Maui Vacation Rental Guide

If you are headed to Maui, a vacation rental may be something to consider. We travel to Hawaii yearly and like to feel at home on vacation. There is something about a hotel that makes us feel uncomfortable and unsettled. With a rental you can cook your own meals, have your own space, and avoid high resort fees. Most rentals will provide extras such as beach chairs, umbrellas, boogie boards, bikes etc. to make your stay more enjoyable.

The sky is the limit in terms of what is offered. If you would like a resort experience, there are rentals such as the Hoolei or Wailea Beach Villas. If you are looking for something remote, there are rentals such as Kula Villa or Hana Hideaway.

The best place to start your search is VRBO and AirBnB. We book 10 months in advance, as the best places book up quickly. We have not been scammed yet, but it has happened to others. To avoid this, look for properties that have several reviews that span over a few years. I have come across some scam listings in my searches. They are usually too good to be true with reviews by fake accounts spanning over a short period of time. Be diligent, as you do not want to show up at your destination to find out your rental doesn’t exist.

Some rentals are managed by the owner, and others are managed by rental companies. We prefer rentals that are managed by companies as the communication, cleanliness and method of payment are superior. We have had two owners ask for payment via money order and both of those places were less than stellar. It is always best to pay through VRBO, AirBnB or a rental agency. If there is an issue with the property there are guarantees when booking through these companies.

We have stayed in four rentals in Maui over the years. Here is a brief overview of the places we have stayed. You can get more information and photos by clicking on the highlighted property name.

1. Haiku Nani

This home is in Haiku, which is a remote country location on the north side of the island. The house sits on an acre of land complete with it’s own botanical garden, view of horse pastures and the ocean.

The home is brand new and is spotless. This area gets a bit more rain and the house is carefully laid out so that you are covered. The lanai is expansive and spotless as well.

This is our new favourite rental as we had no issues with the property and felt completely at home. The area is remote, which means you have to do some driving to get around. Also, there is no AC, but it is not needed here as it cools off at night.

2. Bliss Beach House

This is a beautifully decorated home within a residential neighbourhood in Kihei. It is perfect for families with children as it has it’s own game room and pool. The finishes and decor in this home are impressive. The owner put a lot of thought and effort into this rental.

The location is not as desirable. Some of the surrounding homes are in need of repair. There is a beach down the street that you can walk to, but it is not as nice as the beaches in Wailea. I think this is a good option for a large family that is willing to drive to go to the beach or that just wants to hang out in the backyard pool area.

3. Elua Condo

This condo is situated within Wailea, which is the most beautiful resort area on Maui. It sits on a beachfront complex that has an oceanfront pool and fitness area. The walk to the beach is about 5 minutes from the condo.

The condo itself is spacious, comfortable and clean. It is managed by Ali’i Resorts, which does a towel drop every day and a change of sheets every three days. We loved this condo! The only downside is there was a bit of road noise early in the morning.

4. Wailea’s Best

This condo is also in Wailea and has a resort style pool on the ocean. It is on Keawakapu Beach, which is one of the best beaches on Maui. Our experience here was less than stellar. We always check the mattress when we arrive in a unit. This one had hundreds of little rust coloured stains along the periphery of the mattress. Our first thought was bedbugs! We checked into the Grand Wailea while the owner arranged for pest inspection and a new mattress to be delivered. It was not bedbugs, but mould that was on mattress. Apparently when they renovated they did not replace the mattress.

The rest of the condo was not to our standard of clean and we saw two cockroaches there during our stay! This is an example of a privately managed property, where we paid with a money order. All the reviews were good and condo photographed very well.

There was no way of us knowing the place was not clean. This is one of the risks you take when you go with a vacation rental.

We really enjoyed our stay at the Grand Wailea though. If you are not interested in staying in a rental I would highly recommend this hotel. First class all the way!

