Destination: Maui, Hawaii
Trip Duration: 8 days
Special Events/Conditions: Christmas
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Overview of Maui
My family & I recently visited the Valley Isle over Christmas break & could not believe the number of rainbows, the biodiversity across the island, & the fOoOoOd (yum). A little bit about my family & I: we love to adventure, but we also appreciate a little relaxation here & there. We found the perfect balance of that on Maui, everyone had a different favorite day, & we definitely were able to embrace the aloha spirit.
Each year, between November & May, over 12,000 Humpback whales travel from Alaska to Hawaii (that's 3,500 miles!!) to breed, birth, & nurse their calves.
Maui is the 2nd largest island of Hawaii & has been voted the "Best Island In the World" over 20 times by Condé Nast Traveler Magazine. With over 30 miles of beaches (white, brown, red, black), this island has more miles of accessible beach than any of the other Hawaiian islands -the key word here being accessible. All of Maui is pretty drivable (we will talk about the "super scary" Road to Hana in a bit) when comparing it to some of the other islands, such as Kauai. Roads go the whole way around the island & the two sides of the central valley are the most populated areas, so there's not a lot of unseen wild. That being said, there's still a lot of coastline that's made up of cliffs, nature preserves, or private homes, so not all beaches are accessible.
The map below shows the different areas of Maui: Lahaina, West Maui, 'Iao Valley & Central Maui, Kihei & South Maui, North Shore & Upcountry, Haleakala National Park, Hana & East Maui, & the Road to Hana. The airport is shown with the airplane symbol & our home base, which was in Kihei, is shown with the house symbol. A little bit about each area & some of the things that I considered doing in each area (mostly main attractions) are listed below the map with the attractions that are included in our itinerary shown in italics.
There are also 3 islands off the coast of Maui: Moloka'i, Lanai, & Kaho'olawe. Kaho'olawe is off-limits to visitors (& is not populated), but Moloka'i & Lanai have many attractions. However, since I did not visit these islands (it would not be difficult to add a day trip to one), I cannot speak to them & so I have included them on the map for reference, but they are not part of the itinerary.
Baby Beach, Lahaina Banyan Court, & the Old Lahaina Luau
Honalua Bay, Ka'anapali Beach, Kapalua Beach, Kapalua Coastal Trail, Oneloa Beach, & Nakalele Blowhole
'Iao Valley & Central Maui:
Iao Needle & Kealia Coastal Boardwalk
Kihei & South Maiu:
Big Beach, Kihei Coastal Trail, La Perouse Bay, Po'olenalena Beach, Secret Cove, & Ulua Beach
North Shore & Upcountry:
Ali'u Kula Lavender, Ho'okipa Overlook, Maui Winery, & Surfing Goat Dairy,
Haleakala National Park:
Haleakala Crater, Kalahaku Overlook, Kipahulu, Kuloa Point Trail, Pipiwai Trail, Pu'u'ula'ula Overlook, & Seven Sacred Pools
Hana & East Maui:
Hamoa Beach, Koki Beach, & Wailua Falls
The Road to Hana:
Ke'anae Arboretum, Ke'anae Peninsula Lookout, Makapipi Falls, Pua'a Ka'a State Wayside Park, Upper Waikani Falls, Wai'anapanapa State Park, Waikamoi Nature Trail, & Wailua Valley State Wayside
This section is a day-to-day overview by area with a short description of what we did. If you'd like to see more info, facts, & recommendations & pics from each day, skip ahead to the "Specific Itinerary" section.
Day 0.5 - Travel
We flew from Pittsburgh (PIT) to Phoenix (PHX) & then flew from Phoenix to Maui (OGG). When we landed in Maui we checked into our condo in Kihei, rented snorkel equipment, went to dinner, & called it a night.
Day 1 - South Maui & North shore
We started at the southernmost point, La Perouse Bay, & then drove up the coast & stopped along the way. These beach stops included Secret Cove Beach, Makena Beach (Big Beach), Po'olenalena Beach, & Ulua Beach. There was good snorkeling at Ulua & very clear water at Makena, but not a lot of reefs. After South Maui, we headed north to Ho'okipa Beach Park on the north shore. The overlook there was great & then we went to dinner in Paia.
