Hanging out at turtle town is awesome! Every day tour boats bring visitors here to snorkel with the turtles and it’s a great spot for that. We have snorkeled here countless times and always see turtles; indeed we can even see the turtles from the lanai.
A young girl was telling us yesterday how much fun she had playing on a boogie board out front. Not only did she see turtles, but she also saw spinner dolphins and humpback whales! This from a 6 year old who was playing just off the beach. Maui truly is a special place for people of all ages!
More than halfway through our first extended stay on Maui, we feel even more fortunate to have found our little piece of paradise at Makena Surf in south Maui. Having stayed at a number of different locations on Maui, this section of Maui truly seems to have the best of everything. Gorgeous views sweeping from Kahoolawe, Molokini, Lanai and over to the West Maui mountains, the vista is breathtaking.
Facing west, unobstructed sunsets are a treat that never gets old and we make a point of watching them every night from our condo.
This being whale season we have spent whole days on the lanai awestruck by these magnificent creatures – we see so many that we’ve become spoiled in that if it’s not a breach or a very close sighting it’s not noteworthy! It’s fun hearing other folks staying here cheering the whales on when particularly good sightings take place! The property has a secluded beach great for sunbathing and snorkeling – indeed paid snorkel trips come daily out in front of our condo to see the turtles – and it is also a favorite spot for weddings. We typically see at least one sunset wedding a day although multiple weddings are common – 4 spread out over the beach at one time is the most to date! With 2 pools on site, one of which is steps away from our condo, we have a family rule of needing to go in twice a day. 🙂
While close enough to walk to the big resorts like the Grand Wailea and the Fairmont hotel and the Wailea coastal walk, the 1.5 mile long paved beach path that winds in front of these resorts, it is also within walking distance of the biggest beach on Maui at Makena State Park, known appropriately enough as Big Beach.
Walking in the early morning before the heat of the day is particularly enjoyable. Visiting friends that are avid runners also found the early morning ideal for beating the more crowded sections of the coastal walk trail; crowds aren’t an issue walking or running south toward Big Beach.
The bustling town of Kihei is about a 15 minute drive away and abounds with everything one needs – grocery stores, banks, gas stations, restaurants, snorkel and paddleboard rental stores. We joined a gym in Kihei called Powerhouse based on recommendations from others and find it small but comprehensive. While we are avid exercisers, we try to alternate being at the gym with outside sports especially as it’s hard to go inside when the weather is so lovely! We’ve rented kayaks and it’s very convenient – the rental companies drop the kayaks off at our beach and pick them up when the rental time is over. We’ve watched lots of kayakers have close encounters with whales – we haven’t been that fortunate yet but we keep trying!
Even with an extended stay, we find our time racing by and are already facing the prospect of returning home and to reality. We have our next trip here already planned and will begin counting down the days until we return the moment we step on the plane heading home!
What comes to mind when you think of Maui? Chances are that visions of white sand beaches and swaying palm trees dance through your head, unsurprisingly given that Maui has some of the best beaches in the world. As part-time Maui residents, we can assure you that these beaches live up to their reputations. Loving Maui as much as we do, we want to be sure your trip also includes the following highlights.
Haleakala, a 10,000 plus foot volcano on the eastern side of Maui, is an absolute must-see at sunrise or sunset.
Our family prefers sunset so that we can also star gaze; the sheer volume of stars visible is truly amazing. The drive to the peak is beautiful with outstanding vistas and dramatic changes in landscape and vegetation. Temperatures also change significantly- while you may have been sunbathing on the beach in the morning, you will want to bring warm clothes for this trip as temperatures drop to around freezing at night at the peak. One can drive to the summit making it very accessible to most everyone, although those with respiratory conditions should keep the altitude in mind. While restrooms and drinking water are available, there are no food services or gas available in the park. There are many hiking trails along the ascent as well as into the crater itself. Watch out for cattle while driving and keep your eyes peeled for hang gliders who often, weather permitting, use some of the turnouts along the ascent as launch points. Tours offer “bike down the mountain” packages where they drive you up, provide the bikes and helmets, allowing you then to whiz down. Be sure to look for the silversword plant which are only found at Haleakala. These beautiful plants live between 3 and 90 years, flower once and then die.
Road to Hana
The Hana Highway connects Kahului, where the airport is, to the town of Hana in east Maui.
