Sunday, June 9, 2019

Race to Robie Creek 2019 Defender Team Ruck

Race to Robie Creek, Robie Creek Half Marathon, Security Forces Ruck Race

Back in April, a team of nine of our Security Forces Defenders got together to hike the Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon here in Boise, Idaho. I hiked it last year with a fellow cop as a ruck, and this year I motivated (read: suckered) eight more to join me for the fun.

One of our Master Sergeants designed and ordered team shirts for us (thank you!). They were awesome! We all decided to go with wearing either our duty flak vest or a ruck for this event. Our rucks last year were pretty darn heavy so we didn't want to set ourselves up for that kind of pain again this year--we wanted to have FUN! I also didn't want to put any any crazy time or pressure expectations on us--we just wanted to get together for a hike and enjoy some time outside of work together.

Race to Robie Creek, Robie Creek Half Marathon, Security Forces Ruck Race

The weather was almost perfect that day. It was sunny and warm at the start, and we knew we'd be gaining over 2000 feet of elevation so we were prepped for cooler, possibly rainy temps at the top (spoiler alert: it hailed and was crazy).

I saw one of my gung-ho running friends at the start. She and I have been running races together for years. She's fast as lighting these days--I can't keep up with her anymore!

Race to Robie Creek, Robie Creek Half Marathon, Security Forces Ruck Race

At high noon, we started off up the hill. The first 8.5 miles of the course is solid uphill, and I have to be honest... if you're just hiking it and not carrying a 40-lb ruck like we did last year AND if you're not running it, it's really not so bad. After having a terrible experience running it several years ago and then gutting it out on the ruck last year, the standard weighted hike really was quite enjoyable. Our guys all did great and we mostly just kept a quick walking/hiking pace for the duration of the uphill portion.

Race to Robie Creek, Robie Creek Half Marathon, Security Forces Ruck Race

We all stayed together the whole time. Team RWB Boise loaned us their flag, and we switched off who carried it each mile. I felt like that really brought us together and made it feel like a team effort.

Race to Robie Creek, Robie Creek Half Marathon, Security Forces Ruck Race

These two girls below, V & L. They were CHAMPIONS. They set our pace the entire time and had they not been slowed down by the rest of us, they'd have dominated Robie with or without their vests on. What MOTIVATORS!

Race to Robie Creek, Robie Creek Half Marathon, Security Forces Ruck Race

I literally love my job SO MUCH and to have the opportunity to combine my love of running and hiking together with my Security Forces colleagues was absolutely such a fun way to spend the day.

Race to Robie Creek, Robie Creek Half Marathon, Security Forces Ruck Race

In the picture below, we're about to crest the top of the 8.5-mile uphill, the Temptation Station, and begin our descent downwards. I'm so proud of this group of people!

Race to Robie Creek, Robie Creek Half Marathon, Security Forces Ruck Race

Coming over the top of the hill and heading down into the descent, we traveled up the foothills into the mountains and forest. It was like the weather totally changed on the backside. There was snow on the ground, it got cold, and we knew a storm was starting to roll in.

The downhill portion, as we all agreed, was much harder than the uphill. It's pretty steep, so walking is almost uncomfortable on your hips and knees--it's like you HAVE to jog. We all took an easy shuffle/jog to get down the hill in an attempt to beat 4 hours on the clock. Last year, my colleague and I finished in 4 hours, 40 minutes. I thought it would be pretty darn cool to come in under 4 hours!

Race to Robie Creek, Robie Creek Half Marathon, Security Forces Ruck Race

As we crossed the line together, whooping with joy that it was over and a huge sense of pride for accomplishing the ruck together, we didn't even care about the time--we were just happy to be done! We ended up finishing the race in 4:06. Absolutely killer!

It was a lot of fun and it was something totally out of the comfort zone of most of the guys who did it. We feel like it brought us together, was something pretty badass that we could all say we did, and it was a heck-of-a-fun way to spend our Saturday afternoon.