Day 2 - West Maui & Lahaina
An early rise was necessary for this day because we took surf lessons at Ukumehame Beach Park in West Maui. After a beautiful lesson, we headed up the coast to Honalua Bay for lunch & then onto the Nakalele Blowhole. We had reservations for the Old Lahaina Luau, so we relaxed for a bit at Kaanapali Beach before getting changed & heading to Lahaina for the big dinner.
Day 3 - Molokini Crater & Upcountry
If we though day 2 was an early rise (6:30 AM), it was nothing compared to getting up to see the Molokini Crater (4 AM). Our boat was the first one there & we had the crater all to ourselves for about an hour before heading to Turtle Town. After lunch on the boat, we relaxed for a bit on Ulua Beach (again) & then headed to Surfing Goat Dairy for a much needed snack & break from the sun. Then, it was a quick drive to Ali'u Kula Lavender Farm to tour the beautiful gardens & then back to Kihei for a relaxing sunset.
Day 4 - The Road to Hana & Haleakala NP
A slightly later start, the Road to Hana was not as difficult as all the article's I've read made it seem. We arrived at the first stop, Ke'anae Arboretum, around 8 AM to beat some of the crowd & found that we were actually the first ones there. This made it a lot easier to continue on to Hana without feeling so much pressure, so we stopped at the Ke'anae Peninsula Lookout, Upper Waikani Falls, Pua'a Ka'a State Wayside Park, & Wai'anapanapa State Park before lunch. Then we headed on past Hana to Haleakala National Park (the south side) to hike the Pipiwai Trail. We followed Highway 31 the rest of the way around until we made it back to Kihei.
Day 5 - Haleakala National Park & Upcountry
LOL at the previously-thought "early" rises. To see the sunrise in Haleakala crater, we were up at 3:30 AM. We drove up the volcano & watched the sunrise for several hours in the cold (the very, very cold). Afterwards, my brother & dad rode bikes down the Skyline Trail while my mom & I enjoyed a nice wine flight at MauiWine. We picked up the bikers at the end of their trail & then we headed back to relax & nap on the beach in Kihei.
Day 6 - Kihei & South Maui
One thing to note about this day for us: it was Christmas Day. Therefore, we decided to take it easy & spend the day relaxing as a family. After a much-needed morning of sleeping in, we went out to lunch & then decided to head to our favorite beach of the trip, Secret Cove, in South Maui. We pretty much spent the whole afternoon here before heading out to a nice dinner.
Day 7 - 'Iao Valley & Travel
Our final morning was spent packing for the next leg of our trip (Kauai) & enjoying the last morning sun in Kihei. We headed to the 'Iao Valley & briefly walked up the trail to see the 'Iao Needle, but we were running late for our flight, so we had to cut it short.
This section goes through each day in detail, including pictures, restaurants, facts, & recommendations. There are also links to specific websites, if applicable.
Day 0.5 - Travel
To avoid an overnight flight, we flew from Pittsburgh (PIT) to Phoenix (PHX) & stayed the night near the University of Arizona. We went to a restaurant called the Culinary Dropout & it was super cool & super yummy. But you're not reading to learn about restaurants in Phoenix Arizona. SO the next morning we departed PHX for Maui (OGG) with our flight landing in Maui at around 3:30 PM. From there, we picked up our rental car from Maui Car Rentals, who were very friendly & helpful when picking us up from the airport & had our car ready to go. Once we got our car figured out, we headed to our home base for the week: Nani Kai Hale condos in Kihei.
After unpacking & relaxing for a bit, we were ready for dinner & headed to Maui Brewing Company in Kihei (the brewery headquarters). Maui Brewing Co. is the largest craft brewery in Hawaii & they pride themselves on local ingredients in both their beer & their food. They had a great selection of food (their pizzas were especially great) & it was fun to split flights of their tropical-flavored beer! My personal favorite was the Lilikoi Saison. We went around 8, so it wasn't very crowded, but if you're going to around normal dinner hours, I would recommend making a reservation using their website. The brewery is open 11 AM- - 11 PM, 7 days a week.
