“…The Magic Isle or The Valley Isle, both are used perfectly to describe Maui; this amazing place on Earth.”
If you are doubting which island to go in the state of Hawaii, I would suggest Maui. The Magic Isle is really magical. The second largest island in Hawaii is actually the 17th largest island throughout the United States. Not sure about the backpacking possibility but unlike most of my trip, I am doing a leisure trip this time. To be very honest, Maui is actually much cheaper compare to the other two islands I visited (Oahu and Kauai).
Okay, no surprise, this is the most expensive part of the journey. There are several flights departing from San Jose, California to Maui, Hawaii directly. Again, to compare the flight fare, it is about the same if you are traveling to Europe / South America / South East Asia / Asia. All you have to do is choose your destination.
I made it to Maui by flight and here is the first ever shot I took after landing in Maui airport – Kahului. Kinda cloudy but it gets better.
If you want to experience the most, I would suggest renting a car. It is really cheap and would definitely help you to explore the island much more. But if you can’t or don’t want to rent a car, there are couple of options:
- Public Bus
Single ride of the bus would cost you around $2 and it will bring you to popular spots in the island. Be aware that bus does not run late at night or very often. Do plan well if you want to choose this option.
I noticed there are several cab companies that you can call ahead to pick you up. A bit costly compare to the other option but if you are in a group of 4, this might be a good option. Late night or short distance travel with taxi is probably the best option.
Pretty sure hitchhiking is illegal in Maui but I still see some people doing it. If you decided to hitchhike, please do it with cautious.
Things To Do
1. Watch the sunrise over Haleakala National Park
Watching the sun rises above the clouds from Haleakala National Park is truly an unique experience. I would highly recommend every single person of you to see and experience it. If you are not an early bird, just force yourself to wake up early at least for one day during your stay in Maui. During my stay, the sunrise occurred at 5:55AM. Don’t be those people who hurriedly rush there simply to check off the bucket list, instead, plan in advance.
I stayed in Kihei and left the area at 3AM and arrive Haleakala National Park around 5AM. Entrance to the park cost $20/vehicle for 3 days. The benefit of going early is you can still do some stargazing before the sun rises. As the stars faded, the light of the sun starts to illuminate. Secure a spot among one of the rocks and enjoy the sunrise. Pay attention closely as you will see the changes in colors for the sky and the land. A word of advice: Make sure to bring your fluffy jacket. It is cold!
2. Sunrise is too mainstream, go for sunset over Haleakala National Park
The fact that sunrise has caught the attention of many people, I decided to make my way to Haleakala National Park one last time before leaving the island but primarily for the sunset. Gosh! There is no regret. I love the sunset sky much more compare to the sunrise. In opposite to the sunrise, the sunset gives you the perfect opportunity to catch those silhouette pictures. Stay a little longer after the sunset to do some stargazing. If you are there not on a full moon night, you might even see some shooting stars.
3. Visit Beaches
With more than 30 miles of beaches, you just gotta pick what activities you want to do: sunbathing, snorkeling, windsurfing, surfing, etc. Check out the red sand, white sand, and black sand beaches too that is known famously.
Also, don’t miss out Ka’anapali Beach, Big Beach, and White Rock Beach. If you are there on Sunday, go to Little Beach for the drum circle event and Sunday night party. There are still more beaches that are worth visiting but I will keep it short for now.
4. Venus Pools
This place is highly recommended especially if you are into cliff jumping. Although the map clearly shows the exact location of Venus Pools, the entrance is totally not visible. I was lucky to meet a local who is going there too. You need to kinda climb over fences and walls and walk about 500ft of grassland before reaching the hidden pools.
The view here is breathtaking. Also, since it is secluded, it is not crowded at all. There were about 10 people during my visit there. There are five spots with different heights for you to jump into the pools. Talk to strangers, make friends, and jump together. It will be something unforgettable.
5. Road to Hana
The famous Road to Hana should be in your list if you are going to Maui. There are some section along the Road to Hana where off road AWD vehicle is required. You will not miss a lot if you decided to opt out the off road path but isn’t it better to have the complete experience? There are a lot of stops you do not want to miss during this journey, so plan wisely. Hungry? Make a stop at the “Halfway to Hana” store and get the famous Banana Bread.
6. Nakalele Blowhole
A blowhole. As simple as that. The hike down to the blowhole is quite rough. Make sure you wear a proper footwear. Not long after you start hiking down, you will see this sign.
Very self-explanatory as there have been death incident in the past. If you stand close enough to the blowhole, you can see some blue crabs finding their way out of or in to the blowhole. Stay awhile here and wait for the right moment to get the blowhole experience.
If you go to the other direction of the blowhole, you will find a spacious place with rock formation. Here you will find a wall of rock that has a hole with the shape of heart.
7. Iao Needle
Iao Valley is a stream-cut valley located in the Iao Valley State Park. Like many places in Hawaii, Iao Valley is a sacred place where the warriors used it as a lookout during the warfare. Covered in dense rainforest, a lot of vegetation can be observed throughout the hike. The highest ground at this place is called Iao Needle, rising about 1200 feet above the ground. If you hike close enough to look at the “needle”, it is actually just an illusion of sharp ridges of mountains.
Here, there are two short loops that people can walk to get a closer of the needle (Iao Needle Lookout Loop) and windy overlook (Ethnobotanical Loop). Be very careful during the walk as this place gets slippery due to the rainforest surrounding.
8. Ohe’o Gulch and Seven Sacred Pools
Easily one of my favorite places in Maui. If you are still reading, you will remember that there are section in Road To Hana that required an off road AWD vehicle. Apparently, this is the place. Ohe’o (Oh-Hey-Oh) Gulch is part of Haleakala National Park. The hike to see the pools and waterfalls varies but the most accessible pool gives you access to cliff jumping or swimming. If you are just into photography or hiking, take the hike and you will be amazed of the stunning setting offered here.
9. Drive around the island
No plan and get some times to kill, just take it easy and drive along the island. Although it is the second biggest island in the state of Hawaii, you can easily finished it in less than a day (without stopping), but that really kills the purpose. Stop once in awhile and you might be surprise of what you will find. Random stops give me the opportunity to access Dragon’s Teeth, Haleleikeoha Pool a.k.a The Blue Pool, and so many more.
Like I said before, Maui is definitely an island to go if you have a doubt in choosing the island to visit. There are still many things that I do not list here that is worth visiting. I had a blast here and pretty sure each and everyone of you who are going to visit will to. Now, I have a feeling I will come back again.