Aloha If you?ve never visited Hawaii, you are in for a treat. It takes a few days, but after that time, the rest of the world seems to fade away
Of Hawaii?s six major islands (Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Hawaii, Molikii, and Lania), I have stayed on three of them and visited one other.
Oahu contains 90% of the population of the Islands. It is crowded, overbuilt, and a lot like L.A., if L.A. were on an island (which may be possible after the big one hits). But it is also the least expensive island to visit, has some great values, and contains the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is a must see for anyone going to Hawaii. Going to the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is a must because not only will you learn a great deal about the Polynesian culture, but you will be entertained all day at the exhibits and in the evening after a buffet dinner, you will see what is the best Polynesian show in Hawaii.
If you are making only one trip to Hawaii, I would recommend you fly to Honolulu and stay for about three days. During that time visit the PCC, Waikaki Beach, visit Pearl Harbor and see the Arizona Memorial, and try to get into see Don Ho. Use the time to adjust to the time zone changes. Finally, as you leave Honolulu for Maui, stop and get yourself or your significant other a lei at the beautiful lei stands at the airport by the inter island terminal (where Hawaiian/ Aloha airlines depart from). You can get absolutely beautiful leis (sweetheart roses, aromatic flowers, etc) for under $15. Make sure you do this, since the last day in Maui, you will want to throw the lei into the ocean to insure that you will come back
When you arrive at any airport in Hawaii, you will find loads of brochures by the luggage area. In Honolulu you can get the brochures for all the islands. Pick them up. They are a great guides and have coupons that will save you money. They also have maps that can be quite helpful. On Maui, there are two kinds of ?This Week? guides, a number of Restaurant guides, and even one guide that tells you 101 things to do in Maui. When you rent your car, if you rent from Budget, you will get their guide with coupons as well.
Maui?Noi Ka Oi?You?ll see this a lot in Maui. It means ?Maui?s the best.? To a lot of people this is absolutely true.
A little about geography. Maui is actually an island formed by two volcanos and looks something like a figure eight. The eastern half is the younger and larger part of the island with Mount Haleakala as it?s volcano.
This side of Maui is both wetter and drier than the western side of the island. It is wetter on the Northern shore and drier on the Southern shore. The North side of the island is not the tourist section, but the road to Hana is famous. This is a tropical drive that you need to take at least once. With all the rain you get on this part of the island, you will see numerous waterfalls and will be on a road that has over 500 hairpin turns and 50 one lane bridges. The trip is 52 miles long, but will take from 2 to 4 hours to make on highway 360 (Hana Highway). There are a number of beautiful sights to see and going to Hana is not to be missed. In addition to the crazy drive, once you get there, you will find a state park (Waianapanapa) with a black beach, a ?sacred? pool with small red shrimp that are supposed to symbolize the blood of a Hawaiian queen (Popualaea) who died there, and the seven sacred springs (Ohe?o gulch) that cascade down to the sea. You are only supposed to go to Hana and then you need to go back the same way you came, but ?some people? continue to ride around the island. If you do, you violate your rental car contract, but there is only about 8 miles of absolutely terrible roads. It takes about an hour to drive this and then you get on paved roads again. The landscape is almost eerie as you move from the wet to the bone dry part of the island.
The western part of the island is the more heavily populated by tourists and tourism. On this half of the island you will find Lahaina, Kaanapali, and Kapulua (plus numerous other areas).
The pluses and minuses of the two halves. The Western half has more restaurants, high end hotels, shopping, etc. than does the eastern half. It is also smaller, so its attractions are closer together. It also has smaller beaches for more people and bigger crowds. The Eastern half has seen a big building boom in the past few years and is getting more shopping, hotels, etc. It has bigger beaches, more room and because as you get farther east, you get drier, you have more landscaping and absolutely beautiful planned grounds. You actually will find cacti growing wild in unwatered sections.
When we first went to Maui we stayed in Kaanapali on the western half. Through the years we have moved to the eastern half and now find Wailea to be our place of choice. Part of this is because we have grown more crowd adverse as we have gotten older. We also now go to Maui primarily to rest and relax (we?ve already seen all the sights).
Things to do in Maui: Here I will only speak to what we?ve actually done.
