Maui has been the top island on Conde Nast Traveler's list of reader favorites 15 out of the last 16 years, and for good reason. Maui is steeped in history, beauty and possesses the best beaches to be found anywhere. Think you can't afford all this? Think again.With new, well priced direct flights from the Bay Area and a little creative planning, you can have it all. So give up the cheesy luaus, the packed tour buses and all the things that break the bank and experience the Maui of your dreams these ten ways:Rent a condoAfter staying in hotels for years all over the island, we rented a condo. Our hosts, Leon and Gail own four units in Wailea and treat you like family. At ours, "Treetop", we were greeted with an Aloha note on the door and were serenaded each morning by tropical birds. It was bliss from there on out. The condo not only supplied a kitchenette where we could enjoy our own breakfast and Kona coffee, but was stocked with beach chairs, umbrellas and a cooler. Every day we packed a lunch with treats from a local farmers market and saved enough money to enjoy great dinners every night.www.waileaescape.comVisit UpcountryA trifecta of Upcountry towns, Makawao, Pukalani and Kula offer ocean breezes, unbelievable views and a feeling like being in Napa or Santa Barbara. The main street in Makawao, once a cowboy town, is home to art galleries, restaurants and a bakery right out of the 1930s. We watched a glass blower at work and strolled with home made lemonade. Situated on the slopes of Haleakala, this area is the Maui of days gone by.Enjoy a cocktail at a Wailea resortWith all the money that could be saved by not having to pay for breakfast and lunch, put on your best Aloha shirt and splurge for a Mai Tai and appetizers at the Four Seasons or Grand Wailea Resort. The service is top notch and for one evening you'll live like the other half lives. There is nothing more romantic than sunset here.Go with Pacific Whale Foundation's Eco AdventuresThis organization's snorkel dives and whale watching are the best on the island. Not your typical outing where you may see more flippers than fish, their environmental guides are knowledgeable and they can take you to locations off limits to other companies. All profits are donated to local environmental groups, so not only do you have fun; you help preserve the underwater beauty for future generations.www.pacificwhale.orgFeel the manaTo Hawaiians, mana describes all manner of the supernatural or divine power. Iao Valley is the place in Maui where this is most apparent. Once a place of political importance and a site to honor the gods with sacrifices, the name means "supreme light" and is named in honor of the god Iao. One of the most beautiful spots on the island, Iao Valley is four miles west of Wailuku. Come very early or very late in the day as the light hitting the pinnacles at these hours give it an ethereal glow.Volunteer on vacationAn idea that's catching on worldwide, this is the most rewarding way to vacation. It doesn't cost you a penny and you'll go home with great memories. Volunteers may work with locals and visit off the beaten track locations. Whether picking up trash on the beach or pulling invasive weeds, you'll see areas off limits to the general public. A typical day consists of a one hour orientation and about three hours of work. Call (808) 249-8811 (ext 1).Go stand up paddlingEasier and less taxing than surfing, stand up paddling has gained a huge following since it was invented about 60 years ago. It's not complicated and in the early mornings when the wind is down, the sea is like glass. Keep an eye out for sea turtles, colorful fish and the occasional monk seal while you enjoy this peaceful sport. Instruction and rentals are available all over the island.Learn about MolokaiMaui is unique of all the Hawaiian Islands in that other islands are very close by and accessible. A day trip to Molokai is an adventure you won't soon forget. There are no stop lights and you can drive for miles without seeing a soul. Take a mule ride to Kalaupapa National Historical Park, separated from the rest of the island by a 2,000 foot wall of green mountains. In the late 1800s Father Damian treated victims of Hansen's disease (leprosy) here and in 2009 was canonized for his work. The park contains over 300 historical buildings and 1000 grave markers.Head for a wineryTodeschi Winery is Maui's only vineyard and one of only two in the whole state. Located 2,000 feet up the slopes of Haleakala, the main cottage dates from 1874. There are wine tastings and you'll have the chance to bring home a very special Maui souvenir.Life's a beachWith over 80 beaches, Maui has one tailor made for you. From sunning to sitting under a palm tree with a book, from snorkeling to body surfing, there is a beach that's just right. Walk along the stretch of sand at Kaanapali or Big Beach, or climb over lava flows to a pristine hidden cove. There are beaches for kids and sandcastles or secret areas that are clothing optional. Just don't forget the sunscreen.For more great ideas on Maui:www.101thingstodo.comwww.visitmaui.comwww.maui-info.com-SEW
Last Updated (Friday, 14 June 2013 22:05)
At one time, street walkers, circus men, and ghosts lived in the hills above Danville, as characters from the mind of Eugene O’Neill, considered by many to be one of the greatest playwrights of all time.