Day 1 - South Maui & North shore
We started the day at La Perouse Bay, one of the most southern drivable points on Maui. This rocky area of shoreline is part of the Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve, which is mostly closed to the public. However, once the road ends at the bay, there are several trails that lead into the reserve to explore the lava flow. There is snorkeling available here, but be sure to wear sturdy waterproof shoes to prevent injuries on the harsh lava rock shores.
Continuing up the coast, our next stop was at Secret Cove Beach (which ended up being our favorite beach on Maui). The entrance is a little bit strange - one would almost say secret - because it just looks like a small break in a stone wall. However, if you look above the wall, this is the only section that does not have a house sticking up above the wall, so its easy to tell there is a beach on the other side. This was our favorite beach because there weren't very many people around & it had really cool inlet areas that were great for swimming (in the pic, my dad is just past where the waves break & just past that it gets extremely shallow) & snorkeling with black crabs & small fish.
The next stop was Big Beach (also called Makena Beach or Oneloa Beach), which is in Makena State Park. At over half a mile long, this is one of the more popular beaches on Maui. However, there were many warning signs about swimming & swells & currents, so I would use caution if no one else is swimming or if the water looks particularly choppy. When we were there, it was very calm & clear, so we decided to risk it & got some great shots with the GoPro. One thing I would say about this beach is that it did get deep pretty quickly & I could easily see getting pulled out into the water unexpectedly. There are no rocks or interesting places/fish, the water is just very clear, so it's not particularly worth it for snorkeling. One thing that Big Beach does have - FOOD TRUCKS!! There are several on the street outside the parking lot, but the one in the parking lot, Jaws Fish Tacos, was the one that we chose & we were not disappointed. The smoothies that were available were expensive (not gonna lie, $7 is too much for an iced drink), but afterwards we unanimously decided that they were worth it. & with the tacos & Hawaiian aloha spirit - it was the perfect combo.
To recover from the large amount of fish tacos we had eaten, we went to relax on Po'olenalena Beach next. To our surprise, there was no one on the beach. & then when we stepped out on the sand & couldn't lay on our towels without becoming a dune, we realized why. But we still stuck it out for a few minutes for the view.
Wanting to snorkel more, we decided to make a stop at Ulua Beach (which keeps getting autocorrected to Ulna Beach so if that happens I'm sorry haha). On the way, we saw a stand selling fresh coconuts & my brother had been talking about getting one from the moment we got off the plane, so we of course stopped for one of those! The man running the stand chopped the coconut off the the branch right in front of us & definitely fit right into the aloha way of life. Ulua Beach had decent snorkeling since there were a handful of lava rocks pretty close to the shore & the waves weren't rough, but the visibility wasn't great.
We were pretty beached out for our first day at this point, so we decided to head up to Ho'okipa Beach Park on the North Shore. This beach is known for surfers enjoying the large swells & the turtles enjoying the sun. The lookout is easy to get to, there's a parking lot, & there are signs for it. From the lookout, you can see surfers below & there's a small trail off the end of the lookout down to some lava rocks that makes you feel even closer. When we visited, there was a group gathered on the actual beach & my brother & I were very confused as to what people were taking pictures of below the lookout. & then all of a sudden one of the rocks we had been staring at moved & we realized that they were large turtles! Many of them! You're not allowed to get close (obviously), but the turtles are still easy to see & its almost a safety net in case you don't see any in the water while snorkeling. After Ho'okipa, we went to dinner in the nearby town of Paia at the Paia Fish Market. This was a pretty crowded place, as its a favorite of locals & tourists alike & they don't take reservations, but the seating is unique & spots usually clear up quickly if a group member can snag one while you're in line.
Day 2 - West Maui & Lahaina
We started the day relatively early with surf lessons through Maui Surfer Girls at Ukumehame Beach Park in West Maui. We had the beach entirely to ourselves & the view of the West Maui mountains & rainbows from the water was unparalleled (no pictures, as I was just enjoying the unique surfing experience). I would 10/10 recommend Maui Surfer Girls, they explained everything before we went in the water, then they were out there with us & tried to get to know us a bit while we were waiting for other surfers to have their go at a wave. They cheered everyone on, gave us tips, & made sure everyone got at least one ride where they stood up! Not to mention, the owner was out on the water giving a little girl a private lesson & had fresh drinks for everyone when we were done. There was a photographer there too to capture everyone surfing & they sold the pictures for $25 each or $80 for all. We paid for all of them since there were 3 of us surfing. The location changes based on the weather & day, since they want there to be waves, but not overpowering ones. This was perfect for us because we had surfed before, but were wary of the legendary Hawaiian waves.The lesson took 2 hours & there were about 7 people out on the water, which worked out perfectly for a lot of personal surf time.
