It’s that time of the year again. As the days get shorter, skies slowly get grayer, and shorts and tees make room for sweaters and jackets; you finally realize: winter is here. To fight depression, and to me winter blues are not a myth, Mrs. CurryOnTravel and I headed to sunny Maui. A place so nice, they use the same term for hello and good-bye. The clouds and the cold wind were replaced by clear skies, sun, and sand.
What to do there
Maui is part of the collection of islands that make up the state of Hawaii; the last state to join the United States. Part of eight islands, Maui is the second-largest island, a perfect destination to relax and explore the amazing island life. There is plenty of things to see on other islands such as “Big Island”, “O’ahu, and Kaua’i, so plan your trip accordingly. For our winter getaway of 5-nights, 4-days we stayed on Maui to truly explore the island.
After landing on the island, and picking up the car, our first stop was to a restaurant called Moku Roots. Located in Lahaina, the place has an eco-friendly, green, vegan vibe. With amazing dishes that caters to different tastes, you can enjoy your meal for hours. Moku Roots take their eco-friendly mission to heart by providing reusable metallic containers for to-go meals, and banana leafs for wrapping items. One of the few things we wish we could bring back with us.
Hacking Tip: One of the first things you should do, after getting a car and leaving the airport, is to stop at the Costco®. If you have a Costco® card, or thinking about getting one, a trip to Maui will make it all worth it. Not only does Costco® have the cheapest gallon on the island (about 25% cheaper), but they have great deals on other items such as Maui Gold Pineapples, macadamia nuts, deals on island excursions, and adult beverages. Stopping here early and checking out the deals and options will save you a bunch during your stay on the island.
The next morning, we got a head start to visit Upcountry. Along the highway to Hana, there is a separate path that leads to rustic towns such as Makawao and Kula. Several celebrities, such as Oprah, have a getaway in the beautiful hills of Upcountry. As you make your drive from the island, take the route from Paia, a small town at the foot of the mountain. Paia is a great stop and splits the road between Hana and Upcountry.
Where are you going?
There are many things to see in Upcountry, so getting a head start early in the day is important. From Paia, the road to Ulupakakua is a mountain pass that could take about an hour and a half in a straight drive; so you can stop along the way or stop on the way back to Paia. Since the main streets in Makawao and Kula open later in the day, we decided to stop on our way back. Our first stop was at the La Provence bakery, in Kula. The French pastries in the morning hit the spot, along with roasted Maui coffee. It’s also a great spot for Lunch and Dinner.
After the bakery, our next stop was at the Ali’I Kula Lavender farm. Located on the hills of Upcountry, the farm has rows of lavender that bloom in the season. You can still smell the lavender in the winter. Below the lavender is an expanded area of the farm where you can take a guided tour to learn more about the fauna. The lavender farm is also a popular spot for photo-shoots, and picnics. You can try some of the lavender baked goods, and my favorite: lavender green tea.
After the lavender farm, we made our way to Ulupalakua, higher up the mountain to the Ranch store. Stopping at the Ulupalakua Ranch Store feels like stopping in a country store in a remote town. The store has some Maui memorabilia, food options, but more importantly it’s a great spot for some amazing views. You can look through the palm trees in a clear sky and look at the water below.
Across the street from the Ranch Store is MauiWine, where you can taste wine made from grapes grown in Maui; as well as pineapple wine made from Maui Gold pineapples! Make a reservation so you can tour the beautiful estate and relax while sipping unique flavors in Upcountry.
On our way back from Upcountry, we stopped at O’o farms for a farm-to-table experience. Reserve a coffee or a lunch tour as you experience some of the freshest dishes. Make a connection with the food you eat as you tour the grounds and learn about their plantation.
Hacking Tip: There are many things to do in Upcountry, so short-list some items and make some reservations. What you’ll learn about Maui, and the same thing applies about life, is that the journey is more important than then the destination. Rather than checking some items off your list, try to slow down and smell the lavender. Getting a head start early in the day will help, and we really recommend stopping along for the way for some beautiful views.