The after party was great. We sipped on some cold brews and ate some food before getting absolutely hailed and stormed out. We all sheltered under a picnic area with about 60 other runners and attempted to wait the storm out. 45-long minutes later, it abated and by then we were freezing cold and wet! It wasn't the most fun way to end the day, but we laughed about it the entire bus ride home.

Race to Robie Creek, Robie Creek Half Marathon, Security Forces Ruck Race

I'm very grateful for this team of guys & gals who gutted it out with me on the Robie Creek hill. They're a big bunch of warriors, and it was so cool to be able to capture this experience with all nine of us there, pushing out those 13 miles with Old Glory together. I'm looking forward to hopefully doubling our numbers and coming back again to hike it all over again next year!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Seattle SPARTAN Super Race

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer

On 13 April, I joined a whole new, rugged class of athletes--I became a Spartan Racer! I ran the Seattle Spartan Super race (8.5 miles, 30 obstacles, and so incredibly rainy and cold), finished in 2:07, and I earned my first wedge of my Spartan Trifecta. I realize I'm publishing this a month late, but life has been kind of "hung in the balance" with a bunch of stressors lately, so the least I could do is share some of the race fun despite the fact that I'm way late and several posts behind.

If you're wondering what made me take the leap from competitive distance running to competitive Spartan racing, it's all due to my friend & colleague, Mat, who has been trying to convince me for the past couple years that my speed, agility, and strength need to be utilized for something more "badass" than just half and full marathon running. He thought I'd like the challenge of the obstacles and running that Spartans offer, and why not test your body fully to the limits with a new sport? After years of his prodding (and a couple glasses of wine on Christmas Eve this past 2018 that dropped my willpower and stubbornness), I gave in and signed up for my first Spartan--the Seattle Super.

Now, choosing Seattle for my first Spartan race was either the wisest or dumbest thing I could have ever done. Wise because this year's course was literally the HARDEST race that most folks said they've ever encountered with how rainy, cold, and impossible the obstacles were so realistically I started my Spartan racing off with the hardest race I'll ever have to do and it "should" all be downhill from here. I mean, even the top athletes failed some of the obstacles and normally that doesn't happen. It may have been the dumbest decision ever because it was again--cold (40 degrees), terribly rainy, incredibly muddy (which was fun), but very, very challenging. A lot of folks either DNF'd (did not finish) the race due to hypothermia/sheer frustration or suffered extreme hypothermia upon finishing. Sounds like a good time, right? It actually was.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Open House

Mat (the buddy who convinced me to try Spartans in the first place and who coached me for the last four months) and I made a "man trip" out of the race and both signed up for it. We got into town Friday afternoon and went straight to the Open House to play/test out some of the obstacles since I'd never encountered many of them before. I knew the obstacles that would give me grief--pretty much anything that involved grip strength--but I'd been training since January so I felt mostly ready. The biggest unknowns for me were going to be monkey bars, beater, twister, and multi-rig, because my grip strength is really sub-par and I didn't have a place to train for those at home. Also, the spear throw was a big 50/50 shot because sometimes you get it and sometimes you don't.

We explored the Open House for two hours and met some of the Spartan Pro's I'd been following online for the past several months. We finished the evening at Subway and called it a night early to try to get some much-needed sleep (neither of us ended up sleeping much).

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Open House

The next day started early. Mat and I were both racing in the Elite heats, so he had the first start time of the day at 7:30 and I was right behind him at 7:45. Despite the fact that I'd never run a Spartan before, he and I both agreed Elite would be a good fit for me because of my past running training and also I don't give two craps about placing in an age group, so I just wanted to be up there with the big guns. Mat shared the best quote with me, he said, "You can be a big fish in a small pond, but I'd rather know what kind of fish I really am." And with that, I decided to go Elite!