We were pretty hungry after the lesson & wanted to eat an early lunch since the luau was in the plans for later, so we headed up to Honalua Bay for lunch. There's a general store called Honalua Store that has everything from snacks and drinks to t-shirts and hair flowers- as well as a deli & coffee bar in the back! This was a great stop for lunch & I would definitely recommend the spicy teriyaki poke bowl. We picked up a few snacks & drinks & headed to the beach to eat. It's a short walk to get to Honalua Bay & it wasn't very well-marked on Google Maps, but we eventually found it. There's a small parking lot on either side of a small bridge and you want to take the trail from the parking lot to the right of the bridge if you're facing the ocean. It was a little bit muddy, so I could see how it would be very slippery if it had just rained, but it was actually a really cool walk! There were lots of vines & it was the first time my family & I had felt like we were in a jungle. We even found a vine to swing on!! Once we made it to the beach the cool stuff didn't stop, as there were beach chickens! Yes, chickens on the beach, which might sound weird to get excited about, but we thought it was just the funniest thing ever. Maui (& Hawaii in general) has a lot of wild chickens in general, which we loved. They hung around us to see if we would give them food for a while & when they realized we wouldn't, they started patrolling their beach again.
After lunch, we continued up the coast towards the Nakalele Blowhole, one of the northernmost points on Maui. At first, this stop wasn't on my itinerary because I wasn't sure whether or not it was worth it, but after visiting I think that the combination of the blowhole & the drive to the blowhole make it worth it. The blowhole itself is cool, but there were a lot of people there & many of them were climbing on things that they should not have been climbing on, which just makes everyone else's experience less enjoyable in my opinion. Then they're in people's pictures, people are worrying about them, & they're damaging the natural features. BUT, the rainbow that forms when the blowhole goes off is spectacular & if you can get past the people, it's a special natural wonder. The drive there is pretty special too, with red mud cliffs, quaint towns, & cool viewpoints. Almost everyone drove past all the viewpoints, but we stopped at several to explore & were pleasantly surprised, especially at one with a lava rock beach.
With the luau being our final destination of the day, we decided to head back down the coast towards Lahaina. We relaxed for a bit at Oneloa Beach (pictured below) & there was barely anyone else there! The water wasn't great for swimming, since there were some rocks just off the shore, but it was great for laying out on the beach and the rocks to the right of the beach protected it from wind. Once we had gotten our fill of relaxation, we headed further south to Kahekili Beach Park, which has changing rooms & free outdoor showers.
Finally it was time for the luau!! We headed to Lahaina (the luau started at 5) in our fun Hawaiian outfits & were prepared for a feast. Lahaina was the original capitol of the state of Hawaii until it was moved to Honolulu in 1850. In the center of Lahaina, there's a banyan tree that's on of the oldest in the oldest in the world! When planted in 1873, the tree was only 8 feet tall, but now has dozens of trunks & spans over an entire courtyard (over an acre). I would recommend getting to Lahaina a little bit earlier than we did to check out the cool Banyan tree & shop in the market in the square around the tree.
