Travel forever remains one of my main interests and hobbies. There’s nothing quite like going to a new place and experiencing its beauty and everything that its culture has to offer. Having enough flexibility in your schedule to make traveling happen is truly a blessing. Hawaii had been on my “bucket list”for quite some time and this summer we finally had the opportunity to travel there. I can easily say without a doubt that Maui is the most beautiful place that I have ever seen. If you’re a New Yorker, trust me when I say it is worth the 12 hour flight. My experience in Maui sparked an interest to not only explore the other islands of Hawaii but other Polynesian islands as well such as Tahiti, Samoa, etc. I guess you can say that’s Wanderlust at its best. It’s hard to believe that somewhere so far and exotic is actually part of the United States. But hey, if anything it should be more of a reason to journey there due to the fact that is unlike any other state. Don’t let the long flight deter you. There is no passport required or currency exchange! That makes for some pretty easy travel.
As for activities, there is no shortage of things to do. You may want to lay at the beach all day but I would say that’s being pretty wasteful with your precious time on the island when there is so much to see and do. Here I made planning your trip foolproof; I rounded up the best activities that will really allow you to get the full Maui experience.
There are tons of great options of resorts in Maui. Keep in mind while booking your trip that there is no “off-season” in Hawaii unlike most other tropical destinations. Therefore, pricing rarely wavers depending on the time of year. Hawaii is the #1 travel destination and they know it! If you’re looking to stay near Lahaina, the Westin Villas at Kaanapali, The Sheraton or the Westin (regular hotel) are all great options with nice amenities. We had a great stay at the Westin Villas where we had a studio apartment-type room with laundry and a full kitchen. The Villas hotel has a beach waterfront and multiple pools (including an adult only pool), fitness center, and restaurants that suit all tastes. They also offer grills for visitors to have their own BBQs. Additionally, there are daily events open to visitors such as art & yoga classes, a boardwalk flea market and wine tastings. If you’re looking to stay closer to the Wailea area, the Four Seasons, Grand Wailea, Wailea Beach Marriott, and the Fairmont are all good choices as well.
Haleakala National Park
This national park is one of the most well known in the US and has a ton of options for any type of action seeker. The summit area of the park has over 30 different hiking trails.For those seeking a strenuous hike, you can hike up to the top of the summit. This is a difficult hike due to the change in altitude at higher elevation. That trail is not for the faint of heart. Less experienced hikers can choose easier routes that will allow you to see and experience various forms of plants and wildlife. For those looking to take in some natural beauty and scenery without the physical exertion, you can drive up to the summit in the early morning hours (I’m talking 4 AM) to watch the sunrise. Not a morning person? There are plenty of other ways to experience Haleakala. You can go swimming in the seven pools and experience being in such close proximity to a waterfall. If getting wet isn’t your style, you can easily hike 2 miles up the mountainside (beginner level hike) to watch the waterfall from a far.
Road to Hana
The road to Hana is the best way to see the entire island. Instead of driving straight to Hana and back, I would recommend driving the entire coast of the island to really see the full picture. Keep in mind you will need to leave early (around 8 am) as the roads are one lane (for those driving in BOTH directions), super windy, and often have no guardrail. These are unlit and unsafe roads that you would not want to be driving at night. Not to mention the entire drive takes about 11 hours. However, 11 hours will fly when you are getting out of the car every 15-20 minutes to experience some of the most breathtaking sights. Make sure to pack snacks because it is a long day of travel as well as bathing suits and towels. There are multiple natural roadside swim spots (waterfalls & lakes) that are open for use to the public. Another fun activity to do along the way is the Hana Lava Tube; an underground cave tour guided by your own flashlight.
This is a must do if you are in Hawaii. Albeit pricey (can cost upwards of $300 per person), it is worth every penny. You can embark on a guided tour of the entire island tp see the beautiful landscapes, homes, and popular tourist sights (the location of Jaws) from above. Talk about picturesque views! I would recommend Blue Hawaiian helicopters. The staff was friendly, our pilot & guide was informative and attentive, and I never felt unsafe. The helicopters are brand new which makes for smoother rides than ever before. There are various packages & options to choose from. The ride we selected allowed us to land on the side of the mountains of Maui while we sipped champagne.
A Luau is a fun and easy way to learn all about the culture of the Polynesian islands. The two options that I would recommend are the Old Lahaina Luau or the Feast at Lele (also in Lahaina). The Feast at Lele takes you on a culinary journey through the Polynesian islands while you get to witness and experience the traditional song and dance from each region. Each course has 3 dishes that sample the tastes of the specific region; Hawaii, New Zealand, Tahiti & Samoa. This was the most “authentic” meal we had here and although it was definitely different than the foods we are used to we still enjoyed it. It was interesting to see how each of the islands had its own original dances, clothing and delicacies.
Like many other tropical destinations, Hawaii has great locations for snorkeling. You can choose to go to Molokini, a small island, to snorkel in caves or take a trip to the Honolua Bay Cliffs to snorkel with turtles near the coral reef. Gemini boats had a great tour planned for us. We took a pontoon boat out to the bay where we docked for about 2 hours and had the opportunity to snorkel and have a seaside BBQ lunch. The boat then sailed back to the mainland, making for a great scenic day on the water. We avoided Molokini due to the large crowds. However if you are going with a large group or a family with children we were told that Molokini is the place to be.
Mama’s Fish House- Arguably one the most famous restaurant on Maui. It’s casual, beachy decor will reel you in but the delicious fresh fish is what will make you stay. The stuffed Mahi Mahi is one of their specialties and I have to say it did not disappoint.
Ferraro’s- Located in the Four Seasons in Wailea. I usually do not have high expectations for Italian food outside of New York but the Four Seasons never fails to deliver on quality. The restaurant is located waterside and is the perfect place to watch the sunset while enjoying a glass of wine and some Burrata.
Duo- Located in the Four Seasons as well. If you’re looking for a steakhouse this is your winning spot.