A Whirlwind Visit to Maui, Hawaii

Posted by on Mar 29, 2013

Randy and Kathy on the edge of a waterfall flowing into an emerald green jungle pool.

Randy and Kathy on the edge of a waterfall flowing into an emerald green jungle pool.

My first time to, and impression of, Hawaii

As mentioned previously Randy and I went on a “free” trip to Hawaii. It turned out to be not so free but that’s ok, we went and we had a good time. It was my first time to Hawaii so I was really looking forward to the trip. For a long time I had listened to people talking about how wonderful Hawaii was; the blue ocean, the white (and black) sand beaches, surfers hanging out in the waves, waterfalls and volcanos. All of it sounded so exciting! So when we got there it was late and we walked to a very modern American mall to find some dinner. Then the next day we picked up our rental car and started exploring. I must admit, I was a little disappointed. It seemed just like home. We were in a town with the same stores (even a Costco) and the same gas stations and restaurants. Where was the romantic tropical paradise I was expecting?

Well turns out it was there. Just not in the area where our hotel was. As we explored the island we found the rainforest and the volcano, and we enjoyed a glass of wine on the beach at sunset (cameras on tripods and ready for the green flash). We wandered the waterfront of Lahaina checking out the small stores and restaurants with their mouthwatering smells. The whales were big, elusive and majestic!  When I found the first turtle while we were snorkeling I was so excited I gulped a big mouthful of ocean, yuk! The tropical paradise was there, not like some of the remote islands I’ve been to but just as good and maybe even better in some ways.

Accomodations

The Courtyard at Maui Beach Hotel

The Courtyard at Maui Beach Hotel

We stayed at the Maui Beach Hotel in Kahului. It’s an airport hotel which was kind of convenient. If you are arriving late in Maui and don’t want to drive to your destination hotel in Lahaina or Kihei or Kaanapali I would recommend the Maui Beach Hotel to stay in that first night. They have a free shuttle to and from the airport, the rooms were clean and the staff pleasant and friendly. The hotel is on the water of the harbor and one morning I watched a huge cruise ship being docked. MBH is also close to the mall where we found a Starbucks and a great restaurant, Koho’s Bar and Grill. We both loved the Guava Glazed fish of the day (Ono on the day we were there) and the Lemon Caper sauce was good also. The breakfast menu was limited but the food was good. We ate breakfast there one day. Randy had an omelet and I had the Road to Hana Skillet which had lots of fresh veggies in it.

If you stay at the MBH, ask for a courtyard room away from the doors leading to the lobby. Those doors slam and are noisy! We were in room 221 which was near the end of the wing and very quiet. If you want a lanai, the room will be small and only has one queen size bed. If you don’t care about having a lanai the double room is larger and has two double beds (hence the name). The hotel is shaped like a U with the ends of the U towards the harbor. The left arm of the U has a busy road going past it so all the rooms on the outside of that part of the hotel will have traffic noise. And I think that the second floor is better than the first because you get better views and you can leave the windows open at night without worrying about break-ins. Not that there was any problem with that while we were there. Our air-conditioner was NOISY! So we left it on until we were ready to turn off the lights then turned it off and opened the windows. Luckily it wasn’t hot while we were there because the windows that open are small and don’t provide much air flow. The beds were ok, not too hard but nothing special. There is no free coffee or coffee makers in the rooms but you can buy a cup of good coffee at the restaurant for $1.50 + tax, or walk to Starbucks at the mall.

Activities

Other recommendations:  We liked Maui Adventure Cruises for whale watching because they used 16 passenger inflatable boats (they call them rafts), and we were able to hang over the side and put our underwater cameras in the water to try and photograph or video the whales (or I should say whale since only one came close enough to do this). I did get some poor video of the whale going past us so that was pretty cool. Maui Adventure Cruises works out of Lahaina harbor, slip 11.

Whale Mom and Calf Tails

We saw two sets of whale mom and calves while whale watching with Maui Adventure Tours.

The other whale watching company that we heard good reviews of was Pacific Whale Foundation. But they use a big boat with upwards of 50 people on it. There was no way you could put your arm over the side and stick your camera in the water! They do cruises out of Ma’alaea as well as Lahaina and we heard that the whales were more active in the south near Ma’alaea than they were in the north where we were.

The road to Hana Bay is beautiful and every bit as windy and narrow that you may have heard about it. It is also lined by beautiful coastline, roaring waterfalls, and idyllic creeks winding through boulders. There are also a few interesting places to stop and purchase fresh fruit and drinks. The bay itself was anticlimactic after the drive but we stopped there and took a picture of us with the bay in the background. Then we went on to Ohe’o gulch and the Seven Sacred Pools. At all of the waterfalls we passed on the road and at the pools there were people. We decided that next time we go to Maui we would stay the night (or two) in Hana and go out to some of the waterfalls and/or to the pools in the early morning or really late afternoon when there were less people around to be in our photos. And, we would have liked to have been able to hike around the pools and up the trail to Makahiku and Waimoku Falls.  We did the drive in one day starting kind of late and ended up back at our hotel in Kahului around 8:30 p.m.

Taro Fields Along the Road to Hana

Taro Fields Along the Road to Hana

We enjoyed our afternoon of snorkeling at Makena beach. We found a few turtles, and some fish but I think overall we are spoiled when it comes to underwater having been to some amazing places SCUBA diving and snorkeling. And the water was cold and we didn’t have wetsuits and so weren’t inspired to spend hours in the water.

Haleakala was out of this world! Really! It is very cool to look down into the caldera, which looks like moonscape or something alien with only rough rocks and sand, nothing green or growing that you can see. The cold wind blows hard and the altitude takes your breath away even just walking to the visitor center at the top. There are trails which do down into the caldera where you can camp or stay in one of the huts available, and there is a trail that goes all the way down to the ocean near Kipahulu. We didn’t do the drive up while dark to see the sunrise but I bet it is spectacular because you can see to several of the other islands, even snow on the mountains on the big island!

Clouds Pour into the Caldera at Haleakala

Clouds Pour into the Caldera at Haleakala

Next time we go

I think that when (if) we go next time we will stay longer and take our time doing all these things. And since we will probably be paying for it ourselves we will not stay at a hotel close to the airport but maybe move around a bit, staying in Hana for a few days and in Lahaina or Kaanapali, and in Makena or Kihei. I would like to stay in places with a kitchen or kitchenette if possible because eating out is expensive. And I would take my SCUBA gear and do some diving also.

I hope that you enjoy my image gallery from Maui, Hawaii. Comments and questions are welcome!

Randy and I pose with the birdman’s parrots along the road to Hana.

My Maui image gallery can be found in the Travel menu or by clicking HERE.

Randy’s images can be seen on his website rherzphoto.com.

Read about how we received this “free” trip to Maui HERE.

 Reference Links:

Maui Beach Hotel
Koho’s Bar & Grill
Maui Adventure Cruises
Pacific Whale Foundation
Road to Hana Guide
Haleakala National Park
‘Iao Valley State Park