Rebecca and I hadn’t really considered too many places for our honeymoon. We actually almost went to British Virgin Islands where my parents had gone for theirs at the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda, but given the tight window we had, as well as other things going on, we decided to keep it within the states. Rebecca had been to Hawaii before – twice. Once to Oahu and once to Maui.
The flight to Maui was direct from mainland, with a layover in Seattle (which was cheaper than flying through CA). It was a clear morning and we were treated to some nice views of the Cascades. I forgot to get a seat on left side of plane to check out Rainier, but had solid views of Baker and North Cascades (Saw Rainier and the entire Olympic Range on flight to Hawaii though). We landed, and then waited to get to rental, and then waited in line for the shuttle to the rental, and then got on the shuttle, and then waited in another line at the rental, and then waited for the rental to become available and finally were off around sunset.
There is traffic everywhere on Maui. Its the 2nd largest island in terms of area and 3rd largest in terms of population, but the highway system is inefficient to put it politely. We chose Maui cause of its diverse list of activities. We initially were going to do Kauai, but had some concerns about the weather the time of year we were going and wanted a healthy mix of adventure, but also lounging on the beach time. Maui seemed to fulfill all that we were looking for. The Big Island also looked sweet – we just didn’t know much about it at the time.
We split up the trip in to 2 parts – first half on the west side (more crowded and more touristy side) and then the second half on the quieter, more intimate side. We chose the Kaanapali Beach Club for the first leg of the trip, as that’s where Rebecca stayed on her first trip, so we knew what we were getting ourselves in to. While it is touristy and a little “gapey” (Rebecca’s word), it actually was a solid jumping off point for a number of cool west side adventures.
Instead of detailing our day to day, I’ll try and remember the highlights of each leg of the trip. Our main focus on the West side of the island was finding the coolest beach. I think we visited 4 beaches total on that side : Kaanapali Beach (right outside the hotel), Slaughterhouse Beach, Honolua Bsay and DT Fleming. Kaanapali was small as a result of shore erosion. It was actually 25 feet from the hotel pool but nobody really went down to it, cause the 10 foot downclimb was slick and enough of a deterrent I guess. Rebecca and I spent quite a bit of time on it, the water was good, but there was a lot of rocks and sharp coral in the shallows, making swimming a mild buzzkill. But every morning, we’d head out to see the whales leaping out of the water with few people awake yet. Those were some of my favorite moments of the West side.
DT Fleming was a state park with a large public parking lot. It was coined one of the better beaches on the west side and while it was nice, it was very crowded. Honolua Bay wasn’t a beach at all, more a peninsula with 100% rocky shoreline, but one of the better surf breaks on the west side. The hike to the beach was really cool though, through a rain forest, wild roosters and a peaceful stream.
My personal favorite beach, possibly of the entire trip, was Slaughterhouse Beach. It was just south of Honolua Bay, around the bend, but unlike Honolua, Slaughterhouse had a small, intimate sandy beach. The parking also wasn’t as obvious, which might’ve been the reason for the lack of crowds. We were the first to arrive that morning and maybe 10-15 others showed up later in the day. The waves here broke perfectly, and the beach provided a healthy mix of sun and shade, with dramatic cliff walls on all sides and a beautiful ranch in the backdrop.
Another big highlight of the West side, which was actually a last minute decision, was a drive along the Honoapilani Highway, which has been unofficially coined the “Western Road to Hana”. This was an incredibly unique experience and highly, highly recommended for anyone spending time on the west side of Maui. Aside from being an incredibly scenic drive, there is an old Hawaiian town called Honokohau with fruit stands, an old church, an art gallery perched atop a hill above the town and incredible vistas. The road – Route 30 – if we kept following it, would’ve taken us back to the airport, and I hear gets pretty narrow and scary. When I say scary, in relative terms to Hawaii, I don’t mean the road was incredibly difficult. I more am talking about the crazy locals who fly around blind corners. I guess I can’t blame them, given all the tourists that litter their homeland, but its something to watch out for nonetheless. Some highlights of the drive :
The other things we did on the West side was the obligatory sunset cruise It was through some charter in the town of Maalaea. We ended up being those gapers who held up the cruise ship cause we arrived as it was taking off. The captain called our names on the loudspeaker and everyone stared at us in judgement as we boarded. It was a fine evening and we saw plenty of Whales, but we both agreed we wouldn’t repeat again. They had plenty of Maui Big Swell IPA though, so that helped. We did find a pretty cool bar at the marina called Beach Bums were we had a quick nightcap before calling it an evening.
