If you are like me, when you’re choosing a island destination for your precious vacation, you’ll be looking for one with an abundance of natural beauty and relaxed vibe. Though I love Oahu’s great beaches and it’s soaring green mountains that rise from the sea, the hype and party atmosphere of Waikiki is wasted on me. I’m looking forward to chilling in Maui – sun, swimming, snorkeling, sunsets and nature walks. We might even upgrade our rental car to a convertible so we can drive with the top down and really make the most of natural beauty that surrounds us.
It’s easy to get to Maui from the west coast of the US mainland. There are direct flights from Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Of course you could also fly to Oahu and get a domestic flight from there. The best beaches are on the west coast and that is where you’ll find beautiful Maui vacation homes: in Lahaina, Kaanapali, Napoli, Kihei, Kapalua and Wailea. Maui is a great destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. The best place to find colorful tropical fish and Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles is around any outcrops of underwater lava rock. Popular places to snorkel are up north at Honolua Bay, Black Rock at Kaanapali, and around Wailea. If you want to go somewhere truly special and you don’t mind paying for a tour, then a day trip to Molokini Crater is well worth the money. This small horseshoe shaped crater inlet is some 2.5 miles offshore from Wailea and is a marine life reserve.
The Maui Ocean Center at Maalaea has an huge variety of colorful corals and tropical fish, as well as sharks, rays and turtles in amazing indoor and outdoor exhibits, if you haven’t got your fill of marine life and/or you don’t want to get your feet wet! You can buy a weekly pass but for a one day pass an Adult is $29.95, children $19.95 (3 to 12 years) and >65’s are $26.95. Children under 3 are free.
An highlight for most visitors to Maui is setting a day aside to travel the Road to Hana. Hana is a small hamlet at the south east end of the island. The journey from further north in Paia is very scenic and world famous. The traffic on this road is understandably heavy so it is important to drive slowly and carefully, a task made more difficult by the fact that the beautiful coastal views and native flora are quite distracting. If you are in Maui over the winter season you will want to stop off at Ho’okipa Beach Park to watch world-class windsurfers in action. Further east of Ho’okipa is the famous Peahi (AKA “Jaws”) big wave surfing break where only the best dare to ride the monster waves. This is one of those places that, when the swells are big, the surfers get towed out to the waves by jetskis. The other top spot for surfing on Maui is at Honolua Bay in the north west.
There are many gorgeous spots to stop at along the way to Hana, including parks and falls. Many people stop to admire the Twin Falls before taking a walk at the Garden of Eden Arboretum and then having a picnic lunch at the Kaumahina State Wayside, which has lovely views of the coastline. Beaches on the south eastern coast typically have black sand, formed by lava that has been ground into fine pebbles. The best example of this is at Waianapanapa State Park, a short distance before arriving at Hana. Black sand gets extremely hot in the sun so protect the soles of your feet with flip flops or water shoes. As well as the beach there are caves, lava stacks, a walking trail and inland Anchialine pools (meaning they are connected underground to the sea and have layers or salt and fresh water). As Hana is a small village with limited and generally expensive accommodation, most people return north in the same day. I think the area is too lovely to rush your trip and it is worth the extra expense to allow you to stay on a little longer to savor your surroundings.
Another essential day trip to priorities is one to Haleakala National Park. The summit of the dormant Haleakala volcano rises some 10,000 feet above sea level. You can drive right up the top of it where you’ll be provided with amazing views down into the “crater”, and of Maui and it’s surrounding islands. Haleakala actually forms 75% of the island with the remaining 25% created by the volcano of Mauna Kahalawai in the west. Haleakala is famous amongst other things (e.g being the largest dormant volcano in the world) for it’s glorious sunrises. A popular thing to do is to arise early and drive up the mountain for this soul warming experience and a great photo op. If you’re thinking of doing this it is important to reserve a ticket online as parking is limited and it would be a shame to be turned away. Also remember it’ll be cold up there because of the elevation so bring some warm layers. Haleakala is thought to have last erupted in the 1600’s so it’s likely you’ll be safe to go for a walk down into the “crater” :-) You’ll feel like you’re on another planet as the place has been likened to a moonscape and very little lives there except for a few native species of flora and flora that you won’t see anywhere else in the world.