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.”
So 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.
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
We’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.
We 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.
We 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.
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.
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.