O’Neill spent nearly his entire adult life looking for a home for his restless spirit where he could bring his elaborate characters to life. In 1937 he and his second wife, Carlotta, were living in a San Francisco hotel when they discovered a 158-acre ranch in Danville. Drawn to the hillside covered with native oak trees, the couple built their dream house. A long-time devotee of Eastern thought and concepts, and interested in Oriental art and furnishings, they called the house Tao, which means “the way” in Chinese.
O’Neill declared this his final home and refuge and it is here that he wrote his last six and most well known plays, including The Iceman Cometh, Long Days Journey Into Night and A Moon For The Misbegotten.
The only American playwright to ever win the Nobel Prize for Literature, O’Neill also received four Pulitzer Prizes for his work. Tao became his muse, where he often locked himself away for days, creating his legendary and timeless masterpieces. The couple spent time by the pool and with family dog, Blemie, and the author enjoyed walking the hills and the isolation and peace the home brought him.
Carlotta was in charge of decorating the house. Built in the Spanish Colonial architectural style, the residence featured blue ceilings, red doors and black tile floors. Having sensitivity to bright lights, Carlotta kept the drapes drawn, which gave the house a mysterious and shadowy aura. Although they entertained family and friends often, most visitors found the house gloomy and foreboding. It was, in fact, the perfect haven for a playwright to create the unforgettable characters and emotional situations he brought to life on the stage.
The O’Neill’s lived in Tao until 1944, when his worsening depression and alcohol abuse forced them to return back east.
Due to severe hand tremors brought on by his alcoholism and his continuing struggle with depression, O’Neill never completed another play after leaving his beloved Danville home. He died in a hotel room in Boston at age 65 in 1950.
In 1974, due to the efforts of Senator Alan Cranston and others, The Eugene O’Neill Foundation, Tao House, was formed. The property was in danger of being torn down by a builder and with the help of many, the ranch became the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site in 1976, and the home has been restored to its original state. It’s now run by the National Park Service, whose mission is to perpetuate the writer’s vision, to provide programs for future artists and to keep alive the contribution to theater in America that O’Neill made.
Tours are available through the National Park. In May, the park service announced No Reservations Saturdays, which includes tours at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Reservations are required for tours on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays & Sundays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The tour takes a little more than 2 hours and is free.
Access to Tao House is via a private, gated road. The park service provides a free shuttle van at the Museum of San Ramon Valley (Railroad Avenue at Prospect Street) for the short ride to the site.
For more information, call 925-838-0249 or go to www.eugeneoneill.org. - SEW
Last Updated (Thursday, 27 January 2011 04:16)
Whether you are into shopping, the outdoors, entertainment or just lounging by the pool, Palm Springs is your weekend destination. A little more than an hour by plane (Alaska Airlines has three daily non-stops from SFO) or about seven hours by car, this desert community has something for everyone.
More than 100 years ago, Palm Springs was a sleepy village situated in what were once hallowed Indian canyons. By the turn of the 20th Century, it was thought to be a place with restorative powers, due to the natural hot springs. By the 1920’s, it was discovered by movie makers and the Hollywood elite. Considered just far enough from Los Angeles to be out of the reach of tyrannical studio heads, movie stars flocked to the area to let down their hair and party like early rock stars.
As the era of Old Hollywood faded, the “Rat Pack,” headed by Frank Sinatra made it their own, building luxurious homes and backing the building of high end resorts and golf courses. But by the 80s, Palm Springs had become a faded beauty, known for tacky tee-shirt shops and retirees.
Enter Sonny Bono. The entertainer, restaurant entrepreneur and social activist ran for mayor and to everyone’s surprise, won the seat. Bono worked hard to bring the charisma back to the area, starting the Palm Springs International Film Festival, helping to restore the city core and bringing media attention back to the desert community. Sadly, he was killed in a tragic ski accident in 1998 .
But his work and dreams live on. Today, Palm Springs is a happening place, full of fascinating things to do, places to visit and of course that unbeatable weather.