Although we have had one bad experience on Maui, we will continue to rent when we visit Hawaii. I hope this has given you some food for thought on your accommodation search.

Here are the links to the rentals and hotel we have stayed in:

Haiku Nani

Bliss Beach House

Elua Condo

Wailea’s Best

Grand Wailea

Happy Travels,

Kira Canadian Girl

Managing a Fear of Flying

A fear of flying is one of the most common phobias around. There is something about being up at 40000 ft. in a tube, with two complete strangers in control, that can put people on edge. I developed my fear after a flight back from Europe. There was a terrible storm in Toronto and we were circling and being rerouted for hours. It felt like the flight would never end. On my next flight a few months later, I started to panic. I felt a loss of control over the situation, felt trapped and wanted to get off. Since then I have been getting myself very worked up about our upcoming flight to Maui. I didn’t know if I could do it. This time I prepared myself to the nth degree. Here are some tips that may help you with your fear:

1. Distractors

You need to keep your brain occupied so your mind doesn’t have a chance to wander. Having music that is calming or uplifting can keep you in a positive mindset. Games can also avert your focus. I downloaded Candy Crush and that helped distract me. Most airlines have in flight movies and TV shows. I watched The Theory of Everything, which is an inspiring movie that helped put my fear in perspective. I have been on a flight where the Wifi has gone down, so I prepared for that as well. I bought an adult colouring book, which really helped focus my attention on something else.

2. Breathe

People tend to breathe very shallowly when they get anxious, which can make things worse. Carbon dioxide levels drop in the bloodstream and blood supply to the brain decreases. This can make you feel light headed and can lead to fainting. Instead, you should take a deep breath in from your nose and exhale through the mouth slowly. You will notice a change in your anxiety level only after a few breaths.

3. Visualization

My mom gave me this tool when I was a little girl and struggling with pain from an ear infection. She told me to imagine I was in the place that made me happiest. I still do this and it works! On the flight you can imagine that you are arriving safely at your destination and are laying on a beach with a Pina Colada in hand.

4. Dress for Success

When you are anxious your body temperature may fluctuate. You may sweat and feel overheated or you may get the chills. Make sure you have layers on that can be remove if you get too hot. I always bring a blanket and warm socks as I seem to get the chills when I get nervous.

5. Positive Self Talk

I am going to put this one out there as it may help you. By telling yourself that you can do it, or that you have done this before, it may help put your fear in perspective and motivate you to get through it. For me, it just escalates things and gets me thinking too much about the situation.

6. Medicate

My goal is always to manage my fear without the use of medication. If I can’t get things under control, however, I like to have something on hand. Your doctor is the best person to talk to about this as they know your medical history and any possible drug interactions. Benzodiazepines can help calm you, but may also make you feel groggy and inattentive. It is best to try it out before your journey so you are aware of any unforeseen side effects.

Luckily, I was able to get through my flight to Maui by using some of the techniques above. I started to panic a bit at the beginning of the flight but used my deep breathing to calm myself down. I was very focussed on my adult colouring book throughout the flight. It took me 5 hours to colour one page! I was pretty proud of myself for getting through it, as I really had myself worked up the weeks prior to the flight. I am a dentist and work with anxious patients everyday. I can really empathize with them, while giving them tools that have helped me along the way. Hoping my tips have helped you as well.

Happy Travels,

Kira Canadian Girl

Should You Post Your Bikini Shot on Instagram?

I recently posted a photo to my Instagram that created a bit of a stir. A lot of my followers are friends, family and colleagues and I believe I exposed them to more of myself than they had bargained for. I honestly thought nothing of it until my mother called me with concerns about bearing too much online. So now I am sitting here debating if I should be posting close up bikini photos in the future. I am not going to post the photo on here and subject my followers to it again (although my last 6 photos are in the sidebar and it is likely there). Here is a photo of Lover’s Key Beach instead:

In my defence, I am a grown woman, not a teenager. I am not posting bikini shots to boost my self esteem. I am very confident in my body and who I am. My husband and I have been taking photos like these for years on vacation and they live on memory cards. A lot of them are very beautiful images that are never seen. I often joke with Eric that he better show them at my funeral! Since I started my travel blog, I have been posting more of these photos as they are a part of what we do on vacation. But maybe I took this one too far and should have left it until I was 6 feet under….

