Maui in May — Rest, relaxation and a healthy dose of adventure
Maui, Hawaii, USA
May 3 – 11
The five of us—dad, mum, Levi and Brittany—landed in Maui well after the sun dipped below the horizon. It was about seven years since my last trip to Hawaii but I could still remember walking off the plane and feeling a blast of hot, humid air. And just like the previous trip I had to deal with my disbelief that an outdoor airport could ever feel so warm. Our rental car was waiting for us and we took a detour along the ocean instead of the quick highway route. It was already dark so other than the late night blur of streetlights and the occasional torch dotting the street there wasn’t much to see. The bugs were chirping with an intensity not found back home (I kept having to check the interior of the car for a rogue insect that got in). The day of travel had worn us out and we went to bed shortly after getting settled in our place.
Good Morning Maui
A deep sleep later we woke up to exotic bird calls unlike any back at home. It sounded like they were already having a great day. Through a thin curtain we saw daytime Maui waiting for us.
Kihei was going to be our home base for the week. It’s a long and narrow town built along the coast. Not five minutes from our room were foreign trees, lava rock and tide pools. We watched waves, spotted urchins and sea birds. After that it was up the path to a lookout where we spotted a fisherman—and then our exploring was cut short. We were sans sunscreen and the burns were starting.
The rest of the day was spent at the beach snorkelling and tanning w/ sunscreen. The night was spent walking. Kihei has a bit of a nightlife. In addition to the cars there were people riding scooters and motorbikes without helmets. Near the end of our walk we found a tucked away staircase near Dolphin Plaza and at the top we found a territorial preying mantis. He was totally cool though. The beaches were dark with the light on the lifeguard shack barely illuminating anything. And as I sat there waiting for the long exposure to finish up I listened to the waves endlessly working away at the shore. I felt that they too should rest (at least for a little bit) at night.
The Road to Hāna
Does a long, twisty and narrow road sound like a great time? It should. The Road to Hāna is amazing. All 620 or so of its curves stretch around the island to the small town of Hāna. We started the day by powering up on cinnamon rolls from Cinnamon Roll Fair. They had a great deal where buying five got you a sixth for free. We saved that extra one for later and started the journey. The road is almost completely built through tropical rainforest with trees that drape over the road and bridges that cross small waterfalls and streams.
Pua‘a Ka‘a State Park
Our first stop was a little picnic area. Two cats approached us at the site for food and they made Brittany happy despite one of them scratching her. The small little waterfall out back drained into a deceptively deep (and cold) pool. An older couple splashed around in the water and took turns swimming underneath the falls.
Wai‘anapanapa State Park
Further along the road to Hāna is a state park and a lot of exciting stuff was jam-packed into it. Seriously. There was a legendary cave, a natural stone arch, some blow holes and a small black sand beach (the popular spot). We climbed down to the beach, felt the sand (which turned out to be coarse) and then found a small cave that we crawled inside. The waves would rush in the back of the cave where we stood and watched them for a while. On our way back up we noticed that people had carved names, dates and past crushes and lovers onto the underside of some leaves. We continued on.
Pipiwai Trail & Waimoku Falls
On the way to our destination we passed by Wailua Falls where we set up a small tripod and posed for a family portrait. We didn’t stay long though—Pipiwai Trail was waiting. This was our last stop before the return trip to Kihei. A steep ascent on an overgrown path led us to a set of high bridges over low water. The forest turned to tall bamboo that knocked in the wind. It was like walking through a sanctuary of wind chimes. Our Road to Hāna and Pipiwai journey culminated with the 120 m (400 ft) Waimoku Falls and a sign that said “Go No Farther” (well, not really, it actually said “Do Not Trespass” but “Go No Farther” sounds more dramatic). On the way down it started to rain. It was gentle and magnificent.
Time was on our side as we drove back to Kihei. We stopped at a small beach just as the sun was setting. The Road to Hāna was filled with beauty and the island showed us its best side. After the beach the journey back was dark, twisty and filled with oncoming headlights but we made it.
After the road trip and near spiritual journey of Day Two we took it easy on Day Three. Brittany, Levi and I went for a walk and visited a few of Kihei’s beaches. Brittany found some aloe and Levi got some up his nose when he leaned in to smell it—he sneezed pretty hard. Along the way we spotted an interesting sand castle that seemed to resist the waves much more effectively than your traditional variety. I noted that for future sand castle building.
That night Brittany and I went to Fred’s Mexican restaurant and waited outside for a table to open up. We watched the sun go down and reflected on how the people sitting on a ledge across the street looked an awful lot like us.
We had a list of beaches to check out on Day Four. They were all fairly close together which minimized travel time and maximized beach time.
