Two Days in Maui

A two day trip to Maui, visiting Haleakala National Park and the historic Lahaina townsite.

Two Days in Maui

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by travellingdave on December 22, 2006

Maui is the island of perfect tropical beauty in Hawaii. It's the place to come to relax, get away from the hustle and bustle of Oahu, and generally have a low-key, romantic trip while still being able to see many amazing attractions.

Haleakala National Park is the main highlight of Maui. This dormant volcano is the highest point on the island, and takes up the entire eastern half of it. Be sure to check out this amazing site tens of thousands of feet above sea level. As you ascend the mountain in your rental car (or privately hired tour bus), you'll witness what happens when you raise yourself from sea level to 14,000 feet in under 20 minutes. High above the clouds, there is an awesome brilliance about the place that is not to be missed. The area abounds in hiking opportunities, too.

The Road to Hana is another scenic gem. This small road on the northeast coastline of Maui takes you from busy Kahului to the middle of nowhere over its 3 hour span. You will cross around one bridge per minute as your drive this 3 hour trip along the Maui coastline. Visit the tiny community of Hana, a truly Hawaiian town with little-to-no distraction by tourists.

No visit to Maui is complete without visiting Lahaina town. This small town on the southwest coast of Maui is the center for entertainment and attractions on the island, boasting world-class dining, trendy upscale hotels, as well as the world’s biggest Banyan tree. Visit the Old Lahaina Courthouse, a very old building from Hawaii’s monarchy days, and the site of its independence. Several other interesting historical sights are here, too, including the Missionary Home and some interesting ruins.

Nearby Lahaina town is the Lahaina Jodo Mission, a functioning Buddhist monastery, featuring some awesome statues of Buddha as well as other traditional Japanese monastery features. Admission is free and the photographic opportunities are endless. It’s a slice of Japan right here in Hawaii.
${QuickSuggestions} Try to eat at reputable restaurants while visiting Maui. I ate poorly refrigerated macaroni salad at one fast food place (the Kahuna Kabob), and suffered from food poisoning on my trip. Needless to say, this is the worst thing that can happen on a trip to Hawaii of all places. The experience has turned me off of Hawaiian food permanently.

Remember to check out the hygienic standards of all restaurants, as this is Hawaii's backcountry (at least compared to Oahu). My general rule about eating safely is that if the restaurant accepts credit card, they are most likely safe to eat at. Take it easy on heavy foods while visiting, the change in altitude and climate combined with heavy meals can wreak havoc on your stomach and bowels.

Budget travelers may find Maui to be unbearable. It is extremely expensive, and you must plan on paying premium prices (plan on $200 per day). Stay in the urban center of Kahului to save money, where hotels are around half the price of Lahaina or Kihei. A good option is the Maui Beach Hotel, located just two minutes from the airport, where rooms can be found for under $120 per night.
${BestWay} Rent a car! Most of Maui's highlights are very rural and inaccessible, and a car is the only way to go. Prices range from $70 to $100, and are well worth those high prices simply for the convenience of being able to go where you want to go, when you want to go. Gasoline can be very expensive on the island (around $3.70 per gallon), which isn’t much of a problem because of Maui’s small size. You can do an awful lot here on one tank. Make sure you get air conditioning, as the interiors of some of these cars can get stifling hot pretty much every day of the year.

Public transport is almost nil on Maui, but tours are generally available, but at very steep prices (around $150). Renting a car means seeing what you want to see, for how long you want to see it, on your own time. And don't try hitching up Haleakala - you might not get a ride down the volcano, and this could spell a very cold (and dangerous) night for you!

Hitching is almost impossible on Maui, as most drivers will be either locals or other tourists, who probably don’t want strangers tagging along on their honeymoon trips. Walking is out of the question, too, except in the urban centers of Wailuku and Kahului.

Fast-ferry service is currently in the works, and once it opens it will connect Lahaina harbor to Honolulu. Right now, the only mode of inter-island travel is the Kahului International Airport, located around 2 miles east of the Kahului town center on a nice expanse of greenspace.

