Length of stay: 10 days
Visited: November & December 2019
Dives logged: 8
Dives to date: 49
- Scuba diving at Molokini Crater
- Learning to surf
- Haleakalā National Park
- Sliding Sands trail
Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands and is often referred to as the Valley Isle. This refers to the flat bridge of land between the two volcanoes that make up the island: Haleakala to the east and the West Maui mountains to the west. With miles of sandy beaches, lush green jungles, and rugged volcanic landscapes, Maui offers a wide range of activities on land and in the water.
Day 1: It’s all Worth the Journey for the Sunset
After a long day of travelling (two flights, thirteen hours in transit, and a five hour time change) and some worry that we would miss our first flight (there was an issue with the kiosks to clear customs in Toronto and they ended up letting a small group of us on the plane after boarding had ended), we had finally arrived in Maui. Most stores were closed since it was the American Thanksgiving, but Wal-mart was open. We stopped there for some groceries before heading to our accommodations in Kehei.
After settling in, we changed into our bathing suits and walked across the street to the beach. The water was a little chilly, but we were quick to get over this as there were some turtles located near the shore. We stayed long enough to watch the sun set.
Days 2: Haleakalā National Park
Haleakalā National Park was named after a dormant shield volcano that forms more than three quarters of Maui. The park consists of two distinct areas: the summit district high up in the mountains (or rather, volcano), and the Kīpahulu district located along the coast.
We woke up early to drive to the summit area of the park. This area is particularly busy in the morning as it its reputed to be the best place on the island to watch the sunrise (and sunset). In order to view the sunrise at Haleakalā National Park, visitors must make a reservation in advance. Since we booked our trip to Maui very last minute, all the sunrise tickets were all sold out. The park does release a small number of sunrise tickets two days in advance, but we were unable to acquire any of these.
While we missed the sunrise, we didn’t miss any of the phenomenal views at the summit. We first hiked along the Halemau’u Trail (3.5km roundtrip), which leads to the rim of the crater, providing excellent views into the valley below. It’s not quite clear where the trail actually ends, as the path itself continues down to the floor of the crater. We turned around at the point where the trail switched into a series of shorter switchbacks that steeply made their way into the crater.
We then made our way to the Haleakalā Visitors Center, which is located at the peak of the summit at 10,023ft (3,055m). We attended the ranger program about the Haleakalā volcano and history of how the Hawaiian Islands were formed.
Because of the weather (it was cold and windy and we were wearing shorts), we decided to drive to the coastal part of the park along the Kīpahulu district (where it was warmer) to spend the remainder of the afternoon. The district is accessible via the Hana Highway. The shortest route for us, which is also the sketchiest route, is to go west along the highway. The highway winds through an area with stunted vegetation and eventually leads to an unpaved portion where the sides of the road are littered with abandoned cars.
There are two trails in the coastal district, and both originate from the same parking lot. We first hiked along the Pipiwai Trail (5.5km roundtrip) to get to the Waimoku Falls. The first portion of the hike leads through a forested area and provides glimpses of other waterfalls and natural features along the way. The path then weaves through a bamboo forest before opening up to the waterfall.
We turned around at the marker to signal the end of the hike and headed back the way we came. and veered off at the turn to the Kuloa Point Trail (1.0km roundtrip), which is also known as the Seven Sacred Pools Trails (‘Ohe’o Gulch). The trail leads to an opening in the trees that provides stunning views of a series of waterfalls that trickle into a number of pools, eventually leading into the ocean.
By the time we finished up both hikes, we had maybe an hour of daylight left. We started the drive along the legit part of the road to Hana. With narrow roads, one-way bridges, and many twists and turns, the drive back definitely kept us on the edge of our seats. Plus, there’s also the lovely views of the lush greenery and various waterfalls along the way.
Day 3: Sliding Sands
We made the drive back to the summit district of Haleakalā National Park, except this time we were dressed more appropriately (we wore pants) and were ready to spend the day hiking along the Sliding Sands Trail (17.8km roundtrip), which leads down into the Haleakalā crater.
There are various ways to hike this trail. You can hike one-way into the valley floor and over to Halemau’u where there is a designated “hiker pick-up” area to hitch a ride back to your car. Or, you can hike into the crater, turn around whenever, and hike the way you came in. We opted for the latter as the park wasn’t busy since we were visiting in the off season.
We were pretty cold at the start of the hike all the way up at the summit. But, the further we descended into the crater, the more protection we had from the wind. There was zero protection from the sun though.
At the 6.3km mark, the path leads to the valley floor. We continued along this, pausing for a snack when we reached the junction for the path that leads to Halemau’u or Kapaloa.
