MAUI – Pearl of the Pacific
UTC -10 hours
Hawaii has been my biggest dream destination, I had to make this vacation come true. My friend Katka and I spent almost all our savings on it, but we enjoyed every minute and so far we keep saying that it was the best vacation of our lives. That time we didn’t know that it was also the last proper holiday before the covid came.
When someone pronounce the word Hawaii, something immediately shines in their eyes. The word has a magical effect on people. In short, there is something so special about Hawaii. Or, as the Hawaiians would say, the place has a manu – spirit that will get under your skin. Even strong Americanization has not been able to completely absorb the charm of the islands formed from underwater volcanoes. Each Hawaiian island being formed thousands of years apart, making them feel so different from each other. Each island stands out for its own beauty. Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Niihau, Lanai, Kahoolawe… We use to say: I’m going to Hawaii, but in fact “Hawaii” are 137 coral and volcanic islands, rocks and reefs in the Pacific Ocean. The most known are 6-8 main islands. The Hawaiian islands are named after their largest island, Hawaii, commonly called Big Island, to distinguish it from the name of the entire archipelago.
It’s obvious that in 10 days we will not be able to visit all eight (or at least six) most important islands. Our experienced acquaintances recommend us to choose a maximum of two. But the question is: Which two? Oahu is known for the capital Honolulu, famous Waikiki Beach, Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden and the illegal Stairway to Heaven (Hiku Trail Hike), which is said to be a deadly but fascinating route of 3,922 steps. Many tourists still risk big fines and their own health to experience the fantastic views, that hike offers. There are two most active volcanoes in the world on the Big Island – Kilauea and Mauna Loa. And Maui is probably the most popular island due to its surreal places, black sand beaches, luxury resorts and the largest waves in the world (sometimes reaching 10 – 25 meters), which attract tanned surfers from around the world. And on the island of Kauai, Jurassic Park was filmed, because this island is the most beautiful and greenest. Finally, we decide for Maui and the Big Island. Although my friend Katka still doesn’t get why we voluntarily chose an island where two active volcanoes still play with fire. On the other side it is tempting to see with our own eyes how nature creates a new land.
Itinerary planning takes some effort. Some Hawaiian names are difficult to learn. Did you know that the Hawaiian alphabet has only 13 letters? Maybe therefore all Hawaiian words sound the same to me and are difficult to remember. Wailea, Haleakala, Waimoku, Hualalai, Wai’anapanapa, Honokalani, Kaihalulu, Punalu’u, Kealani, Ali’i Kula, Kaupulehu, Kailua-Kona, Maluaka… And these are just some of the names of hotels, beaches and national parks that we are planning to visit. It could be worse. The honor of having the longest Hawaiian name is the lauwiliwilinukunuku’oi’oi. It describes a kind of fish in Hawaiian waters and freely translated this name means “long-snouted fish shaped like a wiliwili leaf.” But even shorter Hawaiian words have a deeper meaning and we need more words to describe it precisely in English. For example, the common Aloha is not just “Hello.” The real meaning of Aloha in Hawaiian is that of Love, Peace and Compassion. Isn’t that a beautiful greeting? Unfortunately, due to sad history, like was the annexation of Hawaii as a territory of the United States in 1898 when native language of Hawaiian was banned from schools, the number of native speakers gradually decreased. Native Hawaiians trace their ancestry back to the original Polynesian settlers of Hawaii. But nowadays you rarely see them on the islands. Most of the islanders are of white race. However, the real Hawaiian mana is still present in the air and is calling us… Aloha Hawaii…
Waterfalls, rocks, huge waves, my first hours on a surfboard, black sand beaches, dense green forests, exotic flowers, banana cakes, juicy pineapples and the most beautiful sunsets in the world… I already understand why Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo’ole sings about a place somewhere above the rainbow. Nowhere have I seen so many rainbows as on the island of Maui.