In the defence of my followers, when I post something on Instagram I am subjecting them to an image that cannot be erased from their memory. My best analogy is the hunting or animal cruelty posts that you see on Facebook. When I see those images it deeply upsets me and I wish I never saw them. Some of my followers have known me since I was an infant and still see me as that little girl in her big red rainboots. So an image of my behind may be a shock. Others are colleagues that hold me to a higher professional standing.

I do not want to offend people or make them think less of me. I really just want to share the best work from our travels and post promotable content. I will continue to post bikini shots, but will try to provide more distance and have it less in your face. I am interested in hearing your feedback on this topic.

Thanks for stopping by,

Kira Canadian Girl

3 Days in Naples, Florida

Naples, Florida is home to sunshine, beaches and my parents in the winter. It is a popular destination for retirees; my sister once coined it as spring break, but 40 years later! Naples sits on the Gulf Coast just south of Fort Myers. It is known for its beautiful beaches, fine dining and shopping. We were able to visit my parents this winter and only had 3 full days to enjoy it. Here are some suggestions for your stay in the area:

Day 1: Vanderbilt Beach

This is a long white sand beach that the Ritz Carlton sits on. If your looking to do some water activities, then this is the place for you! They had paddle board, surfboard and Sea Doo rentals not far from the beach entrance. We enjoyed watching some of the experienced paddle boarders doing yoga out in the surf. One even had his dog joining in! The surf here was quite calm and water cold in early February.

We decided to take a walk along the beach towards the Ritz. Closer to the resort they have beach loungers and umbrellas out for guests. Past the hotel is a string of apartments where there is barely a soul on the beach. If you are looking for some privacy and serenity, then this is your spot. We found a walkway here that was great for photos.

In the evening we had dinner at the Turtle Club on the same beach. It has oceanfront seating and is a perfect place for a sunset dinner. The restaurant reminded me of Hawaii as it had a tropical vibe. I would consider it fine dining, although some people were dressed in suits and others were in shorts. I would recommend the grilled Mahi Mahi, The Filet Mignon and Shrimp and the Key Lime Pie. Was a lovely meal in a beautiful setting.

Day 2: Lover’s Key Beach

This beach is within Lover’s Key State Park. There is so much to do here that you could spend days. There are hiking trails, areas to fish and kayak and an expansive beach. We visited the South area of the beach which can be accessed by a tram from the parking lot. The tram runs until 4:45pm. The North area can be accessed by walking over a bridge. The South area has bathrooms, a picnic structure and snack shack. It was extremely windy the day we were there so we sat next to the picnic area as it was sheltered.

The beach here is wide open and there are not many trees. We walked North along the beach until we saw some beautiful dead trees in the water. This is a great spot for photographers.

We built up quite an appetite from our long walk and decided to eat at the snack shack. Pretty standard burgers and hotdogs available there. To the left of the shack is a path to a fishing pier. This is a nice place to get a view of the mangroves and channel in the park.

In the evening we ate at Zookie’s Sports Bar which is a local favourite in the Naples. It was the night of the Super Bowl and it was a perfect place to see the game. The walls are plastered with T.Vs and projector screens. Everything here is reasonably priced and tasty.

Day 3: 5th Avenue and Naples Beach

You cannot go to Naples without visiting 5th Avenue. It is in the heart of their downtown and has a long stretch of shops and restaurants. It really comes alive at night, as all the restaurants become filled to the brim. Make sure to make a reservation a week or two in advance. We tried to get a reservation at the popular Ocean Prime with no success.

