Maui-Away from the Resorts

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Away from the resorts

I have been visiting the island of Maui (at least) annually for over a decade now. It has grown to be a place that I turn to when I don't know where to go and somehow over the years it has become my second home. I have stayed with friends, rented houses and condos and even spent months on end at luxury hotels on the island. This year my friend Michael Matti joined me and I think we got the formula right, a few nights camping along the shoreline, a night freezing our bums off half way up a volcano followed by four nights sleeping in treehouses and cliffside villas circling the entire island stopping (maybe too) frequently. 

Just as a reminder that the Hawaiian Islands do have their own unique set of concerns, be sure to read up on ocean safety, driving safety, natural disasters and more on Maui before visiting. (I included a few links to read over). 


Find black, red and white sand beaches

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Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach - This unique beach is the result of lava flowing into the ocean. When the basalt (a type of lava) reaches and settles at the surface, these beautiful, unusual and haunting coasts are created. With it's fine grain I do not recommend wearing a light coloured swimsuit (or at least not one that you intend on keeping that colour).

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Kaihalulu Beach (in Hawaiian "kaihalulu" means “roaring sea,”) is located south of Hana Bay on Maui’s eastern coast. It’s on the side of Kauiki Head and is one of only a few red sand beaches in the entire world. Also commonly known as simply Hanā Red Sand Beach, it is the product of a cinder cone rich in iron surrounding the beach constantly eroding which creates one of the most unique and dramatic beaches in the world. 

*Please note that at the access point to this beach, Hana Ranch posted a sign advising people that the trail is dangerous and that the landowner is not liable for injury under state law. Several people a year are airlifted out due to falling down the cliff edge. It is also not recommended to swim in the bay its self, it is named roaring sea, after all. 

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No matter where you find yourself on the island it seems as though a beautiful white sand beach is never far away my favourites on each corner of Maui are:

  • South end near Makena: Big Beach
  • East end near Hana: Koki and Hamoa beach (between the two beaches there is a stand for Huli Huli Chicken - it is reason enough to spend a few hours on the beach)
  • North end just outside of Paia: Baldwin Beach to the west and Ho'okipa to the east
  • West end: Honolua Bay and Slaughterhouse Beach (take the long route from Kahului instead of the highway - you won't regret it)

A lot of these beaches get busy later in the day so I always try to enjoy the mornings when, aside from a few surfers when there is swell, I typically have the beach to myself.  

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drive to Hana -  & don't forget to stop frequently 

The Hāna Highway is an iconic 64.4-mile-long stretch of narrow-windy Hawaii road, but instead of just driving there, make a trip out of it and take time to research the area. At nearly ever bend of the road can be found a bamboo forest, a waterfall or secluded beach cove. And don't just do this as a day trip (I have included a few options for staying the night in Hanā) it is my favourite place on the island and worth a few days - and try driving the backway home sopping at the Ulupalakua Ranch on your way back. 

Road to Hana | Preparation for the Hāna Highway

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Be respectful of the area and respect all posted signs. In a few occasions we even called the Hawaii State Department to ensure that where we were hiking was legal. Remember that a lot of Hawaii is considered scared by the Hawaiian people and they are, rightfully, quite protective of their lands.

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In researching waterfalls along the road I was reminded of the inherent dangers of Hawaiian hiking including flash flooding and debris falling from the canyon walls above. Always proceed with caution.

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Drive the north-west road (from Wailuku to Lahaina)

The Hanā Highway seems to get all of the notoriety on the island as it is one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in the world. With much less traffic and just as many hairpin turns I favour the drive from Wailuku to Lahaina over the Road to Hanā. 

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A few things to do along the drive, hike into the Iao Valley and Waihee Ridge Trail, stop in Kahakuloa for lunch or even just some banana bread, visit the Olivine pools and if there is any swell check out the Nakalele Blowhole. Just before getting 'back to civilization' you will be able to visit Honolua Bay - one of the best spots to watch surfers on the island and one my my favourite whites and beaches on the island Slaughterhouse Beach. 

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Hike the crater of Haleakalā for sunrise (or better yet, for sunset)

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Every Maui to-do list will include making the drive up to 10,000ft above sea level and watching the sunrise from the crater of Haleakalā so much so that as of 1 December 2016 all cars entering the park for sunrise (between 4:00am and 7:00am) require a parking permit. The permits can be purchased here  for $1.50USD  per car and go on sale two months in advance (with 40 additional permits on sale two days in advance) - all entry to the crater (at any time) will also require a valid United States National Park park pass or a $25USD entrance fee (IMO just buy the annual park pass - it is $80USD which goes to the NPS and always encourages me to get out into the parks a little extra!). 

