Day 5: Our short inter-island flight had some good views of Maui and the three small islands, Molokai, Lanai, and Kaho’olawe. At OGG (Maui airport) we picked up the rental car and drove to the Aston Kaanapali Shores. Easy drive with nice views of the ocean, the small islands, and some good surfing beaches that appear to be very popular with locals and only locals. After checking in and settling we had just enough time to catch the sunset over the beach, right behind the hotel. We had dinner at Pizza Paradiso across the street, followed by grocery shopping. We went to bed early, as tomorrow we will go see the sunrise at Haleakala!
Day 6: Woke up at 2:40 am and in the car by 3:05. We made it to the summit at 5:10 for 6:00 sunrise. I was shocked to see that there were tons of cars already there. I read that we should arrive 45 minutes early to get into the small upper parking lot, but we were 100 cars too late. Similarly, we had to find a viewing spot among around 1000 people. I expected busy but not this busy! To be fair, it’s probably busier because it is closed tomorrow.
Anyways, the sunrise (and the whole experience) was incredible. Even better than I expected, in spite of the crowds. Other than on an airplane I’ve never looked down on clouds like these. The crater is also quite a sight, once there is enough light to see it. We took hundreds of pictures from start to finish. After the sun has fully risen the summit starts to empty very quickly, and twenty minutes later we had it all to ourselves.
As the sun starts to show above the clouds there was someone singing/chanting a Hawaiian prayer/song, which greatly added to the experience. I’m not at all religious, but if I was I would come here to worship the sun!
After a quick stop at the visitors centre/giftshop we made our way down. The drive down was slow, mostly because we would have to wait behind bikers.
There are many “volcano bicycle” tours on Haleakala. They bring people and bikes up the mountain on trucks, and then they all bike down the steep, winding road which they share with the cards. On the way down we saw an ambulance and an injured bicyclist, which was not surprising. This leads to my next point – why in the world would anyone want to do this? First of all, the road down is not that scenic (not that you’d be focusing on the scenery anyways). All they are doing is biking downhill. On a narrow road. With small shoulders. And many cars. Why? If you really want to bike downhill, you don’t need to find the most dangerous road in Hawaii to do it. In fact, unless you are from Florida there are probably very thrilling downhill biking trails near your hometown. I don’t get it. Is it just so you can say you’ve biked down a volcano? Even though there is nothing “volcanic” nor Hawaiian about it?
After our long morning we took the rest of the day easy. We took a nap at our hotel and then spent some time at Kaanapali beach. Afterwards we went to Whalers shopping centre where we walked around and had lunch. Then off to Lahaina where we walked around for a while. After a break at the hotel we went back to Lahaina for dinner at Lahainaluna cafe, which consisted of some very good tacos.
Day 7: After breakfast we went to Honolua Bay for some snorkelling. We had a great time – about 90 minutes went by before I decided to head to shore. The quality and quantity of fish was similar to that of Ke’e beach, but the coral was incredible and the water was very calm. The best snorkelling we had on our trip.
For lunch we went to The Gazebo in Napili which was fun. We headed home and took a small break at the hotel. No plans for the afternoon so I decided to drive south. We first went to Big Beach and Little Beach. Swimming was not that fun since the waves were far too big for us. On the other hand Little Beach was an interesting experience! Next we decided to try snorkelling at Maluaka beach. I was hoping the water would be calmer hear but the waves were still too big for snorkelling (maybe because it was almost 5 pm), so we gave up for the afternoon and headed back to the hotel. For dinner we went to Whalers, where we settled on Hula Grill which was very good (but expensive).
Day 8: Today we had a 2-hour snorkelling tour to Molokini. We had booked it at one of the booths in Lahaina, where we got it for $10 each on the condition that one of us (not me!) sits through a 90 minute timeshare presentation. The tour was with Blue Water Rafting. I get seasick, so I chose them because they leave from Kihei and the ride out is only 15 minutes. We had to check in at 11:15 so we left Kaanapali around 10.
The water was pretty rough so the ride was bumpy (but not nauseating). When we got to Molokini the surf was still pretty strong, so the captain declared that we would not be getting off the boat. Instead, we headed back to shore and they dropped us off just north of Makena Landing to look for turtles. Luckily, this part was very successful! We saw some fish, amazing coral, and of course many turtles. One came up for air about 3 feet away from me (he came to me – I had to keep backing away). In the future I’ll have to try to go to Molokini again, but for now I had a great time.
After snorkelling we got sandwiches at Whalers General Store, where I also got various snacks for the Road to Hana tomorrow. Lunch, driving around, and snorkelling all took more time than expected so we only got home pretty late, so we called it a day and spent the rest of the day at the hotel and the beach.
Day 9: Road to Hana! We were on the road for just under 12 hours today. My girlfriend and I split off from the rest of our family so we rented a car for the day from the Avis location a block away from us. I had reserved a compact car, but when I got there I couldn’t resist upgrading to a convertible Jeep Wrangler.
Anyways, we hit the road at 8:00 am (and got back at 7:45 pm). The drive was beautiful and well worth it. On the way there was stopped at Paia for a quick souvenir and bathroom break, Kaenae Landing (bathroom break), the Halfway to Hana stand for banana bread and a nut bar (both amazing, though somehow cost $12), Pua’a Ka’a Park (another bathroom break), Upper Waikani Falls (just for a few minutes), Wai’anapanapa State Park (my favourite part of the day – rugged scenery, black sand beach, and we saw some crazy people doing backflips off the big rock formation in the ocean), Wailua Falls (just for a few minutes), and Ohe’o Gulch at Kipahulu. We turned around after going swimming at Ohe’o Gulch. On the way back we drove nonstop, except for a twenty minute taco break.
Day 10: Today was a lazy day. We pretty much did nothing except for a short trip to the Maui Ocean Center, which was fun but not as good as the aquarium in Waikiki (at least as well as I remember it from two years ago).
Day 11: Today we had a 5pm flight out of OGG. We spent the morning on the beach outside the hotel. After showering and packing, we left around noon for Iao Valley State Park. The drive there was great as the colours started changing from brown to green. Iao Valley was stunning. A beautiful area to walk around and enjoy the scenery. The needle itself was somewhat underwhelming relative to its surroundings – just another green mountain that sticks out a little more than the others.
Lunch was at Da Kitchen near the airport. After flying, picking up our rental car, and driving to Waikiki, we arrived at our hotel around 7pm. We had dinner in Waikiki and spent some time walking around.
Some thoughts on Maui: First of all, Haleakala and the Road to Hana are two of my favourite places in Hawaii. With that said, I found the rest of Maui underwhelming. West and South Maui look dry, dead, and a little ugly for Hawaii (I hear that it’s better in the wet season though). With the exception of Haleakala, Road to Hana, and Iao Valley, it’s far less beautiful than Oahu, let alone Kauai. I still loved my time in Maui, mainly because I was making sure to go to all the aforementioned places. The next time I go, it will probably only be for two or three days to repeat Haleakala and Hana. But it’s not a place I would want to go to for a two week vacation, even though it seems like many people do just that. On the other hand, I’ll be happy to return for long stays in Kauai over and over again, even if I can’t stay right on the beach.