My husband and I flew directly into the Kahului Airport on Maui, Hawaii from Los Angeles. We used Delta Skymiles to book our round trip for free. The flight took about five hours in air. The flight went by pretty quickly; we watched two movies and had breakfast on the plane.
Since we had many activities planned throughout the island, we rented a Mustang Convertible from Avis. We used some of my Avis Preferred rental car points to get the rate down lower. We wanted the convertible so that we could put the top down and enjoy the island sun, ocean breeze, and sounds of nature. This definitely enhanced our journey on the Road to Hana (which I will get to soon).
Iao Valley State Park
The Iao Valley State Park is located in the northern part of the island, only 20 minutes away from the airport. It costs $5 dollars for parking to get into the park, or you can park just outside of the park for free (but I recommend paying the money to give back to the State of Hawaii). The park is apparently often closed after it rains, so make sure to check the Hawaii DLNR website to see if it is open. We walked the Ioa Needle trail, which is a 0.6 mile loop that is mostly paved and has 130 steps. The Ioa Valley is full of luscious green trees in the mountains with waterfalls. Many of the local Hawaiian’s were swimming in the pools of the stream, and they were jumping off the rocks doing cannon balls to create large waves. It was fun to watch. Additionally, the trails have signs to offer a history lesson for why the Iao Valley is so important to Maui.
Wow Wow Lemonade
We also stopped Wow Wow Lemonade for lunch and had amazing acai and pitaya bowls. I had a Da Kine Acai Bowl with a base of Organic Acai, Banana, Organic Blueberry & Strawberry, Coconut Milk, and topped with Organic Granola, Banana, Strawberry, Cacao Nibs, Organic Hemp Seeds, Organic Coconut shreds, Local Honey, and Raw Pono Cacao Custard. Mike had Mauka Pitaya Bowl with a base of Organic Pitaya, Banana, Strawberry, Coconut Milk and topped with Organic Granola, Banana, Strawberry, Blueberry, Organic Coconut Shreds, and Local Honey.
The shop is known for their hand crafted lemonades that they serve in reusable mason jars. We came back another day to get a raspberry pineapple lemonade and acai, banana, blueberry smoothie, and both were delicious as well.
Finally, we stopped at a Safeway grocery store in Kihei to pick up a case of waterbottles and some snacks for our trip. We always drink so much water, so it is nice to save a little and not have to buy them over priced from the hotel or gas stations. We also picked up some local Maui beer and some local Maui Pineapple wine. They were both very good!
We also used my Marriott Points to book a free hotel room. We wanted to stay in Wailea, which is one of the resort areas of the island. We loved the area because the beaches are so beautiful, and you can walk from resort to resort. There are also many dining spots nearby. We tried to stay at the Wailea Beach Marriott, but they did not have any rooms left where I could use my points for a free trip, so we stayed at the Residence Inn Marriott right across the street using points for 5 free nights (Marriott has a deal if you use 4 nights worth of points, you get the 5th night free for no additional points).
Residence Inn Marriott
The Residence Inn Marriott was a very new and modern hotel. We were upgraded to a one bedroom suite with a view of the pool and ocean, which was very nice! One good thing about staying at the Residence Inn over the Marriott is that the Residence Inn has free breakfast; however, since I am platinum, I would have received free breakfast anyways. Also, the Marriott makes you pay a $30 dollar resort fee every day, so we did not have to pay that either.
Wailea Beach Marriott
After we got settled and cleaned up, we headed over to the Wailea Beach Marriott to check out the property. The Wailea Beach Marriott was only 0.5 miles away, however, the Residence Inn Marriott had a free shuttle that brought us over to the hotel, which was very nice since it was so hot and humid out! We got drinks at the outdoor pool bar called KAPA Bar & Grill. I had a Lava Flow, which is a pina coloda with strawberry mixed in. Mike had a delicious drink as well called a key lime freeze that had patron, amaretto, coconut, and lime in it. Both were delicious, and we enjoyed the beautiful view. We also randomly met a family that is from the same town in Michigan as Mike; very small world.
