- Elisabeth Brentano
…and rather than daydreaming about lush landscapes and acai bowls, I decided do something about it, so I booked a flight to Maui. The best decisions are always the spur of the moment ones, right?
I had airline miles that were set to expire in April, and one of my fellow travel blogger friends was interested in going somewhere tropical too. We hung out for about fifteen minutes over the summer at Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City, but after exchanging hundreds of Instagram messages and comments, it’s basically the same as knowing someone for a few years, right? Well, not always, but in this case, it absolutely was. Experiencing the beauty of Maui with Erin (check her musings here!) was the perfect way to start our IRL friendship. We had a pretty solid idea of what we wanted to do during our ten days on the island, so if you’re planning a trip to Maui, why not steal some pages from our itinerary?
1. Catch sunrise at the summit of Haleakala
It’s chilly (Read: 30 degrees, so bring a heavy hoodie or coat!), but well worth the early and freezing start. You’ll watch the sun rise at 10,000 feet, and seeing the clouds roll over the mountains is a truly mesmerizing experience. Haleakala National Park requires all visitors to purchase tickets online if they want to watch the sunrise, so make sure you do this before you make the drive to the top. They’re $1.50 per car, and they book up fast, so make sure you get on this before you plan your trip.
2. Chase waterfalls
Maui has an abundance of waterfalls, and most of them are close to the road on the way to Hana. Twin Falls and Wailua Falls are two of those spots, and once you get to Hana, the hike to Waimoku Falls is definitely something you should add to your list.
3. Hit the trail
Iao Valley is closed, but there are plenty of other amazing trails on the island. There are a few epic waterfalls on the road to Hana, and if you really want to find them, do your research and ask a local, because that’s what I did. It’s not that I have a problem giving out locations, but when the folks who live on the island are protective of certain spots, I try to be respectful of that — #sorrynotsorry. However, one hike I am happy to share with you is the Waihee Ridge trail, which offers you stunning views on the edge of the West Maui mountains. You’ll be up in the clouds, and if you plan your hike around recent rain, you have the potential to see dozen of waterfalls on the way to the top. It’s 5 miles roundtrip with 1,500 feet of elevation gain, and even if you don’t make it to the top, it’s still absolutely amazing.
4. Take the road to Hana
We rented a Jeep Wrangler from Avis, and though the drive to Hana was a bit hairy (it’s basically a more narrow, jungle version of Highway 1 in Big Sur), it’s totally fine if you relax and take it slow. It only takes an hour or two to complete, but from roadside waterfalls to taco stands, you’ll want to stop as often as you (safely) can. Get an early start, roll down the windows and don’t plan on driving faster than 15 mph.
5. Get high
When I partnered with Go Hawaii in 2015 I took a helicopter tour of the Big Island, and it as probably one of my favorite flights ever. Since Iao Valley is closed, the only way to see some of Maui’s gorgeous, green landscapes is via heli. It’s in your budget, booking a tour is an absolute must. From walls of waterfalls to electric aqua water, you haven’t truly seen Hawaii unless you’ve seen it from up high. I went with Blue Hawaiian, and we explored Molokai and a number of spots in the West Maui Mountains. I did throw up (this was a first for me!), but I can assure you, it was 100% worth it.
6. Take it easy — and take some notes!
There’s a reason why so many people come here on their honeymoons, you know. Not only is it absolute paradise, but time seems to move a bit…slower here. Maui isn’t as developed as Oahu or the big island (trust me, that’s a good thing!), but there are still a number of options depending on the type of lodging and food you’re looking for:
Ka’anapali Beach Hotel (Lahaina)
If you are looking for an inclusive and kid-friendly resort experience, there are a wealth of spots along the coast near Lahaina, but this is one that keeps folks coming back year after year. With the view above just steps from your room at KBH, you’ll never want to check out…
The Plantation Inn (Lahaina)
This top-notch B&B was easily my favorite spot on the whole trip. It has a true boutique hotel feel, and the service is on an all-star level. The rooms are cozy and cute, and it doesn’t matter what time of day you head to the pool, it’s always quiet and calm. Dinner at Gerard’s was a real treat, and trust me when I say everything on the menu is absolutely incredible.
Monkeypod Kitchen (Wailea)
From the butternut squash pizza to the strawberry pie, this is hands down the best place to eat in Wailea. It’s a nicer restaurant, but you can come straight from the beach, as long as you are fully clothed and wearing shoes. There’s usually a wait, but if it’s just a party of two, watch for spots at the bar, because you can order food there as well. So nice we went there for dinner twice!
Tracy’s Tropical Treasures (Kihei)
To break up some of our splurge nights, Erin and I decided to go the budget route and split an AirBnb in Kihei. Tracy’s Tropical Treasures has a few rentals just 10 minutes north of the charming town of Wailea, and from the amenities to the hassle-free check-in, it felt just like home. If you’re looking to escape the tourist-y resort scene, this is most definitely where you should stay.
Wow Wow Lemonade (Kihei)
Looking for the best acai bowl in Kihei? Look no further. Wow wow has smoothies and juices as well, and they are popular with locals and visitors alike.
Kuau Store (Paia)
Quality sandwiches, water, alcohol and anything you could possibly want to grab before or after a road trip around the island. The chipotle chicken panini is amazing, and get your hands on some passion fruit lemonade if you can!
Paia Bay Coffee (Paia)
If you’re looking for the best coffee shop on the island, this is it. Nestled in what looks like a charming garden, the spot has wifi, killer lattes and menu with all kinds of delicious sandwiches and salads. If it was legal to pitch a tent in here, I would move right in…
I’m a big fan of mixing camping with splurge nights, so after a few nights of roughing it, Erin and I checked in to Travaasa in Hana. There are other hotels in the area, but Travaasa is truly the creme de la creme. The decks are almost as spacious as the rooms, and you may actually fall asleep on the massive chaise lounge just steps from your bed. Oh Maui, can I come back already?!