We’re going to switch it up a bit and start writing of our most recent trips and go backwards as S said realized if I were to stick to my original plan of writing in chronological order, it might take a couple of years (and even then, might not still catch up). We went to Maui for our 3rd anniversary (gosh, has it only been that long?). Our 7 AM non-stop flight got us into the island just before 11 AM giving us the whole day to explore.
Things to Do: Water activities, Hiking, Whale Watching, Cycling.
First stop was Tin Roof as it was lunch time in Cali and some stomachs were rumbling. We’d heard so much about this place with the chef being a celebrity and all and was really looking forward to the Garlic noodles but was really disappointed as it lacked flavor or texture. However, the Mochiko chicken and the Fish dish apparently were really good. There’s no place to sit and eat as this is a take-out restaurant so we picked up our food and headed to good ol’ Costco. While doing our research, we’d read on several websites that milk was expensive on the island ($10 a gallon), but it was less than $5 at Costco. We’d rented an apartment for our 8-Day trip so it made sense to stock up on groceries and essentials. If you like Korean and Japanese food, this Costco has it all. I found Melona bars (from South Korea) for $9 (pack of 16!), Bubbies mochi (which S did not let me buy but ended up paying $6 for 4 individual mochis of the same brand at Safeway a few days later), freshly baked Hawaiian sweet bread, fruits, vegetables, chips and a couple more non-essential food items (well, the saying ‘don’t shop when you’re hungry’ is so true!).
After dropping off groceries, and eating lunch, we headed to the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge. We walked the beach and then onto the 2,200-foot boardwalk which has self-guided exhibits. We were kinda beat so headed back to our rental, ate dinner, and crashed for the night.
Day 2: Haleakalā National Park (Hana-side)
This was a loooonng day. We wanted to check out the Hana-side of the Haleakalā National Park. As we were staying in Kihei, we had to go up all the way towards the airport and then take the Kula Hwy (Hwy 37) which turns into Pilani Hwy (Hwy 31) and connect onto Hwy 360. Little did we know that the last section (~12 miles I think) of the Pilani Hwy was single lane, unpaved, and no guard rails to protect you from the sheer drop into the ocean! This road makes Hana Hwy looks like a piece of cake! Be extremely careful if you decide to do this route. Be sure to honk at every blind hairpins (which was literally every corner!) to let the oncoming vehicle know you’re on the other side (none of the people other than us honked and just come up taking the whole lane to themselves which was really infuriating). Finally after 2.5hrs of what seemed like forever driving, we got to the park entrance. S is an excellent driver so I wasn’t scared one bit and the fact that we had a Ford Explorer made it easier – not sure how small compacts make it up this road. The entrance is actually off the side of the road because Hwy 360 is taken by locals to get to Hana so doesn’t make sense to put a National Park gate/ticket booth on the road, does it?
We decided to do the long Pīpīwai Trail to Waimoku Falls falls first. This is ~4 miles RT thru the Bamboo forest at the end of which you’ll be rewarded with the 400 ft Waimoku Falls. The trail is not very even as there are lot of rocks along the way so be sure to wear good shoes. We actually saw a couple of them (probably iron-footed) hiking this in flip-flops! We ate lunch by the stream and made our way back to the Seven Sacred Pools at Ohe’o (which ironically was made up to be sacred to get visitors?) around 3 PM.
It was way too windy and cold so we didn’t dare get in the water. After spending an hour or so, we started driving back to town to get some dinner and head home. Dinner stop was at the Flatbread Company in Paia. amazing flatbreads. We got the Pele pesto and Carne (special of the day). The ginger ale was so good and tasted different than other ginger ales I’ve had. Get a reservation ahead of time otherwise minimum wait time is 30-40 min (even at 5:45 PM!).
Day 3: Lahaina
This was a rest day. So we decided to go up to Lahaina via Hwy 340-Hwy 3400-Hwy 30. Hwy 340 is also single-lane in most places but its actually paved. We did run into a situation where a minivan ahead of us decided not to use the pull-out despite seeing 3 cars coming from the other direction and blocked the one-lane road for a good 30 minutes until we all back up to let him backup and let the oncoming cars pass.