The last thing we did was a whale tour with the Pacific Whale Foundation in Lahaina. Quick synopsis on this. The whale tour is cool (and they serve beer as well), but the town of Lahaina gave me anxiety. Its so incredibly gaped out, I’m not sure there is much room left in that town to handle anymore gaperdom. My gape alarm was at a code red and it didn’t help it was sweltering that day. We found good pizza at the Lahaina Pizza company on the main strip, and roasted there as well. The deep dish pizza was so good and so filling, it put us in to such a bad food coma, we were bed bound for the remainder of the day. I don’t think I got my appetite back till dinner the next day. Some highlights of the whale tour :
The second half of the trip was done on the East side of the island in Hana. This side was a polar opposite of the touristy West side. I was actually amazed how much more wild it seems. It was like the Honoapilani Highway except twice as wild and the roads were ten times as primitive. We decided to just speed through the Road to Hana, as we wanted to check in to the house we rented earlier and all the popular spots along the highway were gaped to the gills. Luckily, on the Road, there were 2 other cars that had the same exact idea as we did, so we kept on their tails going like 65mph for the majority of the drive. Don’t get me wrong, its a surreal drive, its just popular. Just think Trail Ridge Rd in RMNP except half as narrow, crazy pissed off locals and very limited parking at the popular spots.
Hana exceeded my expectations. Being my virgin trip to Hawaii, it was everything I had envisioned it to look like. We had basically zero cell phone reception (actually we lost cell reception sooner after Paia in the beginning of the Road to Hana), its incredibly lush to the point of borderline clausterphobia, the roads are narrow and rough, every single home you see is something out of a catalog, the beaches are quiet and beautiful, there are basically no amenities outside 1 luxury resort in town (called Travassa) and a General Store (that closes at 7pm). It was made for honeymooning. We were having trouble finding the right accomodations and somehow stumbled upon this place called the Hamoa Bay House and Bungalow. The directions were pretty funny, and luckily accurate. Once you leave town heading south, it becomes very rural. Our house was like the 4th driveway on the left after you leave town, but like 5 miles outside town, so if you lost count, you basically had to drive back to town and re-trace your steps. The house and the bungalow (right next to one another) are in the middle of a rain forest, with a beach 100 yards from the front door. Somehow it was cheaper than most not as nice options in town, we definitely lucked out and will definitely be going back at some point in the future. The house was also filled with Geckos, which just added to the experience, and a local cat named Mamacita, who just walked around begging for food. Some highlights of the house :
I’ll stop with the endorsement but this place was a real gem. The Bungalow was actually the place we wanted initially, but it was taken and didn’t have any ocean view. Funny thing about the couple in the Bungalow. They were newly weds, which isn’t that surprising, but they too stayed in Kaanapali on the first leg, visited basically all the same places we did and visited the same places we did in Hana. I guess our itinerary wasn’t all that original after all.
Highlights of Hana were the Pipiwai Trail and Bamboo forest hike, sunset dinner at Travassa in the town of Hana, the Red Sand Beach and Hamoa Bay Beach. We spent about 75% of our time at Hamoa Beach due to its convenience. It had decent snorkling far out as well, great water and decent waves. It was the most crowded beach on the East end, but that’s a relative term.
There was another beach around the corner called Koki Beach, which was pretty sweet as well and had huge waves. We spent a short afternoon there until the sun vanished and the waves simply got too big to body surf anymore.
