Monday, September 29, 2014

What do you do on check-out day?

airport check-ins
Oh check-out day. When planning a vacation, most of us don't plan for check-out day. What time is check-out? What time does our flight leave on the last day? What are we doing in between? If we don't plan for it, that last day can be a bit of a downer (and not just because we're heading back home and to reality).

Most flights back to Canada (and some US mainland flights) are red-eye flights, meaning they leave between 9 and 11pm.

Standard condo check-out time is at 11am, and most days our cleaning and sometimes maintenance staff is scheduled to arrive at 11am to prepare the condo for the next guest.

So what do you do about that 'magical' 10-12 hour window where you are homeless with no place to put your luggage? Maybe you are lucky enough to have a rental car with a large trunk, then your luggage is at least not visible to the casual observer (doubtful if you have a convertible and definitely not if you have a jeep). Generally it is not a good idea to keep any valuables in your car though. It just seems to be asking for trouble.

Is there a place you can store your luggage? Not really. I have read on Tripadvisor forums about people wanting to rent a locker at a self-storage place for the day, but I don't know if anyone has actually done it or how it worked. You can't leave it at the condo as there is often another guest checking in that afternoon. The front desk on property does not have storage facilities (nor insurance) to hold onto guests' luggage. I am not aware of any luggage storage at Kahului airport (OGG).

You may be able to get late check-out, but this really depends on the condo's rental schedule, the cleaner's schedule, the maintenance schedule etc. And as an owner I won't commit to late check-out until a few days prior to your check-out when I have a better handle on all the scheduling.

The best bet (and this is what we always did prior to moving to Maui) is to rent the condo for an extra night. So if your flight leaves Monday night, book the condo til Tuesday. Yes, I get it, it's an extra cost. But look at the benefits:

  • you can enjoy your last day and can pack up closer to your flight time
  • no problems storing your luggage (it's at the condo)
  • no need to wear mainland clothes until it's actually time to go to the airport
  • you can shower after a day at the beach or of activities, feeling refreshed and non-cranky prior to heading to the airport
  • a quiet place to rest (especially great with little kids)
Can you book that extra night at half price since you're not staying overnight? Unfortunately no. Our cleaner doesn't do night cleans, so she won't be able to clean until the next morning.

What are some trip ideas for those who don't book an extra night? Well, some guests go for an upcountry drive, up Haleakala (bonus, it's cooler up there, so those mainland clothes won't feel so hot). You could spend a few hours at the Maui Ocean Center (bonus, it's air-conditioned). Even if you've checked out, you can still use the condo's pool (and the public/guest-use bathrooms) for the rest of the day. 

What do you do on your last day? I'd love to hear!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Maui history lessons!

This morning we checked out the Bailey House Museum in Wailuku. All these years of coming to Maui on vacation and then living on Maui, and we had never been here. My son has a research project he's working on, so we thought we'd look to see if we could find some information here. And we did! This would be a great rain-day activity, I'd say!

The Bailey House is officially recognized on both the national and Hawai'i historic place registers. Though small, it has some interesting displays about Maui's history, both 'pre contact' and 'post White contact'. Do check it out - admission is very reasonable, only $7/adult, $2/kids.

a "Pohaku Puka"
I was particularly intrigued with this artifact....
It is called a Pohaku Puka - a 'door stone'. Here is the museum's explanation of its use (copied from the museum's label).

'This stone was used as a means of protecting against housebreaking. Hawaiian houses, called hale, were made of a light framework of wooden poles covered with thatching. The entrance to the hale was about 3 feet in height which required one to enter on hands and knees. The doorway was closed at night by placing a lauhala mat across the opening.

'If the occupant wished to make his hale more secure, he would use the device called the "pohaku puka". This pointed stone was suspended directly over the entrance and connected to a cord stretched across the opening. An intruder who tripped the cord would be dealt a serious, if not fatal blow by the falling stone. (artifact 91-196-0 #0292)

So.... an old-time security system! Neat!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Apple banana ice cream!

