Travel: Maui

03/27/2011

As part of my ‘life adjustments’ last year, I got out and made an effort to start travelling again. My sister and brother-in-law happened to be planning a trip to Maui, so I tagged along. The nice part about this was that it was already planned, I just needed to book a flight! My kind of trip.

My vacation experiences over the past decade were few, and mostly consisted of near-death experiences on Colorado mountains (I’m over-stating only slightly). This was my ex-wife’s idea of a fun time. Lets just say, they were more exhausting than rejuvenating!

My sister has an entirely different approach to vacations; namely, pick somewhere with a great beach, don’t feel obligated to do anything, and make it up as you go. I’m adopting this approach from now on. I found Maui to be a perfect destination for this type of vacation; it’s pretty easy to get to (though a longer flight than the caribbean), everyone speaks english, there’s no currency exchange, people drive on the right side of the road, etc. It’s right on that line between domestic and foreign. All the domestic comforts are there, but it’s much different than the continental US. It’s as exotic as anything else in Asia, if not more so, but without the complications that go with international travel.

It’s also incredibly diverse for such a small island. It’s probably only 40 miles from one end to the other, but due to the tall volcanic peaks has several different climates depending on where you are on the island. Generally, the north side is very wet and tropical (the #2 wettest place in the world is near Hana, averaging over 300 inches of rain per year), while the south side is arid and almost completely barren. Within a half hour you can drive between the rainforest, and something resembling the surface of mars. The weather forecasts were completely useless, and completely different just 5 miles down the road. Just expect that it’ll probably rain at some point – that should be the forecast for the north and east sides of the island each day. High of 85, spotty rain. Maui either has the easiest job for a meteorologist, or the most frustrating.

Maui is also incredibly beautiful. It’s almost too beautiful. We suffered beautiful fatigue, and I found myself longing for a dumpster or something I could stare at to momentarily cleanse the visualĀ palette. Alas, there was no relief. Especially on the famous ‘Road to Hana’, a 2-3 hour journey across the north east coast line involving white-knuckle driving at a top speed of 20 mph (It was good fun for me, who occasionally spends a day at a race track. For my companions, not so much!). There are lots of attractions along the way, making it an all-day drive to cover <50 miles, but even if you never stop it’s a must drive.

Speaking of driving, there are a few roads that the car rental places forbid you to travel on. Of course this meant I insisted that we drive them! The one on the North West side was particularly worthwhile, and because most people were apparently unwilling to violate their rental agreements (not sure what the penalty is for that), there were very few people taking in some of the most amazing coast lines and beaches I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure why that road was verboten, but for the sake of those who are like me and looking for something off the beaten path, I’d just like to tell everyone else NOT to go there. Rental agreements are big-deal contracts. Seriously, just go back to your hotel and don’t bother.

Another highlight was Mt. Haleakala, the Eastern volcanic peak (which is due for an eruption soon, per historical patterns). It was highly recommended to us that we get up to the top for sunrise, but since that would require leaving at 4am, we never made it. But even during the day it is a rewarding place to visit. The peak is at 10,000 ft., above the cloud line, and there’s just something fantastic about standing above the clouds.

This is by no means an exhaustive travel guide, and I’m leaving out many cool things. Bottom line though is that it’s well worth the jet lag to get there, just make sure you leave your watch at home and surrender to ‘Maui time’. I’ll let the short video below, and the photo set speak for the things I’m leaving out. Aloha!