On the recommendation of J's friend Chris, we spent our final days in Hawai'i at Puakea Ranch. Set in the northern tip of the Big Island in paniolo country (that's Hawaiian for cowboy), it's a fully restored, historic ranch - complete with horses, goats, chickens, a friendly pig named Pele (after the Hawaiian volcano goddess), an organic vegetable garden, a swimming hole and a couple of amiable dogs - that just happens to also have stunning views of the Pacific.
Tucked behind a beautiful floral hedge with a swing beckoning enticingly from the lovely old tree out front, the James Cottage was our home away from home (only a million times nicer than our actual home, so).
Our first full day in Maui was a big one. We started by waking up at 3 am to see the sunrise at Haleakala Crater, an incredible experience: driving there was a race against the sun and once at the top it was like watching a new day dawning on a different planet. Driving back down to civilization afterwards, we realized we were above the clouds.
Once we checked out of our hotel, we got started on the Road to Hana, a winding drive along a narrow road with hairpin turns and one lane bridges along the northern coast of Maui. With a couple of stops to hike through lush tropical forests and splash at the feet of jaw-dropping waterfalls, it took us a few hours and was thoroughly enjoyable (more so for me than J, probably, since he was the one tasked with making sure we didn't crash into oncoming traffic or veer off the road).
Once at the end, we continued for a bit to the Kipahulu section of Haleakala National Park to hike the Pipiwai Trail. In the late afternoon light, the forest seemed every bit an enchanted fairyland.
Yes, that's from Kailua-Kona's Da Poke Shack, famous for being the number one rated restaurant on Yelp. I was a little skeptical going in - really? The number one restaurant in the world? Would it be over-rated? Would my expectations for number one be too high?
Nope. That meal was amazing. We had poke a couple different times in Hawai'i, and every time it was good, but this was phenomenal. We got the bowl for two - a steal at 22 bucks - and loaded it with all kinds of the freshest raw fish, including Pele's Kiss (spicy ahi) and shrimp. Two scoops of hapa rice (mixed white and brown rice), macaroni salad (ubiquitous in Hawai'i and I get why), seaweed salad and a six-pack of Kona Brewing Co.'s Castaway IPA and we were happy as clams. Seems like number one to me.