As someone born and raised on the East Coast, taking a trip to Hawaii never quite made sense. With so many other tropical paradises near by like Miami, Costa Rica and Aruba, I could never justify going all the way to Hawaii. After moving to the West Coast three years ago, my husband and I have made a point to travel to all of the places we always thought were too far away. Last summer we crossed Alaska off our list, this year we were ecstatic to visit Hawaii for the first time and decided to break our Hawaii virginity by going to Maui.
We stayed at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Hotel thanks to points from my Starwood American Express card. There were a few properties we could choose from, including the Westin just down the beach a bit, but after reading reviews it seemed the Sheraton would be the best fit.
We arrived super late so we drove straight to the hotel and woke up the next morning to the most beautiful view, weather and birds chirping up a storm.
Just one of the many gorgeous views from the hotel overlooking Ka’anapali beach.
We spent Friday relaxing by the pool which was well deserved after a long day of travel the day before.
Friday night we had dinner at The Mill House, a restaurant situated on Maui Tropical Plantation that serves 100% farm-to-table cuisine. The views were absolutely stunning and the food was delicious as well. Make sure you request a table out on the patio if you’re going here, the entire restaurant is great but the view from the patio is absolute magic.
The waitress was also extremely helpful in helping me locate the gluten and dairy free items on the menu and suggested a couple of substitutions so I could get the dish I wanted.
Although the cocktails looked fantastic, a few too many Mai Tais were had at the hotel pool that day so I decided on a Lilikoi (passion fruit) mocktail. It wasn’t too sweet and super refreshing.
For appetizers we ordered kimchi and pickled veggies plus Hamachi Crudo. Both were amazing.
For dinner I got the pork belly and pork loin over corn puree with shishito peppers and carrots. If a menu has pork belly on it, I am basically required to get it. 🙂
On Saturday we woke up bright and early to drive the road to Hana. Unfortunately for us our rental car battery decided to crap out on us which set us back and hour, but we still decided to go for it.
On the way there we stopped in Paia at Mana Foods to get food for the day. Although I heard there were places to stop for food along the way, I didn’t want to wing it. We picked up some sandwiches (gluten free for me), lots of water, a raw collard wrap and big bag of Jackson’s Honest BBQ potato chips.
For those of you that don’t know, the road to Hana is an all day journey (there and back) where you drive to the East side of Maui just passed a town called Hana. Along the way there are waterfalls, natural pools you can swim in, insanely hard to get to beaches, secret lookouts… basically everything magical. There are hardly any signs so you need to use the mile markers and parked cars to figure out where you are.
The other interesting thing about this side of Maui is that it’s normally always rainy. Sometimes more than others, but for the day we went it rained on and off pretty consistently. The only downside to this IMO was that it meant I couldn’t bring my camera on some of the stops because I was too afraid of it getting soaked.
At one point, my husband and I were hiking in our bathing suits during a torrential downpour. It was exhilarating to say the least, just not very camera-friendly. Next time I go to Hawaii I am going to make sure to buy a GoPro.
After stopping in Paia for food, we pulled over at Ho’okipa lookout, a popular surf spot. Apparently the waves can get pretty intense here… although there were a ton of surfers on the day we were there, the water was pretty calm.
We stopped at a few more places like Twin Falls and Upper Waikani Falls before arriving at Pua’a Kaa State Wayside Park to swim in this fresh water pool under the waterfall. It was the first time we got to swim all day so it was a blast. There were also restrooms and a picnic area, so there were quite a few people there… thankfully only a few of us brave souls went for a swim.
Do you see the cats?!? Pretty unreal.
More adorable small creatures at Pua’a Kaa State Wayside Park.
I forget exactly what mile marker it’s at, but the sign for Coconut Glen’s is pretty hard to miss. We stopped to get some coconut milk ice cream (everything they offer is dairy-free) which was the absolute best treat about halfway to Hana. I got Coconut and Chocolate and my husband got the Ginger Creme Brûlée and Lilikoi. The Ginger Creme Brûlée was probably the most amazing thing I ever had… if I got back I think I might get just that.