Close to 5th Avenue is the Naples Pier. The sunset here is spectacular. We saw several dolphins jumping in the water below the pier, which really drew in a crowd.

The pier sits on Naples Beach, which was our personal favourite. It is a soft white sand beach with houses that sit along it. The water here seemed to be warmer as it is quite shallow. If you walk north from the pier, you will come across some old piles in the water, which is photographers dream.

We walked back to our vehicle along Gulf Shore Blvd, which allowed us too see the beautiful homes in the area. It is like the Beverly Hills of Florida, with property values that match! We found a casual place to have dinner as we were in our beach clothes. The Parrot Bar and Grill looks onto the Marina in Tin City. The fish tacos and chicken salad sandwich were great. Drinks are very strong! I thought I may have to be carried out of there after one drink!

Naples is a place that you should add to your travel list. We would have never visited if it weren’t for my parents. It has everything you would want for a warm holiday; great beaches, sunshine and excellent dining. Our trip was a nice break from our cold weather. Wish we had a couple extra days to visit the Corkscrew Sanctuary and Sanibel Island. I guess we can do that on our visit next year!

Happy Travels,

Kira Canadian Girl

Guide to the Waipio Valley

The Waipio Valley is located along the Hamakua Coast on the Island of Hawaii. While most tourists only make it to the lookout, I urge you to make the trip to the bottom of the valley. I believe this is the most beautiful spot on the Big Island.

There are two ways of getting down to bottom. Walk or drive. Only 4 wheel drive vehicles are allowed down here as this is said to be the steepest road in the US. We saw someone drive down in a Nissan Sentra rental, which I would not recommend. We rented a 4×4 truck, but still did not feel comfortable with this drive. The hike to the beach is a 3 mile round trip with 1.5 miles on a 25% incline. Make sure you have good hiking shoes with grip (no slippah’s here), plenty of water and a walking stick may come in handy.

Once you get to the bottom, then it is time to explore. I would not recommend venturing to the interior of the valley. Most of that area is private property and the local residents appreciate their privacy. There is lots to see around the beach, so don’t worry about missing out on anything.

There are two sections of black sand beach here that is separated by the Wailoa Stream. I recommend crossing this stream as the other section of beach is a lot more secluded and has more spectacular views. You can hire a boat to take you across or you can navigate through the rocks closer to shore. The currents can be strong here so only do this if you have good balance. Water shoes may be a good idea for this. Once you have crossed it is time to enjoy the view.

There were a few things we encountered here that were a bit unexpected. The currents in the water are very strong. I got caught in a little rip tide, but managed to get out of it. Because this area is hard to access and does not have a lifeguard on duty, I would not recommend swimming here unless you are a very strong swimmer.

The washroom situation here is less than desirable. They had portable washrooms that looked like they had not been cleaned in weeks. Only use if necessary…

The weather here is also very unpredictable. The forecast did not call for rain, but there was torrential downpour on our hike back. On our way up we helped a truck out of the mud and they offered us a ride to the top in their box. We met some great people from Minnesota and Brazil during that ride. It was a bit terrifying as I was sitting against the edge of the box that looked over into the valley. I definitely clung on for life during that bumpy ride! I was just glad that we didn’t have to climb up as it looked gruelling in the rain. Wish we had brought an extra pair of clothes and shoes as everything we were wearing got soaked.

Other than the few surprises, our trip to Waipio Valley was worth all the struggles. The views of the surrounding hills along the Wailoa Stream are absolutely breathtaking. You just can’t fully appreciate it from the lookout. It was quite the adventure and something I look forward to doing again on our next visit.

Happy Travels,

Kira Canadian Girl

Ice Castle: Winnipeg Edition

Once upon a time some folks from Utah came and built a glorious castle where two rivers meet. People came from far and wide to witness this icy masterpiece.