However, our trip begins with a funny story from the Incheon airport in Korean. There are three best ways to get to the remote Hawaiian Islands – via America, via Japan, or via Korea. And we picked Korea. As always, we travel on our staff standby tickets and although we checked the load of the aircraft in advance, it is still not sure whether we get our seats on the plane. Only when we get our boarding passes to Honolulu at Incheon, we can finally start planning a flight to the island of Maui. During the 8-hour transfer in Korea, we have time not only to buy famous Korean beauty products, but also to make further plans. Our flight is not delayed, so I am confident to book us another flight to Maui with Hawaiian Airlines. They fly to Maui every hour. However, while considering our best options, I can’t get why the company still sells tickets for flights that, according to my calculations, have already departed. Then it flashed through my mind. 19-hour time difference and backwards!
We travel east from Abu Dhabi all the time, so I was automatically adding hour. But our Earth is round, and somewhere above the Pacific, we come to the end of the world, where hours adding ends and the countdown begins. Although we will fly west, they have 19 hours less in Hawaii than in Korea. Along with the information comes another sad discovery – meaning that for the first night we do not have any hotel booked. Katka tries to fix it and calls the hotel, which we have booked for the following night, to amend our booking, but it’s not that easy: “Hello, we have a reservation for tomorrow… actually for today… I mean…”, she gets lost. “You can say tomorrow, they still have yesterday!” I’m trying to help. But Katka is so lost that she rather gives up and hangs up the phone. So I get a new idea, let’s celebrate that we’ve just gained one more day of vacation in Hawaii. I suggest to book the luxury Fairmont Kea Lani resort for the first night, which we were thinking about, but it was too expensive. One night will not ruin us and we deserve some nice place and a bit of pampering after this long and exhausting flight. No need to rush with trips and exploring, first night we can just relax and enjoy the luxury of the resort.
Although we took off with Asiana Airlines at the eight in the evening and spent in the aircraft almost ten hours, we landed to Honolulu in the morning on the same day! We took off tonight and arrived yesterday. 🙂 Do you understand? Neither do I. However, two gained hours we are going to loose at the airport in endless lines at the immigration. Uber works in Hawaii, so we immediately connect to the wifi and book a transfer to the hotel. The driver is a very nice gentleman who give us a hill of useful tips for trips and tell us about everyday life in the Hawaiian Islands. When we finally arrive at the hotel located in a strategic area in the middle of the island in Kohea Kea Lani, the sun begins to set. As a welcome gift, we receive a flower lei, as per local tradition. We quickly refresh ourselves and run to the beach to enjoy the first sunset in Hawaii. We have tears in our eyes. The colors of our dreams are now in front of our eyes. However, this sunset is real.
Under the spell of night
A plan to get up with the sunrise failed. Fatigue won. But later we are strengthening ourselves with a great breakfast. Breakfast offer completely surprises me. On the buffet tables I find a rich selection of pastries, exotic fruits and even acai and chia pudding. After breakfast we still have time to enjoy the beach. On the beach, we come across a local surfer who, offers us an hour of surfing and swimming with turtles for a discounted price of $70 per both of us, just for our beautiful eyes as he says. We flirt with him, save his number and we have to check-out. We book Uber again and move to the airport, where we want to rent a jeep for further trips around the island. Although Katka has stress from driving such a big car, in the end she is doing great. Next night we are staying in a more modest hotel not far from the Fairmont. The location has a great starting point for excursions. We need to stock up for the coming days, so we visit a local supermarket, and before we change into our sneakers and go on a road trip, we enjoy another fairytale evening. Katka lend me a beautiful dress in which I feel like Cinderella under the spell, and together we go for dinner to the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel. Nature mixes another magical sunset for our cocktail time and we don’t need more for perfect happiness.