We walked to the Grand Wailea Resort for dinner. We showed up a little early, so we explored the beautiful grounds for a little, and got a drink at the bar inside. The waiter was very nice and taught us how to say the name of the restaurant that we were eating at; Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, which is two repeating words with one after: humu humu nuku nuku apua’a. At the restaurant, we had a table overlooking the ocean, and we were able to watch the most beautiful sunset. We ordered the Seasonal Ulu “Risotto”, which is made with butternut, truffle, and parmesan, as well as the Crispy Mahi Mahi with forbidden purple rice, fried brussels sprouts, jalapeño, and orange & lychee Sauce. Both were SO delicious.
Haleakala National Park
We woke up bright and early at 3:00AM to drive to Haleakala National Park to watch the sunrise on the top of the Haleakala volcano. It took us an hour and a half to get to the top, and we had to drive up many switchbacks in the complete darkness. The National Park Service only allows a certain amount of cars up every morning to watch the sunrise, and you must book a reservation online prior to driving up in the morning, or they will turn you back once you get to the ranger station. You can book your reservation here for $1.50.
Make sure you dress warmly for this experience, as it was only 40 degrees Fahrenheit, while it was 60 degrees at the bottom of the mountain. I knew that I needed to dress warm, and I was still not prepared for how cold it was. When we visited, the sun peaked at 6:20AM, however at 5:45AM it was already starting to get light, and people were lined up across the ledge to get the best spots. Mike and I actually stood in the visitor center doorway for warmth, and they opened at 6:00AM. We went inside and watched the sunrise from the warmth inside (I would recommend doing that as well!). I did step outside during part of the sunrise to snap some photos, and the park rangers and locals were singing the Lovely Sunrise Haleakalā chant: “He nani he beauty maoli nō. Oh, lovely sunrise Haleakalā.” It was my favorite part of the experience. After the sunrise was over, we walked towards the Sliding Sands Trail, that is 4 miles long, but we did not hike the trail. We just looked at how it looks like you are on Mars, but we were too cold and wanted to get back to the warmth at the bottom of the volcano.
Maui’s Gold Pineapple Plantation
In the afternoon, we went on a Pineapple Farm Tour at Maui Gold Pineapple Plantation and then a Pineapple Distillery Tour at the Hali’imaile Distilling company. You can book the tour here.
First, we toured the pineapple fields on an air conditioned bus to see the different stages of the pineapple growth. After we got to see what the different stages of pineapple looked like, we stopped in the middle of the field to try three of the juiciest pineapples with different ripeness’s. It was crazy how sweet the pineapples tasted, and there was no sour after taste at all. We also saw the workers harvesting the pineapple; it looks like an extremely tough job, and I would not want to do that in the Maui heat and humidity. After the tour of the fields, we received a tour of the facility where they box and store the pineapples. At the end of the tour, each person got to take home two pineapples.
After that, we went on a tour of the Hali’imaile Distilling Company, which uses the Pineapples from the Pineapple Plantation, and other local ingredients (e.g. sugar) to create authentic Hawaiian spirits:
- Pau Maui Vodka – only vodka in the world to be made from pineapples
- Paniolo Blended Whiskey – and flavors including Brown Sugar, Coffee, and Chocolate Coconut
- Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum – developed for rocker Sammy Hagar
- Maui Moon Flavored Vodkas – Pineapple-Orange-Guava, Chocolate/Macadamia Nut.
We went on a guided tour of the distillery, and then each person got to choose 3 tastings of over 10 different spirits, and we received a complimentary shot glass as a gift, and 10% off of any of the merchandise in their retail store. I bought myself a really cute shirt that said Aloha, and the O was a pineapple.
After the tours, we headed over to Paia town to kill some time before our dinner reservation later in the evening. Paia is a really cute little “hippy” town on the North Shore, and it has a bunch of boutiques for shopping. The town has a very laid back surfer vibe, and it feels like more of a local town than the other resort towns like Wailea where we are staying. We also stopped by Baldwin beach to watch the surfers. One of my friends from Michigan State actually just moved to Paia town for a month, so we were able to visit her too, which was a real treat!
Ululani’s Hawaiian Shaved Ice
Speaking of treats, while we were in Paia town, we stopped at the famous Ululani’s Hawaiian Shaved Ice store. There are many of these stores on the island, and I heard so many great things about it, so I knew we had to stop! They have a large selection of artificial dye free flavors, and you can even get ice cream in the bottom of your shaved ice too. I ordered the banana nut ice cream with strawberry and coconut flavors on top of my shaved ice; it was amazing, and the shaved ice was so thin that it tasted creamy!
