When my dad said he’d come watch my kids for a week and Christopher said he’d take me anywhere in the world, I started looking at fairly exotic places. New Zealand. Greece. Bora Bora. Christopher was even in Berlin the day before we left for Hawaii, so we thought about meeting in Paris. In the end, the ease of travelling on a five-hour nonstop flight to a gorgeous, tropical destination conveniently a US state won out. It was the easiest, most relaxing, most fun vacation ever. And I had never been to Hawaii, so I needed to check it off my list. I have 7-8 states left to go to make it to all 50.
Free first-class upgrade, check:
We got in late and went to pick up our rental car. We were told there were no convertibles available, and we almost chose another car when Christopher spotted a few convertibles in the back and convinced the guy to let us have one.
We spent the night at a little house we found on AirBNB, Hale Kokomo. It is a 1920s plantation house, nicely update. We took a quick shower and went straight to bed. It’s a little odd staying in someone’s house, but we were only there about six hours. We set our alarm for 3:30 a.m. and left at four to drive to the top of Haleakala Crater to watch the sunrise from 10,000 feet. It was spectacular, of course.
The drive down was pretty, too. We headed from the National Park to Pa’ia, driving under a full rainbow through the sugar fields of central Maui.
We stopped at Mana Foods in Pa’ia, the most reasonably priced grocery store in Maui, to grab some food for our road to Hana trip. Driving a convertible made the twisty mountain road through a rainforest so pleasant. We also had an amazing guidebook to show us all the interesting sights. Most places we stopped were vacant. We completely avoided the tour buses and other crowds moving in our direction.
Our first stop was Lower Puohokamoa Falls. We followed a little hiking trail off the road to get this view.
Wailua Valley State Wayside. Gorgeous view of the Ko’olau Gap. The valley used to be several thousand feet deeper before lava filled it in. Between us and the ocean was the village of Wailua.
We crawled through this cave for a few minutes. It was a lava tube with a giant banyan tree and stream at the end.
We drove a few miles off the road through the village of Nahiku, which is really about 10 homes and a pay phone. There is a beautiful view of the coastline at the end. It’s on government land, but the locals don’t like tourists to enjoy it.
Well played, locals. We parked the car and walked over this bridge. Once again, we were alone to enjoy the amazing sights. Christopher cracked open a coconut. Fresh coconut water is not tasty.
We arrived in Hana and got some lunch from Braddah Hutts BBQ. We were exhausted but still had a few hours to kill before the sunset and we could go to sleep. We visited the red sand beach,
Then we set up camp at Wai’anapanapa State Park. We pitched out tent and explored the black sand beaches, the trails, and this blowhole:
After grabbing some pad Thai from a food truck, we went to bed. Early.
We woke in the middle of the night. It was one a.m. and I was ready to go. “This is what jet lag feels like,” Christopher said. So we walked over to the ocean and watch the stars for a bit in the pitch black. We managed to go back to sleep until the sun was rising outside our tent. So far the trip had been 100% perfect, but if I could do it again I would’ve made sure we caught the sunrise from Waioka aka Venus Pool. Next time.
We packed up, ate our breakfast of banana bread and apple bananas (sold for 5/$1 on unmanned fruit stands), and started the road PAST Hana, which few people drive. The first stop was Hamoa Beach. It was incredible. We body surfed for a little while before continuing on. If I go back to Maui, I’ll make sure to spend at least a whole day here.
On the Kipahulu side of Haleakala National Park, we stopped to see ‘Ohe’O Gulch, or the Seven Sacred Pools. Sometimes you can swim in them, but with recent mountain rains they were raging. We couldn’t even walk down towards them.
We started hiking the Pipiwai Trail, and made it to Makahiku Falls before turning around. This was the single biggest regret of my trip. I didn’t have my trusty guide book with me (seriously, I carried that thing around the whole trip except on this hike), and I didn’t realize what was ahead, including an infinity pool, bamboo forest, and 400-foot waterfall.
But we still had lots more to see. I wanted to stop at Palapala Ho’omau Church to pay homage to Lindbergh, because I find him fascinating. He was the biggest celebrity of his time, but as a private person, he hated the attention. Eventually he moved to the remote town of Kipahulu on Maui. When he died in 1974, he requested his funeral be on a weekday, and the few attendees (like 15) dress in their work clothes.
The road around southeast Maui was a bit more treacherous,
and the landscape was incredible. One minute we were in rainforest, and then we turned a bend and were in a completely different microclimate.
We continued through the dry, barren desert until another corner brought us to some wetter cattle-grazing land. We stopped at the Ranch Store for brisket before the road headed back north towards the airport. We could see south Maui (Wailea, Makenna), down below as we descended from the upcountry.
Heading back to civilization, we got a bit lost, but without the slight detour we wouldn’t have pulled over to Ho’okipa Lookout to see the windsurfers. We also spotted some sea turtles just below us.
Eventually we made it down to west Maui. Just before we got to our resort we pulled into Safeway to check out the fresh poke bowls a friend had recommended. They looked amazing and so we got a few and enjoyed our cheap but delicious dinner while watching the boats in Lahaina Harbor.
The next morning I put on my sneakers and walked the entire Ka’anapali boardwalk. It was fun to check out all the resorts, people watch, and talk to the vendors to figure out the best beaches for snorkeling or body boarding. We figured out the cheapest place to rent equipment was Maui Mike’s Beach House, where we rented two boogie boards, two sets of snorkel gear, two beach chairs and an umbrella. We also got some shave ice and hot dogs while we were there.
Then we drove up the coast a little to find some waves. D.T. Fleming was flat, and so was Napili Beach, but it was gorgeous and there was an amazing tree to sit under. We enjoyed that beach for a long time.
After Napili we got cleaned up and had dinner at Aloha Mixed Plate. This place was great because they served lu’au food from the venue next door. The kalua pork was great and I even liked the poi. We sat at the bar and drank a smoothie with fresh bananas from their farm. Our bartender was a super cute local girl who gave us a sack full of bananas to take home when we asked her if we could buy some. Funny enough, we ate there the next night, too, and she was out of bananas. Oops.
We enjoyed lu’au food AND a show because our resort hosted a lu’au on the grass lawn outside our room. I watched the fire dancer and the hula dancers and I was good.
On Thursday Christopher was eager to catch some waves so we drove down to South Maui to check out Kamaole III Beach Park. Lots of locals. I body boarded a bit but spent most of the time reading.
South Maui was a lot of fun. Kihei is a fun beach town. We got amazing fish tacos from a food truck. Found some good frozen yogurt. Plus, South Maui has some amazing resorts, and we walked the boardwalk at sunset. The Grand Wailea is especially beautiful.
Friday we returned our beach gear, packed up, and headed around the west and northern most part of the island. We enjoyed the views and stopped at the Nakalele Blowhole (but didn’t get close!) and Julia’s Banana Bread. We ended up in Pa’ia around dinner time and ate at the Fish Market, which was a highlight. We sat next to a 69-year-old distance swimmer who spent his days with his girlfriend swimming with the dolphins, gardening, and golfing. He gave us a great big hug when we parted and it was the 50th time I wanted to move to Hawaii during our trip. After getting gelato across the street, we headed to the airport.
The kids were happy to see us but they had a great week with Poppy and Uncle Ethan. I was so thankful to them for giving us a chance to get away because we needed the break!
(insert pic of Poppy and kids)