First-time Maui trip, seeking advice on Hana and Haleakala sunrise tour
June 12, 2017 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Heading for Maui in 10 days with family (spouse and 14/16y/o's) and can't decide whether 2 key tourist endeavors are great ideas or disasters in the making, i.e. Hana and a Haleakala sunrise bike tour...

Very much want to see the Hana region but would love insights into ways to make it better, re: starting/end point, days of week that might be better, time of day to set out and stops to make. Also, sunrise bike tours...were people satisfied? I'd be happy with a neutral or better experience for what it appears to cost, but the negative reviews online make me wary that it will be a slow, expensive, and not very intimate process with the possibility of death by MVA or motion sickness from an over-eager driver on the way to the top at 0200 am. Ideally we would drive ourselves and ride down with a small group at our own pace, assuming such a guided tour existed. I have one daughter who is up for anything and has an iron gut, and a spouse and younger daughter who are happy to sleep and avoid adversity but if pushed I know will look back with gratitude that they got out of their comfort zone, assuming the tour/drive is not a complete nightmare.

Advice welcomed and appreciated.
posted by docpops to Travel & Transportation around Hawaii (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've done the Haleakala tourist thing; there are several companies who will rent you bikes & shuttle you up in a van of 10-20 or so. I was satisfied enough. I wasn't too worried about death by car, I don't remember the roads as very crowded (I'm an experienced cyclist and felt safe enough to absolutely hammer down the hill, which was pretty fun). I think it would be a worthwhile thing for your group. You'll be able to meander down at your own pace.

If you do Haleakala, there's a small town you pass through almost all the way down. There's a very good sushi restaurant in that town just two blocks from the intersection you pass through. You'll be a bit early for lunch, but since you'll have been up since 4 (which isn't so bad with jetlag working in your favor), it works out.
posted by Dashy at 9:56 AM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

With teenagers? I would really ask yourself whether that "happy to sleep and avoid adversity but if I pushed I know will look back with gratitude" is realistic or wishful thinking. We went on a LOT of completely miserable vacations as a teenager because my parents were certain that their "I'm sure they'll appreciate it later!" feeling could overcome a lot of teenage resistance to their preferred activities (which never seemed to take into account what WE would have preferred). I love my parents and certainly we now have a great relationship, but I don't in any way look back on these trips with gratitude (nor do they). I mean, perhaps you have the right read here, but it's very possible that forcing a teenager to wake up before dawn to do physical activities is a recipe for total misery/ruining the entire day because no one has had enough sleep.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:06 AM on June 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I did the sunrise tour/bike down a few years ago. We were picked up in a van and taken to the top and then biked down with a group, with a stop for breakfast/lunch (organized by the company - I'm sure they got some sort of kickback, but the food was fine) along the way. I enjoyed the experience and didn't find it dangerous or anything. It was early in the morning and it was very cold waiting for the sunrise, but it was cool.
posted by Caz721 at 10:45 AM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

fwiw I found the drive out to Hana a little overhyped. Scenic, but not much different than the smaller highways I drive regulary where I live on the west coast of Canada. Maybe if I was a flatlander. But it was worth it for the area past Hana when you hook around the south east edge of Maui. Lots of beautiful small beaches without the crowds of tourists, and there's the seven sacred pools where you can hike up through a bamboo forest to a massive waterfall. Past the sacred pools the drive/scenery did get truly epic imo, but a lot of the big car rental companies won't let you drive it because it's partially gravel (we had a dirt cheap beater rental from some Russian guy). You can actually swing all the way around to go up to Haleakala and it's quicker than backtracking through Hana.

Hana itself was really nice too, quiet and relaxing, and the locals were so amazingly friendly across the board that I would sometimes think I was back in small town Canada. Personal highlight was the red sand beach in the secluded bay around the bend from the main beach. To get there park in front of the town hall and walk down the trail about 5 min (if in doubt, ask a local!).

I didn't do the sunrise bike tour but I did go up to Haleakala and spend a couple days hiking the trails in the crater. That was by far the highlight of my whole trip and still one of the coolest places I've ever been on eart. Completely surreal to be walking down a path feeling like you're on an airplane with the clouds creeping in around the rocks below you. I think it gets really busy at sunrise/sunset based on the line of cars I saw going up and down at those times.
posted by mannequito at 11:52 AM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I lived in Hawaii (Oahu) for five years, and had a sister with a house in LaHaina. When I visited, I took the trip to Haleakala and Hana. The drive to Hana was about three hours; it's lots of bendy roads with waterfalls along the way. I had three friends with me, one a very high powered attorney, stressed from work. We hiked the Iao Needle. He had a great time bushwacking through the forest and forgot all about legal stuff. It was a lush, beautiful challenge, with lots of ginger flowers, steep trails and banana trees. So that was the most fun of my Hana experience; I was less enthused about all the time in the car.

Haleakala is a bit like visiting a parking lot in the sky. Pele has paved the land; expect lots a stark lava fields and rough, barren terrain. I most enjoyed the visitor center, with stories from people who returned the lava rocks they took from the site; apparently the rock bring you bad luck if you take them, so leave them be.

The most fun I had was actually in LaHaina. There's a beach close by with a site called Black Rock beach. The jump off that rock into the water is gorgeous and heavenly. I am usually a chicken about that sort of thing, but that site met my criterion for adventure and safety. YMMV.

I hope this is helpful.
posted by effluvia at 11:58 AM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Do the bike ride down Haleakala. I was dragged to it as a surly, easily carsick teenager who hated everything and I still count it as one of the most fun and memorable experiences of my life.
posted by Temeraria at 12:10 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

My wife and I did the drive to Hana when we visited the islands.

We should have paid extra to rent the convertible.

We stopped a few times along the way to admire scenery. The black sand beach near Hana is awesome (had never seen anything like that before). There was also a great roadside stand on your right as you get near Hana that sold some great banana bread.
posted by osi at 12:39 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed the bike ride down, it was not threatening or scary.

But the hike down into the crater and back up, all 11 miles, was amazing.
posted by canine epigram at 4:47 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank-you for all the help, much appreciated.
posted by docpops at 6:08 AM on June 15, 2017

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