I’ve been back from sunny, delightful Maui for three cold, gray Chicago weeks. Sigh. There’s nothing like a Hawaiian vacation to get you dreaming about your next Hawaiian vacation. I was lucky to work in a dolphin research lab in Oahu as a college student. From there, I made weekend trips to Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island of Hawaii.
On my recent trip, I dropped into Kauai and spent a week of adventure on Maui. We did not waste a minute. I hope to make it back here with details and tips, but for now, I’m sharing a highlight video and key links to help you plan a once-in-a-lifetime (but hopefully not just that) trip to Maui.
Maui Packing List
If you plan to hike mountains or rocky lava trails, I highly recommend waterproof hiking boots with ankle support. My relatively new Keens held up well. And though I’m including an Amazon link for convenience, I’m a big fan of buying gear at your local REI store. Their helpful, knowledgeable staff members and awesome return policy justify their higher prices. And then there are beach/pool shoes, cute sandals to match your sundress, etc. I’m not even a shoe person, but it always seems like my luggage is filled with shoes.
And whether for post-hike snacks, beach snacks, or to store chocolates, cheeses, your ten loaves of banana bread, or other local treats, I recommend keeping an insulated cooler bag with you or in the car at all times.
Your hotel or rental to see if they provide beach towels, many do. You may also have access to free pool floats, toys, chairs, or even boogie boards. Several places will let you rent beach and snorkel items by the week. But you can also buy inexpensive items on the island and bring them home or drop them off at Goodwill on the way to the airport.
Rappelling on Maui
Paragliding on Maui
Hiking on Maui
Waihee Ridge Trail Get there right at 7 AM or a few minutes before and wait for the gate to open. The upper-level parking lot fills quickly and the lower one will add a steep .25 mile or more to an already steep hike.
Keonehe‘ehe‘e (Sliding Sands) near the Haleakala summit
Pipiwai Trail on the lush side of Haleakala
If you like to hike, the All Trails app is worth the subscription. It’s a great resource for insider tips on parking, finding trailheads, and useful hike details.
Farm Tours on Maui
Our tour of the farm-to-spoon Haleakala Creamery, goat dairy, and ice cream farm was amazing. Owner/dairy farmer, Rebecca, started things off with a tasting featuring “goatlato” ice cream topped with their farm-made caramel, some of the freshest, most delicious chevre I’ve ever tasted, and caramel corn.
As Rebecca shared the joys and challenges of family farming, we fed a snack to the herd of two dozen goats and tried our hand at milking one. As a bonus, we also gathered some recently felled lilikoi (passionfruit) to take back to our timeshare because when you live in Hawaii, I guess you become less enamored with the novelty of that kind of thing. We left with a pint of ice cream, a farm t-shirt, and a few bars of lightly scented goat milk soap from a neighboring farm. We also purchased an entire box of goat milk caramel that Rebecca shipped to our home so that we can share them with friends this summer.
The only reason we didn’t walk away with Haleakala Creamery’s delicious chevre with lemon is that we already had chevre back at our condo from an earlier quick stop at Surfing Goat Dairy. We also picked up goat cheese chocolate truffles there, but they didn’t live up to their promise. YMMV, but I don’t recommend them.
La Kahea Regenerative Taro Farm and Tasting
The tour and tasting at La Kahea Farm were also worthwhile. We learned a lot about the history and importance of taro in Hawaiian culture. Previously, I’d only associated taro with the tasteless, paste-like poi I was served at a luau decades ago. There are many serving options that go beyond and are tastier than poi. Our guides described this young farm’s aspirations and regenerative farming methods as we walked the windy fields.
There are several other farm tour options on the island, but these fit best into our schedule and our budget. Some of the upscale coffee and chocolate tours charge upwards of $100 per person. And if farm-fresh food is your thing, check out the Upcountry Farmer’s Market in Kula. The Saturday morning time didn’t jive with our plan, but from what we heard, it’s the best market on the island.
Haleakala National Park
Having reached our goal of seeing all 50 states before we turned 50 years old, we’re now on a quest to see more national parks. We visited Volcanoes National Park back in the aughts. And we had our sights set on something big.
Sunrise at the Haleakala Summit
This is a thing you do when you visit Maui. I had already experienced it, but neither my husband nor the friends we were traveling with had. Depending on where you’re staying and the time the sun will rise, you wake up at 2 or 3 AM and hope someone in your party is awake and competent enough to navigate steep, curvy mountain road in the dark. But you are rewarded with this.
But the early morning drive isn’t the only painful part. It’s cold. Like, really cold and windy at the summit. Even with layers topped with a jacket that’s normally suitable in the upper 30s, and leggings and thick socks and hiking boots I was cold. Those Covid masks came in handy as we watched the sun dramatically creep upward. Didn’t pack a jacket for your summer trip to Hawaii? Bring your hotel blanket and/or beach towels.
Also, if you want to park in the lot closest to the summit, you need to reserve a parking pass in addition to paying the park entrance fee. Keep your receipt. It’s good for three days and you may use it if you visit the verdant side Haleakala just past Hana on the road to Hana.
Frankly, the colors of the sky looked less interesting the higher the sun rose, so I wandered around the summit. There’s a small observation building that, I’m guessing provides relief from the wind in non-pandemic times. My wandering was fortuitous because I was able to hear a park ranger greet the sun with a traditional Hawaiian chant.
Hiking at 10,000 feet above sea level is exhausting, but we gave the Shifting Sands Trail a try. We read enough about the trail to figure we’d hike in a mile or less and then head back out. The barren terrain is otherworldly, and certainly not what one thinks of when they picture Hawaii. Between the sun warming the land and the exhaustion of hiking at altitude, we started to peel off some layers after our hike. But the summit visitors center was still closed by the time we were ready to head down the mountain. Fortunately, we managed to get our park stamp on our way out of the park.
After my husband’s old hiking shoes fell apart on our King’s highway hike we needed to pick up a new pair. Our first stop was Island Feet, which like most places of the more practical places (Tin Roof, Costco, Whole Foods, Goodwill, guitar rental) was about five minutes from the airport. Alas, Island feet doesn’t carry hiking boots, but we each got a new pair of Oofos (my husband is obsessed with these cushy sandals for house shoes / indoor shoe-wearing), and I bought a pair of rugged, but supportive, closed-toed Keen sandals (water shoes?).
My husband had the foresight to arrange a guitar rental (how did he even know this was a thing?) from Bounty Music. We ended most of our tiring days with a chill sing-along outside at our near-empty pool area. When I say we, I mean our husband and our friends. I was in a nearby hot tub or asleep in our room.
We were also on the island of Kauai just long enough to enjoy an amazing meal at JO2 and take a very muddy hike on the Canyon Trail at Waimea Canyon State Park.
I plan detailed vacation itineraries so that you don’t have to. Check out our trip out west to Yellowstone and the West.
See my other travel posts, too.