We strolled along the path to Kapaloa, turning around once the path started to ascend. We’d have enough uphill on our return journey to the car and wanted to conserve my energy (and water). This turned out to be a good call as, let me tell you, I was a huffin’ and a puffin’ with even the slightest bit of elevation gain. It’s the altitude! It took nearly three times as long to walk back up than it did down.
Eventually we made our way back up to the summit, after taking many breaks to rest, reapply sunscreen, and drink lots of water. It was a strenuous day of hiking, but the views along the way were well worth the effort.
Day 4: West Maui Mountains
The weather this morning wasn’t ideal: it was wet and windy. We figured we might as well embark on another road trip, but this time around the West Maui mountains on the western side of Maui.
We made our first stop to hike along the Kapalua Coastal Trail (5.6km roundtrip), which runs from the south end of Kapalua Bay to D.T. Fleming Beach. The path hugs the shoreline and is mostly paved or runs along a boardwalk, but there are a few dicy areas through the lava fields. There are a number of resorts, hotels, condos and some of the nicest beaches in Maui along the way. It was hard for us to corroborate those claims as all the beaches were in pretty rough shape because of the waves.
Once we reached the end of the trail, we wandered down to D.T. Fleming Beach to check out the waves. We overheard a group of people talking about a surf competition that was taking place right around the bay at Slaughterhouse Beach. We hiked back to our car at Kapalua Bay and decided to check it out. It was a little tricky to find parking and if you miss a spot, it’s not exactly easy to turn around on the narrow roads. We eventually did find a space and went out to watch part of the competition from high up on the cliff overlooking the beach. The waves were so massive that they were using jet-skis to tow surfers out to them.
After watching the competition for about half an hour, we resumed our road trip around the western part of Maui. The next stop on our itinerary was to visit the Nakalele Blowhole, a natural geyser where seawater erupts on a regular basis.
We hopped back in the car for a short while before pulling over again to hike along the Ohai Trail (1.9km roundtrip). The trail loops through rolling hills high up on a sea cliff overlooking the northern shore of the ocean.
Once we wrapped up our hike, we resumed our road trip. The road becomes quite narrow and treacherous at certain points as it twists and turns around the side of the mountain. There aren’t many places to pull over to allow a passing vehicle through let alone to take pictures of the lush landscape.
We finished up our road trip adventure in the late afternoon and headed back to our accommodations for dinner. We went to bed relatively early as we had to wake up early the next morning to go scuba diving.
Day 5: Scuba diving at Molokini
Most of the scuba diving (from boats) is done first thing in the morning as the trade winds pickup in the afternoon, making for some rough conditions away from the coastline. We signed up to scuba dive with Mike Severns Divers, which has rave reviews and caters to smaller groups. Plus, if one person gets low on air, the whole group doesn’t have to go up. They also boast of being one of the first dive boats to arrive at the dive sites first thing in the morning, which meant an early start time for us: we were told to meet at 5:45a.m at the boat ramp.
We were running a bit late this morning. It was still dark outside and we missed the turnoff for the boat ramp. Eventually we found our way. We checked in with the boat captain and filled out some waivers. We then waited for the boat to be loaded into the water before scampering aboard.
It was well worth the early start as we were the first boat to arrive at Molokini and had our pick of the mooring lines. The sunrise wasn’t bad either.
Molokini is a small crescent-shaped volcanic crater that is partially submerged and located a few miles from Maui’s southwestern coast. The island is a marine preserve and is reputed to offer the best snorkelling and scuba diving in Maui.
It did not disappoint. We started our dive on the outside of the crater before circling back to the inner part, which was more protected from the current. The visibility was excellent and the crater featured beautiful corals and an abundance of tropical fish. We also heard whales. We were a bit early in the season to see any whale sharks though.
For our second dive we went to a site called Tank and Landing Craft. These pieces of equipment were used for training purposes during WWII as the navy, marines and the army all trained on Maui. Now they make for an interesting dive site, creating an artificial reef. We first explored the tank before swimming over to the landing craft. We ended our dive exploring a few antler corals.
The nice thing about starting our dives so early in the morning was that we still had the rest of the afternoon to explore the island. Our dive boat dropped us off back at the boat launch and filled up a big bucket for us to wash the salt water from our gear. We then headed home for a long lunch.
We headed out later in the afternoon for a hike along the Waihou Spring Trail (2.9km roundtrip), which weaves through a forest reserve. Since the trail is at a higher elevation, it was noticeably cooler than down in Kehei, which made for a pleasant hiking experience.
The trail branches off to make a detour to the Waihou Spring. We descended down a series of steep switchbacks before arriving at the stream and a mossy wall with old irrigation tunnels carved into the lava rock wall.
We ascended back up the switchbacks to the main trail and completed the loop through the forest.
Afterwards we headed back to our accommodations to make some dinner and spend the remainder of the evening relaxing from our adventurous day.