Hello friends! This is my first blog post as Elizabeth Baldridge, and I have so much to update here. I've had a really hard time deciding where to start in terms of catching up on posts--my long overdue East and West Coast bachelorette parties recap? Thoughts on being a married lady? Wedding details? But I've decided that since we don't have our professional photos back yet from the wedding (it takes a few weeks), and because this blog started first and foremost as a travel blog, I am going to start with HAWAII!
To read a little bit on why we picked Hawaii (and specifically why we decided not to take our dogs on our honeymoon), read this post. Also, as heads up, this is going to be a lengthy post. A big part of this is so that I can preserve all the memories and details for myself to look back on, so apologies in advance!
After the best day ever on August 4 (our wedding) and one extra day seeing our friends and family after the wedding, we jetted to the island of Maui just about 36 hours after tying the knot. We spent the first few days of our honeymoon in the southwestern part of Maui, called Wailea. The "A" on the map below shows you which part of the island it is:
Backing up a little bit, we flew Hawaiian Air to Maui and it set the best tone for our trip! Hawaiian is so much fun to fly because it's all themed around the islands which really gets you in the spirit for your upcoming vacation. They serve delicious Hawaiian food (a full meal on each over-ocean flight, even in economy) and a complimentary rum punch drink upon landing. This is in no way sponsored by them, I was just really impressed! When they offered the rum punch, Grace and I made a rule that for the whole trip, anytime we were offered a tropical drink or champagne because it was our honeymoon, we had to accept! We ended up following that rule many times :)
Once we landed in Maui, we headed to our first hotel of the trip: the warm, welcoming, and exquisite Hotel Wailea. I had high expectations going in--Hotel Wailea is part of the Relais & Chateaux hotel group, which has really high standards for members; it's always in the Travel & Leisure top 100 hotels in the world; and it's been ranked #1 hotel in Hawaii by Condé Nast. Even knowing all of that, we were blown away. Everywhere we stayed was amazing, but Hotel Wailea was our favorite for sure, and I'm so glad it was our first stop!
We also loved that the hotel is adults-only and has only about 70 rooms, which are all suites. It just really elevated the experience (though everywhere else we stayed was kid-friendly and those places were great, too--it was just nice to start our honeymoon in such a tranquil environment).
Walking in felt cinematic and somehow one of the most memorable moments of the whole honeymoon: we stepped out of our taxi from the airport and were instantly greeted by hotel staff. Beautiful fresh flower leis were placed around our necks. Glasses of champagne appeared in our hands. An ocean breeze flowed across the open-air lobby and flower petals scattered across our feet. We glided to the check-in and couldn't help laughing out loud just in amazement at it all. The hotel felt quiet, though we knew most of the rooms were booked--the way the property is laid out makes it feel like you're the only people staying there. It really was the PERFECT first place to soak in the fact that we were now newlyweds.
Then we got to our room and it got even better.
Because we'd told them it was our honeymoon, a couple of hours after checking in we got a knock on our door and a bottle of champagne was delivered as a welcome gift, complete with a sweet note to "the Baldridges"! We sat out on our lanai and enjoyed it along with some taro chips and salsas, guac, and hummus.
We decided to keep it low-key that first day and just check out the hotel grounds (there are several acres of it) and then go to dinner at the hotel restaurant.
The dinner at the restaurant hotel was one of our favorites of the entire trip. As soon as we sat down, we were brought two glasses of champagne because it was our honeymoon. I feel like we could have bathed with all the champagne we were given at Hotel Wailea!
Part of the criteria to be a Relais & Chateaux member hotel is that all the members have to have a great restaurant on the property. Hotel Wailea's, just called The Restaurant, did not disappoint. We got delicious oysters, a tomato and burrata salad with a crostini, king crab pasta (SO good), and diver scallops. I also got a bright pink dragonfruit drink (pictured below). It looks like it would be crazy sweet, but it was light and refreshing--it's really just the natural color of the fruit that makes it so neon! For dessert, we had the "orchard sweets", which was a mango bar with coconut and some kind of fried topping. Everything was perfect. I couldn't have imagined a better first day + dinner to start our honeymoon!
The next morning we woke up and ordered breakfast to our room! I loved how they would come and set it out on our lanai with a white tablecloth. It was so deliciously decadent :)
I got the avocado toast, and Grace got the French toast. I feel like whenever we go out for breakfast, Grace gets something sweet and I get something salty! That's kind of our personalities, haha. We also got a big French press of Maui coffee. I'm not a coffee drinker but I tried it and even I have to admit it was delicious. Definitely the best coffee I'd ever had. I got an iced tea which was also great.
Hotel Wailea is up in the hills of Wailea (which is why you get such great views), but you can't just walk outside and go to the beach. But, the nice thing is that it's only a 5 minute drive to the beach. And the staff at the hotel will give complimentary rides down to the beach any time you want in one of their butterfly door Teslas!
Then when we were ready to come back, we'd just call and they'd pick us up in 5 minutes. They will actually take you to and pick you up from any location in Wailea, which we took advantage of--such a nice perk of staying there!
