Maui, known also as “The Valley Isle,” is the second largest Hawaiian island.
Maui's diverse landscapes are the result of a unique combination of geology,
topography, and climate. Several of the volcanoes were close enough to
each other that lava flows on their flanks overlapped one another, merging into
a single island. Maui is such a "volcanic doublet," formed from two shield
volcanoes that overlapped one another (the older western volcano forms the West
Maui Mountains with the highest peak Puʻu Kukui at 5,788 feet (1,764 m); the
larger, younger volcano to the east, Haleakalā, rises to more than 10,000 feet
(3,000 m) above sea level). From its world famous beaches and the
sacred Iao Valley, to the magnificent landscape at Haleakalā and fresh
farm-to-table Hawaiian cuisine, it’s not surprising Maui has always been voted
at the top of any "Best Islands in the U.S." selection.
Getting there ...
We planned this Maui trip as a college graduation gift for Linus (well, we
can always find some excuse for a family trip) and we were just back from
the Commencement at Yale on the day
before. With only half a day to unpack, clean up, and then pack, we were all
ready (excited and exhausted already) to go. We had a flight at 9AM from
SFO direct to Kahului (OGG) in Maui. When we got off the airplane in Maui,
we all needed to take off our jackets to welcome the tropical warm air.
5/22 (Day 1) ...
- Hana Highway
After a quick fast food lunch near the airport, we were
ready to take the famous Hana Highway. Although it's only about 50 miles
in distance, the "Road to Hana" has an exhausting, and many times harrowing,
617 hairpin curves (not sure how they count...) and 59 unforgiving one-lane
bridges, not to mention an incredible number of blind spots along the way.
It is not as terrible as what it sounds. As long as you drive slowly
and carefully, it is a pleasant road trip with lush rainforest, dramatic and
rugged ocean vistas, countless waterfalls and pools.
- Wailua Valley State Wayside and Upper Waikani Falls (aka Three Bear
- Wai'anapanapa State Park, Black Sand Beach
We tried to visit Kahanu Garden. However it was
already closed when we got there at a few minutes past 4PM...
- Travaasa Hana
in the town of Hana on the eastern tip of Maui, Travaasa is the first resort
on the island to greet the rising sun, and it is the only full resort in the
5/23 (Day 2) ...
- Hang Gliding
I was so excited when I found this
Hang Gliding Maui website.
The powered hang gliding flight uses a micro-light aircraft featuring a hang
gliding wing and weight shift operation, very much like a traditional hang
glider, but powered by a reliable 912cc 4-cycle Rotax aircraft engine (it
was used in the movie "Fly
Away Home" in 1996). I booked 4 consecutive flights (30 min each
for every one of us) starting at 8:30AM, and we had to use
rock-paper-scissors to decide who go first (the order was:
Iris, and Linus). I really
enjoyed the flight with the incredible views and thrills although it was
bumpier than expected (so Woanyu did suffer a little bit of motion
sickness...). After Iris' flight (the 3rd flight), the pilot decided
to call it a day because the cross wind became too strong at the runway that
he did not feel safe enough to continue to fly and land. So Linus did
not get the chance to fly, but he did not complain too much when he heard us talked
about bumpy rides up there....
- Hamoa Beach
After a good lunch at a local food truck park, we were
back on the Hana Highway to continue driving south. Hamoa Beach is a
beautiful beach with very fine sands and is surrounded by cliffs (with
stairs leading down to the beach from the road). It was our first
taste of a real fine Maui beach even we did not prepare to stay on
the beach for too long yet.
- Pipiwai Trail
Pipiwai Trail is located in the Kīpahulu District in
the Haleakalā National Park. It is a 4-mile round-trip trail winding
through a freshwater stream and diverse forest areas with views of
Makahiku Falls (at 0.5 mile) and Waimoku Falls (at
the end of the trail). The most dramatic features along this trail are
the giant Banyan tree and a beautiful, thick, and lush bamboo forest.
- 'Ohe'o Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools)
'Ohe'o Gulch is also part of the
Kīpahulu District in the Haleakalā National Park. We took a trail to
Kuloa Point at the mouth of 'Ohe'o Gulch. Here, you will find beautiful
ocean views and archaeological sites. This trail is popular for viewing the
Pools of 'Ohe'o, but the access to the pools was closed for safety reason.
