When I was visiting Aaron in Honolulu in December 2016, we impulsively bought cheap tickets for an island hop over to Maui, but then quickly realized how expensive the trip would be since we were planning to go over New Year's weekend. Maui is already known for being a little more expensive, but throw in a holiday and the prices for car rental and hotel doubled. So we cancelled the tickets and sat on Hawaiian Airlines credit for almost a whole year. Knowing that if we didn't use it, we'd lose it, we decided to make the trip happen last November as a pre-birthday celebration for me, and also a quick mini-honeymoon getaway since we didn't take one after the wedding. I had never been to any of the other islands and Aaron visited Kauai with some friends a couple of years ago so we decided on Maui because it would be a new adventure for both of us. The flight from Oahu is less than 30 minutes, takeoff to touchdown, so when I say quick getaway, I mean real quick. You spend more time in the TSA line than on the actual plane.
To keep the trip affordable, Aaron and I decided to camp for the three nights we'd be there and having never camped at all before I met Aaron, this was bound to test my limits (because I like to shower so judge me all you want)! But, he found this super awesome tent-on-top-of-our-car situation (actually called a Tepui tent) that made the whole thing so fun! Especially since it rained and rained and RAINED while we were there, it was nice to be up off the ground! Sidebar: I would suggest not visiting during rainy season. While it made everything super lush and green and beautiful, it was a bit cold to be in the ocean and also, everything was wet and muddy, always.
We flew in to Kahului and the guy we rented the truck from met us at the airport with our home on wheels for the weekend. We had an awesome experience with this truck/tent. It folds down in just a few easy steps and then you're back on the road again. It had a foam mattress inside, and the back of the car was stocked with everything you might need for camping. We would definitely recommend it!
We didn't know much about Maui before visiting, but we heard sunrise at Haleakala Crater was too beautiful to miss, so we headed up toward the summit our very first night. It was dark by the time we were driving up the mountain and it was a little scary! There are no lights and no guardrails on the road and it felt like you could fall off the side... and just keep falling! During the day, it's a lot less sketchy, but driving up a mountain through fog, feeling like you're entering some kind of Stranger Things dimension was definitely an adventure.
We found out you do need to have tickets to enter the summit, so get those ahead of time! There is also a $25 entrance fee for the park. We were lucky to have a park pass from the guy we rented the car from - but you can pay at the entrance if you don't have one. We camped the first night at Hosmer Grove, which is a tiny little campsite on the way up to the summit. There's not much at this site - pit toilets and a couple of picnic tables and it was really full when we arrived, so if you need a spot on the ground you'll have to get there earlier than we did, which was around 10 PM. But, we found a place to park a short distance from the actual campground, popped up our tent and settled in under the most gorgeous black sky full of stars.
We woke up around 4:30 the next morning up to drive the rest of the way to the summit. There's bound to be a line of cars, so check the sunrise time and make sure you leave early enough to make it up and settle in. It was also 30 degrees when we got up there, so bring your warm clothes. All that said, sunrise at Haleakala - 10,000 feet above sea level - lived up to the hype. It was a beautiful experience.
After sunrise, we headed back down the mountain into the nearest town to warm up and get some coffee and then decided to take the Road to Hana. We read that the Road to Hana is about the journey, not the destination, and this is true because we made it to Hana and Hana is hardly a town. You'll find that Maui is much more country than Oahu - less populated, less commercialized, more nature and jungle beauty. So don't rush to Hana - enjoy the drive, stop at all the waterfalls, eat at all the food stands. We had the most delicious lunch at one of these stops on the side of the road. We also stopped at Garden of Eden, which is a little gem tucked away off the highway. It's a little pricey for a walk through a garden, so I'd say skip it and just get the coconut ice cream at the food truck near the entrance. That was worth it.
In looking at a few travel guides before the trip, we knew we wanted to see the black sand beach at Wai'anapanapa State Park, just off Hana Highway, and it did not disappoint.
And then we were back on Hana Highway!