We have a small apple banana grove in our back yard. It started with two banana trees, which each had a bunch of bananas, then they had babies (the old ones are cut down).... This week we harvested another bunch of bananas. What to do with all these bananas?

Home-made apple banana ice cream! A number of years ago I found a super yummy and super healthy recipe. And it is EASY.

You cut bananas into bite-sized pieces, lay them on a pan and freeze for a couple hours.

Once frozen solid, you dump them in your blender. I add a little milk to help them blend faster, but you don't need to add it.

Scrape it into a container. Either eat right away - it will be the consistency of soft ice cream - or return to freezer to harden it up a little.

It is remarkably sweet, even though you will have added no sugar (or anything besides a little milk, for that matter). Enjoy! I have not tried this with regular bananas - but I am guessing it would work the same way.

New upscale burger place in Kihei - Cow Pig Bun!

What a name! Cow Pig Bun! But the subtitle hints that this is not quite a 'redneck' establishment - it's 'Burgers & Bourbon'. Odd combination, you say?

A facebook friend posted that he'd been and how amazing the burger was. I was taking our wonderful cleaning lady Cindy for lunch, and so we both decided we were game to try something new! Additionally, it meant new fodder for my blog, so see - this lunch was doubly a write-off for me :)

And it was amazing! This is a very newly opened restaurant - it's been open for a week! And the burger was.... amazing! I had the house burger, which is 'burger on foccacia, gruyere, arugula, garlic aioli and caramelized onion'. It also came with a little dish of bacon jam and pork rind crisps. Since the Maui Brewing Company's brand-new (not yet open) facility is just across the road, I had to have their Big Swell IPA to go with my burger. Fantastic meal. The lunch menu is currently limited, but service was good, food great, I'll be back!

my house burger with foccacia bread and yes, those are pork rind crisps.
Where to find it? Cow Pig Bun is located in the Maui Tech Park off of Lipoa. The Maui Tech Park is notoriously unlabeled and things are difficult to find. But when you're driving up the hill, you'll see a black glass building on the left (the new Maui Brewing Company is right next to it - you can't miss their silos). Pull into that parking lot and walk in the front door, it's right there.

Also, in googling it, I discovered something else.... This new restaurant is located where Cafe Carmen used to be (Cafe Carmen is no more).

Cafe Carmen has this to say about Cow Pig Bun:

Introducing, Cow Pig Bun.
When anyone mentions burgers on Maui, one name will immediately come to mind. Cow Pig Bun. while the island can't agree on the politics - or the best Italian restaurant for that matter, the general consensus will be that this is the best burger. 
CPB uses chuck steak and liberally salts the meat so the thick grilled patty releases a gush of flavor with each bite. The house burger is served on a grilled rosemary-scented focaccia, generously slathered with garlic aioli, accompanied by upcountry arugula, Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and house made balsamic glaze. The burger can be ordered with Mountain Gorgonzola, grilled onions or portobello mushrooms, but why mess with perfection.
After years of managing some of Maui's best restaurants and coming off an amazing year with the opening of Hawaii's Best New Restaurant 'Ka'ana Kitchen'. Restaurant Manager/Wine Director Greg Shepherd is on to a new adventure with us. You might think - Oh another burger joint, but not all burgers are created equal, especially those at Cow Pig Bun. The new pub is the most casual of Shepherd's career ventures, offering a sort of American gastro pub dining experience with a more refined food menu and a unique twist on classic bourbon cocktails.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Oktoberfest 2014!

I promised you Oktoberfest information! 

Here's the first event for 2014 I've come across - I'll post more as I find them.

The Pacific Cancer Foundation is hosting their 5th annual Oktoberfest on Saturday, October 18, 2014 between 4-8pm at..... drumroll.....

the Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery!

aerial view of Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery
Have you ever been up there? Well, this is as good a reason as any to go (plus the fact of course that it's a fundraiser). Absolutely gorgeous bi-coastal views.

Great beer (Maui Brewing Company is sponsoring the event), live music and great food! You better pack your dirndl and lederhosen!

