Last month we went to Hawaii! And, as expected, Maui was pretty spectacular. It was a perfect vacation spot for our “babymoon” since there’s a good combination of interesting things to see and fun places to just relax.
We stayed at the Westin resort in Ka’anapali on the west side of Maui. It was pricey, but not as bad as several of the other resorts in the area and it fit our requirements — located on the beach, with a nice pool area, and close to at least a handful of restaurants. We liked it a lot. Our room was all the way down at the end of one hallway so it was quiet and more private. The beach was steps away, as you can see, and the pool complex featured FIVE different pools plus waterslides, waterfalls, koi ponds, flamingos, and all kinds of cool tropical plants. Kaanapali is basically just one big resort area, but it was actually kind of neat — there was a sidewalk that ran all the way up the beach past the other resorts and an outdoor shopping center, and we were only a 5 minute drive from the town of Lahaina. For the first several days we were there, it was VERY windy (which you can see if you look at all the trees in the photo) — which actually made sitting outside or walking along the beach a little less fun. But the wind died down the last couple days.
We arrived on a Saturday evening after a long day of flying from Houston to San Francisco to Maui. (The only direct flight to Hawaii from Houston goes to Honolulu, so we had to connect somewhere. It wasn’t so bad, since it helped break up what would otherwise be a pretty long flight.) We were pretty tired after a full day of traveling so we had dinner at the resort and went to bed pretty early, but woke up ready to go on Sunday!
We decided to spent the afternoon exploring Lahaina. Some of the guidebooks said it was overly touristy, and I guess it sort of was, but we really liked the town anyway. There were lots of shops to wander around, and several tasty restaurants. We also stumbled upon the 139th Birthday Party of the Lahaina banyan tree — which meant the park was full of artists and entertainment.
We also tried some Hawaiian shave ice. (Shave, not shaved.) It’s kind of like a snow cone — but soooo much better. So tasty, in fact, that we ate it twice in that same day. We tried a few different places over the course of our trip, but our favorite was Local Boys. Get it with ice cream on the bottom and cream on top. YUM.
After a relaxing day in Lahaina, we decided to get more ambitious on Monday and drive to the top of Haleakala — the 10,000 ft volcano that forms the eastern half of Maui. The popular “thing to do” is be at the summit for sunrise, but we didn’t really feel like getting up at 2 a.m. Instead, we enjoyed the morning around the hotel and then hit the road. Maui is a pretty small island so even with a bunch of stops (including a long lunch break) on the way up, we got to the summit about 4 hours after leaving Lahaina.
We stopped at the Kula Lodge for lunch, by which point we’d already gained a couple thousand feet of altitude. The photos don’t really do justice to the view, which was pretty spectacular. Maui is basically two volcanos that met on a smaller strip of land in the middle. You could see both sides of the island from our vantage point! The top of the mountains on west Maui were in the clouds, as usual.
Not long after leaving Kula, we went through the clouds ourselves! The summit and crater of Haleakala are all part of Haleakala National Park, and the entrance is around 7,000 feet. It was foggy and misting lightly when we passed the gate — for free, because it happened to be National Park Week! But soon after that, we popped out above the clouds. It felt like being in an airplane! Clouds, clouds everywhere.
Finally we reached the summit! Looking in the crater was really amazing — the landscape is so different than anywhere else on the island. (And Maui has a LOT of different landscapes to take in, from lush tropical rainforest on the northeast side, to fields and farmland on the slopes of Haleakala, to the drier but sunnier beaches on the west side.) We read that Apollo astronauts visited here to train for moonwalks, and you can see why. The landscape is really rocky and desolate.
There are several hiking trails that run down into the crater and I would’ve loved to explore some of the cinder cones up close. But alas, being 24 weeks pregnant and hiking at altitude didn’t really mix so we just enjoyed the view. Next time!
I also geekily took a photo of the Haleakala Observatory, which was Hawaii’s first observatory. One of the current occupants is the Air Force, who would occasionally use their equipment to monitor the shuttle while it was in orbit. (We called it the Maui burn!) I wanted to take a tour, but it’s closed to the public. Sad. Instead, we just enjoyed the view from the summit itself, and I must ask that you PLEASE NOTE THE CYCLIST in the photo on the right. We overheard him talking to a couple other people at the top, and dude rode his bike from sea level to 10,000 feet. I’m pretty sure that if I tried to do that, my heart would explode. Hard core.
There wasn’t much animal life, but we did see this one weird chicken/pigeon bird walking around the parking lot. It’s called a chukar and it’s a non-native species — Hawaiians make a big deal about native vs. non-native species because so many of the native species of plants and animals have died out due to the effects of all the non-native things that were brought to the islands in the early years. We also saw several silverswords — a strange-looking plant that only grows on Haleakala. They bloom later in the year, and send up tall stalks of flowers.
After enjoying the view, we headed back down from the summit and back to Lahaina and Kaanapali where we discovered that our balcony provided a great view of the Westin’s luau! Since we could see the dancing and hear the music, we ended up getting most of the luau experience for free — and on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights! It was pretty cool to be able to enjoy the show from the comfort of our room.
Here’s the full set of photos from our first two days on Maui. Next up? Snorkeling!