Here’s how you can experience your own Palm Springs Weekend:
3:00 p.m.: Take the mid-afternoon flight from SFO to PSP. Check into the Ace Hotel, the newest and hippest hotel in the city. You may see in its stark white walls and orange doors a faint resemblance to a 60’s Motel 6, which it once was. The room rate varies by season, so check the website to make reservations.
6:00 p.m.: Head to Tropicale in downtown PS for cocktails and dinner. The outside patio is a great place to meet new friends while you enjoy the warm evening air. The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating. Serving a Hawaiian Fusion menu, entrees run from about $15 to $25.
10:00 p.m.: Don’t miss a show of the Palm Springs Follies. You may have to order tickets ahead of time as this is the most popular show in the city. 60 and 70 year old showgirls sing and dance their way through the music of the 1930s to 1950s. Las Vegas has nothing on this extravaganza.
9:00 a.m.: After breakfast at the Kings Highway at the Ace, rent scooters right out front and motor around the fascinating mid-century neighborhoods nearby. Stop at the top of Palm Canyon Drive, and look south for a dead on view of Bob Hopes house, designed by famed architect John Lautner.
Noon: Park your scooter in front of LOOK, for lunch. The lime green and black and white décor makes for a perfect place to experience the ultimate PS vibe. The food and service are the best with a covered patio to keep you out of the sun. My favorite, a wrap called Nuts and Clucks runs just under $10.
2:00 p.m.: Continue your scooter tour through the downtown neighborhoods of Las Palmas, The Movie Colony and Old Tuscany. Get a map of the celebrity homes just about anywhere downtown so you don’t miss the pad where Elvis spent his honeymoon with Priscilla or the Peter Lawford house, where it’s said Marilyn Monroe secretly met with Bobby Kennedy.
6:00 p.m.: Cool your tired body with a margarita and dinner at El Mirasol. This come as you are Mexican restaurant attracts all types, from blue haired grandmas to families to in- the-know gay men. Get there early, as it gets crowded. Once you have your table, don’t hurry the meal. The people-watching is as good as the food. Their signature margarita is about $8, but the food itself is very inexpensive.
9:00 p.m.: Stroll along the retro shops of north Palm Canyon. Window shop, take in an art gallery opening or grab a gelato.
10:00 a.m.: Right across from the Ace is Koffi, where you can sit by the fountain and enjoy the view of Mt. Jacinto. Also be sure to check out Koffi downtown, where Sunday morning is an event with the grassy yard filled with morning people and their dogs. Right next door is Just Fabulous, where you can buy gifts, cards and books on the history and homes of Palm Springs.
1:00 p.m.: Palm Springs is famous for its consignment stores. Two of the best are The Estate Sale and J & J Consignments. Peruse everything from furniture to art to jewelry here. If you see something you like, buy it. By tomorrow, it may be gone.
4:00 p.m.: As your afternoon draws to a close, take time to lounge by the pool. The Ace pool area is usually rocking with a lively crowd on late Sunday afternoons.
7:00 p.m.: Palm Springs is loaded with entertainment options. From the McCallum Theatre to the Annenberg Theater to the many casinos in the area, there is always a great artist in town. Recent concerts ran the gamut from Reba McIntyre to Earth, Wind and Fire to Adam Lambert.
Sadly, you’ll have to catch that Monday flight home. But this is one weekend you won’t forget while you make notes of all the things still to do on your next visit.--SEW
140 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
760 323 0721
The Estate Sale
Palm Springs Follies
Last Updated (Saturday, 05 March 2011 17:59)
#10 Check out the Napa General Store
On a Saturday or Sunday morning this is the place to be. In the newly renovated downtown river walk area, the Napa General Store is combination gift shop, café and meeting place for the locals. It’s the perfect place to spend time wandering around their selection of memorabilia, house wares, books and wines. We spent some time talking with the owner, who being a local herself, knew all the wineries in town and shared with us the latest gossip. Best purchase: A frame ready map of the wine region for $15.