After a beautiful drive in Upcountry, we attended our luau at the Feast of Lele (another name for Lahaina). Set against the beautiful waters of Lahaina, the luau set us on a journey across five islands of Polynesia in a sit-down dinner experience on the beach. With excellent service, and an open-bar, we not experienced a vegan version of the several dishes, but also journeyed through the drinks option across the islands. The luau presents several dances of the islands between courses, and made for a romantic evening. Make sure you reserve in advance as the Feast of Lele and Old Lahaina Luau book early. The Feast at Lele provide vegan alternatives, however, the Old Lahaina Luau is more of a traditional luau (both are run by the same company).
The next morning, Mrs. CurryOnTravel and I left at 7 AM for our drive to Hana. We left early since we did not want to stay in Hana, but come back by the evening. As mentioned before, the town of Paia serves as a good point to split between Hana and Upcountry. After continuing on Hana Highway from Paia, our first stop was at the Twin Falls. It’s a great stop for a mini-hike to get your feet wet in the falls.
After the Twin Falls, our next stop was at the Waikamoi Nature Trail, a half-mile trail where you’ll pass many mango and giant eucalyptus trees. After the Waikamoi Nature Trail, we passed the Garden of Eden, since we wanted to stop at other spots; however it is a good stop for kids to walk through a plantation if they haven’t before. There are several scenic stops along the way, the main one being Honomanu Bay.
We stopped at the Ke’anae Arboretum, an open botanical garden. The garden contains about 150 varieties of tropical plants, some native and some donated from around the world. There is an easy path where you can take your time and walk around and read the descriptions. Our personal favorite was the Rainbow Eucalyptus.
Welcome to the Arboretum
About half a mile from the arboretum, you’ll come to the Halfway to Hana shop. It’s a great stop to grab something to eat, like their famous freshly baked banana bread; or drink their pineapple smoothie. If you want to take a longer break, you can stop two miles later at the Wailua Valley State Wayside, and use their benches for a picnic.
At this point, you’re more than halfway to your journey to Hana. Along the way, you’ll see many falls such as the Upper Waikani (also known as the Three Bears Falls), Hanawi Falls, and the Makapipi Falls. Some of the falls do not have dedicated parking, you can stop on the side if the space is available to take a snap. Along the way you’ll also find many additional vendors, such Coconut Glen’s for their vegan ice cream (our favorite? The Lemongrass and ginger flavor); or drink fresh coconut water and eat the meat. Another great place to stop is at the Nahiku Marketplace, about mile 29, where you’ll find more food options and a coffee shop. Excuses are not required to make a stop and enjoy the sites or the food on the road to Hana.
All Vegan, All Good
After our stop, we made our way to the Waianapanapa State Park to check out the Pailoa black-sand beach. When an active volcano spills hot lava, such as the Haleakala, and it cools quickly by the sea, you get the beautiful black-sand beach. Aside from the amazing beach, there are several trails in the park that offer break-taking views. It’s also a great stop for a picnic, or for the group to freshen up from the long trip. A visit is definitely worth to this park, and this could serve as a good point to head back if you wanted to.
The Pailoa Black Sand Beach
Of course, we decided to continue on to check out the other side of the Haleakala National Park. About 10 miles further south (and by now you’re on the other side of the island), you enter into another site of the National park, separate from the crater. Save the entry pass, since it is valid for three days and you can use it to access the Summit, and check out the many offerings the park has to offer. The Pools of ‘Ohe’o, a short hike away is worth the entry into the park. Also known as the Seven Sacred Pools, in ideal conditions visitors are allowed to swim and cliff-jump into the water. In addition to the pools, there are several trails you can hike from the park.
The Pools of ‘Ohe’o
Hacking Tip: Similar to Upcountry, there are many things to do in Hana, and I’m sure my list above does not cover it all. Visiting the places above and returning back to Paia will probably take you the entire day. When you leave Paia as you head to Hana, make sure you have a tank full of gas. I could not find any gas stations on the highway. Use common sense as you stop at different stops: lock your car and do not leave any valuables in the open. Generally the area is safe, however cases of break-ins were reported. Carry additional food and water, though you will find several options along the highway. For hiking and swimming, wear a good pair of shoes and carry an extra pair of clothes. There are several tours and apps (Gypsy and Shaka Guide) that provide more information on a specific spot. Most importantly, have fun! The sights are hard to capture, much less describe.
