There’s nothing like taking off into the wild blue yonder, knowing you’re going to land in a warm, tropical paradise.
This was my second trip to Maui, the first one being about 20 years ago. So I knew exactly what to expect (albeit I heard it’s now busier and more developed) and what I was going to re-experience. I had also been to the islands of Oahu when I was 18 and Kauai when I was in my late 20s, so it’s roughly averaged out to a trip every 10 years, which just isn’t enough because I can’t get enough of Hawaii.
Our young teenage daughter had never seen a palm tree outside of a trip to Disneyland, so I figured it was high time she got an eye and nose full of the tropical sights and scents. So off we went on her 10-day school break with my mom and sis in tow.
Maui is the second largest of the islands and called the Valley Isle because it sports two volcanoes, which are separated by a wide valley. (The last eruption occurred around 1790, but they’ve just recently discovered that the bigger Haleakala is active again and will likely open up and ooze lava – not explode – like the one on the big Island of Hawaii, and luckily won’t affect any populated areas).
Maui has the best whale watching of the islands because the humpbacks winter in the sheltered and relatively shallow, nine-mile wide ‘Au’au Channel, which lies between the uninhabited island of Lana’i and Maui, and is also protected by Molokai to the north and Kaho‘olawe to the south. They arrive around late November to mate and then return to give birth a year later before taking off again for the 3,500-mile swim back to Alaska at the end of April, so unfortunately we just missed them. My first visit was really exciting because they were continually breaching right off the coast and I could hear them communicating with each other when I put my head in the water.
Your rental car can easily take you to the historic port town of Lahaina, along the amazingly windy scenic highway by lush rainforests to Wailua and Hanna, into the central area to visit the Iao Needle State Park, off to the funky town of Paia by the surfing beaches, up-country to Makawao for cooler climes, or right up to the top of the 10,000-foot volcano to enjoy the panoramic views, sunrises or sunsets. Lots of things grow and are grown there, such as coffee, macadamia nuts, papaya, bananas, coconuts, avocados, mangos, tropical flowers, sugar cane, pineapple, things I don’t recognize and their own brand of cannabis called ‘Maui Wowie,’ which occasionally wafted through the breezes.
There are lots of geographically different places to stay with varied weather conditions, so it depends on what floats your boat as to where you hang your hat and what you like to do.
The ways to play are endless, such as snorkeling (especially the boat trip out to the Molokini crater), golfing, surfing, kite and boogie-boarding, fishing, swimming, diving, cycling along the many bike lanes, hiking, sight-seeing, shopping, sunbathing and of course – eating.
The sidewalks and pathways are busy with walkers and joggers in the mornings and evenings, which is the best time to be out of the tropical heat and sun.
We stayed again on the more beachy south side of the island called Kihei (kee hay) right close to the beautiful hotel district of Wailea, which gets the sunsets and only four-and-a-half inches of rain a year, almost guaranteeing perfect weather for our holiday, rather than the opposite side around Hanna, which can dump about 400 inches of water annually, virtually guaranteeing folks a soggy holiday.
Although incredibly lush and beautiful, with lots of waterfalls pouring down from the mountain, we just wanted to enjoy the good weather to bask on the lovely and safe sandy beaches, to bob around on the calmer turquoise waters and snorkel over the amazing natural aquarium of tropical fish nibbling at the coral reefs, moray eels, sea urchins and best of all, the delightful and magical green sea turtles (some as big as three-and-a-half feet) that slowly cruise along past you. They were just way too cool!
As a gardener, the ultimate Hawaiian experience for me is to drink in the amazing and endless variety of plants and palms, admire the magnificent canopies of shade and flowering trees, to gawk at the gigantic Banyan tree in Lahaina, which was planted in 1873 at eight-feet high and is now almost 60-feet high and covers an area of 200 feet (Wow!), and to breathe in the heavenly perfumes of the tropical flowers.
The best way to see all of that in one spot is to stroll around the pathway that fronts all those grand hotel grounds and their open-air lobbies in Wailea that are all magnificently landscaped and resplendent with floral displays in gardens or huge vases and planters.
If you ever get a hankering for Hawaii, then hop on a plane and enjoy all the beauty, colour and fragrances that those tropical islands can offer.