- Hana & Piilani Highway
We continued on the Hana Highway and stopped
by a small local church (Palapala Ho'omau Church) to visit the world's
greatest aviator, Charles
There were some rumors saying that rental cars are
not allowed to go around the southern part of Hana Highway, or some people
may say that you need a 4WD to go past Hana. The fact is that there are
sections of narrow and unpaved
roads for ~ 5 miles around where it changes the name from Hana Highway
to Piilani Highway on Google Map, but it has no problem at all for a regular
sedan to pass as long as we pay the same caution to any road conditions.
After we passed the narrow and winding portion and reached the southwest
foothill of Haleakalā, the landscape changed dramatically: there
no more forest and waterfalls. It became a total different world of
dry, harsh, and desolate landscape until we came to the upcountry (~2000
feet of elevation) on the west side of Haleakalā, where we will stay for 2
nights at the Kula Lodge.
5/24 (Day 3) ...
- Sunrise at Haleakalā summit
Sunrise is the most popular time here.
It has become a ritual for many visitors (like me) as a "must-do" when we
plan a Maui trip. It has been so popular that the National Park put a
reservation system in place (for anyone entering the park from 3AM to 7AM)
I have convinced everyone to get up early to go with
me for sunrise. Sunrise time was at 5:45AM and it's about 50-min
driving from the Kula Lodge to the Summit according to Google Map route, so
we decided to leave at ~ 4:20AM so we could be there ~30 min before sunrise.
It was too late! There was a long queue at the park entrance (as
everyone needed to show their permit, and some people were forced to turn
around because they did not have a permit) that it's already 5:40AM when we
arrived at the Haleakalā visitor center parking lot (and I had to double
park behind a tour bus). When we walked to the crater rim, it's packed
with crowds everywhere.
10 minutes after sunrise, many people has left and
we could drive to the Summit (the tallest peak of Haleakalā ("house of the
sun"), at 10,023 feet (3,055 m), is Puʻu ʻUlaʻula (Red Hill)) with plenty of
parking spaces available. It was quite moisture today and the sunlight was
very diffused, but it created a lot of opportunities for rainbows.
From the summit one looks down into a massive
depression some 11.25 km (7 mi) across, 3.2 km (2 mi) wide, and nearly 800 m
(2,600 ft) deep. The surrounding walls are steep and the interior mostly
barren-looking with a scattering of volcanic cones. Haleakalā crater
is not volcanic in origin, nor can it accurately be called a caldera (which
is formed when the summit of a volcano collapses to form a depression).
Scientists believe that Haleakalā's crater was formed when the headwalls of
two large erosional valleys merged at the summit of the volcano.
the Keonehe'ehe'e trail (Sliding Sand trail) to hike down in the crater.
The crater floor is 3.9 mile one way with almost 2500 feet of elevation
change so it is too far beyond our day hike capability. We decided to
give us 3 hours of time (1 hour to hike downhill and 2 hours to climb back
up) to explore the otherworldly landscape along the trail in the crater.
We went back to the Kula Lodge to take a break (after the
early wake-up at 4AM and 3 hours of hiking). After lunch and another
short nap, we returned to Haleakalā' at about 3PM to see more of the colorful
crater in a different lighting condition.
We took Halemau'u trail to hike 1.1 miles (one way) on a
rocky path to a crater viewpoint. Since it started a lower elevation at
~8000 feet and gradually descended to the crater rim, it immerged into the
fog (or cloud) that the
crater floor was barely visible from time to time.
5/25 (Day 4) ...
- Sunrise at Haleakalā
I have reserved the sunrise permits for both
days, so I convinced Woanyu to come with me again this morning (while Linus
and Iris decided to skip and to have a good sleep...). Based on the
experience from yesterday, we left the lodge at 3:30AM and got to the Summit
at about 4:30AM. Although it was still early (the parking was still
quite empty), I got the chance to "see" and photograph the
Milky Way for the
first time. The air was cool and dry above the sea of clouds.
When sun came up through the cloud, it was a perfect day for sunrise!
- Iao Valley
We passed by Maui Pineapple Tours, but they were sold out
for today's tour (I did not make reservation earlier because I was not sure
if my family was interested in the tour or not). We decided to book a
tour for 2 days later, and moved on to our next destination: Iao Valley
Iao Valley is a lush, stream-cut valley in West/Central Maui.
It is one of the wettest places on Earth (average 385 inches or 9.8 meters
rainfall per year) and is covered in dense rainforest. The Iao Needle
(Kūkaemoku), a landmark in the state park, is a vegetation-covered lava
remnant rising 1,200 feet (370 m) from the valley floor.
