29 Dec The best of Maui, Nō Ka O’i
by Morgan Stilp-Allen from USA
Kaanapali, Hawaii by Morgan Stilp-Allen
The uniqueness and splendor of the Hawaiian Islands is undeniable. The archipelago sitting smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is a well-worn tourist destination that never ceases to amaze regardless of what you’re in search of. A combination of volcanic landscapes, gorgeous beaches, and a mashup of culture that has created arguably the most delicious food on the planet. The Islands are widely known to be one of the greatest vacation destinations in existence.
A humpback yearling breaches the surface on a catamaran sailing tour in the Molokai Lanai Channel by Morgan Stilp-Allen
Maui, Hawaii’s second largest and third most populace island, is one of the most frequently visited. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Maui three times in the last two years. I spent my childhood summers on Oahu, staying for months at a time, but I can honestly say that Maui is my favorite island. Without the hustle and bustle of Honolulu’s development, Maui flourishes with only a few resort-oriented towns and historic country villages.
Ulua Beach at Sunset by Morgan Stilp-Allen
In my time on Maui I stayed in the Ka’Anapali and the Wailea/Kihei areas. Most tourists stay in either one of these regions, and for good reason. Both locations are filled with resorts that offer convenient access to beaches, shopping, golf, and restaurants. I can’t honestly say which area I prefer more, because both are so identical and offer so much of the same. However, I can recommend several tips with regards to beaches, hikes, food, etc.
Turtle by Morgan Stilp-Allen
History and Culture
I’ll preface my recommendations by saying that my mother was born and raised in Hawaii, so we’ve always approached travelling to Hawaii differently than most. And with grandparents that lived there, I experienced the Islands with a different lens than most tourists when I visited. Thus, I’ve always been very cognizant of Hawaiian culture. In the same way, I think it’s very important for anyone travelling to Maui, or any island for that matter, to immerse yourself in the history and culture of the Hawaiian Islands. The culture is so unique and it shows in everything from music to food.
Makai (towards the water)
Boasting the clearest waters and located away from resort development, the greatest beach on Maui is Big Beach at Makena State Park. This beach is a local favorite, because it offer’s something for everyone. Despite being heavily frequented the beach has plenty of acreage to find an open space no matter how crowded, and the neighboring island of Kaho’olawe and Molokini Crater provide incredible views. Depending on the surf, Big Beach can be a skim boarder’s paradise or a decent spot to break out the snorkel mask and fins. Don’t leave without spending a day at Big Beach. A close second is Ka’anapali Beach. Arguably just as great and versatile, Ka’anapali Beach is hard to access for those not staying in the Ka’anapli resort area. If you go be sure to check out Black Rock. If snorkeling is your deal than look no further than Makena Landing. Just a couple miles north of Big Beach is where you’ll find the snorkeler’s paradise. Because of the protected reef and relatively calm waters, divers and snorkelers have no better chance to see vibrant corals and sea turtles than at this spot.
Waihee ridge trail by Morgan Stilp-Allen
Mauka (towards the mountains)
If you want to get away from the beach for a day and are interested in a hike, venture up to the Waihe’e Ridge Trail head in the West Maui Mountains. Hiking along the ridge of the lush volcanic mountains with helicopters and 200 ft waterfalls in the distance is something that everyone should experience. The 5 mile roundtrip hike can be incredibly muddy at times before reaching the ridgeline so wear invaluable shoes and don’t fall.
Snorkeling at Big Beach by Morgan Stilp-Allen
Ono Grindz (Delicious Food)
A combination of native Hawaiian, Portuguese, Asian, and Caucasian influences. Hawaiian food is a beautiful conglomeration. I’ve always said that some of the best food comes from regions that experienced several different cultural influences and I believe that statement remains truer than ever when it comes to Hawaiian food. The first thing to try is a Hawaiian plate lunch. The plate lunch is traditionally served as two scoops rice, mac salad and either Korean bbq beef or chicken, chicken katsu, or fish. In the Ka’anapali area the best place to go for a plate lunch is Okazuya & Deli Honokowai. Affordable and outstanding, the locals flock to Okazuya for just about everything on the menu including their plate lunch. The next must eat is Poke. A melt in your mouth sashimi salad for the fish lover in all of us, Poke is an authentic Hawaiian appetizer that is now served as an entrée over rice. Consisting of Ahi, sliced onions, sesame oil, and shoyu, Poke’s simplicity is its strong suit. I honestly don’t care if you just pick it up from the deli at a Foodland supermarket, just eat it. The same can be said for spam musubi. Although nowhere near as alluring as eating sashimi grade ahi, spam musubi is a simple and common snack that can be found anywhere on Maui. Don’t leave the Island without trying the oddly comforting combination of spam and rice. If you’re in the mood for the best breakfast on Maui, than head over to the Kihei Caffe and order the Loco Moco with Fried Rice. A meat lover’s dream, the breakfast consists of a burger topped with eggs and gravy sitting atop fried rice that contains ham, bacon, Portuguese sausage and spam. Lastly, stop at the Home Maid Café in Kihei for their Malasadas. A Portuguese donut rolled in cinnamon sugar, the malasada is fried doughy ball of goodness that will leave you drooling. No place on the island does it better than Home Maid, and for those that want to try the unconventional version, they also offer a custard filled malasada that is equally as delicious. Be sure to enjoy the local eats on Maui!
Wailua Falls along the road to Hana by Morgan Stilp-Allen
Take a catamaran sailing tour departing from Ka’Anapali Beach. Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to travel to Maui during whale watching season and I gained one of the greatest experiences of my life. Several tours land directly on the beach, making the boats very easy to access if you’re staying at one of the local hotels. Also, the catamaran lets you see the water unlike any other vessel. Equipped with netting between the hulls, and seats atop the bow, the catamaran is a very intimate experience with the water. The seating is also preferential when seeking a view of the animals up-close. Almost immediately after arriving on the seat overlooking the bow I was surrounded by dolphins. Unlike other boats, the dolphins enjoy swimming between the hulls. We were also lucky enough to watch as the humpbacks breached roughly twenty yards from our tour. I could not recommend a more surreal experience. Placing second, but also a must do is the road to Hana. The road to Hana can be painful for the easily car sick. A 64 mile down and back winding road with 59 one-lane bridges may sound daunting, but it is absolutely worth the adventure. The beaches and waterfalls along the way are an incredible opportunity to see the natural beauty the island has to offer. The Pools of `Ohe’o, otherwise known as the Seven Sacred Pools, are an incredible capstone to the day long trek. Don’t be fooled by the hype though, the best place for a dip is Wailua Falls. Located right off the highway near mile marker 45, Wailua Falls is impossible to miss.
A surfer rides a wave at Honolulu Bay by Morgan Stilp-Allen
He’e Nalu (to surf)
If you’re an experienced surfer, or someone looking for some great action shots, head west to Kapalua and visit Honolua Bay. Some of the best surfers on the island hit this beach for the swell, and even without the surfers the bay is picturesque. Take one of the trails down to the beach for an even better view of the surfers and snap away.