This 68 mile long stretch of highway takes you through luscious rainforests with dramatic vistas and waterfalls at almost every turn. And there are a lot of turns. The Road to Hana is famous for its windiness – there are 620 curves and 59 bridges, many of which are one lane. Driving this route is not for the timid driver nor for those with weak stomachs. Should you make this drive, we suggest packing a picnic lunch. There are numerous places along the way where you will want to stop, explore, and take pictures. Additionally, we have heard from locals and tourists alike to avoid the restaurants in Hana. There is also an alternate route to Hana which is discussed below.
While flowers and flowering trees abound, there are several tropical gardens in Maui that are well worth the trip. Our favorite is the Garden of Eden which is along The Road to Hana. Even if you don’t make the entire Road to Hana drive, going to these gardens provides a good taste of the Road to Hana experience while also being a fantastic destination. Unique flowers and rare trees are to be found along the trails including our personal favorite – the rainforest eucalyptus tree.
Also of note in these gardens is an overlook of the famous Kopuka Rock, featured in the helicopter descent scene in the movie Jurassic Park.
There are no food or beverage services available here. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the scenery but beware of the peacocks – they can be aggressive while begging for food.
Lahaina is an historic oceanside town on the western side of Maui with beautiful views of the ocean, the island of Lanaii and the West Maui Mountains. It also has one of the largest banyan trees in the world.
There are loads of great restaurants, shops, and, if you are looking for nightlife on Maui, this is the spot. Expect lots of other people to be enjoying this town too and keep an eye out for the cruise ships – when one is in port there are thousands more tourists. Our rule of thumb is to avoid Lahaina when a cruise ship is in town or a big activity such as a marathon is going on. The drive to Lahaina is on a busy two lane road with no alternatives and no where to go if you get stuck in traffic. While there is free on the street parking, it is limited and hard to get. Expect to pay for parking but there are lots of parking lots available. For those who like outlet malls, one recently opened just behind the main portion of town known as Front Street.
Along with the shops, there are local artisans who demonstrate and sell their wares along Front Street. Our favorites are the wood carvers – often it’s a family tradition with techniques having been passed down for generations.
This activity is obviously dependent on your visit being during “whale season” which runs from late September til mid May with peak activity in February and March. There are numerous tour companies that run whale watches from Lahaina and others that also run out of other towns such as Ma’alaea and Kihei. Pay attention to the size of the boat and how many people will be on the tour with you. Some of the larger boats hold a large number of people and when whales are sighted, people all rush to the side of the boat with the best views and one can get stuck without much to see. Tours can last several hours – most companies provide water and some provide food and assorted beverages. For longer length tours it is nice to have shade available and bathrooms accessible. Our favorite tour company is the Pacific Whale Foundation as it is a non-profit organization founded in 1980 to save whales from extinction. PacWhale, as it is also known, operates a number of different size boats out of both Lahaina andMa’alaea. All tours are staffed by Certified Marine Naturalists who narrate and answer questions during the tour.
Maui Ocean Center
Should you get a rainy day or need a break from the sun, the Maui Ocean Center in Ma’alaea is a wonderful aquarium. It is open every day of the year from 9-5 and in July and August it remains open til 6. The aquarium is home to hundreds of marine life including fish, turtles, and seals while providing tons of information and exhibits on many more creatures including humpbacks. There are touch pools and an amazing tunnel where the fish and sharks swim up close and over your head!
There is a nice gift shop and small stands to buy beverages and snacks. Buy your entry tickets online and receive a complimentary upgrade from a daily ticket to a week long pass.
Nakalele Point & Blowhole
On the west side of Maui, north of Kapalua, is Nakalele Point, the northernmost portion of Maui. While this point is as scenic as most of Maui, the real star here is the blowhole. Waves produce water spouts from the blowhole that can rise as high as 100 feet. While stormier days produce more dramatic geysers, even on relatively calm days, there is still lots of activity.
To reach Nakalele Point, take Highway 30 north from Kapalua. Signage for the blowhole is not great, but look for mile marker #38 and the dirt pullout; other cars are undoubtedly parked there. The blowhole is visible from just a short walk from the parking area, but one may also hike down to it. The roundtrip distance of the hike is about a mile and a quarter. While it is not a strenuous hike, the terrain is rather rough and should be done wearing hiking boots or sturdy shoes. Loose rocks make slipping a real hazard. Safety signs warn of the hazards of getting too close to the blowhole and, indeed, people have died from being sucked in. There is no need however to risk any such danger as the blowhole is clearly visible from many safe vantage points.