- Maui Ocean Center
lunch at the waterfront in Maalaea, we visited Maui Ocean Center, the
Aquarium of Hawaii. Named one of the “15 Top Aquariums In the U.S. You
Need to Experience” by TripAdvisor, the Aquarium features over 60 exhibits
with sharks, turtles, rays and thousands of vibrant tropical fish. The
Aquarium is home to one of the world’s largest displays of live Pacific
corals and faithfully replicates thriving marine ecosystems in every
Polo Beach Club
It's time to move to our home for the next 3 days: Polo Beach Club
(#708) in the Wailea region. Polo Beach Club is a 8-story high rise
building with unique V-shape architecture that every unit has a spacious
balcony with amazing ocean views.
We did some grocery shopping in a
nearby Safeway, and Iris and Linus were making a delicious dinner to make us
all feel at home (with wine and beer...).
5/26 (Day 5) ...
- Polo Beach & Wailea Beach
Polo Beach is located at southern tip
of the Wailea resorts. We have a private access to southern part of
Polo Beach from our building (with
a locked gated entrance) so the beach is never crowded at any time.
Woanyu and I took an early morning walk to stroll around the beach, and then
took the Wailea Beach Path to walk along the shoreline to the
Wailea Beach Park.
- Polo Beach
We did not plan any activity this morning so we can really
enjoy our beach time.
We visited the small popular ocean town Lahaina to have a
lunch (Forrest Gump), and did a little bit shopping around the town afterwards.
- Maui Off-Road
booked this UTV off-road tour on West Maui (they called
Adventure, but it's actually located around Kapalua on northwestern
Maui). I reserved 2 vehicles and registered all 4 of us as drivers so
we could take turns to drive and have fun. This 2 hour adventure
tour combines amazing riding conditions with breathtaking scenic views of
the ocean and woody hills. But be aware, it was extremely dusty (or
muddy in wet conditions). It took us a while to clean up (there were
water sinks and air hoses) after the tour, and our T-shirts were permanently
dirty (went through several tries of laundry already...).
- Polo Beach Club and Sunset
5/27 (Day 6) ...
- Polo Beach
We spent another relaxing morning to play at the beach.
I used my Rylo in a waterproof housing to play with Linus and Iris in
the water (however, I am still not very satisfied with the image quality from
- Maui Pineapple Tours
This pineapple tour allows you to visit the harvesting pineapple fields,
taste various stages of the pineapple and tour the packing facility.
While it’s not known when pineapple first started growing in Hawaii, we do
know it was prior to when the first American missionaries arrived in 1820.
However, it wasn’t until James D. Dole arrived in 1899 and established the
Hawaiian Pineapple Company that pineapple became commercially produced.
By the 1930’s, Hawaii became the top producer of pineapple in the world.
At its peak, Dole produced 75% of the world’s pineapple supply. In the
1980’s, the two largest exporters of pineapple, Dole and Del Monte left
Hawaii. It’s simply much cheaper to produce pineapple in Asia and South
America. Today, the state of Hawaii produces less than 10% of the pineapple
sold worldwide. The
Pineapple Company still grows pineapple here on Maui (at the site of this
tour), primarily for the local market. After the tour, we got 2
packages (3 pineapples each) of Maui Gold that we could bring back home to
share with our friends.
- Grand Luau at Honua'ula
After a short break, we walked from the Polo Beach Club to the Grand Wailea
Resort for the Luau dinner and show in the evening. It is one of the
most Hawaiian activities that you have to do when you are in Hawaii.
was lucky to be picked to go on stage to be
part of a fire show (in fact,
their first chose a little girl who did not want to go to stage, like the
Singapore...). It was a pleasant walk back to Polo Beach after the
show with cool night breeze and starry sky.
5/28 (Day 7) ...
- Polo Beach
It was the last morning we could spend at the beach...
Going Home ...
We left the Polo Beach at about 10:30AM and had a quick lunch at the Kahului
(OGG) airport. Maui is a good diversified place to blend different
nature (volcano, rainforest, beach, etc.) and human (hang gliding, off-road UTV,
Luau, etc.) activities together. This was the last family trip that Linus
could enjoy as a "student" (well, technically
he just graduated a few days ago) before he takes on a full-time job in
Boston after summer. With everyone grow (either up or old), we learn to
appreciate each family trip more and more.
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