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Out With Dr. Bill – From Maui, With Love

Dr. William Kapfer READ TIME: 24 MIN.

Our long-planned trip to Maui nearly halted due to fires in Lahaina; however, our friend Keola, a fabulous local, stressed Maui's need for tourism during adversity. Heeding his insight, we relocated our stay, turning our vacation into an endeavor of philanthropy to aid the community.

In Maui, our suitcases were packed with supplies for those impacted by the Lahaina fire. Among the many locals we met, Katherine of the local Goodwill shared the harrowing tale of her neighborhood's destruction, including landmarks like Front Street. Tearfully, she mourned the loss of irreplaceable items, emphasizing the emotional toll of such calamities.

Amidst the heartache and challenges brought about by the fires, Maui's inherent beauty and charm remained untouched, serving as a comforting backdrop to our journey.

Maui Moments: Between Sandy Retreats and Mountain Peaks to Dusk Delights

The allure of Maui, often hailed as the Valley Isle, extends far beyond its pristine beaches and verdant landscapes. At its heart, Maui is a culinary treasure trove waiting to be unveiled.

Every nook of the island whispers tales of tantalizing tastes and textures. You're enticed by the scent of fresh bread from award-winning bakers, their expertise ranging from crafting traditional Hawaiian treats to innovating melt-in-the-mouth pastries.

Venture further, and the hum of lively locales draws you in. These are the spots where happy hours come alive, where skilled mixologists craft beverages that encapsulate Maui's very essence. Yet, the gastronomic odyssey finds its zenith in the secluded eateries nestled amidst the island's scenic contrasts.

Here, every dish is not just a culinary masterpiece, but a vibrant narrative of the island's irrepressible spirit. Renowned chefs, with their adept melding of local ingredients and global techniques, ensure that in Maui, dining transcends the plate; it becomes an unforgettable memory.

Flavors and Friendship
Rob Roche, Bill Kapfer, Eric Baker.

Flavors and Friendship

But this journey was special for reasons beyond just the culinary delights. Our Hawaiian adventure began in the cherished company of Rob, a name more familiar to us than even the most iconic sights of the island.

For over twenty years, he has been the bedrock of our lives, standing by us in moments of joy and despair. Rob's friendship is not just a bond; it's a cherished gift that has enriched our lives.

In Maui, alongside the unforgettable tastes and sights, it was the warmth of shared memories and moments with an old friend that truly made our experience invaluable.

Chasing the Elusive Lilikoi Sweet Bun in Maui
Baking Goods.

Chasing the Elusive Lilikoi Sweet Bun in Maui

Kicking off our adventure, Rob's morning sweet tooth led us on a delightful mission. At the top of his list? A tempting treat from the famed Maui Bread Company–a recognized 2022 "Traveler's Choice" and a jewel on Yelp's 2023 Top 100 Places to Eat.

Christine Lange, Michel Heinze.

This isn't just any bakery–it's a testament to a local family's dedication, seamlessly weaving Eastern and Western baking marvels. German precision meets Hawaiian and Asian zest, making this spot a true culinary crossroads.

The allure of their baking isn't just about flavor, it's about an experience. An experience of local tastes, heartwarming Alohas, and the sheer magic of mingling the best from East and West.

Our first Maui morning saw Eric, Rob, and I up with the sun. By 8:30 am, we found ourselves at the bakery's doorstep, our sights set on the Lilikoi Sweet Bun. This wasn't Rob's first chase after this delectable treat. Past trips to Maui had him leaving empty-handed, the popular bun notoriously selling out mere minutes after the doors opened.

For the uninitiated, the Lilikoi Sweet Bun is more than just bread. It's a heavenly concoction of soft, fluffy bread filled with Lilikoi - the Hawaiian name for passion fruit.

This specialty of the Maui Baking Company has the tangy sweetness of fresh Lilikoi fruit turned into a thick, jam-like filling, nestled within the bun.

Sadly, that morning, our pursuit ended in disappointment. The sought-after buns had already vanished; however, fate had a pleasant twist in store. I approached a diligent worker at the counter, later revealed as the owner, Christine Lange. Seeking her advice on securing the coveted bun, she not only provided me with insights but generously offered her mobile number, promising to reserve one if I messaged early.

The following morning, with Rob and Eric still in dreamland, I ventured out alone. The bakery visit felt like a small victory. Not only did I manage to get Rob his Lilikoi Sweet Bun, but I also indulged in the Pina Colada Sweet Bun and a few croissants. My gratitude to Christine was boundless.

