November 24 – 28, 2016 4 days

I visited Maui with V during the Thanksgiving break in 2016. It was a late booking and most tickets to Hawaii were rather expensive, but then we decided to not return on the Sunday after Thanksgiving (which is what most people do) and it suddenly made the tickets a few hundred dollars cheaper and the trip possible.

In total, we spent four days on the island, which was a good amount of time to cover a lot of ground.

We arrived late on Thursday night (Nov 24), picked up our rental car and headed to our AirBnb – a studio room in Kihei in the southern part of the island, perfect for two people. We didn’t have much of a choice because we booked late. But in hindsight, Kihei was a good place to live.

Day One

We woke up leisurely and drove to Paia, which is a cute little town on the north shore of Maui. It has several boutique stores, hip restaurants, and a laid-back vibe. After some window-shopping and breakfast, we started for Hana. Driving to Hana (which is on the eastern end of the island) is one of the most popular tourist activities on the island. The road is curvy and precarious in places, with several interesting stops along the way. Most people pick a few and do the entire drive (and back) in a day. We googled extensively and picked ones we liked best.

These are some of the top picks:

  • Twin Falls – One of many waterfalls. If it isn’t raining a lot and the flow is low, one can swim in the pool at their own risk. It was overflowing when we visited, so it was just touch and go.
  • Twin Falls Fruit Stand – Located at the entrance to Twin Falls, it’s a fresh fruit stand. The cut pineapple was spectacular, and it was a pleasant surprise to get sugarcane juice.
The Twin Falls Fruit Stand sells fresh pineapple and sugarcane juice.
  • Waikamoi Stream and Waterfall – A cool cascading waterfall, with a hike following it up. It seemed possible to swim in one of the pools, but I’m not sure.
  • Garden of Eden Arboretum – We skipped this since it was raining heavily, but it looked great, and apparently some Jurassic Park scenes were shot here.
  • Ching’s Pond – We only picked this spot because it apparently has a swimming pool, and a rather daredevil jumping spot. In the end, we couldn’t even find it, and it was raining anyway.
  • Wailua Valley State Wayside – A short flight of stairs leads to a nice expansive view of the ocean. The parking lot has space for probably 3-4 cars.
  • Waikani Falls – Nice quick photo spot.
  • Hana Lava Tube – We are both interested in Geology, so it was natural to stop here! It’s a very old lava tube, with some centuries old formations. It’s on private land, and you get a flashlight for a self-guided tour for $12.5. There are other lava tubes in Maui, but this one was pretty good.
Entrance to the Hana Lava Tube.
  • Waiʻanapanapa State Park – Quite touristy, but very beautiful park, with a small black sand beach! The beach was closed for construction when we visited, but I still loved the place. There were many other attractions, including a blowhole that shot water up several meters high.
Waiʻanapanapa State Park with a glimpse of the black sand beach on the bottom-right.
  • Hana – The destination! It’s a pretty and small town on the eastern side of Maui. Thai food is recommended, though we probably reached after most places closed.
  • Wailua Falls – Pretty waterfall and a quick stop.
Wailua Falls (one of the dozens on the road to Hana).
  • Seven Sacred Pools – Another place to swim and probably do some cliff-diving. The place was closed for access because of the rain and the flow was deemed dangerous. This is part of Haleakalā National Park.

At the end of the day, we drove back to Kihei to our AirBnb. The drive to Hana and back was tiring and took up the entire day. For anyone reading this, start early and avoid this road after dark if you can.

Day Two

For me, Hawaii is as much about the stunning ridge hikes as it is about the beaches and Aloha. After getting some rest on the first night, we decided to go hiking. My impression is that Maui doesn’t have as much hiking as Oahu or Kauai, but we still managed to find a hike that had everything – The Waihe’e Ridge Trail – great views, narrow ridges, muddy mess, and elevation gain.

The narrow ridge near the top of Waihe'e Ridge Trail.

It would have been useful to have poles/sticks to avoid trouble with slippery mud and tree roots. The ridge at the top can scare those with acrophobia, so in case you’re reading this and planning to do the hike, YMMV.

