Four Seasons concierge. The baby sitters are carefully shortlisted and checked so you can actually enjoy your vacation without worrying about your kid not being in safe hands.

We met so many families by the pool who return here every year around the same time every year from various cities in US to enjoy the warmth and hospitality of Four Seasons. They have formed friendships over their vacation and are excited to see them. I think that speaks the most about the resort.

If you have a child and are looking for a chilled out resort in Maui, really look no further than Four Seasons. I would go again in a heartbeat.

What did we do?

There is literally a ton of activities to do in Maui. Shortlisting ones to do given the limited time you have on the island is a challenge. We didn’t plan to do much other than drive to Hana and Snorkel. Rest was pool and beach time.

A drive unto Haleakala summit was out of question as was some of the other activities we would typically have indulged in on such a vacation – hiking, learning to surf or even scuba diving.

Luckily, Varun didn’t mind the drive to Hana. He actually loves waterfalls and was excited to visit one after the another. He didn’t snorkel but we took turns snorkeling by the Molokini crater. The reef is alive and teeming with colorful fishes. Very vibrant and reminiscent of our scuba diving experience in Cairns.

By the day, Varun played in the pool with other kids or played in the sand digging our feet in on the beach.

December in Maui

December in Maui

Or chasing birds

December in Maui

December in Maui

Afternoons were either in the kids for All Season or napping.

December in Maui

December in Maui

Evenings were spent watching pink sunsets along the beach or the board walk.

December in Maui

Tiki torch lighting ceremony and Hula dancing at the resort was followed by dinner.

December in Maui

A movie or books reading time for Varun and then bedtime.

December in Maui

Sometimes its an adrenaline packed vacation that you remember for ever. Like our time in Costa Rica. Other times its relaxing vacation that makes wonderful memories. Varun talks about waterfalls and beach from Hawaii. He remembers how we had to get back from Hana before it got very dark.   And the beautiful pictures of Varun and Vipul are something I will cherish forever.

I got to chill out, enjoy a massage and sleep in before the fast pace of life took over again. I would so not trade our time in Maui for anything.

They say Hawaii spoils you forever. The greenery, the laid back pace of life, coffee, soft sand, waterfalls, seafood, naps in middle of day and the Aloha spirit. We have visited three island so far and I agree, we are spoilt. Can’t wait to go back again – this time with two kids in tow!

Chinese Lunar New Year Mini Parade

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 at San Francisco Chinatown

On Saturday, we took Varun to see the Chinese Lunar New Year Parade. Its the year of the horse per the Chinese Zodiac Calendar.

To celebrate, there was a mini parade in Chinatown, sponsored by Southwest Airlines. It was a free event starting at the St. Mark’s Square ( intersection of California and Grant) with the parade going down the Grant Avenue and then turned to go up Jackson.

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 at San Francisco Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

The 30 minute long parade promised the noble dragon, lions dancers, costumed stilt walkers and children playing electrifying music etc followed by a street fair. Kettle corn, new year flowers and plants, candy, tea and other knick knacks that you find in Chinatown.

The atmposhere was energetic and colorful – thanks to the colorful costumes, fans, ribbons and flags. These kids must have practiced so much for the big Day!

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 at San Francisco Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 at San Francisco Chinatown

It was crowded after the parade with people milling about buying flowers, candles, tea and generally having a good time. We were there for a couple of hours with a long tea break to have some really good ginger – honey tea.

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 at San Francisco Chinatown

Varun loved the parade, the music and watching the lion dancers and the dragon. Even as I was uploading the pictures he kept telling me what we saw yesterday and when we can go see it again.

There was another parade in the evening and streets in downtown were cordoned off. It was a pain getting back home but so much fun while it lasted.

Will probably give it a go again next year. Or may be checkout the Vietnamese New Year festivities instead!

Yellowstone National Park – Geysers, Artists Point And The Lake

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Besides wildlife, Yellowstone national park is famous for its geysers and hot springs. Some are predictable like the Old Faithful; others bubble and gurgle like the Paint pots. Some howl like monsters and others are still.

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They may be brown and orange or prismatic with blue-green shades. They all smell of Sulphur.

And you don’t want to miss them.

Artists Point in Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

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One of the most unusual scenic vistas in Yellowstone is the artist’s point. This is a beautiful canyon with yellow rock that gives the park its name. The falls, the colors of the canyon and the river below are beautiful.

There is a short walk with a vista point for a perfect group shot. We spent some time here before heading to the lake.

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Lake Yellowstone

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After seeing a bunch of hot springs, we headed to Lake Yellowstone. This is where the caldera is – below the lake. Along the lakefront there are more hot springs and geysers. We walked around the boardwalk to take a look at the beautiful colors in the water.

