After completing our exploration of Oahu, Maui was the next island on our itinerary. Even though it is a member of the Hawaiian archipelago, it has a different "feel". It is the second largest Hawaiian island and Oahu is the third largest. Oahu has a substantially larger population of nearly one million where Maui has only 145,000.
- Maui has no billboards - Other than traffic and safety signs, you have a free view of the natural landscape around you. Hawaii is one of only four states to ban billboards, in addition to Vermont, Maine, and Alaska.
- Haleakala rises 10,023 feet above sea level and is the largest dormant volcano in the world - The summit depression is 21 miles across and 4,000 feet deep, big enough to hold the entire island of Manhattan. Dress warm, it will be about 32F cooler at the summit compared to sea level.
- There are 81 accessible beaches on Maui - including ones with white, gold, black, and red sand. It has 120 miles of accessible beach, more than any other Hawaiian island.
- Charles Lindbergh's Grave - The Famous aviator, explorer, and social activist, was buried on Maui in 1974. His grave sits underneath a plum tree at the Palapala Ho’omau Church along the Road to Hana.
- One of the Highest Life Expectancies in the United States - Hawaii has the highest life expectancy in the United States at 81.5 years.
- The first printing press in the Western United States - Founded in 1831, Maui’s Lahainaluna High School is the oldest school west of the Rocky Mountains and owned the first printing press in the western United States.
- The Maui Gold Brand of pineapple - It possesses three times the amount of vitamin C as other brands of pineapple. It is specially grown and takes approximately 18 months to reach ripeness.
- Maui's Size - At 727.2 square miles, it is the second largest Hawaiian Island.
The following is a suggested itinerary based upon maximizing your time on Maui and proximity to these individual destinations;
Day 1: Arrival
- Arrive and get your bearings. Check out the beach and have your first umbrella drink if this is the first island you are visiting.
- Visit Haleakala in the morning - leave before sunrise so that you can see the sunrise there. It’s one of the most amazing things we have ever witnessed and worth getting up at 4:00 AM to see it. since you will likely be jetlagged - visit early in your trip before you get into the Hawaii time zone.
Day 3: Beach, snorkel, swim, relax
- Paia Fish Market - there are several of these across the island (Lahaina, Paia, Kihei) Find one for lunch or dinner.
Day 4: Head to Kapalua and do the Coastal Walk
- See the Lahaina banyan tree
- Take a Whale watch tour
- Get some ice cream, fudge, coffee
- Don’t forget your t-shirt!
Day 5: Head to Kihei/Wailea and Makena
- Visit the Maui Ocean Aquarium - it’s great for adults and children. They’ve added a unique 3D whale experience to the museum that is worth experiencing.
- Visit the lava fields south of Makena beach
- Hit Makena for some beach time
Day 6: Enjoy your last day doing whatever you enjoy. Soak in the last of your Maui time in the beautiful weather.
Day 7: Return Home
If you have some extra time, or you are looking to add some variety to your own itinerary, here are a few suggestions to consider;
- Road to Hana - The road to Hana is 64.4 miles long and has 620 turns and 59 bridges of which 46 are one lane bridges. The road to Hana is about the road and not the destination at all. There is nothing in Hana to do or see in Hana itself. The road is slow going through hairpin turns that snake through mostly lush jungle. There are limited views of the ocean. At each turn you may catch a glimpse of something interesting or not in the jungle; it’s not easy to know where you might want to stop and there won’t always be parking places or easy paths to see a waterfall or site along the road. The locals can get annoyed with tourists and may drive up behind you and ride your tail until you get out of their way. It’s hard to blame them but it can be nerve racking. It can get crowded and lines can form by the one lane bridges. There are many other areas in Hawaii where you can see more waterfalls (Hilo, the big island) or beautiful coastal scenery (Kapalua Coastal Walk) that won’t take an entire day to see and won’t be as stressful of a drive. If you want to do it to say you did…and get the t-shirt then go for it if you have an entire day to kill. If you do, leave early. Consider driving to Hana in one direction without stopping and then come back and stop as often as you want. You will be ahead of others doing the same drive and can determine on the way up to Hana what you might want to stop and see on the way back.
- Our recommendation for those that want to spend less time but would like to see some waterfalls would be to go to Twin Falls early in the morning. There is paid parking there with room for 55 cars (get there early) Hike to the falls (1.8 mile loop), take a swim, visit the farm and then visit some of the beaches on the windward side of the island if you want. This would be a much less stressful and enjoyable day.
Maui is nicknamed "The Valley Isle". Most of the island's towns are nestled in the central valley between its two major mountain ranges: Haleakala and the West Maui Mountains.
As you can see in this static map, we visited a number of diverse locations, each of them are linked so that you can click on any that you would like to view.
The Road to Hana had been on our list "to do" ever since our last trip to Maui over 14 years ago. We were not able to make the drive on
that last trip, and we were determined to make it happen on this trip. This is a challenging drive, as the road is narrow and
becomes narrower across the one lane bridges. Then you have local drivers who know the road and are determined to traverse it at
top speed without regard to the yield signs or oncoming traffic. Be very careful on this road !!!
Click here for a Google driving route map of the Road to Hana.
