Suggestions and experiences for Maui?
April 21, 2005 6:52 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are going to Maui, Hawaii for a week in June. There's a million things to do there. Any suggestions?

It's a bit overwhealming looking at all the different things to on this island. This is our first time going. We're looking for personal experiences of fun things to see, do, and places to eat. Thanks!
posted by entropy to Travel & Transportation around Maui, HI (18 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The best experience I had on Maui was driving the north coastal highway out to Waianapanapa State Park and spending a night in one of the rental cabins there. (You can't reserve these with any reliability, but show up in person and they'll rent you one for $10 a night or so.)

The drive itself is hair-raisingly dangerous and beautiful, the cabins are equipped with hot running water and kitchens, and the state park is lovely. If I had a week in Maui I'd head out there with a pan, a saltwater fishing rod, a stick of butter (to fry the fish in), a few gallons of water, and something long to knock coconuts and mangoes out of the trees with.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:06 PM on April 21, 2005

Be sure to see the sun rise at the Haleakala crater. Depending upon where you are staying, you may have to wake up in the middle of the night. Bring blankets, as it can get cold (I don't know about in August though, I was there in the Spring). You can also ride bikes all the way down the hill from the summit. I DIDN'T do that, but often wished I had. Have fun!
posted by Oxydude at 7:12 PM on April 21, 2005

I went to the sunset at Haleakala which was beautiful as well. Definitely got cool when the sun went down.
posted by jonah at 8:45 PM on April 21, 2005

I'm still upset we never did the "Road to Hana". I know our rental agreement specifically said it was prohibited. Everyone else who has taken it (Either as a driver or passenger) said it was amazing...
posted by stew560 at 9:56 PM on April 21, 2005

stay here. like nowhere else on the island.
posted by RockyChrysler at 10:13 PM on April 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have fish tacos at Milagros, on the corner of town in Paia, a surf/windsurf/kitesurf/ town. Spend an hour or two on the day with the most waves just watching the surfers get massive waves into the shore. Then have fish tacos, or an incredible meal at Mama's Fish House. Awesome. Once we went on a guided hike with Ute from Hike Maui, and it was worth every penny. She knew the histories of all of the plants: their cultural uses, their biological histories, their medicinal properties, their methods of survival. We went to a waterfall, burial ground, and some beautiful vistas: all things you can accomplish with a guidebook and a general sense of adventure, but she really made the jungle come alive. That particular trip was five years ago and I still remember the entire hike.

We also did the helicopter tour once, and it was beautiful: try to get a seat in the front, as that has the best view. They'll try to sell you a video after, and in the rush of the tour it's tempting, but if you're like most people, it will sit unwatched for years. Do the trip, miss the video.

Eat as much fish as you can: I'O and Pacifico consistently have amazing seafood (and meat and veggie dishes!). Expensive but worth the meal on the sea: try to get a seat for sunset, and sit outside. Heaven. Skip the packaged luaus if you have any doubt: of course some people love things like that, so do one if you're inclined, but if you think it will be odd, don't bother. If you go to I'O or Pacifico (actually they're right beside each other, and owned by the same people I believe), there is a luau next door at a hotel, I think. If you eat around 6:30 or 7:00, you'll be there in time for the luau. You can wander across the beach and watch the fire-twirlers from there.

Scuba diving, if you're so inclined: GO FOR IT! Maui has some incredible dives. Don't book it through the hotel or Maui Dive Shop - they're really not very good, generally. Mike Severns is much better: there are other 'ecological' type dives, and they may be slightly more than Maui Dive Shop, but I've never had a good experience with the latter. Not unsafe so much as rushed or disorganized, and that is NOT something I look for in a dive company! If you've gone diving a few times, make a trip out to the Cathedrals if possible. It's one of the most architecturally stunning dives I've ever seen, with a huge cavern made of lava with only an opening at the top, which was made when gas bubbles exploded from the hot lava into the water. The result is that the crystal clear blue light streams through the fissures, and the entire cave has gorgeous columns of light. It's a magical experience, but when the waves are rough it's hard to get across the water to that particular location. Molokini is the crater just off the coast, and there are popular snorkel/dives to that location. I've dived there several times and have never really been very impressed: it's busy as hell, for one. It's not that ecologically diverse, for two. And did I mention it's busy? Someone did see a whale shark the last time I was there, and there were some stellar reef sharks, but really not great dives. The back wall of Molokini is supposed to be great, but the weather conditions have to be just so, and often one member in the group isn't experienced enough for it, so we'd get diverted to the front (inside the half-moon). There are much better dives off the coast of Maui, and I can't recommend the Cathedral, or La Perouse Bay, highly enough. If you're up for snorkeling, you can't go wrong with Coral Gardens as listed here. There are dozens of fabulous snorkel locations though: Hana, Black Rock, La Perouse Bay, etc. We rented a little kit for the week with fins, masks, snorkels: they're about $10 for the week at any of the local shops and it's WAY cheaper than renting by the hour at the beach. Take a surf lesson - you're just about guaranteed to get up, and it's so much fun. It's easy to organize from there, and is great exercise, a nice way to enjoy the water and is amazing when you get up.

