Maui, Hawaii

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December 31st 2011
Published: January 23rd 2012
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Hawaii is an amazing place that continues to surprise me. After just returning from my fourth trip I am already looking forward to my next visit. This was the second trip to Maui for me. I didn’t get many good pictures to share on the first trip so I tried to make up for it this time. We only had about four days this trip but we made the most of it covering nearly the whole island. Flying into Maui is a treat (just like any of the Hawaiian Islands) so make your journey with good light if you get the opportunity. My first trip I moved around the island staying in various locations. This time we stayed put in Kahalui after getting an affordable package deal for our air tickets, hotel, and car. Being in the middle of the island actually worked out well for day trips in all directions. One of the reasons I think Maui is so interesting because of its diverse landscapes on such a small island. There is the verdant green side on the east that has the famous ‘road to Hana.’ To the south there are some underappreciated and little-visited dry slopes falling off the back of Haleakala. The impressive Mt. Haleakala dominates the middle. The central mountainous area of the west contains the much-visited Iao Valley State Park. And finally Maui’s great beaches line the west coast from north to south.

The road to Hana is a great way to spend a day driving on a beautiful coast and searching for waterfalls along the way. Having done this twice now I would recommend that you start early in the day and that you plan extra time to take in some scenic hikes along the way. In my opinion the best views and experiences are those that are off the road itself. Just past the 10 mile marker (going towards Hana) there is a turnout with a telephone pole and a little path that leads to Puohokamoa Falls. This is a very short hike for a fantastic waterfall view, just make sure you go far enough for the best perspective. When we were there an animal carcass was placed at the entrance, presumably by a local, to scare away visitors. I glad we weren’t deterred from the short walk. Just past mile marker 21 on the right there is a hunter’s road called Wailua Ika. If you hike back maybe ½ mile you will get a great view of another waterfall below a small walking bridge. Also, at mile marker 17 you might want to check out the Halfway to Hana store ( to pick up some yummy banana bread to get you through the drive. Another important stop not to be missed is at Waianapanapa State Park that comes just before Hana. Here you can get out and wander around a small but beautiful black sand beach and have a great photo opportunity. You can also walk down the coast and get great views of the contrast in colors between the green vegetation, black sand and cliffs, and blue ocean.

Some people reach Hana and make the drive to Hana and then turn around and retrace their drive. Both times I have done it I have kept on going. You really don’t want to miss the sites, particularly the Pools of Oheo, that are around the coast from Hana. Hana itself is a fairly sleepy little town with a limited amount of restaurants and a small market. I stayed there on my first visit and really enjoyed it for one night. However, if you are looking for a lot of activity this isn’t your place. The drive past Hana and back up to the middle of the island is nice. At Oheo you can see the “Seven Sacred Pools” on the coast and then hike the 2 mile Pipiwai trail. The pools at the bottom are a popular place to jump in the water with lots of other tourists. However, if you stay in Hana for the night and arrive here early you can enjoy the place with a lot less people. The trail has 3 great highlights. The first is great banyan tree in the middle of the trail, then a trek through a big bamboo forest, and then your endpoint at the beautiful Waimaku Falls (244 meters). Also, in the middle of the hike is an infinity pool that you can climb down into at the top of the waterfall. If it is still the same they will have signs persuading you not to get in . . . but the view and setting really are great and it looks like the pool drops off right into the ocean. The landscape past Oheo is varied and certainly beautiful in it’s own right. If you want to get in the entire Hana drive and the Pipiwai trail you should start early (before 8am if possible). An interesting quick stop just past Oheo is at Charles Lindbergh’s burial location that overlooks the coast with a beautiful view.

Being at Haleakala is like being in another world from the rest of Maui. After a long drive up you experience an almost ‘lunar-like’ world free of all vegetation with the exception of the protected silversword plant. I visited Haleakala on my first visit and hiked down into the crater for a while. I found it interesting to experience for an hour or so but I’m not sure I would have wanted to hike any further. One of the big draws of Haleakala is to see the sunset or sunrise. I haven’t done this but reportedly it is extremely cold there when dark so dress warmly if you go for this. The sunsets in Maui are incredible anywhere though on Maui so keep that in mind. Finally, a lot of people also enjoy renting a bike from one of the companies that allow them to bike down Haleakala.

In the center of west Maui you can visit Iao Valley State Park. I went on my first visit to Maui and found to be interesting but very touristy. The main peak at Iao is certainly iconic and possibly worth a visit but there are other views on Maui that beat it hands down. Two of these would include the views from Kahekili Highway and the Waihe’e Ridge Trail. The views from Kahekili, on the northwest coast, are outstanding and I believe much better than the Hana Highway. This is ironic because Hana gets all the attention. I would argue that the road is more harrowing than Hana too. I thought the curves and narrow roads on Hana were a breeze to navigate compared to those on Kahekili. There is one section of this highway where you get awe inspiring views of both the lush green valleys between the mountains and the rugged ocean coast. There were also a few interesting looking trucks and huts selling local goods and foods but we didn’t stop. If you like to hike I think that the Waihe’e Trail will give you not only some good exercise but also the some of the best views of the lush mountain valleys. Waihe’e is 2nd only to the Kalalau Trail in Kauai on my list of favorite hikes in Hawaii. The trail is 2 ½ miles out for a 5-mile total trek. The best views are along the ridge at the end of the trail. The hike is just off of highway 340 outside of Kahalui. For parking, after turning off of Hwy 340 you can continue on past the first lot for about a mile and park at the 2nd lot at the entrance to the trail. I have also hiked on the unique King’s Highway (think black lava rocks) at the end of the road going south on the west side of the island and above Lahaina towards the big “L” and these were both worth doing.

