Travel Hawaii: Maui
Maui - The Magic Isle
Maui has a population of about 125,000 residents but receives over 2.5 million visitors per year. Maui is the second largest island of the Hawaiian chain and is the most popular as a tourist destination.
Maui is known for its pristine beaches, beautiful resort towns and spectacular scenery. That is why Maui is consistently ranked as one of the top resorts in the world.
The western, or leeward side, of Maui is the drier side of the island and features Maui’s world-famous beaches including the beautiful Kaanapali Beach, home to a nightly sunset cliff diving ceremony. West Maui is also home to Lahaina, a historic whaling town and home of one of the largest banyan trees in the world.
The centre of the island is home to the lush Iao Valley and the eastern, or windward side, of the island is the wetter side and the location of Mount Haleakala and the scenic Road to Hana.
Natural Attractions in Maui
Iao Valley State Park
We arrived in Maui at Kahului airport from Kona on the Big Island. Our first stop on the way to our hotel was the Iao Valley State Park. Located in Central Maui, this 4,000-acre, 10-mile long park is home to one of Maui's most recognizable landmarks, the 1,200-foot Iao Needle. We were able to reach a good vantage point on well-marked trails and staircases.
Not only did we enjoy the beautiful scenery, but we were entertained by the local teenagers plunging feet first from the footbridge into the icy stream below, despite signs warning of the dangers.
The Whaling Town of Lahaina
After Iao Valley, and a trip to the Kahului hospital, we resumed our journey to the historic town of Lahaina which was once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom in the early nineteenth century. Interestingly, Lahaina was also a historic whaling village during the whaling boom of the mid-1800’s. Up to 1,500 sailors from as many as 400 ships took leave in Lahaina including Herman Melville, who immortalized the era in his classic novel Moby Dick.
Lahaina is also home to the one of the largest and oldest banyan tress in the country. The tree was planted on April 24, 1873 by sheriff William Owen Smith to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Christian missionaries. It was brought from India and was only 8-feet high at the time of planting. It is now over 60 feet tall, and spreads over two-thirds of an acre.
We had lunch in the Pioneer Inn which was built in 1901 and is the oldest hotel in Hawaii. After lunch, we went to the Royal Lahaina Resort where we stayed in a beautiful beachside chalet on the world-famous Kaanapali Beach. The beach is golden sand, runs for miles in each direction and is on the west coast providing fabulous sunsets.
The next evening, after a day at leisure exploring Lahaina, we enjoyed our first Hawaiian Luau at the Royal Lahaina Resort. A Luau is a traditional Hawaiian feast of pig which has been wrapped in banana leaves, buried underground and roasted all day. Entertainment includes Hawaiian music, hula dancing and other traditional dance performances.
The Road to Hana
The Hāna Highway is a 68-mile (109 km) long stretch of road which connects Kahului with the small town of Hana in east Maui. Recognized as one of the best drives in the entire country, Maui's Hana Highway is a breathtaking journey along a very winding and narrow road that hugs the rugged coastline . There are approximately 620 curves and 60 bridges, most of them single track, along the highway making the driving difficult and dangerous.
Driving this road is not for the faint of heart, and tourists are advised not to attempt this trip on their own. Despite that, many do, and it can be a very slow trip, taking up to two and a half hours to cover the distance even with no stops at the many waterfalls and breathtaking lookouts. As an optional excursion on our Trafalgar Tour, we were lucky enough to be in a small mini-bus with an experienced driver. Even so, there were times when our heart was in our throat as the driver navigated the twisting route.
Hana itself is a very small town with nothing particularly interesting to see - it is truly all about the journey!
Having survived the Road To Hana, like almost everyone who makes the trip, we continued on our clockwise route to return to the centre of Maui (no-one in their right mind would go back the same way that they had just come)!
The Seven Sacred Pools
Thinking that the highlight of our Road to Hana excursion was over, we were pleasantly surprised to stop at two other interesting locations.
The first of these was Oheo Gulch, also known as the "Seven Sacred Pools". This series of waterfalls and pools is located on the south side of the Haleakala crater and is part of the Haleakala National Park. Visitors are encouraged to take a refreshing swim in the pools which, of course, we did!
Charles Linbergh's Grave
The second surprise stop after Hana was at Palapalo Ho'omau Church which, perched on a cliff top overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is the final resting place of the famed aviator, Charles Lindbergh.
Lindbergh lived his last days on the lush Hana coast and, before he died on August 26, 1974, he sketched a simple design for his grave and his coffin.
Lindbergh's grave is under the shade of a Java plum tree in the serene grounds of the limestone coral church which was built in 1857 and which boasts magnificent stained glass windows - truly a hidden gem!
Maui - The Magic Isle
As we packed our bags to leave Maui and move on to Kauai, the fourth and final island of our 25th anniversary trip, we reminisced about our brief but event-filled visit. There is so much to do in Maui that it is impossible to do everything in three short days. We had originally signed up for another of the most popular excursions, sunrise over Haleakala Crater. But, when we realised that it would require getting up at 3 a.m., we remembered that we were supposed to be on vacation so we decided to leave it for next time. It was probably the right decision, but we can hardly wait to go back and explore Maui - The Magic Isle.
And for those of you with a wedding anniversary this year, here are some Wedding Anniversary Ideas that will help you to celebrate in style!