A little further and we made it to Hana, but like I said, there's not much there. We stopped at a convenience store and bought some snacks and then went on to Kipahulu campground for the night. Again, it was $25 for the entrance fee because it's part of Haleakala National Park, but it is right by Seven Sacred Pools, which we definitely wanted to see. It was comparable to Hosmer Grove in terms of amenities, but it was right next to the ocean, so the views were amazing for our second night on Maui.
It was raining when we woke up in the morning, after it had also rained all night, but we decided to walk to Seven Sacred Pools anyway because YOLO. When it rains a lot, the water near the coast turns brown, so the waterfalls were brown and the shoreline was brown, but the power of the falls was pretty amazing to see. Sometimes it's more calm and apparently you used to be able to get in the pools, but it was closed when we were there, and I've read that it's still closed due to rockslides and obvious danger.
Back in the car, we decided to head to Kihei. I mentioned that Maui is a lot less commercialized and a lot more country and what I mean by that is this is the only coffee shop we found from Hana to Kihei and coming across it was like finding mana from Heaven.
If you look at a map, it might tell you there isn't a passable road on a section of the south coast of Maui (Highway 31), but it depends on what you read and who you ask. Since we had a 4Runner and I'm married to Aaron Harms (who will try just about anything), we decided to go for it! It's one lane in a lot of places, and you have to honk (there are actual signs that say to honk!) so that if someone is coming from the opposite way around the curve, you can hear them and stop! It was wild. But before you know it, you're back on a paved road driving through upcountry.
So we drove around the south coast and then through upcountry to get over to Kihei where we spent the afternoon. We stopped for a macadamia nut cinnamon roll at Cinnamon Roll Place (amazing! you must go!) and then took our chairs and towels over to Big Beach (also called Makena Beach). If you follow Jenna Kutcher, this is near her condo that you can rent on Airbnb and her pictures of this amazing stretch of beach are much more beautiful than this one we took where it was cloudy and, of course, raining. But this beach is perfect - soft sand, clear water. Had it been sunny, we would have spent the whole day! I loved it.
From Kihei we drove over to Lahaina, and if it sounds like we were in the car a lot - we were. We wanted to see as much of the island as we could, plus we had Taylor Swift's new album to keep us company on the drive, so why not, you know? (Ha! Ask Aaron how he felt about this.)
It was dark by the time we got to Lahaina, but it was so cute! There were lots of people in both Lahaina and Kihei, but also a lot of nice places to shop and it was all really lively. We walked around while eating gelato and saw the big banyan tree, which takes up a whole block!, and then walked down by the marina before heading back to the car. Lahaina was a nice little coastal town and we really loved it.
Trying to find places to camp was kind of a lot of work because I didn't want to camp in places we weren't supposed to - like just randomly on the side of the road. (Risktaker is not my middle name.) So we decided to pay to stay at Camp Olowalu and it was the best decision we made the whole trip. They had hot outdoor showers and running water and toilets and after three days of not showering, I was over it. Sorry, everyone. Call me a diva. I'll embrace it. But we both loved it, especially since by this time Aaron was starting to feel sick (which ended up being a week of the worst flu of his life!). So we showered and settled into our tent for our last night and woke up to amazing views! And just down the road from Olowalu was Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop, where we had a delicious breakfast. We went there on a friend's recommendation, and it was awesome.
After breakfast, we drove back toward Paia, stopping along the way at Papawai Point to see if we could spy any whales. Humpback whales start showing up off the coast of Maui in November, but we were just a bit too early as the majority are there from December-April, so we didn't see any.
Our last stop on the trip was Paia, which was a sweet little town with some fun shops and restaurants. We laid low on our last day since Aaron didn't feel well and ended our trip by hanging out on the beach near Kahului before catching our flight home.
Aaron and I both said that we still like Oahu better than Maui (Eee! Don't hate us!) but it was fun to see the island and explore. I think there were a lot of factors that would have changed the trip for us like better weather and less flu, but we loved seeing the beautiful island, and some of those well known things like the Road to Hana and Haleakala are definitely worth the trip!
Aaron and I went on a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure route and decided to just see what we could see. But, if you're headed to Maui and you're interested in some planned adventures, check out Funlocity for great ideas and deals on fun activities!