Parking at the Old Lahaina Luau can be a little bit hectic, since there aren't many spots in the parking lot, but they seem to have things figured out with lots of people around to guide visitors & tell people where to go. As everyone enters, you're handed a program, a lei, & a man tai - you can really feel the aloha. We opted for the "traditional" luau seating, which is the first row around the stage on a low table with cushions, so we were shown to our table & then invited to explore the grounds & learn about Hawaiian luau culture. They had a ton of stations set up, from taro farming to clothing stamping & a local musician playing in the background. Eventually, the pig was unearthed (they roast the pig for the luau every night in a traditional Imu, or underground oven) & everyone went back to their tables to enjoy the taro hummus, taro chips, & taro sweet bread appetizers. As the sun started to set, the show began & they went through the history of luau as the night went on. After the first part of the show, they brought us up by section to the buffet, which was filled with traditional Hawaiian food. My favorites were the Mea'ai Ola Pono (taro, sweet potato, & tofu patty w/ pineapple salsa), local-style fried rice, Lomi Lomi Salmon, & the Poke 'Ahi - *I'm pescetarian, so I didn't try everything*. As if that wasn't enough food already, there was also an assortment of desserts that were just as amazing as the main course: guava cake, Kiawe bean tart, Hawaiian chocolate brownie, & haupia (coconut milk pudding). On top of all of that, there were drinks available (I'd highly recommend the lava flow) & banana bread provided in a goodie bag at the end. & that was just the food!! The dancers were also phenomenal & it was very interesting to learn about how luau adapted as Hawaii adapted. We picked this luau because of its rank as the best luau on Maui & we were definitely not disappointed - if I went back to Maui I would do this again! We left stuffed & happy around 8:45 & headed back to Kihei.
Day 3 - Molokini Crater & Upcountry
Waking up at 4 AM might not sound like the relaxing Maui vacation that some people have in mind & that's because its not. But its worth it. The Molokini Crater is a volcanic crater that partially sticks up out of the water in a moon shape. Before becoming a protected area, it was a designated bomb practice area for the US military in World War II! It is now home to 38 species of hard coral & over 100 species of algae & is a very popular snorkel spot in Maui. We went with Kai Kanani Sailing, which provided homemade breakfast, snacks, & drinks & ensured that our boat was the first one to Molokini. All other tour companies leave from the marina in Maaelaea Bay, but Kai Kanani has exclusive access to leave directly from a beach in Makena. This gives them the quickest trip to the crater & lets them beat the other boats. Which there are an alarming number of. On average, there are 160 people in Molokini Crater at one time. Which might not seem like that much until you realize that the diameter is about 0.4 miles. When we got there it was just us & the other 12 people on our boat & we had about an hour in the water before another boat showed up. We were able to snorkel around the entire inside of the crater & saw too many fish to count. Once the other boats came, we hopped back on our boat & headed to "Turtle Town", which is a coral reef off of Maluaka Beach. & we did in fact see 2 turtles & a manta ray! While we were making our way to Turtle Town, we were greeted by a pod of humpback whales!! The crew quickly got out what looked like a radio & microphone, dropped the microphone into the water, & we started to hear whale sounds. It was the coolest thing. Until the whales started to breach & wave at us & then that became the coolest thing. They even got a little closer (whales are very curious) & I was able to catch some of them on video:
After that exciting boat ride, we docked around 10 AM & decided to relax for a bit on Ulua Beach (again) & then headed to upcountry Maui. The first stop was Surfing Goat Dairy, a small got farm (yes, goat farm) on the slopes of Haleakala. The goats were mostly sleeping, but some of them were running around & hopping on top of each other. There was also a dog & kitten that made the dairy experience that much cuter. We got a goat cheese flight (genius, right?) to share & picked 6 homemade flavors: black dragon (mustard seed), Canada (cinnamon, cranberry, & honey), purple rain (Maui lavender), garden fantasia (garden herbs), sriracha, & mango supreme. The black dragon & purple rain were my favorites!
From the dairy, it was a short drive to Ali'u Kula Lavender Farm, which I didn't have on my original itinerary, but ended up being one of our favorite things on Maui! It costs $3 per person as a donation for general upkeep of the farm. The grounds were so much bigger than I was expecting & I could've stayed here for a while just exploring every path. They have a variety of tropical plants (not just lavender), succulents, & trees, not to mention the view. They also have a small gift shop with lavender-inspired goods for sale. I got my friend some of their lavender honey & she said it's wonderful in tea! I love taking pictures of plants & flowers, so this place was heaven for me & it was good to relax with a stroll & get out of the sun for a while.
To end the day, we picked up sushi from Nuka (in Haiku) on the way home. This place usually fills up almost immediately (we were in line as it opened), so we figured we would get our sushi to go, rather than taking up a table. The sushi we had was some of my favorite I've ever eaten & they had many rolls with Hawaiian inspiration, which we tried to steer towards.
