Our best experience in Maui was on Mount Haleakala Summit. We were practically “standing” on clouds. The sunset experience above the clouds was also a lifetime wish came true. We also had our first encounter with Hawaiian green sea turtles in Maui. When we were in Oahu and Kauai we visited beaches especially those where we heard athat green turtles could be spotted, unfortunately these turtles were too elusive.
Maui was also famous for humpbacks spotting, regretfully our arrival was at the wrong time of the year. We were told that from December to May every year, ten thousands humpbacks would migrated to the warm shallow water of Maui.
From Kauai to Maui
We left Kauai on a 8.11 am morning flight. We would have prefered a later flight but when we reserved our tickets a month ago it was very difficult to get seats on flights to Maui. Maui seemed to be a favourite destination! So we ended up with the least popular “timing”.
Staying near the airport had the advantage of getting to the airport early in the morning. By 7.15 am we had returned our rental car, got transfered from the rental outlet to the airport, checked in our luggage and entered the departure hall.
The flight trip took only 50 minutes. The plane flew out from Kauai, flew over Oahu then touched down in Maui. Maui Kahului Airport was a lovely quaint airport with a “welcoming” ambience. We did not have to wait long for our luggage to come out on the luggage belt.
In the airport there was no car rental counters, so we walked out of the airport building in search of Avis car rental outlet but saw none too. We found a Tram stop with a sign that said “Train to Car Rental Center”.
In just a few minutes a green quaint shiny tram arrived. This was nice! It was a plantation-inspired electric train built to transfer visitors from the airport to a newly built three-story rental car center a few minutes away (800 meter apart). This train systems and the rental car center were a $340 million project.
The Car Rental Center was a modern building. The rental car counters were on the ground level (walk-in level). We went to Avis counter to complete the paper work for a car which we had booked for six days. The charge was USD$389 with $0 dollar access CDW.
All the rental cars were housed in the basement. There was another Avis counter in the basement that serviced the handing over and returning of keys from customers. There we encountered a very angry customer yelling at the service staff to hasten the process of her car return. She had been held up at counter for more than 30 minutes and would be missing her flight. Okay we got it, we had to allocate plenty of time for the car returning process six days later.
We were originally given a red boxy car but had to change it to a blue sedan because our two big bags just could not fit into the boot.
The Road to Hana
“The Road to Hana” was one of the most famous highlights of Maui. This road was about 89 km starting from “Paia” town and ending at “The Pools at Oeho’o”. We started our first stop at the third attraction, “Twin Falls – Maui Waterfalls”. As for the first two attractions (Paia Town, Ho’okipa Beach) we planned to visit them on the return trip (if there was enough time) or on another day.
We thought we had a whole day (plentiful of time) so we took it slow and stayed too long at the earlier attractions (Twiin Falls, Huelo Lookout, Keanae Lookout and coffee break at Nahiku Market). Soon we realised that at the pace we were going we would reach the last attracton (The Pools at Oeho’o) after the closing hours of the visitor center (5 pm). It would be a disaster as “The Pools at Oeho’o” was very highly rated.
We speeded past Waianapanapa State Park, Hana Town and Hamoa Beach. We and drove straight to The Pools at Oeho’o reaching the place at 3.30 pm. Two hours later we back tracked on “The Road to Hana” stopping at Hamoa Beach and Waianapanapa State Park. The sun had set and we drove in “darkness” to the start of “The Road to Hana”. It was a very uneasy drive because the road was very windy and the “blackness” all around made the drive seemed unsafe.
The parking spaces just outside the entrance to “Twin Falls” were all taken. So we drove further down the road and found a larger parking a short distance away. Entry was free into this private land.
A round trip to the falls was about 1.6 km. The walk was pretty easy at the start and then down some steep but manageable slope. The falls was not very spectacular, not high or wide. It was just a waterhole and many visitors were here for a swim.
The next attraction for us was Huelo Lookout. The lookout was just behind a fruit-stand with the same name as the lookout. At the lookout we saw the sea far away, could not see the beach or a bay. The view was just pretty normal, nothing outstanding. The fruit-stand was definitely more interesting.