Mama’s Fish House
Almost every person that I told that I was going to Maui said that we had to eat dinner at Mama’s Fish house. We booked a reservation on OpenTable for 5:15, so that we would still be around for the sunset at 6:15PM. The cute little beach front restaurant mixes old Hawaiian charm with a fine dining experience; the menu items are very expensive, but they were very delicious and worth it. The couple at the table next to us was celebrating their 45th anniversary, and they had been to the restaurant 25 years prior. They are most known for their Mama’s Stuffed Fish, which is a white fish stuffed with crab and lobster. Mike ordered it and said it was absolutely delicious and worth every penny.
Road to Hana
We spent the majority of our third day driving the Road to Hana. We left the hotel at 5:30AM, and we were told that you should turn back no later than 2:00PM because the sunsets around 6:00PM, and you do not want to be stuck there in the dark. It can take anywhere from 3-6 hours one way.
The Road to Hana is a rode that is 65 miles long with a narrow and windy road with over 600 hairpin turns along sharp mountain cliffs, through the jungle, across multiple one way bridges, and past many waterfalls. During the drive, you pass many rainbow euculyptas trees, bamboo forest, black and red sand beaches, multiple waterfalls, and many little pop up food stands. Some of the things that you want to see are pretty hidden, so it is best to plan what you REALLY want to see. There is also an app that I read about called the Road to Hana that you can buy for $5, and it will tell you what is coming up on your drive (we did not purchase this, but every where I saw it during my research, it had really good reviews).
Tips: make sure to fill up on gas in Paia town before you get on the road because there are no gas stations along the way. Also, make sure to have some cash on you because the many food stands only accept cash. Additionally, be sure to dress for hiking because you will be getting out of the car and moving a lot (some of the hikes are pretty long too if you are interested!). Also, bring a bathing suit; many people were swimming in the waterfalls and at the beaches. Finally, know the etiquette rules of the road; many people did not, and it was very annoying at times: 1) when crossing the one-lane bridge, alternate between oncoming and going traffic, 2) during a one-lane hairpin turn where you cannot see oncoming traffic, honk so you don’t crash.
Planning the stops: Below are the stops that we went to (and a few that we didn’t go to but are very popular. Our original plan was to drive to the end of the road and then make the stops on our way back, but since we had such an early start, the majority of the parking area or pull outs were not crowded, so we decided to do the stops in order.
- Twin Falls Trail (Mile 2): Twin Falls Trail is a 1.5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail that features a waterfall and is good for all skill levels. We did not stop here because it was still too early in the morning and not bright out yet.
- Rainbow Eucalyptus trees (Mile 7): Just before the 7 mile marker, the road is lined with beautiful, tall rainbow eucalyptus trees. This was my first time ever seeing such cool trees, so I had to stop to get out of the car to take a look. There are many other opportunities to see these trees on the trail if you miss this stop.
- Ho’okipa lookout (Mile 9): We stopped here for a minute to lookout at the beautiful bay. This area is known for its windsurfing.
- Garden of Eden Arboretum (Mile 10): This garden is open from 8:00AM – 4:00PM daily. When we drove past, it was too early so we did not stop, however, this is where the opening scene of Jurassic Park was famously shot. I think that would have been pretty cool to check out! They have over 500 species in this garden, so I am sure it is a beautiful place to stop. It also costs $15 per person to get in.
- Kaumahina State Wayside Park (Mile 12): We stopped here to use the restrooms. There is also a beautiful view of the water, and there are a few picnic tables and trails.
- Honomanu Bay (Mile 14): There are only a few parking spots to view the bay. It was a beautiful view for a quick very stop.
- Ke’anae Arboretum (Mile 16): There are not a lot of parking spaces here, but it is worth stopping to see the beautiful botanical garden. There are gigantic bamboo shoots, a little stream, and beautiful rainbow eucalyptus trees. We walked all the way down the path until it ends to enjoy banana tress and other beautiful plants. We really enjoyed this beautiful and peaceful walk.