Day 4 - The Road to Hana & Haleakala NP
I generally do a lot of research when planning a trip; I read Pinterest posts, blogs, Instagram, & guidebooks. & many of them built the Road to Hana up to be a monstrous undertaking that we would never survive. It wasn't that bad. Don't get me wrong, there were a few parts that gave us a good laugh at how precarious the roadway was, but if you just take it at your own pace, let the locals pass, & START EARLY, there's no reason to fear it. We decided to do a loop, rather than go to Hana & turn around, figuring there would be less people on the southern side & that we'd get to see some new scenery. The road to Hana is 45 miles long, there are 600 hair pin turns & over 50 one-lane bridges. But just by following the signs to honk as you go around hairpin turns & yielding to oncoming traffic on bridges, the stress of getting to Hana can be alleviated - embrace aloha!
We got to our first stop, the Huelo lookout, around 7:45 AM, but found the the fruit stand where we were hoping to get breakfast wasn't open yet (understandably), so we continued on to the Ke'anae Arboretum. The arboretum is free & is a 6 acre collection of tropical flora., including the famous rainbow eucalyptus trees (painted gum trees). There's a short trail that winds through the arboretum which leads to a small taro field, which you can walk through!
It was very muddy, but it was interesting to see nonetheless. Continuing on the trip, we headed to the Ke'anae Peninsula Lookout, which overlooks the traditional village of Ke'anae & its taro fields. On the inland side, a waterfall & beautiful mountains were visible with the sun shining through them. However, this lookout was not on the actual peninsula, as is shown in Google Maps. Instead, its along the road & there is a small parking lot to the right of the road (the lookout was over the valley & peninsula, so it was past the peninsula a bit). On the way to our next stop, we decided to pull over for coconut milk ice cream (completely vegan!!) at Coconut Glen's. There were several flavors available, but our favorite was the lilikoi.
The next stop was unplanned (as many of your stops on the Road to Hana should be - just stop at whatever seems interesting to you!), but was one of our favorites. The "parking area" was only big enough for 1 car, so again it was extremely advantageous that we left early & got ahead of the crowd. It looked like there was possibly a path to get to the falls, but we just enjoyed them from afar.
Further along the road, we stopped at Pua'a Ka'a State Wayside Park. There are several waterfalls here & paved paths to get to most of them. There's also picnic facilities, bathrooms, & little mongeese running around! The second waterfall was my favorite with the blue pool underneath & dramatic jungle scenery around it. We spent about 20 minutes here as a break from driving & then continued on to Wai'anapanapa State Park.
This is one of the most popular stops on the Road to Hana & rightfully so. Black sand beaches are something that makes Maui unique, but also attract a lot of people. Don't expect to have this place all to yourself, but don't think that that takes away from how cool it is either. There's a campground at Wa'anapanapa, so many people choose to stay here if they're looking for a cheap place to stay just outside of Hana. There's free parking & the stairs to the beach are easy to find. Enjoy the beach for a while (swimming is not recommended, as the waves are extremely strong & unpredictable) & then there's a trail at the end of the beach that leads on to views of the beach from another angle & interesting lava rock formations. & on the other side of the beach (underneath the stairs to the beach) there are small lava caves to be explored. There are warning signs, so be careful if the tide is coming in, but if you're brave enough to explore, it's pretty cool.
Before heading on past Hana, we stopped at Troy's Plate Lunch, which is a small food stand just past Hana Gas on the right. It was in a parking lot with a few other food stands, so there was variety if desired. But we chose Troy's based on the fact that he wanted to share the giant fish that he had caught the day before with us in the form of a quintessential Hawaiian plate lunch (white rice, macaroni salad, & an entree). We each got something different & they had not 1, but 2 vegan options! Troy & his wife ran the stand & we chat with them for bit before continuing on. We ate our lunch at Koki Beach, which is a local favorite. There weren't many people there & there were beautiful rock formations & great swimming waves.
Most people do the Road to Hana & stop (you guessed it) at Hana. We decided to make a loop out of the drive & continue past Hana on Route 360. Just past Hana are the popular Wailua Falls (pictured right). There was someone swimming in the pool below the falls when we got there, but they got out & said it was absolutely freezing (by Hawaii standards), so we decided to just look.