Maui Beach Hotel

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by travellingdave on December 25, 2006

These standard budget Hawaiian-style accommodations are just minutes from Kahului Airport. Decent central location in Kahului, conveni, close to downtown Kahului. The property backs right onto the Pacific Ocean, and is well-landscaped, with many beautiful flowers filling the foyers, the grounds, and the lobby.

The hotel makes a great basecamp to explore the island of Maui because of its central location, proximity to the airport, and amazingly low prices.

The large, spacious rooms have good air-conditioning, but there are some pests like cockroaches which harbor underneath the beds. These luckily do not get into the bedding, but can be seen scurrying across the floor at night, and are somewhat harmless (though children will be frightened).

The rooms have comfortable bedding, with lovely down comforters, but you might not need them - Maui gets pretty hot. The rooms have a very nice wicker closet, adding a very exotic touch to the room. Television is equipped with a decent selection of cable channels, and there is a desk with telephone, though no Internet service.

The pool area is exquisite, right next to the full service restaurant. Feel free to take a dip here, but it might be problematic for the more self-conscious types, as restaurant patrons eye swimmers readily.

I wouldn't take my wife on my honeymoon here, since it is not classy and far from romantic, but if you are looking for budget accommodations in the heart of Maui, this is your best pick. The moderate $100 per night price tag is a steal for Maui, but you could find a lot better of a place for $20 more. If you don't need extra frills or luxuries, though, this is the place to be.

The service was good and cheerful, though checking in was a bit delayed, and felt as though we were in another country. Like most Hawaiian hotels, a free breakfast is out of the question here, but the on-site restaurant will whip you up some morning treats if need be.

Visit the hotel's website for more information:
Maui Beach Hotel
170 Kaahumanu Avenue
Maui, Hawaii

Kahuna Kabob

Member Rating 1 out of 5 by travellingdave on December 25, 2006

At Kahuna Kabob in the very busy and bustling central marketplace of Lahaina, you will find fast-food Hawaiian at its not-so-finest. I stumbled up to this kiosk after my traveling companion secured us a table in the open-air common eating area of the food court. The menu was varied and I couldn't decide on what to order. I eventually passed on some of the more American items like burgers and fries and instead I ordered the Loco Moco, a disgusting local dish composed of fried eggs, rice, hamburger, and gravy.

I felt like vomiting after eating this, not to be rude. I'm sure it's an acquired taste, but I found it overly greasy, as most things on their menu seemed to be. I became ill the next day from eating the macaroni salad which was made with quite warm mayonnaise. So, be careful what you eat, local's stomachs might be less sensitive than us mainlanders. The meal was simply just a mish-mash of flavors that ought to not be mixed, which was a real turn off taste-wise.

The meals are well-priced, though, at around $5.50 per plate. Several things on the menu are more expensive, like fish dishes and some of the kabobs.

Recommended only to those with strong stomachs and adventurous palates. Kids will not find this food palatable, so pass it by if travelling with the family. It might be good for after-drinking snacks with buddies after a long night at the bars, but when it comes to lunch, the Kahuna Kabob will disappoint.
Kahuna Kabob
126 Lahainaluna Rd
Lahaina, Hawaii
(808) 661-9999

Haleakala National Park

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by travellingdave on December 25, 2006

A wonderful, pristine drive up scenic Haleakala volcano treats the visitor to some awesome scenery. This dormant volcano forms more than 75% of the island of Maui, looming over 10,000 feet above sea level. The name Haleakala means "house of the sun," and you’ll understand why as you ascend the steep mountain in your rental car or hired tour bus.

You will begin the driving thinking not much of it, winding through some small towns with some tropical vegetation. It is only when the vegetation disappears and you are climbing high above the heavens, the clouds far beneath you, that you’ll realize this is one of the most scenic places on earth. Considered one of the USA's best National Parks, the ride to the volcano's crater at its summit is sure to please.

