Going to Maui

While I’ve travelled around the US, I’ve never really done a real deal tropical vacation and I’ve always wanted to. My girlfriend has vacation time that goes away if she doesn’t use it in the next month, and we’re both fully vaccinated. Travel is picking up again, but other than rental car prices (because companies downsized their fleets last year) everything is still relatively cheap. So it seemed like the perfect opportunity to afford a vacation I might not otherwise be able to. We’re going at the end of the month.

We will be staying in a condo we rented in mid-north Kihei for 8 days. We’ve got a rental car locked up, which is rather important because there are literally no rental cars available in Maui - when they pop up, it’s for like $700/day. People are renting u-haul vans just to get around, no joke. I really wanted to get a convertible because Maui seems like the best place on Earth to have one, but prices made that impractical - I was lucky to get a compact car at a reasonable price.

I am very excited about the amazing road trips in Maui. We plan on doing the road to Hana, obviously, down past Hana into the bamboo forests and freshwater pools, then we’ll turn around and go the other way. We’ll probably make it an all day thing and see some of the waterfalls, black and beaches, etc. I personally would rather take the long way around the south end of the island, completing the loop - the very questionable death road rock slide no guard rail blind turn way - but that’s probably a violation of the rental car agremeent and no go with the girlfriend.

We’ll be going up the road to Haleakala, although we’re undecided about doing it in the morning (limited reservatons, leaving at like 4am, driving up the mountain in darkness, but supposed to amazing) or later in the day.

There’s also the far less mentioned northwest road (routes 30 and 340) that actually looks better than the road to Hana to me, even though the latter is way more famous. There’s a lot more coast on that road, and open sweeping views - Hana is mostly jungle. There’s a section of 340 that is one lane with only occasional spaces to pull over to allow someone to pass, and places with no guard rails where the edge of the road is about a foot away from a steep cliff. That is also probably a no go with the girlfriend. But I plan on driving most of it, probably to the Olivine pools, and turning around.

Other than those things, we have few plans. I plan to just sort of explore and see what we like. Visit dozens of beaches, snorkel in places that are good for snorkeling, maybe hike a bit, cliff dive, walk around the towns. We’re leaning towards taking some sort of snorkel boat tour, probably one of the ones that visits the molokini crater and whatever else the captain thinks will be good that day. Maybe a sunset dinner cruise sort of thing, too.

I’m leaning towards getting a good photography drone and I’ll have a camera too, so these will be a part of the activities. I won’t bother other people with the drone - it’s a pretty quiet drone and I’ll fly it high enough that no one really notices.

So I’m looking for ideas, experiences, advice. Best places to snorkel, hidden things off the beaten path, advice for road trips, anything you want to share.

If you do the sunrise on Haleakala: there are tour outfits that will drive you up there and then give you a one-speed bike to ride down, with the 40-ish mile trip ending at the beach in Pa’ia town. Since you’re basically going from 10,000 feet to sea level on that ride, there isn’t much pedaling at all. They provide a lunch about halfway down the mountain, and you get some amazing views of the island on the way down.

We also did the snorkeling trip to Molokini (actually our trip was SNUBA, with a certified SCUBA diver controlling our tanks for us), that trip was fun but crowded. That is another activity you want to do as early in the day as possible, as the water gets cloudy as the day goes on and more tourists visit.

If you decide to do the sunrise thing, try to do it on your first day there. You’ll be jet-lagged and probably awake then anyway.

Be aware that the weather at the top of Haleakala can be unpredictable. We tried to go up at sunrise, the weather was fine at the lower elevations, but the peak was enveloped in a cloud which made visibility basically zero and made it cold and drizzly up there. Went back up during the day a few days later and the weather was fine. There is a number you can call for current conditions, IIRC, and probably a website by now (I was there like 16 years ago).

Lahaina is a fun town to visit.
The best pineapple I’ve ever eaten was from a roadside vendor there!