Continuing on, our final destination of the day was the Pipiwai Trail on the south side of Haleakala National Park. The Pipiwai Trail is 4 miles roundtrip (out & back) & features several waterfalls, a bamboo forest, & a large Banyan tree. The starting point for the trail is at the Kipahulu Visitors Center, which is also the starting point for the Kuloa Point Trail &
Khaki Trail. The very popular Pools of Ohe'o (7 Sacred Pools) are accessed from the Pipiwai Trail, but they were closed when we were there due to flooding. For the Pipiwai Trail, the first set of falls, Makahiku Falls, are only 0.5 miles down the trail. Makahiku refers to "cathedral-like cliffs when looking up to the heavens". The waterfall has shaped the valley & has been known to cause sharp rocks to fall suddenly. Next on the trail (just past the waterfall) is the large Banyan tree. This tree has a large trunk (several trunks actually) & the branches were very climbable.
The bamboo forest is 1 mile up the trail, but its a very long mile. Its mostly uphill & it was very humid, so it was slower going than planned. But the bamboo forest was amazing & when the wind blew the trees rattled together & made the coolest sound. Another mile through the bamboo forest (I feel like I'm narrating Elf) & you reach Waimoku Falls. There's sign at the end of the trail that says not to go any further, so you can't actually go up to the falls, but can see them from a good viewpoint. There were many people who continued on the "trail" to go the whole way to the base of the falls, but we decided to turn around & head back down. The way back went much quicker that the way up & the whole thing took about 2 hours with stoppage time for pictures at each site.
From there, we followed Highway 31 the rest of the way to Kihei & only stopped a few more times at random pullouts to admire special South Maui views.
Day 5 - Haleakala National Park & Upcountry
I'll be making a post all about Haleakala soon, so check back for that at some point!!
Haleakala National Park is famous for its view of the sunrise from the peak of the largest dormant volcano in the world. When we visited, the sun rise was at about 6:45 AM, but there are lots of beautiful colors before the sun actually rises, so we wanted to be there at 6. & then on top of that, there are usually so many people there that you have to get there early to get a parking spot & a viewing spot. If you're going on your own (which I highly recommend), you definitely want to get there before all of the tour groups. So we left Kihei at 3:30 AM to be sure we got a great spot with my tripod. When we got there people were starting to stake out spots along the railing by the bathrooms, but I had researched a different spot with better views & far less people. We hiked up the Pa Ka'oao Trail (0.4 miles slightly up hill), which was actually really fun to do just by the light of the moon. There's a small lookout point from there & we were the only ones there until about 20 minutes before sunrise. One warning though (& this goes for anywhere on Haleakala in general) - it is super cold. I mean not just Hawaii cold, but we-needed-our-winter-coats-&-multiple-blankets-&-we-were-still-cold cold. The wind up there just rips through everything, especially coming off the crater, so be sure to bring plenty of warmth.
After we enjoyed the full sunrise, we spent a solid 30 minutes in the car just warming up again & then drove up to the observatory. I wanted to do part of the Sliding Sands Trail, but the ranger said that with all of the recent precipitation & high winds that day, that the trail would be treacherous, so we opted not to. There was an almost-constant rainbow over the observatory because the clouds started to blow over the crater after the sun rose, providing the perfect combination for rainbows. One of the most popular things to do in Haleakala (other than the sunrise) is to bike down the mountain. Most people do this with a tour group since they don't have bikes & they can leave their car at the bottom of the mountain, which means that they cruise down the main road into Haleakala. My dad & brother were hoping for something a bit different, so they rented bikes from Bike Maui (in Haiku) the day before & rode down the Skyline Trail. The employees at Bike Maui were super helpful & gave them everything they needed for a great ride (including helmets, packs, & recommendations)! My brother attached my GoPro to his helmet & captured the first bit of their ride (video below). 2 things - it got much greener as they got further down the mountain & this video is 8x sped up:
While my brother & dad were riding bikes down, my mom & I decided to head to MauiWine & enjoy the morning to ourselves. We ordered a goat cheese board (from Surfing Goat Dairy of course) & a flight of wine each. They have several flight options to choose from, but we went with the "Diverse Flight", of which my favorites were the Mele (a red) & the Lokelani (an easy-to-drink white). We also walked around the grounds for a bit & I found a tree that looked like the one from the Lord of the Rings that Merry & Pippin fall asleep in!! Nerdy, I know, but I think its a giant fig tree if anyone was interested. After we got a text from the boys saying they were almost done, we started heading back & picked them up just outside of Haiku. We returned their bikes & relaxed on the beach by our condo for the rest of the day. & napped, we did a lot of napping that afternoon.