At 7:45 we "Aroo! Aroo! Aroo!"-ed our way across the start line and we were off. As you can see from the starting line photo below, it was a wet one. I was soaked BEFORE we even started running, and I was not eager for the dunk wall that awaited me two miles in.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Starting Line, Spartan Photography

The course started off fast and hard, with forest trails for the first 1.5-miles of the course. If you've never done a Spartan, it's not like there's a "trail" that you run. They mark off parts of a forest, field, river, landscape, etc., and YOU are the ones who are making the trail. It doesn't matter if there are trees, rocks, branches, thorns, water, mud, A RIVER, or whatever... if the arrows point in that direction, you just conquer it. I almost fell several times going up and through the un-groomed forest, but the forest was the least of my worries. It was a muddy, slick mess and I should have known the worst was yet to come.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Barbed Wire Obstacle

The first couple obstacles were great. Hurdles, barbed wire, bucket carry... all not a problem. I had been training buckets every single week, and that bucket felt about the same as what I'd been training with (about 65 lbs), so it didn't phase me much. I mean, I didn't love carrying it for 7+ minutes, but whatever.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Bucket Carry Obstacle

As I was getting to the buckets, the Elite leaders of the race were dropping their buckets, so that was cool--they weren't too far ahead and I was happy to see I wasn't too far behind or in last place or anything like that. None of that really matters, but mentally--I just didn't want to be last.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Rolling Mud Obstacle

Coming over the rolling mud was where it got interesting. Rolling mud went right into the dunk wall. At this point, it was about 40 degrees with a 37-degree or so windchill, and the idea of jumping into the murky water to go under the dunk was something I was not prepared for. But jump-and-dunk I did and by that point, I was already soaking wet so the only factor it added was just more wet.

Now, about 2.5 miles in, what's when I got to the point of real SUCKY circumstances. I approached the Z-wall with confidence because I'd practiced on it the day before. But that darn Z-wall threw me a curve ball with the slick blocks and slippery shoes, and I slipped off that wall after only a few blocks. I was so frustrated! I jogged over to begin my first of many, many burpees.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Spear Throw Obstacle

Now, the 30 burpees wasn't so bad. But the obstacle right after Z-wall was the spear throw, and wouldn't you know--I failed that one, too. My spear went far enough, and I thought it was going to go in, but it went just to the left of the foam block and man--that was soul-crushing. 60 burpees in a row was not ideal.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Yokohama Tire Flip Obstacle

I cruised through the next several obstacles, picking up my pace between obstacles as my legs would allow. I was so grateful that besides for the first mile or so of hills, the Seattle course was mostly flat so that was one issue I didn't have to deal with. After failing those obstacles back-to-back, I knew I was really far behind in my heat, so I took the pace easy, thanked the volunteers, and just tried to have as much fun as possible during the race. I mean, it was kind of miserable out there. The only way to look at it was just HAVE AS MUCH FUN AS POSSIBLE!

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Atlas Carry Obstacle

As I made my way through the 8.5 miles of the course, I was right about one thing. Almost every single grip obstacle tested me. It wasn't because I was new to Spartan racing--trust me, my grip is sub-par but I trained it like crazy--it was the insane wetness of the course that threw me off. In addition to Z-wall and spear throw, I also failed olympus (after trying to get through on my knees because it was so slick and it took all the skin off my knees), twister, beater, monkey bars, the box, and multi-rig. Talk about a frustrating race! Failing those eight obstacles equated to 180 burpees (I did 192 because I did 2-extra at each failed obstacle just in case) and two penalty laps. UGH! By my last set of burpees at multi-rig I was so absolutely done with doing burpees.

Despite the cold of the windchill and the constant rain, I never felt cold on the course. Not even when we had to run through the snow-melt run-off river (literally... we had to run through a RIVER for almost half a mile!). The rain and the cold were two things that did not bother me at all (until after the race anyway), which was a huge relief.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Rope Climb Obstacle

One of my greatest wins during the race was making it up the rope climb. Prior to training for this race, I had never learned to climb a rope EVER in my life. Mat taught me, and I practiced almost every week at a rope climb on base. I have taken the skin off my shin more times that I can count in the last couple months, and to make it up that rope in those conditions and to get to ring a bell (since I didn't get to ring many others due to all my failed obstacles) was so exciting!