In all seriousness, the Ice Castle has been buzzing in Winnipeg this winter. This is the first year it has been here and they picked a good one as weather has been unseasonably cold. What a better place to build an ice castle than the coldest city on earth! But if you build it in ice, you can guarantee that the weather will warm up as Festival du Voyageur has taught us. I guess we can thank the Ice Castle for our recent warm (and mucky) weather.

We decided to wait a few weeks from opening to visit the castle. Our goal was to avoid the crowds and get in as early as possible to see it in daylight. I suggest you buy your tickets in advance as most of the evenings were sold out. If you are looking to get unobstructed photos, book the earliest time on a weekday and line up about 30 minutes in advance.

Once you are inside it is time to take it all in. The castle itself is about an acre in size. There are many nooks and crannies to explore. The castle houses a fountain, several fire pits and an ice slide for children. What I enjoyed most was seeing the Human Rights Museum and Esplanade Riel from inside. It gives it a unique Winnipeg feel. I believe the castle has been carefully constructed to highlight these structures.

I highly recommend visiting the castle if you are in the area. It is unlike anything I have seen. Truly magical and impressive. I would also recommend wearing flat boots that extend higher up on the leg. The snow in the castle is deep and granular which makes you sink in and get a boot full. I would tell you to dress warm, but I like to practice what I preach. Lucky, I did not get a cold or pneumonia! And they all lived happily ever after…

Happy Travels,

Kira Canadian Girl

Tips for Traveling With Your Dog

It is hard to leave your best buddy at home while traveling. Sometimes it just isn’t an option for them to come with you. This winter we embarked on a 15 hour road trip with our 9 year old Morkie, Roscoe. This was his first vacation and we wanted to be very prepared for the journey. As the saying goes “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Roscoe is in no way a spring chicken and I was worried that he would not respond well to the new surroundings. Here is how we prepared for our trip and some tips and tricks for traveling with your dog:

1. Pet Friendly Accommodations

Finding accommodations that welcome your furry friend is key. You do not want to show up and be turned away because of your dog. Most travel websites will have a pet friendly search options such as, VRBO and AirBnB. There are also some websites that are geared to pets such as Bring Fido and Official Pet Hotels. It may be noted that there could be an additional fee for dogs. We stayed at the Copperstone Resort in Banff. There was a $20 per night fee for a pet friendly room. This resort had a rule that pets could not be left unattended. If the dog made noise a $200 charge would be applied.

2. Pack The Essentials

Most of these are self explanatory. Don’t forget Fido! You wouldn’t want to have a Home Alone moment. Make sure you stock more than enough dog food, water and treats for your voyage. A leash and collar is must as well as extra bags (we ran out of these).

3. Include Comfort Items

We wanted our dog to feel as at home as possible on our trip to limit anxiety. To make him feel a bit more comfortable we packed his Kennel so that he had his own little space. We also brought his dog bed and a blanket as he always lays on these around the house. Some of his favourite dog toys and bones came with us so that he had something to distract him. We had to leave the room a couple times and left the T.V on so that there was some noise to buffer the sounds around the resort. We live in the country, so Roscoe is not used to sharing walls with others.

4. The Unexpected Items

There will be some things that you will not anticipate. Two words; Spot Shot. Bring some as well as some paper towels. Roscoe does not have accidents, but I believe the smell of other dogs in the room caused him to pee a few times. If you are traveling to a different country, make sure that you have updated vaccination list from your veterinarian. They may not allow you to cross without these, so come prepared. If you are traveling during heart worm season do not forget your pills. If you are traveling in the winter do not forget a coat and some booties (if your dog can tolerate it).

Roscoe had a great first trip. He saw mountains, a windmill and a dog with a cone on it’s head! He did very well with the drive as he sat on my lap the entire time. The hotel was a new experience and he was definitely out of his element. I believe the extra comfort items we brought helped. Can’t wait to bring him with us again. It always feels like we are missing something when we travel and it is definitely him.

Happy Travels,

Kira Canadian Girl