I must say that I have been spoilt by the white sandy beaches and shallow turquoise waters in South-east Asia; hence, Maui beaches weren’t love at first sight. But a few electrifying experiences make it a special place. Also, I have this childhood memory: Hawaii being one of those far-away dreamland in the middle of the Pacific where you land to be greeted by beautiful orchid garlands and Mai tais (thanks to some travel programs on TV).
Here’s why you should spend a week in Maui Hawaii—deep-blue waters, giant waves, Humpback whales, green sea turtles, hula, black and red sand beaches. And find out why Hawaii has been nicknamed the rainbow state.
Our itinerary (Fly-in) Kahului —> Kaanapali (4days&4nights) —>Kihei (3days&3nights) —>Kaanapali (fly-out)
After a scenic airport landing in Kahului, we headed to get our first Hawaiian meal: fried spam musubi (yes that’s right, it’s called spam!) and loco moco (rice topped with egg, gravy, and meat) in Da Kitchen Cafe. Oh wait, did I tell you that nobody welcomed us with orchid leis (garlands). Sadness. 🙁
Four nights in Kaanapali
We drove the Honoapiilani highway past lush green hills and sugarcane fields to our hotel in Kaanapali. Kaanapali is situated close to the historic whaling town of Lahaina and has numerous staying options. An ocean front room with a view of the island Molokai was our abode for four nights.
Hawaii does not have water bungalows; instead, there are three kinds of rooms – partial ocean view, ocean view, and oceanfront.
Sheraton’s beach-side near the bar is a great place to watch the cliff dive ceremony from the sacred Pu’u Keka’a (Black rock) to the Pacific. It is also a great snorkeling spot.
In our four days stay in Kaanapali we went on a sunrise whale watching trip with Pacific Whale Foundation (NGO that conducts whale research), enjoyed a luau (traditional Hawaiian feast) at the Old Lahaina luau (this is where we received our orchid garland welcome), dived in Molokini crater, and snorkelled in the coves near Black Rock and Kapalua bay.
Whale watching is a must if you are in Maui during the months between December and May. During these months Maui is a whale watcher’s paradise. In fact, it is a designated sanctuary and is one of the most important whale habitats. Humpbacks migrate to Hawaii every winter to give birth, nurse their calves, and to mate. In summer, they go to their feeding grounds in Alaska.
We saw and learnt about different whale movements—splashes, blows, breaches, tail-slaps, and also heard them through a hydrophone. This is one of my most memorable moments.
Luaus are a great way to watch Hula and also sample Hawaiian cuisine. Performances and music at the Old Lahaina luau are excellent, can’t say the same about their food. Link to other notable luaus in Maui can be found here.
Kimo’s in Lahaina town has good food with great views. We saw whale breachings while having lunch here. Be on the lookout towards the waters (AuAu channel) between Lanai, Maui, and Molokai; it is one of the best place to watch whales.
Food at Star Noodle is also good, but expect long lines.
Most of our time we spent chilling on the black rocks and champagne colored sands on the palm-tree lined beach of Kapalua bay, which easily became our favorite beach after watching green turtles (Honu in Hawaiian) up close.
Napili bay is another place where we enjoyed spending time. If you are headed there during morning hours, Gazebo is a pretty good place to grab breakfast; wait times can be insane though.
Three nights in Kihei
On the fifth day we drove down south to the small town of Kihei and stayed there for three nights. On the way we stopped at Kealia pond national wildlife refuge and Kihei beach; great beach to watch/photograph/do kite surfing and sailing.
One place which we weren’t tired of going to – Coconut’s fish cafe. Their fish tacos are excellent. And for delicious and fresh poke bowls (Hawaiian fish salad) visit Eskimo Candy. Yes, it’s a seafood place not a candy store.
The following day early morning we drove to Haleakala national park to watch a breath-taking sunrise over the edge of the crater rim.
Reach the summit well in advance; the first ray of the sun and the golden lining on the clouds is what you shouldn’t miss. Dress in layers. This place is super cold and windy.
Around evening we drove to Makena beach state park to be greeted by giant teal waves at Big Beach. Next to it is Little beach, Maui’s not-so-secret nude beach, separated from Big beach by a lava outcrop.
A trip to Maui is incomplete without taking the road to Hana; a doozie of a drive ruled by hairpin bends and single lane at many places.
Our favourite place along this route is Wai’anapanapa state park. Beautiful black-sand beach with clear blue ocean and bright green vegetation around.
Ho’okipa beach at the start of Hana highway is a renowned windsurfing site. It is here that we saw the endangered Hawaiian monk seal.
Check here for travel tips on your road to Hana drive and sights by mile marker. Look out for rainbow eucalyptus on the way.
I would recommend staying in Hana overnight to enjoy this drive leisurely. Accommodations are limited, so you should reserve in advance.
If you are on a splurge, a helicopter ride would be remarkable to see the many sights Maui has to offer from up above.
(We spent a week in Maui in March 2014)
Planning on hopping on to the Big Island of Hawaii as well? Click here to see the best hikes Big Island Hawaii has to offer.