A January 2003 trip
to Maui by lcampbell
Quote: Maui has plenty of fun for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you choose to don your dirty old hiking boots or your brand new Hawaiian print bikini or surfer shorts, there is something for you to do in the ocean or on the trail every single day of your visit to Maui.
Maui is basically two volcanic islands that grew together into one, with a flatter area of sugarcane plantations in the middle. The larger east Maui is dominated by a 10,023 foot volcano called Haleakala and Haleakala National Park. The West Maui Mountains, with 5,788 foot Pu’u Kukui, are older and in ways more dramatic, with more years of erosion making the valley walls more steep (in some spots nearly vertical) and more years of rain making the mountains more lush and green.
The bulk of the tourist activity is based in West Maui. Lahaina, Kaanapali, and Kahana are major resort areas in West Maui, each with it’s share of places selling activity packages and timeshares. Central Maui has also become quite popular, especially Kihei. The tourism in East Maui is more low-key. There are fewer activites and most areas take some effort to visit, so there are fewer visitors.
My absolute favorite West Maui activities were:
Snorkling at Ahihi-Kina’u Natural Area Preserve
Hiking at Haleakala National Park
Whale watching with Pacific Whale Foundation
Maui Ocean Center
If given more time, things I missed that I would like to do:
Hiking or backpacking into the West Maui Forest Reserve (I’m not even sure if possible or how to go about it)
Hiking at Polipoli Springs State Park
And even though Maui is a full-on developed tourist mecca, it is still possible to find free and minimal cost activities, a MUST with my travel budget. Budget-friendly activties are definitely covered in all five of my Maui journals.
For more information on West Maui, see my journal West Maui Cool Places. The best of Hana and eastern East Maui can be found in my three Hana journals: Hana Practicalities, Heavenly Hana, and Where to Get Wet in Hana.
For more information, visit Maui Visitor Bureau.
The best way to get around Maui is with a rental car. There are a number of choices at the Kahului airport, including Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, and National. Prices for a small car range from - per day. Local car rental companies include Maui Cruisers, Word of Mouth, or a variety of others with older cars (but makes you look local!).
There is a limited bus service on Maui called Holo Ka’u Transit. See the website for routes, schedules, and rates.
My experience with hitchhiking on Maui is that it is easy to do as long as you don’t look dirty or intimidating. I always felt safe, but hitchhiking is inherently a dangerous activity that must be done at your own risk.
Finally, day tours can be arranged, but are expensive. You can catch sunrise at Haleakala or go on the famous Hana Highway without having to touch a gas pedal, just to name a few.
Attraction | "Haleakala National Park"
The park brochure explains why it is so important to protect this area. There are at least 1000 native species of flowering plants in Hawaii. 90 percent of these are endemic, found only in Hawaii. Of these, 10 percent are extinct and 30 percent are threatened or endangered. As far as native bird species go, there are 140 kinds but 85 are now extinct and 32 are endangered. Introductions of non-native, invasive plants and animals are the number one threat to Hawaiian ecosystems.
The main area of the park is the Summit District, which includes Haleakala "crater." This area can be reached from Kahului by taking Highway 37 to Highway 377 to Highway 378. The drive will take about 2 hours from most resort locations.
Haleakala (House of the Sun) is a shield volcano that rose from the sea 900,000 years ago and continuously erupted until 400,000 years ago. The most recent eruption is thought to be in 1790. The original mountain was actually a few thousand feet higher, but has eroded to it’s current elevation. Haleakala crater is not really a crater at all, but rather a valley created by erosion. The valley is 2.5 miles wide and 7.5 miles wide, and it filled with cinder cones, volcanic rock, and beautiful silversword plants.
You can look into the valley from the Visitor Center near the summit. The Visitor Center(6am-3pm) is the place to get park information, purchase books, and find out about ranger-guided hikes and talks. Summit talks are given daily at 9:30am, 10:30am, and 11:30am. Cloud forest hikes are given Monday and Thursday at 9am (3 hours, 3 miles, leave from Hosmer Grove), and Cinder Desert Hikes are given Tuesday and Friday at 9am (2 hours, 2 miles, meet at Sliding Sands trailhead). These guided activities are FREE, and from my experience are always excellent. Also ask about the Junior Ranger program for the kids!