We stopped along the way for pictures and made it to Lahaina. While we were getting ice cream at Island cream company (ah-mazing icecream, btw!), we heard ambulance and police sirens. This should have been our cue to head back but we didn’t think much of it and walked around some more and went to see Maui’s oldest living Banyan tree. On our way back, Hwy 30 was at a stand-still. There was a major accident (the sirens from before) which shutdown the highway. We could have either turned around and taken the one-lane cliffy Hwy 340 or stay on the 30 and wait it out. We decided that the other way wasn’t probably a good idea since we saw a lot of people turning around (and hence more traffic on the one-lane road which would probably mean getting stuck for way longer). What should have been a 30 minute drive back to Kihei ended-up taking 2 hrs and we finally made it back a little after 6 PM!
Day 4: Haleakalā National Park (Summit)
This was a big day for us as the plan was to go up to the Haleakalā Visitor Center which is at 9740ft (not to be confused with the Park Headquarters Visitor Center at 7000ft) and hike the 12 mile long Sliding Sands Trail (which we did not end up finishing). We left home around 8:30 AM and got to the base of the mountain about an hour later. The temperature was already 20 degrees cooler than Kihei. It was another 30 minutes up. When we finally made it to the top, it was 50F! Good thing we brought our jackets, huh? It was a clear, gorgeous day and the views were breath-taking! We started the Sliding-Sands trail around 11 AM.
Looking at the elevation, we decided to go 4 miles or as far as 90 minutes would take and and turn around at that point. I’d read that it took at least twice as long to come back up due to the elevation change. So I set a timer on my phone for 90 minutes. We stopped for lunch around 1 hr 15 min in (just before the 3.9 mile marker) and decided to turn around which was a good choice. S was killing it on the way up while I could barely make it. The elevation change was way too hard on me as I was having difficulty breathing and hiking at the same time (which was a first!). Finally made it to the top 2 hrs later at 2:41 PM. We actually ended up doing ~8 miles in 3 hrs which is not too bad. By the way, there are no mile markers on this trail – only signs saying “Trail”. The vegetation changes along the way so you know as you’re half-way back up when you don’t see the silver-spiky plants which are called Silverswords any more (which were plenty near the bottom). There are no food, beverages, or gas in the park. Be sure to carry plenty of water, food, hat, and jacket. We actually met someone who got a migraine from being dehydrated (luckily I had some Advil for him).
We drove up the road to the Pu’u’ula’ula Summit (elevation here is 10,023 ft!) before making our way down. While at the Park Headquarters Visitor Center on our way down, we learned that what we hiked into was not the crater floor but apparently it was formed by erosion. However, the Haleakalā itself does sit on a volcano, albeit dormant at the moment and may erupt someday!
Day 5: Waikulu
This was a rest day with plan to Kayak in the morning and head over to the Maui Tropical Plantation in the evening for our Anniversary dinner. However, the winds were really strong so the Surf Shack guy recommended us not to go out in the water. Since we had a free morning, we decided to drive to ‘Iao Valley State Park. When we left Kihei around 10 AM, it was bright and sunny but it was pouring when we got to Iao Needle. That’s the weather for ya in Hawaii – one side is nice and sunny, one side is windy, and the other is raining. Anyway, parking/entrance fee per vehicle is $5. Didn’t seem like they took credit cards but we had cash. The “hike” wasn’t too long (~0.6 mi). You just walk up to the lookout where you see the ‘Iao Needle. On the way back, we took the short paved loop trail though an ethno-botanical garden adjacent to ‘Iao stream. We made a couple of stop to buy some water sandals and gas and eventually made it back to the apartment to change and head back to Wailuku for dinner. We had reservations at The Mill House. I’d mentioned in our reservation that we were celebrating our wedding anniversary and had asked to be seated out on the patio (to enjoy the gorgeous views), but since it was raining that evening, that wasn’t possible. I really hoped they’d seat us by the window at least but unfortunately we were seated at the 3rd table away from the window (closer to the kitchen side). Food was good, nothing special. The place was a little too loud for my taste.
Day 6: Ride to Haleakalā Summit
Okay, I did not end up doing this ride as my legs were dead from the hike 2 days before. S planned this ride while we were still in Cali. He did this ride with Maui Cyclery (for $200). S just had to bring his bike clothes and shoes. Bicycle, helmet, pedals, Water bottle, snacks, and food (with electrolyte pills) were provided. They also had extra clothing like jackets and gloves if you needed any.