On the “The Road of Hana” at about co-ordinates: 20.858415, -156.148539, which was almost immediately after a sharp left bend there was a branch left into Keanae Peninisula. This left branch road was easy to be missed. We missed it and since there was only one road leading into the peninsula we had to back track.
There were a couple of scenic lookout points on the peninsula. At the first lookout point we saw a couple of brave “souls” swimming in the sea. Though the sea was not rough, the coast was not a smooth sand beach but undulated with lava rocks and stones and many of them looked ugly and sharp!
Midway into the peninsula we saw “Aunty Sandy’s” and a long queue of people waiting to buy freshy baked banana cakes. I was not a fan of banana, nevetheless had to queue and buy one bread because reviews said that Aunty Sandy’s baked the “best banana bread!
We thought of sitting down for cafe latte which would go nicely with the banana bread but could not find anywhere nearby to park the car. Yat Thong waited in the car by the side of the road near the “Aunty Sandy’s” while I went on to queue for the banana bread. One minute later we heard a “loud yell” from the staff of “Aunty Sandy’s” to move our car away!
After “Aunty Sandy’s we continued our drive down the road, we knew from google map that this road would come to a dead end. On the other side of the peninsula we found a second scenic lookout. The sea was definitely much rougher. It was mesmerising to see the sea waves coming in crashing into the coastal lava rocks sending the sea water high up into the air.
Nahiku Market Place
We stopped at Nahiku Market Place for a coffee break. At the market place were several stalls selling food. There was one that sold BBQ meat.
We just wanted a cup of cafe latte to go with the banana bread that we had bought at Keanae Peninsula. We found “Smoothie Nahiku Cafe”, located just at the start of the market place serving hot and ice coffee/expresso. We bought coffee and brownie and ate them with our banana cake.
Wailua Waterfalls could be seen from the road as we drove across a short bridge over a stream carrying water away from the falls. We slowed down the car and found a parking space by the side of the road just after bridge and walked back. As the cars crossed the bridge many had slowed down probably to look at the falls. There was a staff (lady) in uniform with a handheld loudspeaker yelling/scolding the drivers for slowing down their cars. She was unnecessary loud, angry and rude and was verbally “fighting” with a couple of annoyed drivers.
By thev bridge were some steps that lead us down a short slope. We took the path and went near to the falls for a closer look. This falls was certain “better looking” than the “twin falls”.
Pools of Ohe’o
The “Pools of Ohe’o” was also known as “Sacred Seven Pools”, it was sited in Kipahulu district of Haleakala National Park. Entrance to the park was USD$25 per car and was valid for 3 days which included the day of entry. We planned to visit Haleakala Summit in the next two days and the same entrance ticket would be used again.
We walked into the visitor center (9 am to 4.30 pm) and looked around at the exhibits and found out from a staff that there were two sites we could visit. One was down to the coast to see the sacred pools and the other was uphill to see two waterfalls.
The name of the pools was “Seven scared Pools” but we did not counted seven pools. All we saw was a two layered waterfalls, with small pools at the base. Many visitors were here for a dip in the pools.
Falls at the Seven Sacred PoolsAfter the visiting the Seven Sacred Pools we were back to the visitor center and then took an uphill trail (Pipiwai Trail) to see Makahiku Falls. It was a 1km uphill trek, the walk was not too difficult just tedious, near the destination we saw a signboard with information of Makahiku Falls.
The picture of the falls looked nice but when we found the falls it was a huge disappointment. It was practically dried up! Luckily the landscape scenery around was quite green, fresh and beautiful.
Another two kilometers from Makahiku Falls was another taller waterfall, Waimoku Falls (220m high) but we decided not to trek uphill but turn back as it was getting late and Waimoku Falls would probably be “dry” too.
Hamoa Beach was once named the “5th Best Beach in the World” by National Geographic. We did not make a stop at Hamoa Beach on our way to “Seven Sarced Pools”, but on the return trip we did a short stop by the beach. It was a scenic beach.
A short distance away from Hamao Beach was Koki Beach. At Koki Beach Park there were some picnic benches but at 6.30 pm there were no picnickers around but us. We did not stay long and move on.
