Dec. 3-7, 2018
Jamie wanted to celebrate completion of her PhD. What better way than a trip to Hawaii! Kim and I were happy to tag along with her.
First off, here are few pointers if you are planning a trip to Hawaii:
- Get reef save sunscreen – or sun shirts. Traditional sunscreens are damaging the coral, and are not allowed in most areas.
- Download the island Google map to your phone prior to your trip. Many areas don’t have cell coverage, so your navigation gets tricky. I failed to do this, so we were often driving off the edge of our map.
- Purchase the Gypsy Guide app for your destination island. The GPS driven narration gives a lot of interesting information about the culture, the history, and must-see stops as you drive along. Extremely helpful for the long road to Hana.
Monday, Dec. 3
We flew from Salt Lake to Los Angles, and then on to the Kahului airport in Maui.
Upon arrival, we picked up our rental car and headed to dinner at the nearby Da Kitchen. The food was excellent and the portion sizes were huge. Jamie even got brave and tried some fish. I had a fantastic Kalua Pork sandwich.
On our way to our rental condo in Kihei we stopped at a Safeway to buy groceries for the week. Our general food plan was to eat breakfast in the condo, pack a lunch or dinner, and go out to eat at least once per day.
Tuesday, Dec. 4 (the South Side)
We got up early to attend a semi-private stand-up paddle (SUP) boarding class. Our instructor was great. He had us both standing within a few minutes, and Jamie was catching and surfing waves within an hour. Being old and overweight, I stayed on my knees for the surfing. I was pretty unstable when standing up. The class was fun, but I felt the SUP got boring quickly unless you were surfing.
South Side Beaches
After the class we drove south to check out some of the other beaches in hopes of finding a place to go snorkeling. We stopped at Makena Beach State Park (Big Beach), but the waves were way too big. We then drove down to the ‘Ahihi-Kina’u Natural Area Reserve and found a spot that looked great for snorkeling. Unfortunately, we were out of time. We hoped to come back later in the week, but never made it. I suspect there would be a lot of sea turtles here.
On our way back to the condo, we stopped for lunch at Coconuts Fish Café. The fish tacos were fantastic!
Haleakala National Park
After lunch we returned to the condo for a shower. We packed a lunch, and started the 2-hour drive to the top of the Haleakala Volcano. Our goal was to watch the sunset from the top. Luckily, we got there early, because the parking lot filled up about an hour before sunset.
The drive up has over 20 switchbacks and you go through multiple different weather zones. It is common to drive through a cloud bank that generally forms around the volcano. Once you get above the clouds, the skies are clear and bright.
Be sure to take a coat – it is very cold and windy on top. The elevation is just over 10,000’ above sea level.
We were a little disappointed in the sunset. The sun just happened to set directly behind the observatory, which really blocked the view. This was worth doing once, but I don’t know that I would bother to do it again.
Wednesday, Dec. 5 (the West side)
Sail Trilogy Catamaran Tour to Lanai Island
Perhaps the highlight of our trip was the Sail Trilogy Catamaran tour out to the island of Lanai. It took about 1.5 hours to get out there, and we were lucky enough to see a couple of False Killer Whales on our way. We were hoping to see whale, but we were a few weeks before the whales normally show up in great numbers, so we were really lucky.
We stopped at the Manele Small Boat Harbor, and took a short van ride over to Hulopo’e Beach Park. This is a beautiful beach and we had the place almost to ourselves.
We spent the next hour or so snorkeling. We saw a lot of small fish and one fairly large school of fish. My new prescription snorkel goggles worked great! I could actually see the fish this time!
While others took a bus tour of the island, we walked along the coastline to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
We then headed back to the harbor for a wonderful BBQ. The BBQ chicken was fantastic and the stir fry was pretty good too. Jamie and I then played a quick game of cornhole before our return ride back to Lahaina.
On the return ride, they opened up the sails for a while, but the wind was pretty calm so they went back to using the motor. We spotted a few humpback whales on the way back, but we didn’t really get close enough for great photos. We did get a few photos from the boat photographer that had a much better camera than we did.
West Side Beaches
We spent the afternoon checking out some of the beaches along the west side. I had heard that Honolua Bay is often sheltered from the waves, so we thought that might be a good place to try snorkeling. Unfortunately, it was pretty rough and the water was pretty muddy. Plus, there is not a good sandy beach there – it is a rocky coastline. But we did enjoy watching the surfers out where the waves were breaking.
