Last week I was went to the Hawaiian island of Maui. Three weeks ago, I couldn’t even list all the islands. It was a bit of a whim, but I took the time to both learn a little more about Hawaii and do some of my favorite things.
I’ve always been more of a mountain person than a beach person, but I feel like when you’re on the west close, you’re pretttty close to Hawaii so you might as well pop over. I’m not saying we a did a great job, I’m just saying these are the things we did:
If you’re visiting Maui, you’re going to want to have a car so you can bop around the island to the sites—plus one of the biggest tourist activities is a a 55-mile drive down one of it’s seaside highways! On the plane, I finished reading my Fodor’s and I learned that planes usually arrive at the same time so there are massive lines at the car rentals. The cheap rental agency I chose did not disappoint. We stood and a very sad looking line for an hour before picking up our Nissan Versa. However, while waiting for my friend Scott to arrive (yes, I’m the neurotic time efficient person that abandon’s their friend when they go to the bathroom to stand in line earlier) I saw the fluffiest, reddest chicken in the parking lot. I was really excited about the prospect of wild parking lot chickens. Chickens are an all-places and all-times things I can get down with. There were chickens in nearly all the parking lots we went to throughout our trip and I never stopped being excited by them.
Side note: I’m not sure why this is the case, but there is a hard sell from rental agencies to get a Jeep 4X4 when you visit Maui. As far as the things we did, this was completely unnecessary. As a result though, the roads were comically full of the same model of Jeep. We always knew we were in the right tourist place because the parking lot would be half Jeeps and half cheap anonymous compact cars.
We arrived in the evening, only really having time to get dinner and settle into our hotel (which we stayed at for free thanks to my friend’s Scott’s parent’s timeshare!). We went to Zippy’s which is a local chain and is known for being family friendly. Which is to say, it gave of an iHop-esk vibe and had a lot of accommodations for large groups like back-to-back parking where two cars could share a really long space because they were together.
Something interesting that I learned is that a lot of the restaurants serve a combinations of cuisines that reflect the population. Plate meals generally consist of rice, some meat (Japanese katsu? Korean BBQ? Spam? Fried chicken? Hamburger steak?) and a macaroni salad (?!). Scott got a combination plate of a like 3 meats and rice, I got the katsu. Nothing special, but it was the cheap eats we both wanted.
There is a Costco, Walmart, Target really close the airport so on the way back we stocked up on some goods since our hotel had a kitchen. And I would scope out and buy the waterproof Fuji camera I would eventually buy at Costco. This is the camera I used for the under water and water-adjacent photos (so I wouldn’t get my nice Fuji XT-10 wet)
We had a slow morning because Scott had an interview at 10am. But we explored the beach across the street from us. Yeah, across the street.
We were staying in the Kihei area which is south of all the resorts in West Maui in Lahaina. It’s a quieter area, but there are lots of close shops, and good food. West Maui is known for being sunnier more consistently (=better weather) so the resorts took up shop there, but, from driving through, they line the beaches there so heavily that it seems like it would be harder to just walk around as much.
For lunch we went to Da Kitchen a highly recommended restaurant popular in part because they were invited to cook for Inaugural Luau in Washington D.C. during the Election of President Obama. Sigh, Obama. I miss him. Scott had the teriyaki burger, which he adored, and this time I got a massive mixed plate of food called the Polynesian Paralysis. At a place already known for their very large portions, the waiter still made a special point warning me that it was too much food for one person, but I thought: leftovers. We also got the fried masubi (spam sushi) which it’s known for and we both really liked it. The breading was perfect and it lightly dusted with a tasty tangy sauce. It was larger than we expected, but no complaints.
Our big event of the day was going to the summit of Haleakala National Park for sunset (note: you now need a permit to go the summit for sunrise, a lot of tour groups offer sunrise bike tours though). When I say the summit of the park…I mean the summit of a volcano(!). We estimated a 1.5 hour drive up the mountain, plus we wanted to stop the two overlooks on the way up. It was really neat to drive up the mountain. It was looking pretty gloomy and cloudy, but the summit is 10, 024 feet up so you end up going above the clouds and it was a clear sunny day up there.