There were a couple of roadside stands that we stopped at… one where we got banana bread (for my husband) and pineapple (for me). There were also some adorable gift shops with local made goods and tacos… we didn’t get any food because we had enough from Mana Foods, but there looked to be a few good options. Ie, if you accidentally forget to buy food for the drive… you aren’t going to starve.
Next up we stopped at Wai’anapanapa State Park to go to Black Sand Beach. There were quite a number of people at this stop, but it was worth it. The views (as you can see below), were gorgeous.
In the picture above you can see the beach just off center to the left in the middle of the photo. Pretty amazing location!
We went for a quick swim and walked around a little bit before, in true Hawaii fashion, it started to pour. See that ominous cloud? We get soaked pretty darn quickly… thankfully my camera was okay but it kinda scared me for the rest of the trip.
Before making it to Hana, we stopped at Red Sands beach which was probably my absolute favorite stop of the whole day. I didn’t get a photo because it was raining pretty much the entire time we walked there, but it was nice to be completely free of devices and able to just enjoy the moment. Here is a photo (not mine) of the beach just so you can get a sense of how amazing it is.
Heads up, if you are going to try and go to this beach… the trail there is treacherous. I am talking a 12 inch groove in the side of a steep cliff overlooking the ocean below where you have to walk single file most of the way. It seemed there were some kids there (maybe no super young ones), so its definitely possible just muddy and not super safe. I actually decided to go barefoot for most of these hikes because I felt the most secure that way.
When we finally arrived in Hana, we stopped at the Hasegawa General Store which was an adventure unto itself. After driving for about 5 hours through what looks like Jurassic Park, it’s hard to imagine what needs to go on to get this store products. But, miraculously, the store is pretty stocked, for the most part. Don’t come here looking for anything of super high quality… its unfortunately a lot of processed crap. Either way, definitely worth a visit because it’s so unique.
We kept going after reaching Hana to Kipahulu in Haleakala National Park. At this point it was nearing dusk (we skipped a few nice looking stops because we were worried about time). It poured the hardest we’d experienced all day at Kipahulu and the O’heo Gulch, where we’d wanted to swim in the Seven Sacred Pools. Unfortunately, not only was it pouring but the pools were closed due to runoff.
Either way, it was a pretty amazing experience to hike in the pouring rain, but we decided it was time to head back. (It must have been about 6pm by the time we started the drive home.
Took a quick snap of what I believe is Wailua Falls on the way back. It was pouring still so we didn’t get out of the car, but these falls were pretty amazing looking.
Before it got completely dark, we stopped a few times to take in these gorgeous views just after the sunset. If you look carefully at the first photo, you can see the pockets of rain hitting the water.
By the time we got back to Paia it was around 8 or 9pm, so we decided to make a quick stop at the Whole Foods in Kahului for dinner, which we inhaled in the car in the parking lot.
It was an incredibly long, draining day, but we loved every minute of it. I wish we had a bit more time because there were so many other places I would have loved to stop. If you are planning to do this drive, leave as early as possible. Had it been light out on our way back, I would have loved to stop a few more places. So, if you leave early enough, you have the luxury of doing that.
Sunday was another lazy day at the pool/beach before we headed to Little Beach in Kihei for what we heard was a pretty fun time. Apparently, every Sunday people gather on Little Beach for a drum circle, fire dancing and not gonna lie… some nudity and drugs/alcohol. It wasn’t rowdy at all, but be forewarned, if you’re not someone that cares for seeing a few naked people or smelling a bit of marijuana smoke, Sunday at Little Beach is probably not your jam.
It sounded like a pretty quintessential Hawaii experience, so we couldn’t pass it up.
