Monday, September 30, 2013

Maui Travel Guides

As writers are are always doing research, sometimes part of that research involves traveling. If you are like me, you especially love researching places you are going to visit.

One of my favorite places to visit in the world is Hawaii. I visited the island of Oahu on my first trip to Hawaii. This time I was planning on visiting Maui and maybe island hop to one of the nearby island of Lana’i.

For my research, I combed through every Hawaii guidebook I could get my hands on. I found Frommer's and Fodor's Hawaii guides to be good if you want a summary of all the major islands in Hawaii. However, if you are looking for a more detailed guide of a specific island, and maybe find some "hidden" gems along the way, I would go with the Hawaii Revealed series. Unlike Frommer’s and Fodor’s, The Hawaii Revealed series dedicates a book to each major island (e.g. Hawaii ‘Big Island’, Oahu, Maui, and Kauai).

Since this trip was to Maui, I found the Frommer’s and Fodor’s guidebooks to be too bulky and limited in their information. Also the Maui Revealed book came highly recommended on Amazon and Tripadvisor. I had used Maui Revealed before for my first very short (48 hours) visit to Maui. This time I had planned to use my Maul Revealed book to its fullest. To my utter delight, the Hawaii Revealed people also released an e-book application version of the guidebook. The app is available for both the Android and iPhones.

The Maul Revealed e-book app is basically the whole Maui Revealed book in a custom digital format. I’m am a person who still prefers to hold a physical book when I’m reading, but when I am traveling and I have to deal with airline weight restrictions, e-books are my new best friends. For $7.99, I can have the whole Maul Revealed e-book on my smartphone, and I don’t have to worry about carrying two extra pounds of weight in my luggage.

This e-book app is the best that I have seen so far, and you do not need to be connected to the internet to access the application since the whole book (~200mb) is downloaded onto your smart device. All the information in the book is in the e-book app. The only time you need the internet is if you want to visit linked websites or find the map location of certain sites using Google maps. I found this very useful when I was trying to find directions from my location to a specific site mentioned in the guidebook.

The opening page of the e-book is a large map of Maui. With just a pinch of your fingers, you can zoom into the map for a more detailed map of the region you need. You can also pinpoint a location and the app will provide you a list of what beaches, restaurants, accommodations, and activities that are close by.

In the bottom left of the opening screen there is a “locate me” icon. If you’re on the island, the app can pinpoint where you are. At the Bottom right the Favorites Icon stores all your selected “favorites” all in one place. The top left corner has the search function and you can click that to get the general index or search for a specific place.

The top right corner is the "Contents" icon, and this will take you to the contents of the guide. The contents are not organized exactly like the book’s table of contents. Instead it looks to be organized by most popular things and “Sights, Dining, and Beaches” are the first three things listed in the contents. Each of the subjects are organized very easily by region (West Maui, Central Maui, South Maui, Hana Highway, Haleakala & Upcountry, and Offshore Islands). Each region is further broken down by things available in that location. The accommodations and dining sections can also be organized by type, price, rating, alphabetically, or location, which is really handy when people tell me the name of a restaurant and I’m not sure where it is located.

All you really need to travel in Maui is this application. You have great information about the island’s history, great recommendations for dining, activities, and lodgings all in one "book". What I like best about this guidebook is the honest reviews. Not all vendor or locations have glowing reviews. I like that the author will honestly tell you if a specific beach isn’t great and has lots of seaweed, or if a restaurant is overpriced for the things they serve. 

One-Ton Chips definitely something not found in the mainland.
However, if you want a bit more local flavor to your trip or your novel is set on the island and you want more authenticity to your character's life, another guidebook that I recommend is Local Girl’s Guide to Maui by Donna Bender. I had stumbled upon this guide just by reading random threads on Tripadvisor. Being someone who prefers eating at more “local” eateries because they generally taste better and are cheaper, and in Maui a lot of your budget expense will go towards food.

For $10 you can get the Local Girl’s Guide in a pdf, or for $25 you can get a printed hard copy. You can also get the pdf and print it out yourself.  I elected for a pdf download that I kept on my phone.

Local Girl’s Guide to Maui is compiled by “Local Girl” Donna Bender. Her guide is great if you're looking for a quick breakdown of local eateries and grocery stores. The guide also has sections for recommended beaches, shopping, hiking, and snorkeling. But I mainly ended up using the guide for food, groceries, and shopping locations.

My attempt at making Hula Pie.
Another perk about the Local Guide are the simple local recipes Donna shares in her guides. During my stay in Maui, I made Hula Pie according to Donna’s easy to follow recipe. Although I did have to figure out how to make my own Oreo cookie crust, the pie turned out amazing thanks to Roselani’s Macadamia nut ice cream. So if you wanted to have a character make a Pineapple Cosmo or a Kona Swizzle, the Local Guide can tell you how it’s made.

A slice of Hula Pie.
While I was on Maui, I made friends with a few of the locals and I asked for a few dining recommendations. Pretty much all of the local restaurants recommended by the locals could be found in Donna’s guide. If you want to support local markets and stores on Maui, this guide is the way to go. Donna also has a local guide available for Oahu as well, called Local Girl’s Guide to Oahu.

Additionally, Donna is very approachable and easy to contact either by email or through her facebook page. I had a few questions about parking in Maui since our group had two cars, and Donna quickly answered my e-mails and gave me some great tips for parking that managed to save us a bit of money when it came to parking in Lahaina and Ka’anapali.

I used to travel with at least two guidebooks, but now all my books are on my phone or on my Kindle reader. Armed with these two digital guidebooks, I was able to travel comfortably throughout Maui and get quick reviews of restaurants I stumbled upon on my adventures. This trip also taught me the importance of e-books to a Novel Travelist looking to travel light.


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