Spending time on the second-largest island of Hawaii. A world away from Waikiki.
Island Air doesn’t permit passengers to use any electronic devices on their inter-island flights around Hawaii, and they seem strict about enforcing it. No phones. No cameras. It’s a shame because the view on the flight from O’ahu to Maui was spectacular. But then, even writing that feels like a bit of a modern day problem (or “problem”). Instead of taking a few photos, I got to sit there and enjoy a great view with no distractions for 45 minutes.
The difference between O’ahu and Maui was obvious from the start. Exiting the small propeller plane, walking through into the terminal, the whole atmosphere, the whole place, it’s just so relaxed. The terminal had an open front, leading straight out to an area to get a bus to my accommodation. The weather was glorious.
I stayed in Kaanapali, near Black Rock. It is a resort area but at this time of year was wonderfully quiet. I expect the good price on the mini apartment was due to there being only a handful of guests around, and even at some of the beach-side chain hotels there didn’t seem to be too many people around. A little self-catering place was perfect for me, with an open balcony facing south and a little shop a short walk away to pick up some food. For anything else needed, Whaler’s Village had shops, restaurants, cafes and the like, and it was a 15-20 minute stroll away.
After check-in, heading straight down to Black Rock showed how different this is from the comparatively rammed Waikiki beach. Kaanapali is a tourist area but it really didn’t feel much like it. So few people, a musician playing quietly in the background, the sound of the waves hitting the shore, only interrupted when one of the more adventurous folks around decided to jump from the Black Rock.
I’m not someone who could spend an entire day on a beach. It isn’t particularly compatible with my pasty, Scottish complexion anyway, even with the factor 30 on. I enjoy sitting watching the world go by but prefer seeing more, doing more. So I did something I don’t often do, and joined a tour group.
The day trip, which covered a loop around the larger of the two volcanoes making up Maui, had some excellent highlights. Waianapanapa Park is a particularly scenic spot, with a black sand beach and some trails to walk. It also had a couple of scrawny, hungry looking stray kittens, one of whom was on to my lunch in a heartbeat when I dropped part of my turkey wrap. The Road to Hana, one of the most highly recommended trips on Maui, is a winding road filled with great stops for views and for the scenery. If the weather permits and the road is open to allow a trip all the way around, the landscape further around the “loop” starts to look a bit alien in parts and feels incredibly desolate.
Speaking of which, one of the other recommended trips on Maui is to Haleakala, for the sunrise. If you do a Google image search of Haleakala, it looks other worldly; an incredible volcanic landscape.
I set off at around 2.30am one morning to make the trip. This was at half time in a Scottish football (soccer) match I had stayed up to watch on TV, so being awake at the time made the departure slightly easier. The weather at the summit is unpredictable but it had been a fantastic couple of days and that didn’t look like changing. The driver of the tiny tour group wanted us to be the first to the top to get the best spot, and we were. We rocked up as early as we were allowed to, grabbed a great spot… but the whole area was in the clouds, it was raining, it was windy, and it was freezing cold.
Given we had made this effort to get here, there was some determination in the group to keep this spot as other people soon followed, and we hoped the weather would improve towards sunrise. But the weather showed no signs of changing. The sky became lighter as the sun came up but our view was of the thick, grey clouds all around us. It was a shame to miss out on this, especially after leaving in the middle of the night, but much like the Northern Lights or anything else where nature needs to play ball, it won’t always happen. In the end it was a round trip of several hours to stand in freezing wind and rain for two hours, to the point that I could barely walk afterwards from being frozen, followed by a welcome hot breakfast down at the foot of the volcano, in the morning sun.
Not far from Kaanapali, only a 10 minute trip on the local bus, is Lahaina. It’s one of the bigger towns on Maui and has a few things to see, most notably for me this was the Maui Brewing brewpub one evening. In the UK we get a few Maui beers, and in and around the US mainland I’ve seen others – always the same half dozen or so. But at the brewpub they have a varied selection I had never seen, many of which were fantastic; really, surprisingly good. It’s easily amongst my favourite brewpubs I’ve visited.
The comparison of Maui with O’ahu was inevitable for me, given I had just flown in from Honolulu. Or, to be more accurate, the comparison between Maui and Waikiki. Hawaii is this laid back and relaxed, and Waikiki is the exception. For my trip, which was taking me from Japan to the US mainland, and for such a cheap flight, it was easy to stopover in Hawaii for a while. Otherwise, though, it is a long way from the UK and options closer to home may be more tempting for a few days away. But if time permits, even for someone who doesn’t fancy a more beach-type holiday, it’s a fantastic trip.