Around Maui in a day

One thing I really love about Maui is the variety of scenery and climates as you travel around the island. I’ve posted previously about how to really enjoy the road to Hana, but if you don’t have time to spend a night or two there, you can do what thousands do every day and go there and back in your rental car for a day trip. But there is a third option to consider: a guided tour. My wife and I recently enjoyed a tour with Valley Isle Excursions and highly recommend it.*

Frankly, I was skeptical about a guided tour. And granted, there are pros and cons to it, most which you can easily guess for yourself. What I didn’t expect, however, was how much more of the scenery you can take in when you are not driving the road to Hana yourself. I was able to look all around, including behind, from the large windows and really take in the views without worrying about plunging my car into the ocean. But the biggest delight was “listening to story” from our tour guide/driver Joe. He not only was extremely knowledgeable about all of the plants and trees that we saw, but he knew the stories and meanings behind the names of the various places we passed (for example, do YOU know about the demi-god who came down as a rooster, or the “pork in the car” story?) Joe also knows where all of the good views are and the best places to stop (or not stop).

Red Sand Beach near Hana

Another benefit of the Valley Isle Excursions tour was that they actually continue on around the whole island. Past Hana and the Seven Sacred Pools (Oheo Gulch) the country opens up and changes from rainforest to arid “desert”. Some would say this south side of the island isn’t as picturesque as the rest of Maui, but I disagree. The views of this side of Haleakala are amazing. I also really enjoyed seeing the island change as we continued on throughout the day, ending up at Tedeschi Winery and then back down the road to our starting point.

Beautiful expansive views of Haleakala await those who venture to the south side of Maui

Long day? Yes. But well worth it, and a great way to sample the spectrum of delights on the island of Maui.

*Full disclosure: we were offered two complimentary tickets by the company to share our thoughts. However, the views in this post are 100% mine, and I received no compensation from Valley Isle Excursions beyond the two tickets.

How to Really Enjoy the Road to Hana

The beautiful Keanae Peninsula on the way to Hana…not to be missed!

The Road to Hana is not something to be survived, but something to be savored and enjoyed! I’ve spoken to countless people who’ve done the mythical “Road to Hana” and thought it was beautiful, but probably would never consider doing it again. How unfortunate. The vast majority of people do the Road to Hana as an all day “death march”. Neither my wife nor I wanted to spend the whole day in the car, so when we finally went to Hana on our most recent visit to Maui, we decided to spend a few nights in Hana. I highly recommend this strategy…it will change the whole complexion of the trip and turn it from something to “be survived” to something to “be savored”. I also encourage you to read up on a guide book and get an idea of the waterfalls you’d like to see, but please don’t stress yourself out thinking you have to see every single dribble of water along the way. Pick a few that sound interesting and enjoy the drive. Stop when and where you feel like it. This is Maui!

A couple of suggestions along the way to Hana:

DO take the short side trip to the Keanae Peninsula. It is an absolutely beautiful location, and if you haven’t yet taken my advice to relax, this is a great place for an attitude adjustment! Aunty Sandy serves some wicked good banana bread to put you in the right Maui state of mind.

DO stop at the Nahiku Roadside cafe (along the main highway, not the Nahiku turnoff) for a coffee and snack. Friendly staff, interesting flora, and even a nice view of the ocean. Update 12/17/13: appears to be closed. We hope they reopen!

Update 12/17/13: Check out Coconut Glen’s, about 15 minutes before you get to Hana. Their coconut milk-based ice cream is really, really good!

The town of Hana itself is very sleepy. I think this is part of its charm and draw…if you think Maui is relaxing, just wait until you experience Hana! To enjoy it you should plan to spend at least a couple of nights there. Not doing the Road to Hana all in one day means that you can get a good night’s sleep and then take a leisurely drive to the Seven Sacred Pools the next day. In my opinion, this is the most interesting part of the drive…the road narrows, the mystery increases, and because you are rested you can actually enjoy the drive! This also means you get to have the place to yourself before all of the Road to Hana day-trippers arrive around 12:30 and later.

Enjoying a relaxing view of the Seven Sacred Pools

Enjoy Maui and the Road to Hana!