Mile after mile visitors are provided the opportunity to pull over and take in views from above the clouds. Some views will surely knock your socks off. My favorite overview, located just past the entrance gate, features a small path that you can descend a bit of the mountain on. With the clouds totally beneath you, it seems as though you are hovering over a giant pillow, and the view is mesmerizing.

The entrance fee is $10 and the information at the visitor center is totally free and included in the price. I encourage you to stop in and chat with the knowledgeable guides, who although make the trek up the volcano every day, are far from jaded by it. They exude passion as they talk about this geological marvel. Some small souvenirs are available here. The visitor center houses some neat exhibits highlighting the history and geology of the volcano, which are far from boring – take the time to read them.

There are trails available for hikers to hike to the crater center, and many tours run from Lahaina and major Maui hotels. The most popular tour is the sunrise tour, where you join a crowd of people at 3:30am and travel up the volcano to witness a stunning sunrise. You can do this by car also, if you can handle driving that early.

There is a functioning astronomical complex at the summit of Haleakala, complete with massive telescopes and satellite dishes. Feel free to walk up the somewhat arduous climb to the summit and get a 360 degree overview of the entire volcano. The views are excellent from this high up. Luckily, there is an enclosed shelter for those who can’t handle the strong winds.

It can get very cold and windy up here, so dress in layers. The temperatures hover between 5 and 16 degrees Celsius (40 and 60 Fahrenheit), so be prepared to be chilled a bit. It can be a welcome respite on those very hot Maui summer days.

Parking is included free of charge in the park, and water is available for purchase at the visitor center. There are no restaurants.

Visit Haleakala National Park online at:
Haleakalā National Park
Po Box 369
Makawao, Hawaii, 96768
(808) 572-4400

Iao Valley State Park

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by travellingdave on December 25, 2006

This scenic gem is located at the end of Highway 32 (which becomes Iao Valley Road) just 5 miles west of the town of Wailuku-Kahului (the commercial center of Maui). It is a short drive or leisurely day-long hike from town.

Hidden deep in the Hawaiian Rainforest on 6.2 acres of land, this lush, stream-cut, stunning valley is home to the Iao Needle, a huge forested spike-shaped lava remnant. The Iao Needle rises 1200 feet from the valley floor, and is quite an imposing sight upon first glance.

Upon arriving in the park (there is no entrance fee), find a shady parking spot and climb up the small hill to the visitor center, where there are restroom facilities and a bunch of good information signs. Learn about the history of the monument and the valley. You will learn how the valley was once the site of one of Hawaii’s most famous battles, where King Kamehameha I destroyed the Maui army in 1790, effectively uniting the Hawaiian Islands. The stories of the stream being dammed up by the many fallen bodies will surely send chills down your spine.

From the information area, there is a nice walkway heading out over the streams. The natural beauty of the area is intense, and it is possible to swim in a shallow lagoon fed by the warm waterfalls and streams. Simply climb off of the beaten path and join the masses as they wade through the warm shallow water.

If you’re not in the mood to get wet, stick to the path and you’ll eventually round a small corner to the Iao Needle viewpoint, where you can get some decent photos of the mountainous formation. The valley walls here are also very picturesque, these being the walls of the dormant volcano Pu'u Kukui. Enjoy just strolling around the beautiful paths around the park, admiring the unique fauna and flora of the area. This isn’t the place to come for high adrenaline excitement – it’s a relaxing, quiet setting in the heart of nature, perfect for a romantic stroll or a moderately challenging hike.

The nearest hotels to the park are in Kahului, and the park is made more for day trips than extended stays. The park is open from 7 AM to 7 PM, and you can stay as long as you wish during that time. Food and refreshments are NOT available in the park, so bring your own. There is also no clean drinking water available whatsoever. There is a couple inexpensive grocers in nearby Kahului for cheap picnic food choices.

The park is family friendly, and children will enjoy the sights. Wading in the shallow stream can be especially fun for children. The trails are easy enough for children to walk without complaining too much. Don’t pass up the opportunity to visit this beautiful monument, it is simply one the most amazing things to do on this island.
Iao Valley State Park
Iao Valley Road
Wailuku, Hawaii, 96793
No phone available

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