Or you can hike on your own. See my separate hiking entry for information. Free camping on a first-come, first-serve basis is available at Hosmer Grove. There are backcountry campsites available by permit, as well as backcountry cabins for rent. See the park’s website for more information. Other popular summit activities include biking down the mountain and watching sunrise on top of Haleakala. Sunrise-watchers should dress warm and bring a blanket!
The other main area of the park is the Kipahulu District on the far east side of Maui. This is the wetter side of the mountain, and features rainforest and waterfalls as the star attractions. However, it is a significant excursion to get there. See my journals on Hana, Maui for information on hikes, ranger programs, camping, and swimming at Kipahulu.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 26, 2003
Haleakalā National Park
Po Box 369
Makawao, Hawaii 96768
Attraction | "Hiking at Haleakala Nat'l Park: Sliding Sands-Hale"
The Sliding Sands trailhead starts at the Visitor Center near the Haleakala summit (10,023 feet). Looking into the valley a couple thousand feet below, there are at least a dozen cinder cones in dazzling colors of red, orange, brown, and purple. A great shorter hike (5 miles round-trip) goes down the Sliding Sands trail to Ka Lu’u o ka ‘O’o, the only cinder cone that has a trail going up it.
Instead, I chose to hike Sliding Sands to Halemau’u Trail. This is a nice distance of 11 miles, with a easy-cruisin 2500 feet of elevation loss, and a moderately strenuous 1400 elevation gain. I liked that it is a one-way hike, since I didn’t want to have to retrace my steps. The only problem was arranging a pickup at the ending trailhead. I was able to do so, but another option is to park at the Halemau’u trailhead in the morning and then try to hitchike up to the Visitor Center to start the hike.
Back at the Sliding Sands trail, I found my surroundings to resemble a moonscape. The valley is 2.5 miles wide and 7.5 miles long, most of it without vegetation. The few plants that I did see were SO beautiful, maybe because of the stark contrast.
The silversword is an endangered plant found only at Haleakala. I felt honored to be so close to such a special plant. It is distantly related to the sunflower, but you wouldn’t know by looking at it. The silvery leaves shimmer in the sun. They are sharp and pointed. The silversword flowers only once in it’s lifetime, then dies. I also saw Naenae shrubs, and an interesting crossbreed of the Silversword and Naenae.
Not far after the junction with the Ka Lu’u o ka ‘O’o trail is the turnoff for Halemau’u trail. I found myself still in a moonscape, with cinder cones closer and all around me. But after a couple miles, I found a new surprise.
The valley floor first changed to a more broken up, upheaved earth area, with a short side trail called Silversword Loop. After Silversword Loop, I’m suddenly in a grassland. This is the area near Holua, a cabin and campsite in the northwest area of the crater. I found this grassy area to be so pleasant, with a light breeze to cool me off and views out Ko’olau Gap toward the ocean.
Not as pleasant (but not too bad), was the two miles of switchbacks that I had to go up to end the hike. The switchbacks are fairly gradual, so not too painful, and with fine views before the end of the hike.
That said, you will be snorkeling amidst fairly new lava. The Lonely Planet guidebook calls it "Maui’s youngest and wildest spot." Because it is a preserve, there are no motorized boats or fishing allowed in the waters. Many people were snorkeling at Ahihi Bay, just next to the road. I thought this area was too close to the road and had too much kayak traffic, so we went a little farther to a gravel parking area on the right side of the road. From here, it is a short walk on a flat trail to Ahihi Cove, where my friend said to go.
What a great recommendation! There were very few people here, probably because there is no sandy beach… just rock. But after you carefully make your way into the water, there are plenty of fish, coral, starfish, and urchins to hang out with. My husband saw an eel of some sort.
