Obviously, there’s enough here to bring us back three times since 2009. The first time we stayed we were “feeling our way along” and our three boys were young at the time. Their age and worries about their safety limited some of our activities but we still had the chance to do some special things.
Pacific Whale Foundation Snorkeling Trip on New Year’s Day.
This trip entailed boarding a boat to go out to Molokini Crater to snorkel. Unfortunately, it was choppy and my husband was car sick after he got up to get our wetsuits from below the top deck.
We also went up to the Haleakala Crater during the day, just before we were due at the airport. It was the start of my love affair with this volcano and National Park. The landscape is otherwordly.
Besides those two special experiences, we wandered the streets of Lahaina looking for souvenirs, ate at Cheeseburger in Paradise and Bubba Gump Shrimp, visited the Whaler’s museum at Whaler’s Village. We went to the Maui Ocean Center – the Aquarium of Hawaii.
We swam at Kaanapali and snorkeled at Olowalu, as well as visited Kapalua Bay Beach, where our boys played in the sand and waded into the ocean. We stayed in one of the Kaanapali Shores Highrise Hotels.
In 2015, we returned to Maui in December for Christmas break. This time we stayed in Kapalua at the Kapalua Ridge Villas. I found a gorgeous villa through VRBO. This family was so sweet, they even had a Christmas tree set up for our enjoyment and a welcome bottle of wine.
We enjoyed the beach at Kapalua immensely by walking to it daily. Parking is very tight there and the ease of walking was a definite bonus. Kapalua Bay Beach is gorgeous and relatively calm. Many couples and families frequent it. All three of our boys were with us on this trip as well. Two were in school still and our eldest was in college.
Our special treat on this trip was to ride down Haleakala on Christmas Day after sunrise. We reserved our spots for doing this before our arrival on the island. On Christmas Eve, we went to bed early and got up at 2:30 a.m. to get to the place where we would board a shuttle to the crater. The sunrise was beautiful coming up above the clouds on Christmas morning after the moonset.
Again, we enjoyed snorkeling at Olowalu and at Kapalua. We rented the snorkel equipment for the week. We went to Lahaina again to eat and to shop. We also found a surf shop and grocery store in Napili which was convenient and close to Kapalua.
The only downer on this trip was that since we did reserve the bike ride for Christmas Day, none of the stores were open on the way down. This was a definite disadvantage of making the bike trip reservation on a holiday.
On this trip, I had planned to go on a whale-watching cruise, but I couldn’t get anyone to go with me. My husband gets seasick and after visiting the Nakalele Blowhole, which is off the beaten track, my son’s girlfriend thought she might get sick too. So, instead, we all watched the whales from the veranda of the condo. You could see them spray water out their blowholes and sometimes even dive and show their flukes. Humpback whales migrate to warmer ocean waters off of Maui in the winter (November to May) to raise their young. It is exciting to be able to spot them from shore. This trip was a few weeks later than our previous trips and we definitely saw more whale activity.
We went up to the Haleakala Volcano Crater and visited the summit. As far as I’m concerned, that’s always a special experience. We ate lunch at the Kula Lodge in a very unique garden setting, which was new to us and special as well.
Napili Bay Beach and Honokeane Cove were new snorkeling venues for us. Both are lovely and will be visited again in the future. And, Kapalua Bay Beach remains a favorite. I was happy to see some sand dune restorations going on there. It gets a lot of foot traffic. And, I was pleased to see that although lifeguards are not present at the beaches, people do watch and warn, and rescue (when needed). We even heard a couple of spontaneous PSAs telling visitors to not stand on the reef. We witnessed all good things in place to preserve beautiful nature settings.
The special part of this trip, for my husband and me, was that we finally drove the Road to Hana! This is a road on Maui that follows the eastern coastline and is filled with over 600 s-curves, hairpin turns, and 56 one-way bridges (Source). We attempted this drive the first year we visited Maui in 2009. One of our sons got car sick about halfway there, so we turned around. We also started off later in the day than was wise. This time we were prepared and knew better. Monday, January 24th, we set off at 6:45 a.m. to drive to Hana. From our location on Napili Bay, it is a two-hour and 45-minute drive. We took food, swim gear, sunscreen, and water. We were there by 10 a.m. This road is crazy! And, I think the people that drive it (including us) are crazy too. Upon reaching Hana, we drove past the town and to the backside of Haleakala National Park.
Once in the park, we had lunch and then hiked the Pipiwai Trail into a bamboo forest. This hike takes you past several small waterfalls and streams and ends, 2 miles later, at a large 400-foot waterfall. To reach the waterfall, you hike through a forest of bamboo. It is really beautiful. But, one must stay on the path. There are sheer cliffs and loose boulders along the way.
Another attraction here is the Seven Sacred Pools. We were able to see the pools but they were closed to all swimming. This area is prone to flash floods and has washed people into the ocean in the past. We are rule followers and stay on the path. No photo or “experience” is worth losing your life over having. It was thrilling to be in such a different environment within the same National Park. The summit is arid and desert-like while the backside is verdant and lush, like a rainforest.
Each trip to Maui has offered us beauty and rejuvenation. Some places are visited each time, such as Haleakala and the Banyan Tree in Lahaina and some are brand new day trips like The Road to Hana and the Bamboo Forest. One thing is certain, there is plenty to do. But, first, you have to be willing to step away from the beautiful beaches and azure ocean for at least a couple of hours a day. You’ll be glad you did.
Below you’ll find some links to information about things to do on the island of Maui.
Haleakala National Park – NPS website
Pacific Whale Foundation – Snorkel (We did the Molokini tour)
Pacific Whale Foundation – Whale Watch
Olowalu Beach – coral reef and snorkeling site close to shore
Tide Charts – Important information
Whaler’s Village – Shopping
Maui Ocean Center – Aquarium
Maui Beaches – Overview
Biking Haleakala – a comparison of bike companies
The Road to Hana – Self-driving Tips
The Bamboo Forest – Hiking the Pipiwai Trail
None of the above links should or could give you all the information you need. Like anything you want to turn out well, you need to start with some information and then delve deeper into what you find you are most interested in. When you get to Maui, you’ll need to make sure what you read about makes sense in reality. I would advise you follow all safety signs, precautions, and advice. Information is powerful – it allows you to make fun but safe decisions!