The next day, we visited the Lahaina to check out the old town, its history, and for our next adventure. An eclectic old-town, the “down-town” Lahaina has many shops and restaurants along with the harbor for a great walk. If parking is an issue on the street, there is a free parking lot on Prison Street, close to the Banyan tree and the Courthouse.
Planted in 1873, the Banyan tree still stands today, and remains a famous symbol of Lahaina. Now extended in a full park, the tree is close to the original Courthouse of Lahaina, now a museum. Built in 1859, the courthouse offers visitors tours every hour from 1-4 on Monday to Friday. Go back in time and see the island from the original British visitors, and see the flag that once waved on the courthouse.
Outside the courthouse is the harbor, where our boat awaited to take us on a submarine. How can you not go 130 feet below sea-level? It was a great experience as the guide walked us though the different types of fish, and the life in the depths of the ocean. There is also an old ship placed for the tour; overall the experience was certainly unique. We have never climbed the heights of a mountain or felt the ocean floor in a single trip before.
After the submarine tour, and returning back to dry land, we headed to Maui Tropical Plantation for an early happy hour and dinner. Rebuilt from a former plantation and sugar factory, the Tropical Plantation held its roots as the décor and atmosphere treat you with items from the past. With many shops and a restaurant and bar; the plantation offers a great view of the island with a world-class drinks and menu. Plantation tours are offered during the day, however a reservation is required.
Machinery from an older time
How have I made it this far into the post without talking about the world famous beaches of Maui? Lahaina and Ka’anapali have some of the best beaches of the island. Check our Napili and Maluaka beaches in the morning. The Wailea beach, close to Kihei, are nice as well. The beaches are first come first served, including the parking. Enjoy a nice run or a yoga class on the beach early in the morning, and lay back as you sun bathe, or catch a fresh wave of the water.
There is a paradise, and it’s called Maui…
Another centerpiece to Maui is the Haleakala Summit. Haleakala means “house of the sun”, and it’s fitting since the sunrise tours of the summit are very popular, so much in fact that permits are now required to enter the summit early in the morning. Visit the reservation site to reserve a spot. To view the sunrise requires leaving at 3 AM to drive up the 10,000 feet summit. Temperatures drop rapidly and the roads can be very cloudy, however it is certainly an experience. If sunrise and waking up early are not your thing, sunsets at the summit are popular as well; and no permit is required. Use the park entry fee, valid for three days, from your trip to Hana.
Fresh juices and smoothies are must during your time in Maui. As your drive along the roads, you’ll see many fruit vendors, even in the tops of a lookout point you’ll find Coconut Caboose. Our favorite stops were the Oluwalu Fruit Stand (located outside of Lahaina), and the Maui Farmers Market in Kihei. I lived on the pineapple smoothies and fresh coconut water during our long drives.
There are many other things to do during your stay in Maui. From water activities to mermaid lessons, there is something for everyone. We both loved getting away on the island, spending time in the beautiful weather, watching the sun climb the clear key, and the moon dance with the water. For us, there are no checklists, rather a refresh that was certainly needed.
How to get there
There are flights available from major ports in the US. Maui has a great airport, and direct flights are available from the Central and East coast; however you’ll find the most options from the West coast. The islands of Hawaii have airports, and the best way to travel internally is to take a flight.
Where to stay
Major resorts are located across the island, in areas such as Lahaina, Ka’anapalli, and Wailea. Airbnb options are also available in areas such as Kihei. These are central areas that provide good access without excessive driving. A rental car is a must, as the drive is both scenic and fun. The lanes are limited to two in most areas, so avoid the rush hour if you want to see more of Maui than the traffic. Safe Travels, CurryOnTravel
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