As you may have guessed from part one we left the big island a little deflated and disappointed with Hawaii thus far.
So it was onto Maui, where our tour company had forgotten to organise our transfers – great start. We were staying in Kaanapali Beach Hotel in Kaanapali on the west coast of this pacific island.
I’ll start by saying that the location is pretty impressive, right on a huge stretch of white sand beach, with the ocean lapping up on the shore. This stretch of coastline is in high demand and you have a number of famous hotel chains such as the Shereton, Hyatt, Westin and Marriott. We however stayed at the locally run Kaanapali beach hotel. The reason for this were 2 fold , one it was cheap, and two it was locally run, therefore we imaged it would be a bit more authentic.
In all honesty I wish we would have forked out a bit more money and stayed elsewhere – I was experiencing some majorly hotel envy. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the worst hotel we have stayed in, it was just a bit tatty and miserable. The food was very poor, the staff were not very friendly or helpful, and honestly it just looked the sad older brother along this stunning strip. The pool was one of the funniest – shaped like a whale it was TINY! Funny as the space it could encompass is quite large. The positives apart from the location were that the hotel did put on some very cheesy entertainment, which included a Hawaiian dancing lesson and show. We found it slightly cringe worthy but worth a visit, just for the experience. It was also a stone’s throw away from a small shopping centre, and the ability to walk the promenade at dusk.
Kaanapali Beach was very attractive, with grainy yellow sand and beautiful semi calm waters. By semi calm I mean that you could easily make your way over the small break and go for a lounge on a lilo or a snorkel by the rocky enclave. The snorkeling was not too bad either, which was a relief after the disaster of the Big Island. The weather really does lead you to chill on a sun lounger, or the beach. It’s very picturesque, verging on idyllic – personally though idyllic would mean no high rise buildings or people!
Other notable musts regarding the Kannapali beach front are the touch lighting at dusk, where by a loud speaker quotes the Hawaiian story of the islands. A man then runs the beach with a flame torch (like the Olympics) and ignites the beacon on the cliff face. The man then cliff dives into the open ocean in a dramatic finale. Our other must was the Luau (Traditional Hawaiian party), which although ridiculously over commercialised was worth a visit – with a show, music, food and drinks just off the beautiful beach.
Anyhow enough of Kannapali, what about the rest of Maui! As you know we are avid explorers so took the opportunity to hire a convertible mustang (just like the new Hawaii 5-0), and explore the rest of the island.
Our notable experiences start with the Haleakala Volcano, a huge shield volcano similar to that of Kalua on the Big Island but less active these days. A bit of research actually disclosed that its last huge eruption was actually back in the 18th Century, so pretty safe then! Anyhow we didn’t drive it to see that illusive Lava, but actually to watch sunrise. It was noted as an unmissable experience, and we were drawn in – as always. So we left at 3am from Kannapali to reach the summit in time for the 5.15 sunrise. It ended up being a good hour plus drive in darkness, in a long wheel based car up very steep and windy mountain pass… HA! Anyhow upon reaching the summit you really do realise how cold it can get on these islands especially at night, and especially at that altitude. Luckily we had read about this experience prior to coming, so had a hoodie and jeans packed to make sure we didn’t freeze. It was COLD! Especially when being sued to 28 degrees centigrade plus every day, I think it was around 2-5 degrees when we arrived. The sunrise was worth it though – not every day you get to witness the sunrise whilst sitting on the summit of a volcano. This experience was a definite Wandering Memory highlight.
We stayed on the summit for an hour after the event, and explored a bit of the national park. Its remarkable how much it looks like what we have seen from the moon landings… Its vast, it’s rugged and it’s just bare. We were very lucky as the cloud cover which masks the summit on most days, came in later in the morning, therefore we had clear views on our experience. On our descent, we experienced very poor visibility and even a hail storm! Quite a contrast from the usual Hawaiian weather…
Another highlight was what is known as the ‘Road to Hana’, which was absolutely incredible. This road is 52 miles that weaves around the Volcano and consists of 600 curves, and 52 one lane bridges. The scenery is breath-taking, as is the closeness of some of the approaching vehicles from the other side of the road. I wouldn’t recommend a Mustang convertible, but roof down, music up was actually very refreshing on this mammoth journey. We did stop quite a few times, either for fresh juices, snacks or scenic photo opportunities.
I did read in the guide book that the experience is all about the journey not the destination, and as we pulled up to Hana we realised why… Hana is not that remarkable, but the drive is. Hana is literally a very isolated village with a local community, and although worth a visit – we found it very basic.
Hana did however offer some Hawaiian eateries, and we stopped at Braddah Hutts BBQ Grill for some Shrimp Tacos and Ribs… Lush!
The highlights of this drive are actually just passed Hana, Hamoa Beach and the Pools of Ohe’o Gulch, both unmissable is taking this breath-taking journey. The pools are incredible, waterfalls and pools stretching down the cliff face, ending up in the ocean. This place was by far the best, most picturesque part of the journey itself. I believe there is also a huge waterfall a short hike away, but we just didn’t have time. Although we gave ourselves the full day to do this beautiful drive, a part of me wished we had spent the night and explored this region more. The issue was that the full drive around the Volcano can get pretty rough, and we were informed that a 4×4 is required and our insurance on the Mustang wouldn’t permit us to do this… Honestly I have read that you can, but it’s just not worth the risk with a 40K+ car. Leaving Hana at 5pm latest was essential so that we wouldn’t be driving at night.
Other notable trips we took were to Makena Beach State Park and Honolua-Mokule la Marine Park, for some more, great snorkeling and also a trip into Lahaina for some shopping. I do regret not diving the Molikini Volcano Crater, but was so put off by the Big Island – I had no desire to dive.
Our last day on this terrific island was capped off when we stopped to take a picture of the Car – yes I know sad but true… and we stumbled across a huge seal that had come in for a rest and was chilling on the beach.
Maui itself lived up to expectations of Hawaii, and earns its reputation of the ‘Honeymoon’ Island of the chain. We really enjoyed our time on this magnificent island. The one thing I also wish I had realised is how big these islands really are… I wonder what Oahu will throw at us?
See our experience of the Big island here