Scott thought it would be funny to have a picture of my hand being out with nothing under it. We both know that this was not the intention of this photo:
From my experiences in the mountains of Colorado & California, seeing these colorful deserts of Haleakala were pretty bizarre to me. It kind of like the aftermath of a forest fire (or a volcano). The view from the last overlook was already pretty great, but since we weren’t coming back, we did venture the extra beat up to the summit. There were already Jeeps galore there and tons of people camped out for sunset.
It was kind of like the view from an airplane with a lot more room. If I came again, I would have brought something to sit on because volcanic rock can pinch a fanny. And I would have stayed longer after sunset, because it’s been a while since I’ve had some good star-gazing.
We had dinner at Flatbread Pizza which is this really hip wood fire pizza place. I was entranced by watching the lady cooking pizzas in the the giant oven in the middle of the restaurant.
We had an early helicopter tour of West Maui and Molokai through Air Maui. Helicopter tour. Did I ever think I would be the kind of person that would go on a helicopter tour? No. It seems kind of outrageous. However I have met two people who have gone on helicopter tours (normalizing it) and it was listed as one of the things To Do on several “So You’re Visiting Maui…” lists. So here we were, wearing dark clothing so our cloths wouldn’t reflect on the window waiting for our helicopter tour.
I didn’t get really great pictures, because my pale arms still reflected on the window (and I’m generally not a great photographer), but I do recommend the trip. It’s good because, particularly on our trip, we got to see parts of Maui that we wouldn’t have been able to see any other way. And you can get pretty close on a helicopter.
The guide would point out things old Pineapple fields and the odd macadamia nut field. Did you know that macadamia plants take 7 years before producing nuts and then, when it does it takes 400lbs of pressure to crack them? No wonder they’re so expensive. There was a slight pang in my heart to hear about all the agriculture that has left Maui. Eight years ago the last large pineapple production Maui stopped and two years ago the island all it’s sugar cane production after nearly 150 years. But then again, these industries were started by missionary colonists. My feelings are complicated.
Then we crossed the ocean to the nearby island of Molokai is largely uninhabited except for people who live off the grid. It was a beautiful island with in turn undulating green valleys and steep rocky cliffs on it’s edges. The seacliffs of Molokai are among the tallest in the world, some reaching over 3,000 feet. The result of part of the island just breaking off into the water. Regretfully, I don’t have an pictures because we were so close it would have just looked like a wall of rock.
Fun fact is the Molokai is also home to one of the last leprosy colonies (Hansen’s disease) in the world. Beginning in the 1860s, the colony started with forced exile. This was lifted in 1969(!), but there are still a handful of survivors there living their by choice (perhaps because it’s the only life they know). Once the last of the colony moves on, I believe Hawaii plans to turn the area into a national park.
After arriving back, in land, we drove to ?Iao Valley State Park to see the ‘Iao Needle, which is the the middle of a rainforest in Maui. Like San Francisco, Maui is full of microclimates but much more extreme. They have one of the wettest rainforests in the world, the desert-like summit area of Haleakala, and of course all the sunny + humid beaches it’s known for. Allegedly, one of the most reliable reports of the weather is from hawaiiweathertoday.com which a text-based weather report where you have click on a picture of a map to see the report for different regions. Yikes.
Then we had dry noodles & saimin at Sam Soto’s. Another Fodor’s recommendation for a local food dish. I can imagine them being too plain for some folks’ taste, but we’re simple folk. Despite being well-known, it wasn’t crowded or expensive. Perfect.
We snorkeled in a the nearby beach a little and then when to Coconut’s Fish Cafe for fish tacos (yum!) and then Maui Brewing Company for an after-dinner drink. Scott got some beers and I got a very strong Maui Tai. It was lights out for Jack.
