Maui, Hawaii – Something For Everyone!

At the top of my travel wish list is to visit more Hawaiian Islands over the next few years. So far we have only been to Oahu (several times now) as it is a great stopover between our home country of New Zealand and the USA where we are based now. I’ve heard that Maui has great scenery, and has a more laid back vibe c.f Oahu which appeals to me so I am keen to go there next.

Like we’ve done previously on Oahu we’ll rent a car to get around. There’s nothing I like more than cruising along a gloriously beautiful coastline in the sunshine with my windows wound down. There are some great Maui vacation rentals to choose from so we certainly won’t be roughing it while we are in paradise!. During our stay on Maui a must for me will be to drive the Hana Highway, a 55 mile scenic journey (typically from Kahului) combining stunning views of the east coast and rainforest. Kate will have to have car sickness tablets on board as apparently it’s quite windy. Popular beauty spots to stop along the way are the Twin Falls, the Wailua Overlook, the Upper Waikani Falls, and Waianapanapa State Park. I like a good bush walk and the Waikamoi Forest Ridge Trail looks like a good place to stop and stretch our legs. Insect repellant is a must in this tropical environment.

I’ve always been fascinated by how the Hawaiian Islands were formed by volcanic eruptions and how they have been weathered and changed by the elements over the millennia. Haleakala National Park is where visitors come to see what remains of the largest dormant volcano in the world. The peak of Haleakala is the tallest point in Maui and provides great views down into the crater, and of the surrounding Hawaiian Islands. It’s like a moonscape, barren and confronting. It is popular to visit the park and witness a stunning sunrise. There are only a limited number of car parks so you need to plan ahead and reserve a spot online! Entry is $20/car and is valid for 3 days. It takes about 3 hours to drive there from Wailea on the west of the island.

The main attraction of the Waianapanapa State Park (on the drive to Hana) is it’s black beach of fine pebbles, formed over thousands of years by the waves pounding and grinding down lava from the Haleakala eruption. Black sand is a lot hotter in the sun than white sand so it is recommended to wear some reef shoes or such like to protect your feet. The whole place looks rather magical with lush green growing to the water’s edge and contrasting with the black basalt lava rock that lines the coast. From the beach a short loop trial leads to a number of caves (some hidden) and two inland pools that are comprised of both fresh and sea water. These are called Anchialine pools because they are connected underground to the ocean. The furtherest pool has crystal clear water and is great for a dip, though be prepared – it’s cold! If you want to explore the caves then it’s a good idea to bring a torch.

Another “colorful” cove that some might like to visit is Kaihalulu Beach which is a red sand beach. It is found on the south side of Ka’uiki hill, just south of Hana. Apparently the walk to the beach is rather treacherous along cliff sides so this one is probably for the more adventurous.

Arguably one of the best beaches in the world is Kaanapali Beach on the north western region of the island. 3 miles of golden sand with the famed Black Rock snorkeling area at the northern wand. I have previously snorkelled off the beach in both the Red Sea and the Perhentian Islands, and both were fantastic. I visited Hanauma Bay in Oahu some years ago and found it very disappointing. Most of the coral was dead due to being trampled on by too many tourists. I’m sure Maui has learnt from Oahu’s mistakes and has taken care to avoid this. Other great places to snorkel on Maui are at Honolua Bay further north of Kaanapali, and Ulua Beach which is south west at Wailea. For a more exclusive snorkeling or scuba diving experience you can take a tour to the crescent shaped, semi-submerged crater island of Molokini from either Wailea or Kihei. Molokini is a marine life conservation area so I can imagine that a tour would be well worth the investment.

One of my life’s highlights has swimming with wild turtles on Oahu and also Akamai Beach in Mexico. I love turtles and so I’m excited at the prospect of doing the same on Maui. Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are often found where lava has formed a rocky outcrop at the end of a beach, so there are many opportunities to see turtles in Maui. Popular places to see them are just north of Black Rock at Kaanapali, and “Turtle Town” at Maluaka Beach just south of Wailea.
So what would be my itinerary be for a 7-8 day trip to Maui? We’d want to go in the summer when the water is calmer for swimming safer and clearer for snorkeling. Though I’d love to see the best surfers in the world in action at Honolua Bay in the Winter when the waves are big, I much prefer calm water for myself and the family. After landing at Kahului Airport and picking up a rental car we’d spend our first few days on the north western coast: swimming and snorkeling at Kaanapali and Honolua, and getting a spot of culture in by doing a walking tour of historical Lanahai and taking in the show ‘Ulalena. Then we’d drive the Road to Hana and stay there a night, exploring Waianapanapa State Park and the Seven Sacred Pools at ‘Ohe’o the next day. The last few days we would spend in Wailea, taking day trips to Molokini and Haleakala National Park.

Image by Paul Bica under a Creative Commons License 2.0.

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