There are numerous trails on Cape Kinau. The trail that I took to Ahihi Cove actually continues past Ahihi Cove. I did not take it, but on the map it seems to lead to another snorkeling cove. There are also trails on the south side of the Cape, closer to La Perouse Bay. Snorkeling at La Perouse Bay is supposed to be excellent, but only if the water is extremely calm. It is said to be a very dangerous place if there is any wave action at all. There are supposed to be spinner dolphins that visit La Perouse Bay. It is also the site of an ancient Hawaiian village called Keoneoio and the start of one of the last remaining sections of the King’s Highway Coastal Trail.
Renting Snorkel Gear
I do not own my own snorkle gear, so I rented gear. There are many choices in Kihei, but I was happy with my experience at Snorkel Bob’s, 2411 S. Kihei Road, (808)879-7449. I rented fins, snorkel, mask, and defogger for $5 for 24 hours. This was their mid-price option. It was not the highest quality gear, but I did not have any problems with it. There are weekly rates, and there are Snorkle Bob’s on Oahu, Big Island, and Kauai, so you can keep your gear from island to island and return it at the end of your trip to any location.
Snorkeling at Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Preserve
north of Kihei
Attraction | "Pacific Whale Foundation - Whale Watch Tour"
Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) was the only choice for me because it is a non-profit organization with all procedes going to whale research, environmental education, conservation efforts and political lobbying. Also, PWF uses eco-friendly fuel (100% recycled vegetable oil) in their boats.
My whale watch trip cost $13 for a two hour trip. I purchased this trip through an "Activities Consolidator" for this price. I don’t know what the price is through PWF direct. I know they have some special deals – like all children under 6 go free, and children 7-12 get super cheap prices too. All of the staff have bachelor or master degrees, are trained in rescue, and are certified naturalists. These folks have the most complete information about humpback whales, and they offer a great (and free) Junior Naturalist Program for kids 12 and under, and a free whale poster with your trip.
Of course we saw plenty of whales on this trip. Like I mentioned earlier, they are impossible to miss. You are always guaranteed to see the spray from the blowholes of many whales, and you always can see a part of the back when they come up. Often you will see the tail come out of the water at this time as well. The whale tail is used by researchers for identification, as no two tails are alike. The extra special whale behaviors that we saw, but you may not always see, are the pectoral slap and the breach. One whale slapped its pectoral fin on the water 15-20 times pretty close in front of us. It was so loud! Researchers do not know why whales exhibit this behavior. Also, we saw an adult whale breach three times. A breach is when a whale comes straight up out of the water vertically, then splashes down on their side. It is truly a fantastic sight! We also saw a baby whale practice it’s breach. It couldn’t get all the way up out of the water, but it kept on trying.
Another favorite part of the trip was to hear the whales when the naturalist put a hydrophone in the water. A hydrophone picks up whale calls up to two miles away.
So what are you waiting for? See the whales with Pacific Whale Foundation!
Pacific Whale Foundation
Kealia Beach Plaza
Maui, Hawaii 96753
+1 808 879 8811
Attraction | "Pacific Whale Foundation - Molokini Snorkel Trip"
I chose to go with Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) because it is a non-profit organization with all profits going to whale research, environmental education, conservation efforts and political lobbying. Also, PWF uses eco-friendly fuel (100% recycled vegetable oil) in their boats. All of the staff have bachelor or master degrees, are trained in rescue, and are certified naturalists. There is a great (and free) Junior Naturalist Program for kids 12 and under, and a free poster with your trip. I had gone on a whale watch trip with PWF before, and was impressed, so I thought I’d try them for snorkeling.
The trip started at 7am at the main PWF building in Maalaea Bay, next to the Maui Ocean Center. After boarding the boat and getting out of the harbor, we were given an orientation and some great information about PWF, Maui and the ocean life we were about to encounter. We were also treated to some fantastic whale watching. We eventually reached our first snorkling destination, Molokini Crater. Molokini is a mostly submerged volcanic crater, with one side collapsed, leaving a crescent moon shaped "island" 160 feet high behind. The area is now a protected marine sanctuary which is supposed to have 250 kinds of fish (notice I said supposed to….)