We had an early morning boat tour of Kanaio Sea Caves & Molokini for snorkeling via Blue Water Rafting (high recommend!). Most snorkeling trips leave at 7am but we picked one pro-ported to leave earlier because it’s a small boat (indeed it was an raft-type boat while other boats were like mini cruise ships). My main objective was to go snorkeling at the Molokini crater and I think I just picked the longer tour which happened to include Kanaio, but I’m glad I did. The boat ride there over the waves was so fun! And I got to see a part of the shore that not many other people do: I found out they’re the only commercial tour group with permission to go to the sea caves.
After the sea caves, we went snorkeling in 4 different spots. Having never successfully snorkeled before, I didn’t know what to expect. But I saw coral, a ton of fishes, and turtles!
The last stop was a place called Turtle Town where there are regular sea turtles hanging about. I think we saw at least five while we’re there. There was a fish-cleaning zone where turtles were taking turns getting cleaned by little fish.
They weren’t at all afraid of people and just kept doing their thing (there were probably 30 people hanging around, but there’s a $10K fine for touching them).
I was so happy that we got to see the turtles! From that point on, a lot of the conversation revolved around when we would get to see more turtles.
Afterwards we celebrated with another local treat: shaved ice at Ululani‘s.
I recommend getting a scoop of ice cream at the bottom. The flavors I ultimately tried the 2x we went there were: coconut, lychee, mango, pineapple, tiger’s blood, and passion fruit. I was a little suspicious that this would taste just like a snow cone, but it’s so much better. And the ice cream at the bottom make the last few bites scrumptiously creamy.
For dinner we went to Star Noodle. Highly recommended in Fodor’s and I think the typical experience people want when they are traveling to a city and trying food. Fancy, beautiful plates of instagrammable food with a 1-hour wait to be seated. All the food we got was good, but they ran out of pork belly steam buns so…devastated.
Road to Hana day. This is a beautiful highway to the town of Hana that hugs the shore and through winding roads and is full of one-way passes—as in, where only one car can pass at a time. We started a little late, but I think we were still a head of the main crowd. There are turn outs for waterfalls nearly ever half mile, so you have to choose your battles (Twin Falls, the first super busy one, is so not worth it. I’ve seen nice pictures of them, but when we went their were just like muddy faucets on full blast).
We actually didn’t stop that much, but we did spend a lot of time at Waikomo.
But if you keep walking back behind the main fall (past the crowd) over some muddy ankle-bending terrain there are two more waterfalls, ending with a really large one that we swam around in.
The water was cool and refreshing after our scramble up.
After getting back on the road, we came across this spray painted sign for “The Best BBQ in Maui” and decided to stop for lunch. It was run by a guy from Chicago who apparently moved and decided to sell traditional Hawaiian BBQ on the side of the road. A much better decision, I think, than the ex-Chicago-ian I met two weeks ago who moved to Ogallala, Nebraska with his wife to run a 16-room hotel outside of town. Huli huli chicken, kalua pork belly, a (decorative) salad, and a lump or rice served on an uncomfortably moist log of bamboo. It was my favorite meal we had while at Maui — and it was $10 each. The chicken was delicious and the pork belly divine. If you’re a little past mile marker 10 and you see his little pull out, get you some BBQ.
The next big stop we did was to the red sand beach, nestled into a little cove and also a bit tricky to get to.
Scott snorkeled around for a bit while I hung out on the red sands. My ear was in pain from jumping from a waterfall. ‘Was playing it cool though by only frequently complaining and asking hypothetical questions like “What does it feel like when your ear drum pops?”
Finally we stopped at Pools of ‘Ohe’o. Aka Seven Sacred Pools, but that’s just a name given to it by a hotel owner hoping to attract people in the area. Despite this, it was a really beautiful area and collection of pools. Apparently you can swim in them some times, but their closed for swimming indefinitely because the trails flooded out. There are also warnings about flash floods every 100 feet, it feels like. The last time Scott was here he said he swam in the pools.
