If you’re an adventure seeker and looking to get the most out of your Maui vacation, read on. If you’re the type of person that likes to spend your vacation’s lounging by the pool, you’ve come to the wrong place. The only time I spent poolside in Maui was just long enough to suck down a Lava Flow: half Pina Colada, half Strawberry daiquiri booze filled awesomeness. But less about drinking, and more about adventures. I’m here to share my Maui experience with you so that you can have the ultimate vacation – It’s time to surrender yourself to the island. Next stop, paradise.
One word. Mopeds.
This moped adventure couldn’t be more true to the saying, “It’s the journey, not the destination.” Spending 5 hours on the open road driving along the coast of Maui is a mind blowing experience, and the best part about this journey is witnessing how the locals live.
If you are able to plan ahead, I recommend calling to reserve your mopeds in advance because they rent like hot cakes. The shop we rented from was called EagleRider Motorcycles in Lahaina– Check ‘em out. So, once you’ve got the hang of riding, follow the plan I’ve laid out for you below.
Our adventure began in Ka'anapali, and we got on Honoapiilani Highway and headed in the direction of Napili-Honokowai. Our final destination was Kaukini Gallery. Between all the stops we made along the way, round trip it took us about 5 hours, and you’ll want to be back before it gets dark because you’ll be riding on some pretty twisty roads. (Side note: one thing about mopeds, they don’t have a whole lot of power so at one point we reached a hill that was decently steep and my 3 partners-in-crime ended up having to Flintstone their mopeds to the top while I was lucky enough to be able to coast on by going a whopping 5 mph. But hey, they had the advantage downhill.)
Here are the 5 places you must stop. I promise it will be the best part of your trip.
- Nakalele Blowhole. The oceans waves create giant, powerful water spouts you don’t want to miss.
- Olivine Pools. These are swimmable tide pools in the lava rock on the oceans edge. They’re beautiful.
- Julia’s Banana Bread. It’s moist, it’s homemade, it’s world famous, and it’s a secret recipe. Julia’s Banana Bread is sold out of a little green hut on the side of the road and is managed by locals who are family of Julia. Every day they sell out, and we were lucky enough to get one of the 30 loaves. Don’t forget your cash. Even if you don’t like banana bread, you still have to stop to check it out and chat with the locals.
- Lorraine Shave Ice. The main reason for this pit stop is the spectacular view. Enjoy a refreshing smoothie while you gawk. If you’re hungry, they sell questionable pink hotdogs. No lie. But 2 of my travel buddies ate them and survived to see another day. One word of advice for this stop, stay close to your mopeds, the wind is mighty strong up here. We lost a mirror. R.I.P.
- Kaukini Gallery. This is the perfect place to stop and check out handmade crafts and paintings by the locals; although, that’s not the only reason to venture this far. The gallery overlooks a rainforest covered rolling hillside. It’s a view that you honestly do not want to miss. I could have stood there for hours in amazement.
What to wear: Closed toe shoes (tennis shoes, closed toe sandals), shorts/swim trunks, tank top/t-shirt, swimsuit.
What to bring: Towel if you plan to swim, couple bottles of water per person and snacks or light lunch.
Road to Hana: Race Track through Paradise
The day you’ve all been waiting for. The Road to Hana is like a race track through paradise, and you’re going to want a front row seat. Dedicating an entire day to this trip is a requirement. We spent 10 glorious hours driving this highway, and that was hardly enough time. You must download the Road to Hana GyPSy Driving Tour. Providing you with a guided tour without using your cellphone data, this app will become your best friend. As you drive along Hana Highway, your new friend will point out the highlights of the trip and give you a history lesson all based on your location. But, let me quickly share with you my must-stop destinations.
- Ke'anae Peninsula: Experience the small village of Ke’anae and witness the jagged volcanic coastline that attracts photographers from all over the world.
