Our first visit to Maui was a three day extension of our Honolulu visit. It became apparent that three days would not allow enough time to see what this beautiful Island has to offer.
The Island is made up of 5 distinct areas: Central Maui, Upcountry Maui, East Maui (windward side), South Maui and West Maui (leeward side). The weather on Maui tends to be dryer on the western side with more moisture on the eastern side. This has led to a greater buildup of resorts on the western and southern sides and lush forests filled with waterfalls and rivers on the eastern side. Both offer a wide assortment of activities that are sure to appeal to every visitor.
Our first visit took us to the Kihei area of south Maui on a sunny clear day. The trip from the airport gave us opportunity to see rich valleys of agriculture, mountains on the right and Haleakala on the left. We didn’t realize at the time how unusual it was to see Haleakala without cloud obstruction. As we passed from the valley to the coast the contrasts were unbelievable (remember to keep your eyes on the road).
The South Maui area is a collection of fine resorts, golf courses and dining opportunities. These coupled with the numerous sunny beaches and water activity access points make it a favorite place to stay. Take some time to get off the main drives and you’ll still find many local markets and cultural points of interest. Some of the best ecological water sanctuaries can be found in this area with fantastic snorkeling, diving and kayaking activities.
On our next visit to the island (7 days) we choose to stay in the Kaanapali area of West Maui. We discovered this area on our first trip and made it our home on the island thereafter. The trip up the coast from the airport is kaleidoscope of color (keep your eyes on the road) changing with each turn you make. The beaches are impressive with breaking waves that will draw you in and vistas of neighboring islands, Molokai and Lanai. “The best indicator of beach safety is to observe whether or not the locals are in the water? Don’t let your trip be ruined by lack of respect for the oceans power and remember to never turn your back from the water.”
We love this area because of its proximity to all types of activities. You can spend the day in Lahaina and learn just about anything having to do with the whaling industry as well as visit historic sites and buildings from this era. A walk on the wharf will introduce you to fishing opportunities as well as cater to your culinary desires. Front Street plays host to all types of shopping, clubs and dining opportunities and makes for a great walk to remember.
The Kaanapali Beach Resort Area is just a few miles north of Lahaina and plays host too many excellent resorts, golf courses and one of the world’s best beaches. Spend time in the Whales Village Shopping Center and then rest or dine steps away on the beach. Depending on the time of year you’ll be entertained by parasailing or whale watching from most areas on Kaanapali beach.
Want to take a try at surfing? Make your reservation and walk from your hotel to your surfboard. If snorkeling is your pleasure, black rock off the Sheraton Maui is an excellent place to explore the underwater world. We have great pictures of our granddaughter coming face to face with her first sea turtle off of black rock.
A short trip further north is the Kapalua Area. If you’re a golf fan you’ll recognize this area for its fine resorts and championship courses. This area is a bit quieter than Kaanapali and offers the opportunity to get out and explore. With the road winding along the bluffs overlooking the ocean you can explore beaches and forests less often occupied by the masses. Always be aware of private property boundaries and with that being said this is a great area to find wild passion fruit. If you’ve never tried it, do! If you can’t find it, shop the local road side fruit stands.
If you enjoy hiking, you’ll find numerous opportunities in the Kapalua area and on north along the west side of the island.
The central Maui area begins at the airport and is made up of most of the local population of Maui. This area is comprised of the cities of Kahului and Wailuku.
When visiting, be sure to visit the historic Iao Valley State Park and the Maui Tropical Plantation.
The Iao Valley State Park is a great place to spend a few hours. With many pedestrian paths leading through the lush mountainside you’ll be able to observe the way it was in ancient times. The valley is the setting for the battle to unite the Islands in 1790 between the Maui Army and the Army of King Kamehameha I. This battle ultimately changed the course of Hawaiian history. Find out how on your visit. The park is home to the landmark Iao Needle, a 1200 foot high green-mantled rock overlooking the valley floor and rain forest.
The Maui Tropical Plantation is a great family spot where you can take tours, dine and enjoy live entertainment. The setting makes it ideal for weddings and private events. Check out the concert schedule, take a tram ride through the plantation and learn all about the fruit and coffee of the islands. Spend the day, dine and be entertained while creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Spend some time exploring the cities of Kahului and Wailuku where you’ll be able to sample the arts and culture of the island as well as shop and explore.
The Upcountry Area of Maui is located on the high, side mountain of Haleakala National Park. Make plans to see the sunrise or sunset from the top of Haleakala (bring warm cloths) and see the island from its highest vantage point, 9740 feet above sea level. If you like to hike and camp make plans early (4 to 6 months) and camp in the crater.
A trip to the top of Haleakala starts at the town of Paia, a remnant from the sugar cane era with its quaint shops, wood buildings and fine dining establishments. Bring a towel and experience Baldwin Beach Park and its white sand beach and Ho’okipa Beach Park, the windsurfing capital of the world.
Next stop the town of Makawao also a remnant of the sugar cane era and now a thriving arts community. Feel a little western, Makawao is home to the Hawaiian Cowboy (paniolo) and rodeo held each year over the 4th of July.
Browse the many art, boutique and eclectic shops of Makawao and watch glass blowers, woodworkers and painters preparing your orders.
From this point on you’ll see just about every variation of island beauty as you climb to the top of Haleakala. Take some time to stop along the way. There are many small wayside attractions and fruit stands that are well worth the time to see.
To see the East Maui area you’ll need to spend 2 to 4 hours to travel 52 miles. This is an all day trip (there and back) and is well worth the time. During the drive you’ll see lush rain forests, waterfalls, naturally growing fruit and flowers and experience the 620 curves and 59 bridges that make up the road to Hana. This is one trip you’ll take where you don’t want to be in a hurry. The drive is an experience and the scenery is spectacular. Stop along the way and take
short hikes to view waterfalls and mountain cliffs rich with color and streams and valleys un-viewable otherwise.
The fruit stands along the way are a must to experience. The fruit and produce is great and the fresh banana bread is wonderful; don’t forget the passion fruit if available.
At the end of the road you’ll find the quaint town of Hana and beyond that the seven sacred pools.
Hana is a wonderful local town rich in island history. The churches and historic buildings are great places to explore. Experience the beaches and shops and dine at one of the local spots before heading to the sacred pools.
Take a towel and a lunch if you haven’t eaten and spend a few hours taking pictures and swimming in the pools. Access is via a short hike from the parking area and requires solid footing on the wet rocks so wear appropriate shoes.
When you’re ready to start back you have 2 choices depending on the car you’re driving, backtrack or continue around the south side of the island. Most of your car rental agency’s advise against or prohibit travel around the south side of the island so be aware of the rental policy. Weather conditions also come into play when making your decision. Remember you’re on vacation so slow down, relax and enjoy yourself.