Beneath the angelic skies of the Pacific Ocean about half way between Los Angeles and Tokyo lies a chain of rugged volcanic islands. The Hawaiian Islands bring millions of tourists a year yet is home to some of the most well preserved nature and genuine culture I’ve ever seen. With countless waterfalls, breath-taking beaches and a true Aloha Spirit, Maui is the island where I found my perfect slice of heaven.
My boyfriend and I along with two of our friends landed on a Thursday night. The heat and jet lag hit us hard as soon as we stepped off the plane. The Kahului Airport is open-air and the dark sky was warm, humid and inviting. We hired a van to drive us to our home away from home, a friend’s vacation house around 45 minutes away from the airport. The driver of the van didn’t have much to say on the long dark climb up the newly paved road other than “Ah, you’re at the top of the hill? Best view on the island, Bro.” When we reached our destination we all said “Mahalo” and went in to sleep off the time change and airplane drinks.
The moment I woke up, still sleepy eyed, I jumped into the shower only to find myself feeling the cool wild morning air on my back. I rubbed my eyes a bit, squinted and noticed I was showering in an outdoor stone shower looking over the island and vast Pacific Ocean. I had to rub my eyes one more time and ask myself “Is this real life?”
The places we went within the ten days on the island were all advised by locals and the gentleman that owned this magical home. I am a huge believer that the more time you spend away from resorts, the better your time will be in a resort-driven location.
Maui is a great example of this. There is so much to explore, taste, and experience on this island that you would be missing out if you stayed at some over-rated resort the entire trip.
When you’re in Maui you need to get out there and explore all that it has to offer.
Here are my top 10 must-do’s in Maui:
1. Go snorkeling in Wailea. It’s a preserved area so no fishing here. You can rent a pair of flippers and a snorkel from most local shops for pretty cheap. I recommend parking the car somewhere and finding a non-crowded area you can swim out to. You’ll see everything from angel fish to sea urchins to sea turtles by the plenty.
2. Drive the road to Hana. Rent an SUV and drive all the way around Maui. Start early, this winding road will take the whole day to drive. Stop at the most random family run roadside shops you see. You’ll find a few tiny dining operations that offer the freshest food and the most genuine Aloha welcome. I also recommend packing snacks and water. Also note that there is limited to no cell service on most of this trip.
3. While on the road, take some time at Wai’anapanapa State Park to witness one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Your eyes won’t even believe the black volcanic sand and natural sea arches against the blue-green water. On this road trip, you’ll feel as if you are in Jurassic Park in the lush jungles and on the rocky volcanic part of the island, you’ll feel as if you are on a faraway planet.
4. Stroll around Front Street in Lahaina and stop in Fleetwood’s on Front Street. Mick Fleetwood himself is the owner of this beautiful sea side bar. We stopped in just to see what it was all about and ended up sipping on cocktails and eating happy hour priced oysters. When we go back, I plan on making a reservation around sunset on the rooftop for a romantic dinner.
5. Eat on the porch at the Cool Cat Café on Front Street in Lahaina while people watching and looking over the ocean. This 1950’s style diner has been a staple on Front Street for many years. They’ve won best burger in Maui ten years in a row. In island spirit, I had one with a grilled pineapple ring on top. Holy Yum.
6. While on the Island, don’t forget to try a local specialty, Poke. The dish is just now making its way to the mainland as a culinary trend. Poke is simply fresh caught, melt in your mouth fish served raw. It typically comes with soy sauce, spicy mayo and chips on the side. If you are a sashimi lover, this is definitely a dish for you.
7. If you are a daredevil like me, you’ll be excited to know that Maui is home to some of the most famous cliff diving spots on the planet. Black Rock is a fun and safe jump, right off of the Sharaton Resort at Kaanapali Beach. Locals as well as tourists line up all day to hop off this rock. On your way to Hana, there are also a few places to jump like Twin Falls and Seven Sacred Pools. Just make sure you do your research. Make sure to ask locals if you need to and by all means, be careful.
8. Stop into Maui Brewing Co. for their happy hour from 3-6 and have the Bikini Blonde and Coconut Porter. They also have some limited release beers that you should bring home with you as a souvenir for the beer lover in your life.
9. Do NOT spend money on witnessing a fancy Luau for dinner. Here’s a little secret… head over to Betty’s Beach Café for some food and drink specials. Be sure to check the Luau times and get there early to get a front porch view of the Luau for free. It is quite impressive how quickly those Hula Girls can move their hips.
10. Learn to spearfish by going on a guided spearfishing tour. The tour guide will take you out to open waters and teach you everything from breathing techniques to where all the good fishing is on the island. We took our fish home and cooked it up for dinner that night.
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