I was a little disappointed with snorkeling at Molokini. There were so many people in our group, at least 100, and we were instructed to stay only within a certain area. I think of snorkeling as sort of a connection with nature – peaceful and quiet – not swimming elbow to elbow with everyone else. And I didn’t like being confined like that. Also, there were numerous other boats that showed up in the area, further crowding the place. Needless to say, there weren’t very many interesting fish with all those people hanging around.
Fortunately, our second snorkeling desination was not as crowded. We went to a location just of the coast of Maui, partway between Lahaina and Maalaea Bay (approximately mile marker 14, if you want to swim out to it from land!) Because it was not a very remote spot, I was sceptacle, but it ended up being a great place for sea turtles. We were given a huge area to snorkel in, so no crowding, and I saw three turtles and numerous schools of fish. One of the naturists gave a free guided reef tour.
After the second snorkeling spot, we had a good lunch and headed back in. We saw more whales. It was overall a really good day… but I found better snorkeling at Ahihi Cove (see separate entry) and my friend had a better trip later in the week to Lanai.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 26, 2003
Alas, it is not as easy as it sounds. First I visited Iou Valley State Park hoping to drive part way into the West Mauis and then hike in further. At the park I found a short paved trail, with a very promising dirt trail headed the way I wanted to go blocked by a "Private Property – No Trespassing" sign. I was so disappointed!
My guidebook promised at least a look at some sheer mountain walls with plummeting waterfalls by hiking the Waihee Ridge Trail. And as my feet were itching to get on a trail, and this one was nearby, that is where I determined I should go ASAP.
The trailhead was pretty easy to find. I followed Kahekili Highway (also called Highway 33) north out of Wailuku past the town of Waihee. After a winding section of road, between mile markers 6 and 7, turn left at a small sign for Maluhia Boy Scout Camp (there is also a very small brown and yellow sign for the Waihee Ridge Trail, but it is easy to miss). After about 1 mile, you will see a brown and yellow sign marking the trailhead on the left.
The total distance of this hike is 4.5 miles, with a good amount of elevation gain (about 1500 feet), so hikers should be relatively fit. There is no water available on the hike, so bring all you will need. Bringing a rainjacket is also a good idea.
At first, I didn’t have high hopes for this trek. I spent the first 10 minutes looking back over my shoulder at the eyesore of a housing development that was plainly visible from the trail. Plus the trail so far was a paved road?!?! But after ¼ mile or so, I found myself on a real trail in a cool shady stretch of trees. At ¾ mile, I arrived at a lookout point with a bench. The view was directly into the breathtaking Waihee Valley. There was layer upon layer of deeply carved walls, years of erosion making a startling panorama. And I could see the more recent work of running water in smaller ripples on the steep walls. The whole scene was a testament to the true power of water. All the while, misty clouds were coming and going at the mountaintop level, shrouding everything in mystery. Ahem…. I’ll just ignore those houses that annoyingly popped back into view behind me….
As I hiked on, I found the trail to be surprisingly well-maintained. After the one mile marker, the switchbacks begin. They aren’t bad - I knew I was gaining elevation but I didn’t feel winded. There is little shade after this point, but the day wasn’t overly warm. The views back to the ocean kept drawing me – I just can’t resist that intense blue color and sparkling waves. The trailside vegetation was lush with grasses and ferns, hala trees and guava. And finally, the top! 2500 foot Lanilili Peak, complete with picnic table and the West Maui scenery I was looking for. What a great day for a hike!
Facts and figures:
* There are at least 1000 native species of flowering plants in Hawaii. 90 percent of these are endemic, found only in Hawaii. Of these, 10 percent are extinct and 30 percent are threatened or endangered.
* As far as native bird species go, there are 140 kinds but 85 are now extinct and 32 are endangered.
* Hawaii has only 0.2 percent of the land mass of the United States, but 75 percent of the country’s plant and bird extinctions are of Hawaiian species.
