Let’s start with I’m not a travel blogger, but I like to travel and I like to think I can vacation with the best of them! I spent the last two weeks in Maui, part family trip with the boys, part anniversary trip (with no boys) with my wife and eye. I’ve traveled all over the world, but for some reason never went to Hawaii.
First, I spent all two weeks in Maui, don’t @ me! I get Kauai is “way” better and Oahu is your favorite and Oh, I can’t believe I didn’t do the big island. Shut it! After flying 10 hours, I wasn’t looking for more stupid flights during Covid! It’s a nightmare flying right now between Covid, low staffing levels, etc. I wanted two weeks of fun and relaxation and fish tacos.
Shoutout to the twenty+ folks who gave me ideas of what to do. Too many to mention, but I think 95% of the stuff folks shared with me was awesome!
Okay, let’s breakdown Maui according to Sackett
1. We stayed the first week in Kannapali (west Maui) big resorts – Marriott, Hyatt, Westin, etc. Easy for families, big pools, average hotel food, good golfing. If you like big giant hotels and a lot of people west Maui is for you. Everything is right there, it’s simple. It was good. Great weather, lighter winds. Easy to get out and spend time on the beach.
2. We stayed the second week in Wailea (South-west Maui). Wailea is higher end. Fancy resorts, way better restaurants, higher daily trade winds, great beaches, better snorkeling, felt way less busy than Kannapali. Tremendous sunsets. Whale watching right off our balcony.
Things I did on a 5 Star scale – 1 Star = Never do this; 5 Stars = Must do.
– Snorkel Trips with Trilogy. We loved this so much we did it twice! Once out of Kannapali and once out of Kihei. These guys were amazing and you have a lot of options for these types of trips. Trilogy costs more than most, but it was worth it. Great newer boats, very clean, great staff, great food (not joking! one of the better lunches we had on the island!), great drinks. I actually would have done more of these they were so enjoyable! I also did Snuba on one of these trips and it was amazing! (5 Stars)
– Ultimate Whale Watch was cool. We were a bit early for great whale watching but we still saw five whales in two hours. They have small boats, so everyone is basically in the front row. The crew would call around and find whales and were knowledgeable. The small boats make it easier to zip around and find more whales. (4 Stars, but only because we were early in the season, better in late January, early February, but we did see whales both weeks – 2 breaches which are unheard of)
– Kapalua Golf, Plantation Course – Super expensive, but it’s always rated the number one course in Hawaii and one of the top courses in the world, and it was amazing! The views are outrageous, it’s difficult but playable. If you’re a serious golfer this is a must-do when you go to Maui. I only golfed twice in Maui and both courses had great rental clubs. (5 Stars)
– Helicopter ride around Maui – we went with Pacific Helicopter Tour and it was awesome. Now, we were hoping to do the entire island, including the north shore, Road to Hana, but the weather kept us on the west and northwest side, and it was still one of the most amazing things I’ve done and seen. You see parts of Maui no one can see and it will remind you of Jurassic Park! thousand-foot waterfalls, rain forest, coastline crashing waves, etc. Plus, flying on a helicopter with the doors off is just fun! (5 Stars)
– Surf Lessons – We used Maui Wave Riders and it was good. Look, I get it, most people aren’t going to take surf lessons, but I’ve got three boys (err. men) and we like to try adventurous stuff. I’ve now taken three surf lessons: Sydney, Hermosa Beach, and now Maui. It’s hard and tiring, but it’s so much fun! You fall a lot and it can be frustrating trying to get up, but a great instructor is a key to getting you up on a board, and then you get addicted. (4 Stars – waves were good, but it’s a packed place in Lahania where you can catch them, but great for beginners)
– Haleakalā Sunrise Tour – We used Skyline and they were good. So, this is very weather-dependent on how great it can be, we had a lot of clouds, but still got some good sunrise views, but not awesome. Understand, they pick you up at 2:45 am to get there and when you get there an hour early it’s 30-40 degrees, so you freeze! I definitely would not take kids on this! It’s a long day, cold, and you are hoping to get a view of an amazing sunrise that lasts like 20 minutes. Then a long ride back. The positive was the tour gives you a ton of information and history, plus they gave us warm coats, but when they tell you to dress warm, they are not kidding! (3 Stars)
– Road to Hana – this one will be the hardest to rate, it almost needs multiple ratings because there are pieces of the Road to Hana that are 5 stars and some that are 1 or 2 stars. We bought an app to guide us and it was super helpful (Gypsy Guide – $10). FYI – you will need hiking shoes or shoes you don’t mind getting dirty, and most likely they’ll get wet, so bring a change of clothes as you’ll most likely want to swim as well. We left Wailea at 6:30 am, skipped Ho’okipa Beach because we had already been there, and pretty much beat the traffic out on the road, we made Hana by 1:30 pm and that was with 90 minutes at Wai’anapanapa State Park.
Here’s what we saw on the Road to Hana with star ratings:
- Ho’okipa Beach – (5 Stars) – great surfing beach, turtles, huge shore breaks. This is like 10 minutes from the airport and is at the start of Road to Hana. Really an amazing site to see being so close to the airport.
