Frankly, dear, I am disappointed – was my first thought when I finally got to Maui. I could not understand why people raved about the island’s beauty when it looked no different than Florida’s Keys or California’s Highway 1. It was not until my road trip to Hana that I finally realized the true beauty of Maui.
Trip to Hana
The road to Hana runs through the mountains, often on a cliff hanging above a scenic view of the Pacific. The highway is rather narrow so I have to stop and yield to the oncoming traffic. Although the speed limit is only 15-20 miles per hour, I am tempted to race. I am glad that the convertible I am driving is not fully loaded with racing equipment and hauls his fat body like an old grandma. I stay within the speed limit trying to enjoy the view.
The first stop I make is the Twin Waterfalls. I get fresh coconut juice and begin my hike. While I am walking through a jungle of wild plants it starts raining creating an atmosphere of a rain forest. It is only 8 AM but the path is full of travelers. A mile later I get to the site, take off my shoes and walk through the stream to get to the falls. I finally understand why the locals complain about the drought when I see water barely making its way through the rocks and grass to the basin at the bottom. Not even the slightest evidence of the second fall. Those brave ones jump into the basin. I stay on the shore trying to capture the details of the site, imaging the dramatic sounds to be made by both falls in their full power.
The next stop is Gardens of Eden, an arboretum with amazing local flowers and a site that everybody saw in the Jurassic Park movie. It’s perfect. Almost too perfect to be true, so I continue my journey.
When I finally get to Hana, I am overwhelmed with hunger. I stop at a little café operated by a French woman and enjoy the taste of fresh home-made sandwiches. That’s another typical element of Maui’s environment – everybody is from somewhere: the Mainland, Europe, even Ukraine. I don’t think I have met a true aboriginal yet, except for that bum in the park who thought he was God.
I don’t bother to explore Hana itself as the town is not very intriguing for a creative mind. I focus on finding the Red Sand Beach that I once read about in a book about teleporting. The beach is part of a private property and is not advertised so it becomes a challenge to find it. I like challenges I tell myself while making my way through a forgotten cemetery and hiking over the mountain on a slippery path (in flip-flops!) to find those beautiful red sands mixed with rocks left by the volcanic explosion. When I finally get to the end of the trail I stand there amazed by the raw and remote beauty of the exposed view. Earthy red cliffs hang above the deep maroon sand and turquoise blue lagoon that looks like a giant natural bath tub full of mad bubbles. Because of its rather discrete location, the beach serves as a hide-away for local hippies, nudists and appreciators of marijuana.
I decide to find the Black Sand beach in the Waianapanapa State Park not only to see a black volcanic pebble beach but to also explore the secret hiding place of an ancient Hawaiian princess. The doomed princess, according to the legend, found her peace in an icy cave pool through a tunnel of interlocking Polynesian hau branches. The beach is not crowded and yet somehow I run into my fellow-countryman.
I drive to the Haleakala Park National Park to see the craters. Once I get to the park I start my hike at the point where the clouds meet the earth. I am surrounded by a complete fog and arctic breath of a painful wind mixed with rain that paints my cheeks into purple colors within seconds.
Enough of that I think to myself, get into the car and continue my drive all the way to the top of the island where altitude reaches beyond 10 000 ft. I get there and hike more until I finally reach the peak. I am amazed. I feel so peaceful as if the entire universe is mine. I suddenly feel an extreme urge to pray and meditate.
I then hike to another view point to see the craters. It is absolutely unbelievable that these humongous piles of sands once were powerful volcanoes. There is a cabin inside one of the craters for the brave campers to rest. I decide to check it out next time.
Days in Maui start at 5.45 AM for me. I cannot sleep even though I should be taking a full advantage of this opportunity. I drink coffee and go for a long walk on the beach. The atmosphere is very laid back, and pleasant, almost hippie. No Harvard complicated words, no Miami show off. Most of the cars driven by the locals are older and practical. Houses are wooden and low, aka extreme build-up activity on top of each house.
I discover Jazz Java café close by and visit it almost every day to enjoy live piano tunes over dinner. The design of the cafe is pretty wild – naked Barbie dolls in a cage with a naked Ken atop. I alternate the jazz café with a fabulous sushi restaurant Sansei. It’s a pity they don’t have a terrace but the food is great.
I go to a flee market to check out local activities. Maui Swap Meet takes place every Saturday in Kahului and is full of crafts, arts, jewelry, food, etc. It’s worth the drive as I get a deal on the hand painted rind.
The highlight of my trip was paragliding when attached to the parachute I soared above the island. It was liberation. I probably would not recommend this activity for those who have already tried skydiving as it is very similar but shorter.
I also hiked and ziplined (40 m/h) through the eucalyptus forest.
Do not get trapped into the activities advertised on every corner of Lahaina as the amount spent is just not worth the quality of the attraction. The semi-submarine tour I somehow got on was a complete nonsense. I saw more diverse fish population while snorkeling. Hula all-you-can-eat-and-drink event reminded me of Luby’s cafeteria where some unorganized street performers make unsuccessful attempts to throw confused dance moves and make up for the poor quality of food. And drinks! I finally learned the taste of a virgin MaiTai.
It is worth investing in a good guide book and starting an adventure in the Hawaiian Paradise yourself.