I have been to Hawaii over 10 times and absolutely love the beauty, sense of adventure, and sunshine that Hawaii provides. Before I give the reasons to go to Maui; you will first need to make sure that you have a rental car. You will want to have freedom at least on your first visit; after this visit, you may decide that you want a shuttle to pick you up at the airport and spend the time at your resort. The first visit is one where you will want to explore for the first 3 days; then you can relax!
The Road to Hana
Things You Should Know:
The Road to Hana is a spectacular journey to Hana. I typically stay on the Kaanapali Side of Maui so it is a 45 minute drive to start the 51 mile journey to Hana from Hwy 360. The drive starts near Paia. I have stopped a few times at Charley’s Restaurant (Willy Nelson’s favorite spots) and then head out for the drive. The first stop for me is typically Mama’s Fish House. A stunning location and I am told amazing seafood (I am allergic to fish and shellfish; so not going inside to eat here). Then on a short drive up the road to Ho’okipa Lookout where from any view, you can see surfing, at times dolphins, and people playing in the surf. This is a location where experienced surfers only should be in this water…I recommend picking up a Road to Hana CD in a gas station before leaving…sometimes your phone will not work based on where you are on this route.
The route has lots of curves, one way bridges, and lots of traffic with slow drivers and more traffic depending on what time you leave.
Along the way you will see countless waterfalls, pull offs, and stopping points such as: Twin Falls, the Garden of Eden, Hana Lava Tube, Wailua Falls before arriving in Hana.
The journey along the way is spectacular. Mile 7 has Rainbow Trees. Hana has a pretty black sand beach and my favorite place to eat is the Hana Ranch.
You will pass by signs that say Haleakala National Park and this is where the famous Bamboo Forest is located.
When you are finished with this visit; keep driving around the back side of the island; some of the best views of Maui are here. Know you want to be on the road before dark and to keep moving.
What we do:
- Pack drinks and snacks
- Stop for breakfast at Charley’s or somewhere on the way
- Stop at Mama’s Fish House
- Stop at Ho’okipa Lookout
- Stop where I see people; sometimes it is a cow path next to a fence
- Sometimes it is the waterfall – just stop when you see cars
- Stop to get pictures of the Rainbow Gum Trees (gum trees)
- Stop at Hana Beach
- Stop at Hana Ranch for a nice lunch and get a few more drinks/ snacks for the road
- Haleakala National Park – Bamboo Forest visit
- Always keep going around the island
- Always have change of clothes and swimwear just in case
- There are no snakes on the island so swimming is not a problem anywhere
- Enjoy the journey; this is not about the destination!
What You Should Know:
The drive to the bottom of Haleakala National Park from Kaanapali is around an hour. If you do not like switchbacks or driving without guardrails; then this is not the drive for you. The drive from the bottom to the top takes about 35 minutes and along the way you will see bikes, a few people walking, and lots of cars going up or coming down. When you arrive at the top, there will be a large parking lot and restrooms; there is a ranger station where you can purchase a few souvenirs. Silversword is a beautiful plant that only grows here.
As you go to the top of Haleakala, remember that this is high altitude and Altitude Sickness can occur. The top is over 10,000 feet and higher at the summit.
Haleakala can be seen anytime, but it is recommended that you book Haleakala with a tour group and do a sunrise visit.
What We Did:
- I have seen Haleakala at sunrise two times and have seen it at least 6 times without a sunrise visit. Hands down- make this part of your trip.
- Bring sweatshirt and/or jackets/ blankets if you go at Sunrise because it is extremely cold; otherwise it is cold but manageable.
- Bring Snacks
- Plan to spend about 30-50 minutes at the top unless you are on a sunrise tour; then you will arrive around 2:30 AM and will wait until the sunrises; then head down and usually part of the trip is breakfast.
- I would not advise driving in the dark up Haleakala on your own; during daylight hours should be okay.