The beaches in the Wailea and Makena area are wonderful for their beauty and snorkeling. When we were there this past trip the water was still a bit rough. If you like to snorkel and are there during winter I would recommend going early in the day when the water is a bit calmer. You probably can’t go wrong picking a beach in this area. I visited Big Beach on my first trip. This is a great place for watching the sunset but not necessarily snorkeling. Snorkeling on the left side of Po’olenalena beach is nice around the rocks. Sea turtles are common here although I didn’t see any when I was snorkeling. We also enjoyed the Ka’anapali Beach although it was much busier. There is also a decent snorkeling spot on the right side around the rocks. Also, if you stay until sunset you might get to see the touristy show where they light torches on the rocks and do a ceremonial dive. The annoying part of Ka’anapali Beach (other than the abundance of people) is the parking situation. If you aren’t staying there you park in the parking garage and then have to buy something from the outdoor mall (Whaler’s Village) in order to get your parking covered.

Taking in Lahaina is also pretty much a prerequisite for covering Maui. Lahaina is the shopping area on the island with a long stretch of road with restaurants and shops and is packed with people each night. Although most of the shops are pricey there are actually some interesting shops that have souvenirs for some of the best prices we saw in Hawaii. Lahaina is also known for the gigantic Banyan Tree that covers nearly an entire city block. I really enjoyed running the Maui Surf and Sand half marathon on my first trip that started in the Ka’anapali area and finished on Front Street just past the banyan tree in Lahaina. One thing not to be missed in Lahaina is getting shave ice at Ululani’s Shave Ice ( I try shave ice every chance I get when in Hawaii and Ululani’s shares my ‘top spot in Hawaii’ along with Jo Jo’s in Kauai. The staff are very friendly and their flavors and ice textures are incredible. Make sure to get ice cream and snow cap (sweet cream) with your shave ice. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed . . . just look at the reviews on-line if you are in doubt. South of Lahaina, Maalaea is a port where many tour boats depart. We took a whale-watching cruise from the most highly recommended company called the Pacific Whale Foundation. The boat was quite full and larger than we expected. I have been whale watching in other locations and would have to say that overall this was not one of the best tours. The actual whale viewing time/attempts were lacking compared to what I have experienced elsewhere. By the way, you can sometimes see whales from the road on the pull offs on the highway going north to Lahaina. We saw them from McGregor Point this trip and I saw them while driving on this road during my last trip.

In terms of food I would recommend Pizza Madness ( in Kehei. Not only is the pizza very good but it is also a good value for the money by Hawaiian standards. We made multiple visits this past trip. We also ate at the well-known Da Kitchen. This place has rather large portions (so you might consider splitting dishes). We liked the kalua pig much more than the teriyaki chicken and teriyaki beef.

My two trips to Maui have been exceptional. I was worried on my first trip that all I would see is tourists everywhere and that wasn’t the case. It is much less populated than Oahu and there are many spots where you can find yourself all alone in beautiful locations. For information and ideas on activities I would recommend picking up a Franko’s Maui Guide Map and a Maui Revealed book. We had those two plus a Lonely Planet on our last visit.

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23rd January 2012

Great blog
What a wealth of information! And timely too since Linda and I will be passing through Lahaina on a cruise to the South Pacific islands, Sydney, and New Zealand for our 40th anniversary. The ship arrives in Lahaina at 7 am and departs at 5 pm. We were thinking of renting a car and driving up the Haleakala Highway to the National Park to see the volcano and everything else there is to see on the way there and back. Bing maps says the drive is about 100 miles round trip and takes 3 hours to do, without stops. In your opinion, is it possible to drive there and back in this amount of time? Do you recommend a particular route to see some of the waterfalls you mentioned and perhaps the humpback whales? We would rather see humpback whales for free than pay the hundreds of dollars it would cost to see them in Kaikoura, New Zealand.
27th January 2012

Sorry, this has been a busy week and I can't keep up with everything. Your upcoming trip sounds amazing! Good on you as they would say in New Zealand. I haven't had a chance to go through all your blogs yet but I noticed the Grand Tetons and that is a place in the U.S. that I really want to get to . . . along with Glacier. Yes, that sounds about right for the driving distance to Haleakala. But, actually the waterfalls are on the drive to Hana on the wet side of the island. I'm thinking you might have to pick between the Hana road and Haleakala. You might be able to do both but it would be a pretty brutal day of driving without much time to stop and look around. We started from Kahalui one day a little after 8am and drive a complete loop around the island and got back around 6pm - 6:30ish. But I stopped quite a bit and also did some hiking. if you take the Hana option you might consider just driving there and back. Sometimes you can see whales from the coast off of Route 30 just south of Lahaina. We saw them in the distance this past trip and I saw them from the car the trip before that. I had an amazing experience in Kaikoura swimming with the dolphins there. I have never seen so many dolphins in my life. Hordes would swim by the boat and then they would dump us off while they swam around us. Very unique experience. It wasn't that expensive. But, I didn't go whale watching so I don't know how much that costs. I do remember getting a really yummy but basic white fish sandwich from a roadside stand down on the Fyffe Quay road that runs along the coast on the south side of Kaikoura - there is a nice, scenic walk there that goes from town out and over the ridges. You might have been there before but the South Island is amazing. I spent a couple months there about 2 years ago and loved it. Ok, gotta run for now, take care! John

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