Maui is famous for its many glorious beaches. Some are long and wide. Others are secluded patches of black, red, or pink sand. Each has a character of its own. Since there are way too many to mention, here we'll focus on a few old favorites.
When the swells are up, Honolua Bay and Mokuleia Bay (aka Slaughterhouse Beach) in the North are the places to be. The beaches themselves are nothing to write home about, but the surfing is first rate. Pack a picnic and experience it vicariously.
Moving down the western shoreline, Kapalua and Napili are two beautiful beaches with decent swimming and snorkeling. Kaanapali, also long and wide, offers many food, refreshment and recreational choices, as well as pubs for late-afternoon libations and entertainment. The snorkeling around Black Rock is great.
Olowalu Beach has some of the best and most accessible snorkeling on the island. Coral shelves are close to shore, and the waters are often so shallow that you almost can wade out to them. Olowalu also has welcome shade trees for those in need of relief from the harsh Hawaiian sun.
In South Maui we favor Makena State Park with both Big and Little Beaches. When conditions are right, Big Beach offers good body surfing and boogie boarding. Secluded Little Beach is clothing optional when authorities aren't around. Secret Beach is hard to find (through a hole in a laval wall) but worth the effort, if there isn't a wedding going on.
Continue on to our favorite spot - Ahihi Cove (right). It offers easy access from the submerged lava shelf and excellent snorkeling around both points. The beach itself is small, but you may not leave the water long enough to care.
Blessed with spectacular terrain and cooling tradewinds, Maui offers great hiking opportunities. No Maui vacation would be complete without one or two invigorating treks. Have you ever hiked into a dormant volcano? Haleakala's Sliding Sands Trail offers just such a challenge. You may never get to the moon, but this trail is the next best thing. Be aware, though, that the altitude (over 10,000 feet) can be fatiguing, as Fran soon discovered. Also, bring a jacket. The wind chill factor can produce near-freezing temperatures.
Another great hiking destination is Iao Valley. Be prepared for light rain, but don't let it spoil your day. The frequent showers are what keep the valley fresh, verdant and brimming with sparkling streams, cascading waterfalls, and tropical vegetation. In addition to the improved trails within the State Park, you also can pick up some unmaintained but easy to follow trails into the back country that will reward you with "weepoing walls" and panoramic vistas.
We recently discovered the Swinging Bridges hike in Waihe'e Valley. This two-mile hike has a little bit of everything, including two rickety suspension bridges that are little more than cables and planks. Your reward at the end is a gorgeous swimming hole formed by an old irrigation dam across the Waihe'e River. To find it drive north out of Wailuku on Hwy 340, turn left at Waihe'e Valley Road (just past the school in Waihe'e), proceed to the end of the road, and pay a $5 easement fee to Waihe'e Valley Farms.
We've saved our favorite recommendation for last. In our opinion, the best hike on the island is the trek to Waimoku Falls. Most visitors make the trip to Hana and beyond to the Seven Pools at Oheo Gulch without knowing about this great hike. After parking in the same lot walk inland (across the road) to the trailhead. After a slight uphill climb, the trail levels out along a stream and into a towering bamboo forest (right). During our hike, gentle breezes set the bamboo into motion, like a giant wind chime.
Along the way Mother Nature has provided cascading streams, colorful vegetation, and delightful photo-ops. Wooden bridges and boardwalks have thoughtfully been added by the Park Service. Eventually you emerge into a natural amphitheater, surrounded on three sides by towering rock walls and, straight ahead, the second highest waterfall in all of Hawaii. After completing this round-trip hike (allow 2-1/2 hours), you will have earned a refreshing dip in the Seven Pools!
What's a vacation without taking advantage of the opportunity to sample local delicacies? Maui has a wonderful array of restaurants to suit all palates and budgets. Here are some of our favorites:
The Aloha Mixed Plate (right) behind the Lahaina Cannery Mall serves up great, inexpensive combination plates. While dining on their outdoor lanai, you'll enjoy the music that drifts over from the Old Lahaina Luau. They share the same kitchen. We usually eat there once or twice per trip.
Reasonably priced Italian fare just doesn't get any better than the menu at the Penne Pasta Cafe on Dickenson Street in Lahaina. It's where Fran chooses to go for her weekly "pasta fix." Arrive early to grab one of the five outdoor tables. Two recent discoveries in Lahaina merit our recommendation - Mala Ocean Tavern (behind Lahaina Cannery Mall) and Star Noodle (up the hill above Lahaina Cannery Mall).
IMama's Fish House in Paia is a sure winner - hands down the best seafood on the island. If you venture down to Wailea, consider Tommy Bahamas Tropical Cafe and Emporium. We've enjoyed a leisurely lunch on its large, open-air lanai. Food and ambience were first-rate.
Two choices for a late lunch on the way down from Haleakala Crater are the Kula Lodge and the Haliimaile General store, both in Upcountry. The Kula Lodge has perfected Maui onion soup (although a bit too salty on our last visit), and the Haliimaile General Store features delicious, light Pacific Rim in an unlikely location.
