Nate’s Birthday Getaway to Dog Beach

Do you ever just need to get out of town? After the excitement of Christmas passed, Shannon and I began to get antsy. So, we decided at the last-minute to pack up the car and take the dog on a two-day trip to the beach for my birthday.

North of Huntington Beach, CA, there is the world-famous Dog Beach, one of the few places anywhere in the country where a dog is free to runaround leash-free on the beach and splash or swim in the waves. Maverick is a huge fan of swimming, so we wondered how he would like the ocean.

December 30, 2009: Nate’s Birthday
We found a room at the pet-friendly Balboa Inn in Newport Beach, notified everyone that my birthday plans had changed, and hit the road. Maverick slept in the back of the SUV for most of the way. When we stopped for a bathroom break and snack at In-n-Out, Maverick got out to run around and have a bathroom break of his own.

We arrived in Huntington Beach in time for an afternoon stroll along the beach (no dogs allowed on the pier?) and a late lunch at Wahoo’s. I picked up a new beanie and my first pair of Sanuks at the local surf shop before we loaded up again for the quick drive down to Newport Beach.

The Balboa Inn is right on the beach near the pier on the peninsula. Our room was beyond small but perfect for the three of us. It began to rain as we arrived, so we spent the rest of the afternoon reading in bed (and in Maverick’s case, napping on the floor).

As dinnertime neared, the rain let up, and we all got in the car for a quick trip south to dinner in Corona del Mar at Bandera. My dad, sister, and step-mom met up with us for my birthday dinner. We shared a couple bottles of merlot and plates of roasted chicken, ribs, pork tenderloin, lamb, skillet cornbread, and plenty of sides. Well, I never did get a bite of Thayer’s lamb sandwich…guess it was really good. Honestly, we were all beyond full, but I had heard the banana dessert was amazing, so we all shared one. And it was.

After dinner, everyone came to the car to meet Maverick before we said good-bye and drove back to the inn.

As we pulled in, the air was still and the moonlight cast a dim, silver light on the beach. Maverick, Shannon, and I enjoyed a peaceful night walk along the beach path and even ventured onto the sand for a bit where Maverick happily discovered a buried ping-pong ball. We slept with the window open that night and made sure not to set an alarm.

December 31, 2009
I awoke to a cold, foggy New Year’s eve morning and a dog happy to see someone else was up. After throwing on jeans and a hoodie, Maverick and I headed down to the beach for some frisbee in the fog. It took him awhile to realize he couldn’t run to catch the frisbee quite as quickly in the sand as he could at home on the grass.

After our morning game of frisbee, everyone was ready for breakfast, and on the last morning of 2009, that meant pastry and coffee.

When I was growing up in Corona del Mar, the neighborhood bakery was C’est Si Bon. My sisters, my parents, and I had all told Shannon about it, but she had never been. Sadly, the Corona del Mar location has long been closed, but the original store in Newport Beach is still going strong. Though they don’t have as extensive a menu as they did when I was a kid, I am happy to report C’est Si Bon still has great pastry. We shared croissants, cinnamon rolls, and an apple walnut roll. We took a couple more croissants to-go and picked up an almond croissant to take back to my mom in Las Vegas.

We then met up one last time with my dad, step-mom, and sister for coffee at Peet’s, and headed up the coast highway for the day’s main attraction: Dog Beach.

Suffice it to say, New Year’s Eve 2009 may have been the best day of Maverick’s life. Dog Beach is over a mile of beautiful, flat, sandy coastline where dogs happily run free chasing frisbees and tennis balls on the beach and in the water. For over an hour, Maverick raced other dogs to catch the balls Shannon through in the water. He and I swam together through the whitewash. And after a quick water break, he was ready to do it all over again.

As the day came to an end, we dropped Maverick off at Petsmart for some grooming while Shannon and I went to Wahoo’s a second time. On the drive back, we stopped at In-n-Out again for dinner, but this time Maverick was less interested in running around to stretch his legs and more interested in returning to the car to continue his nap. We arrive back home at 11 p.m., just enough time to unpack and watch the fireworks go off before falling asleep for the first time in 2010.