Buy your tickets online for $37.74 or by calling the Pacific Cancer Foundation at 808.242.7661. The number of tickets is capped at 200.

Where did Kihei's Calvary Chapel go?

Calvary Chapel has for years rented the long house at the Aston Maui Lu in North Kihei. However, recently the Maui Lu was sold. I am told the plan is to tear it down and start over.

So what happened to Calvary Chapel? As of Sunday September 7th they are now sharing a building with Kihei's Baptist Chapel at 1655 S Kihei Road. Calvary Chapel's service is at 8AM Sunday mornings. Yes, a bit early - but, on the plus side - you can hit the beach before lunch!

For more information check out their webpage! FYI Kihei Baptist Chapel has bumped its church service back to 10:30AM with Sunday school taking place before.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

happy FOUR year anniversary to us!

Wednesday marks four years since we closed escrow on both our Sugar Beach #104 and Kihei Surfside #405 condos. I can't believe it's been four years! Within the following four months we also closed on our Maui Kamaole I-103 and Palms at Wailea 503 condos.

As many of you know, we used to be dairy farmers in Chilliwack BC, Canada. Never heard of Chilliwack? It's an 80,000 person town with a lot of agriculture (dairy, chickens, nursery trees, blueberries etc) along the TransCanada highway, just 5 miles away from the US/Canada border (1 1/2 hour drive east of Vancouver).

our old farm back in Chilliwack!
After doing much paperwork, obtaining green cards and selling our farm, we moved to sunny Kihei where we had discovered Sig was free from his Reynaud's symptoms. The question became - okay, now that we're here, now what? You can't just move to a vacation destination and be on permanent vacation? We needed an income and something to keep us busy!

Sig has for years had a love affair with real estate. His uncle in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada) owns rental apartments and taught Sig the value of owning real estate. For years every time we came to Maui Sig would check out vacation rental open houses, researching, talking and dreaming about buying one. But the timing and the market was not right. As we stayed in vacation rentals, we talked about what we would do differently, the many pros and cons to owning a vacation rental property. What - there are cons? Sure there are - how about this one: we are letting complete strangers stay in our rather expensive condos, hoping that they don't trash the place! So far so lucky (thank you!!!)

When we moved here, this was our chance to get into the business! We had a few objectives:
  • buy ocean view condos (after all, our website says Maui Oceanview Condos)
  • provide renters with a better product than the competition
  • pay the bills and, better yet, make a modest living off the condos
How did we do with our objectives? All four of our condos have an ocean view, Kihei Surfside is a direct ocean front property (oh my goodness, what a view), while Maui Kamaole and Palms at Wailea present an ocean view from a distance. Our Sugar Beach condo is on an ocean front property with a sliver of an ocean view.

walking the 5 mile beach past our Sugar Beach condo

How about providing renters with a better product? We had noticed that having an absentee landlord often means little maintenance and poor cleaning. Have I ever mentioned my husband is a perfectionist? He has a rigorous maintenance program, in fact he has a spreadsheet of all the tasks that need doing monthly/quarterly/semi-annually and follows through with them. We also listen to guest and cleaner comments and personally check the condos, fixing and replacing items as soon as we notice.

Our cleaner Cindy is fantastic. She is incredibly detail-oriented and it shows! Our reviews and guest book entries have a recurring theme: "the condo was so clean!" Why would guests comment on cleanliness? Is this not something that is expected? Well, yes, I would expect a vacation rental condo to be thoroughly cleaned, but sadly that is often not the case. We are very thankful for Cindy and her crew.

I love the beautiful Mediterranean look of Palms at Wailea
How about paying those bills? Well, so far the condos are paying for themselves and yes, providing us with a modest living.

What has been the biggest surprise? For me it has been how much I am enjoying this job. In fact, I love my job. I get to deal with happy people! Think of it - people are planning their vacation! Typically this is an exciting and fun-filled time for them. They are happy when they come, and almost always leave happy. Yes, we've had a few cases where things went wrong - such as when the A/C failed or the freezer failed. Thankfully our guests were gracious as we scrambled to fix things. Being on-island landlords has given us the opportunity to jump into action rather than relying on property managers to do the work for us. As I always tell our guests: "we are just a 5-10 minute drive away from the condo. Let us know if there's a problem and we will deal with it!"

