Trip Report

Sugar Beach Resort – Unit PH14

IMG_4899My previous post went over Sugar Beach Resort and the features of the property. This post I’m going to focus only on the unit (PH14) we rented directly through the owner on VRBO. Previously we have only stayed in 1-bedroom units at Sugar Beach, but this time we IMG_4811decided to go with a 2-bedroom / 2-bathroom unit.

This was our first time renting PH14 and we really lucked out with our choice. Before booking the unit, both my Mom and myself looked at all the 2-bedroom units available to rent at Sugar Beach. We felt like none of the other units or photos on VRBO really even came close to this unit. The pictures online were 100% a perfect representation of what the unit was like, which doesn’t always happen with rental properties.

The unit was spacious and had been remodeled throughout. The condo directly overlooked the ocean, along with a view of Kahoolawe and Molokini.

The most noticeable area and really the highlight of the condo was the kitchen. The kitchen had a large granite island and all the appliances were stainless steel and relatively new. The only appliance that was a bit odd to use was the dishwasher. The kitchen was well stocked with cooking supplies, though a few odds and ends have obviously disappeared overtime (seems typical in most rental units I’ve stayed at).

Besides the kitchen, the rest of the condo felt comfortable and made for a relaxing vacation.  Unfortunately now I’m home I realized I’m forgot to take a photo of the couch area in the living room and a photo of the bedroom with the king bed. The living room had a large sectional, small chaise lounge, and a television.

Both bedrooms were the same size, but one had a king bed and the second bedroom had 2 twin beds. Additionally both bathrooms were remodeled similarly and had completely tiled showers. There were no bathtubs in this unit, which I personally prefer.

The washer and dryer were the new front loading ones as well. On top of this the unit had nice tile throughout, while the bedrooms ware carpeted. This is probably my favorite unit I’ve stayed in at Sugar Beach and I would stay here again instantly.

Sugar Beach Resort (Maui)

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This last May I went to Maui for a few weeks on vacation and met up with my parents who flew in a few days before me from Seattle. On this trip to Maui we decided to stay again at Sugar Beach Resort since the property has worked best for us on our trips to Maui. A few years back we stayed at another rental property and had a pretty poor experience, so this time we decided to go back to the property we knew best. This post is just going to be focusing on Sugar Beach Resort and not the unit we rented. I’ll cover the unit (PH 14) in another post later this week.

IMG_4883Sugar Beach Resort is not like your typical resort since the units are actually all individually owned since the property is condominiums. We like renting condos in Hawaii since it works best for our Hawaii vacation style. Condos are convenient since most offer a full kitchen and some also have in-room laundry facilities. One great feature about Sugar Beach Resort is all the units have air conditioning and laundry.

The property is located in Kihei on Sugar Beach and is only a short drive over to Kahului. This makes for an easier trip back and forth to the airport. Plus most of the main shopping areas are in the Kahului area like Costco, Target, Walmart, and Whole Foods. There are a few grocery stores and numerous restaurants located throughout Kihei, which are convenient to get to from the condo.

The property has been around since the 1970s and actually my Mom stayed here not long after in opened. My first time to Sugar Beach Resort was in the mid-1990s and I have IMG_4882stayed at the property more than a dozen times since. Unfortunately no one in the family
ever bought a unit here so we always rent. The property hasn’t changed a whole lot of the years, but is well maintained and in my opinion one of the nicer rental properties in Kihei.

Now the property does not have some of the features an actual resort offers like daily maid service or a 24-hour front desk. If you are wanting that type of service, Sugar Beach Resort definitely won’t be the place to stay. The property does offer great features like a large pool area and hot tub. There also is a small mini-golf area, a restaurant, and a sightseeing office to help book tours for those who don’t know the area or how to use the Internet (I’m kidding on the Internet part, but it is really easy to book tours and luaus yourself online now).

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All the condos and the pool area have key code instead of an actual key, which makes it convenient to come and go as you please (plus no worries about losing the key). There also is a grill area near the pool with views of the ocean. The grills are cleaned daily and seem to be well maintained, though the occasional one may not heat as well as the rest.

The best part of the complex is the location right on the beach with easy access. The beach is actually pretty nice with some snorkeling right off the beach. A lot of people rent boogie boards and paddle boards to hangout in the water. We typically just stay around the beach and swim a bit in the water. Sometimes the water may be a bit murky and rough depending on the time of year, so just be aware conditions may not always be the best.

Over the years we have rented various condos either directly through an owner or a rental agency in Maui. Now we like to go directly through an owner since you know which condo you are getting. This time we went directly through the owners on a unit we found on VRBO. There also are a lot of units available on Airbnb, but those are mainly one-bedrooms. The property has both one and two-bedroom units.

Now the one downfall of the property is some units are not as well maintained/updated as others, which unfortunately is the big issue here. Some owners have really remodeled their units with nice features and lots of kitchen supplies, while others feel like they are in a time capsule or have been raided by thieves. I recommend if you go directly through an owner and know which unit you are renting, to really research that unit and read reviews. Read the reviews on VRBO (the owner may filter those), TripAdvisor, Yelp, and any blogs you may find. If you find negative reviews on a unit, I would probably stay away from that unit. I don’t want to scare anyone but we’ve stayed in some great units and some poor units here over the years. The poor units really can put a damper on the vacation experience.