Myths of Maui Luau
We wanted to go to the Old Lahaina Luau, but it was sold out. So, we opted to try the Myths of Maui Luau, which is also in Lahaina. It was okay, but not as good as I had hoped. The food was fair and the entertainment was fair. It kind of reminded me of a ward dinner rather than a professionally sponsored event. Nevertheless, we enjoyed it and met a friendly family from Canada.
Thursday, Dec. 6 (the East side)
The main plan for the day was to drive the Road to Hana. But we also wanted to do a zipline tour while in Maui, and found the Jungle Zipline in Haiku, which is right near the start of the road to Hana.
The zipline was really fun. We were the only ones there, so we got a private tour. I think our tour guides kind of loosened up the rules a bit since we were pretty gusto. The tour included 7 lines, with the longest at 888’. It was really fun zipping through the jungle.
The guides also taught us about the local plants and even showed us some that you can eat. I did notice, however, that one of them made the roof of my mouth swell a bit.
Road to Hana
The road to Hana is a long and winding road. Much of the road is on the side of a very steep mountain side, so you need to drive very carefully. This road is not for timid drivers.
There are over 50 one-lane bridges, so you need to pay attention and be prepared to yield the right-of-way. You also need to pull over for local drivers – they drive much faster than the typical tourist.
The Gypsy Guide app was wonderful on this drive. It told us of five ‘must’ see stops, and gave advice about all of the other optional stops.
There were some beautiful beaches near Hana, but the waterfalls weren’t flowing very well, so they were a little disappointing. As with the drive up the volcano, this drive is worth doing once, but I doubt I would go back – unless I was on a motorcycle.
Rather than drive all the way back along the east side, we decided to continue on around and take the “back road to Hana” back to our condo in Kihei. I suspect that shaved an hour or two off our drive, but it was still dark when we got back.
The back road to Hana is very rough. In places, the pavement is worse than the sections of dirt road. You should also be aware that most rental car companies highly discourage driving this road.
After returning to Kihei, we stopped for dinner at Nalu’s South Shore Grill. I got an apple hamburger. It was not bad, but not my favorite meal of the trip.
Friday, Dec 7 (the North side)
Kama’ole Beach Park II
We really packed a lot into our four days on Maui. It would have been nice to have a few more days to enjoy some of the beaches and do some more snorkeling.
We had to check out of our condo by 10:00 AM, so we got up early and went to a nearby beach for more snorkeling and some boogie boarding. We wanted to go to Kama’ole Beach Park III, but the parking lot was closed. So, we went to park #2.
Jamie and I went out snorkeling for a little while. I almost swam right into a sea turtle. Jamie thought I was swimming towards it on purpose, but I didn’t see it until I was only about 3’ away. It was swimming near the surface and I was looking down at the fish near the rocks on the bottom. It was fun to watch the turtle for a few minutes before heading back to the beach.
We then tried our hand at boogie boarding. This wasn’t the best beach for this since the waves break right near the shore. I lost my prescription sunglasses in one wave, and was amazed that Jamie found them for me.
We then returned to the condo to get cleaned up and check out.
Iao Valley State Park
We wanted to stay clean for our long flight home, so we spent the day sightseeing and visiting north side beaches. We first stopped at Iao Valley State Park. This area looks like Jurassic Park territory. The main attraction is a tall rock formation called “the Needle”.
North Side Beaches
Our next stop was Kanaha Beach to watch the wind surfers and kite surfers. Those guys really move. This is very different than the wind surfing I did years ago on local mountain lakes. It was fun to watch.
We even got to watch the lifeguard head out on his wave runner to help two kite surfers that got their wires crossed.
We then went to Baldwin Beach, but there wasn’t much going on there.
Our final stop was Ho’okipa Beach to watch some big wave surfers. There weren’t many surfers out, but they were impressive to watch. Those waves were huge!
We stopped for dinner at the Flatbread Pizza Company in Pa’ia. Their pizzas are unique. They are made with all locally grown ingredients. The Kalua Pork pizza was excellent. We topped it off with a chocolate brownie and ice cream.
From there we returned our rental car and headed for the airport for the red-eye flight home. In many ways, the flight home was the worst part of the trip. Partially because we had to leave beautiful Hawaii, and partially because of the all-night flight.
All in all, we had a great time. We were busy, and we were tired at the end of each day. It would be nice to have more time to enjoy the beautiful beaches, but we really did have a pretty good itinerary for our short stay. We will have to go back again someday.
Here is my ‘short’ video of our trip. (I also have a longer one on my channel if you are interested):