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Fire Jump Obstacle

When I finished the race, I was RELIEVED, exhausted, overwhelmed with a feeling of accomplishment, and so proud to have finished my first Spartan. I finished in 2:07:45 (37th place elite) and had 180 burpees under my belt and a new, shiny Spartan Super medal around my neck. I felt like a BADASS! This was a Championship Series race, so I literally went against the best female Spartan athletes IN THE WORLD. To finish in that time and in that place with that caliber of athlete was pretty darn cool!

Shortly after finishing, the hypothermia began to set it, so I didn't wait around at the venue long. Mat, who had a great race and finished in 1:32 (yeah, Mat!), got me back to the hotel for a hot shower and SOME MUCH-DESERVED PIZZA!!! We drove back to Boise that evening, swapping race stories the whole way.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women

When I finished the Super, I said, "You know, I don't think this whole Spartan racing thing is for me." Wouldn't you know that two days later I signed up for the Montana Spartan Beast which I'd run three weeks later? Of course I did. What can I say, I'm a glutton for punishment! Plus--gotta earn that TRIFECTA! That post is coming soon! Thanks for reading ;-)

If you want to follow along with my Spartan training, it's all documented on Instagram under my STORIES! (Spartan Training, Spartan Racing, + Workouts)

Monday, April 15, 2019

Palm Desert & Arizona Trip 2019

In March, Daniel and I were lucky enough to take 10 days off of work to head down to the warmer southwestern states of California and Arizona for a mega-family trip that was worth all the memories in the books. We spent 6 days with my dad and his wife in Palm Desert, California and then spent 4 days in the Phoenix, Arizona area to celebrate his cousin's wedding (and a couple family reunions as well!).

Most of the photos you'll see in this post were of our many hikes and eats along the way... I have been trying to be more present in the moment so I haven't been taking quite as many photos. I think these ones will do our trip justice. It's the memories that count, anyway, right?

On the first day, we flew into San Diego en route down to Palm Desert and our first stop on our way to PD was a quick bite in Old Town. We had just been to San Diego back in October, so when we landed we knew our favorite spot and headed straight for Casa de Reyes in Old Town. Their drinks, the atmosphere, the food--it's all too good to go anywhere else (though Coyote Café comes in close second for me because of their amazing service).

After getting our fill of chips & salsa, margaritas (just one!), and fajitas, we began the three-hour drive to Palm Desert. We always love our road trips.

On our first day in Palm Desert, we hit up one of our favorite trails, Henderson Trail, for a quick hour-long hike before an afternoon round of golf with my dad and his wife. We were excited to dust off the clubs at Desert Falls Country Club. It was our first 18-holes of the season. We have golf league now every Tuesday so that was a good season-opening warm-up.

The next day, we went for a long hike at Indian Canyons in Palm Springs. This photo was taken at the bottom of Palm Canyon trail, heading up to Coffman Trail. It was pretty windy in the desert that day, but Indian Canyons is a great place to go when it's windy in the valley because the canyon shields the wind and weather pretty well. We love Indian Canyons because it's a pretty steep admission to get into the park (if you want to go several times), but military has free admission so we try to take advantage of that. We LOVE all the trails there.

While there was plenty of pool time, eating out, and having fun in between the hikes, most of the photos I chose for this post were our fun hikes since we love them so much and Southern California offers such diverse, interesting trails! The photo above was taken while we were hiking Moon Country Trail at Coachella Valley Preserve. The superbloom was insane!

I was so excited to spot a horny toad sunning himself on a rock. Normally Daniel is the one who catches all the lizards, but this time I got to have a go at the little guy and I was able to catch him pretty easily. We took some photos and let the little guy go. It was hard not to want to take him home as a pet (we resisted, don't worry)! 

Another place we love to go because their chips & salsa are amazing is Casuelas Nuevas in Cathedral City. If you can't tell already, it's kind of our thing to go for really long hikes and then go out for Mexican food. Nothing really hits the spot like cali-Mex food after a day in the sun!

One of our favorite trail systems, Whitewater Preserve, was closed during this trip due to flooding. We were bummed to miss out on the superbloom out there, but we took advantage of the convenience of the Coachella Valley Preserve and hit up a couple different trails during our PD stay. The photo above was from a hike along Pushwalla Palms trail at Coachella Valley Preserve.

