Sunday Photo: My First Maui Photo

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Photos

My First Maui Photo

Taken by Kris Nelson on May 30th, 2006
Location: Sheraton Maui Resort, Ka’anapali

It’s really hard to believe that it was only 3 years ago yesterday that we set foot on the island of Maui for the very first time. It feels like we’ve had the Aloha Spirit and the magic of the Valley Isle in our hearts for so much longer than that, but alas the calendar doesn’t lie.

For our “Maui Anniversary”, as @Ucsmiles put it, I decided to hunt down and post the very first photo I ever took on Maui for our Sunday Photo this week. So, here it is. It may not be exuding Maui like a beautiful waterfall or a sandy beach would, but for Cindy and I, the view in this picture sparks the recollection of so many great moments and wonderful memories that keep us longing to return to our favorite island paradise. It’s the view from our lanai at the Sheraton on the very first evening of the very first day of the rest of our Maui-enriched lives.

The Story Behind the Photo

I’ve probably told parts of this story here and there through various blog posts in the past year and a half, but since I’m sharing this particular photo this week, I decided to throw it out there again in it’s entirety.

It was back in the early part of 2006, and we were planning and budgeting every nickel and dime we could afford to get us to Maui. At the time, we had no idea we were about to fall head-over-heels in love with Maui, and that it would change our lives forever. Cindy’s aunt and uncle were seasoned veterans with this heaven on Earth, and their own location of choice was the Royal Lahaina Resort just north of Black Rock in Ka’anapali. They were the ones that scoped out the Sheraton, among many others in the area, and made the recommendation that “this was the place for us.”

Hale O Ka Moana SignSo it had been decided, the Sheraton it was. We made the reservations, and opted for the ocean front rooms in what we later found out to be called the “Hale O Ka Moana” building. With Hale, meaning ‘house’ and Moana, meaning ‘ocean’, you knew these views had to be good. Admittedly, we never did a lot of research into the grounds of the Sheraton prior to our trip, or about the Ka’anapali area as a whole. We didn’t know what Black Rock was, or about the cliff diving ceremony. We’d heard Cindy’s aunt and uncle talk about the walking path along the beach, but we weren’t expecting to find Whalers Village so close and to be such a great place to shop.

After all, it was only our second true vacation as husband and wife, so I never really thought to look into those types of things.

Our Arrival

So, after things were booked and the countdown to our vacation was over, we were on our way. I’d like to say that the direct flight to Kahului from Chicago just flew by, but those who have made similar flights know that’s just not the case. We were a little worn out from travelling all day, but that feeling didn’t last much longer. As soon as we started our final approach to the airport, the first visions of palm trees, those amazing mountains, and the sparkling ocean came into view through that little window. That was just the small start of a turnaround in our spirits that latest the rest of the evening.

We made our way off the plane, got our bags, and waited for the shuttle to take us to the car rental area. Feeling the trade winds rush by and watching all the palm trees sway above us around the airport parking area was the next part of magic that started infecting our spirits. We had a bit of a wait at the rental counter, but that didn’t dampen our mood at that point. With some sketchy directions from the nice man behind the counter, we had our car keys and a map and were on the road.

The First Drive

Papawai LookoutWe’re veterans now of that drive from Kahului to Ka’anapali along Hwy 30, but I still remember the feeling of awe we had that first drive. The winding roads heading west towards Ma’alaea, those amazing views, the tunnel, seeing cars parked at the Papawai lookout, the view of the West Maui mountains towering into the sky right in front of you. It was starting to get to us, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. After what had become a long and taxing travel day started to feel like a dream. Maybe it wasn’t real and we had dozed off on the plane and we really were just dreaming.

Closer to Lahaina, and even passed town, there are parts of Hwy 30 that literally go right up to the ocean. There are concrete dividers, much like those used in highway construction back home, that do their best to keep the water from the roads, but that’s really it. When we were passing those areas for the first time, we couldn’t believe our eyes. I, being focused on the road, was listening to Cindy’s cries of disbelief of what she was seeing, and I was hearing emotions in her voice that rivaled those of our wedding day.

Aloha, Sheraton

Path to Scenic LookoutWe made it to the Sheraton Maui Resort on the first try without getting lost (which is rare for me). As we pulled up to the front lobby for check-in, we were greeted with fresh flower leis that were so beautiful we wish we could have kept them forever. While we checked in, the bell hop took care of our bags by loading them up on a golf cart. We hadn’t thought much about it at the time, but it was because the Hale O Ka Moana building is actually on the other side of Black Rock. That meant driving to the back of the resort, to where we followed this nice fellow in the golf cart.

The bell hop unloaded our bags onto the luggage cart while we parked the car, and he led us up to our room. By know, we were just about speechless because we were starting to see some of the greenery and flowers around this part of the Sheraton for the first time. No kids running around, no crowds, everything was just so peaceful.

The Moment

Our LanaiWe get to our room and the bell hop opens the door for us. The first thing we see is a view like the one to the right. The bright sunshine rushing through the curtains, the top of a giant palm tree, two chairs on the lanai, and nothing else but clear, blue ocean. That was pretty much it for us as far as holding back our emotions.

