A March 2002 trip
to Maui by Gwilym Owen
Quote: The only Hawai’ian island named after a god, Maui lives up to this pedigree as the perfect tropical paradise. Even the Hawaiians say, ‘Maui no ka oi’ ("Maui is the best"). Legend has it Maui created the Hawaiian Islands when he pulled them up from the ocean with his fishhook.
Haleakala on the other hand is a shield volcano whose vast mass imposes its presence on more than three quarters of the island. Here you can make the pilgrimage to watch the sunrise in the ‘House of the Sun', or gaze in awe at its lunar landscape.
Upcountry Maui is a district of cool climates and sleepy rural towns like the old cowboy town of Makawao with its thriving craft scene, and home to the tedeschi Winery – one of only two in all Hawai’i.
For the adventurous, there is the winding coastal road to Hana that passes dozens of waterfalls on its route to the wild side of the island. On the way is Paia, a surfer’s town close to Hookipa Beach – one of the premier surf spots in the World.
Maui is also World famous for Humpback whale watching in Ma’alea Bay. These visitors winter in the warm protected Hawaiian waters to mate and calve.
The two main tourist areas are centred on Kaanapali and Kihei, which are fairly generic. That said their facilities are excellent, especially for families. I stayed in Kahului, which although nothing special was reasonably priced for accommodation with plenty of cheap places for food. Another advantage was that being central, no destination on the island was too far away.
For Maui culture, I recommend the Old Lahaina Lu’au; however it’s extremely popular and booked weeks in advance! We settled for the Maui Marriott Lu’au, which was still excellent.
An amazing thing you can do on Maui is go on a whale watch and see these awesome beasts in the wild. In my opinion the best place to do this is Ma’alaea Bay where the Pacific Whale Foundation sails. These guys are not for profit and plough the proceeds straight back into the whales' protection.
Most of the road system is single lane and traffic jams can happen during the ‘rush hour’, this can get particularly bad in the valley.
Maui has spectacular drives: The Road to Hana, (Hwy 360) a wild cliffhugger, passing lush rainforest and rugged coastline. Allow at least 4 hours and remember you have to return.
The other amazing drive is taking Hwy 377 for the long climb 10,023ft up to Haleakala’s summit. This journey is usually taken in the hours before dawn in the daily pilgrimage to welcome the rising of the sun. One travel alternative is being driven up to see the sunrise and then bike all the way downhill without having to pedal once!
One place to leave the car is Lahaina, where the pedestrian rules the streets and taking the car anywhere other than the nearest car park presents a real headache.
Before the Europeans arrived, Hawaiian chiefs and kings ruled this hot and dry ocean region. At one point after King Kamehameha had united all the Hawaiian islands, he made Lahaina the royal capital. Thus it remained until 1845, when Kamehameha III moved the capital to the larger town of Honolulu.
During the 1840s the whaling industry was at its peak and hundreds of ships docked at Lahaina every year. Front St. would have swarmed with drunken sailors 24 hours a day in search of bars and brothels in which to spend their hard-earned money. Herman Melville, the writer of Moby-Dick, must have been able to research much of his material in Lahaina.
Lahaina’s next boom, a mere twenty years later, transformed the town into a sugar mecca. Most prominent was The Pioneer Sugar Mill Co., which still exists today.
Today it is now the hordes of tourists who crowd Lahaina’s mile-long drag, browsing the boutiques, art galleries (such as the excellent Curtis Wilson Cost Gallery, where you buy breathtaking paintings of Maui Landscapes!) and trendy bars or touring the historic sights. Probably the most popular landmarks include: the enormous Banyan tree planted in 1873, which fills an entire block and provides shade for artists to set up their wares beneath it; The Pioneer Inn, adjacent is a beautiful bar reminiscent of a bygone era; and docked across from the Inn is the Carthaginian, a replica square-rigger museum ship.
Lahaina makes a great day-trip away from the resorts and is also the venue of 'Old Lahaina,' probably the best Lu’au on the island of Maui, but also one you have to book days in advance, even during the off season. Another consideration is that car parking gets very scarce, so make sure you get there early!