One of the new Mexican places we tried after a hike was Mamacita's. Now, I have to say, that place does not look like anything special from the outside and on the inside you almost feel like you've walked into a total hole-in-the-wall. But the food... the food! It was so good and so affordable! Pictured above are their naked shrimp/fish tacos and I'm already craving them and wanting to go back for more.

One of our very favorite hikes this trip was at the Living Desert Trail at the Living Desert in Palm Springs. It was the longest and most beautiful (and challenging!) trail we did this trip. We were a little apprehensive... you might not think there would be a 5+ mile trail within a zoo that could offer you anything of value but I tell you what--this trail was amazing. The views and being able to hike through a canyon, over mountains, and have a panoramic view of the entire Coachella Valley was truly spectacular. We will for sure be adding this one to our list of repeats (all the other trails we did were repeats).

Most of our evenings in Palm Desert ended in games or fire pits, including Gin rummy and homemade margaritas at Dad & Karen's!

After six days in Palm Desert, we made the journey to Phoenix, Arizona. Our original intention was to go for Daniel's cousin's wedding, but we added a lot of extras in to make the most of the trip. We stayed at the Vee Quiva hotel and casino in Phoenix and while it was a little bit out there and separated from the city, it gave us exactly what we needed. We had a cozy room, a pool, access to local trails, and a decent commute to anywhere we wanted to go in the Phoenix area.

The first morning in Phoenix, we hiked up Telegraph Pass & The National Trail around South Mountain. The trails in Phoenix were really different than those in Palm Desert. For the most part they offered more elevation and equally scenic views. That's why we love hikes so much... they're always different everywhere we go.

I don't have many other pics of the other hikes we did in Phoenix, but we also hiked (I ran) Holbert Trail. That one was perfect training for all the Spartan races I had/have coming up.

One of the best stops we made in Phoenix was McMahon's Ice Cream in Chandler, AZ. Oh my goodness, it is A MUST GO for all ice cream lovers in the Phoenix area. The birthday cake & cookie dough flavors were PHENOMENAL! I want to go back and try all the rest!

As I mentioned before, we were in Phoenix for a reason! Daniel's cousin was getting married, so we were elated to spend her special day celebrating her and her new husband. The best part was that day was basically a family reunion with Daniel's Dad's entire side of the family. The day before, we'd had a reunion with his mom's entire side of the family. It was a weekend filled to the brim of meeting family members I've only met on Facebook (or didn't know existed!) and I was so overjoyed to finally put names to faces. I think I have them all down like a pro now, and I'm pretty blessed to say I'm a part of a really fun and amazing family.

As you can see, we had some really good times at the wedding. Daniel's parents are so fun, and the entire weekend and meeting all of Daniel's family members was a huge highlight to the 10-day trip.

On our last day in the desert, we visited the Wildlife World Zoo in Phoenix, AZ. That place was insanely cool because you got to be so up close and personal with the animals. Of all the exhibits, the rhino was so cool--we were RIGHT by him. I also loved the baby animal exhibit and was so tempted to sneak a baby jackal home with me. I mean, I saw the older jackals and pretty much changed my mind right then... but the babies were so darn cute. I've never seen a baby animal exhibit like that (purely for newborn animals) and it was very heart-warming. I was so impressed with the entire zoo's amazing animal interaction and exhibit set-ups!

And the last photo of the post--my souvenirs! I truly love being a tourist. My friend Andi got me hooked on penny press souvenirs last May when we went to the Oregon Coast, and I have collected 15 pennies over the last 11-months. Can't wait to continue adding to my collection.

I wish I wasn't so busy lately--it's been hard to share these vacation photos on time (we were on this trip a month ago today), but it's so fun to look back on the memories that won't fade away anytime soon. Hope you guys enjoyed our CA/AZ trip recap. I have a LOT of things going on in April so this blog is about to liven up in the coming weeks!!

If you're interested in our past Palm Desert trips, you can see them here!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Maui December 2018

Maui, Hawaii, Te Au Moana Luau

Last month, Daniel and I traveled to the tropics to visit the beautiful Maui yet again. We had gone in December 2017 also, and we were so excited to be back for another round of snorkeling and seafood indulgences.

