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Maui Island Vacations

Updated on March 12, 2015
tropical sunsets are a nightly event on any of the Hawaiian islands
tropical sunsets are a nightly event on any of the Hawaiian islands

Heaven on Earth

Only a relatively short 4-5 hour plane ride from the west coast of the US mainland, and you find yourself in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, stimulated by everything the Hawaiian islands have to offer. Whether your idea of a vacation is to actively hike, bike, dive, and drive, or if you'd prefer to simply sit on the beach sipping umbrella drinks, the Hawaiian island of Maui should be on any traveler's bucket list.

The first question to ask yourself when planning any Hawaiian vacation, is do you want to stay on one single island for the duration of your trip, or split your stay between several of the different islands? Each island offers different experiences, so if variety is the name of the game, feel free to "island hop" between several of the islands, spending a few days in each location. Keeping in mind that traveling between islands brings all the same hassles as traveling to any other destination such as re-packing luggage, standing in security lines at an airport, checking in and checking out of hotels, and renting and returning rental cars. If your time is at a premium, spending your time on one island may be the way to go. Furthermore, there are several other reasons to "stay put" on a single island.

First, you're provided the opportunity to experience your selected island on a very in depth level. Second, you also have the option of taking a "day off" from sightseeing and activities and simply lounge by the pool in your cabana and over-indulge on previously mentioned umbrela drinks. And third, you seed the idea in your mind that this will not be your only trip to the islands, and you have a lifetime ahead of you to experience everything the entire island chain has to offer.

Fairmont's Kea Lani resort in Wailea
Fairmont's Kea Lani resort in Wailea

Where to Stay - Lahaina, and Wailea

If you're only going to experience one island, Maui is your best bet for your first trip. The "Valley Island" contains everything you could ask for from a tropical paradise vacation destination, from a variety of resort locations, incredible scenic beauty, top notch restaurants and a huge assortment of activities and shopping locations to choose from.

Two of the most popular resort areas on the island are the Kaanapali beach area, and the Wailea beach area, located further on the southern end of the island. Kaanapali is located a bit closer to the airport, and to the main shopping/restaurant center of historic Lahainatown. While the hotels sometimes have more families and kids around the pools, the Kaanapali area is one continuous beach, with all the hotels on the strip sharing the access. Wailea, on the other hand, is a bit more sleepy and slower paced, but the hotels are separated along the coastline, with each hotel having its own semi-private stretch of sand to call its own. As I've previously mentioned, whether you are on your post wedding honeymoon, or just a vacation, there is no shortage of activities on Maui, regardless of what you prefer. Here are a couple of things that just about anyone can do:

Pool at the Marriott Kaui Lihue Resort
Pool at the Marriott Kaui Lihue Resort

Bike Down the Volcano

Yes, you heard me, I said "bike", not "hike," and "down" the volcano. There are several tour groups that operate the bike tours that start at the summit of Mount Haleakala and cruise to the ocean, such as Maui Mountain Riders. You might hear stories of how dangerous or scary it is, but honestly, if you keep you eyes on the road and only look at the scenery when the group pulls off to the lookout points, you'll be fine. If you're traveling from the US mainland and have more than a 3hr time zone adjustment, take advantage of the 5 hour jet lag and book one of the "sunrise" trips that pick you up from your hotel at around 2am, and have you at the summit in time for sunrise. The advantage of the sunrise trip is the view is clear all the way down (clouds often shroud the mountain in the afternoon, and the afternoon tours spend most of their time riding through a cloud), and you're finished in time to spend the rest of the day at the pool. Also, don't think that because it's a 35 mile bike ride that you have to be in any kind of shape to do it.....you only pedal about 400 feet the entire trip, and gravity takes care of the other 30+ miles.

this is why you stop to take pictures...you don't want to be admiring the view while cruising down a road without a guardrail to keep you from taking the "express" route down the hill.
this is why you stop to take pictures...you don't want to be admiring the view while cruising down a road without a guardrail to keep you from taking the "express" route down the hill.
Waiehu golf course, view from the 10th green looking down on the front-nine, which runs along the ocean.
Waiehu golf course, view from the 10th green looking down on the front-nine, which runs along the ocean.

Golf on Maui...the "locals" secret

If you play golf, there's no shortage of incredible golf courses on Maui. The courses at Kapalua and Wailea host PGA and Senior PGA events, and the Kaanapali courses are pretty nice too (I think they're kinda flat, with not as much ocean exposure or elevation changes as the Wailea and Kapalua course). However any of those courses will run well in excess of $150 per round (and I'm being nice in the case of Kapalua). I think there are discounted rates available if you stay at certain hotels and book your round through the conceriege, so it's worth doing a bit of homework before you book your tee-time. But the real hidden gem for golfers on Maui is Waiehu Golf course located back near the main town of Kahului (where the airport is). People don't believe me when I say this, but if this course was located in any of the resort areas, and spent a bit more money on greenskeeping, the daily fee could easily crack $300 per round. The first nine holes are on a flat section right along the ocean, with the second nine up in the hills above providing a scenic view down towards the ocean. Last I heard I think the daily fee is about $65 per round, including cart. I also believe they are OK with non-golfing spouses simply riding along for the day as well,which is something I doubt would be allowed at the resort level courses.

Maui's "Blowholes"

If you're up for a day of simply driving around and exploring the island, take a roll up past Kapalua on the northwestern-most point on the island, and there are several stops where you can pull off, take a short hike out onto the cliffs where the incoming waves actually crash beneath you and shoot up through holes in the rocks, creating a miniature, geyser-like effect. You'll need a good pair of shoes or hiking boots (we saw one couple in flip flops, and they didn't look too happy), and there is a chance you can get wet if you're not careful about where you're standing. I don't know the exact location, but if you pick up a copy of "Maui Revealed" from Amazon, I think they mention the exact spots. This book is also dead on with just about every recommendation, so pick up both the Maui

Maui

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