Day 6 - Kihei & South Maui
This was an easy day for us because it was Christmas Day when we were on our trip. So we slept in (much needed after several days of getting up early) & then headed to lunch at Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea. Fair warning: both of the restaurants we went to on this day we would consider expensive (we wanted to treat ourselves for Christmas). & although it was semi-expensive, Monkeypod was excellent. My parents split the Poke Tacos & the Bourgeois Pizza (below to the right - Maui lobster & mushrooms), my brother had the Kale & Wild Hamakua Mushroom Gnocchi (below to the left), & I had the specialty pizza of the day (watermelon, arugula, & Maui onion). All options were some of the best food we've had & we couldn't decide on a favorite. Usually this is a pretty busy restaurant, so I would recommend making a reservation before going (they use the OpenTable app).
After we were completely stuffed at Monkeypod, we headed back to our favorite beach of the trip, Secret Cove. There were several local families enjoying Christmas Day on the beach with us, but for the most part it was empty & we made sandmen for all to enjoy. & yes, his name was Sandy the Sandman. We pretty much spent the entire afternoon here using our snorkeling equipment for the last time, swimming, & laying out. For dinner & sunset views, we went to 5 Palms Restaurant, which had a special set menu for Christmas Day. I can't speak to their menu too much since it was limited & they had specials for Christmas, but I had Ahi Tuna & it was so good it was like an out-of-body foodie experience. We also split something called the Kona Coffee Mud Pie (a giant slice of chocolate & vanilla ice cream cake with chocolate sauce, crumble, nuts, & a bunch of other stuff). This restaurant also gets very crowded & can fill up quickly, especially around sunset, so I would recommend reservations as far in advance as possible.
Day 7 - 'Iao Valley & Travel
We spent our final morning packing our suitcases for the next leg of our trip (Kauai blog post coming soon!!). Which meant we got out of the condo a bit later than planned, so we didn't quite make it to 'Iao Valley in time to do much exploring. Instead, we drove up to the entrance of the state park, I got out & walked 200 feet to a view of the river, & we turned around & went to the airport. But, if you wanted to check the 'Iao Valley off of the list, this would be a great day to do it since its not very far from the airport (about a 25 min drive). Alternatively, you could do it on day 6 & leave the relaxing for the last day.
Helpful Links & Recommendations
When I plan a trip I use a variety of sources (including other blogs, Pinterest, Instagram, & guidebooks). Usually I go through the online resources first & make a list of places that interest me, then check over them & add to them from a guidebook. For this trip, I used the Lonely Planet Maui Travel Guide & it was extremely helpful. I love the way the Lonely Planet books are organized & how many up-to-date tips & ideas are in them. Plus, the book is a nice size, so its easy to carry around in a backpack for when you can't remember where something is or you need an unplanned idea!
maybe-not-so-obvious Packing List:
water shoes (I wear Chaco's)
quick-dry towels (less dry time & less room - if possible also get sand-resistant)
large refillable water bottle
hiking/athletic shoes (for Haleakala/'Iao Valley - again, I wore Chaco's, but some people get blisters when hiking in them)
rash guard /surf shirt (prevents chafing & sunburn)
winter coat, hat, gloves, & tons of layers (for Haleakala sunrise)
tripod (for Haleakala sunrise)
nicer outfit (for Old Lahaina Luau)
All of the following are products that I own & brought with me to Maui!
Have you been to Maui before? If so, did I miss something or get something wrong (probably)? Leave me a comment!! Or if you end up using any of these tips, please let me know if they worked out for you or if you'd do something differently next time. I'd love to hear about people's adventures & any thoughts on my first blog post :)
As always, safe travels & don't forget to leave it better than you found it.
Images to pin for this post:
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