I was in Hawaii in '91 for the ecliipse (“The Big One”), and spent over a week on Maui. I also stayed in Kihei, and you’re lucky, it’s such a central location to everything.

When I was there, I rented a Jeep. Lots of fun.

You’ll love the Road to Hana, both ways. I went beyond Hana, but it’s much less spectacular. Pretty much a waste of time.

Don’t forget beautiful Iao Valley with Iao Needle.

Definitely get up early and catch the sunrise from the rim of Haleakala. It’s different every day. But don’t forget to bring a blanket, it’ll be cold. Follow that with a bike ride down from the rim (book in advance). And if you have time, hike down into the crater. It’s like being on Mars. Also be up there at sunset, to watch the stars come out. You’ll see a spectacular display of the Milky Way.

Since I was there, they’ve built the Maui Ocean Center, a beautiful collection of aquariums.

There’s also whale watching in western Maui, depending on when you’re there.

Not sure about your drone idea. It may be illegal.

My favorite beaches on Maui are Makena and Wailea. You can see the Molokini crater and Kahoolawe island from there and swim with sea turtles on just about any day of the year. The south shore is my favorite area and I had once planned to retire there… but that didn’t quite work out.

Seriously? O’heo Gulch? Lindbergs grave (with chimpanzees!)? I found that stretch idyllic. It gets boring around Kaupo but the road back around the volcano is pretty darn scenic up until you round the shoulder into Upcountry, then it’s just farmland.

OP: I’ve been to Maui maybe 6-7 times. I had a friend with a house in Kipahulu*, but it’s been a while. Back in the day, this guy’s site was pretty essential. Seriously, great guide. I did do the 30/340 drive, and it was okay, not amazing. Not the same as being in the lee of a 10,000 foot volcano on the road to Hana, that’s just more mystical IMO.

*If you pass a sign past Hana that says “baby pigs crossing”, that’s where the house was. There may be peacocks about.

Also do pack a wool cap for each of you for the top of Haleakala. You probably won’t need them, but I remember one summit trip when I had tons of layers and gusty 40F wind was giving me a terrible altitude headache. Do plan to bundle up, but don’t neglect details.

When we did the road to Hana (many long years ago, 1992) your rental car insurance wouldn’t cover any damage you got on that trip. Maybe it’s changed by now, or maybe your own car insurance would fill the gap, just a note to make note of.

As for the drive itself, it’s probably great if you aren’t the one who has to drive. I hated it.

When I went to the main island 3 years ago the car rental company was SUPER explicit about the places I couldn’t take my car since the rental place wouldn’t cover it if anything happened there. It was all off-road or generally less taken care of roads.

That hasn’t been the case for many years. The Kaupo road was verboten but my understanding is no longer.

What did you hate? I left early each time and enjoyed it thoroughly. But I was doing it sans traffic each time. Soaring cliffs, multiple waterfalls, black sand beaches.

I hated driving it. I felt like I couldn’t relax for a minute, with the one-lane road and a lot of curves and turns so you couldn’t see when a car was coming. There was some time pressure because we needed to be back before dark, and we didn’t know how long the drive would take both ways. This is how I remember it, 29 years ago.

Yeah, I could see that. The Hana road is one of those “the journey is the destination” drives. If you actually want to get there (and aren’t liking the drive) it would be frustrating.

FWIW, only the bridges are 1 way, the rest of the Hana road is 2 way.

Regarding the Road to Hana: At the beginning you’ll stop at every picturesque waterfall and take pictures. After a while, you’ll get to the point of saying “Ho-hum, another picturesque waterfall. Think I’ll just keep driving.”

But it was fun anyway. Especially in a Jeep.

It sounds like the road was much different back when you drove it, it’s much more developed now. Modern two lane, well kept pavement, although there are something around 30 one-lane bridges where you have to take turns. The “back way” to Hana along the south is much more like that, with some unprotected cliff side drops, very rough pavement, almost offroad, rockslides, one lane sections, etc. People generally don’t travel that route and simply come down the northern route and turn back at the end.

