Maui is magical. Its power of enchantment is due, in part, to the unique, unforgettable experiences to be had in Haleakala, Hana, Iao Valley, Old Lahaina and new Wailea – and of course the surf, sand and sun. Maui has it all, which makes it the perfect place to visit and explore. From the shores of Honolua Bay to the heights of Mount Haleakala, the Valley Isle offers surprises around every corner. Here’s a three-day outline that will help you plan your way around the island, highlighting some of its most popular attractions.
Day One Itinerary
Historic Lahaina is one of Hawaii’s favorite places to stroll around, with more than 30 preserved sites that take visitors back to the days of Hawaiian royalty, New England missionaries and lusty whalers. In 1962, the Lahaina Restoration Foundation was chartered as a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring and preserving the historic legacies of Lahaina, the first capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Among the major historic structures in Lahaina are the Baldwin Home Museum, Hale Pa‘i, the Old Lahaina Prison and the Wo Hing Museum.
Take a leisurely stroll down Lahaina’s scenic main thoroughfare, Front Street. This iconic island rue combines a peek into the past with some of the island’s best shopping and dining opportunities. Restaurant offerings range from hearty burgers to high-end Pacific Rim cuisine, and many establishments have incredibly beautiful seaside views of surfers, sail boats, neighboring islands and the occasional spouting whale from November through May.
Rent a surfboard, take a surf lesson, stretch out on the beach, drink a sunset mai tai and experience some of Hawaii’s unique cuisine, including delicious fresh fish right out of the waters that surround you.
It is said there are 617 hairpin turns and 56 one-lane bridges on the long, winding road to Hana. Whatever the statistics, the scenic—and slow—drive on the road to Hana is an adventure for the entire family and considered one of the last “real” Hawaiian places in the Islands. The jaw-dropping sights include swimming ponds surrounded by a rain forest jungle, majestic waterfalls and coastal cliffs that drop off to isolated communities like the one at Keanae Peninsula. Pack a picnic lunch and lots of beverages, lean back and take in the scenery at a pace you haven’t experienced in years.
When you reach Hana, don’t expect much fanfare. After all… it’s the journey, not the destination that counts. Hana is laid back, a mellow place with a general store that provides sundries, a gas station that’s not always open and a luxurious hotel where the rich and famous come to escape life in the fast lane. You might be able to enjoy watching a local softball game or see canoe clubs practicing for a race in Hana Bay, but there is no late-night dance club, no raucous outdoor bars with faux waterfall pools and no malls for shopping addicts. That’s what makes it special.
Sunrise atop Haleakala epitomizes Maui’s magic. A journey to the “House of the Sun,” however, takes some prior planning to experience the sunrise: Advance reservations are now required for this popular destination. To enter the Summit District between 3 and 7 a.m., you will need a reservation receipt and photo identification.
Once those details are taken care of, you can plan your ascent to one of the most memorable places on Earth. No matter what time of year, pack a thermos with hot coffee or cocoa, dress as warm as possible and bring along blankets to wrap yourself in. The temperature and winds can be somewhat “bracing”, to say the least, when you leave the comfort of your heated car and step out into the dark at more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Or you can take a Majestic Haleakalā Sunrise Tour with Valley Isle Excursions and they will take care of all the planning for you, including hot drinks, both continental and hot buffet meals and a great professional guide to keep you safe and entertained. Haleakalā’s otherworldly sunrise is worth the effort.
Photos by Shutterstock; Brett Uprichard