Having 10 days on the island of Maui for my vacation from yacht life, I tried to find a delicate balance between seeing and doing everything I possibly could and still having a nice relaxing break from work. As it turns out, Maui is the perfect place for both.
1. Watch the Sunrise at Haleakala
When I began researching which Hawaiian island to visit, it was the images and tales of the legendary sunrise at the summit of Haleakala volcano that had me sold on Maui. Unfortunately, we happened to visit on the first day of the government shutdown so the entrance to the national park was closed, leaving us to park along the side of the road with the rest of the poor suckers who had made the 3 AM journey. We were still able to see a bit of the view and stunning colors, but were 2,000 ft. below the actual summit. The reason I still recommend it is that the trip alone was something I’ll never forget; rousing my best friend out of bed at 2:50 AM, scrambling in our sleepy states to the car, stealing blankets from our beds, finding the perfect balance of music between upbeat and not assaulting our ears, and driving up a windy mountain road in pure darkness, laughing the entire way. It only got funnier once we arrived and realized our poor luck. Sometimes, it’s all about the journey.
After having been shafted by the US government, we were left feeling somewhat unfulfilled. Luckily, only a few miles from the Haleakala National Park, in the town of Kula, there is an awesome company called Proflyght Paragliding which offers tandem paragliding with an instructor. Similar to hangliding, you basically run off the mountainside into a peaceful 10-15 minute flight over trees and hills. If you are looking for a bit of excitement but the idea of skydiving makes you nervous, this is definitely a perfect balance. The instructors at Proflyght are super professional and make the experience a memorable one. Plus, if the flight is too tame for your tastes, you can ask them to do some tricks and they will oblige. 🙂
3. Drive the Road to Hana
Probably not for the faint at heart, the Road to Hana is wrought with winding curves, blind spots, and one way roads. However, braving the drive will prove to be the experience of a lifetime. Along the iconic road you will find some of the most beautiful overlooks, waterfalls and landscape the Island has to offer. There is a reason why it has been voted the best island in the world time and time again. The road to Hana will show you just why it is deserving of the title. There are also some great eats along the way as well (make sure to check out Coconut Glen’s AMAZING ice cream). Give yourself an entire day for the trip and leave early in the morning. You definitely don’t want to be driving this road at night.
As the most isolated island chain in the world, the Hawaiian islands are host to some truly beautiful and exotic sea life. Specifically, the partially submerged Molokini crater offers spectacular views of marine life. We booked a trip through the Pacific Whale Foundation that provided everything you could need or want for a perfect day out on the ocean. We chose an excursion which also visited the famed “Turtle Town”, a reef that is a frequent feeding ground for the native sea turtles. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing it was to be snorkeling alongside of these beauties! You will not be disappointed.
5. Eat Fish Tacos
It was probably a little ironic that after a day spent swimming with the fish, our next move was to indulge in their grilled comrades (served on tortillas with all the fixin’s) but what can I say? They are TOO good. I have never had better fish tacos in my life than during our 10 days in Maui. I’d like to lie and say I ate like a normal person while on vacation but this is a safe environment, right? I had 10 fish tacos on vacation. TEN. That’s one fish taco for every day I was there, in case you needed help with the math. It’s okay, I told you this is a place of sharing, not judgement. Anyway, my expert opinion is that if you want the BEST fish tacos, check out Leilani’s in Kaanapali. It’s not just me saying they’re the best; they’ve actually been voted as the best on the island by (what I presume are) legitimate sources. Just try them and thank me later.
SUP, or stand up paddle boarding, is a great way to burn off the calories from the copious amounts of fish tacos that you will undoubtedly consume (because everyone takes my advice, right?). We have one onboard that I got used to while we were anchored in Indonesia, but trying it off the beach in Lahaina proved to be a bit more of a challenge. I love a challenge. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon at the beach if you are ADD like me and can’t sit still and more than that, it’s great for your core! If you are a bit more daring, try your hand at surfing; it is Hawaii after all. There are places all over Lahaina and Kaanapali to rent both SUPs and surf boards or take lessons. We went to a couple different places during our stay and everyone at each place was both helpful and informative. One bit of advice from a personal standpoint: pile on the sunscreen.
7. Lay out at the Beach
You’re in Hawaii- go to the beach! Our favorite was Kaanapali for the overall beach area, restaurants, surf/SUP schools and shops.
8. Rent Bicycles
After The drive to Haleakala and the day long road trip to Hana, we were just about done with driving. It was a lot of driving for someone who’s normal method of transportation is by yacht! Anyway, renting bikes was the perfect remedy and gave us a chance to stretch our legs for a few days and soak in all the beautiful scenery. The trip from our condo to Kaanapali was only about 7 miles, so it was a nice, leisurely 20 minute bike ride or so. Also, we didn’t have to pay for parking once we got anywhere- WIN! Check out West Maui Cycles in Lahaina for some cheap rates on beach cruisers (with baskets!).
9. Take a Helicopter Tour
There are just some things that can’t be seen by foot and that’s where a helicopter tour comes in. We got a great deal on a 45 minute tour of west Maui and Molokai which provided us with stunning views of things that we simply wouldn’t have been able to see on our own. Flying into the sharp, lush valleys of West Maui and hovering around epic waterfalls on Molokai (some of which were featured in the Jurassic Park movies) are sights that I won’t soon be forgetting.
10. Go to a Luau
No trip to Hawaii is complete without a luau. I mean, where else can you get lei’d in public and have it be perfectly acceptable? I kid, I kid. Honestly, a luau is a great way to learn about Hawaiian culture and history and taste a traditional Hawaiian feast. I read review after review of the various luaus offered on Maui before booking one and I think I really hit the jackpot with the Old Lahaina Luau. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful and the dancers looked like they were really passionate about the show. It was a spectacular performance and evening overall, and a great way to end the trip.
Any other favorites on Maui? Spill!