Vacationing on the Hawaiian island of Maui is actually vacationing in two distinct biospheres. The western part of Maui contains a mountainous area including 5788-foot high Pu’u Kuku, deep canyons where rainbows seem to grow like wild vines, and the highly developed leeward beaches skirting the town of Lahaina.
Maui’s much larger eastern area, known as Haleakala, contains a 10,023-foot high active volcano, desert areas border on an enormous rain forest, and Maui’s famous South Shore, one of the most beautiful beach resort areas on Earth. Mali’s two landmasses are divided by central Maui, the location Kahului Airport. The depression which is central Maui is responsible for the island’s nickname of the Valley Isle.
Maui’s remarkably diverse landscape is what makes it an all-in-one vacation Paradise. Visitors to Maui can indulge themselves in pastimes ranging from hikes along tortured volcanic landscapes and snorkeling in calm waters as brilliant tropical fish dart about beneath them. Maui also offers world-class shopping and dining, Hawaii’s first sugar plantation and old resort, and villages in which the ancient Hawaiian culture mingled easily with the 21st century.
Driving along Maui’s busy roads will take you past ancient “heaiu,” stone platforms once used in ceremonies of worship. You will see the smoke stacks of abandoned sugar mills, and broadcast networks housed in the same brick structures which once sheltered missionaries. A visit to the town of Lahaina will introduce you to Hawaii’s whaling past at the Whaling Museum, but it will also offer you the opportunity to attend a surf school and try your luck at hanging ten. If you want to leave Hawaii having experienced an authentic luau, and not the touristy versions offered at most wired resorts, the Old Lahaina Luau is the place to do it.
One of the most famous roads in the Hawaiian islands is Maui’s Road to Hana. Its one lane bridges and frighteningly turns are legendary, but no more so than its use of waterfalls and thickly forested gullies plummeting down to the coastlines. Driving the 55 miles of the Road to Hana will let you experience Maui at its pristine best, and the nerve-wracking part of the journey will be broken up with your frequent stops to leave your vehicle for photo opportunities. You will pass countless roadside stands selling fresh fruit and flowers, available at bargain basement prices. To patronize these stands is to contribute significantly to the local economy.
If you decide to travel the road to Hana, consider renting a 4-wheel drive vehicle because of the options it will give you. When you arrive in Hana, having 4-wheel drive will let you keep going until you reach the Ohe’o Gulch. Known for its seven mountain stream-fed pools, Ohe’o Gulch is a great place to park and enjoy a refreshing swim. In a secluded area off the road about a mile past the Ohe’o Gulch is the final resting place of Charles A. Lindbergh.
Even without four-wheel-drive, however, you can cool off in the waters off Hamoa Beach, just two miles outside of Hana.
The waters off Maui are the winter home of more than half of the Pacific Ocean’s humpback whale population. After spending their summer is a rich feeding grounds of the Arctic, the whales migrate south to the warmth of Hawaiian waters to breed and give birth. Between the months of November and April, whale watching opportunities abound on Maui. Whale watching cruises are allowed to come within 100 yards of these remarkable creatures. You can also view the magnificent humpbacks atop MacGregor Point Lookout or while perched on the sands at the northern end of Keawakapu beach.
Mali is not an island which will reveal all its treasures in a single visit. It is rain forests and volcanoes merit separate visits of their own, so when you plan your first trip to Maui, do not try squeeze in more than you can properly enjoy!