It's essential to note that the bakery's treasures, baked fresh daily from Friday through Tuesday, are available in limited quantities at their Kihei store. With a German Master Baker as part of their talented team, it's no wonder every bite feels like a piece of paradise.

In Maui, amidst the curling waves and vermillion sunsets, we found a piece of edible heaven, reminding us that sometimes the best memories are made of flour, sugar, and a touch of Aloha.

Embracing The Great Outdoors: Adventures in Paradise
Rob Roche, Bill Kapfer and Eric Baker.

Embracing The Great Outdoors: Adventures in Paradise

Hawaii's trails possess a unique magic. At every turn, it feels as though you've stepped into a painting, with nature flaunting its most vibrant hues.

Rob, our resident hiking enthusiast, had over the years scouted and retraced Hawaii's most captivating trails. He ensured this trip was no exception. Among all the hikes we embarked on, two particularly took our breath away. The Waihee Ridge Trail, nestled in West Maui, weaves through lush forests, eventually revealing breathtaking views of valleys juxtaposed against the cerulean Pacific. Our journey on this trail felt like a page out of a Hawaiian fairy tale, accentuated by the melodic chirping of native birds.

Our adventure on the Makamakaole Stream - 13 Crossings was equally memorable. Dancing alongside water, serenaded by cascading streams, we were led to a mesmerizing waterfall. The trail, though treacherously rocky in some stretches, was very manageable and full of delightful surprises. A particular highlight is the point where the stream divides.

To the left, there's a charming waterfall that gently pours into a waist-deep pool. Yet, to the right, awaits a more majestic scene: a deeper pool crowned by an alluring waterfall. Drawn to its beauty, Rob, Eric, and I couldn't resist. Even though the rocks were a bit slippery, wading into the cool, refreshing waters after our hike was an experience worth every step. It was simply priceless.

This trail spans approximately 2.5 miles and we managed to cover it in just under two hours. It epitomizes those treks where the journey itself rivals the allure of the destination.

Yet, our days in Hawaii weren't just filled with challenging trails. Every morning, we cherished a simple ritual: taking leisurely walks along the sublime beaches. We would set out just as the first golden rays of the sun lit the sands, strolling from Kamaole Beach, through Keawakapu Beach, and finally to the pristine shores of Wailea Beach.
The rhythmic ebb and flow of the waves seemed to harmonize with the pulse of the island, but it was our frequent encounters with the elegant sea turtles that transformed these walks into ethereal experiences. Sharing our path with these gentle mariners, our simple beach walks morphed into treasured moments of magic.

In Hawaii, the line between the ordinary and the extraordinary is beautifully blurred, offering a dance of beauty where land, sea, and life are inextricably linked.

After our invigorating hikes, our appetites were certainly stoked, pushing us to explore the island's culinary distinctions. On days when our hikes extended a bit, we'd serendipitously find ourselves at a local happy hour, enjoying refreshing drinks while watching the sun set.

Rejuvenated and satisfied, we'd then rush back to our lodgings to freshen up, with our hearts set on a delicious dinner and the allure of a lively Hawaiian evening. Given our active schedule, it's no surprise we quickly cultivated a taste for Hawaiian cuisine. While we sampled fare from various corners of the island, a select few eateries captured our hearts and taste buds.

Mai Tais from Monkeypod.

Our top pick for happy hour has to be Monkeypod. We found ourselves returning to this gem multiple times; sipping their renowned Mai Tais became a beloved post-hike ritual. The ambiance at Monkeypod was always lively, thanks to live music and the tantalizing aromas wafting from the open pizza oven. Their half-priced appetizers, $12 pizzas, and the warm service from locals made us feel right at home - truly, it was one of our Maui highlights.

Though I can't delve into details about every spot we loved (though I'd like to), two restaurants deserve special attention.

Tiffany's Restaurant & Bar and Mama's Fish House truly enhanced our dining experiences, making our Hawaiian adventure even more memorable.

By a stroke of luck, after our hike on the Waihee Ridge Trail in West Maui, we found ourselves looking for a bite in Wailuku. From the back seat, I began tossing out nearby restaurant suggestions to Rob and Eric. "How about Tiffany's Restaurant & Bar?" I suggested. Eric's ears perked up. "I just read about them in the New York Times," he said, mentioning they had made it to the "50 Best Places in the United States We're Most Excited About" list. Being New Yorkers, we took that as a good sign. After all, the Times has never let us down.