Day 6: Best Day of the Trip!

What a great day!

We slept in, ate breakfast, and packed up for the rest of the day: beach, massages at the Grand Wailea, and a sunset dinner at Nick’s Fishmarket.

We returned our snorkel gear and spent an hour relaxing at Kapalua Bay, this time with a prime spot on the beach under a palm tree. We picked up a quick snack for the road at the Honolua store (an amazingly awesome pineapple smoothie and Maui onion rings) and dropped by Barnes & Noble for new books along the way to Wailea.

The Grand Wailea is huge. It has a better beach and better waterslide than the Hyatt, but otherwise we were surprised that we actually liked the Hyatt better.

Like the hotel, the spa was huge. This was only the third spa Shannon and I have ever seen, but it was easily three times larger than either of the other two.

In addition to the usual roman bath, steam, and sauna, they also have a cold plunge pool (my favorite) and a Japanese furo pool (my new favorite). If that weren’t enough, they also have five different mineral baths designed to detox, heal skin, soothe soreness, etc. I especially appreciated, since I’m new to all this, that they had cards explaining every treatment and guiding you through the process.

After an hour in the spa, we had our couples massage, which was amazing and felt especially good on my legs, which were weary from months of training for the marathon coming up this Saturday. Feeling absolutely wonderful, we showered, changed, and took a short drive to Nick’s Fishmarket.

Hawaii has incredibly great seafood, and Nick’s is one of the best. Thanks to the hotel concierge, we had a sunset view on the patio. We shared drinks and three courses. The highlights: a dumpling stuffed with kalua pork in a pineapple sauce, sea scallops more flavorful than any I’ve ever had, fresh fish caught that afternoon, and one of the top five desserts of my life: a caramel soufflé with berries, creme fraiche, and a scoop of Lappert’s vanilla bean ice cream.

And just as we were eating dessert, the sun dropped below the horizon and they lit the torches. Perfect.

Day 5: Snorkeling in Kapalua

I foolishly scheduled our vacation the same week as the quarterly board meeting for the Episcopal Chaplaincy at Harvard, so my morning started giving a financial report on a conference call while Shannon was downstairs relaxing by the pool.

Afterward, I did my training run, and then we headed out for the day’s main activity: snorkeling. Now it’s hard to believe, but up until that point, we hadn’t been in the ocean yet.

We got a little lost but thanks to some help from the guy at Snorkel Bob’s, we got our gear and found Kapalua Bay.

I love Kapalua Bay (photo below). It’s the first beach without waves that I genuinely enjoy.

The water was warm and clear though visibility didn’t go very far. We had a good time snorkeling and saw plenty of fish but no turtles. It was Shannon’s first time snorkeling, and she did great. She, of course swears she saw a shark (I think it was an un-puffed puffer fish).

Afterward, we relaxed on the beach and floated in the water close to shore.

For lunch, we found the Honolua store. Kapalua used to be one big pineapple plantation, and the Honolua store was built in the 1920s as a general store. Today, they have a lunch counter, espresso bar, grocery store, and gift shop. It’s all very cute, and there’s a little porch area with picnic tables overlooking the golf course (sorry, I forgot to take pictures).

After our late lunch, we did a little more time by the pool and decided to have dinner at the hotel for a change since it was already late.

Shannon had an amazing mixed grill with six different kinds of seafood, and I got to have some really outstanding sushi. It was nice that the restaurant, Cascades, had both classic dishes and sushi since Shannon doesn’t like sushi.

Photo below: Kapalua Bay

Day 4: Back to Basics

With our failure to find adventure the previous day still fresh in memory, we returned to basics Saturday: lazing by the pool.

After my morning run (the St. George marathon is only a week away) and breakfast, we headed to the pool for a quick snorkel lesson, and then I began a monster Harry Potter reading session. I love how I can sit at the pool at these places, and the waitress brings drinks, lunch, and snacks (nachos!) all-day without me having to move from my seat.