From Lahaina’s wharf, you can also enjoy an ‘island hopping’ trip to either Molokai (perhaps the most untouched Hawaiian island), or Lanai, the former Dole Pineapple plantation island.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 6, 2002
Attraction | "Haleakala - House of the Sun"
Haleakala is a dormant volcano that stands 10,023 feet at the end of Highway 377 and is one of the most sacred sites to the Hawaiians on all Hawaii.
To catch the sunrise, you can either join a tour group or take the drive up yourself. Either way you’ll have to set your alarm for the wee hours of the morning and rouse yourself out of bed for the long journey up--remember to give yourself enough time to get to the top in time, because I can imagine nothing worse than going to all that effort just to miss the sunrise.
Although you are getting up in the middle of the night, as you drive towards Haleakala it quickly becomes apparent that other people are on the road with the same mission in mind when you catch the surreal sight of a long line of taillights snaking their way up the many switchbacks of the mountain in the night.
Remember before you go to take whatever warm clothes that you have, as with the altitude and the time of night, the temperatures can fall below freezing--when we were up there we saw many people wrapped in their hotel room bedsheets, there were also many shivering in shorts and t-shirts!
As the scene of dawn played out below us, people whispered as they witnessed the clouds slowly turning from diffuse grey glow into a soft pinkish hue. Gradually the the sun peeked through the clouds illuminating the sky in fiery orange as if setting the horizon aflame, to a hushed whisper of awe from the watching crowd.
The sheer majesty of this event made it my favourite experience from my memories of Maui – please take the time to make sure that it is one of yours too...
There is much more to Haleakala than the sunrise, the vista from the top is truly stupendous and on a clear day you can see up to 115 miles away--I was able to see the peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island on one side and Molokai and Lana’i on the other.
There are miles of tracks into the crater, ranging from an hour return to overnight expeditions. We opted to use the numerous lookouts by car and let our eyes do the work of gazing out over the awesome Maui landscape with information plaques to tell you what you’re looking at.
The Haleakala Visitor's Center is by the sunrise lookout and contains a lot of information about the unique environment. Park rangers are available to answer questions and souvenirs are sold here. The cost to enter Haleakala National Park,
even before dawn, is $10 per car.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 11, 2002
Haleakalā National Park
Po Box 369
Makawao, Hawaii 96768
Attraction | "Maui Marriott Lu'au"
Everyone in town will tell you that the Old Lahaina Lu’au is the best Lu’au on the island of Maui – but what happens if you can’t get tickets, as it sometimes books out over a week in advance!!?
Step in Maui Marriott Lu’au! Rated to be the second best – but don’t let not seeing the best put you off seeing an authentic Polynesian show featuring the best the Pacific Nations have to offer and prepare for a night to be remembered…!
Ceremonies begin on the beachfront at 4:30pm with a Shell Lei greeting, you are led to your seating with the first of many free drinks in your hand. After everyone has sat down you are treated to pre-show demonstrations of lei making, coconut cutting, ti-leaf skirt weaving and hula lessons. If you arrive a little early you can get to sit near the front of the stage – though you may be asked to volunteer like I was…
Next is the Imu ceremony where a kalua pig is dug out from an underground oven where it has spent hours roasting to perfection - once placed at the centrepiece of the feast, an elaborately prepared dinner buffet featuring delicious Hawai'ian dishes begins!
An hour after the feast has begun, the real show begins with medley of performances put on to delight the audience, including traditional Hawai'ain Hula dances to the Samoan Drumming and the fearsome Fijian Spear dance...
The grand finale of the show is the spellbinding Samoan Fire Knife dance where up to three dancers Dancers twirl and toss flaming knives in masterfully hypnotic patterns. This is quite rightly the best till last and, it is claimed, the best knife show on the island being the only triple fire knife show on Maui!
The proceedings draw to an end with rapturous applause around 8pm, leaving you to slowly wend your way back to your hotel room replaying the memories of an exciting show still fresh in your mind!
The Marriott Lu'au may be rated the second best on the island, but I for one had one helluva time!