For excellent soups, salads, and entries that change daily, head over to the Soup NutZ on Lower Honoapiilani Highway across the street from our condo at the Kaanapali Shores. it came highly recommended by our realtor, and we strongly agree. As the name implies, soups are their specialty, and they are to die for. To help you decide, your server will offer a taste of each. As if the food wasn't good enough, dim lighting, soft jazz, and comfortable appointments set the mood.
Our last night splurge is usually at the Hula Grill right on Kaanapali Beach. Watch the sunset, listen to live entertainment, and enjoy an exquisite filet of opakapaka. Then start planning your return trip over mouth-watering Hula Pie!
Golf in Hawaii isn't a cheap proposition unless your're a kamaaina (residents qualify for 50% off green fees), and Maui has a dizzying assortment of courses from which to choose. What to do? Our resident amateur golfer offers the following recommendations.
Resort courses are relatively expensive, ranging from $110 - $140 per round. In Michael's book, the best of the bunch are Kapalua in West Maui and Wailea in South Maui. Kapalua offers two championship courses: the Plantation and Bay. Maui's notorious winds can be a factor here, so play as early as possible and keep your ball low. The beautifully maintained courses at Wailea are challenging but more forgiving. The Emerald course is considered the best of the three.
Green fees at the non-resort courses are under $100. In Michael's opinion, the best and most challenging of the lot is the Dunes at Maui Lani. Located in the isthmus just west of Kahului, winds can be a factor in the afternoon, and the natural sand dunes will put your sand wedge to the test. But you'll get a lot of golf for the money.
No serious golfer should visit Maui without taking a pleasurable day trip over to Lanai for either the Experience at Koele (right - in a genteel plantation setting) or Challenge at Manele (along the rocky coastline). Both courses consistently rate among the Top Ten in the Islands. It's possible for Maui visitors to catch the first ferry out of Lahaina, play a leisurely round of golf in Lanai, and return on a late afternoon or early evening ferry none the worse for wear - a day long remembered as the ultimate golf nirvana.
ROADS LESS TRAVELED
Virtually everyone travels the main roads in West Maui, South Maui and, of course, to and from the airport. Belying its reputation, the notorious Road to Hana is so improved that there is little left to complain about except the frequent rain. There are, however, roads less travelled that are worth the effort to find and explore.
Northward beyond Kapalua, Highway 340 narrows to two lanes and in some stretches even less, requiring cars to yield to oncoming traffic. This serpentine road takes you on a journey that compares to Bug Sur. You'll see crashing surf, dramatic cliffs, cattle-groomed valleys, and the enchanting village of Kahakuloa (right) in the shadow of imposing Kahakuloa Head. Here you can stretch your legs, stop for a refreshment, and browse the Kahakuloa Gallery. Continuing down the windward coast (after an impossibly narrow climb out of Kahakuloa), you're rewarded with panoramic vistas punctuated with deep gorges before reaching "civilization" in Wailuku.
A road even less travelled is the alternate route to Hana. This journey on Highway 31 around the bottom of Maui is, at once, eerie, desolate, and beautiful. If you have the stomach for such a demanding drive (a portion of which is on unimproved road), it's not to be missed! Highlights include the charming Tedeschi Winery, venerable Kaupo Store, restored 150-year old Hui Aloha Church, wild beaches, beautiful cliff-top pastures, and the simple last resting place of Charles W. Lindbergh. An added bonus: Having driven to Hana in this direction, you can return on the "official" road without seeing the same thing twice.
HANA, IF YOU MUST
When Fran first travelled the Road to Hana, it was severely rutted and pockmarked. Gaping holes were filled with enough freshly fallen rainwater to obscure their depth. Needless to say, the danger of a broken axle lurked around every bend. Fran spent so much time peering ahead for the next gap in the roadway that she missed much of the surrounding beauty. Thirty years later, despite Nature's relentless onslaught, the road is in excellent repair. Drivers can relax and savor the experience of travelling through a magnificent rain forest.
Here are some recommendations for enjoying The Drive:
- Start early and fill up in Pai'a
- Stop in Pai'a for a takeout lunch to be enjoyed later
- Puohokamoa Falls at MM11 (three cascades for the price of one stop)
- Detour to the dramatic Ke'anae Peninsula (just beyond the Ke'anae Arboretum)
- Upper Waikani Falls and Three Bears Falls between MM19 & 20
- Hanawi Falls after MM24
- Detour to the idyllic hamlet of Nahiku between MM 26 & 27
- Detour to Blue Pool (below) and Pi'ilanihale Heiau via Ula'ino Road at MM31
- Picnic at Wai'anapanapa Black Sand Beach just past MM32
- Time permitting, the Seven pools at Ohe'o are 10 winding miles beyond Hana
When you finally reach Hana, you'll find that it is verdant and picturesque, but you'll also realize that the mystique of driving the Road to Hana is not about Hana itself. It's about the indelible memories you gathered along the way.
To cap a perfect day, on the homeward run stop for dinner at a Mama's Fish House in Pai'a. We once arrived, tired and muddy after a complete navigation of southern Maui (see Roads Less Travelled), only to enjoy the best meal of our entire trip! We've been "regulars" ever since.