Hawaii is the 50th state of the US composed mainly of volcanic islands. Also the very last state declared as the US territory in late 1950’s. We were on the island called Maui. Many travel magazines have described Maui as the paradise on Earth. Precisely the reason I wanted to explore this region. Like many places I have visited, Hawaii had been on my list for the longest time. The state of Hawaii has multiple islands, we chose Maui – because of its natural beauty. If you are looking for adventure, Maui is just the island for you; to hike, zip-line, do many other adventure sports along with some awesome water activities.
75% of Maui island is covered by the dormant volcanic mountain called Haleakala. It’s believed, Haleakala is in fact a mix of two volcanic mountains. This mountain is on the east side of Maui. All the touristic activities take place on the west and south side. Eastern part of Maui, is usually cloudy, rainy but the west and south side is almost always sunny and the eastern mountains also block the wind so tourists can have the most ideal weather experience on Maui.
One of the first things we did as soon as we arrived was attended Luau. It was a buffet at a resort in South Maui, Wailea – an event full of music, dance and orchids showcasing Polynesian culture. This is a must do to experience Hawaiian-Polynesian culture.
It was on average 82 degrees Fahrenheit (approx. 28 degrees Celsius) on the island in February 2016. Everyone here surfs. When it’s a day off or a weekend, all they do is surf. Locals’ main activities are all water activities, everyone here has a perfectly toned body.
I recommend at least a week-long stay. Rent a car. It’s relatively easy to drive around.
West Maui: Lahaina
West Maui’s Lahaina area has a few awesome museums where you can learn about the history of Hawaii and its people. Interesting thing I found out about this state; after becoming a part of the US in late 50s – Hawaii’s own Polynesian culture started deteriorating. Future generations would only speak English, their native tongue was slowly disappearing. It wasn’t until early 2000, that Hawaiians deliberately made an attempt to revive their culture. For a state that seemed to start late, I was very impressed by their heritage preservation efforts. People here are multi-lingual, they have very well adapted to the American setting, keeping their culture in tact – also very cleverly integrating it with tourism.
PARKING (West Maui)
Parking can be a big issue in Lahaina.
Parking tip:> There are plenty of free public parking lots in Lahaina. But if you can’t find one. Right between the intersection of Dickenson St/Luakinu St and Dickenson St/Waine’e St you can find ‘Republic parking’; for 3 – 8 hrs it costs $5. If you park just a block ahead (closer to the main Lahaina market) It costs $5 for 1-2 hrs [2016 rate].
Lahaina is a great area to walk around, it is one of the main tourist areas on Maui. Awesome places to dine, one of which is, Cool Cat Cafe: – I recommend: Blue suede shoes cheese burgers – for the lovers of blue cheese burgers.
Best beach is in the Kaanapali area. About a few minutes (drive) north of Lahaina (although technically the same area). Kaanapali has a big mall (Whalers village) where you can park your car but it’s expensive. We were lucky enough to find a public parking spot, which is right next to the mall. If you get confused, ask the vehicle ticket person at the mall to point you to the public parking space.
South Maui: Kihei
Our hotel was on the south side of Maui. Tourist mainly flock western side – but we chose South side – as we had read in the reviews that the south side would be less crowded. Our hotel was just across an awesome beach from where you could get the best sunset view on Maui. All beaches are public on the island of Maui.
Food (South Maui , Kihei)
Closer to the hotel we stayed at there was>
Cafe O’Lei: This was about 6-min walk from our hotel.
Recommend: Li Hing Mui Margarita
Coconut’s Fish cafe: A few minutes drive from our hotel (30-35 minutes if you walk fast). According to CNN Coconut’s Fish cafe is one of the best top 10 food joints in the US. I would say, it does live up to the hype.
East Maui is all Haleakala – also the no. 1 biggest attraction of Maui. Haleakala mountain offers hiking experience, watching sunrise 10,000 feet above sea level, wildlife spotting, walk through a mystical bamboo forest. It’s a natural beauty jackpot.
Haleakala is humongous – considering 75% of Maui is all Haleakala – there is so much to do here in each side of Haleakala.
- Road to Hana (all day trip)
- Watch sunrise: Make sure to wake up early for this. To get there on time, you have to leave your hotel room by 2:45 a.m. if you are on the South side. For those living on the west side, will have to leave even earlier.
- Explore the Haleakala mountain. Go for hiking. We tried, Halemau’u trail and Hosmer’s Grove trail
- Part of the Haleakala National park> Pipiwai Trial: This trail was something out of a dream. Nothing like I had seen before, forest full of bamboo, gave me goosebumps – very mystical and spiritual.
We were on the island for 8 days – so after we were done with all touristic activities – we had enough time to also check out the Nakalele Blowhole. If you do not have enough time – you can skip this. But if you do, do not miss out. It isn’t a protected area, hence you will see plenty of sign boards saying something like, ‘..explore at your own risk’. Please do not go so close to the blow hole, it is in fact very dangerous. Blowhole area looks a bit like alien planet. It took about 2 hours drive to get to this place from Kihei (south Maui).
Overall Must dos:
- Attend Luau
- Explore all the best beaches of west (Kaanapali) and south Maui (Kihei).
- Go snorkeling: We went snorkling at Molokini crater. Water was absolutely divine. I have never seen water so clean. You can see all kinds of aquatic creatures from the boat, you don’t even have to jump in the sea. It was that clean! Molokini is a protected area, you are not allowed climb the rocks of Molokini. Snorkling will be limited within a certain area only. But highly recommend it for sure. Besides Molokini, this package also included watching sea turtle on south Maui. As a bonus, we also got to see humpback whales. Turns out it was a whale mating season, so there were multiple male humpback whales trying to impress one single female whale and ended up very close to our boat. Boats are not allowed within 100 yards of whales, but if whales decide to come close to the boat, there’s nothing the captain can do but stay put. It was an awesome sight!
- Explore Haleakala: Watch sunrise, hike Pipiwai trail, and other trails of the mountain.
All in all, I found Maui very similar to Nepal. Hawaii is literally at the top most level in the landscape of international tourism. When I say, Maui is very similar to Nepal – I am not even kidding. Except for the ocean, everything else in Maui reminded me of Nepal. From long and winding road to Hana, to summiting Mt Haleakala, seeing the sunrise above the clouds, to beautiful weather – it felt very much like going back home. If such a small island can offer so much, Nepal being a bigger country would naturally have much more to offer, if only managed well. Still, having said that, Maui of course has its own charm that cannot be compared to any other place; especially its people and culture – very unique and one of a kind. If Maui is on your bucket list – I hope you wait no more to book a trip.
Watch a snippet of our trip:
Maui, Hawaii from Shailiza Manandhar on Vimeo.
Watch this on Youtube