Maui : Travel Guide
Aloha! After spending four days on Oahu, we took a super nice iter-island flight over to Maui. We stayed with family in Wailuku, which is located geographically in the center of the island. It's an old plantation town that used to be full of pawn shops, but new business, coffee shops and stores are breathing life back into it. The brightly colored homes were all built between 1910 and 1940. Wild chickens wander around, and it seems like everything is in bloom or fruiting.
Since it's in between the West Maui Mountains and Haleakala, you can pretty much decide where in the island to go based on the weather you can see from Wailuku. If it was dark and rainy on the north shore, we headed towards Kihei or west to Lahaina or Kaanapali. The best thing about Maui is the size. It's big enough that there are plenty of things to do, but small enough that you only need a short drive between adventures.
Winter is a great time to head to Maui. It's whale season, the dry side is green, and it's easy to find off-peak prices. There were turtles resting on North Shore beaches, and plenty of room at bars and restaurants. The weather was mostly warm and sunny over the two weeks we were there, but it wasn't too hot. I couldn't believe how many huge, epic, amazing, magical rainbows we saw, or how much wildlife we got to see. Each day was different, new and exciting. I can't wait to go back.
The North Shore was probably my favorite part of the island to explore. Ho'okipa was breath taking. There was a perpetual rainbow, 30 resting turtles, and plenty of local surfers (moms with kids out in the big waves!) to keep us entertained. The sand is more coarse, but so comfy. We also headed to the beach at Mama's Fish House for a couple of beers and to watch the big waves crash on the other side of the reef. If you're up for an off-road adventure, there's a dirt road that leads to the famous Jaws lookout. It wasn't breaking big when we were there, but the ride was fun, and the view was pretty.
The tourist mecca of Wailea was probably my other favorite beach to hang out at. On our last full day on Maui, a friend hooked it up with beach chairs, drinks and an umbrella at the Fairmont Kea Lani at Polo Beach. There was plenty of Sun Bun sunscreen and a gentle break. At sunset, we walked down to have drinks at the Marriott, and it was the perfect way to end our trip.
Upcountry : Lavender Farm + Wine Tasting
One of my favorite days was when we explored Upcountry. The Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm has breathtaking views, tons of blooming flowers, and an exotic collection of Proteas from around the world. Sure, it's a lavender farm, but the Proteas were the best part. And the view! You can literally see the whole of Maui spread out before you.
For lunch we continued up Route 37, and climbed higher onto the mountain. There's a cattle ranch and winery about 35 minutes up the road. We had the best venison burgers for lunch at Ulupalakula Ranch. They were juicy, perfectly cooked, and came in at just under $12. There were tons of locals grabbing a lunch and taking in the view. All the meat is from Maui, and is all grass fed, free range. The burger was way better than most of the burgers in SF. Across the road is the tasting room for MauiWine. The little winery offers three free tastings, and an optional tour for $10. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and are full of ancient trees, historic structures, and breathtaking views. We did the tour, but I'd suggest skipping it. Maui's world-famous pineapple wine is produced here, as are several other varieties. Be sure to ask questions--not all the grapes are grown on the island, and the staff is quite knowledgeable.
Located at the beginning of the Road to Hana, Paia is a little hippy town that has turned into a hipster/tourist/shopping destination. The town is still really cute, but really commercialized. I'm pretty sure locals never come here. The stores are super cute, and have that boho breezy vacation vibe that I'm constantly trying to work into my look. It's not cheap here. It is pretty cute though.
The Paia Fish Market is so good we ate at both of their locations, and it was fun wandering around the boutiques. We ended up at Nourish Bar and Cafe a couple of times too, just to try different flavors of the komboucha they have on tap. Their patio space is dreamy, and we were super relaxed here.
Paia is a cute place to spend the morning wandering around, but I don't think you need more than a couple of hours here. I'd also skip the beach--it's pretty homeless-y and there are much nicer beaches 5-10 minutes up the road.
Maui is full of amazing food. There's good coffee all over the island.
Paia, which is a dreamy little hippy town at the start of the Hana Highway, is full of upscale boutiques and yummy food. Coffee, kombucha on tap, and fresh seafood are all over town. Paia Fish Market was so good we ate at both their Paia and Kehei locations. The fish and chips, fish burger, and the seafood salad were all excellent. Even the fries are crispy and perfect.
In Wailuku, the historic downtown is seeing a resurgence. The coffee shop is solid, there's an acai bowl place that's tasty but expensive, and there's a new Asian fusion pop-up that's quickly growing in popularity. Outside of town, the Tropical Plantation is a great place to stop for a touristy snack or morning coffee. There's a restaurant there called The Mill that is supposed to be good, but we didn't get to try it.
Just like on Oahu, food trucks, poke and plate lunches are staples. The plate lunch at Sam Sato's was really good, as was the dry men and the under $4 hamburger. The spam masubis at Minit Stop are tasty, and are under $2. They make the perfect take along snack for later, especially if you're headed to the beach.
November through April is whale season in Maui. Humpback whales travel thousands of miles from their feeding grounds in Alaska to give birth and breed in the warm, Hawaiian waters. Up to 60 percent of all Pacific Humpbacks come to Hawaii in the winter, and make the long journey solo. From beaches you can see them spouting and splashing. If you swim out past the break, and stick your head under water, you can hear them singing. But, the best way to see the whales is from a boat.
There are tons of whale watching tours, but I highly recommend choosing the Pacific Whale Foundation. They're a conservation and education focused non-profit, and the tours run about $40/person. All proceeds help their cause, and the naturalists on board are extremely knowledgeable. We went out on a sunrise tour on our last morning, and it was breathtaking. Leaving from Maalaea Harbor, we were out for a couple of hours and saw dozens of whales. None breached super close to the boat, but hearing their songs and seeing mom's and calves together was magical.
We left the harbor in the dark, with an inky sky dotted with stars. Soon, the sky began to lighten, and the sun rose over Haleakala. As the sky grew lighter, it was easier for our captain to spot the tell-tale spouts, slaps and dives. We saw plenty of tales, and watched slick, huge bodies move across the surface.
I'm so happy we chose the Pacific Whale Foundation, since conservation was at the heart of their mission. If you're interested in science and biology, there's also an aquarium at Maalaea that is a great way to spend a rainy or windy day.
Our entire time on the island went by way too quickly. I feel like it's a place I'd be happy to live. I can't stress enough how friendly everyone was, and how easy it is to get around. And there were rainbows everywhere. Everywhere.
I can't wait to go back!