- Ke’anae Look Out Park/Arboretum: The arboretum is home to 150 varieties of tropical plants from around the world, but the main reason for stopping: Rainbow eucalyptus. The smooth bark is covered in streaks of bright neon colors that make the trees seem like something from a fairytale.
- Waiʻanapanapa State Park: The black basalt lava coastline creates a black sand beach. This is a great place to take a dip in the blue oasis while surrounded by luscious green jungle. It’s a sight that most only see as a default screensaver.
- Up in Smoke BBQ: Mile Marker 29. This may seem like a major dive, but I have never and will never have better fish tacos in my life. I would do anything to stuff my face with one of these juicy, mouthwatering heavenly tacos again. Make sure to stop on your way to Hana and not the way back because they will either be closed or sold out.
- Wailua Falls: Right off the road, 80 feet of plunging water. Don’t be afraid to jump into the pool of water beneath the falls, it’s bitterly cold, but it’s worth it.
- Pools of O’heo (Seven Sacred Pools): Cascading waterfalls from the rainforest above creates 7 plunging tide pools that flow directly into the ocean, creating the ultimate picturesque moment. If you’re looking to do some serious hiking, take on the Pipiwai Trail, which will bring you to the 200′ high Makahiku Falls and the 400′ Waimoku Falls. This in one thing we didn’t have time to do, and my only regret of the trip.
What to wear: Sandals or hiking sandals/water shoes, shorts/swim trunks, tank top/t-shirt, swimsuit.
What to bring: Hiking shoes if you plan to hike the Pipiwai Trail, towel, multiple bottles of water per person, snacks and lunch (there are some gas stations/tiny grocery stores to stop at, and I highly recommend the stop at Up in Smoke BBQ for lunch).
Snorkeling: Molokini & Turtle Town
You simply cannot leave Maui without snorkeling at Molokini and Turtle Town with Boss Frog’s Dive & Surf. Molokini is a crescent shaped volcanic crater 3 miles of the southern coast of Maui, and is surrounded by crystal clear, calm water that offers spectacular visibility up to 100 feet allowing you to see all the tropical fish your heart desires.
Next stop, Turtle Town. The lava formations provide protected Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles with the perfect home, and provide you with the perfect place to see these gentle and gracious Sea Turtles in their natural habitat. A little pointer, spend some time getting to know the snorkeling instructors – you may be that one lucky person who gets to hold a Red Pencil Sea Urchin! And if you are anything like me, you’ll get so sucked into the stories about their amazing lives living on Maui that you’ll actually contemplate moving there.
What to wear: Sandals, swimsuit/swim trunks, shorts, tank top/t-shirt.
What to bring: Towel (depending on the company you book through, they provide water and snacks).
Haleakala National Park & Brick Oven Pizza
Haleakala means “house of the sun,” and for good reason. Haleakala National Park features the islands highest peak at an astounding 10,023 feet above sea level. Once you reach the national park, you’ll be driving cliff-side on twisty roads in the dark all the way to the top, but enjoying the sunrise while standing among clouds is pure bliss.
Allow yourself at least an hour to drive from the base of the volcano to the peak. There is a toll booth once you get close to the top, which causes a slight traffic jam, and you’ll want to arrive early to secure yourself a front row seat to mother nature’s morning show.
Once you’ve had your fair share of awe-inspiring views, and you start making your way down the volcano, you’re going to want occupy your time until the Kula Lodge & Restaurant opens up their outdoor seating for lunch because oh my wow, I can honestly say, I’ve never been to a restaurant with a more breathtaking view. Sitting outdoors at 3,200 feet elevation, nestled in a beautiful garden, slamming down brick oven pizza covered in kalua pork is a rare experience.
What to wear: Closed toe shoes, long pants, sweatshirt or light jacket (at that high of elevation and early in the morning, it's pretty chilly).
What to bring: yourself 😉
If you enjoy action packed vacations, then fitting all of these activities into your 7 day Maui adventure will be no issue – it even leaves you with two open days to bask in the sun, swim in the ocean and sip (or guzzle) Lava Flows.
Until next time, paradise.