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