After five nights in beautiful Kauai, we flew Hawaiian Air to Maui, the second part of our Hawaiian Vacation. We were a bit sad to leave the remote and quiet island of Kauai, but excited for a new adventure. We knew immediately upon landing that Maui was going to be very different. The roads were no longer only one lane and there was far more commercialism AND people!
The Four Seasons in Maui was beautiful and pristine. We were greeted with fresh leis, and mine was made of beautiful orchids. What shocked us most about this hotel was the attentive staff and their willingness to provide top rate service. I could have stayed forever.
Our room was on the third floor and close to the beach, with a tiny partial view of the ocean. We loved our location as it was quiet and convenient to everything we needed. Keep in mind that the Four Seasons is HUGE. Our room was very spacious, as was the bathroom, and it had a sweet little lanai lined with trees that we enjoyed each morning with our coffee.
Wailea Beach in front of the Four Seasons was beautiful. It is actually a public beach (as are all beaches in Hawaii), but the Four Seasons staff provided chairs and towels for hotel guests. We spent very little time by the three beautiful resort pools as we were were drawn to the ocean. After our action packed time in Kauai, we decided to spend a little more time at the beach relaxing, reading our books, watching for whales, and snorkeling.
Our favorite day in Maui was actually the opposite of relaxing. Instead, it was a 12 hour day trip on the Road to Hana. We had asked around and were given a few tips (and a great map from The Four Seasons) for our drive. 1) Leave early, 2) Take some snacks, 3) Wear good running/hiking shoes, and 4) Don’t stop at every over-look but make sure to stop at the following three stops:
- Keanae Peninsula (Mile Marker 17, according to our map) – for some of the famous banana bread at the “halfway to Hana” point.
- Wainapanapa State Park (Mike Marker 32) – to see the black sand beaches, caves, and lava water pools.
- Ohe’o Gulch and Seven Sacred Pools (Mike Marker 42) – to see the Seven Sacred Pools and to take the two hour hike through the bamboo forest to the 400-foot Waimoki Falls.
There is really no way to prepare yourself for the actual driving part on the Road to Hana. You just have to do it. There were constant (and I mean CONSTANT) hairpin turns ALL the way up, and numerous ONE-WAY bridges where you had to wait your turn to cross it. Not to mention the locals in their trucks who came barreling down the middle of the very narrow road, saying “Get out of my way”. Who can blame them for dealing with the tourists every day? But we did have a few choice (not to be repeated) words for them at times.
Mike was the driver and I was very happy to be the occasional traffic director. I’m not gonna lie but both of us secretly thought we could get the drive done and be back at the beach by 3pm. NOT! It was a good solid three hour drive one way, only after we fueled up with coffee in Paia, a trendy little surf town on the north side of the island. We also hit a major roadblock (twice) on the way up, due to construction workers clearing an occasional stray rock on the road. Not sure if it was a rock slide or just rock slide prevention. Either way, we were stalled for a half hour at a time. And then we spent a good hour at Wainapanapa, then another three or so hours on the hike to Waimoki Falls and to see the Seven Sacred Pools.
So I’m guessing that you are wondering why The Road to Hana was our favorite day in Maui. Well, because the views along the way, and along our hikes, were unbelievably beautiful and OMG amazing.
Breathtaking. I promise!
We saw numerous waterfalls. We walked on the black sand beach and went in the caves. We did the short hike to the Seven Sacred Pools, and although they weren’t open for us to swim in due to bad sea conditions, they were a beautiful sight to see. We also did the longer hike to Waimoki Falls, which is a 400 foot waterfall that was both loud and majestic, and well worth our efforts to get there. The photos simply don’t do it justice. You have to hear it AND see it at the same time.
The Banyan tree below was on our way up to Waimoki Falls. It was absolutely HUGE and that’s only the bottom part of the tree. We were lucky to share picture-taking duties with several friendly hikers along the way.
Mike was our official hike leader and he looks the part in the picture below, with his bamboo stick in the midst of the beautiful bamboo forest. The amazing views were everywhere on our climb, and I struggled to keep up with Mike for most of the hike. You see, I’ve dealt with feet issues for most of my life, and I wasn’t sure I should take on this hike – but little by little, and with a lot of encouragement from my hike leader, I pushed on to the top. It also didn’t help that the trail was rough with uneven rocks throughout, and it rained on and off the entire day (and ALL the way back down from the top), which made the rocks very slippery. I had to think about where to step to avoid falling almost all the way down, while Mike just sort of skipped along (in a manly sort of way). 🙂
With all the rain we had, we were thankful that we had picked up a couple of rain ponchos at the banana bread stand on our way to Hana. We needed them and had several offers to sell them (ha!) during the hike down.
On the road to Hana we saw many food stands and, thankfully, quick restroom stops. Some of the stands had fresh fruit displayed, with payment on the honor system. For some reason, many of the food stands were closed on the day we chose (a Monday), so we were glad we stopped for the delicious warm banana bread, and we had a few snacks along with us in the car. By the end of our adventure, we (our stomachs, not the car) were definitely on empty.