While some folks just come for a short visit, others bring folding chairs and relax for longer periods. There are no facilities here and if you plan to visit for a while, bring water.
Hiking the Pipiwai Trail is a great opportunity to see a number of waterfalls including a 200 foot one known as Makahiku Falls and a 400 foot one known as Waimoku Falls. The glory of this trail is that not only do you get to see these falls, but you also get to experience a spectacular bamboo forest. When we hiked this trail, we knew to expect to see bamboo, but to be immersed in a bamboo forest is an experience not to be missed. The hike to the bamboo forest is about a mile; if you proceed on to the Waimoku Falls, you will have hiked for about 2 miles.
This trail is in Haleakala National Park located just past mile marker 42 on the Piilani Highway. Park at the visitor center and be prepared to pay an entrance fee or show your park pass. There are restrooms and picnic tables available. The trailhead is located just across the highway. One may reach this area by driving the Road to Hana and continuing, or taking the alternate, or back road as its known. To drive the back way, take the Haleakala Highway from Kahalui to Kula. Bear right at the fork in the road in Kula near Grandma’s Coffee House. The Haleakala Highway eventually becomes the Piilani Highway. While much of it is paved, there is a five mile stretch of road that is graded dirt that at times may be very rough or washed out from rainfall. The views along this drive are beautiful and the landscape changes dramatically from lush to arid and back again.
Take a trip to Hookipa Beach Park, known as the windsurfing capital of the world. This beautiful beach isn’t a good spot to go swimming but it is a wonderful location to watch surfers, kiteboarders and windsurfers strut their stuff.
This beach is located just minutes down the Hana Highway from Paia at mile marker #9. There are restrooms and picnic areas available but we recommend watching from up higher on the overlooks so that viewing is optimal. If you have folding chairs, bring them and enjoy the live tv.
We know that this is a long list of must see activities and many want to spend time just relaxing on the beach and by the pool. If you don’t get to all of these spots, keep them in mind for next time. Look for rainbows while on Maui – local legends say that seeing one means you will be lucky enough to return to this magical island.
For many people, Maui is the ultimate trip to paradise. Readers of Conde Nast Traveler Magazine have voted Maui as the Best Island in the World for 20 years. In Hawaiian, Maui no ka ‘oi means “Maui is the best” and, once you visit, we think you will agree. From the pristine, white beaches to the towering peak of Haleakala, the scenery is unparalleled.
So, when to visit? Many visitors are traveling with children and thus working around school vacation schedules. This often seemed to our family to translate to traveling with everyone else and paying the highest prices! Luckily, in Maui, some of the “low” season prices occur during school vacation schedules. While there are variations in what time periods comprise both “high” and “low” seasons, generally “high” season runs from mid December to the end of April with peak rates around the holidays.
Another factor to consider is the weather, but the year-round temperature doesn’t vary much. The average daytime high in summer is 85F while in winter the average daytime high is 78F. Nighttime temperatures are generally 10 degrees cooler. Of course, where you are on the island matters – the “dry” side or the “wet” side. The western side of Maui is the leeward side; with the protection from the wind, this side of the island is generally hot and dry. The eastern, or windward, side of Maui receives the full force of the wind and is usually cool and moist – if not rainy. The wonderful thing about Maui is that these areas are not far apart – generally folks stay on the western side where the world-famous beaches and resort areas are and travel to the east side to experience the lush rainforest, including the infamous Road to Hana and the bamboo forest.
Another huge consideration of when to visit is the opportunity to view humpback whales. These amazing creatures migrate from the Alaskan waters each winter to mate and give birth in the warm Hawaiian waters, with the waters off Maui’s western side being the best location in all of Hawaii to view these whales. During the winter, these whales may be seen from shore with the best shore views being from the southern and western sections of Maui, including the towns of Makena, Wailea, Kihei, Ma’alaea, Lahaina and Ka’anapali. Additionally, whale watch tour opportunities abound with many tours leaving out of Ma’alaea and Lahaina. The humpbacks begin arriving in late September or October and are generally gone by the end of May with the peak season being February and March.
Whenever you choose to visit, we know you will have an amazing experience and generate memories to last a lifetime.