We love Seattle, but by February or March, we’re craving some sunlight, warmth, and outside time. Conveniently, it’s easy to get to Hawaii from the west coast. In March 2015, we headed to Maui for a week of hikes, food, and beaches. We moved around between Hana, Lahaina, and Kula so that we could explore different parts of the island.
Our flight landed at Kahului around 2pm. We picked up the rental car and made a quick stop at Target for some food for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks and bug repellant. We also bought beach towels. Somehow when heading to Hawaii in winter, I always manage to forget either a towel or a bathing suit. It makes sense because winter, but it also doesn’t, because the beach and warmth are basically the reasons for the trip.
From Target, we made the short drive to Kihei, where we stayed at the Day’s Inn (TripAdvisor | Booking.com | Hotels.com). It was sort of a strange hotel, nestled between two much larger resorts. The price, however, was good. From the hotel, we could stroll out to the beach and relax for the afternoon and evening.
We ate a small dinner at Sarento’s On the Beach (TripAdvisor), mostly for convenience. It was just a few steps from our hotel.
In the morning, we woke up, had a dawn walk on the beach, and ate, and set out for Hana.
Our first stop along the way was at Ho’okipa Lookout. From the lookout, we watched surfers. We then wandered among the many tide pools. This gave us close-up views of three sea turtles.
We continued along the road to Hana, stopping next at mile two for Twin Falls. A short walk through Banyan trees brought us to the falls. They were crowded but pretty.
After returning to the car, we next stopped at the Waikamoi Nature Trail. The leaf-covered trail climbs through forest and bamboo. We never reached views along the trail, but we enjoyed the forest, spiny-backed orb weavers (spiders), and assorted flowers.
Our next stop took us to Ke’anae, where we ate lunch and shave ice. We also walked along the beach and explored the Ke’anae Congregational Church, built out of black lava rocks.
Once in Hana, we checked into our condo and got settled. Hana had limited food options and the closed early. We only rested briefly before heading out for an early dinner at a food truck.
Kīpahulu District, Haleakalā National Park
The next morning, we woke up early and drove to Kōkī Beach for an excellent sunrise. We also stopped briefly at picturesque Hamoa Beach before briefly returning to the condo for breakfast.
After breakfast, we set out for the Kīpahulu District of Haleakalā National Park. In the park, our destination first was the Pipiwai Trail. This 4 mile round trip trail led past a string pools, through a bamboo forest, and up to the 400′ tall Waimoku Falls. The waterfall was a trickle at this time of year, for me the highlight was the variety.
After we returned to the parking lot, we continued down to Kuloa Point and the mouth of ‘Ohe’o Gulch. We enjoyed lunch on the black cliffs of the coast while waves crashed below. After lunch, we returned via a series of pools.
Red Sand Beach
After our time in the park, we headed to Hana’s red sand beach for a relaxing afternoon. I remembered this beach as highlight from a childhood trip. On this trip, the beach made a great spot for wading and reading. Along the way back to the condo, we wandered through tide pools as the light faded.
The road from Hana
In the morning, we woke up for the return drive. We reached our first stop soon: Wai’anapanapa State Park and Pa’iloa, its black sand beach. The morning was cloudy and grey, but the water was somehow still bright and blue and the plants along the coast a verdant green. On the beach, we also stopped at a lava tube that ran into the ocean. From the beach, we followed a trial inland to two freshwater caves.
Back at the car, we continued to our next stop. After about 10 miles, we stopped at Hanawi Falls (mile marker 24). By this time, it was raining. That contributed to the 30′ falls flowing even more enthusiastically than we had seen in photos. Two miles later, we again stopped, this time for Pua’a Ka’a Falls and Pools. The rain also contributed to these falls.
From there, we continued on our drive. In Kahului, we stopped at Geste Shrimp Truck for a delicious lunch of shrimp, rice, and crab mac salad. The rain was still coming down, so we ate in the car.
After lunch, we turned south, crossing the island and wrapping around the southern coast to Lahaina. The traffic was heavy here, delaying us by about an hour. Once at Lahaina, we checked into our condo and wandered the beach, poking in various tide pools.