The snorkelling beach. There was a sea turtle on shore here. It was slow moving and large. It looked old. The waves would wash up over its back fins and they would flop around. I’m wondering if it was his last few hours alive (probably not). We also saw coral that had been destroyed by repeated visits and all got a little sad about that.
The walking/swimming beach. It was wide and long and certainly lived up to its name. Brittany and I climbed up a cliff to get a better view but the ground was unbearably hot. We were hopping around, much to the amusement of people with the foresight to wear shoes. All that heat made the cool sand near the water that much more refreshing though. The whole family did some bodysurfing in dangerous waves and it made me appreciate the force found in nature.
La Perouse Bay
The exploring beach. This was a lava field. The white skeletal remains of coral were littered everywhere. Sharp rocks burst through the sand. Waves absolutely pounded the shore. Today turned out to be a bit of an environmental awakening. I saw the fragility, fierceness and indifference of nature. We are both ruining it and at its mercy. But let’s be honest, that’s pretty heavy stuff for such a beautiful day.
Back To Kihei
We went out to watch a sunset on one of the beaches. Everything was coloured orange as the sun lowered and everyone had that special light in their eyes. Sunshine broke through the clouds and while it didn’t last for long it was quite nice. Off to Ono Gelato after that. Levi bought and it was quite tasty. We all picked good flavours.
Turtle Town & Molokini Crater
It was an early wake up to get out to Lahaina where our snorkel tour was leaving from. Waivers were signed and we set out onto the ocean. The day was clear and calm. Our tour guides said it was the best day they’ve seen all season and it was easy to believe them.
Our first stop was Turtle Town. We were dropped into the water and started exploring the coral. We were floating around and spotted a scuba diver on the ocean floor and thought that was pretty novel until a sea turtle (!) swam into the peripherals with about 40 other snorkelers in tow. It floated through the water pretty gracefully and then disappeared into a small cave. The chaos of flippers, snorkels and tourists getting tangled up while trying to disperse still makes me smile in retrospect. Mum and dad had lots of fun, as did Levi, Brittany and I.
We got back into the boat and made our way to Molokini Crater. It’s a crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater that’s sheltered from the ocean waves. Underwater visibility is especially high because of the unique conditions. We saw some interesting fish and even an octopus. Unfortunately, I also learned that our particular GoPro lens experiences reduced sharpness when used underwater. Most of the photos were a throwaway (but the memories persist).
We spent our night in Lāhainā. It’s lively and full of shops and people all walking around after dark. It’s one of those places that seems more alive once the sun goes down. We skipped most of the vendors but stopped in at a vintage European poster shop. They had collected old posters from all over the world and remounted them on this fancy vinyl type stuff. It was a goldmine for old graphic design and typography. There was a good one of the London Exhibition from the 1850s or so. Further into the market we spotted some feral cats and Levi posed for another photo in the Statue Imitation series.
Last Full Day
Everyone slept in and hung out by the pool until midday. We had a long night at high elevation ahead of us so we were saving our energy. We had a smoothie and I spilled it all over myself. But w/e.
Our plan was to drive up Haleakalā. It’s a shield volcano 3055 m (10 023 ft) in elevation. The drive up to the summit was foggy and we were worried there would be visibility problems at the top. Our fears were unfounded however. Gradually we got out of the fog/cloud mixture and sat atop Maui. A thick layer of clouds blocked the world below.
Dad kept saying how it was one of the most amazing things he’s ever done. It’s definitely one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. We were perched above the clouds and separated from the rest of the world. It was quiet, sound did not travel and there was no echo. We hiked around for a while and saw the once mighty Haleakalā Silversword—an endemic species of plant (meaning it doesn’t grow anywhere else on the planet). There was a story on an information panel about people travelling to Maui in 1820 and how they came upon a hill filled with them. They talked about how it just shimmered in moonlight. Now the plants are dying and they need all the help they can get to survive. Scientists say it’s probably caused by global warming.
We secured our spots for the show. See, most people go up to Haleakalā for the sunrise but we had other plans. After the sunset (which is a show in itself) Haleakalā turns into something special. The elevation, clarity, dryness, stillness of the air and the absence of the light pollution makes it the fourth best star gazing spot on the planet. As the sun lowered the temperature dropped quickly. I thought about all the people on the ground who would get to see the sun set behind the ocean instead of behind the clouds.
It went dark. Then the stars started sparkling. Levi grabbed his binoculars and we all watched the skies.
And we watched some more.
Everyone took one last look.
And then we took our real last look.
We got into the car, warmed up and drove down the mountain. The altitude made us tired. Brittany and I ate some yogurt out on the deck back at the condo and looked out at our last night on the island.
The next day we got on a plane and came home.