Ah, Maui. You’ll be on my mind for quite some time: the sites, the smells, and the tastes. When you land on the island, time slows down and it takes about a day or so to get used to that: no one is in a hurry.
There were several things I noticed immediately: the tap water tasted so clean and fresh and everywhere we went there was good music playing. The local accent reminded me of the Midwest, and lots of folks we encountered were transplants from the mainland; in fact, a large number of people we spoke to working at stores and restaurants either new someone in Georgia or had lived in Georgia at one time (how strange!). The level of environmental consciousness was something to be admired: no plastic bags, almost no plastic straws, compostable packaging, reef-safe sun screen, eco-friendly tours that give back to their respective causes, and solar panels on the majority of houses. The funny stuff? Chickens, chickens everywhere and the unmistakable smell of weed in public parks and beaches (evidently the Hawaiians aren’t shy about this, even though it is not legal there yet).
There is simply too much to share for one blog post, so I’ve separated our experiences by day. You can click the links below to read about each day’s adventures.
Speaking of adventures, I HIGHLY recommend you book your excursions at least two weeks prior to your vacation, if not earlier. Many of these things like snorkeling, luaus, and Haleakala sunrise sell out way in advance. Some things you can do on you own, even though there are tours offered. We chose to do the Road to Hana on our own, but we paid for a group Haleakala sunrise tour (more information on this on the Saturday link below). Plus, it’s nice to have your days planned out and paid for when you arrive – takes the thinking out of the equation!
We prefer renting houses to staying at resorts while travelling, however it was difficult to find a house within our price range. We ended up renting a 3-bedroom/3-bath townhouse in the Puamana neighborhood. It’s a mixture of vacation rentals and permanent residences, just minutes to Front Street in Lahaina (biking and walking distance). The area is quiet, secure, and gated with 3 swimming pools, a club house, and is located on oceanfront property. I believe all of the units have a view of the ocean, and half of them are directly on the ocean. Our townhouse was directly on oceanfront property, so we listened to the waves every night as we drifted off to sleep, and watched surfers each morning while enjoying coffee in the lanai.
The location was perfect with easy access to both Front Street and Honoapiilani Highway (Hwy 30) which takes you to the rest of the island. The beach isn’t really a swimming and laying out kind of beach. It is quite narrow and rocky, but there are plenty of beaches within minutes where you can enjoy both of those activities. We visited several and all are listed in the blogs linked below. While the location was everything we wanted, the house itself was mediocre. It’s a bit dated and could use a deep cleaning and paint job, and it’s a little bit cluttered with furniture and décor, but it served its purpose and you just can’t beat the location. The kitchen is well equipped and has everything you need for cooking, and the owner was very responsive to our call when we needed a maintenance person sent over. We noticed that there were other units in the neighborhood that had been updated, but we weren’t entirely sure if they were rentals or residences. Another plus: our unit had beach chairs, boogies boards, bikes, coolers, beach towels, beach bags, etc. We had everything we needed when we set out on our beach days. Overall I’d give a B/B-.
We visited 5 different beaches while there, and I have provided details in the links below. A couple general notes on beaches in Maui – they can be quite windy depending which side of the island you are on. We found the beaches on the south to be the softest sand and least windy, but the undertow and waves are pretty strong down there. The beaches to the north have a more coarse sand and can be very windy. The beaches on the west near Lahaina are more crowded due to their proximity to hotels, condos, and resorts. The beach on the east end near Hana is a black sand beach, however it is quite small and the waves are pretty strong. It is also fairly rocky. We went to that one mainly for sightseeing and not to swim, but you can if you choose to. If you are used to chair and umbrella service like you get on the Gulf Coast of Florida, you’ll be disappointed. Unless you are at a resort that provides chairs and umbrellas, you need to bring your own. There didn’t appear to be any independent business offering this service on the beach. Fortunately, our vacation house came with beach chairs so we brought those with us each day. Also, you’ll find the sand is a bit coarser and not as soft than it is on the Gulf Coast and lower Atlantic Coast. *Note: wear sunscreen! Even if you are not susceptible to burning, the sun is pretty intense here. The UV index was at an 11 every day we went to the beach; you’ll burn quickly here.
Most likely, you will want food and other supplies to keep at your rental while you are there. We visited a few different local grocery stores in Lahaina, Paia, Kehei, and Makawao. I also included details about these places in the links below. As with everything on the island, groceries are more expensive that they are back home.