Drive to Hana: one way is OK on the rental cars, one way is NOT. You can also do a helicoptor-bus combo, where you get the chopper one way to Hana, and the bus on the way back. That's a great way (if you have the cash) because you see the amazing island from the air, as well as the great road to Hana without having to drive it yourself (which is aggravating with lots of tourists slowing down at horrible moments, locals trying to get to their job or to surf, and cars meandering around the road). Eat fish, go in the water, take a walk, go see the sunrise, relax. It's amazing.
posted by fionab at 12:18 AM on April 22, 2005 [5 favorites]

OMG, absolutely go to Black Rock, on the west side of the island by the Sheraton I believe, and snorkel there. I spent days doing just that, you can go out a decent ways, there's a big coral formation, tons of fish, and a few sea turtles that hang out.
posted by adampsyche at 6:09 AM on April 22, 2005

Buy this guide book, Maui Revealed. The locals are perpetually annoyed at the authors, so you know it's good. Just don't wave it around when you're there.

We did a hotel luau, and I felt it was way too touristy and manufactured. The food and entertainment weren't actually bad though, if you want to see something kind of Hawaiian.

As far as snorkeling, I thought Molokini was an interesting way to spend half a day, but I wasn't impressed by the fish. Just going off the beaches was much better - like swimming in an aquarium. (Though I did see a manta ray at close-range at Molokini, which was stunning.)

Drive out to far West Maui if you possibly can. It's nearly deserted, the road's aren't nearly as bad as on the way to Hana, and there are some spectacular views. I loved the Nakalele Blowhole in particular, but you have to be lucky for it to be working.
posted by smackfu at 6:58 AM on April 22, 2005

I also recommend the sunrise Haleakala bike tour. You will love it- and it's pretty much all downhill! Have a great time.
posted by elisabeth r at 7:34 AM on April 22, 2005

We did the bike ride down (Bob's) and loved it, but we rode in their vans up to the Haleakala summit, and when we got up there it was all fogged in, so I'm unsure if you'll have good luck, with the sunrise. It wasn't so cloudy that we couldn't see down into the crater, however.
posted by Rash at 8:04 AM on April 22, 2005

I'll second the "Revealed" set of books. I AM a local (on Hawaii, not Maui), and I was shocked at all the little secrets that ended up making it into the book, some I didn't even know about myself.

The island is one of the most beautiful, from Haleakala to its numerous sandy beaches, but Maui is starting to turn into an amorphous blob of tourist-trap goo, and has lost a bit of its cultural identity. I always feel a little uncomfortable whenever I visit there. If you're looking to experience a bit more of the Hawaiian lifestyle, you might want to try taking an IslandAir flight to one of the smaller islands for a couple days.
posted by onalark at 8:57 AM on April 22, 2005

I second the Maui Revealed recommendation. This book and its siblings are uniquely helpful.

The road to Hana is well worth it and personally I recommend staying in Hana for a night or two so that you have time to see some of the sights down at that end of the island. Most people do the drive and then almost immediately have to head back.

Kaanapali beach (near Lahaina) is excellent and there are also some great beaches in South Maui, as evidenced by the strip of resorts built up behind them.

Haleakala is interesting whenever you go. I went for sunset and got clouded in but it was still spectacular watching the sun set through the sea of clouds. Unfortunately I couldn't see the amazing moonscape of the "crater" itself but you'll probably have better luck. I definitely intend to do the bike descent on a future trip. If you're interested in doing it I suggest scheduling this for one of the first days of your trip. This is predicated on the assumption that you're coming from the mainland US and will therefore be waking up early in the morning anyway to start with. This will make it easier getting up to catch the van to the summit.

Even if you don't make it all the way to the summit the upcountry region you drive through on the way has wonderful views and very different trees and plants from the coastal regions. This is one of my favorite things about the Hawaiian islands: that you can travel for half an hour and feel like you're in a different part of the world.

On preview: I would amend onalark's last sentence to suggest that you go to one of the less busy islands, not smaller. Oahu is also small but busy busy busy. But the Big Island itself is my favorite and it's easy to avoid resorts and other tourists there if that's what you want to do. That said I loved Maui as well, and everyone has their own favorite places and vacation styles.
posted by Songdog at 9:13 AM on April 22, 2005

Definitely ride down Haleakala, there's no pedaling, it's all brakes and views. I've done it three times, and always enjoyed the sunrise (and once enjoyed the snow).

Definitely ignore your rental car company. Drive out to the northwest corner of Maui to check out the Nakalele Blowhole and surrounding area, have lunch at Kapalua (or dinner, there's a great sushi place), maybe a picnic at Fleming Beach Park, or some fish tacos at Maui Tacos. Take a trip to Hana, have lunch at the Hana Hotel, and then hike the Seven Sacred Pools area, making sure to go all the way up through the bamboo forest to see Waimoku Falls. Check out the old lava fields south east of Makena State Park, depending on where you're staying you can probably hit the 'Iao Needle on the way.

