During our visit to Canada this summer, S and I made a side-trip (can you really call a 5+ hr flight a ‘side’ trip?) to Maui, Hawaii. We had dreamed of going there together but the journey straight there from Germany is, shall we say, extremely far. We thought that while we were in the North American ‘neighbourhood’, it would be a good time to visit an otherwise very difficult-to-reach destination.
We asked other people which Hawaiian island to visit. Some suggested Kauai for the lush scenery, others the Big Island for its volcanic activity. In the end, we picked Maui, the tourist favourite, for its spectacular beaches, food, landscape, and activities.
Maui was absolutely the right choice for us – it was one of our favourite holidays to date. Unlike many of our city trips where we sightsee nonstop from AM to PM, we took it easy this trip and spent our days doing exactly what we felt like, when we felt like it.
Unlike my other travel blog posts where I break down a specific destination into several posts (say restaurants, museums, and sights), I decided to write about our time on Maui and my recommendations of what to see and do and eat in one post.
I spent a lot of time researching where to stay on Maui and what kind of accommodation to pick. Hawaii is very expensive, so many online forums suggested choosing a time share or apartment-style accommodation with a kitchen so you can cook some meals to save money rather than eating out all the time. We nearly went this route until we found an excellent deal to stay at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, a 4-star resort in Kaanapali. Though the rooms didn’t have a kitchenette, they did have a mini fridge, a coffee machine, and a kettle so we could still have breakfast and snacks in our room.
We absolutely loved the resort. Positioned at the Black Rock, one of the best snorkeling spots on Maui, it was as picturesque as could be. We loved stepping outside our room onto the golden Kaanapali Beach and going for a swim or a snorkel whenever we liked. S saw numerous sea turtles (I only saw 1 ) and there were more tropical fish than we could count. Tip: If you like to snorkel, bring your own snorkel gear with you to the island so you don’t have to rent on site.
The Whalers Village shopping centre is only a 10 minute walk away. It’s a good place to grab a quick, affordable bite, or pick up a few souvenirs. They also offer free hula shows, as well as hula, lei making, and ukelele lessons during the week.
As I mentioned earlier, we didn’t want to jam-pack our schedule, so we just planned three special activities while on Maui. We chose to do a Road to Hana tour, attend a luau, and take surf lessons.
Road to Hana
Many people suggested driving the 100+ km Road to Hana ourselves, but with 620 curves and 59 one way bridges, we thought it best to leave it up to the experts so we could enjoy the scenery. After reading a lot of reviews, we decided to go on tour with Valley Isle Excursions. Our driver, Lynn, has been a tour guide for 30 years and knows the island and the Road to Hana like the back of her hand. Over the course of the 10+ hour tour, we drove through tropical rainforest, drove by the Keanae Peninsula, spotted lush waterfalls, walked across the black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park, visited the Pools at Oheo Gulch, and drove through the Kipahulu section of Haleakala National Park. We made several stops throughout the day, even at a roadside stand serving warm, fresh out of the oven banana bread. It was a long but well-spent day and we really felt like we got a chance to see some of the most beautiful spots on the island.
Old Lahaina Luau
S’s dream was to attend a luau on Maui. There are so many to choose from, but all reviews pointed toward the Old Lahaina Luau, the most traditional Hawaiian luau on Maui. For me, it was the absolute highlight of our trip. We were greeted with fresh flowers leis and mai tais upon arrival against the backdrop of the sun setting on the Pacific. Prior to dinner, we could walk through the grounds and learn about Hawaiian history and culture, as well as watch the kalua pig get unearthed from the Imu, the traditional Hawaiian underground oven. The dinner was a plentiful buffet of classic luau fare, such as the Imu-roasted pork, poi (steamed and mashed taro), ahi poke (raw marinated yellow fin tuna), taro leaf stew, and much more. The entire show and dinner was so well-coordinated and the hula dancers were spectacular. At the end of the night, we were all gifted with a small banana bread to enjoy for breakfast the next day. 100% recommended!
We made several visits to the town of Lahaina, the largest town in west Maui. Our resort had a free hourly shuttle service into Lahaina that we used well during our stay. The Old Lahaina Town Front Street is a must see, as well as the enormous banyan tree (the largest in the US) in the Courthouse Square. You can also take surf lessons in Lahaina and book several tours; it’s a definite tourist hot spot.
I didn’t surf, but S sure did! There are lots of reputable surf schools to choose from, both in Kaanapali and Lahaina. The pricing is more or less the same, but some schools have a lower teacher-to-student ratio which may appeal to you. S surfed with Island Style Adventures and they offered a 30-minute lesson on ocean safety and surfing technique on the beach before heading out into the water for 1.5 hours to catch some waves. Tip: Island Style Adventures is one of the few surf schools open on Sunday.
We ate out at a few restaurants on Maui. We enjoyed our plate meals at Aloha Mixed Plate (which belongs to the same company that runs the Old Lahaina Luau), fish tacos and burgers at the Beachside Grill at Leilani’s on the Beach, an acai bowl at Island Vintage Coffee, and multi-flavoured, kauai cream-topped shave ice on top of a free scoop of ice cream at Local Boys Shave Ice. (Tip: If you save your receipt, they will give you a dollar off your next purchase). My top meal, though, was a kalua pork rice bowl from Bamboo Fresh, a small organic cafe/restaurant on the edge of Lahaina Town. It was so good we went back to have it again during the week!
Tip: If you want to save some money, I can also recommend buying groceries at the Foodland or Safeway in Lahaina. An excellent tip I got from my sister was to get cheap poke bowls at the fish counters in the grocery stores. They have a huge selection of different types of poke (raw marinated fish) and you can have it served on a bed of white or brown rice. Take it to go or enjoy it right away.
Can you tell that we had a good time? What are your favourite places on Maui? I think it’s safe to say that we’d go again in a heartbeat!