It was raining on and off the whole night, but that didn’t stop any of us from having a good time. We waited until the sun set to see some of the fire dancing, but left by 8pm (which is when they close the parking lot). You can park on the street instead and stay as long as you want… just make sure to bring some sort of flash light because the walk back can be a little treacherous. One of the people fire dancing that night was what looked like a 10 year old boy with hair down to his butt. Thankfully, he was clearly a pro and nothing caught on fire. 🙂
We got back relatively quickly and decided to make a quick stop in Lahaina, the closest town to our hotel. It’s a bit touristy, but totally manageable in small doses. Just please make me a promise that you will never eat at the Hard Rock Cafe in Lahaina… or any HRC. (Who eats there?!?!) Do not get it.
Ono Gelato Co. is actually one of two places to get dairy-free gelato in Lahaina. Let’s just say, they did NOT disappoint. I got chocolate and raspberry and was beyond satisfied.
A hilarious shirt I walked by in a gift shop… not that I would ever buy this, but it made me giggle because it described the Road to Hana perfectly.
I’m not sure what the quality of the restaurants are in downtown Lahaina, but the views looked pretty picturesque.
One of the very few souvenirs we got was this hot black lava salt which we have yet to use… mostly because we can’t find it. Haha. Hopefully it turns up somewhere!
Monday morning we took a drive north to the Olivine Pools, which we heard was a pretty amazing but not super touristy attraction near our hotel. Before the drive, we stopped at Choice Health Bar for an Acai Bowl. I have to be honest, I have never in my life been motivated to get an acai bowl because I’ve always assumed they were full of sugar, loaded with oat-based granola and topped with other nonsense I wouldn’t be interested in.
Perhaps that’s the case at some places, but not at Choice. At first I was going to order the Green Buzz bowl with Paleo Granola, but after learning the Paleo stuff would be a $3 uncharge, I couldn’t justify spending $14 on a smoothie bowl. Instead I opted for the OG and added the $3 Paleo Granola.
The acai bowl was SO GOOD, it’s hard to put it into words. All it was was the acai blend, paleo granola (nut based) and topped with bananas and honey. The acai wasn’t sweet at all and I liked it so much I went back to get another before the flight home. This place really, really impressed me and I might even be motivated to try and find something similar back home.
The weather was perfect on our drive to the Olivine Pools, which necessitated many a photo op as you can see below…
If only the weather had been this good on our drive to Hana… I probably would have had a lot more photos and this post would probably have taken A LOT longer to upload.
The most hilarious part of this journey is that we accidentally drove past the pools and ended up on an insane one-lane road that once again, cut across a cliff. It was BY FAR the scariest drive we did the entire time. Thankfully there was a place to pull over where we could ask someone where we were and they told us to turn around. I would have gotten more photos, but I was mostly terrified hoping we wouldn’t die, so the photo above is all I could muster.
The only benefit of driving on the scariest road of all time is that we were able to get some pretty kickass views, perhaps the best of the trip?!
Okay, so I am going to post these photos out of order, just to give you a sense of scale. When we arrived at the Olivine Pools, there was no one there. After reading a ton of horrifying reviews online that said “Fun, but beware you may die”, we were both thoroughly terrified. Apparently, it was very clear why when we arrived… but with just a teeny tiny change in weather or current, swimming in these pools could be life threatening.
Oh, and then there was this sign which didn’t make us feel super confident.
We sat watching the waves for about 20 minutes before deciding to venture down. Again, when we first arrived NO ONE else was there, but I am posting the photo of people in the pools first (more people arrived by the time we left) so that you can get a sense of just how crazy these pools were.
See those specks of white all the way out in that tiny pool in the center of the image? Yeah, those are people. Ie, if the waves got any larger or if it started to pour… you’d be completely stuck. Not only were the waves a threat, but it was clear the path down to the pools had just very recently been covered in rain and mudslides. Not exactly the best route of escape when huge waves approach.
