We hopped on an inter-island flight from The Big Island to Maui the first week of the New Year. Happy New Year!!
Before we left the mainland we booked a reasonably priced Hawaii (we know that’s an oxymoron) bed and breakfast in Lahaina on the Northwest side of Maui. Home to and central to Lahaina, the popular Front Street is not your everyday street as there are no chain stores, plenty of people watching opportunities, and local restaurants galore. We consider Front Street a destination just like Duval Street in Key West and Sixth Street in Austin.
In addition to Front Street we explored the picture perfect beaches and drove across the north end of the island, which soon turns into a one lane, two-way road. This in itself was a stomach churning experience and we found ourselves holding our breath more than a few times. If you are not worried about violating the terms of your rental car agreement, the drive is perfectly doable and exciting for driver and passenger alike.
During our month on The Big Island we spotted quite a few whales from shore. How cool would it be to see a whale up close and personal, we thought. Each year between November and May, up to two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population (estimated at up to 20,000) migrate some 3,500 miles from cool Alaskan waters to the warm shallow Hawaiian waters to give birth or mate. We opted to take a whale watching tour while in Maui because the shallow Auau Channel between West Maui is considered to be one of the best viewing spots in the world. Many charters depart from Lahaina – the hardest decision is picking one. We did see quite a few whales although none closer than about 100 yards. The sound of “whale speak”, however, is not one we will soon forget. Long off the boat we found ourselves gazing outward every time we made our way to the water.
One thing that kept beckoning to us on Maui was Molokini, a crescent shape partially submerged volcanic crater a few miles off shore. When we learned that snorkel tours were offered, we decided to book a sunrise excursion. It was worth the trip to see the coastline of Maui from the ocean; but, we found the snorkeling somewhat disappointing as the reef is in poor condition, we presume, with the high number of visitors. We did come across a school of false killer whales that came right up to and under the boat. The snorkeling, we thought, was much better on The Big Island.
To further experience Maui, we relocated to the east side of the island. We immediately fell in love with the quaint surfer town of Paia. Every shop and restaurant is a mom and pop and the town is full of locals as well as tourists. The local grocery store is a co-op with healthy organic fare and prices that are cheaper than Whole Foods. If you love pizza like we love pizza, check out the pizza at The Flatbread Company where they cook it to order in a large brick oven. We ordered a pizza with Kiawe pork, mango barbecue sauce, pineapple and goat cheese. So yummy we visited twice before we left Paia.
The town of Paia is the starting point for the road to Hana with its 620 curves and 59 one-lane bridges that will no doubt cause you to grab the steering wheel with fear at least a few times. The road snakes through luscious rainforest and takes around three hours to traverse it one-way. There are so many places to explore along the road that you can’t do everything unless you plan to spend the night in Hana. We took in waterfalls, exceptional views of the pacific coast, caves, swimming holes and numerous locals selling their wares on roadside carts.
Twelve miles past Hana is the coastal entrance to Haleakala National Park that treats you to even more views, swimming holes and waterfalls. If you come to Maui make sure that you head out on the Road to Hana as it was definitely one of our highlights!
Next up: Oahu Highlights
Visited January 2015