Spend a late afternoon in Lahaina, making sure to grab a shave ice and sit under the Banyan tree.

Go shopping at Kaanapai or Wailea.

Surfing/Windsurfing... the surf is small in August. If you want to learn it's probably less scary, there are classes in and around Lahaina, replete with rocks, reefs, and sea urchins. If you're a surfer you knew that winter was the time to go, and you'd probably be staying at Turtle Bay on Oahu or in some run down shack of a dude you knew in college. Unless you're really inspired, you probably will have more fun watching people for an hour or two.

If you're really into going to a Luau try getting over to Lanai.

Take one of Pacific Whale Foundation's snorkelling tours. Their guides are a bunch of Biology grads who are at least as entertaining as the other guides, and who aren't just in it to make a quick buck. Think of it as donating money to save the whales (with the added bonus of getting to see some great sealife instead of a coffee mug).

Best of all... Relax. Slather your body with sunscreen (do this every day no matter what, nothing sucks more than a week of being sunburned in Maui), sit your ass on the beach, and do absolutely nothing. Make sure you plan at least one day of this. You'll remember it more than anything else you did...
posted by togdon at 9:23 AM on April 22, 2005

The locals are perpetually annoyed at the authors, so you know it's good.

See, I don't think that makes it good. The book advocates trespassing on private property in order to reach certain sites. It's one thing when respectful people do that, but the book has (according to my Maui resident friend) led to hordes of disrespectful people traipsing across private land, wrecking things and leaving piles of garbage in their wake. I don't think locals would really begrudge people the sight of the Blue Pool or other off-the-road places if they knew the people would be careful and restpectful of them.

Anyway. There's so much about Maui that I loved when I went there. Like stopping at a little stand along the road for a smoothie made from nothing but fresh pineapple, ice, and freshly pressed sugar cane juice. As in, the guy ran the canes through the machine right in front of us. Sheer heaven.

June unfortunately is not the big whale season or I'd recommend a whale watch boat trip. I did one of those - two humpbacks came right up to the boat and swam around us for half an hour. SO amazing!

Oh, and be sure and try some poi. Lots of people hate it. I didn't mind it much. If you're in Lahaina, there's a good lunch place right next to the Old Lahaina Luau - I don't remember the name, but it's just on the north side of the Luau's grounds and is run by the same company. Good place for "plate lunch." (Usually some kind of meat, like teriyaki chicken or beef, with a scoop or two of rice, a scoop or two of macaroni salad. I had one with lomi lomi salmon. Mmm.) Also, if you're a beef eater, Maui is actually a good place for beef as well as fish. At the Ma'alea Grill I had a fantastic cheeseburger - beef raised on the island. They also had excellent "fish'n'chips" made with Mahi Mahi.
posted by dnash at 10:00 AM on April 22, 2005

Slather your body with sunscreen (do this every day no matter what, nothing sucks more than a week of being sunburned in Maui)

Heed this well! I speak from painful experience.
posted by dnash at 10:01 AM on April 22, 2005

Alexander's in Kehei has amazing and inexpensive fish 'n chips. Mulligan's (I think) is a beautiful Irish restaurant on a hill. Go for sunset. Skip the whale watching boat and take the snorkelling one, where you may see the whales too. The aquarium's really good. Big beach is beautiful and was pretty empty when I was there.
posted by callmejay at 10:30 AM on April 22, 2005

Hmmm. Please correct me if I'm mistaken but I don't recall the Revealed books advocating trespassing of any kind, although they do point out some places where annoyed locals have posted "private property" and "no trespassing" signs on public rights-of-way. Perhaps there is some confusion or misunderstanding on this point? They most definitely lead visitors down small residential and services roads, but these are still public.

You're right, though, that annoying the locals doesn't make these books good. What makes them good is the insight and broad knowledge of the islands which the authors bring to the table. They live in Hawaii, they love the place, and personally I find them generally pretty responsible. We went to Hawaii with three or four guidebooks and they others were practically worthless by comparison, especially when it came to useful lodging and dining information.

Also, having spent two thirds of my life living in an area with a thriving tourist economy I have great sympathy with those who wish the tourists would go away and I have zero sympathy for those who drop so much as a cigarette butt on the ground either on vacation or at home. But a guide book is not responsible for the fact that some people are disrespectful assholes. That's like blaming Rick Steves for those loud talking Americans at the Louvre.

Oh, right. Sunscreen. This is most especially important on Haleakala (and more so on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa if you go to the Big Island) because of the thinner air at altitude and, if you're lucky, the cloudless skies. You can burn in five or ten minutes up there. With luck you'll be well covered in clothes but don't forget to protect your face!
posted by Songdog at 10:32 AM on April 22, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the input everyone! We really appreciate it. If you have any more keep 'em coming as I'll be checking back on this thread. I have ordered the Maui Revealed book (new edition; as of May 1st). We'll definitely check out Haleakala, snorkeling, as well as several of the restaurants suggested.
posted by entropy at 7:00 PM on April 22, 2005

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