My wife and I took our second trip to Maui and this time we did things right. The first time we went we really didn’t have much money so we did things the cheap way. I am not going to sugar coat the flights to Hawaii. We have been many times and we still hate the long day that is traveling to the islands. One way that we try to improve the situation is by breaking up the flights by adding another stop. We have done the flight from Dallas to Hawaii and it is not fun. It is amazing how much the additional 2 hours makes the flight miserable. You ultimately want your last flight to leave from California. The last flight will still take around 4 hours but remember where you will be landing…Paradise!
Okay, first thing is first when traveling to Maui…BUY THIS BOOK: Maui Revealed. We have used this “Ultimate Guidebook” for other islands as well and they are magnificent! They have never let us down on locations to visit or places to eat. Makes the planning of each day less stressful and you don’t have to feel like your entire vacation is pre-planned. It just works as a good guide so that you can make the most of your time. Because of the great recommendations in the book you can also make any reservations before you leave home. One such reservation I recommend would be a snorkeling trip on the Trilogy tour. We did this on our first trip to Maui and it was a great time. You will see more sea turtles than anywhere and you will be snorkeling among some of the most beautiful lava tubes in the world. The black rock background when snorkeling in Maui is like nothing else.
One thing I must tell you is that you do not need to pack nearly as much stuff as you think. The islands are different…dressed up is khakis and a polo shirt and a sun dress for the ladies, and you will not need to do that very often. Most places shorts and t-shirts are acceptable and often you will fit in wearing your swimming suit. It is not like going to dinner on the mainland believe me. Flip-flops are the shoes of choice (or slipahs) and you will want to take some good comfortable hiking shoes that can stand getting wet. So pack some swim suits, a couple of island nice outfits for dinner and some flip-flops and hiking shoes and you are all set. No need to pack heavy as you will be in beach attire 90% of the time anyway!
So you will fly into Kahului which is not where you should stay. You will HAVE to rent a car…it is a must. I recommend staying in west Maui as that is where the best beaches are as well as the best night life. Ka’anapali is where you should stay and there are a ton of places to choose from. There is shopping, golf, and great beaches to take advantage of all on this stretch of the island. This will be about a 45 minute drive from the airport but it is easy to find your way and the roads are great…traffic can back up around Lahaina but it is not too bad.
Now that you are settled in and ready to take in the island there are some great things to check out close to Ka’anapali. Heading north from Ka’anapali you will make your way to Kapalua…my favorite place on the island and now my retirement goal! There is a magnificent general store called the Honolua Store which is near the Ritz Carlton. It is a great place to have breakfast or lunch and is reasonably priced. Kapalua is a high dollar part of the island with the most famous golf course on Maui. Down the road from the Honolua Store there is a turn out to the right when the road seems to make you go left. You can then make your way down one of the fairways to Makalua-puna Point or the “Dragon’s Teeth”. This is a spectacular formation from when the lava flow hit the ocean combined with the wind to form a very cool site. Worth checking out for sure. Further north from Kapalua there are some great stops along the road. My wife and I have learned that the best views in Hawaii are often just past those “Don’t Go Beyond This Point” signs. So if you feel like a little hiking and are sure-footed then you can see some spectacular sites. The Nakalele Blowhole is worth one of these stops. You can walk right up to in and stand under it if you would like…normally blowholes are in locations that prevent you from experiencing up close but this one is unique. On around the north-west point of the island you will come to another of those signs and on this trail is one of the true gems of Maui. The Olivine Pools are some tide pools that are a great place for a refreshing swim. Some of them are deep and some of them are shallow but they offer you a unique way to enjoy a swim in the ocean. Be careful here…I got swept right out of one by a wave that came out of no where! I recommend staying in the large deep one as it seemed to get less of the rogue waves. After the Olivine Pools the road gets a little scary…a lot like old Hana Road actually…and besides the beauty of the drive there is really only one must do, and that is Julia’s Banana Bread. One word: SPECTACULAR. Warning to you, this drive gets hairy if you continue to travel around this point of the island. The road will eventually take you right back to Kahului where you landed upon arrival.
Next on my list is one of the greatest things I have seen in my life. Might not be saying much but it is pretty amazing anyway. Haleakala is the highest point and largest volcano on Maui. The peak stands 10,000 feet above see level and the most amazing thing to do there is watch the sun rise. You think you have seen a sun rise? You have not seen anything until you see it at 10,000 feet. I will regress back to that packing paragraph for a second. It is COLD. It was in the 40s with a brisk wind. We took winter clothes and it was still cold on top of the volcano. You will have to leave Ka’anapali around 3:30 am to make it to the top before show time. Because of the elevation you will be above the cloud deck so as the sun comes up through the clouds the colors are amazing. Well worth getting up that early and freezing for. There is a trail called Sliding Sands Trail that you can hike down and see more of the volcano. While the hike down seems fairly innocent, remember that you are at 10,000 feet above sea level and as you hike more there is less oxygen. We did not think about this and the hike back to the car was a struggle. If you are not in decent shape it is not worth attempting. The sunrise is the highlight, believe me.
After you have experienced the north-west part of Maui and had the religious experience of a Haleakala sunrise the main thing left to do is Hana road. I am doing a whole other post on that one! I don’t think I can highlight the best beaches because I am not sure we saw one that was bad. They are frequent and most are beautiful so find one and enjoy the day! We often buy a throw-a-way type ice chest and head to the grocery store for sandwich stuff and picnic on a beach for lunch. It saves money and keeps you from having to leave the comforts of the beach to grab something to eat.
Speaking of food I really recommend following the book that I linked to above but I will throw out some good places to hit anyway. Beyond the Honolua Store in Kapalua one must dine location is Mama’s Fish House. This is a pricey, and nice restaurant with (according to my wife) great seafood. They actually tell you who caught the fish that day! Another must is the Gazebo for breakfast. AMAZING banana pancakes. It is in Napili and it at a resort. Get there early as it is small and there will be a long line! Worth the wait though if you like breakfast. In Lahaina there are several good places to eat and also some good shopping. Lahaina is also the nightlife place on the island if you are looking for some entertainment.
Okay so to wrap this up. I highly recommend Maui as a first Hawaiian island destination, it is what you think of when you think of Hawaii. There is a good mix of undeveloped beauty and modern convenience offering something for everyone.