We raced towards the lanai while the kind bell hop started unloading the luggage cart and putting the bags on the bed for us. I think both of us completely forgot he was there, which I’m sure was a reaction he and the other staff got a lot from first time guests like ourselves. That first deep breath of the ocean air from our lanai was more intoxicating than the best Mai Tai’s on the island.

I turned around just in time to see that the bell hop was almost done, so I came back inside to give him his tip. He tried giving me directions on how to walk back to the lobby from this side of the resort, which I was barely able to focus on, and then he was off on his way. By the time I made it back on the lanai to rejoin Cindy, it was too late. Her eyes were welling up, so mine started right along with hers. We couldn’t believe how beautiful everything was, and that we had come so far that day, and in our lives, to be witnessing this magic for ourselves.

The Photo

So, after we had a moment to collect ourselves, it was time to freshen up after that long day of travelling, and to go find something to eat. Part of me thought a good, cool splash of water on the face might have awaken any bit of disbelief we might have been experiencing at that moment, but it was all real. While Cindy was getting ready, that’s when I tore open my luggage to get to my camera. I snapped what would end up being my first Maui photo ever, and although it’s not going to be hanging in any galleries anytime soon, it has all that special meaning for us as being the start of a beautiful love affair with Maui.

Talk Story

So that’s it, the story behind this photo. Our lives, much like the ones of many others before us and since then, were forever changed by the experiences of that first trip to Maui. Each time we arrive at Kahului airport, there is that sense of magic, but it’s never going to equal that feeling we had on our first trip.

Do you remember your reactions when visiting Maui for the first time? Silly question, I guess. Well, share them with us, as we know we’re not the only ones that have been struck hard by the magic of Maui over the years, and we’d love to hear your stories, too.

- Kris


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About Kris

Kris and his wife Cindy are avid Maui fans, and have visited the island half a dozen times since '06. Over the years, they have made many friends living on Maui or through social media, which keeps them in touch with the island until they can return again.

View all posts by Kris


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5 Responses to “Sunday Photo: My First Maui Photo”

  1. robertkudla Says:

    Kris, as always great story (for a techie you are a great storyteller). You are to West Maui as we are to South Maui. We have been to Maui 12 times now and we always find something new, (inexpensive, and fun to do.

    If you have a good Black Rock photo, Tweet me with it. I want to try and get you a water color for your enjoyment. I perused your photo gallery, the closest I liked from Flickr is the 7th one down.

  2. Jocelyn Says:

    Hi Kris -

    This is a great story! Thanks for sharing. You always have such wonderful things to say about our resort, so mahalo for your continued support.

    Keep the photos and the stories coming!


    Public Relations Manager
    Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa

  3. Cindy O Says:

    Aloha Kris,
    Beautiful love story between you and Maui!! What storyteller indeed:)
    Of course I enjoy your blog and especially your photos. Mahalo!

    Malama Pono,
    Cindy O

  4. Sheralyn Says:

    I love your post!

    We feel the same way about Maui… honestly, when we were first married, we had plans to travel all over the world… but now that we've been to Maui, that's the only place we want to go! It's just heavenly there, and we are completely in love with Maui too!

    We've stayed at the Royal Lahaina Resort, and just loved it… of course, the Sheraton looks awesome too… it's nice that the two resorts are so close to Black Rock and great snorkeling!

  5. Kris Nelson Says:

    Mahalo all for your comments.

    @robertkudla – I've always enjoyed writing and telling stories, which is why I enjoy blogging so much. A short aside, instead of a full 4 year college, I went to what is now DeVry University for my CIS degree. While there, I did manage to sign up for a creative writing class, of which I was one of only 3 students. By the end of the semester, I was the only one left. :)

    Very interested in your watercolor offer. I have more than a few Black Rock photos on Flickr that I'll shoot over your way. Cindy and I met another Maui painter this last trip, too (friend of the family) and we had a really good time seeing some of his work and hearing about how a painter works their craft.

    @Jocelyn – Mahalo for having such a beautiful resort and being so involved with Maui fans via social media. You should probably thank Cindy's aunt and uncle, too, for suggesting the Sheraton to us in the first place even though they personally swear by the Royal Lahaina. Tough to really argue for any one particular resort in West Maui since it's such a beautiful area, but you really can't get much better than Black Rock in our opinion. Those ocean front rooms away from the beach and the rest of the resort are certainly a hidden gem.

    @Cindy O – Mahalo. I love telling this story just as much as I love reliving it. Maui totally swept us off our feet when we least expected it, and the affair continues each time we visit. Can't wait to someday give the island a chance to be our home. Having friends like you and the rest of the gang as a welcoming committee is such a big plus as well. Hope we get to meet up again in September.

    @Sheralyn – Mahalo, and welcome to the blog. We're right there with you in your thinking that Maui is No Ka Oi. We're not world travelers, but with the beauty of Maui in our hearts, we're more than content.

    If you haven't seen it yet, here's one of the photos we took while we were walking through the Royal Lahaina along the boardwalk north of Black Rock.
    Sunday Photo: Royal Lahaina Resort

    I mentioned that Cindy's aunt and uncle swear by the Royal Lahaina, and we keep talking about booking a trip together with each of us staying at our respective favorites and then swapping half way through. We're confident that they would fall in love with the Sheraton, too. :)

    If you find yourself planning another trip to Maui and want some of the inside scoop on the Sheraton, let us know.

    Mahalo again, everyone. We love hearing from all of you.

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