#9 Attend a cooking demonstration at The Culinary Institute of America
Located at the Greystone castle in the Napa hills, the CIA offers classes in wine, food and fine culinary dining. Live cooking demonstrations are performed by the renowned chef-instructors on Saturday and Sunday. The one hour events feature recipes that reflect the seasonal flavors of the wine country. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased the day of the demonstration. 2555 Main Street St. Helena. For more information call 707 967 2320 or go to www.ciachef.edu/california
#8 Bike up the Silverado Trail
There is probably nothing more beautiful than the drive from Napa to Calistoga on the Silverado Trail. The views are awe inspiring and it’s been written up countless times in travel magazines as a “don’t miss” experience. For the braver of us, try biking the 20 some mile road. If you can’t bring your own, you can rent at many places in the valley. There is a wide biking shoulder, but be advised, cars do tend to go fast along the road. Most of the route is flat, but there are some hills. There are some major wineries along this stretch including Sinskey, Stags Leap and the Silverado, owned by the Disney family. They all welcome biking enthusiasts.
#7 Enjoy a Calistoga spa
For over 100 years the spas and natural springs of Calistoga have welcomed those desiring pampering and relaxation. One of my favorites is Golden Haven Hot Springs, one of the oldest still in operation. They offer a couples mud bath, as well as hot spring mineral pools and private treatment rooms for massage and hot stone therapy. Located at 1713 Lake Street, Calistoga, discount coupons and special deals are available. For more information call 707 942 8000 or go to www.goldenhaven.com.
#6 Have dinner at Celadon
Although the restaurants of Yountville are more famous, they are often expensive and hard to get into. Celadon in Napa serves the best comfort food in the area and the setting, in a renovated warehouse, is beautiful. Their garden room is especially nice on a warm evening with its view of the Napa River. It’s an easy walk from most of the in town hotels, set on a side street where you can complete your evening with some window shopping. 500 Main Street Suite G, Napa. For reservations call: 707 254 9690 or go to www.celadonnapa.com
#5 Visit Ceja Vineyards
Pablo and Juanita Ceja moved to the Napa Valley in 1967 and two of their children, Armando and Pedro established and run the the first Hispanic-owned winery in the United States. Company president Amelia Ceja is a master chef, and when not cooking for friends and family she is a guest chef at local restaurants. This is a private winery but they do have a wine club which gets you invitations to parties, dinners and their famous Bocce ball tournaments. Surely one of the most beautiful wineries in the area, our tasting there was so much fun, we didn’t want to leave. For more information, see www.cejavineyards.com.
#4 Shop St. Helena
The town of St. Helena offers the crème de la crème of Napa Valley shopping. You could spend a whole afternoon taking in the high end stores, galleries and shops. A beautiful tree lined street, the main drag is a busy place on weekends. To avoid the crowds plan a visit mid week. In the off season, not only will you have the place to yourself, you may also score some great discounts. Make sure to look above the store fronts and admire the 19th century facades of the original town stone buildings.
#3 Arrange a limo tour
It can be overwhelming to plan a tour of Napa. Many of us just don’t know which wineries to stop at. Arranging a day of touring by limousine may be for you. Not only are you driven around in style, these companies have arrangements with small and boutique wineries that are not open to the public. On our last visit, we were treated to meet and greets by the winery owners and a catered lunch right in the middle of the vines. The real piece de resistance was that our driver owned a small vineyard himself, and regaled us with tales of the ups and downs of the business. If you are a party of 5 or 6, the cost is very reasonable and an experience you will not forget.
#2 Take in a free event
All summer long there are free events to attend in the area. Many wineries do concerts. What better way to end your day than to sit at sunset, listening to a woodwind quartet or an acoustic guitar played by a local musician? Pick up a local guide, and peruse the events calendar. I recently counted no fewer than 50 special events coming up this summer, most of them at no or minimal cost.
#1 Do a picnic lunch
Although there is enough in the Napa region to keep you busy for a week, and the wineries are great fun, at some point you just can’t do any more tastings. When that time comes, take a break and allow yourself to soak up the warm sunshine and summer breezes. Between the town of Napa and Calistoga there are delis, cafes and markets where you can pick up a sandwich or salad. Find a spot to sit and linger, make new friends and savor what you have experienced. One of the best places to do this is the Beringer Vineyards. The oldest continuously operating winery in the area, it’s the home of the Rhine House, built by Frederick Beringer in the early 1800’s. The grounds here are expansive, with fountains and flowers. Their wine shop is one of the best around and there is plenty of parking. 2000 Main Street, St. Helena 707 963 4812
Contributing writer Steve Wallace will be posting a monthly travel blog. Feel free to contact him at
with suggestions or comments.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 23 November 2010 03:10)