Trip to Hana?we?ve actually taken the trip three times. It is really an unbelieveable drive and very beautiful. Along the way we stopped one time and hiked back to a grotto. I had my shoes off and was wading in the grotto when I slipped on some seaweed and smashed my shin and cut it pretty badly. Be careful if you decide to do something like that. There is a black beach park just before you get to Hana. The beach is pretty, and the waves are huge here. It?s fun to hike around. My teenage son and I went into the water (much to his mother?s chagrin). I don?t think I would recommend that, but ?..
Sunrise at Haleakala. Haleakala is the volcano on the eastern side of Maui. It is huge and rises to over 10,000 feet. We are from Denver and as you drive up to the top, you find yourself going through Denver?s climate on up to the top where it is very cold. The journey is a long one. You have to drive to the middle of the island to start up the road up to the top. You need about 2.5 hours to make the trip. Since sunrise comes early on the top, you need to leave about 3 AM. If you want to do this, I suggest you do it one of the first days in Maui. You will find you will be up early because of the time zone changes. Take a blanket along as you will need it and keep your fingers crossed that it will be clear the morning you go.
Biking down the Volcano. A lot of people do this. Several companies will transport you up the mountain and then give you a bike, warm gear for the top, and anything else you will need to ?bike down the volcano.? I never actually did this. I?m a cyclist and one year I decided to try biking up the volcano. I didn?t start where the bikers end up (it?s a 37 mile trip for them), but I started at about 2,000 feet about 22 miles from the top. As I biked up I passed a number of these groups going down. They gave me thumbs up and helped me to keep going. It took me 5 hours to bike up that 22 miles and about 35 minutes to bike down it. I don?t mind telling you the views are magnificent coming down.
Trip to Molikini. Molikini consists of a 1/2-mile-long semi-circular volcanic rim sheltering an underwater crater containing numerous species of sea life Molikini is a just off the coast of Wailea. It is a major destination for boat trips that will take you out and let you snorkel with the tropical fish that make it their home. You do it for a couple of hours and then you move on to Turtle bay where you again snorkel, this time looking for giant sea turtles. Our guide found a couple for us when we were there.
See the Humpback Whales. Whale season is from December until April, but if you really want to see them you will go from January to March. This is the high season in Hawaii so everything is a little more expensive, but it?s worth it. First of all the weather is perfect this time of year. It?s always tropical in Hawaii, but this is the coolest time of the year. You will have highs of around 78-80 degrees. Secondly the whales are there so you get Hawaii, it?s friendly people, warm weather, beautiful scenery, and you add to this some of the most magnificent creatures on earth, and you have quite a trip. There are all kinds of boat trips to see the whales. The boats are in radio contact, so when one is sighted, you will see a bunch of boats converge on the animal. Humpbacks are protected so boats cannot go within 100 yards of them so having binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens will be helpful. All of the boats guarantee sightings. This isn?t very risky especially in January through March. There are about 2000 animals who are in the waters there at this time. I was hoping the first time we went during whale season to see a breech. I guess I was a victim of the gum commercial where everyone is hoping to see a whale breech and it only does it once every 8 years. Well, seeing a breech is not difficult. The humpback doesn?t breech once randomly and then goes away. They tend to breech 5 to 10 times in a row. So you look for a splash and then when you see a splash, keep your eyes focused on that general area.
One of the things Jackie and I do in the morning is take a walk in Wailea along the coast (there is a path from the Rennaisance Hotel to the Ke Lani.) Jackie is very good at seeing the whales and she will generally see 5 to 10 of them in a one hour walk. There is also a scenic view point on the road between Kihea and Lahaina. During whale season it is a good spot to see whales. Once when we pulled off to look we saw a cow and her calf swimming by the point. In fact, the calf was learning how to breech and it must have made about 12 breeches in a row. Fortunately we got it all on video.
Attend a Luau. This is a must do for the first timer. It?s a lot of fun and the emu ceremony and the tender way this cooks the pig is not only interesting, but tasty. It?s not cheap to go to these, but you get dinner and a good show. Be prepared to try poi. Actually, if you ever ate paste when you were a kid, you?ve already tried poi. There are a number of Luaus on Maui. Pick the one you want to go to, they are all good.