The ride started out in Paia where the bike shop is located and the owner, Donnie, was their tour guide. There was one other guy from Sweden who was in the group so a total of 3 riders plus a SAG vehicle (Support And Gear). They rode up to Makawao and onto Hwy 377 and then Hwy 378. The tour guide and the SAG vehicle stopped and turned around at the park entrance (~6700 ft). S and the other guy were on their own past this point. If you’re riding up this section, you need to pay the $15 entrance fee to enter the park. They went up all the way to the summit and back. S finally got back to the apartment around 5PM. Poor guy was beat.
Day 7: Road to Hāna
Another Rest Day! We left home again around 8:30 AM and headed towards Hāna. But first we’d to stop in Makawao and gets some delicious donuts on a stick from the over 100 years old T Komoda Store & Bakery. We started the drive to Hāna soon after filling our bellies. The Hāna Hwy is a nicely paved 2-lane road (except for bridges which are one lane). We saw plenty of waterfalls along the road (reason for said bridges) and made it all the way to Hāna without stopping. Our first stop was at the Hāna Lava Tube (Entrance fee is $12.50 per person. Includes flash-light rental). The Lava tube is self-guided with no bats (as signs say). There were also signs asking visitors to not relieve themselves in there (people really do suck!). There are many kinds of lava inside – some chocolate-y looking while some look like cauliflower. Be mindful and respect the signs (including no touching). There’s also a maze on the grounds of the lava tube park which is kinda fun. Its not a corn maze so don’t expect any corns.
Next stop was the Wai’ānapanapa State Park (no entrance fee). This beach has black sand, ocean you can swim in, hiking trail, blowhole, and spectacular views. There were also campsites for the adventurous. We headed down to the town of Hāna to see what it was about after going all that way! The town is literally 2 streets – not much to see or do, although there were signs to the Hāna Bay (which we did not end up going).
There was a local on the drive up who was yelling at slow and stupid tourists who wouldn’t pull-out to ‘yield to locals’ so we kinda followed behind her and made good time. On the way back however, we were on our own. People really don’t get the hint. If you have someone tailing you and you’re going slow, the polite thing to do is pull-out on the next chance you get. However, we had 10 cars following someone at one point and the driver wouldn’t get the message. Most of the road is ‘do not pass’ so tough luck if you’re stuck behind someone like we did. We still managed to beat the 2.5 hr estimated time and made it back to Paia in 1.25 hr! Dinner was Fish Tacos at Da Nani Pirates which was the bomb!
Day 8: Beach Day & Whale Watching
We went down to the beach in the morning in the hopes of Kayaking and or Paddle boarding. Unfortunately it was too windy so abandoned the plan and headed down to the Shops at Wailea to get some Lappert’s ice cream and then down to Maluaka Beach to get in the water and see some turtles. It’s the beach that the Makena Beach Resort sits on and is not accessible from the main road through Wailea and Makena. The link here takes you to the parking lot from where you walk to the beach (across the street). We spotted two turtles close to shore and got in the water for a bit. Couldn’t stay more than an hour as we had to be in Ma’alaea Harbor at 1:15 PM for a Whale Watching tour with the Pacific Whale Foundation.
Apparently the whales go down to Hawaii to give birth and teach the babies how to swim and survive for their trip up to Alaska which is the reason they don’t stay for more than a few weeks (unlike the one in California and Alaska where they go to eat and hence see them in huge numbers). We saw two mama’s and her babies not far from the Harbor. It was so much fun to see them breaching, tail-slapping, and blowing. We were back at the apartment for dinner and walked down to the beach to watch the gorgeous sunset.
Next day was our flight back home so we left 3 hrs before (although the airport was only 30 minutes away). Less than 10 minutes into the drive, the Honoapiilani hwy had backed up. While stuck in traffic, I ordered food to go from Thai Mee up food truck (across from the Costco gas station) to make up time. We eventually made it (while S was re-fueling, I hopped across the street to pick up food) and made our way to the airport just over an hour before our flight! A few hours into our plane ride, scarfing down the last bit of best Thai food I’ve ever had, a few hours into our plane ride, I was happy to be going home after an amazing trip!