The road to Hana
We get up early in the morning and immediately after a modest self-made breakfast, we are heading to Hana. The Road to Hana. People often say The Road to Hana is like a life. It’s not about a final destination, it’s about the journey itself. There are a number of stops on the way to Hana that are worth a stop. So you have the opportunity to get to know the best of the island of Maui on one route. In the app stores, you will find many apps that are dedicated to the road to Hana. They serve as a navigation and a guide in one. The app will navigate you, alert you at every stop and add some interesting facts. We have also downloaded one application with the interactive map. During the day it rains and then the sky clears up, then it rains again and then it’s sunny again, so we pass under more than one rainbow. If you’re wondering if it’s going to be sunny, rainy, cold or warm that day, Maui will give you a one-word answer: YEP. Our first stop according to the map is Twin Falls with fresh coconut stand. It’s raining outside at the moment and the waterfalls aren’t that exciting, so we continue on. I have to agree that the road to Hana itself is a perfect experience. Narrow serpentine roads undulate across a fairytale landscape. The roads in Maui are manageable, but they still require certain skills, so I’m glad I have Katka with me. Next stop is the village of Ke’anae, where they say they have the best banana bread in the world (Banana bread you have been driving for). We gotta try it and it’s not bad at all. Later we stopping at some Eucalyptus tree with rainbow bark. However, the most fantastic stop is the Hana Lava Tube, a cave with its underground tunnels that were once formed by flowing hot volcanic lava. In front of the entrance to the cave, there is a beautiful labyrinth made of typical Hawaiian red flowers, which are called Ti Leaf.
Black beach and handsome guys
Along the way to Hana, in addition to natural beauties, we meet also very handsome men. At one parking lot, we ask Bradley Cooper 2 to help us to solve the problem with our car lights. Pity, he has a jealous girlfriend waiting for him in the car. Later, on the black volcanic beach called Wai’anapanapamet we meet another Cooper. The contrast of the black sand, blue sky and turquoise ocean creates a beautiful scenario. The beach is beautiful, but, unfortunately, full of people. We dive in, get dry on the sun and go back on the road. Not far from Hana, there is is a surfer’s paradise. Sea waves known as Jaws or Peahi are allegedly the largest in the world. A mandatory stop is the Wailua Falls – beautiful waterfalls, under which you can swim. However, it just started raining again and we are completely wet before we even dive in. The last planned stop is Haleakala National Park, where we wanted to book parking spot for the most famous sunrise. Haleakala Park is home to Maui’shighest peak and the world’s tallest dormant volcano. In the native language, Haleakala means “house of the sun” and according to legend, it is where demigod Maui lassoed the sun slowing its passage so people had more time to dry their kapa (a type of clothing) and grow food. Sunrises at at the summit of Haleakala has been a popular tourist attraction since the late 1800s when Samuel Clemens described the experience as the sublimest spectacle he had ever witnessed and the memory that would remain with him for the rest of his life. However, we are not lucky enough to get our own experience. Apparently we have got bad information. We should have ordered the tickets online or by phone at 7 am and at least two days in advance… Our information about booking a spot at 4 pm when they release them was completely wrong. Oops.