Once you get down to the beach. Hotel Wailea has its own strip of lounge chairs with attendants on site who will lay out fresh towels for you, give you cold bottles of water, and call the car service to come get you.
We headed down to the beach in the morning after getting our first breakfast of the trip. It was such a beautiful day! But, with Hurricane Hector getting nearer to the islands (more on that in my next recap), the surf was ROUGH. We got knocked down really hard within minutes of trying to swim, so we ended up just lounging and reading mostly.
After a couple of hours on the beach, we decided to walk down to the Shops at Wailea and got lunch at Longhi's. There, my life was forever changed when I had THE BEST tuna melt of all time. I am a tuna melt gal so I always have to sample them wherever I am--and this one was unreal. It was made with fresh catch albacore, not canned, and was so over-the-top good I couldn't even believe it. Grace got a fresh catch piece of fish as well.
After lunch we made our way back to the hotel and the rest of the day we just soaked in our time together and enjoyed the hotel :)
The next morning: more amazing room service breakfast! Coffee again, avocado toast again (this time for Grace), and an açaí bowl and a Bloody Mary for me.
Because our hotel's pool was under construction while we were there, they had arranged for us to have privileges to use the Fairmont's pool. We decided to check it out on our second full day in Wailea and the hotel gave us a ride down there. It was gorgeous, though a very different speed from our hotel. It actually made us even more glad we were staying at Hotel Wailea, even though it was still fun to hang out there for an afternoon!
It was a palatial and bustling place. We took a quick tour of the grounds to select which pool we wanted to hang at (there were several!) and ended up picking the "goldilocks" of all the pools: the Upper Pool which had a swim up bar. We initially thought we'd prefer the adults only pool, but it was way too quiet. There wasn't a single person swimming, and we actually wanted to swim! So the Upper Pool was the perfect happy medium between screaming kids and the too-quiet adults pool. It also had some of our favorite poolside drinks of the whole trip. I of course had to order the one that comes in a pineapple.
We also ordered some tasty lunch.
Fun fact about Grace: girl LOVES to play around in a swimming pool. Notice I didn't say she loves to swim--she doesn't really do laps or anything. But she turns into a 12 year old in the pool and it's the funniest thing. She'll challenge you to a handstand competition, try to do an underwater backflip, and try to tread water using only one arm for 60 seconds. It makes me want to have our own swimming pool one day because it brings her so much joy. I knew nothing of this prior to our honeymoon because we'd never really been in a pool together! It was a hilarious surprise.
That night was one of the nights I had most been looking forward to on Maui: our reservation at Mama's Fish House! I'd heard about Mama's Fish House for years and felt so lucky to finally try it. Also, one of my bridesmaids (and best friend) Sarah gave us a gift card to go there as a wedding gift since it's one of her favorite restaurants on earth. We timed our reservation for sunset and it really was a once-in-a-lifetime meal (unless of course we are lucky enough to go back)!
Walking up, the restaurant is set in a beautiful little grove right on the water. We strolled and got a picture since we were early for our reservation. Side note, Mama's is actually not in Wailea, but on the North Shore of Maui. It's not too bad of a Lyft ride though.
I didn't get any great photos of our dinner (it wasn't really the place to take a flash iPhone photo, if you know what I mean), but it was the most divine food imaginable. Grace ordered the traditional Hawaiian plate, which was a huge spread of everything from taro and plantains, to poi (a traditional Hawaiian sauce--kind of an acquired taste), to ceviche, to poke, to octopus, to grilled kanpachi (fish). She tried it all and loved it. I got the signature meal at Mama's--a fresh catch of fish (that night, Kanpachi) stuffed with crab and lobster and baked in a macadamia nut crust, with a lobster tail on the side. OMG. It was unreal. We also shared the Maui onion soup and a crab cake to start. We got some delicious cocktails to wash it all down, and just generally we were in heaven. It was truly a perfect meal and the hospitality at Mama's was unlike any restaurant I have ever been to. If you are in Maui on your honeymoon (or any trip, though it's kind of a splurge/special occasion place), GO THERE! And make sure to tell them it's your honeymoon when they call to confirm your reservation! They asked if we were celebrating anything and I didn't think anything of it, but I was so touched when they had a special congratulatory note waiting at our table when we sat down. Of course I saved it and will be tucking it into our honeymoon album when I get one made, along with a few other special notes we got on the trip :)
The next day, it was sadly time to check out of Hotel Wailea! We were so sad to leave, but excited for the next leg of our trip. I think if Hotel Wailea had been the final stop of our trip, it would have been impossible to leave, but having more stops on the island gave us motivation to actually hit the road.
It wouldn't be an "us" vacation without a road trip somehow involved, so on this morning we set out to drive the Road to Hana. I won't say anything more about that on this post--it will be my next recap--but it was incredible. You can drive it in any car, but I decided to rent a Jeep Wrangler because I knew Grace would have fun driving one. There's an Enterprise counter at the nearby Marriott, so we took one last ride in the house Teslas down there and picked up our Jeep. We were ready to hit the road and so excited!
And that's where I'll leave off until recap #2! I'm going to try to write about one of these a week for the next month or so to recap the whole honeymoon. Thanks for following along--it's so sweet to relive it through writing these!