Some of the reviews/guides still suggest it’s a bit of an ordeal for some people. There are something like 670 curves in 35 miles, and some people think that’s exhausting. It’s even recommended to bring dramamine for some people. That sounds fun to me, though, I love driving interesting roads.

59 actually according to the internets, though my recollection was 52. Which is no big deal if you leave early; there’s nobody coming the other direction and you just breeze through. That said, the bridges are where all the waterfalls are so you may just pull over off the bridge and explore. It all depends on whether it was raining on the volcano recently, which is what feeds the waterfalls. Anyway, budget a very long day full of amazing things. If it were me I’d circumnavigate the volcano rather than do the return trip toward Kahului, but I really like driving. Or even better I’d find an AirBnB near Hana and just take my time and chill over a couple of days in that area. It’s remote and beautiful. Who needs resorts?

My family and I were in Maui for a week at the end of March. Travel there is picking up due to the restrictions on having a negative test to enter the state. The great thing about Hawaii is that the weather there is fairly consistent year round. We stayed in the Wailea area.

We spent one day to go to Hana. We went there across the north shore, and had lunch in Hana. Not too many restaurants there, but there are few food truck options in little parks. There are also no public bathrooms in Hana, with the exception at a skate park just as you are coming into Hana. Much of the highway across the north shore has been repaved in the last couple of years, but there are still several sections that it narrows down to one lane, especially the 30-40 one lane bridges that you will need to cross. Be prepared to use your horn as you go around blind curves on narrow sections.

We did the whole loop back across the south shore of the island. There are some sections, about 10-15 miles that hasn’t seen new gravel in about 30-40 years. But you don’t need a 4WD to get through them. The south shore has some very beautiful vistas as well. Less jungle, more cattle grazing land. You will need to plan for a whole day for the Hana trip, and still be able to get back before nightfall.

I would pass on the sunrise over the volcano combo bike ride. The sunrise is way overrated. There are some bike tour guides that will do just a morning ride down. We did the tour with: mauibombers.com. The owner and primary guide is named Matt. They are the only bike tour company that provide you with a real standard bike helmet. For some reason all of the rest of the bike tour companies provide you with a motorcycle helmet.

Since you are planning on staying Kihei, plan to get lunch one day at the Outrigger Pizza Company, which is basically a food truck/trailer in a parking lot. Ranks up there in my top 5 pizza I’ve ever had. It was featured on the Food Networks, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

That’s the unique info I have to offer. Have fun!

The “back way” from Hana down south is perfectly fine. It’s smooth-paved, a little hilly, but there is NO gravel roads or anything. It’s rather dull, and you end up in Upcountry, not Wailea, so you’ll have to drive basically all the way to Pukalani and Kahului to get back to Kihei.

Speaking of which, our timeshare is in north Kihei. I recommend trying out Shaka Sandwich and Pizza. Another restaurant I never skip is Paia Fish Market. And, don’t laugh, if you want a bit of a budget food option, try the Kalua Pork burrito at Taco Bell (if it’s still on the menu).

Glad to hear there is a northern route now, when we went there was only one route, the southern route, now apparently referred to as the “back way.” And Hana was basically a dead end, so we had to turn around and come back the same way on the same day.

We have spent some time at a condo in the Napili area, between Kaanapali and Kapalua. It is a fairly low-key neighborhood sandwiched between two better-known resort areas. West Maui is really nice, and to circle-drive it is a good half-day commitment, rather than the full-day adventure going around to Hana. Less traffic, too. Still, lots of steep, narrow road sections, but spectacular views everywhere.

As mentioned, do not hesitate to stop at road-side fruit/food stands. Locals will be selling banana bread and fresh fruits. Be sure to get the little apple-bananas, mangoes, papaya, huge avocados, and the smaller pineapples they are offering - you cannot get this stuff as good on the mainland. Bring a roll of paper towels, cutting board, and a large knife on your drives, because you never know what you may get at these road-side fruit stands.