Despite the warnings and craziness of the whole thing, we began the descent.
The landscape all in all, was pretty intense. Thankfully by the time we got down there a ton of other people arrived who had clearly done this before and made us feel A LOT more comfortable. It was still generally terrifying, but I am still really happy that we did it. There were clearly a lot of onlookers at the top that were afraid to make the journey down. But somehow, even in my crappy rubber flip flops, we made it in and out with only minor scrapes.
The drive back to the hotel was as equally spectacular as the drive there…
Although there were fruit stands abound in Maui, this one was the only one we stopped at, on the way back from the pools. We got an entire coconut and a fresh mango. They both were so unbelievably delicious.
After the Olivine pools we stopped at Fish Market Maui for some grilled fish tacos, followed by a stop at Farmers Market Maui, a small natural foods store. I grabbed a local kombucha and this Coffee & Chocolate Pono Pie. I had never heard of Breadfruit prior to this purchase, but this treat maaaaay have been my favorite thing on Maui, period.
Monday afternoon and evening were once again spent at the hotel. The sunset was perhaps prettiest that night and we were super thankful to be able to see it in all its glory.
We went to bed super early on Monday because we were going to be picked up from the hotel at 1:45am that night (you read that right, not a typo) to head to Haleakala to watch the sunrise. I was pretty horrified of waking up that early, but boy am I glad we did it. We decided to book an excursion for this and not do it ourselves for a few reasons…
First of all, we heard that it can be as cold as 30 degrees on the top of the crater. After seeing the weather in Maui would be somewhere around 85 for our entire trip, winter coats and warm pants were certainly not items that made it into our suitcase. We heard that there was an excursion where they would not only give you some warm, protective gear but where you could ALSO bike down the crater. Sounded perfect to us.
Despite the 30 degree weather, chilling winds and our sleep deprivation, watching the sunrise at 10,000 feet from ABOVE the clouds was unforgettable. We arrived at the summit around 4am (the sun didn’t rise until just after 6am), so we got to watch the moon rise, followed by the sun.
After watching the sunrise, we went to the other side of the crater where we could actually see the shadow of Haleakala on the rest of the island and ocean. See that shadow just above the ground? Yeah, thats the shadow of the volcano. Pretty incredible!
The views descending the crater were nothing short of spectacular. The rainbow was especially gorgeous.
Of course, it goes without saying, but Chris and I posed for some cheesy bike photos on the way down that were pretty impressively choreographed by our guide. If you’re headed to Maui and looking to bike down Haleakala, check out Cruiser Phil’s.
After stopping for breakfast in Paia (same place we stopped before the road to Hana), we arrived back at the hotel around noon. We relaxed (and caught up on some sleep) at the pool before heading to Star Noodle for our last dinner on the island. I actually had reservations at Merrimen’s, but Chris and I were far too exhausted for a fancy dinner. Plus, it was clear the sunset wasn’t going to be much of anything that night and given that a huge part of the allure of Merrimen’s is the sunset, we decided to skip it.
Thankfully, Star Noodle did not disappoint. Once again, we ordered the pickled veggies and kimchi as an appetizer. This dish actually included pickled pear which was AMAZING. For dinner, we ordered Pad Thai and Singapore Noodles. The waitress was super helpful in pointing out the gluten and dairy free items. Only downside of this place is that the wait was pretty long… about 1.5 hours on a Monday night. We hung out in Lahaina while we waited for our table to be ready and were both pretty exhausted by the time we ate.
Either way, it was worth it and I am glad we went!
We woke up on Tuesday morning SUPER sad that we had to leave. The hotel was nice enough to offer us a complimentary champagne toast because it was our honeymoon, which we forgot to take advantage of until our very last morning. I am kid of happy we forget until then, because it was a really sweet sendoff to an absolutely spectacular week.
All in all, we were downright obsessed with Maui. We both cannot wait to return to the islands and are hoping to visit Kauai this spring!