My Auntie Amy (father's sister) gifted me a trip to Maui as a present for graduating from college in 2016 but due to unforseen circumstances I had to postpone my trip to this year~ I am so thankful I got to spend time on this beautiful island that has such a variety of wonder and things to do!
My auntie picked me up from the airport, making a two hour drive from where she lives (who would have thought an island could be so big!) and took me to Makena beach. This is a huge beautiful beach on the south side that was saved from development by the many activists who fought for the beach. To my surprise it was quite empty when we arrived, but it was a Tuesday late afternoon/evening afterall. However, after swimming around for a bit we were informed by a kind local that there had been a shark sighted in the area less than an hour ago! I have never swam so fast in my life ha. What a way to start my trip! I should note that you are more likely to get injured in a car accident than a shark encounter, but still respect the ocean and its creatures! We stayed at the beach (on land) and took too many selfies/pictures of the sunset, but it was too pretty not to!
My first night was spent on the south side of the island near Kihei, hosted by a lovely couple in their beautiful home. They are friends of my aunties and made me feel super welcome. I got to do yoga by their pool on my first morning, with many little gecko friends as spectators! They recommended a beach by Makena Surf for snorkeling to see lots of sea turtles but unfortunately we didn't end up seeing any. However, we saw a big tourist boat pull up to where we were and unload a bunch of snorkelers, so I think we were close to "Turtle Town". After that my auntie took me to Iao Valley and we did the hike along the water. I was told that recent flooding of the area had completely changed the shape of the river and the swimming pools were found more at the beginning of the trail instead of farther up where they used to be.
I rented a car from Kihei Rent A Car, definitely recommend them. They are family owned, super friendly and were just nice people with the Aloha vibes~ and they have a resident office cat. My auntie lives in the jungle boonies on the east side of the island so it was easier for me to rent a car so I could explore more easily on my own when my auntie was busy. I rented a discount car, meaning it was an older model and had some light cosmetic damage. It was in good shape and made me look less touristy, therefore less likely to have my car broken in to, which apparently is a bit of problem.
The next three days I spent in Lahaina on the west side of the island. I stayed at the Tiki Beach Hostel which was honestly the cutest hostel I have stayed at, not to mention it is literally like 2 minutes walk from the beach. They have three resident kittens that stole my heart and made me feel right at home! Staying at the hostel gave me the opportunity to make friends with awesome international people. The best thing about travelling and staying in hostels is making new friends! One meh thing I will say is that the hostel offers tours, and rentals for snorkels, surfboards, cars, and stand up paddle boards at a price that might be higher than what you can find if you just walk down the street. I know the car rental they offered was like $60/day and I payed less than half that. So if you are on a budget maybe check out your options first.
Mary from NZ and Robin from the Netherlands joined me as we checked out the west coast and a couple different beaches. The first we went to was called Slaughterhouse beach, which is named so because apparently there used to be a slaughterhouse on the cliffs there during the sixties...however we thought that it was aptly named for the brutal waves and sand blasting that we endured. We got there quite early so it wasn't very crowded, which was nice because parking is a bit limited. It is a beautiful beach but maybe not the best for weak swimmers. Afterward, we drove along the west coast a bit which is beautiful and pleasantly not overdeveloped. We decided to check out Honolua Bay, which is recommended as one of the best places for snorkeling on the island. Unfortunately I was the only one with a snorkel so we didn't stay long. To get to Honolua Bay you have to take about a ten minute walk through a little patch of jungle. There are chickens and roosters wandering around and signs that warn you to be cautious of coconuts falling on your head. It is a very magical little place! When we got back to our car we were pleased to see a food truck had appeared just across the road so we stopped there for lunch. It was the purple solar powered food truck that belongs to Honolua Farms Kitchen and I definitely recommend. They offer mostly organic eats and yummy smoothies that are pretty reasonably priced. Later that evening the three of us ate at Pi Artisan Pizzeria which was recommended by the receptionist at our hostel. There are a few pizza joints closer to the hostel but I think they are a bit pricier, and it was maybe a 15 minute leisurely walk to get to Pi. It is located in an outlet mall so if you are so inclined you can get some shopping done too. The outlet mall also puts on free nightly performances demonstrating different dances from some of the Polynesian islands.
I spent my second day on the west coast snorkeling, as I was on a mission to swim with a sea turtle! Mary rented a snorkel from a shop close to our hostel (I believe for $7/day) and joined me for the adventures. Some locals had recommended the Black Rock Beach by the Sheraton hotel as a good place so we started there. You have to pay for parking but the beach is really nice. The water clarity was also amazing. As soon as you get into the water there are lots of little fish you can see. Of course this beach was more crowded but I swam out a bit farther along the coral reef and there really weren't that many people. After a while I said a prayer to the ocean gods/turtle god to send me a turtle and I literally turned around and there was a big one just floating over me! I swam with it for like 10 minutes pretty much by myself but as it moved closer to shore more people came out to see. A lot of people were cliff jumping at Black Rock too, but thats not my thing.
A random side note about me, I LOVE sourdough bread. It is literally like my favorite thing to eat. It just so happens that this restaurant liked one of my pictures on instagram and they advertise as "a kombucha bar and tasting room featuring Maui artisan sourdough"! Naturally I had to check them out and Mary was game to join me (seriously my sourdough obsession is ridiculous). They are called Alchemy Maui and I definitely recommend, especially if you are a foodie. They let you sample the many different flavors of kombucha that they have on tap. I bought a whole baguette in addition to their avo toast and a coconut lime kombucha. It was delicious.