Sunrise Permits

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For sunrise we decided to skip the main visitor centre lookout and stop at one of the pullouts at a slightly lower elevation along the drive. We didn't get quite the same views of the main crater lookout but the trade-off for a shorter drive early in the morning as well as the entire place to ourselves seemed more than worth it to us.

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And remember that, although it is Maui, at 10,000ft of elevation the temperatures often hover around freezing at sunrise. I have on several occasions even been surprised by snow at the crater and I have never once been too warm, even in my down jackets. 

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Although popular for sunrise, from a photography point of view, I may actually prefer to head up for sunset. This way I have a better idea of what the weather is doing, I get to hike into the crater with a fraction of the crowds, with sunrise being the coldest time of the the weather is a little bit more bearable... and it is a lot easier (for me) to be talked into hiking out in the dark rather than an extra early wakeup. Oh, and no reservation required!

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This viewpoint is about 15 minutes from the summit of Haleakalā along the Pä Ka'oao trail - our intention was to go much further down into the crater but saw these rocks and decided to hunker down for sunset here. 

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There are only nine places to legally camp on the entire island of Maui - the full list can be found here*. Note that, unlike a lot of the continental United States, it is illegal to pull over on the side of the road to car camp or to camp on public beaches on the Hawaiian Islands. With limited camping the reservable campgrounds book up extremely far in advance and the few first-come-first-serve campgrounds should be a morning priority to claim your space. 

Bonus:  There are also three Wilderness Cabins inside the crater of Haleakalā that can be booked up to 180 days in advance via the USNPS Website.  To reach the cabins, you will have to hike 3.7 miles (5.9km) to Hōlua, 5.5 miles (8.9km) to Kapalaoa, and 9.3 miles (15km) to Palikū from the rim of the crater. In researching them you, oddly enough, have to rent out the entire cabin (each sleeps 12 people) for $75USD per night rather than each individual spot. Because of this odd system, they have always been booked up while I am on the islands (but I have heard there are often day-before cancellations). If anyone had has luck with these let me know!

Where to Camp on Maui
*since the publication of this article the Kanaha Beach Park no longer allows overnight camping

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The Glamping Hub:

My new favourite way to stay. I describe The Glamping Hub to my friends as a company that managed to take all of the most interesting and unique rent-by-owner properties on the internet and put them in one convenient place. They have everything from igloos to private islands to yurts to tiny homes to treehouses.. you name it. So when I decided to split my time between camping and sleeping in a a real bed they were the first tab opened on my browser. 

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Featured above is one of the properties we stayed at. Centrally located along the Hanā Highway near Haiku, this secluded property was stocked with everything needed for breakfast including coffee, home baked bread, farm fresh eggs (from their chickens) and any seasonal fruit found on their property. (There are also fresh fruit stands all along the Hanā Highway with avocados the size of my head!)

Secluded Vacation Rental with Ocean Views in Huelo, Hawaii 

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Some of their other featured properties on Maui that unfortunately were not available during my time on the island (book in advance!) but that I will definitely be coming back to visit soon:

Luxury Cottage Getaway with Unforgettable Views in Kulu

Modern Cliffside Cottage with Amazing Views of Hana Bay in Maui, Hawaii

Private Cottage Rental in the Secluded Town of Hana in Maui, Hawaii

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my favourite snacks, meals and grocery stores on the island

Açaí Bowls - Kihei 

Açaí Bowls - Paia 

Cafe des Amis -Paia.  I am going to be honest, I have no idea what type of food this actually is. But I have been for breakfast, dinner and happy hour and was not once disappointed. 

Farmacy Health Bar Wailuku - really great healthy food, açaí bowls and smoothies. 

Flatbread Company Paia - I am not a big pizza fan (don't hate me) but this restaurant has a bit of a cult-like following so I finally gave it a try and really enjoyed it!

Mana Foods in Paia (the best organic grocery store on the island)

Monkey Pod Restaurant - Wailea   

Paia Bay Coffee & Bar - the best coffee on the island (and I am pretty sure I have tried them all by now) but very slow wifi.

Poke Bowl - Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors in Lahaina, Keihi and Kahului (I know a liquor store seems like an odd place to find poke, but it is some of the best I've ever had)

Poke Bowl - Tobi's Shave Ice in Paia

Thank you to  Michael Matti  for capturing this adventure!

Thank you to Michael Matti for capturing this adventure!

happy trails