The picture below was the final destination at the end of our big hike on The Road to Hana. You can see the river behind us, which some people were crossing to get closer to the base of the waterfall. Since we had only our hiking shoes, we elected to skip the crossing to keep our feet dry for the return hike. And neither one of us wanted to carry the other one back down the trail in the event of an injury.
After our hike, we journeyed back down the mountain, through the town of Hana, past all the look-outs and the banana bread stand (we wanted to get more because we were starving…but it was closed!), across all the one-lane bridges and hairpin turns, to the flatter land by the sea. Mike was driving like a local most of the way down, and I had to remind him to slow down quite often (along with a few choice words). 🙂 We made it to Paia in record time.
We rewarded ourselves at the end of our day with a very large meal at one of our favorite restaurants on the island, the Paia Fish Market. I may have over-ordered but we thoroughly enjoyed the seafood chowder, seafood pasta, fish and chips, and Bikini Blonds (beer!). Hey! We deserved it!
Attending a Luau was high on our list for Maui, and our hotel recommended The Feast at Lele. Lele is the ancient name for Lahaina, and this is the beach where the royal family of Maui would feast and entertain. All parties were seated at their own private table on the beach overlooking the ocean. The Feast was basically a tour of the cuisine of Polynesia, sharing the spotlight with music and dance from four exotic Pacific Islands, including Hawai’i, Aotearoa, Tahiti, and Samoa. The food was pretty good, the drinks were unlimited, and the entertainment was great. The waiters were also super attentive, and we met one gal who had never left the island.
Here’s a quick rundown on some of the restaurants we enjoyed in Maui.
- Mama’s Fish House – for fine seafood dining. Mama’s is located on the North Shore of Maui, just a little bit past the town of Paia. It is rated as one of the Top 10 Restaurants in the U.S. and we made our reservation way in advance. It’s also expensive but we knew this was a restaurant we had to try. The Macadamia Nut Encrusted Mahi Mahi was pure heaven, and our waiter was super friendly and told us much of the story of this family owned restaurant. You can read about it here.
- Coconut’s Fish Cafe – a local family-friendly restaurant, serving fresh fish. This was a BYOB restaurant but we were one of the few with our bottle of wine. The tables are surfboards that you usually share with other patrons, depending on how busy they are. We struck up a conversation with an elderly gentleman from Dallas, of all places. He had homes in both Maui and Dallas and was an interesting man.
- Paia Fish Market (mentioned above) – one of our favorite restaurants on the island and we ate here twice. The fish was unbelievably great and the atmosphere was super casual. We couldn’t believe how busy they were at all times of the day, because the line never really ended. It’s another restaurant where you share tables. There are three locations on the island, but we ate at the Paia location both times because we really enjoyed the trendy little surfer town. “Howz it hangin’ bro?” 🙂
- Monkeypod – close to the Four Seasons and known for their “craft of food, drink, and merrimaking”. We ate here on our last night and really enjoyed sitting at the bar and chatting up the bartender. The food was great and the Mai Tais were even better. We also enjoyed the live music and the strawberry pie – which was one more delicious dessert honoring Mike’s 50th birthday. 🙂
Since everything was REALLY pricey at our hotel, we also stocked our small refrigerator with fruit and yogurt for breakfast each day. That and a few other snacks fueled us for a large part of our day without breaking the bank. We only ate at the hotel for one meal (and it was good) and I splurged on an iced coffee one day. $10 for a small, tiny little java. The hotel did have several well known restaurants, but we were always eager to go exploring each evening instead.
Since January is peak whale watching season in Maui, we booked a tour through Whalewatch Ma’alaea. The tour lasted two hours, and we were lucky enough to watch the amazing humpback whales in their natural habitat. Toward the end of the trip, we were seemingly surrounded by whales on all sides of the boat. It was truly amazing.
We learned some interesting facts from the Certified Marine Naturalists during our tour. Most humpback whales are born in the waters off Hawaii where the waters are warmer. They migrate north around the end of April to the nutrient-rich waters off Alaska, where they gorge on schools of krill and small fish. And then they head south again when the waters become too cold for their newborns to survive. While in the warmer waters of Hawaii, the mamas nurse their newborns, but they don’t actually eat themselves as the waters don’t have enough nutrients. And this is why the waters are SO BLUE. They lack the nutrients that are present in other waters.
We intended to spend our final day in Maui snorkeling and swimming with the sea turtles and beautiful schools of fish (and even a manta ray!) that we had seen on previous days. Unfortunately, there was stormy weather at sea, creating rough waters, making it a red flag day on the beach. We were pretty disappointed (because we finally got the snorkeling itch), but decided to make the best of it and packed up early for the north shore. The bottom three pics below show the violent waves on our final day. I don’t know how large the swells were but we were pretty amazed to see a few crazy surfers in the water. You can also see the sea turtles that were being thrown into the rock along the beach with every crashing wave.
After another five glorious days and nights in Maui, we headed home. We were a little sad to leave, and I’m currently researching jobs for Mike on one of the islands of Hawaii. 🙂 I’m thinking I could blog from Hawaii and just stay on VACATION.