By Doc Souza
We took our first trip to Maui in 1998, and since then it has become our favorite vacation destination. Like most first time visitors, on our first trip, we wanted to do all the activities and experience the whole island. We did a snorkeling excursion, a day trip to Pearl Harbor, the Road to Hana and dined at many of Maui’s restaurants. This was all before kids. Since then we have returned several times, mostly with our two boys and we’ve taken them on several excursions. Helicopter tours, zip lining, hiking, snorkeling, a luau, sightseeing and a trip to Pearl Harbor.
There is so much to see and do that it takes multiple trips to really see and do everything. Our recent trip this past week was about just relaxing. No excursions. No day trips. Just pool and the beach. And of course eating. Where to stay on Maui is a personal preference. We’ve stayed in Lahaina, Kaanapali, and the Wailea area. Our preference is the Ka’anapali area. It’s close to shopping, dining and nice beaches.
Maui has many microclimates. Lahaina is very dry, and only gets about 10 inches a year. Travel 8-10 miles east to the mountains and it’s one of wettest spots in the world. The climates can change in a relatively short distance. This year we stayed in Ka’anapali, where it is fairly dry. We stayed more at the northern part of Ka’anapali. Within a mile to the north the weather is more unpredictable. The Kahana, Napili and Kapalua areas see more rain. It’s very interesting that literally a 1/2 mile away sees different weather daily.
Ka’anapali is about 45 minutes from the Kahului airport where the major airlines land. Most of Maui is 35-45 mph speed limit with two lane roads, and no one is in hurry. One new change this year is the opening of the Lahaina Bypass. It just opened in April and takes travelers to the east of Lahaina for several miles. Highway 30 is still open but is used for local traffic. The bypass goes from several miles south of Lahaina to the area by the Safeway store at the north end of Lahaina.
If you’ve never been to Maui, there is no bad place to stay. You’re in Maui, it’s all good. Your price range will determine where you want to stay. Hotel, condo, townhouse, there are a lot of options with something for everyone.
Price out any excursions you want to take before hand and some require advance booking. A luau is usually a must for first timers. Snorkeling too. You can take a boat to Molikini or save your money and rent snorkeling gear and go on your own to one of the spots near the beaches. Black Rock in Ka’anapali is a great place. Lots of fish and turtles. Search the internet for more options. Pearl Harbor is a nice one day trip if you’re not staying on Oahu.
Different times of the year are better for whale watching than others. A helicopter trip is a lot of fun but expensive. Biking the crater is one of my wife’s favorite things. They drive you up to Haleakala early in the morning to see the sunrise and then you bike down the mountain. There are a large variety of activities to try. Search for things to do in Maui and choose your favorites.
Dining in Maui is pretty incredible. If you like fish, you’ll love the options. Everything is fresh. We tend to eat at a lot of the same places because we like them so much. There are many great places to eat and it’s whatever your preference is. Once we arrive, our first stop is often Maui Tacos in Lahaina for lunch before we check in. Then our dinner the first night is almost always at the Hula Grill. We do the barefoot bar dinner and eat on a sandy area with a view of the ocean. The food is good but it’s the atmosphere and taking in the Maui experience that we love most. Other places we like to eat include in Cheeseburger in Paradise, right by the ocean in Lahaina. Cool Cats, voted Maui’s best burger. Kimo’s in Lahaina, Mama’s Fish House, Mala, Leilani’s. Another nice spot is beachside at the Maui Marriott. They have tables set up on a grass area by the beach. Can’t beat it for ocean side dining. All the hotels and resorts have pretty good restaurants and just walking along the beach you can take your pick of places to eat. If you want fine dining, head south to Wailea and dine at the Grand Wailea, Four Seasons or the Fairmont. These are just a few places. There are many many more.
Being a morning person, I never did get on to the Maui time. Pretty much stayed on California time. That gave me the chance to get up early get in walk before it got too warm. It seemed like a lot of people were in the same boat. A walk at 6 am was fairly crowded. I took a video of one early morning walk with some of the sights along the way. Also take a look at my photo gallery after the video.