- Halfway to Hana Stand (Mile 17): We stopped at the Halfway to Hana stand on the side of the road to get some freshly made banana bread, fresh coconut, and some fresh pineapple. They have a variety of other snacks as well.
- Wailua Valley State Wayside (Mile 18): Just past the Halfway to Hana stop is the Wailua Overlook. We stopped here to eat our snacks and have a little picnic. There are only a few parking spots, but it is worth climbing the short set of stairs to see the overview of several waterfalls (that were dried out, but we could see where they would be) and the Haleakala crater to the west, and the bay to the east.
- Upper Waikani Falls [a.k.a. three bear falls] (Mile 19): This is another quick stop with bad parking, but it was a beautiful waterfall. Since we left so early in the morning, we were able to park and walk/run down to the bridge to view and enjoy the falls.
- Pua’a Kaa State Wayside Park (Mile 22): We stopped here to use the restrooms again. There is a picnic area for people to have lunch here too. There is also a beautiful, and quite large waterfall. Some people were putting on their bathing suits to climb down and swim in the falls. On our way back, this area was packed!
- Hanawi Falls (Mile 24): We quickly stopped here to view waterfalls. There is very limited parking. At first we only saw one waterfall, but then we saw the other one as well, and we were pleasantly surprised.
- Hana Harvest (Mile 26): On our way to Hana, we stopped at Hana Harvest to grab some more coffee. It was a very cute little shop with lots of coffee, some gifts (e.g. handmade soaps), and a smoothie stand as well. They also have food available, and free wifi.
- Nahiku MarketPlace (Mile 29): We stopped at this cute little market on our way back. There are many different food options including tacos, fish, Thai, BBQ, fresh Coconuts, and others. We got one plate of Thai and one BBQ to split. There is also a coffee and tea store, and a cute little souvenir shop.
- Kahanu Garden (Mile 31): We drove down Ula’ino Road to stop at the Kahanu National Botanical Garden, which costs $10 per person to enter. The garden is on the land of Honoma’ele, and it is to the Pi’ilanihale Heiau, which is a massive ancient man made lava-rock structure. It was very beautiful and interesting to walk around the Garden to learn more about the area. They offer guided tours, but we opted to do a self your with a brochure to explain the different stops. There are also beautiful views of the ocean.
- Hana Lava Tube [a.k.a. Ka’eleku Cave] (Mile 31): We also stopped at the lava tube, which was surprisingly probably my favorite part of the whole drive. It is also down Ula’ino Road, and it is only open from 10:30am to 4:00pm (so we went to the garden first, and the lava tube was open by the time we were done). It cost $12.50 per person, but it was definitely worth it. They give you a flashlight, and then you head down into the 1/2 mile long lava tube. Definitely watch your step! I was not using a flash light at first and slipped. There were only a few other people in the cavern, and for the most part, we were walking through it by ourselves. The lava tubes were formed when the massive lava flows cooled on the surface forming an insulating conduit for the lava flowing underneath. Part of the lava tube looked like chocolate! They also have a garden maize for the kids. We definitely enjoyed this unique experience.
- Wai’anapanapa State Park (Mile 32): This is definitely a must see stop as well. The black sand beach is so beautiful and unique, and there are also sea caves. The views from above are great, but it is also worth walking down to the black sand beach to see the sand and get in the water. The beach was very packed by the time we got there, but it was still worth checking out.
- Hana Town / Red Sand Beach (Mile 34): We stopped at the Hana Bay Beach Park looking for the Red Sand Beach. Hana Town is actually a cute little town with bed and breakfast spots, restaurants, a police station, and other stores. We could not find the red sand beach, but all we needed to do was go a little further down the Uakea road. We did not have phone service anywhere on the Road to Hana, so we could not look up where it actually was. The pictures look so beautiful, so I would recommend checking it out if you can!
- Seven Sacred Pools [Kpahulu Visitor Center] (Mile 42): 12 miles past Hana Town are the Seven Sacred Pools Oheo Gulch, also known as the Kuloa Point Trail. We did not continue on past Hana, but this is a very popular spot, and I wish we would have gone further.
- Pipiwai trail – Bamboo Forest and Waimoku Falls (Mile 42): This 3.4 mile trail is another popular spot on the road to Hana. It was our original goal to go here to do the hike through the bamboo forest to see the Waimoku Falls, however, my knees were hurting me too badly from the other hikes.