As I was saying, a monster Harry Potter session. From Thursday to today, three days, I flew through the 759 pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The last battle is amazing and will be even better on screen, I’m sure.

We finished the day with a surprisingly affordable dinner at a Thai restaurant in Lahaina and came back to the room. After Shannon fell asleep reading her second book, I finally reached the end of Harry Potter.

Photos below: the view from breakfast and Nate reading Harry Potter by the pool.

Day 3: Road to Huh?

Shannon planned Day 2, so Day 3 was my choice.

The guide books said that the Road to Hana was a must: a long drive through a lush rainforest. “Stop often, look at the beautiful views, swim in pools under waterfalls, and breath in the smells of guava and Ginger,” they said. Plus, I had seen the Kipuhulu part of Haleakala National Park on Discovery Channel, where there are a series of pools and waterfalls you can swim in that come down from the mountain and feed into the ocean.

Well I don’t know what road they were talking about, but that wasn’t the drive we did. It was three hours before we saw our first real waterfall (pic below) and we only saw one other really good one later between Hana and Kipuhulu. And the views were okay but definitely not worth the drive.

Still, there were the pools and waterfalls at Kipuhulu. Oh wait, except they close off the pools and waterfalls to swimmers when there is rain on top of the mountain because a flood of water can rush down the mountain and has killed more than a few people in the past. So basically, it was too dry for us to see waterfalls but too wet to going swimming? Huh?

We managed to grab some good fish tacos at a roadside stand, but otherwise the ride home was as unremarkable as the ride out (at least, that’s what Shannon tells me. I fell asleep half-way from home.)

Thankfully, we left so early we got back to the hotel in time to spend most of the afternoon by the pool drinking lava flows, getting back to how Harry and Hermione were going to find You-Know-Who’s Horcruxes, and forgetting what a lame morning we had on the Road to Hana.

Pictures below: View from Road to Hana, Waterfall #1, Waterfall #2, Oheo Gulch at Kipuhulu in Haleakala National Park

Day 2: Relaxing by the Pool

The day started off late with a 5-mile run and a buffet breakfast overlooking a waterfall. Thankfully, breakfast is available until 11:00 at the Hyatt.

I had fresh papaya, pineapple, and a banana with eggs benedict and oatmeal. Shannon had an omelet, pancakes, and crepes. Everything was delicious.

We spent the rest of the day by the pool reading and relaxing. The pool is the perfect temperature, not too chlorinated, and beautiful. They even have a tube slide. For a mid-afternoon snack poolside, we shared a great mahi mahi sandwich and Shannon had a lava flow. She said it was the best she’s ever had.

Late in the afternoon, we headed down to the spa to shower before dinner. Unfortunately, neither of us were really impressed with the Spa Moana facillities.

But dinner at Cheeseburger in Paradise was exactly what we were looking for: good burgers and brews at a casual place for a decent price. The onion rings were only okay, but the live music and ocean-front location were really nice.

To finish out the day, we made a quick stop at Scoops for some Lampert’s ice cream before heading back to catch the season premiere of the Office.

Aloha! We made it!

Our flight was an hour late taking off, but we made it!

Did you know that U.S Airways now charges $2 for a soda???

The good news is since Alamo was out of mid-size cars, we got upgraded to a full-size for free.

The ride to Kaanapali was nice, and the Hyatt Regency is beautiful. At first glance, Maui is the exact opposite of Kauai. Whereas Kauai is rural and sparsely populated, we saw a Krispy Kreme, Costco, and Carl’s Jr. minutes after leaving the airport. But it looks just as beautiful if not more so.

The hotel is covered in waterfalls and gardens and is right on the beach.We walked around a bit after dinner, and it looks like we are in for a great week.

On our way to Maui

Well, the alarm went off at 4:00 a.m, we showered and finished packing, and made it to the airport with no problems.

Tip: If you’re a Las Vegas local, try the RTC’s new airport parking at the South Station Transfer Terminal. Instead of paying by the day, the parking is free and you only pay $1.25 for the shuttle to/from the airport. It was really easy and only took us 5 minutes more compared to long-term parking.