The number one threat to the ecosystems in Hawaii is non-native, invasive plants and animals. Plants native to Hawaii arrived in one of three ways: wind, wings, or water. By these methods, one new species arrived in Hawaii every 10,000 to 100,000 years. Today, alien species arrive, usually by way of humans, either intentionally or not, at a rate of 20 species per year.
The east side of Haleakala National Park, the Kipahulu Valley, is closed to the public and set aside as a Biological Preserve. Only park employees and researchers are allowed in and the area in intensely managed to protect it from invasion by non-native species. The reason I was on Maui for three months was to work for the National Park Service to try to eradicate an invasive plant called Miconia. The park is actually being unusually proactive and trying to address this problem plant before it gets to the park, which is why I was living and working in the Hana area. Haleakala National Park has also spent considerable time and money to put up and maintain 34 miles of fence to keep out non-native animals like goats, cows, and pigs that do not have predators and destroy native vegetation.
Some noteworthy plants and animals that I learned about while in Hawaii are:
The Silversword (ahinahina), distantly related to the sunflower, is endemic to Hawaii, which means it is found only here. It is also endangered. This is a beautiful plant with silver-colored folliage that grows for up to 50 years before it finally flowers. After flowering, it dies. The silversword adapted itself over time so that it could live in the harsh conditions in Haleakala "crater." The root systems are mostly shallow for water collection, but with long tap roots to anchor them from the wind in the loose soil. They have silvery hairs on their leaves to further retain moisture and reflect sunlight.
Also found in Haleakala "crater" is the Naenae plant, a shrub with yellow flowers. There is also a crossbreed plant which is a combination of the Silversword and the Naenae.
Other native endemic plants include the Ohi’a, the Mamane, the Hala (screw pine) and the Pohuehue (beach morning glory). There are many more – ask a ranger or buy a book at the Visitor Center!
The Nene, also endemic, is the Hawaii State bird. Surprisingly, it is a long-lost cousin of the Canada Goose (the original birds that accidentally came to Hawaii were REALLY lost, eh?). In 1946, the nene was virtually extinct, with only 50 birds left. Efforts were made at a captive breeding program, and the nene was brought back to Haleakala by way of boyscouts carrying the birds in their backpacks. Today, there are 250 nene at Haleakala. They unfortunately like to hang out where there are people, and are sometimes hit by cars. Please watch out for them! And, for goodness sake, DO NOT FEED THEM! Keep them wild!
The Honeycreeper (I’iwi) is a rain forest bird adapted to sipping nectar from Hawaiian lobelias. Deforestation and grazing of non-native animals have decreased the lobelias, therefore decreasing the habitat for the honeycreepers. They have adapted somewhat and now are often seen feeding on ohi’a flowers, but are still need help so they do not become extinct or endangered in the future.
Other native endemic birds found at Haleakala are the Ua’u (dark-rumped petrel), the Pueo (Hawaiian owl), the Amakihi, and the Apapane. Again, ask a ranger about these and other endemic and endangered species. There are books available for purchase at the Visitor Center.
Finally, I just had to share this short paragraph that I read in the Park newspaper. It is titled "What’s Over There?"
"Paula wanted to find a quiet spot all her own to meditate. She saw the perfect place. It was just a dozen yards off trail to the top of the ridge, and she could take a picture with that silversword in the foreground. Brian saw footprints an hour later, after Paula had gone, and wondered what there was to see from that vantage point. Kimo did the same. By noon, 30 people had followed in Paula’s footsteps. By the next day, over a hundred. The trail Paula accidentally built divided in half a rare population of tiny, unseen soil-living beetles. She had paved an eight-lane freeway through their world and cut the roots of the silversword. Now the plant would not have the water-gathering resources to bloom this year or the next. Paula’s meditation spot became a place of quiet destruction."
I guess the message is that taking only pictures and leaving only footprints is not enough to protect an area. Don’t leave any footprints off of the trail, please!
Port Angeles, Washington