Haleakala Sunrise or Sunset Visit
The view from above the clouds is unparalleled. Sunrise requires a reservation and the link above provides the page you need. They open 2 weeks in advance (as of this posting), and generally are fully booked within a few minutes (literally). You need an itchy trigger finger to get a reservation.
Tour or no tour? I vote no tour. Just come and go as you please. Always easier to control your own destiny, more fun, and you save money.
But you know what’s equally beautiful? Sunset. And you don’t need a reservation. It’s stunning… and just as cold.
Pro tip: If you’re traveling there on the new moon (when there’s no moon in the sky), and the sky is clear, go up there and wait for all the tourists to shut their damn headlights off (groan), and gaze into the heavens. You can see the milky way and get a beautiful photo with a camera on a tripod and the right settings.
Dress appropriately and you’ll be in heaven… perhaps literally. Gloves, hat, jacket, pants, and proper shoes (even in August). Allow yourself the time to fully relax into the experience of watching the sun dip down into the sea (or clouds, depending on the day) watching the light leave the sky and the stars appear. It’s magical.
As with all things in nature, there are no guarantees. It’s over an hour drive from Kahului, over 90 minutes from Kihei, and over 2 hours from Lahaina. Still worth it. Also… just because it looks cloudy from the base of the mountain doesn’t mean the top isn’t clear as a bell. Take the risk and go.
If you’re worried about it being a long drive, let me keep you company and talk to you the whole way! Grab a copy of my audiobook to keep you company on the ride (yes, I wrote a book!). Get that here.
Open this link on your phone to get directions to this spot in Kula: https://goo.gl/maps/vg3tSUr2wq9BJedn7
Maui Ocean Center & Aquarium
So you want to see baby sea turtles, do you? ME TOOOO!! This lovely aquarium was rated one of the best in the country, and for good reason. With lots to see inside and outside, you won’t be bored and you’ll get to see lots of great things, including their current crew of turtle rescues, and even learn about the Hawaiian islands. 100% worth it. Great to do on a rainy day, or really any day.
Open this link on your phone to get directions to this spot in Ma’alaea: https://g.page/MauiOceanCenter
Pacific Whale Foundation Whale Watches
There are many whale watch tours that you can do, but I like this one the best. They have a guarantee that you WILL see a whale on your trip, and if you don’t, you get to ride again for free. These folks are so friendly, knowledgeable, and the money goes to a great organization that truly cares about the whales and supports research and responsible tourism. The prices are good and the boats are comfortable.
When to go? Whales visit the islands reliably from December through March. You can see them occasionally slightly outside these months, but not as often.
Pro tip: Book early into your trip so if for some reason you don’t see a whale, you have time to go again.
Open this link on your phone to get directions to this spot in Ma’alaea: https://g.page/pacific-whale-foundation-wailuku
Pi’iholo Zip Lines
If you want to get yourself harnessed up and zip over lush canopies upcountry, you will love this tour. I took my 74 year old Dad, and he had the time of his life and was a kid again. It’s safe, responsibly operated, and led by tour guides who will help you stay safe, have a wonderful time, and learn about the island all at the same time. One of the lines is nearly a minute long… and not to be missed. Go for their bigger tour; you won’t be sorry.
Open this link on your phone to get directions to this spot in Makowao: https://goo.gl/maps/AujqYc6R4ib8DewX7
Road to Hana
This recommendation might get me in trouble with the kind folks in Hana, but if I explain this properly, perhaps not. Bear with me.
Hana itself is not a destination; there isn’t much to see or do. However, the journey to get there boasts breathtaking views, waterfalls along the ride, and some places to stop for sight-seeing. There are the standard stops along the way that everyone does (and are totally worth doing), but also some things to keep in mind.
Do a tour? Sure, if that’s your thing! I’m an independent soul and I love to stop and take my time when I find something I just LOVE. If you’re like me, rent a car and you’ll be so glad you did. Pack a lunch. Otherwise, there are so many places that can take you on a tour and all you have to do is look at everything in amazement. Look for smaller tour companies and do a private tour if you can (you’ll see more).
Stops to make along the way
Get the GyPSy Guide – thank me later. Wear sneakers you don’t mind getting wet, slippahs (flip flops), bring your lunch, a towel to keep in the car (not to schlep with you to the falls… just be wet for a little while!), your camera, and a swimsuit under your clothes. Keep it simple and don’t be a diva. You’ll have more fun. Also bring a few dollars in case you want to stop at the one or two places you’ll spot along your journey. These four places are my absolute favorite places to stop, and the guide I recommended has many many more.
- Three Bears Waterfall
- Twin Falls
- Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach
- Hamoa Beach
Things to keep in mind
- Fill up your gas before you leave.
- The road is old, narrow, and is the main road in and out of Hana, and largely the “only” way that’s routinely used by the locals that live there. Tourists often are loud, rude, and drive way too fast for the little road. Or too damn slow. This infuriates the locals and it’s not fair to them; it’s their home. If you see a Tacoma behind you, crawling up your backside… pull over when you can. (Yes, the Tacoma is the unofficial state automobile for locals).
- Never park where it’s not explicitly allowed, even just for a minute (nobody is so special that being rude to the local community is OK!).
- Never park on private land, even if it does promise the perfect photo op.
- Never enter private land. Kapu… remember?
- If you can’t see around the corner and it’s a one-lane section, you should honk when going around the curve in case there is another car on the other side.
- If it’s dry where you’re staying, it could be raining and the road could be very slippery. Also, the waterfalls could be choked with water and unsafe for swimming.
- Check the weather for Haiku and Hana before you go to bed the night before. You’re looking for a dry day before you go, and a dry day the day you go.
- There is a loop that goes all around and through Kaupo, but you really should have an AWD vehicle for it – instead of turning around once you get to Hana, keep going (it’s my favorite, I get less car-sick).
- Plan for an entire day. Leave where ever you’re staying at dawn, or before dawn. Yes, I’m serious. There’s so much to see and just the drive alone (if you do the loop), not including travel to/from your lodging, is 4 hours. Soak that in.
- Respect nature! Don’t wear that garbage sunscreen in the waterfalls. It goes down the river, affects the fresh water aquatic life of all kinds, and washes into the ocean. Reef safe, rash guards, or nothing… pretty please.