On my fourth day I did the Road to Hana drive, which really requires an early start. It takes about an hour to get to Kahului from Lahaina which is more or less where my audio tour began. I think Paia is technically the starting point, which is a cute little hipster surfer town with lots of boutiques and restaurants. I purchased the Classic Road to Hana Maui GPS Driving Tour from Shaka Guide, and I recommend it. In hindsight I should have purchased the Loop version, as that is actually what I did over a more extended period. It is designed as something you can do as a day trip, driving out to Hana and coming back all in the same day. I stayed in on the Hana side, in Kipahulu where my Auntie lives. Im really glad I did because there is seriously so much to do on the tour, which I didn't even do all of and I was pretty exhausted. Definitely bring a car charger, I did not have one but luckily I had solar usb battery with me. Not only did it keep my phone charged, but it also has a great flashlight on the back which proved useful as I was crawling through the lava tube cave! In summary, I headed out of Paia around 10 which is a bit late. I stopped to take pictures when I felt inclined and used the rest stops for bathroom breaks. I did stop at Ching's Pool and the lava tube cave mentioned above. Those two I definitely recommend. I also took the mini detour to the Keanae peninsula which I wouldn't skip. Definitely stop at Coconut Glen's for some ice cream! It was seriously the best coconut ice cream I have ever had. I may be salivating about it now...
The last thing I followed on the tour was stopping at Wai'anapanapa State Park. The black sand beach is absolutely stunning. Unfortunately the freshwater caves mentioned in the guide are no longer open to the public. I spent a couple hours wandering the park and followed a trail along the coast for a good while before turning back. Apparently the trail doesn't end anywhere in particular, but was an old route used by Hawaiian royalty to check up on the various provinces. It is a beautiful trail, and almost no one was on it so I would recommend. Just make sure to bring water with! I ended up in Hana Bay around 4:30 pm, so I spent over 6 hours just doing a few things suggested by the tour~ as I said, there is a lot to see!
The next few days I spent with my auntie, and she took me to a few hidden gems that really only locals know. They were the types of places you shouldn't go to if you don't know the area so unfortunately I can't share them. If you want to see something special, my advise would be to make friends with some locals and they can show you around :)
I did a solo venture to Haleakala National Park on the Kapahulu side to see the O'heo Pools (aka the Seven Sacred Pools) and to hike the Pipiwai trail. Definitely a must. The pools themselves are actually closed and you are not able to swim in them. The upper pools are not even accessible. The trail is 4 miles round trip and is intermediate in difficulty. You get to walk through the bamboo forest for the second half and you can see Makahiku Falls 0.5 miles in and Waimoku Falls at the very end. You definitely want to get here early. Around noon and later, all the tourist buses arrive and it becomes quite crowded. I was leaving as they began to arrive and am glad for it.
Although Waioka Pond (aka the Venus Pool) and the Red Sand Beach are described in the Shaka guide, I went with my auntie. They are both extraordinarily beautiful places. The red sand beach is a bit precarious to get to, so use extreme caution. Lots of people were cliff jumping at the Venus pool, but again that isn't my thing.
My last full day of adventure was mostly spent driving from Kipahulu to the summit at the top of Haleakala National Park so I could see the sunset there. I stopped to stretch my legs at Ulupalakua Ranch Store , where I bought a piece of lilikoi pie which was so yum! I'm not typically a fan of pie. I also walked the grounds of the Ulupalakua Winery the home of Maui Wine. I would have liked to do a tasting there but I'm kind of a light weight and had more driving to do.
I would have also liked to visit the lavender farms on the way up to the summit but they were closed when I got to them around 4:30pm. Apparently there is also zip line course you can take in the area l if you are so inclined. I got to the very top around 5:30 after stopping a few times to stretch my feet and look around a bit. Im glad my auntie warned me to bring warm clothing because it was COLD. The summit sits at just above 10,000ft and from the top you can see the Big Island and the "crater". Unfortunately I couldn't see the crater due to all the cloud coverage. As the sun got closer to setting, more and more people arrived so I would definitely recommend getting there a bit early so you can park and find a nice seat. If you want to see the sunrise you actually have to make reservations through the park.
I spent my last night in Paia, and ate at Thai Spice which I recommend because their portions are pretty large, and I just love Thai food :). My last day I spent the early morning at Ho'okipa beach which is popular for surfing. It is also popular with sea turtles! I was told that in the evening lots of sea turtles come up on shore here. I was there in the morning but I got to see 5 or 6 turtles hanging out just off shore, apparently having breakfast. I spent the rest of the day wandering around Paia looking through the little boutiques and buying a few souvenirs. I had to return my car to Kihei, which is about a 30 minute drive so I made my way to the south side again and spent my last sunset at the Kamaole Beach Park.
Traveling solo around Maui was a lot of fun and I would recommend it a lot. Most people think of a trip to Hawaii as a romantic getaway but it really doesn't have to be. I'm grateful that I got to spend some quality time with my auntie and to make some new friends. If you find yourself in Maui or heading there soon, let me know if this was helpful :)
Stay curious friends!