Waiʻānapanapa State Park
Our last stop on the return trip on “The Road to Hana” was Wai’anapanapa State Park. We were not sure if the State Park was worth a detour or should we just called it a day and return to our stay. It was already 6.30 pm, there was limited time till “light” down. But the thought that if we skipped the State Park we would not come back to visit it another day as it was very far down the line on “The Road to Hana”, almost 2 hour from Paia town (start of the Hana Road).
The state park turned up to be a very pleasant surprise. Iat place was big, serene and beautiful. There were many trails to explore, unfortunately we did not have time for them.
We found that there was a campsite with cabins at the State Park. On hindsight we should had planned a “night” stay at Wai’anapanapa State Park. This way would give us more time to explore the attractions on “The Road to Hana” leisurely as there was no need to rush back to the start of “The Road to Hana” at the end of the day.
From one side of the park we saw the Black Beach. There were a couple of people in the water but there were a larger group of people sitting on beach chairs facing the sea. It seemed like they were waiting to view the sun set. It was a shame we did not have the time to go down to the beach and stay to see the sunset !
Haleakala summit was famous for sunrise viewing, but to see sunrise we would have to get going at 3.00 am in the morning just to be at the summit for sunrise at 5.50 am. Besides the entrance fee ($25/car) into Haleakala National Park there was also a $1.50 sunrise summit fee, this summit ticket had limited number and often ran out. A sunrise visit was definitely too difficult for us so we decided to go for the summit sunset trip.
At 4 pm we left our “stay” and drove toward Haleakala Summit. The route consisted of three sections, the first section was 30 minutes of relatively flat road over a distance of 38 km, then it was a stretch of switchbacks for about 25 minutes (17 km) till we reached Haleakala National Park Summit Entrance. At the entrance we showed the road-kiosk attendant the Haleakala National Park entry ticket that we had bought the day earlier when we visited “Seven Sacred Pools”. Both “Seven Sacred Pools” and “Haleakala Summit” were parts of Haleakala National Park and our ticket was valid for three days.
During the journey, all the way to “Haleakala National Park Summit Entrance” the sky was overcast. We were worried that the grey clouds would cover the sun when it set. We wondered if we should turn back and return the next day.
It was fortunately that we did not abandon our trip. Some distance after the entrance as we drove higher and higher we went above the grey clouds and amazing above the cloud was another sky and this time a beautiful clear blue sky!
The scenery was stunning. The endless sea of clouds was practically at our feet level. We stopped our car by the side of the road and came up to enjoy, to photograph this amazing scenery. We had read about “sea of clouds” in our travelling but never had the chance to encounter it. This time luck was with us.
We continued our drive to the summit and soon the Observatory came into view.
We parked our car at “Red Hill,” (Puu Ulaula ) which was the summit of Mount Haleakala. The elevation of Red Hill was 10,023 feet and the weather was cold. The temperature was about 10°C and the strong wind made the temperature seemed even lower. Lucky for us we came prepared with cold clothes and windbreakers!
The wonderful part of this sunset experience was that no trekking was needed ot get to location! The road lead right to the summit carpark and a few steps out of the car we were at the edge of the “world”.
Rather than stood to wait for the sun to set, we like many other visitors pulled out our beach chairs and positioned them facing the setting sun. Sitting back and stretching out our legs to view the sun setting into the sea of clouds was an incredible experience.
The moment the sun went below the clouds many visitors packed up and left the summit. For Yat Thong and I we stucked around for a hour to see the ever changing colors of the sky above the cloud.
Iao Valley was located on the left “globe” of the island, it was about 21 km from our “stay” in Kihei and the drive took only 20 minutes.
Near to the entrance into Iao Valley State Park there were already many cars parked on both sides of the road. At the gate, a staff told us that the fee for parking in the carpark just after the gate was $5. He did not think there was any empty lot in the carpark but advised us that if we found one we could come back and pay him. If there were no more parking place we should just drive out and park along the sides of the road before the entrance for free.
We visited a couple of attractions on the northern coast of Maui near Kahului Airport. There were Paia Town and Hookipa Beach/lookout on the right of Kahului Airport. On the left of the airport was Waihee Beach Park and Waihee Point Lookout.