If you still fancy seeing the best the island has to offer, consider this a friendly warning that you should book Old Lahaina before you even reach Maui…!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 14, 2003
100 Nohea Kai Drive
Lahaina, Hawaii 96761
+1 808 661 5828 / +1
The main feature of this most sacred and historic of sites is the majestic Iao Needle, which lies at the end of the paved road.
Once used as a natural altar by native Kahunas (Priests), the towering 1,200-foot, basaltic, rich green carpet-covered pillar of rock has survived eons of water erosion to stand proud in this, one of the world's wettest places.
When you stand here looking at this peaceful park with its well-maintained trails and gardens, it's difficult to imagine that this great rock once bore silent witness to one of the most momentous events of Maui history. In 1790, King Kamehameha I, using Western weapons and tactics, trapped and annihilated the Maui army in the battle of Kepaniwai as part of his effort to unite the Hawaiian Islands -- it is said that the waters of the Iao Stream ran red with the blood of his enemies.
There are plenty of great walking trails here and good facilities. Remember to bring some water and mosquito repellant and try and make it here in the morning, when the peak of the Iao Needle is often obscured by clouds.
Other attractions along the road to the needle include the beautiful setting of the Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens, which is a picturesque park and picnic area frequented by the locals. Scattered around the park are model houses reflecting the various ethnic groups that came to the island, including a thatched Hawai'ian 'hale' (house) and examples of Portuguese, Japanese and American architecture.
Next to this is the Hawai'i Nature Centre, which also does hiking and other outdoor educational activities. Also here is the 'Iao Valley Interactive Science Arcade', an innovative museum that features games and displays about the islands' flora and fauna.
If you take your time, there is plenty to do in this wonderful Valley to take up a whole day . . .
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 9, 2003
Iao Valley State Park
Iao Valley Road
Wailuku, Hawaii 96793
No phone available
Maui: From Oahu – onwards to the The Big Island. We decided that we wanted to go somewhere a little more exotic than Oahu, especially when it was being unusually windy whilst we were there, and knew that we had to book our flights to the Big Island to take up our friend’s generous offer of accommodation and guided tours. So, why not a quick detour to Maui and maybe even Kauai?
Normally interisland air travel is very reasonably priced with fares ranging from $60-95, and a whole range of discount coupons and air passes with Hawai’ian, Aloha and Island Air. However we booked our flights at very short notice and were adversely affected by wanting to return from the Big Island during the Easter break and the after effects of the 9/11 terrorist attack which still meant route cancellations almost half a year on. Given that we needed a hire car and accommodation as well, we plumped for a ‘package deal’ of flights to Maui, the Big Island and return to Oahu, three nights accommodation in Kahului and a hire car for an all up price of less than $800 for two people.
Landing in the morning at the small Kahului airport, it was a simple task to clear baggage and pick up our hire car and be on our way within about 15 minutes, which has to have been one of the fastest airport turnarounds in my long experience!
The airport is very close to town and an easy drive to our hotel, the Maui Beach Hotel on Kaahumanu Ave in the centre of town overlooking Kahului bay where cruise ships dock. The hotel itself was fairly average, however was good value and extremely well located for travel around Maui, being slap bang in the middle of the island’s attractions.
We chose Kahului as being the major town on Maui, it has cheapest amenities such as food, petrol and shopping, as you are not tying yourself to a tourist resort with higher prices. Also, as it’s more like an everyday town than a resort, the accommodation is much more reasonable too. If you are budget minded and want an active holiday on Maui, I would definitely recommend basing yourself in the Kahului-Wailuku-Paia area. If you plan on visiting Haleakala or Hana, staying here easily knocks an hour off your travelling times each way!
Mindful of having less than 72 hours on this island paradise, here''s how we coped:
Landed in the morning at Kahului Airport - no time was wasted getting our hire car and checking into our nearby hotel. After a quick refresh, we were on the road again to Ma’alaea Bay as top of our priorities was a whale watching trip! We picked the The Pacific Whale Foundation to go whale watching with as it is a non-profit making organisation whose proceeds are ploughed back into the study and protection of Humpbacked Whales. We had a good time and saw a number of whales and dolphins, unfortunately we we''re treated to any breaches though, but it was well worth the time going!