Tiffany's: Where Every Dish is a Gem
Destiny at Tiffany's.

Tiffany's: Where Every Dish is a Gem

On entering Tiffany's, we immediately noticed its relaxed, local vibe–it wasn't jam-packed like some hyped-up places.

Our fantastic server, Destiny, informed us that Tiffany's had been a Maui staple for almost twenty years. The 3,600 square-foot restaurant had many regular gracing the iconic blue booths, including Chef Sheldon Simeon and his wife, Janice. When the original owners decided to retire, Sheldon and Janice seized the opportunity to take the reins.

The refreshed menu highlighted authentic "Hawai'i Classics," emphasizing the amalgamation of Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Portuguese flavors. It was reflective of Sheldon's passion, something he's become renowned for, especially after his stints on Bravo's "Top Chef." Coincidentally, since Rob was from Seattle, the city where the 10th season of "Top Chef" took place, our visit to Tiffany's felt even more special.

The food was a delightful overload. We might've gone overboard with our orders, forgetting it was served family-style. From the mouth-wateringly crispy chicken that seemed to have a lemony-salt touch to the succulent mandu (Korean dumplings), every bite was an experience. The Honey Walnut Shrimp, with its unique combination of mayo, honey, and candied walnuts, stood out. But the real star for me was the garlic noodles; it's hard to go wrong with garlic on garlic. And who can forget the mammoth bowl of House Fried Rice with egg, bacon, and yes, Spam? It was a feast fit for kings.

Fried Rice at Tiffany's.

Destiny, our server, was a treasure. Apart from her impeccable service, she shared rich insights about the dishes and the restaurant's history. She had been a part of Tiffany's for years, even before Chef Sheldon took over. All in all, Tiffany's proved to be a jewel in West Maui, and we're eager for a second round.

Mama's Fish House: Maui's Oceanfront Culinary Oasis

Each visit to Maui invariably leads us to Mama's Fish House. More than just a restaurant, Mama's, situated on Paia's white sand beach, embodies Polynesian heritage, family memories, and oceanic allure. The spirit of founders Floyd and Doris Christenson resonates throughout, from art to family tales like their daughter Karen's first steps on their boat.
Their commitment to fresh ingredients defines the eatery. Now led by Karen and Eldon Christenson, the restaurant stands as a testament to Hawaiian legacy and family history. Mama's Fish House, with its top-notch service and fresh seafood, consistently remains a highlight of our Maui trips.
Securing a reservation at Mama's is undeniably a wise choice. Our unforgettable evening unfolded largely due to Rob's foresight. Thanks, Rob!

Bill Kapfer, Rob Roche, Eric Baker.

Nicole Smith, a self-proclaimed Maui local, warmly welcomed us at the front desk adorned with vibrant native plants and flowers. She then guided us to a prime table by with a spectacular view, where we enjoyed a refreshing ocean breeze.
With the Pacific shimmering behind us, Eric and I started our culinary journey with vodka martinis garnished with blue-cheese stuffed olives, while Rob opted for the evocative Ho'okipa Sunset cocktail. The appetizers, especially the shrimp wontons and Mama's signature crab cakes, left a lasting impression. And the entrees, be it the signature Mahi-Mahi Curry or the tender Haleakalā Ranch Beef Filet, were a masterclass in flavor and authenticity.
Mama's Fish House isn't just about the gastronomic delights; it's a tapestry of tales, unparalleled passion, and culinary artistry. Each visit revives its charm, reinforcing its cherished spot in our hearts. However, it's worth noting that such a premier dining experience does come with its price tag.
While dining at Mama's is undoubtedly an investment, the memories crafted and flavors savored justify every dime. Reflecting on our times there, it's clear: Mama's isn't just a chapter in our Maui visits, it's a cornerstone of our collective memory.

Where Luxury Meets Authentic Hawaiian Charm and Artistry

From the moment you set foot onto the sprawling grounds of the Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Resort in Maui, it's clear that this isn't just a resort; it's a world unto itself. Nestled on the sun-kissed shores of Wailea, the Grand Wailea epitomizes luxury and Hawaiian charm, offering guests an unparalleled experience.
The hotel is nearing completion of a multifaceted revitalization carried out in different phases. Each phase has unfolded seamlessly, unnoticed by guests, all while upholding the celebrated gold standard of service and hospitality for which the property is renowned.