In 2017, we stayed up in Ka'anapali on the northwestern side of the island but we ended up loving the snorkeling on the southwest side of the island best--down by Kihei/Wailea--but it was at least an hour drive down there each time, making for a 2-hour round trip just for some snorkel time. To bypass the commute, we opted to stay in Kihei this time around and chose the Mana Kai Maui as our destination.

Mana Kai Maui, Keawakapu Beach

Now, Mana Kai Maui was a hotel we booked on Expedia (Daniel is our personal travel guide), and it looked just okay from the Expedia photos. To be honest, we booked our trip pretty late and the Mana Kai was one of the only reasonable options left for us. It was either this hotel or a condo (which sounded really appealing), but I was intrigued by the gym that Mana Kai offered so that's the option we went with. It turns out, the Mana Kai is A-MAZ-ING, and we were so happy we went with it. The oceanview of Mana Kai Keawakapu Beach is pictured above.

One of the best parts about the hotel is that we were on the 2nd to top floor, so we had a great view of the northern half of the island. The downside was that if it was windy, our room had a bit of a drafty breeze that swept through it, but overall our room was amazing, the pool was nice and refreshing, and the hotel was on the best snorkeling reef we found this time around in Maui. If you don't stay at the Mana Kai but want a GREAT snorkeling reef to visit, go check out Keawakapu Beach. Our favorite part was snorkeling and checking out the turtles and reef life while listening to the whales singing under the water--what an experience.

Maui, Hawaii, Poolenalena Beach, The Snorkel Store

Another beach that we loved last time and loved even more this time was Poo'lenalena Beach. Just a few minutes south of our hotel, this beach is beautiful and wasn't ever too crowded. We always rent our snorkel gear for the week from The Snorkel Store (they're amazing, go visit Rob there in Kihei!) and then just take it with us on our adventures. There were tons of turtles, and I mean TONS, and we snorkeled on both sides of the beach. One of our favorite things was scavenging for discarded shells under the murky depths this time and we found some pretty sweet little treasures to take home.

Maui, Hawaii, Cones on Kihei ice cream

As you guys know, we are foodies and we LOVE ice cream. Our favorite spot this time was Cones on Kihei and they serve up some delicious Lappert's ice cream. We went there three or four times over the duration of the week and got the same flavors each time--cookie dough (staple for us) and peanut butter cup ice cream.

Another ice cream favorite was the Sweet Shoppe Kihei. When you walk in, they look like they only do gelato, but that's just how it's served. It's real, homemade ice cream and it was fantastic!

Maui, Hawaii, Kamaole Beach Park III

Our days on the island were pretty simple. We'd wake up each morning and hit the really nice hotel gym (seriously the nicest hotel gym I've ever been to) before it was time to go in the water. Then we'd shower off, eat a big of breakfast and watch some NFL football highlights (it was our championship Fantasy Football week, after all!), and then hit the beach. We'd spend a couple hours rotating between sunbathing and snorkeling (at least an hour of snorkeling each day) with absolutely no agenda in mind or any place to be. I don't know if I've ever been so relaxed (or tan, for that matter!).

Mana Kai Maui, Keawakapu Beach
Maui, Hawaii

After we had gotten our daily dosage of sun, we would always hop in the Jeep--top down, of course--and hit up one of our favorite seafood spots. Last year up by Ka'anapali, we loved Down the Hatch in Lahaina. Their Lava Lava Shrimp were absolutely to die for. This year in Kihei, Coconuts Fish Café was our go-to. In fact, I think we went there three different times to eat their fish tacos (I loved the "taco mountain" which was all the fillings of tacos but no shell). We also really liked the fish 'n' chips at Maui Fish 'n Chips in Kihei. Man, their batter was nice and doughy, and the fish was so tender. MMMMmmmmm fish!

