Known as the Valley Isle, Maui offers stunning contrasts between waterfalls and red sand beaches.
From Upcountry to the shoreline, rainforest to resorts, Maui is the island that has it all. The drive to Hāna, though, has to be one of the most spectacular experiences. The three-hour drive — if you’re leaving from Lahaina or Kīhei — stretches along 50 miles over single-lane bridges, past taro patches, waterfall pools and lush rainforests. You’ll find some of the island’s most striking beaches here: the black sand beach of Wai‘ānapanapa State Park, the dramatic red granules at Kaihalulu in Hāna, and Hāmoa Beach, which often nationally ranks among the best beaches.
The second-largest in the Hawaiian archipelago, the island’s name is derived from the legend of Hawai‘iloa, the Polynesian navigator credited with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. According to legend, Hawai‘iloa named the island of Maui after his son, who in turn was named for the demigod Māui. Today, the island is also known as the Valley Isle. A world away from beach resorts, the bucolic scenery in Upcountry Maui reflects its agricultural and paniolo (cowboy) roots. On the slopes of Haleakalā, you’ll drive by ranches and farms in the communities of Makawao and Kula. The air is scented with eucalyptus and pine; the forests of Olinda resound with birdsong. In the spring, jacaranda petals paint the road purple beneath the shade of their majestic trees.
With 30 miles of spectacular beaches and 120 miles of coastline, planning a trip to Maui can be daunting. Have no fear, we've done the heavy lifting for you. Here are our top 5 must see stops in Maui.
Known as the “House of the Sun,” Haleakalā majestically rises 10,023 feet above sea level and offers a winding odyssey of 36 miles of hiking trails, which open to fascinating landscapes. As the world’s largest dormant volcano, Haleakalā’s crater measures 3,000 feet deep, 2.5 miles wide and a circumference of 21 miles. Be sure to watch the sunrise from atop Haleakalā’s summit. Call 808.572.440 for park information.
2. ‘ĪAO VALLEY
Central Maui’s iconic landmark is ‘Īao Needle, a 1,200-foot cone of hardened lava at the heart of a 6.2-acre state park just west of Wailuku. The Needle rises out of a dramatic tableau of streams and sharp cliffs in thick vegetation, often shrouded in mist. The valley and its signature peak are the remains of Pu‘u Kukui, the crater of a dormant volcano in the West Maui Mountains. ‘Īao Stream (fed by up to 400 inches of rain per year) cuts through the valley, and there are excellent hiking trails throughout the park. It is said that the bones of many chieftains are buried in the vicinity of the needle. The end of ‘Īao Valley Road. (Hwy. 32).
3. MOLOKINI ISLET
A volcanic crater almost carved into a crescent shape by nature, Molokini sits just more than two miles off of the southern coast of Maui. More specifically, the island is located south of Maui’s Ma‘alaea Bay and lies between the Valley Isle and nearby Kaho‘olawe. Potential snorkelers should note that the island is essentially divided into the right and left Tips. There are fine diving spots on both tips, known as Reef’s End, Middle Reef and Tako Flats. The center of Molokini is home to a reef that provides great views for snorkelers, since visibility can be up to 150 feet on a clear day. molokini.com.
4. ROAD TO HĀNA
This three-hour drive (from Lāhainā or Kīhei) stretches along 50 curvy miles over single- lane bridges, past taro patches, waterfall pools and lush rainforests. Hāna Highway is the only road that connects the town with the rest of the island. Hāna itself is magnificent, and so is getting there.
5. SEVEN SACRED POOLS
A series of cascading waterfalls and tranquil pools flow through the ‘Ohe‘o Gulch, which is the official name for this attraction. The terraced cold springs in East Maui rival any natural day spa. Trickling water spills over tiers of lava beds, creating up to 24 distinct pools that flow from the mountains all the way to the ocean. The nicest pools to reach are those accessible by shoreline. This aquatic-land playground offers visitors a chance to witness cliff-diving enthusiasts, as well as explore the surrounding foliage and hiking trails.
Plan your visit to Maui here.
Reprinted from the Outrigger Journey 2016-2017 in-room book.