Look at a Timeshare. There is a huge business selling timeshares in Maui. Hawaii is the best place to buy a timeshare since there is no ?low? season and if you want to trade your place you will always qualify for the best time. Also, the timeshare places offer free or heavily discounted tours, luaus, bike trips, etc. if you will give them only two hours of your time. I especially recommend this if you have sales resistance. That ?free? activity isn?t very cheap if you spend $15-50,000 to get it. Timeshares can be something that you would be interested in and if you really are, by all means go for it. But realize they will high pressure you to buy today because of all the ?goodies? you get. By law you have a 3 day right to cancel a timeshare contract, so you do have an opportunity to come to your senses. And if you really are interested in a timeshare you might want to explore the resale timeshares. There is an office that does this that you can find in Lahania.
Take a sail. There are a couple of sailing cruises you can take in Maui. There is no better feeling than being at sea, under sail. It?s quiet, without fumes and is just plain fun. You probably want to book a morning sail. The PM trips are less expensive, but that is because the water generally is choppier and you may find yourself ?feeding the fishes,? if you don?t have a hardy constitution.
Try Scuba Diving. You don?t have to be certified to try scuba diving. You will be escorted out, shown the basics, and then dive with a qualified diver. It runs about $80 to do this, but it?s an adventure you and your kids will enjoy.
Places to eat.
This is one of our problems. We like staying in Wailea, but our favorite place to eat is in Kapalua. These two places are about as far apart on Maui that you can get. Kapalua is on the far western side of Maui. Wailea is on the far eastern side of Maui. Needless to say we spend a lot on gasoline.
The Plantation House. (Kapalua) is the best restaurant on Maui (IMHO). It is an open air restaurant overlooking a golf course overlooking Kapalua and the Pacific ocean. It is probably 500 yards from the ocean, straight up hill. The food is American (steaks, etc.) and the prices are quite reasonable. We normally have lunch there (Jackie loves their crab cakes) with Mai Tai?s and get out for about $25 with tip. A first rate dinner would cost about $40 per person. (http://www.theplantationhouse.com/) The Plantation House has a sister restaurant, the Seawatch, in Wailea but unfortunately they don?t have the crab cakes Jackie so enjoys. It is also a beautiful setting (not quite so far up the mountain) with indoor and outdoor seating. Both are wonderful choices.
Longi?s (Lahaina). A terrific little restaurant on the main street of Lahaina. Longi?s is an Italian restaurant with wonderful breakfast?s. Again it is an open air restaurant. The waitpeople are the menus. They will tell you what is available.
The Maui Onion. We have stayed at the Rennaissance Hotel a number of times and the Maui Onion is the pool side restaurant there. It is a charming place to eat (shaded by on overhead that has flowers dangling from vines on the top)and relatively good food.
Our favorite is Big Beach. Big Beach is on the Eastern side of Maui about as far as you can go on paved road. The beach is about 3300 yards long and perhaps 100 yards deep. There are a lot of trees at the entrance to the beach so you can get some shade if you want it. There is paved parking in the three entry ways to the beach. There are little or no facilities at the beach which is the big drawback. You will see one or two food trucks that set up just outside the park that Big Beach is located at and there are some port-o-lets. It generally isn?t very crowded. On this size beach you will see perhaps 60 people.
Little Beach. We?ve read about it and know approximately where it is (you can hike there from Big Beach?go to the far western side of Big Beach and climb the trail you will find there), but have never been there. This is the clothing optional beach in Maui. Enough said.
The beaches at Kaanapali. The beach here is quite long, but extremely shallow. With all the people who are in this area, there really isn't a lot of room for you to relax on the beach.
Fleming Beach. This is a favorite of ours. It is located at Kapalua and the Ritz Carlton is located right by it. It also it just across the road from the turn off to the Plantation House Restaurant. Fleming Beach has facilities (running water bathrooms) plus the Ritz has a small restaurant just off the beach. In the winter time, the waves here are so big and powerful, they are almost scary. There are a number of trees along the edge that provide some shade and the beach is probably about 50 feet deep.
I hope this helps you if you are thinking of trying Maui. You won't regret it.