This past week my wife and took a vacation for the first time in over a year. Most years we’ll use our timeshare in Aruba. However, we decided to take advantage of living on the left coast and opted for Maui instead. When we move back to the East Coast, it is unlikely we’ll opt for the ten hour flight with our beloved Aruba so close.
General Maui impressions
We are very spoiled by Aruba, which made for stiff competition for Maui. To start with, we thought that our hotel, the Marriott Ocean Club in Kaapanili-Lahaina was in the city of Lahaina and didn’t require a car. Turns out, it was 4 miles from Lahaina, so we were a little isolated on a resort row. We tried to rent a car, but every place was sold out due to a cruise ship. Chalk it up to poor planning.
The lack of a car meant that we couldn’t execute one of our best tactics of saving money – picking up groceries for the week. This is especially handy for those big drinkers as cocktails will run you $7 a pop, but everyone just makes their own paso-guava rum drinks in pitcher to bring by the pool. We didn’t drink much, so this didn’t really become a factor. I’m sure others saved hundreds from making their own drinks.
The most noticeable thing about Maui is that it is expensive. It might even be more expensive than New York City living. If you think about it nearly everything on the island has to be imported thousands of miles. To give you and idea the gas prices were $4.50 and up. This surely had a domino effect on the prices of other things on the island. McDonalds “Dollar Menu” didn’t exist and instead the cheapest items were a couple of dollars. Subway’s $5 footlongs were replaced with $6 Basics. Any tourist trips like snorkeling were $100. In fact, the woman at guest services said that everything revolved around that $100 number.
The Land of Bait and Switch
When everything is expensive it is natural to look for discounts. There were no shortage of what appeared to be “deals.” We thought that we had found a reasonable bargain at a place named Boss Frog’s. They were offering a $50 snorkel cruise. When we went to sign up they said we’d just have to sit through a 90-minute timeshare presentation. Funny, they omitted that from their price list.
We decided to plod on with what brought us into Boss Frog’s in the first place – the two large signs offering $1.50 snorkel set rentals. The salesman explained that we might feel it is a bait and switch, but the sign was 40 years old. Rest assured though, they had a $1.50 snorkel set to rent… it was just from the 1970s. If you had wanted one with technology such as silicone you’d have to pay for the $5 ones. He tried to upsell us on a $8 one, but we really didn’t need the advanced snorkel technology.
Saving Money in Maui
We did find a few bargains in Maui.
One of our favorites was Nikki’s Pizza. You could get a lot of food for around $5-7 dollars. They had everything from local cuisine to cheesesteaks to Greek dishes and of course pizza. It is in a food court, so don’t expect too much – just great food. It’s a small business that has been around for 20 years and earns my admiration as well as my business.
Another big bargain was Aloha Mixed Plate. For $10 you got a plate with chicken, steak, and fish with some white rice and macaroni salad. This was a traditional lunch meal for plantation workers because it was fast (and cheaper). Of course the downside was the lack of fruits and vegetables. You could substitute a salad for $1.50.. The catch is that you had to be okay with eating on a paper plate. It was a small sacrifice for water-front dining – especially during sunset.
We found that like Aloha Mixed Plate, CJ’s Diner, is a good place for dinner at around $12 a plate. The menu was quite extensive. I couldn’t really decide so I got the mixed BBQ plate, a combination of ribs, chicken, and fish with a couple of sides. At the risk of offending some vegetarians out there, I have to admit that I liked the three meats one one plate.
For breakfast we were able to turn one breakfast at our resort into a meal for the two of us. The Marriotts’ Beachwalk take-out cafe had an “All-American” which was three eggs, potatoes, sausage, toast, and a little pineapple. For around $11 we had a good start to our day. (We also bought some bagels which was an economic breakfast for much of the vacation).
And that the end of the bargains of what we found in Maui. We didn’t do too much exploring. That wasn’t what we were really looking for in a vacation.