Luckily this time we stayed in a fantastic unit, which I’ll review in the next post.

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Overnight at Crowne Plaza LAX 

img_4784Last week I was stuck with a long layover choice out of LAX since I wanted a one-stop flight to Maui. One option was waiting around LAX all-day or flying out early the next morning.  I decided to go with the second option and spent the night at the LAX Crowne Plaza.

This hotel was located right near the airport with a shuttle service that continuously ran throughout the day. When I exited the luggage area at LAX, I waited for the shuttle at the hotel shuttle pickup and was picked up in around 20-minutes.

Even though I was at the hotel around 11am, I was able to check-in early and get a room. I had a king room, which I used IHG points to pay for. The room was located on one of the quiet floors and faced towards a small section of the runway, which I could hear at times throughout the day. The room was newly remodeled with a comfortable bed, which worked perfect for the overnight stay. Wi-Fi is available at the Crowne Plaza and was included with my IHG level.

After dropping off my luggage I went for lunch. There were some food trucks in the hotel parking lot, but I just ate at the restaurant off the lobby. There are actually 3 restaurant food options available at the Crowne Plaza. A taproom, sushi restaurant, and a pizza/fast-service place. I ate at the Century Taproom for lunch. The menu had sandwiches, salads, steak, and other typical foods of a taproom. There also was a halfway decent beer menu as well. For lunch I just had the club sandwich which sounded the best when flying the next morning.

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Even though I was in LA for  an afternoon and evening, I just stuck around the hotel for the day since I had an early  flight the following morning. In the morning I was able to catch the shuttle back to the airport. I did have to wait for around 30-minutes since the first shuttle filled up right when I got there. Luckily the shuttle only serviced the Crowne Plaza and not any neighboring hotels.

Overall the Crowne Plaza at LAX was a nice hotel and somewhere I would definitely stay again when stuck with an overnight layover. I found the hotel to be relatively quiet and comfortable for a one-night stay.

South Beach Food and Wine Festival 2016

IMG_4513At the end of February I had the opportunity to partake in the South Beach Food and Wine Festival (SOBEWFF). I thought I would share some of the photos I took during the festival for those who may be interested and who may not be on my Facebook. The only reason I went was due to my work requiring me, which as some of you may know I try to avoid South Beach like the plague.

This is a huge event that takes place on the beach and at various venues throughout South Florida. SOBEWFF has now expanded to a couple events up in Ft. Lauderdale this past year. For those who may be cruising in late February or early March, this may be a fun weekend activity to look into before or after your cruise.

I was only at the Grand Tasting Village in South Beach for 3-days. Many of the employees who work at SOBEWFF are volunteer students from Florida International University. The event actually supports the hospitality program at FIU and provides scholarships for students. When I was working on my master’s degree at FIU I could have volunteered, but due to classwork and research I avoided the event for 2-years.

Even though I worked the event, I had the opportunity to taste and walk around all 3-days I was at the Grand Tasting Village. Tickets are normally pretty pricey, with the tasting village tickets running over $200+ for one day. Most events are a minimum of $100 and events hosting a celebrity chef seem to be running over $200.

Friday is Trade day at the Grand Tasting Village, but the general public is unable to purchase tickets for this event. Tickets are given away by businesses or are given to those in the industry. I actually won a ticket from Yelp in 2014, but was unable to go. *(Check out Yelp in South Florida starting in January for chances to win tickets to many of the events).

Trade day is primarily alcohol with really no food. There were probably over 70+ tables ranging from wine to spirits. I just tried the spirits since that’s all I had time for. There were a wide range of bourbons, tequilas, rums, and vodkas. Many of the products being served were well over $80 a bottle.

On Saturday and Sunday the event has less alcohol but more food. I had the opportunity to try some of the samples of food and a few more drinks. The food I tried was delicious. I had a fancy bacon donut from a place in Wynwood and guava barbecue dish from somewhere in South Florida. I also had a slider with fried cheese on top.

Saturday and Sunday are much busier since these days are the expensive tickets for sale to the general public. There are demonstrations in the tents as well from celebrities and chefs. I had the chance to see Neil Patrick Harris, Rev Run, Emeril, and Rachael Ray (to just name a few). These events are huge draws and are completely packed with many people IMG_4547standing.

Now the Grand Tasting Village is located directly on the beach, so you are walking in sand. If you have any problems walking, I probably would not partake in this event. Some people were in wheelchairs made specifically for the beach, but I saw people struggling pushing these chairs. Also highly recommend sunscreen, I learned after day one and was pretty sunburned.

Overall, SOBEWFF and the Grand Tasting Village is a fantastic event. I highly recommend not driving to South Beach and getting a hotel room for a night, or taking an Uber/Taxi. The only way to really experience the event is if you don’t drive. Luckily I had rides for 2 of the 3-days and could really taste some of the fantastic drinks.