If you have enough time on Maui to make this day long trip, then maybe you want to consider doing it. But frankly there isn't much to see in Hana, it is primarily those places around Hana that are interesting, for example; The Wailua Falls are seven miles past Hana, the grave of Charles Lindbergh is 4.5 miles past the falls, and there are several beaches just past Hana that are nice as well. But if you do not have an entire day to put into such a drive, consider going to the Twin Falls on route 36 that are only 19 miles from Kahului. They are pretty and do not require such a long drive to get to.
OK, so this is actually on the Road to Hana, but it is a beautiful park and one you should visit if you have the time. Remote, wild, volcanic coastline offering solitude and respite from urban life. Lodging, camping, picnicking, shore fishing and hardy family hiking along an ancient Hawaiian coastal trail which leads to Hana. Excellent opportunity to view a seabird colony and natural stone arch. Other features include native hala forest, heiau (religious temple), sea stacks, blow holes and small black sand beach.
Reservations are required, and there are fees both for entrance and parking, click here to obtain more info and your reservations.
This is a stop we made on the way back from our road trip to Hana, and we stopped here for two reasons; (1) The surf was huge and there were some good surfers out there riding and (2) there were porta-potties next to the parking lot.
The surf was huge, couldn't tell exactly what the height was from our location on top of the ridge above the beach, but it looked to be a minimum of 12 to 15 feet. We read later that the beach was closed due to high surf conditions.
Due to inclement weather, we had decided to visit the Maui Ocean Center, as it has a good set of displays and they would allow us to avoid the rainy weather. Besides which, the Aquarium was on the road to Lahaina, our next stop.
The aquarium offer a 3D experience called "Humpbacks of Hawaii" in a 3D domed theater experience with multi-channel surround sound. The teams from the Ocean Mind Experience were looking for a modern way for people to see, hear and interact with these animals without invading their habitat. Humpback whales have been on endangered species watch lists for decades. Working with award winning nature documentarian, Daniel Opitz, the Yessian teams created the sound to bring these whales to life on large format screens through originally recorded sounds deep below the sea combined with sound design and music scoring based on the natural sounds of the whales. This is a very good presentation, and it allows you to feel as though you are swimming alongside these whales.
Makena Beach holds a special place in our hearts & memories, it is not only very pretty but it is somewhere where we were able to spend some private time during our last visit to Maui. Given that this beach has such a prominent place in our memories, it was inevitable that we visited it again, regardless of the rain that day!
Our next stop after the Maui Ocean Center was meant to be Lahaina, however we realized on the drive there that we had not been north of Lahaina to the Ka'anapali and Kapalua areas. In particular, we wanted to walk the Kapalua Coastal Trail.
Kapalua Coastal Trail is a 2.5-mile out-and-back trail that traverses Kapalua Bay & Namula Bay (it continues past Oneloa Bay if you hike the entire route). Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 56 min to complete. This is a very popular area for running and walking, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring. You'll need to leave pups at home — dogs aren't allowed on this trail. After we completed this trek, we drove to Lahaina to explore there & see the banyan tree. Click here for a walking route map of the Kapalua Coastal Trail.
We drove up to the top of Haleakala via the Haleakala Highway (AKA "Crater Road"), to see the sunrise. Considering that road gains 10,000 feet in only 38 miles, it’s believed to be the world’s steepest route from sea level to 10,000 feet. The air is cooler up here at the summit — as much as 30 to 50 degrees lower than sea level. As we were renting a condo in Kihei, we had to get up very early in order to insure that we would achieve our goal of seeing the sun rise up through the clouds.
The tallest peak of Haleakalā ("house of the sun"), at 10,023 feet (3,055 m), is Puʻu ʻUlaʻula (Red Hill). It can be chilly at that height, in fact, the average annual temperature is approximately 50 degrees farenheit.
We are huddled together because it is cold at the top of Haleakala waiting for the sunrise. The plan was to get there prior to sunrise, so we could see the sun come up through the clouds. As you can see in image # 2 we achieved that goal, and the sight of the sun coming up through the clouds was spectacular and made the drive up at that hour of the morning well worth the trip! You may want to check what the National Park Service says about Haleakala weather before you go, click here to view their web page.
FACT: On any given day, the temperatures in the Haleakala National Park can range from a high of 80°F (27°C) in Kīpahulu (coastline near Hana) to a low of 30°F (-1°C) at the summit. In either area clouds and rain can quickly replace warm sunshine. To put it bluntly, you should not wear shorts and tshirts at the summit, you will need much warmer clothing!
WARNING: The drive to the summit of Haleakala is 37 miles long comprised of 32 switchbacks, give yourself sufficient time to drive or you could miss the sunrise due to traffic! We left Kihei with more than enough time to get to the summit, then got stuck behind a series of cars that were going very slowly and were lucky to get to the top before sunrise arrived.
NOTE: Do not forget to bring some warm clothing! It is quite cold at the top!
Maui Coastline from Haleakala Summit
Looking down from Haleakala, when the clouds parted, we were able to see the Maui coastline way below us.
FACT: The summit tops out at 10,023 feet above sea level, but if measured from its base on the ocean floor the summit of Haleakala volcano is approximately 30,000 feet tall!
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