Above the clouds at Haleakala
One of Maui’s most memorable experiences is seeing the Haleakala sunrise (or sunset) from almost 3,000 meters above sea level. You can be standing above pastel clouds like you were in heaven. And like anything worthwhile, this experience take some good planning. Be better prepared than we were. Summer sunrise average time is around 6 am (7am in winter) and to catch it, count on an overnight trip to Hana. It is even more convenient to arrive at Haleakala Park in the evening. You can camp at night in your car right in the middle of the crater to stargaze and wake up to watch the incredible sunrise you will never get out of your head. However, in order to view sunrise at Haleakala National Park, you will need to make a reservation ahead of time due to the popularity of sunrise viewing and limited parking spots. Nowadays, reservations can be made online up to 60 days in advance of your sunrise visit on recreation.gov and are valid for the day reserved. Parking is only $1.50, making it the best and cheapest experience on Maui. Not an early riser? Take a leisurely drive up the summit and give yourself some time to explore before the sun goes down. Sunset at Haleakala, with its flaming clouds, is as breathtaking as its morning counterpart although a little less known. Another bonus is that Haleakala National Park requires reservations for each vehicle entering the park before sunrise only (3:00 to 7:00 am). This may come in handy for those who mind planning far ahead. We didn’t know that. Someone told us that for a reservation we should call the park at four in the afternoon, when they release parking spots for the following day, but in the park they told us to call the office at seven in the morning, and on the phone we got bad news that all the spots are sold out for up to two days. In two days we will be on the Big Island, so we have no choice but to accept the fact that there will be no heaven tomorrow. When we are heading back o our hotel, it’s already dark outside and our mood is down. Don’t make the same mistake and at least plan this experience ahead and prepare well for it. Informations may change.
After another breakfast, we try one more unsuccessful phone call to Haleakala Park, and we are heading to Hana again, but this time we from the other bottom side of the island. For a while we are passing through landscapes that resemble rocky dry Oman, then we are in a green Swiss village, then somewhere among cactuses in Mexico and finally we are passing through a proper Hawaiian jungle. This time, our trip to Hana has a final destination. We are leaving our car at the parking spot at Haleakala Park, from where we are going on a smaller, eight-kilometer long hike Pipiwai trail. The hike lead us through the jungle, over waterfalls and even through the bamboo forest. Along the way, we get to taste fresh guava and passion fruit straight from the tree. And then it starts raining so heavily that we get completely wet and covered by mud. However, we are rewarded with the beautiful view of massive Waimoku waterfall at the end of our hike. As we drive back to Kea Lani satisfied and tired after a beautiful trip, but still a little sad that we didn’t manage to secure parking spots for sunrise at Haleakala, the sky surprises us with another colorful show. Such a small sample of what we missed at Haleakala. Later in Kea Lani, we find out that one part of the island is on fire and it is no longer possible to get a room to stay for the night. Safer part of the island is fully booked. We initially planned to sleep in the car and wait for the glorious sunrise, so we don’t have any hotel booked for tonight. It looks like we’ll end up sleeping in the car after all. But in the parking lot in front of the campsite. So, in the end, we managed both the clouds and sleeping in the car, just in a reduced version. Two days ago we were sipping cocktails at Four Seasons and today we are sleeping in the car and washing off the mud in the stream. But that’s what traveling is all about!
Surf lesson and Olivine Pools
We wake up broken in the parking lot in front of our campsite. Fortunately, at ten in the morning, one cabin becomes available and we can finally check-in. In the afternoon we are free for a surf lesson with a surfer we met our first day. But no summer love is happening here. The sympathetic surfer turns out to be a typical heartbreaker who keeps trying cheap tricks on tourist girls. He even took out an Ukulele! He’s not all bad as a surf teacher though, I manage to stand up on the board during my first lesson and surf down the wave. Later in the afternoon we are heading to explore a more remote part of the island. Even steeper, more dangerous and undulating road lead to the Olivine Pools than to Hana. Nothing for inexperienced drivers. There is a crazy wind blowing outside, so for safety reasons we will not dive in the small heart-shaped lake formed by rocks on the coast. The wild waves crashing against the surrounding rocks could easily sweep us off the world. There have been a few fatal accidents in this beautiful raw place, and with this wind it’s safer to stay dry.
The last day in Maui is unfortunately here too soon. We have breakfast, check out and before we fly to the Big Island, we still have some time to visit the charming town of Lahaina, where we are having the best pineapple ice cream in the world made from 100% pineapple and served in a pineapple peel. Now I understand why ham and pineapple pizza was named Hawaii. Here they put pineapples really on everything. Finally, the Hawaiian Islands are known for fishing, sandalwood mining, cane sugar production and, of course, pineapples export.