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Old Faithful Geyser

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On day 2 and 3 in the park we saw various geysers and hot springs with Old faithful being the most spectacular one. Every 45 minutes the geysers erupts like clockwork. We all got there early to get a place in the front row and waited for the count down. And when it was time the geyser erupted ferociously and faithfully. Awesome.

It amazed adults and kids alike. One of America’s greatest natural wonders!

Firehole Falls

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While we were in Old faithful area we continued further and saw the Firehole falls. We hiked a bit in the area before we headed out of the park towards the West Entrance.

We stayed overnight outside West Entrance and then started for an all day trip to Seattle the following morning. Pre-kids,we all loved Yellowstone national park. Animals, geysers, hot-springs, lake, camping and telling each other stories of bison attack as we walked back to the campsite in the dark. That night it rained and water entered our tents soaking us. Some of slept in the van scared about bear attacks and carbon dioxide poisoning.

If we were to plan now we would probably stay in one of the motel outside the park or in the historic lodges by Old Faithful. It will be a different experience now nevertheless it will still be equally amazing!

Yellowstone National Park: Wildlife

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We were fortunate to spend an evening as well as an early morning in Lamar Valley – it’s the place to be to view wildlife. You will see more than bison’s and deer’s here. Brown bears, coyotes crossing the road, and even foxes.

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We did one trip on our own and then did another one with a guide who had a telescope. We could see a family of wolves only through the telescope.

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And while we were driving, we came across a classic scene. Lots of cars parked along the road, people running with their camera and an excitement in the air. We also ran as we knew this was the biggest attraction in the park – Grizzly bear.

We saw a small cub and were super thrilled that since its mom was not nearby we could go see the cub up close.

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Another such scene is for the elusive Moose and for eagles. Be warned though if there is a ranger asking you not to stop and see the animal, follow his advice. Else you may get a ticket; just as our friend almost did.

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The park is a mecca of animals. To truly see wildlife you have to get up at 5 :00 am and drive out into the valley. The advantage of the guide is that he brings out hot coffee and breakfast along with the telescope. Do plan a trip here especially if you have older kids who will enjoy seeing animals in the wild.

I apologize for the poor photos. They were all taken from the car for the fear of Bisons that were everywhere. The guys had scared me with stories of bison attack. don’t let them put you off from visiting the park. It is a park I want to take Varun when he is a bit older as there is possibly no amusement park that can match what Yellowstone has to offer!

Long Weekend In Yellowstone National Park – Part I

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The year after we went to Crater Lake, we planned a trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Located mostly in Wyoming and a little in Montana, this is THE park to go with family and friends.  Wildlife, geysers, hot water springs, rivers and canyons, lake, fishing and waterfalls, it truly has something for everyone. We  planned a 4 – day road trip from Seattle to Yellowstone over one Fourth of July weekend. And it was yet another EPIC trip!

Planning a Trip to Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is the shape of a number 8. Most attractions are along this loop. Each loop has various entrances. We planned to enter the park via the north entrance in Gardiner and then drive around the loop clockwise starting with Mammoth Hot Springs, Lamar Valley, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone,  Lake Yellowstone and then around to Old Faithful. Our plan was to visit the numerous geysers along the way and exit via the West Yellowstone.

It was going to be a lot of driving but we were young without kids and we were really looking forward to a lot of bears, bisons, elks, moose, dall sheep and more.

Yellowstone loop

Getting to Yellowstone

Yellowstone is about 800 miles from Redmond -it was one long road trip. But its doable in 4 days. We started on Friday evening and had dinner along the way. We stayed overnight somewhere after Missoula. It was a basic motel with a MacDonald’s nearby where we had breakfast.

After breakfast we continued on I-90 and reached Gardiner by noon. We passed under the Roosevelt park and then headed straight to first attraction, Mammoth Hot Springs.

Mammoth Hot Springs

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This was our experience of the active super volcano that is Yellowstone National Park. This active volcano fuels all the thermal activity in the park. Sulphur fumes are in the air and its a unique experience to see the  hot springs bubble, gurgle and smoke all around.

There is a board walk  and its recommended to stick to the boardwalk -its safe that way! The white terraces formed by calcium carbonate deposits are straight out of discovery channel. Algae has tinted these terraces red, brown or orange and its a sight to admire.

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We walked up to take in the hot springs and wondered if there is a place where the hot springs meet cold river water to form natural hot springs to bathe in. There is supposed to be a spot along the river but we didn’t know where it is so we didn’t bother about it. We saw a bunch of bison’s lazing and grazing in the meadows around.

We were in the park only a few hours and we already got to experience hot springs and wildlife. The trip was on to a great start.

We were looking forward to more wildlife in Lamar valley.Stay tuned for next post on wildlife and more wildlife!

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