After sunset, we drove into Lahaina for dinner. We settled on a cheap and tasty dinner of fish tacos from Ono Tacos (TripAdvisor). We wandered Lahaina some more, stopping for ice cream and enjoying the people watching and giant banyan tree.
The next day, our plan was to head snorkeling. We slept in and then got breakfast (açaí bowls) at Whaler’s Village in Kaanapali. Next, we stopped to rent gear from Snorkel Bob’s (TripAdvisor), a ubiquitous chain. Their many locations made renting and drop off easy. They also gave us some advice on snorkel spots.
Based on their advice, we went to Kapalua Bay Beach. This was a great spot. I had not snorkeled in many years. It’s amazing how hard I had to convince my body it was okay to breathe under water. Once comfortable, though, the bay presented an incredible variety of fish. In between snorkeling, we read on the beach. Sea turtles also swam right up to the beach to eat, giving us a front row view.
Eventually, it was time to head out to our night’s stay on Kula. On the way, we stopped at Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop (TripAdvisor). The pies were the main attraction, but we felt that we should probably eat some real lunch. We were happy to find their sandwiches were excellent and the pies were as good as the reputation.
By this point, it was nearly sunset. We pulled off at Papawai point to watch it. To our surprise and delight, we could see several whales breaching and slapping their tales in the waters between Maui and Lanai.
Kula and Haleakalā sunrises
In the morning, we woke up and looked up the mountain. We could see a long line of car headlines threading their way up the switchbacks. After getting our breakfast, we got in the car and soon joined that line. Traffic moved steadily and we reached the Haleakalā Visitor Center and overlook in plenty of time for sunrise.
Sue, who ran the bed and breakfast, thoughtfully provided heavy coats and scarves for the chilly morning. Bundled in these layers, we watched the sky brighten until eventually the sun appeared on the horizon.
After sunrise, we started down into the crater on the Keonehe‘ehe‘e (Sliding Sands) trail, which leaves from the same overlook from which we watched sunrise. The full trail runs 11.8 miles one way. We followed it just part way down to Ka Lu’u o ka ‘O’o. The crater offers an impressive spectrum of colors of ash. I’d estimate that our route was about 4 miles round trip.
After our short hike, we drove back down the mountain. We stopped at Grandma’s Coffee House in Keokea for coffee and a second breakfast or early lunch.
We still had lots of time left in the day, without any particular plans. The nearby Kula Botanical Garden was recommended by a few sources. From the parking lot, the garden does not look like much. Once through the visitor center and into the garden, though, we were transported to a world of flowers and other plans of different colors and shapes. We were very happy to have stopped!
After the garden, we drove up winding Waipoli Road. This area doubles as a paragliding site, so the clear cuts gave us views out over Maui for a cloudy sunset.
We enjoyed that day’s sunrise so much that we decided to repeat it for our last day on Maui. We again woke up early, drove up the mountain, bundled up, and enjoyed a spectacular sunrise from the Haleakalā Visitor Center. After sunrise, we continued up a bit further the summit viewpoint, and then we stopped at several viewpoints on the way back down.
With our remaining time, we constructed a varied itinerary. We first stopped at ʻĪao Valley State Monument to see the iconic ‘Īao Needle (Kuka‘emoku). The park was crowded with busloads of tourists — the most crowded spot we visited on the island – but we were glad to see the view.
From there, we drove to Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge. We saw about a half dozen different species of birds as we walked along the boardwalk. Highlights included the Ae‘o (Hawaiian stilt) and ‘Auku‘u (black crowned night heron). The pond and boardwalk also border the beach, and so we got in one more beach walk.
We considered staying there for sunset, but we were hungry and noticed that — if traffic cooperated — we could make it to Leoda’s before sunset. Our pie stop also set us up for a return to Papawai Point for another sunset.
The sunset was even more spectacular than the previous stop at Papawai. Several more whales were out, and even closer to the coast. The put on a show as we watched for nearly an hour. Once the light had faded too much to see the whales, we got in the car and returned to the airport for our flight home.