The coastline here is to die for too. How is the water so blue here?!
And our last stop on our way up was the incredibly tall, trickle-y Wailua Falls. It is really pretty, but there was a couple at the bottom trying to get a romantic photo that was really unnerving. They looked so cold and miserable as they sat by the wall holding each other waiting nearly naked in their swimsuits for their picture. For your sake, I have cropped them out of the picture, but imagine a beautiful circle of water at the bottom.
It was a long trip back after driving behind a very slow grey Jeep (for the love of God, please pull over if you’re a slow car), but the day would not be complete with out a sunset viewing of Ho‘okipa Beach, WHERE TURTLES GO TO REST ON THE BEACH.
Praise the sleepiest turtles, for they shall inherit the world.
We did a zipline adventure at Piiholo Ranch which boasts Maui’s longest zipline at over half a mile long. I mean, look at this happy goober:
The first two are warm up lines, but then you start zipping over some really beautiful canyons where you can see views of the ocean. It goes by quickly, but it’s really fun and I would be happy to do it again.
Plus, you never look as cool as you do with a portable seat.
Afterwards we hung around in the town of Paia and got lunch at Paia Fish Market. Afterwards we walks around the area where are a ton of little shops, including a health grocery store (similar to think Berkley Bowl) we liked. We got some coffee and a white pineapple here. Our clerk excitedly took the leafy part to plant in her back yard. Apparently pineapples (only) take 2 years to bear fruit.
Ever on the quest for more turtles, we tried to go snorkeling again but it had gotten a bit too windy at the different beaches we tried. It’s recommended that you go snorkeling in the morning for the calmest waters. We did see a turtle at Kahekili Beach, so still worth it.
We went to a the Maui Swap meet in the morning. It was communicated to me that this would be like a flea market, but in practice it was a bit more like a bunch of vendors. I did see stuff I wanted to buy, and pretty reasonably priced, but I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on myself so I resisted. For the first day on our trip it was a bit cool and windy and towards the afternoon it was sprinkling. This was disrupting our plans of snorkeling as all the beaches we went to were pretty rough.
Almost giving up, we made it Honolua Bay, to at least check it out. Since it was in a bay, it looked super calm, and from our overlook, we could see some snorkelers below.
I’m glad we stopped because it ended up being some of the biggest reefs we saw.
Do you see the little fella in the photo above?
Plus, there were chickens everywhere.
Afterwards we went to Lahaina, which I had become more excited about after reading about more of it’s history in Unfamiliar Fishes. It has the oldest high school west of the rocky mountains!
We ate at probably the tackiest places I’ve ever been to: Cheeseburger in Paradise. However, the burger and the sugar bomb that was supposed to be a strawberry piña colada were everything my heart needed.
Our last day was a weird day because we had 12 hours to kill between checking out of our hotel and when our flight left. We didn’t really want to go to the beach if we couldn’t take a shower before our flight and because it was Sunday, some of the things we wanted to do were closed. I would say Makawao area was still pretty lively, we went to the Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center to pick up a souvenir and made one last trip to Da Kitchen for a last fried masubi hurrah.
We were warned to get to the airport 3 hours early when we landed. We got there absurdly early after basically having run out of things to do (we walked around Target at one point) and didn’t have any problems since we both had pre-check (which I hear also sometimes is closed randomly). The only thing of note is that I watched Iris while at the airport at absolutely loved her and it. What a lady.
I didn’t think I would write this much. Too much?
If you’re wondering, I probably would have gotten the Olympus Tough if I had the choice between waterproof cameras, based on my research. But the Fuji was the only one I found in-store and I didn’t have enough time to order one online. This is probably for the best because 1) I saved a lot of money and 2) I’m not underwater very often.
I put a lot of thought into getting a GoPro Hero, but I’m not really interested in shooting videos and I the photos with GoPro would always be wide-angle, not ideal for my (turtle) purposes.