Updated: Sep 28, 2020
A few months ago, I posted some travel information for Nepal. A friend, said to me, "The heck with Nepal. I want to go to Maui!" And, maybe you do too!
I lived on Oahu, Hawaii, for almost 12 years. I was lucky to work for American Express Travel which afforded me the opportunity to learn about and visit the major islands of Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii. When I lived there, travel to Lanai and Molokai was practically non-existent, but in the past 20 years, tourism has expanded quite a bit to these two remote islands and are perfect for those who really want to "get away."
But this blog is just about Maui. While hotel expansion has increased significantly over the years, the reasons why people travel to Maui are still the same; to drive the beautiful, lush, Hana road, view the sunrise from Haleakala Crater and to enjoy the pristine beaches of Kaanapali and Wailea.
The Road to Hana. First, rent a jeep. That way you won't have to worry if you start down a road that isn't paved. Second, start early. Find out what time the hotel pickups are for the tours and leave an hour (or more) before that. You don't want to be behind a van, or worse a bus, that just dropped off 50 passengers. Third, get a good guide book. I recommend Maui Revealed. Along the route there are lots of vista points and overlooks where everyone stops. We loved Maui Revealed because it would say things like, "After the second turn in the road, you'll see Hwy Marker #2. Just past that is a small dirt road. Turn right." We found amazing waterfalls, black sand beaches and scenic views that were mostly populated with people who had the same book!
It's hard not to make too many stops, but if you want to continue all the way around the backside of Haleakala Crater then you want to get to Hana by 1:00 pm or so. If you decide to turn around and go back the way you came, you want to do that before the parade of vans and busses make the drive exceeding slow. Hana's a good place to have lunch if you didn't bring your own. I noticed that all of the rental car maps still tell you NOT to drive the backside of Haleakala, from Kipahulu to Makena. I drove this route in a sedan (which wasn't the best idea) back in 1974, again in a jeep in 2004 and again in a sedan, in 2012. It has improved quite a bit with long stretches that are paved or hard-packed tar or dirt. From Kipahulu to Nuu (see map) is the roughest, as it winds along a rocky, dirt road. If you do breakdown, rental companies will not assist and you will be in violation of your rental car agreement. I also wouldn't attempt it during or right after any intense rain.
The scenery on the backside is very different from anywhere else on the island and we found some hidden gems (thanks to our guide book). I noticed that an internet source said there were no waterfalls on this side of Maui, but they obviously didn't have a Maui Revealed guide book, which led us to a gorgeous waterfall just a 20 min walk from the main highway. Huialoha Church and Pound Rock Beach are also great stops along the way. It's a long trek and you want to get around before nightfall as there are no lights on the road until you get to Makena.
Photos: Huialoha Church, Pound Rock Beach, trail to an unnamed waterfall, drier, volcanic terrain, tarred road for much of the trip, majestic scenery (but get around before the sun goes down!)
Another, "do not drive" route is the road (Hwy 340) between Honokohau (north of Kapalua) and Wailuku. This route is paved but does include winding and narrow lanes with little room to pass should you encounter another car coming the other way.The best way to go is from Kaanapali to Kahului, not the other way around. Without stopping it will take about two hours. The scenery is unique and stunning and there are a few points of interest along the way: Honokohau Bay, Nakalele Blow Hole and the remote village of Kahakuloa with its old church and fishing houses that look over the bay. Since the road is paved, you don't need a Jeep, but a confident driver is suggested in the event you meet up with a car coming the other way on one of the narrow sections. There are no lights, so don't do this drive at night or in rainy weather. Doing this might violate your rental car agreement, so again, be forewarned; if you break down you're on your own.
Photos: Scenes from Hwy 340.
This map shows the two "do not drive" areas on Maui.
Watching the sunrise from the top of Haleakala crater is worth the early morning wake-up call. Sunrise during the summer starts about 5:30am and in the winter, 6:45am. You'll need to allow at least 2 1/2 hours, depending on where you are starting from, plus add another 1/2 hour for parking and getting situated. You won't be alone. When they tell you it will be cold, count on it. Most people don't want to bring a heavy jacket to Hawaii just for the few hours you will need it at the summit, but the experience is worth it and you don't want to ruin it because you are shivering the entire time. If you take a guided tour you can nod off on the long drive to the summit, not have to hassle with parking and actually learn something along the way.
TIP: Important note for 2018 and beyond! You can no longer self-drive to the summit between 0300 and 0700. You now need reservations and they are extremely limited. Please go here to see how to you can reserve your spot, but don't put it off. It is not unusual for reservations to be sold out an entire summer in advance. At this time you do not need reservations to view the sunset, but note; you will be driving down in the dark and there are no lights along the way.
There are dozens (and dozens) of hotels and condos in Kaanapali, Wailea, Kihei and Makena of varying prices and levels of luxury. The most affordable are probably the condos and B & B's in the Kihei area. Consider booking with a travel agent (me!) to get the best deal. Last year I booked a friend to Maui for 10 days in a condominium, oceanfront, on Kaanapali Beach, with airfare and a rental car. To prove my point, I researched all the same properties, airfare and rental car on Orbitz and was actually able to save her over $600.
There is so much to see and do on every island and each is unique and beautiful in its own way. Inter-island flights are affordable and take no longer than 30 - 40 minutes. Let me help you make your island dreams come true!
Click here to contact me for more information!
Above: Sunrise over Haleakala from Maalaea Harbor and sunset over the island of Lanai, from Lahaina.
Below, the four most popular beaches: Kaanapali Beach, Wailea Beach, Makena Beach and Kanaha Beach Park. Photos: Hawaii Magazine .com, Maui Information Guide .com, Wikipedia, Maui Guide Book .com,
COVID-19 Update: Hawaii has been under strict quarantine policies for months. As of September, 2020, there are whispers of baby steps being taken to allow visitors back to the islands. Most involve providing negative Covid tests taken within 72 hours of boarding. Click here for current travel restrictions and bookings for 2021 and beyond!