When we did the Pipiwai Trail, the 5 Sacred Pools of Oheo were closed, which I hear wasn’t the biggest lost in the world cause they are probably the most crowded single entity on the island of Maui. We started on the trail early enough in the morning where we were like the 4th or 5th party up there, but it still wasn’t soon enough to avoid the heat, humidity and mosquitos. Rebecca got mugged a lot worse than I did for some reason, which made for some annoyance, but the bamboo hike certainly exceeded expectations. I didn’t realize how long and how high the bamboo went on for, I thought it was just like a small section of the trail. Some highlights :
The mosquitos really did a number on us so the hike was a tad on the short lived side. Here is a link to an excellent, detailed trip of the same trail.
After the hike, we got lunch at a local food truck in Hana called Braddah Huts. Its a large portion Polynesian BBQ. I got the spare ribs and Rebecca got the tacos. It looked something like this….
Minutes from our house was a little locals hangout called the “Venus Pool”, which was a short hike from the road. It was a pool right on the ocean that was protected by a series of lava flows, with cliff jumping and lounging spots.
Another fun hike to beach was Red Sand Beach. It was a short 10 minute hike from the center of town across the street from the school. It also was semi-protected from a prominent lava flow, which made for some of the better snorkling of the trip.
The blue pool in the photo to the left of the lava flow had an abundance of diverse fish populations. The lava flow looked like Godzilla’s back. Really cool spot.
The last thing we did, of note, in Hana was treat ourselves to a nice dinner on the final evening (we grilled out the rest of the time). We visited the restaurant at the Travassa Hotel in the town of Hana, which is one of the most tranquil places I’ve ever seen. We both ended up getting the Macadamic Nut Pesto Shrimp Pasta, which, to this day, was the best pasta dish I’ve ever had (only other place that compares is Saucy Noodle in Wash Park, that I’ve been to at least). Take that with a grain of salt cause the majority of my Italian has been Olive Garden (crowd boo’ing sounds). Regardless, this place was a surprise treat.
The last thing we did on our last day (which happened to be the day we flew back at 11pm) was visit Haleakala Crater NP. You drive from sea level near the town of Paia, up a road and within 25 miles you are situated at over 10,000 ft. The prominence is unrivaled and the scenic drive through 4 different climates is something you simply cannot miss.
We ended up eating at the same Mexican restaurant in Paia for lunch and dinner that day – placed called Milagro’s. Paia was kind of like a poor man’s Lahaina and home to some of the stranger folks on the island. There was heavy transient activity on the main street and at times, you borderline don’t feel 100% safe.
Personal thoughts on Maui. Its obviously a beautiful place to visit. Not sure how excited I’d be to live in a place like this. First off, its debilitatingly expensive and not much of a job market to justify the high costs. And i’m not just talking milk and eggs – the real estate is a joke. Maui, and Hawaii as a whole, is a prime example of wealth inequality. Anyways, aside from that, I’d be happy to go back and visit time and time again, and different islands each time to compare and contrast. There is also kind of an unspoken hatred of mainlanders, which is understandable, you just do what you can to stay out of the natives way. Since moving to Colorado, I’ve noticed these appealing parts of the world always have something wrong with them. No place is perfect, some places are just a little better than others.
Anyways, from a tourist standpoint, I can’t see it getting much better than Maui. It has something for everyone. Hiking, beaches, waves, food, adventure, bamboo forests, rain forests, waterfalls, quiet on the East side, bustling on the west side, oh, and lots of blown up abandoned vehicles all over the island (Island of Maui shutdown its lone scrap yard years ago, so natives just leave them wherever they breakdown or, at times, drive them off cliffs in to the ocean). I am very curious to go back and check out Kauai and the Big Island. Only thing I’d care to see on Oahu is the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Other than that, flying all that way to be around 1 million people on a small island just doesn’t sound very appealing to me. I feel like your experience in Hawaii depends heavily on your perspective and mindset going in to it. Rebecca and I weren’t as interested in the history and culture, just wanted a relaxing time in a tropical area for our honeymoon in an english speaking country. While we did see a lot while we were there, we also missed out on a lot due to time constraints or crowds, but we were fine with that.
I’ll end with a pic of one of our main groups throughout the trip….