Our 8 days in Hawai’i in mid January included 4 on Maui and 4 on Oahu, which—let’s be honest—is just never enough time in Hawaii. Since this was our second time on Maui, we had already done the recon work and were armed with an agenda to explore new-to-us areas. As the second largest island in the Hawai’i chain, Maui has no shortage of activities and postcard vistas, and we fell even more in love with it on this trip.
We spent a few days on the northeastern side, staying outside of Lahaina (last year we stayed in Kihei). Lahaina was less crowded, but more expensive compared with Kihei, although both are known for their incredible sunsets and whale watching.
Lahaina gave us better access to a few beachside trails and treats. We took a whole day to drive the narrow and twisty-turns up the northwestern coast, and were rewarded with nonstop scenes of the restless sea pummeling the fracturous and textured rocks.
One of the stops was the Nakalele Blowhole, where the ocean undercuts the shoreline creating a lava shelf. When the ocean is roaring, it thrusts through a hole like an unpredictable jet engine. We only witnessed a mild water hose, but it was amazing nonetheless.
Justin also drooled over the beachside golf courses. Maybe if we win the lottery, he can play a round of 18 at Plantation.
The reward at the “End of State Road” was Olivine Pools. I’m not one of those “always go swimming people,” but the pools were extremely inviting with their water so clear you only know it’s there because the light refracts off it. Justin was also only slightly tempted to enter, but his general fear of the unpredictable sea and spotting of a few demonic crustaceans kept him on the sidelines.
After enjoying the serenity of the west side, we ventured to the much acclaimed Road to Hana on the east side, which is kind of an opposite vibe thanks to all the crowds. There’s all sorts of advice about driving the Road to Hana, and most folks go out and back in one day, but we knew the slow mode was best for us. So we started the journey around noon and stayed 2 nights in Hana. There was still plenty of traffic and white-knuckling around impossibly tight turns, but the Garden of Eden landscape did wonders to balance our nerves.
I lost count, but I believe we saw a dozen waterfalls. All senses were awakened between the vibrant colors, the heady smells of the tropical forest and the burbling and pounding sounds of rushing water. Nature is freaking amazing.
Some of the waterfalls were just a tiny pullout on the road, others required a little effort, like the 1-mile hike to Punalau Falls and the 1-mile hike to Wailua Iki Falls.
The crown jewel just past Hana is Ohe’o Gulch (aka Seven Sacred Pools) and the 4-mile hike on the Pipiwai Trail to access Waimoku Falls. Last year, we explored the north end of Haleakala National Park at 10,000 feet, so it was fun to have a completely opposite landscape just a few miles away. In any case, it was no surprise the pools were glorious, but it was the hike that left more of an impression. Part of it is through a bamboo forest, and I just love the different flora and fauna found only in Hawai’i.
If we weren’t wowed enough, another highlight of Hana was the black sand beach in Wai’anapanapa State Park. The black sand happens when volcanic lava flow shatter on contact with the ocean. The park has a permit system in place and you make advanced reservations a 3-hour window, which actually works out well because it controls crowds and ensures you will actually get to see it after the long drive to Hana. We booked the last time slot of 3pm-6pm, and most people cleared out by 5. We actually only ended up sitting on the black sand beach for 30 minutes or so taking a quick swim to cool off and eating papaya. Most of our time was spent on the 2.8 mile Ke Ala Loa O Maui/Piilani hike along the alien landscape. The colors are so vivid between the black coastline, the blue-green palette of the sea, the frothing white waves crashing and the verdant green naupaka shrubs. There’s no big elevation change, but you are walking on lava, which is an ankle buster. This was probably our favorite hike on the whole trip.
Next up: Oahu!