If you’ve kept up with our Instagram (@sofreshlifestyle, @sofresh_jenny), then you’ll know we spent some time in Hawaii last week. Being our first time there, and I wondered why we didn’t come sooner! Oh right, the airfare prices weren’t as favorable as they are right now! Later on, I’ll provide you with some tips and recommendations for travel.
The flight from NY is about 12 hours to the islands, but a much more bearable 6 hours if hopping from the west coast. We did just that. We helped out the west coast team at Blox Evolution 3, then headed to Maui for a much needed vacation.
Maui is everything that you’d picture Hawaii to be. Each of the different areas of the island offer a completely different feel. North Maui is where the airport is, as is most of the major stores like Costco and KMart for everyday goods. South Maui is mostly golf courses and higher-end resorts, giving it a more secluded feel. West Maui is mostly chain resorts, downtown shopping areas, and great beaches. Then there’s East Maui, which is like a rain forest! Because of Haleakala Summit (a crater/dormant volcano), clouds hug it, and the heat from the crater produces condensation in the clouds, which then causes rain on that side of the island. It’s all very scientific and wonderful. That’s where you’ll find the Road to Hana. More on this later.
I recommend that you get up early (2am) to make the drive to Haleakala Summit to catch the sunrise. (It’s easier when you’re from mainland USA.) Why on earth would you want to do this when you’re on vacation? Because it’s one of those once in a lifetime things that you should just do! It’s also the most beautiful thing you’ll ever witness ON EARTH! So get your butt up and do it! You have to get up that early because 1, it takes about 1.5 hours to get up there, and 2, you want a parking spot and a good viewing spot when you up to the summit. There’s only about 40 parking spaces available up there, and once the lot is full, you have to park at the Visitor’s Center which is at the foot of the hill where the observation point is.
We left our hotel in South Maui (Wailea) at 2:30am, and reached the summit just before 4:30am, just to give you an idea. The road up there is very windy and dark, so be careful! You’ll also want to prepare for 30-40 degree weather (yes, that means packing a winter coat, gloves, pants, a hat, etc. plus a flashlight, blanket, and snacks). It’s also wet up there. I stepped in a puddle that I did not see and suffered with a cold wet foot throughout the 3 hours up there!. There are some poor suckers that do not heed these warnings! You don’t want to be one of them.
Depending on what time sunrise is, for us it was just before 6am, expect to be up there for a good 2 hours. The next thing you’ll wonder when you get up there is, where is the sun going to rise? The sun follows the moon, so look for the moon and plant yourself in front it. You’re also not allowed to be on the other side of the barrier, you know, in case someone trips and falls… You can set up your camera tripod there however, the park ranger said so. Once you’re situated… just wait!
Once it’s daylight, you’ll look around and see the things you didn’t see before in the dark. We spent some time taking more pictures of the sights and visiting the visitor center (the closest restrooms) and then made our way back down. Since you’re already up, go get some breakfast! Kihei Caffe is a great place to stop at for local Hawaiian breakfast plates (cash only).
Road to Hana
The next day, we got up early again (though not as early as the previous day) and picked up breakfast sandwiches and malasadas (Portuguese donuts) at Homemaid Cafe in Kihei to take with us on the Road to Hana. This is also a long drive, and it’s not really about Hana, which is a tiny little town that really doesn’t have much in it. The Road to Hana is really about the drive and the journey. There are lots of things to see along the way, and you can choose to stop at them or not. We also didn’t really stop in Hana, we drove past it to get to Kipahulu and the Oheo pools (otherwise known as the Seven Sacred Pools).
The GyPSy app was recommended to me by a couple of friends. It’s an app that uses your GPS location and acts as an audio guide for you. He recommends places to stop (and places to skip). On the way back, he tells you a story about Hawaii’s history. It’s $4.99, but totally worth it!
Our road to Hana was a very rainy one. It rains often, because of the aforementioned science lesson, so expect it to be a wet drive. Also, be careful of the hundreds of windy, sometimes blind, curves with single lane bridges. It’s not necessary to rent a 4×4 vehicle, because the road is paved all the way to Kipahulu. Along the way we stopped three locations: Nahiku road, Waianapanapa State Park, and Wailua Falls. The end of Nahiku Road opens up to a beautiful secluded and scenic beach, pictured above. Waianapanapa State Park is where you can find a Black Sand beach, and Wailua Falls is the only set of falls you can see from your car. Since it was so wet and rainy, we didn’t venture off to stop and find other waterfalls that you have to hike to see. FYI, wear appropriate shoes for hiking and pack a poncho, just in case!
If you make it all the way to Kipahulu, make sure you keep the receipt for your entrance to Haleakala Summit. The receipt allows you entrance to Oheo pools because its the same national park as the summit. There are two hiking trails, an easy one and more advanced one. Pick the one that fits your level! On the day we went, swimming wasn’t allowed. That was a bit of a let down 🙁
On the way back to Wailea, we were starving! We stopped at Hana Ranch Food truck and it was pretty awesome! A little pricey ($15 for a burger), but delicious. There are other food trucks along the way, like BBQ and tacos. Any of the guidebooks will tell you which are the good ones. By the time you get back to Paia, you may be hungry for a more substantial meal. I’d recommend Mama’s Fish House. The view is amazing, and the food is spectacular. It is a higher price point, so just be aware of that. Find out why they’re famous for their Mahi Mahi!
The following day, we drove to West Maui and stopped at Lahaina, which is the downtown shopping district perfect for souvenir shopping. The drive to Lahaina is also breathtaking, for completely different reasons than driving to Hana. You’ll notice the difference in climate and landscape for sure. When in Lahaina, I’d recommend eating at the Shark Pit. The burger served on a taro bun is a must try, so is their squid katsu. They’re famous for their corn too, but on the day we went, they didn’t have any. We’ll have to go back again next time!
While you’re in Lahaina, or when if you drive back down to Kihei, make sure you try Ululani’s Shave ice. It’s a life changing experience. Their shave ice is like none other that you’ll have in Hawaii. So that does it for our time on Maui. The next post will feature our time on Oahu!
You’ll find these on Yelp too. They are tried and true!