Would we do it again? What would you say if I told you Sig is eyeing another property? Well, it's somewhere in the future, but for now, it would appear we are in this for the long haul!

gorgeous Keawakapu beach - within walking distance
of our Kihei Surfside, Palms at Wailea and Maui Kamaole condos
To all our wonderful guests and repeat guests who have stayed in our condos the first four years - a big thank you to you! Thank you for booking our condos, trusting us with your vacations, and taking such good care of our condos. As a side note - in the first four years we have not once had to withhold the refundable security deposit, refunding it within a week or two of every guest's check-out. A big mahalo for that!

Here's to a fantastic fifth year of vacation renting!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

First humpback whale sighting of the season!

The first humpback whale for the season has been spotted off the coast of Kauai. Every year humpback whales (adults are the size of a school bus) migrate from their cold water feeding grounds in Alaskan waters to Hawai'i. They will spend an average of 6 weeks in our warm waters to breed and calve. During their journey and time here they do not feed, instead waiting to return to their favorite krill at their feeding grounds off Alaska.

Can you imagine not eating for a few months?

Humpback whales do not all arrive at the same time. While you typically see a few outliers in late September and October, the majority of humpbacks arrive between November and April, with February and March being the most favored months. In February and March it is literally 'whale soup' in the warm Maui water (between Maui, Kaho'olawe, Lanai and Molokai) - you really can see them jumping and splashing from shore (if you know what you're looking for).

What else do you need to know? Humpback whales are endangered and it is against the law to approach a humpback whale. By law you need to stay at least 100 yards away from humpbacks (this applies to all boaters, swimmers, kayakers, divers, ocean users in general). Of course, a humpback may approach you. If one does, if you are in a boat, turn the engine off immediately, if you're in a kayak etc, hold on (to your kayak) tight!

It truly is a magical experience to watch these giant animals!

Picture from my 'best whale watch ever' in February 2013 with Pacific Whale Foundation. In this picture a pod of 6 adult males is swimming directly to the boat, they then dove under the boat in unison (it was like synchronized swimming), coming up on the other side of the boat. On this tour our boat sat still while a pod of 9 males showed off for a few females. It was a truly remarkable experience!

Monday, September 15, 2014

There's no beer in Hawaii!!!

Do you know the German song, 'Es gibt kein Bier in Hawaii' (there is no beer in Hawaii)? Austrian folk music singer Andy Borg sings a great version of it. I get a real kick out of it - because well, I like Austrian folk music and.... there is LOTS of beer in Hawaii! So don't worry about it!

Check out the first part of the video, and in case you don't speak German, here is a loose translation of it:

Marianne is my girlfriend,
we've been engaged for years.
She would love to have me as her husband
and has threatened to sue for it.
The wedding would have happened long ago
if it weren't for the honeymoon
because she wants to go to Hawaii
but I just can't go because.... 

There is no beer in Hawaii, 
there is no beer!
So I'll never go to Hawaii,
I will stay here.
It is too hot in Hawaii,
no place to cool off
And hula alone won't quench your thirst.

Still worried despite my claim otherwise? Here is a blog with some of Hawaii's beers. And yes, you can get many US mainland beers and even some European beers here. You can even buy some of them in bulk at Costco!

You can also celebrate Oktoberfest on Maui! I'll post info on the various Oktoberfest options once I find it, so check back! Brigit & Bernard's Garden Cafe in Kahului (Swiss-German restaurant in an industrial part of Kahului) is always a safe bet for Oktoberfest celebrations and good German food!

Checked bag fees now also on Westjet

Ahhh Westjet, the airline so many Canadians love to love.

We knew it was bound to happen, but it still doesn't sit well.... Westjet announced today they too will be joining the ranks of those airlines charging guests for that first checked piece of luggage. This $25 fee will apply to all flights within Canada and between Canada and the US.