On our first day in Maui, after we picked up our car at Kahului Airport, our original plan was to drive along the north coast all the way to the western most part. Along the way there were several attractions, Waihee Beach Park, Waihee Lookout Point, Olivine Pools and Nakalele Blowhole. We visited Waihee Beach Park and Waihee Lookout Points but found them not so “exciting. After Waihee Lookout point the road got pretty windy, it was deserted and not “scenic-ful” at all, so we decided to turn back and not to proceed to Nakalele Blowhole.
On another day, we visited Paia Town and Hookipa Beach/lookout. Both were on the east side of the airport and were definitely better visit than the attractions on the west side of the airport.
Waihee Beach Park
The beach park was just 13 km west of the airport and the drive took about 20 minutes. We parked our car and took a short walk to the beach. The beach was very ordinary, nothing special at all!
There was no swimmer or surfer in the water but several people fishing. This beach seemed like a “good” fishing spot? We waited for someone to catch “something” and that something turned out to be “finger-size fish”!
Waihee Lookout Point
On the way to the lookout we drove past a beautiful short stretch of tall trees. After than the road was very ordinary.
At the lookout was a set-in by the side of the road for parking. The view at the lookout was pretty ordinary, just a stretch of land and sea. This lookout was not worth visiting!
After the lookout the road got pretty windy. We drove on for another 5 km with no nice views or sights and wondered if this would be the case for another 18 km before we reached Nakalele Blowhole. Waihee Beach Park and Waihee Lookout Point were disappointing, the windy “viewless” drive was disappointing. We were not enjoying ourselves at all so we turned back and went to check-in at our stay.
We visited Paia two days after our trip on “The road to Hana”. Though Paia town was considered as the start point of “The Road to Hana” and Ho’okipa Lookout the next attraction along the route we skipped both Paia and Ho’okipa earlier on so as to gave ourselves more time to explore the attractions that came along on the later section of the route
Paia was a quaint looking town, a patchwork of pastel colored buildings lined both sides of the road. There were restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, art galleries etc etc. The town had many visitors and every restaurants/cafes that looked “nice” were packed with customers.
We drove up to Ho’opika Lookout to look down at Ho’opika beach. This beach was a world renowned windsurfing destination. At the lookout we could see many surfers riding the waves…very impressive!
The western coast of Maui
We visited a couple of attractions on the western coast of Maui. Along this coast the most northern attraction we visited was Kapalua Bay Beach and the southern most attraction was Poolenalena Beach. Shortly after Poolenalena Beach just when we expected the coastal road to reached the southern coast of Maui, the road ended
There was another road (Highway 37, Piilani Highway) that looped around the base of Mount Haleakala before reaching the southern coast of Maui all the way to the “Sacred Seven Pools” on the eastern end. Unfortunately Avis Car Rental staff told us that the southern coast road of Piilani Highway was off limit to Avis Car, the car insurance would not cover us if the car was used on this forbidden stretch. Though we were tempted to explore the southern coast we restrained.
Kapalua Bay Beach
Kapalua Bay Beach was near the northern end of the west coast. We visited the beach as it was considered one of the finest beach on Maui. The beach bordered Kapalua Resort which resulted in it being popular with visitors. It was a nice crescent bay with golden sand lined with palm trees. The beach was not particularly outstanding, it was just a nice playground for tourists leaving in the resorts along the beach.
Parking spaces at a public carpark nearest to the beach was pretty limited. As for the other caparks in the vicinity, they were restricted to customers of the resorts and restaurants.
Lahaina was a historic whaling village in the 1800, today it was a town full of souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants, art galleries, shops etc etc. We parked our car at one end of the town and spent several hours exploring the town going from one end to the other and back.
Near the center of the town was a gigantic Banyan Tree. We tried our best but just could not capture the entire tree on our camera!
This Banyan Tree was the oldest banyan tree in Hawaii. It was planted in 1873 when it was just a mere 8 feet plant. Today it had reached a height of about 60 feet and its canopy spreaded over an area of 0.66 acres.
It was a hot day and we were soon looking for a place to rest and chill. We found a cafe, “Ono Gelato Expresso Bar” looked pretty “ordinary” on the outside. But inside, at its back was a lovely “sea-side” patio. It was lovely to drink our cafe latte facing a great sea view.
