At the outset, I feel an obligation to publish a disclaimer:
This madness was executed by experienced professionals. Imitate at your own risk. 🙂
Why only a weekend on this gorgeous island?
Well, fares from the west coast to Maui are often $250-300. For example, Virgin America has a $270 fare that expires tonight(Feb 7,2016). If you are vacation time-strapped like me, it makes perfect sense to spend multiple weekends in Maui.
Arguably, the best way to experience Maui is to spend a day relaxing, without a plan. If you only have a weekend to spend in Maui, I would recommend driving to Hana and spending time lazily on the incredible beaches in the area. However, driving to Hana may be stressful if you are not used to curvy mountainous roads; the weekend would probably be even more relaxing if you spend it at a condo/resort in Wailea/Lahaina/Kihea area, sipping cocktails by the beach.
Nevertheless, if you are like me and are possessed by an irrepressible urge to get a taste of everything Maui has to offer, you can definitely squeeze it in a weekend. I am sure you would be tempted to return to Maui to enjoy it with a lot of Aloha.
|0||Kahului||Drive to Haleakala for sunrise|
|1||Kihei(if going to Molokini next day)
|Sunrise at Haleakala
Back Road to Hana
Road to Hana
Some beach for sunset
|2||Kahului/flight back||Snorkel Molokini/some other beach
Ahihi Kinau Natural Reserve
North Shore drive
Iao Valley State Park
Get a copy of Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook and fly to Kahului airport. It is best to stay near the airport or en-route to Haleakala since you have to start for Haleakela summit at least 2 hours before sunrise. The drive takes about an hour and you have to reach 1-2 hours in advance to guarantee the best viewing spots for the mind-blowing colors before sunrise. It is best to attempt Haleakala sunrise trip on the first day when you are still adjusting to the 3+ hour time difference.
After sunrise, hike around Haleakela to see the colorful volcano and drive to Oheo Gulch. I would recommend the “back road to Hana” via Keokea. However, confirm the road conditions before driving; it is sometimes closed due to flash floods. Further, some rental car contracts prohibit driving this road; so drive it at your discretion. Apart from the beautiful scenery, this road cuts your driving time from Haleakala by half and you would know how much time to devote to the actual “road to Hana”.
Before traveling to Maui, I had heard a lot of fuss about the “Road to Hana”. Some have touted it as a death road; but I failed to comprehend what the fuss was about. There are curvy roads with hairpin turns all along the west coast of USA. I would be fine driving the road even at night. The scenery along the way would easily make you forget the number of twists and turns.
If you are traveling only for a weekend and following my plan, unfortunately, there is a chance that you might miss the surreal sunsets of West Maui. Nevertheless, I have been told that sunset at even Ho’okipa Beach Park along the “road to Hana” is equally good.
Depending on your interest, there are a number of choices on day 2. Snorkeling trip to Molokini costs around $100; but gets a lot of rave reviews. There are several great diving spots around the island too. We stayed the night at Kaanapali; so we decided to snorkel for free in Honolu’a Bay which was amazing. As we were snorkeling, we saw several snorkel tours dumping people into the bay which is accessible from the road! I hope they didn’t pay much for their tour.
The other option, especially if you are staying in Kihei/Wailea is to snorkel in Ahihi-Kinau Natural preserve or La Perouse bay. Apart from the corals and fish, a group of dolphins visit this area pretty regularly in the morning.
If you enjoyed Molokini cruise, you probably have time only for either the North Shore drive or the La Perouse Bay. It may be possible to cover both in summer; but by this time, I am pretty sure you would be convinced that you have to return to Maui for a longer vacation. There’s no point in hurrying now.
Since we were already near the North Shore, we continued on the North Shore drive: a part of Maui that is frozen in time, still retaining it’s charm, unlike the concrete jungle of resorts in the Lahaina area. We had time to spare after finishing the North Shore drive and drove up to La Perouse bay to see a very different view of Maui sculpted by lava flow.
In about 48 hours, we saw sunrise from the summit of Haleakala, drove every major road in Maui, snorkeled in one of the best beaches, witnessed two gorgeous sunsets and even saw a luau(traditional Hawaiian dance). I couldn’t really ask for more. It would be a tough to pick our favorite experience; but I would definitely vote for the North Shore drive.
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