- Wailua Falls (Mile 45): Finally, many people consider the Wailua Falls the perfect falls because they are so tall and beautiful.
Maui Brewing Company
For dinner, we went to the Maui Brewing Company in Kihei, which was really close to our hotel. They have a very large facility, restaurant, and outdoor gardens. They had a really fun vibe with live music, and of course lots of beer.
Sunrise Beachfront Yoga
Every day at 7:30AM, Maui Yoga has a sunrise beach front yoga class at the Ulua Beach Park in Wailea. Mike and I both took the class, and I really enjoyed it. I brought a large blanket, and Mike brought a beach towel. Mike did not enjoy it as much because his towel was too small, so he got sand all over, and he also said he had bugs crawling on him. I, on the other hand, had an amazing time flowing to some light vinyasa listening to the waves of the ocean.
After Yoga, we had amazing massages in our room from Na Alii Maui Massage. The massages were $85 per person, but it was actually cheaper than going to any of the locations that were nearby. We also loved being in the comfort of our own room. We both had the Lomilomi traditional Hawaiian massage that connects the heart, mind, body and soul. I would highly recommend getting a massage by them towards the end of your trip (or even right when you get there).
Maui Tropical Plantation
The Maui Tropical Plantation offers a tour of the grounds that include pineapple, various palms, papaya, banana, ti leaf, starfruit, jackfruit, coconut, coffee, various heliconia, plumeria, kukui nut, sugarcane, sweet potato, ulu, chard, herbs, lettuces, corn, mango, avocado, macadamia nut, rambutan, tangerine, sunflowers and more. They have a restaurant called the Mill House with a five star chef. We got coffee and the best kombucha and walked around the grounds.
Lahaina Banyan Tree
The tree was initially one 8 foot tree, but now it is over 60 feet and has over 16 major trunks. When we were there, they were having an art show under the tree where locals were selling very unique and cool pieces of art.
Feast of Lele
We went to a Luau in Lahaini called the Feast of Lele. Prior to us arriving on Maui, many people told us that going to a Luau is not really worth it. We actually had an amazing time, and we would highly recommend anyone coming here for this wonderful feast and show. When you arrive, you are greated with a MaiTai cocktain and a fresh flower lei (they must go through so many flowers!). We had a five course dinner, with five different dances. We also had unlimited drinks all night!
- First Course – Hawaii
- Second Course – New Zealand
- Third Course – Tahiti
- Fourth Course – Samoa
- Fifth Course – Fire Dancing and Dessert
Snorkel/Snuba Trip to Molokini
On our final day of the trip, we did a snorkel trip to Molokini with Sail Trilogy. We met at the Maalaea Harbor, and set off to the Molokini Crater, which is one of the very few volcanic inlets in the world. We ended up upgrading to snuba diving instead of snorking, which is like scuba diving, however, the tank is on a raft floating at the surface. It took is a little bit to get used to it, but it ended up being SO MUCH FUN! It was definitely worth it as I would have never been able to swims so deep with just a snorkel. Right when we jumped in the water, we saw four sharks right below us. We also swam with Manta Rays, Green Hawaiian Sea Turtles, lots of coral and algae, and many types of fish.
The crew on the boat was great, and they had so much fun doing their jobs which added to the experience. We received a delicious breakfast of their special cinnamon rolls, fresh fruit, brewed Kona coffee, tea, hot cocoa & pineapple juice. For lunch, we received a large meal as well: teriyaki grilled chicken, salad, luau rice, and Hawaiian sweet rolls. We also had unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. We had an amazing first time snorkeling/snubaing.
Dinner at MonkeyPod
MonkeyPod is a hip restaurant with a menu for foodies and craft beer lovers. We had delicious Pumpkin Patch Ravioli, Hamakua Wild Mushroom & Truffle Oil Pizza, and Strawberry Pie. We were very sun burnt and tired from the snorkeling, so we ate very quickly, but I would love to go back again sometime.
Maui Wine – Ulupalakua Vineyards
We wanted to go to Maui Wine for the pineapple wine tasting, however, we ended up not having enough time to do it. They offer a free tour at 1:30PM, and tastings are $10-$15 for a flight of 5 wines.