- Town of Paia – (3 Star) cool little north shore surf town, if you want to stop to grab something to eat, etc. But not that different than most small towns on Maui.
- Twin Falls – about a mile walk to a fairly decent fall into a muddy pool. Private land, so you pay $10 to park. (3 stars – but after the Jurassic Park Helicopter falls my ratings are probably skewed)
- Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees (5 stars) so cool, you get a view of some from the road, but you can also stop at Ke’anae Arboretum to get some up close pics. They are so cool.
- Ke’anae Peninsula – (5 Stars – must stop) first Aunt Sandy’s Banana Bread is here, and you have to get some, but the coast line here is breath taking and little ocean front town is very cool.
- Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach – (6 Stars) we spent an hour and half here exploring the cliffs and could have spent all day. Sure the black sand is cool, but that’s only the half of it. You must buy a pass here before you go for a certain time period. You can not buy the day of. DO THIS! We got ours for 12:30pm and actually had to drag our feet a little because we got there a bit early.
- We didn’t even stop in Hana, there isn’t much to see, but took off for what we were told was must see things past Hana – 7 Sacred Pool and Pipiwai Trail, which both basically sucked. Plus it cost $30 bucks to do it and it was on the worse stops of they day, primarily because the water wasn’t running, so not much to see, but you don’t know that until you get there. (2 Stars – but I think that is time of the year specific)
- At this point, most people turn around at Oheo Gulch – 7 Pools and go back, but we kept going around the Reverse side and it was really cool! Extremely narrow road, puts you a few feet from the ocean for some magical views. I would only do this with a four wheel drive vehicle, even though we saw some normal rental cars doing it slowly. It’s about the same distance getting back to the beginning but you get so much cool shore line to check out. (5 Stars) FYI – Watch out for the wild goats on the road and local drivers coming at you super fast with very little room.
- There are a ton of road-side water falls you see on the Road to Hana and it’s probably worth stopping at a few and taking pics.
– Snorkeling at local beaches – Bring, rent, or buy snorkel gear, you can see awesome stuff every day at local beaches for free. We snorkeled almost every day and spent hours swimming with sea turtles and all kinds of stuff. I don’t think there was one time I went out snorkeling that I didn’t run into a sea turtle no matter where we went.
– Sunsets – Wailea has way better sunsets than Kannapali, so if you’re into amazing sunsets, spend some time over in Wailea/Kihei. Kannapali sunsets aren’t bad, but you are usually blocked by another island, so you’re getting the sunset over an island, whereas in Wailea you get full ocean sunsets.
What we didn’t get about Hawaii
Tourist bring their kids! Like a lot of kids! I’ve been on flights to Orlando home of Disney World with fewer kids! I’m not sure why people spend all that money to bring kids to Hawaii. It’s perplexing. First, it’s a miserable flight from the mainland, basically an international flight. It absolutely makes no sense! We saw non-stop meltdowns by kids and parents.
Meals basically come in two price points if you’re eating out: $50 per person and $100 per person (includes alcohol drinks). $50 per person is a basic bar food meal, think Applebee’s but in Hawaii with fish tacos. No matter where we went, after tip, it was about $50 a person. Good meals, fresh fish, steaks, etc. at a nice place push it to $100 per person. Everything on islands is expensive, but this seems strange.
Nowhere on the island is the speed limit greater than 55 mph, and it’s usually 45 mph and under. Don’t be in a hurry, you get nowhere fast on Maui.
Pictures do none of this justice! We took pics of everything and nothing really comes close to capturing the beauty of it all.
HR Blogger Turned Maui Travel Blogger Insider Pro Tip:
We had the world’s best cinnamon roles at a place in Kehei called: The Cinnamon Roll Place. I kid you not, these were to die for and I’ve had cinnamon rolls all over the world! For $5 it’s by far the best deal on the island. It’s in some little strip mall behind a staircase being guarded by a wild rooster. You can’t make this stuff up!
Okay, friends, what did I miss? Hit me in the comments!
Your article brings back great memories of our 2-year in Hawaii courtesy of USAF! Maui wasn’t my favorite island probably because everything is so expensive there 🙂 but whale watching in Feb was magical.
Great write up! You should negotiate a discount with some of those vendors for the SEO backlinks 😉 I’m from Oahu, just got back from Kauai (Thanksgiving trip), and have been to Maui and the Big Island multiple times. I would say for sheer beauty and variety (and no Honolulu, which has its big city downsides), Maui offers the best bang for the buck. Great beaches, snorkeling, rainforests, golf, surf, resorts, etc. You didn’t mention the Iao Needle, but though it’s a decent hike, the needle itself was more like a steep and pointy hill. Didn’t miss much!
“Don’t be in a hurry, you get nowhere fast on Maui.” I lived on Oahu for 4 years (thank you USAF!) and they have ‘Hawaii time’, meaning show up at your leisure.
-“Hey, why don’t you come over for dinner at 6:00?”
-Hawaii time or for realz?
-Hawaii time is good.
They show up 6:30/6:45.