As it was approaching evening we then decided on a trip in Lahaina , parking a little east of the Banyan Tree and taking a leisurely stroll around the historic waterfront before stopping to eat at the Pioneer Inn, which was very nice indeed! After a little more window shopping we drove the hour or so back to our hotel to prepare for another action packed day...
We set out for The Iao Needle State Park via Wailuku. Driving towards it you get the feeling of being gradually swallowed up by the landscape as the lush rainforest clad mountains crowd in around you. The picturesque park is overshadowed by the huge rock spire of the needle and is also the scene of a bloody battle in which King Kamehameha took control of Maui by turning the water of the river here red with the blood of his enemies!
Next we turned our attentions to booking snorkelling at the small island of Molokini and drove to the famous Snorkel Bob''s in Kihei via the wonderful fields of Sugar Cane in the valley. It was here that disaster stuck when we discovered that those snorkelling trips, indeed all the good trips were booked out for the duration of our time here!
At the same time we found that the Old Lahaina Lu''au was also sold out and had to settle for the Maui Marriott the next day and were able to get a reduced price.
Always flexible, we decided to again head to Lahaina and pick up where we left off the day before for a few hours before heading back via the popularly called ''little Hana road'' taking you over the top of NW Maui from Kapalua to Wailuku, as by now we knew that we would never have time for the Hana road. This is a rugged road little used by tourists, which takes you past small native Hawai''ian settlements and a starkly beautiful coastline including an impressive blowhole. Once at the hotel, it was early to bed for an early rise the next morning!
At about 4am the alarm rang for the thing I was most looking forward to on Maui - reaching the summit of Haleakala to watch the dawn of a new day at the ''House of the Sun''. Maui''s tallest mountain at 10,023ft is a stunning summit location reknowned for awesome sunrises and sunsets and there was no way I was going to miss it!
As we set off I felt vindicated in choosing Kahului as a base as I knew that people from as far afield as Lahaina or Kihei would be adding an extra hour on their journey. All told it took us less than a hour to reach the summit as part of a surreal convoy of headlights snaking their way up the side of this majestic mountain!
At the top we had a while to kick our heels in the bitter cold of the summit and I watched with a small amount of envy as the downhill cyclists were preparing for their ride down the mountain later on.
When it came, the dawn was utterly breathtaking, it was one of the best and most moving experiences I''ve ever had...
After we had a chance to explore the summit, we slowly made our way down into the upcountry region of Maui, an area still cooler than the temperatures at sea level, it was home to beautiful flower gardens and Maui''s only vineyard - Tedeschi Winery, where we whiled away some time sampling and buying their wines and taking in the grounds.
Getting rather hungry as it was nearing lunchtime, we drove further downhill to Makawao, a remarkably preserved and sedate Paniolo (Cowboy) Rodeo town in the foothills of Haleakala and now a major arts and crafts destination with a well recommended Italian restaurant by the name of Casanova''s which we happily took advantage of.
After a walk around Makawao, we happily lost ourselves tracing the back country lanes as they meandered towards the coast. Taking care to turn left at the junction!
Heading west, we were able to take in the sights of Ho''okipa Beach, Maui''s best surf spot, and Paia the local town where many surfers stay, on the way to our Lu''au all the way over a Ka''anapali...
The Maui Marriott Lu''au, although apparently not quite in the same league as the Old Lahaina Lu''au, was still great fun nonetheless featuring performers from seven different Polynesian nations and an awesome Fire Knife Throwing display as its finale.
Stuffed from our banquet, we made our way home to prepare for our flight early the next day - we definitely slept soundly that night!
It was with a heavy heart that we left Maui as three days was obviously not enough to cover the whole island and we had to make the difficult choice of not doing the Hana road – something for next time perhaps, when we can also visit Kauai and Molokai?
That said, our sadness soon to left us to be replaced by the sheer joy of reaching Hawai''i''s jewel in the crown - the The Big Island itself!