Whale lookout Point
Whale lookout point was near the neck of the two “globes” of land that formed the island of Maui. It faced the south stretch of the sea with Lanai and Kalo’olawe, two islands on the southern side.
Unfortunately at this time of the year (August) was not the right month to spot whale. Nevertheless we liked many other visitors still drove up to the lookout point hoping to spot “something”. Maybe there would be a stray whale stucked out here. Definitely a wishful thought.
Po‘olenalena Beach Park
Poolenalena Beach Park was definitely a beautiful beach and a lovely place to see the sun set. It was less crowded than Kapalau Bay Beach but definitely a lovelier beach.
We brought our beach chair and our dinner and settled down on the sand to watch the sun set. It was an beautiful experience watching the sky changing colors by the minutes as the sun descended over the sea horizon. After the sun went down the colors of the clouds took on a more dramatic shades of pink, golden and orange.
Kalepolepo Beach was just 650 m from our “stay” but we did not visited this “treasure” till the last evening of our stay in Maui. There were many attractions all over islands and for the first five days we were busy driving all over the island visiting destinations that were recommended by online reviews.
On the day before we flew out of Maui we were taking “things” slow and easy. We decided to pop down to the nearest beach and “loiter” the day away so we drove down to the nearest beach, Kalepolepo Beach park.
At the beach carpark we saw a building that looked like a “museum” it was the “Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center”. The visitor center was free and staff (volunteers) were very helpful and eager to share information about the turtles and whales at Mauri. They confirmed that August was not the right month for whale watching. They encouraged us to come back from December to May, that was when more than 10,000 humpbacks migrated to Maui. According to the staff it was possible to spot whales “jumping” in the sea from the beach!
As for sea turtles, we could spot them just on the beach in front of the museum. On the beach was a shallow pond, Kalepolepa Fishpond, created with rocks stacked in the water to from a circular pond. We were told that during sunset and sunrise timings we could see green sea turtles swiming it the ponds on lazing on the rock barriers.
The fishpond was amazing, it was huge and sheltered from the big sea. The pond was shallow and even when we walked all the way to the rock barrier the water level was still about a foot deep.
We had been in Hawaii close to 3 weeks and still had yet to see any live turtle, but at the Kalepolepo fishpond we saw several! The most awesome experience was to be able to go close to them. We were aware that we have to be at least 10 feet away from them and never to touch them.
On our final morning in Maui we again went back to Kalepolepo Fishpond to see the turtles again. It was definitely easier to spot the turtles in the morning than in the evening as there were more of them.
Japanese Kite Festival
Our flight out of Maui was at 4 pm, so after we checked out of our stay at about 10 am we still had plentiful of hours before flying out. We found out that there would be a Kite festival organized by the Japanese Cultural Society at Keopuolani Park Soccer Field with was just a short 7 km from the airport. The festival started frm 10 am and finished at 2 pm. After the event ended we still had plentiful of time to make our way to the airport.
We had witnessed a Kite Festival in Japan (Hammamatsu town) and had a wonderful time. So we eagering drove to Keopuolani Park to join in the fun.
Well the kite festival Maui was just symbolic definitely miniscule compared the kite festival in Japan, nevertheless we still had some fun.
In Japan the size of a kite was humongous and it required more than 20 strong men to fly a kite. Here the kites were normal size. For those like us who did not bring our own kites just had to pay $5 for a kite kit and haphazardly built one to fly.
Our Stay in Maui
Our stay in Maui was an Airbnb, “Last Minute Specials! S$ Studio $$ Walk”. It costed USD$760 for six nights. Accommodation in Maui was rather pricely, this Airbnb was the best we could find in terms of prices, facilities and location.
Our Airbnb’s place was basically a converted garage. We had a private entrance which was a door in the brown wooden fencing that lead into a small patio area with an outdoor table and two chairs. Then a white door that opened into the converted garage.
The garage was converted into a self sufficient studio, with sofa, dining area, kitchen, double bed and toilet/shower. We were happy with the coffee maker, potable electric stove, microwave and a hotplate which allowed us to prepare breakfasts and occcasional dinners.
Our host also provided cooler box, ice packs, beach chairs, beach towels etc and we found these so essential! They helped to make our beach trip most comfortable.