3. Bamboo Forest
What You Should Know:
When you leave Hana, you continue around the backside of the island and you will see signs for Haleakala National Park. On the left hand side of the road, you will see a turn off with parking lots; pull in here. There is a view of the ocean, restrooms, and the paths that take you to Haleakala or to the Bamboo Forest.
The Bamboo Forest is a hike. Haleakala National Park (the back side) is there along with a path that takes you to the Bamboo Forest. Do not miss this. Know you have to be in good shape to complete this walk; it is a lot of up and down; twists and turns, and tree roots. If you have bad knees, legs that struggle, or hip replacement/knee replacement surgeries; you may want someone in your group to take pictures and show you.
As you walk to the bamboo forest; you follow a river and if you toward the river; be careful as signs are everywhere about the dangers and warnings of deaths that have occurred from falling. There is a well marked path and if you stay on the path; you are safe.
On this path, there are swinging bridges and huge canopy trees. Bring your camera.
What You Should Know:
The water is the ocean. With that being said, you are on an island and rip tides, waves, and lifeguards are not always where you will want to be. There are tide pools and rocks near water ways (especially the road to Hana) or up by Kapalua where you may be tempted to climb down and be close to the water and get a selfie or picture in general. Remember, if the wave comes and takes you with it; you may not be able to get back where you were. This is not to scare you, but it is a reality.
Snorkeling in Molokini: take a tour company and out for a 2 hour snorkeling trip. There are pretty fish and the water is beautiful. Remember not to go too far from the boat; there is a current. The snorkeling tour company will tell you all about it. Wear a life vest or float on top of it.
There is a nice boat ride from Lahaina to Lanai that goes over some rough water but takes you for a few hours to the 4 Seasons Lanai. It is a beautiful tropical destination if you are looking for something to do. Dolphins will swim next to the boat.
The Ho’opina Lookout has surfing; if you are a beginner; you will want to find an easier area to surf. Lots of small waves around the island. Lahaina is a good beginner location.
What We Do:
We do not really swim in the ocean unless on an excursion. The pools at the hotels usually capture most of our time. We will definitely get into the ocean play/ splash around but as far as going out a distance or standing near a blowhole next to the coast; not so much.
The boat ride from Lahaina to Lanai is nice; suggested if you are on the island more than 4 days.
The Snorkeling in Molokini is very nice.
We stay on the Kaanapali side of the island but if you decide to stay near Wailea; check the updates on bacteria as sometimes this can affect the time in the water.
5. Lahaina, Kaanapali Beach, Kapalua
What You Should Know:
This is a popular location for all of the major hotels and there is plenty of beach available for all.
Lahaina is a pretty location where there are lots of shops; good location to walk around. Surfers are nearby and the park has beautiful trees. There are galleries and lots of companies trying to get business for tours on Maui.
Kaanapali Beach is a hotel zone. There is Whalers Village (major shopping area) that is quite happening at night. All of the beaches here are extremely nice.
Kapalua is further north; near the Ritz Carlton you will find Dragon’s Teeth and beautiful forests. As you drive around the top part of Kapalua, you will find many cliffs and witness surfers climbing down the cliffs
What We Did:
- Remember that Lahaina is usually one of the warmest spots on the island.
- If it is raining in Kapalua; it is probably not raining in Lahaina.
- If you are island hopping- book flights out of Kapalua instead of OGG
- If you are flying to the mainland or international; you will have to go in or out of OGG.
- Stay on Kaanapali or Kapalua
- My favorite places to stay are the Marriott Ocean Club, Ritz Carlton, and Kapalua Villas. I have also stayed at random places through Hotwire. (just know that air conditioning is not standard at all hotels or accommodations)
- I have been to Maui more than 10 times so ask if you have questions.
- If it is your first trip: Make sure to do the Road to Hana and Sunrise at Haleakala
- Save your money and do not do a helicopter ride on this island
- Snorkeling is okay, but if you are island hopping; save it for a different island
I have been to Maui over 10 times; for as short of a stay as 2 days and as long as two weeks. If you have questions, please ask!