We met an interracial couple during the hike – white woman and black man, both in their late 70s, if not older. During our brief conversation they told us about how they’d gotten married in the 60s and lived in the Bay Area at the height of the Civil Rights movement.

After the hike, we got a massage, which was a great way to finish a tiring day.

Day Three

One of the quintessential Maui things to do is to watch the sunrise from the summit of Mt. Haleakalā, a 10,000ft high volcano and national park. The sunrise above the clouds is really beautiful, and worth the early morning drive.

Grand sunrise from the summit of Haleakalā.

It got unbearably cold at the summit and we didn’t carry enough layers, but somehow survived through the sunrise. After a brief nap in the car and waiting for it to get warmer, we ventured out to the Sliding Sands hike down towards the Haleakalā crater. The hike has otherworldly views and we loved it. Driving back down also presented great views of the entire island!

While we only reached the summit about 30 minutes before sunrise, it would have been nice to get there much earlier (3am or so) and spend time stargazing. The Haleakalā summit is one of the top five places in the world for this, and has a world class observatory as well.

Later in the day, it was time to head to the beach! There are a lot of good beaches in Maui, each with something special to offer. We picked the Big Beach in Makena State Park primarily because some website rated it their #1 beach and also it was pretty close to our AirBnb. It was fun to splash in the usually strong waves, play some frisbee and spend time people-watching. The waves were very strong – at some point I made the mistake of standing with my back to a breaking wave and trying to swim with it – it toppled me and literally flipped me over. I think I was lucky to not get seriously hurt.

Big Beach in Makena State Park.

Day Four

On the final day, we wanted to canoe or SUP, but decided to sleep in since we had a red-eye at night. We woke up leisurely, checked out the town of Wailuku for a bit before heading to Paia to have lunch with an acquaintance.

Later in the day, we drove to Lahaina to spend time on Front Street, which is basically the main tourist hotspot on the island. IMHO, we could have skipped it – there wasn’t much that appealed to us, except for a west-facing view of the mountain ridges.


I collected some of the highlights from this trip in a Twitter moment.

Favorite food and drink

Maui has some really good food. While the places we went to were vegetarian-focused, I heard the fish is great.

  • Paia Bay Coffee – Probably the most popular coffee and breakfast spot in Paia. We went here twice, and it is the perfect starting point for the drive to Hana.
  • Mala Ocean Tavern – We got a dinner spot next to the ocean. The food was good too.
  • South Shore Tiki Lounge – Giant and very good cocktails, especially blended ones.
  • Wailuku Coffee Company – This was a nice place to sit and read in a town that’s rather quaint and deserted.
  • Café des Amis – One of the many good restaurants in Paia.
  • Surfing Goat Dairy – This was a goat farm in the middle of nowhere that we went to on our final day. They do farm tours which we passed on, but there were some amazing sandwiches made with goat cheese which I loved.
  • Saeng’s Thai Cuisine – Maui has some good Thai places. Unfortunately we only went to one, for our last meal of the trip.

Things we missed

  • Luau – A Luau is a traditional party and celebration that involves drinks, food, and a local dance. We considered going to the Old Lahaina Luau, but it didn’t happen.
  • Snorkeling at Molokini – Molokini is a small island off the coast of Maui. It is actually a crater with extremely clear waters. There exist tours that take you there, provide snorkel gear and food, and promise turtles, whales, etc.
  • Surf lesson – I did this in Oahu, and would have loved another surf lesson in Paia, but it didn’t work out.
  • Bike down Haleakalā – This is a fairly popular activity, and some tour companies offer to drive you up to about 6000 ft so you can bike down on rented bicycles. I don’t really trust cheap rented bikes for such a descent, and besides I’d also want to bike up the whole distance before considering biking down. One for the future!

Overall, Maui was fun and relaxing. I particularly loved the diversity of available activities as well as the terrain and Geological history on display. It was a contrast from Oahu, which is an older island. I think I want to visit the Big Island next.

- nRT