Maui, Hawaii, Keawakapu Beach

We'd finish almost all our evenings sitting on Keawakapu Beach outside our hotel, sipping cocktails and watching the sun set. There was a gentlemen there who would get all the way into the ocean as the sun was setting, a 20oz Fosters in his hand, and sip his can of brew until the sun went all the way down. It was too chilly for me to even think about getting in the water at that time of the evening, but like a champion--he was out there each evening just doing his thing. I overheard him tell another couple that he lives at the Mana Kai and does that every SINGLE evening. Just incredible.

Maui, Hawaii, Lahaina Cruise Company, Hawaiian Ocean Project, Snorkeling trip on Maui

Last year, we took a trip out to Lanai with the Hawaiian Ocean Project on a snorkeling day trip. We loved that trip and the dolphins so much that we wanted to go back again this year. Unfortunately for us, that day presented us with the worst weather we had the entire trip. We woke up to raging winds, rain, and chilly temps. But the show must go on, right? So we boarded the boat with promises that they'd at least take us "somewhere cool," and that they did.

Maui, Hawaii, Lahaina Cruise Company, Hawaiian Ocean Project, Snorkeling trip on Maui

We ended up snorkeling down south of Lahaina close to the legendary "Mile Marker 14." After the wind died down and the sun came out, we were able to snorkel for an hour in the deep, clear water. We didn't see anything like we saw on our trip last year, but it was still an amazing experience and the staff with the Hawaiian Ocean Project do such a good job with their trips. They served us lunch and gave us free cocktails and we were happy clams out on the open water. We even saw a couple humpback whales on our trip back to Lahaina. Any trip with those guys is always worth it.

Maui, Hawaii, Lahaina Cruise Company, Hawaiian Ocean Project, Maui Dinner Cruise

We love the Hawaiian Ocean Project so much that we also decided to do a Lahaina dinner cruise with them, too. It was very cool because we boarded the ship, apprehensive about the evening winds that so often sweep the coastline of Maui in the evenings, but we were greeted with the nicest evening of our entire trip.

We were served complimentary Mai Thais upon boarding (thank you very much!), and were treated to an exceptionally nice three-course meal over the course of the evening. We had salad, I had mahi-mahi (Daniel had prime rib), and we satiated our appetites with cheesecake and more cocktails for dessert. We toured the waters around Lahaina, watched the sun set, and then enjoyed live music under the moonlight before returning back to the harbor. To say that the dinner cruise was the absolute BEST experience of our trip would be an understatement. It was romantic, delicious, and something we plan to do again next time!

Maui, Hawaii, Lahaina Cruise Company, Hawaiian Ocean Project, Maui Dinner Cruise
Maui, Hawaii, Lahaina Cruise Company, Hawaiian Ocean Project, Maui Dinner Cruise

Now, Daniel has been to Hawaii a couple times, but he has yet to go to a Luau. We were so excited to get to go to the Te Au Moana Luau in Wailea. We loved it because it was very close to our hotel, so we took a "Turtle Ride" down there so we didn't have to drive and could fully enjoy the night. With free cocktails and the most delicious luau food, we did not go home disappointed. The show was incredible, the dancing was amazing, and I even took home a really cool faux tattoo from one of the craft tables (it's not real, don't worry Dad!).

Maui, Hawaii, Te Au Moana Luau
Maui, Hawaii, Te Au Moana Luau

Of course I had to emulate the infamous Taco Bell commercial and do a "sunset heart hands" pose at the luau. I'm the worst, I know.

Maui, Hawaii, Te Au Moana Luau, sunset heart hands

On our last day, we snorkeled and sat on the beach, our usual, and then finished the evening off with some margaritas and football at Roasted Chiles in Kihei.The food there was really good, and the bar-side service was even better. I had a watermelon margarita first and a "roasted chile" margo second. They were the perfect cap-off to our Hawaiian vacation.

Maui, Hawaii, Roasted Chiles Kihei

There's so much more to our vacation, but some of it is best kept for our memories. If you guys are visiting Maui and have any questions or suggestions, hit me up in the comments below. All I know is I'm soooo looking forward to our next trip--whenever that may be. Until next time Maui, aloha.

Maui, Hawaii, Te Au Moana Luau