Michelle, Linen, Daisy.

The morning we arrived, we were warmly welcomed by three lovely ladies, Michelle, Lnen, and Daisy–all adorned in green and yellow leaf-patterned dresses. I was thrilled that we chose to arrive early, as it felt like receiving three welcomes for the price of one. Each of these gracious hostesses presented us with a Kukui Nut Necklace Lei as a token of our welcome to the property.
Although we arrived before our room was ready, we quickly made our way to the pool for a morning libation. Without a doubt, the pools are the crowning jewels of the property. They aren't merely places to swim but intricately designed aquatic sanctuaries. Cascading waterfalls, winding lazy rivers, and tranquil lagoons come together to create a watery paradise ideal for both relaxation and recreation.
Whether you're in the mood for an exhilarating slide down a waterslide, seeking a quiet spot by the pool, or fancy some adult-only pool time, the Grand Wailea has it all. Surrounded by the gentle sounds of water and Maui's lush greenery, it's the ultimate aquatic paradise.

Rob Roche, Eric Baker, Bill Kapfer.

Beyond its natural beauty and luxurious amenities, the Grand Wailea is a treasure trove for art enthusiasts. The property boasts an impressive collection of art pieces, including one of the most significant collections of Fernando Botero sculptures outside a museum. While many pieces are distributed throughout the resort, many of the larger sculptures find their home around the aptly named Botero Bar–a place we frequented during our stay.
These sculptures, paintings, and artifacts aren't mere decorations; they offer a glimpse into the island's soul and the spirit of its inhabitants. It's a rarity for a resort to bridge luxury with culture so effortlessly, yet the Grand Wailea does it with undeniable elegance.
But what truly distinguishes the Grand Wailea is its exemplary service. Every staff member, from the concierge to the pool attendants, radiates genuine warmth and the aloha spirit. Their meticulous attention to detail, proactive nature, and genuine hospitality ensure every guest feels valued and pampered.
We had the pleasure of spending time with a few outstanding team members during our stay at the resort, including the vivacious Barry Kawakami from the membership and owner relations team. As fate would have it, we discovered mutual friends both on the island and in New York–a delightfully small world.

Luau at Grand Wailea.

At the Grand Wailea, service goes beyond mere duties–it's about crafting unforgettable moments, memories, and connections. Another ambassador of the property who left a lasting impression on me was the hotel's marketing manager, Megan Guldenpfennig.
She graciously provided me with a comprehensive tour of the 40-acre resort. While it was a broad overview, we didn't traverse the entire property. I've frequented the property multiple times, but Megan introduced me to areas I'd yet to explore, including the chapel. Known as the Wailea Seaside Chapel, this all-denominational, operational venue is encircled by the Chapel Garden–a picturesque setting adorned with charming gazebos and vibrant flora, ideal for a variety of events, not just weddings.
As our tour concluded, the enchanting Megan expressed her gratitude, saying, "Mahalo Nui Loa." I felt as if I was a character in the movie "South Pacific," standing on Bali Hai. For those unfamiliar, Bali Hai, or Makana Mountain on Kauai's north shore, is the site of the United States' final sunset each evening. This pyramid-shaped peak inspired the mystical distant island of "Bali Hai" in the film "South Pacific."

Of the 777 rooms and suites at the property, ours was situated in the Napua tower, a distinct feature of the hotel that looms over the resort's core. I've enjoyed stays in the Napua tower before, but this was my first experience since its complete renovation and transformation.
The Napua houses a magnificent collection of custom-designed rooms and suites, nestled within an exclusive space on the upper floors.
Guests of the Napua enjoy the premium amenities and services of the Napua Lounge, which includes personal concierge services and gourmet dining options. If timing is right, guests can indulge in a rotating array of unique experiences in the lounge, such as a chef's station and live entertainment. It is, without a doubt, the pinnacle of hotel experiences I've ever had.

Supporting Maui, Travel's Gifts Unfolded

Setting out to support Maui in its time of need, we were unexpectedly swept up in the island's undying charm.
Through the lens of travel, we rediscovered the joy and good fortune it brings, as our mission of aid effortlessly merged with the captivating experiences that Maui generously shared with us.
The net net? Life is precious, and events that can take that away may arrive at any moment. Best that we cherish each day to the fullest and be loving to all of our fellows.

Dave Baugh, Bill Kapfer, Eric Baker, Rob Roche, Keola Whittake

by Dr. William Kapfer

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