When it came to planning our trip to Hawaii, we were as overwhelmed as could be. Which island(s) should we go to? For how long? With so many beaches and locations to see, which were the most beautiful? Typically, we like to have at least a rough outline for our travel excursions. This time around, we decided to rely on Hannah’s aunt (a Maui resident) and gut feelings. Below, we have a step by step guide of how to do Hawaii, removing some of the confusion and clutter.
Maui Travel Tips
Generally, most people visit Maui or Oahu. Because Hannah's aunt has lived on Maui for the past 20 years, she offered us a lot of information about all of the Hawaiian islands. We determined Maui to be the most "our pace." Maui has some beautiful, updated ocean-side towns. Wailea and Kihei were our favorites; while Lahaina has plenty of shopping and Paia had our favorite tacos. These areas are filled with great eateries and fun shops, without feeling like a tourist-trap overload. Maui is also left rather rugged in many areas, meaning you still get raw, Hawaiian nature on many parts of the island (more on that below).
Oahu is the most populated with more resorts and tourists. From what I understood, it sounded like it would be more crowded than our preference. Simply put, Maui has incredible, untouched nature, but also offers millennial-esque brunch spots. Hey, I like to have my avocado toast and eat it too! (But don't get me wrong - we would like to visit all of them eventually!)
WHAT TO DO:
Road to Hana
This 2.5 hour drive (each direction) is as remarkable as you’ll find on planet Earth! (no really, it was named the Most Beautiful Highway in the World!) It features over 600 curves, twists, turns and switchbacks; as well as 59 one-way bridges (which at times are totally blind!) It is a dangerous drive, so be extremely cautious. While it can take an entire day, this spectacular drive is well worth the time invested. I would recommend bringing some food or water for the trip as well—although, you’ll periodically stumble on road sides fruits stands and local “eateries!”
There are many stops along the way on the Road to Hana. Several waterfalls steal the show and are easily accessible via short walks from the car. In our opinion, the crown jewel of the drive is Wai’anapanapa State Park.
Wai'anapanapa State Park
Within this park’s friendly confines, you’ll find enormous waves crashing into the lava rock and the shore; the black sand beach; a giant blow holes which blow water tens of feet into the air (and all over any innocent bystanders!). The blow holes are absolutely unbelievable. (Be careful not to get too close to the blow holes, they can be dangerous)
Mount Haleakalā is Maui's massive volcano with a 10,000+ elevation at the summit! It actually forms over 75% of the island of Maui! We drove from our Air BNB in Kihei up to the summit landing, which is .5 of a mile from the summit of Haleakalā. It’s about an hour and thirty minutes drive to the top, with the views improving dramatically as you continue upward. I would highly recommend taking more time and completing a hike in the National Park. We only had about half a day, so we just completed the short summit hike. The views look like MARS! Truly, it is one of the most unfathomable places we’ve ever gone. (Note: It is a National Park, so parking is $30 per car)
FUN FACT: If you measure from sea bed instead of sea level, it is the tallest mountain on Earth!
Iao Valley is a lush area within the West Maui’s that offers superb views of waterfalls and some of Hawaii’s rainforest. The climate almost instantly became wet, rainy, and cloud covered upon entering! I would recommend a sunny day, if it’s possible, if you are going to hike, as the rocky trail can get slippery on rainy days. The weather on Maui changes ALL of the time. In fact, Maui is often broken down into four regions, which feature distinctly varying weather. We parked just outside of the park lot for free, and walked the short distance into the park. There are two very short trails (well under half a mile) which offer incredible views in either direction of a waterfall, and of the lush, deep green rainforest. Totally worth a few hours of your Maui time!
A fun hike that Hannah's aunt planned for us, you can see up the side of the Mount Haleakala, and where the lava actually flowed during the last eruption (hundreds of years ago!). The other side showcases the ocean. Definitely wear proper shoes as the terrain changes frequently from lava rock, to sand, to pebbled beaches.
Wailea Beach Path
The Beach Walk begins at Ulua Beach Park (free parking). It is a paved path that runs along the ocean. Take in beautiful sounds of the crashing waves while viewing oceanfront mansions and resorts...perfect for a morning jog!
We took a 2 hour whale watching tour that departed from Ma'aleaa. We set sail with the Pacific Whale Foundation. The boat was large and comfortable. I'll admit I was a bit nervous about sea sickness, but even with some wind and choppiness, the boat was large enough to combat the waves. Best part? We saw SEVERAL humpback whales! They can be up to the size of a school bus! Magnificent.
Ample parking and a mile and a half of pristine Hawaiian beaches for the walking, swimming, hanging out! This beach was walking distance from our AirBNB.
This beach, located in Lahaina, also had plentiful parking and was absurdly beautiful!
WHERE TO EAT/GRAB COFFEE