Maui TR:Planning and flights
Just before Thanksgiving we decided to book a trip to HI. I’d been to Maui and Kauai before and was really hoping we could visit the Big Island, but award availability dictated otherwise and we ended up on Maui. I know there are different opinions regarding Shabbos in HI, but we decided just to stay Sunday through Thursday and stay away from any potential issues.
We used 25k Avios each for AA flights LAX-OGG-LAX.
For a car we rented through Discount Hawaii Car Rentals, which had the cheapest rate and ended up with a Thrifty for $129.55 for the entire trip ($21/day+taxes and fees). More on the car type later.
For accommodations we used 75k UR for 3 nights at the Andaz Maui and $131 for an AirBNB place for our first night in Kula. This was both intentional and mandatory. We wanted to spend the first night in Kula so we’d be closer to the summit of Haleakala for sunrise and the Andaz didn’t have any award availability the first night, as there was a convention at the hotel and all rooms were sold out.
For food we decided to go simple. We purchased and brought some noodle bowls (not instant soups, but something a step up from there) as well as snacks, bread and breakfast in LA and purchased fruit and vegetables once we arrived. Additionally, we brought a double burner, a pot and a small frying pan to cook our own food, and we requested a microwave from the Andaz to make our noodle bowls.Sunday: Arrival and getting to Kula
We arrived at Kahului Airport right on time at 1:00pm. Since we’d booked trough BA we got PR boarding and treatment from AA. This was news to me, but very much appreciated.
Our bags were the first ones off (having been tagged priority), and we were on the shuttle to Thrifty in no time. The sight that we saw when we got to the rental office was unbelievable. There was a one-hour queue just to pick up a car! Of course there was no wait at all at the Blue Chip desk, but apparently you must wait 1 week after signing up to use the counter (I was about to sign up while waiting in line, but decided against it once I was told it was futile).Line in Thrifty/Dollar
One hour and a whole lot of watching-Korean-honeymooners-texting-rapidly-in-Korean later we finally got our car. Now I know people will say we should have rented a Jeep or perhaps a convertible, but we didn't. Neither of us cares too much about cars and something that drives would be good enough for us. We picked up our Ford Focus (compact car) and were off.
Our first order of business was Costco. We needed a beach towel and wanted to check out their fruits and veggies scene. We ended up with the towel but decided not to get the produce simply because of the bulk packages it came in. Had we been staying for longer 4 lbs. of green beans might have been handy, but it would have been overkill for 4 days. After a few minutes we were on our way to Pa’ia.Pa'ia Town
We decided to head to Pa’ia on the way to Kula for two reasons. First we just wanted to see the town. We’d read (in Maui Revealed) that it was a quirky town and quirky people we did see. The second reason we stopped by was to go produce shopping and Mana Foods, a real, hippy-style health food store. It was there that we got our first shock on Hawaiian produce prices. While I’m used to paying $1.99-$2.49 for a Maui Gold pineapple, here they wanted $1.99/lb (or $6.95 for the average pineapple) grown just down the road! $4.50/lb for zucchini, $2.50/lb for onions, $9/lb for white button mushrooms?! Well without much of a choice we got what we needed and just dealt with it.
Well by this time it was almost sunset. We went to the beach, saw the beautiful Pa’ia Inn and started up the mountain towards Kula.Sunset on the way to Kula
The place we stayed in was a backhouse of a Reform Jewish woman named Jodi. It was a studio with one queen bed and a small kitchen area. There were pots, pans, a coffee maker, French press, and some assorted foods (from cup of soups to Nutella).Kitchen area
Jodi was really nice and the place was clean, comfortable, safe, and best of all only 45 minutes from the summit of Haleakala.
We made dinner and got ready for the next morning. When we’d be getting up before dawn.Monday: Haleakala for sunrise, car trouble and driving around West Maui
As the clock struck 5:00am (and the wild roosters outside let us know by making noise all night) we got up to make a 7:05am sunrise at the top of the mountain. I’d brought homemade pancakes for breakfast that we brought with us. I also brought my talis and tefilin to daven at the top.
Our way up was pretty uneventful. We didn’t really see more than a couple cars on our way up. When we got to the National Park entrance I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was free to enter as it was MLK Jr. Day, a national holiday (all national parks are free on national holidays). Once we got nearly to the top we were diverted to the Kalahaku overlook just below the upper visitors center, as all the parking uphill was full. No matter, we parked and made it to the viewpoint by 6:20am.Haleakala National Park Entrance
At first I was fine with just a windbreaker, as it was around 50°F at the top. What was weird was as we were driving up the thermometer in our car dropped to 42° but then started rising again. After a few minutes the winds started to pick up and I switched to my winter coat and ski hat. Much better.
We were very fortunate to have clouds below us. I say fortunate because mart of the magic of sunrise at 10,000 ft is seeing the sun rise and shine on the clouds. It was a very nice sunrise and worth every minutes of missed sleep to see.Pre-SunriseSunrise (please excuse my poor picture taking abilities
Once the show was over, I needed to daven. Since most of the cars were leaving the viewpoint, it was a simple matter of putting on my talis and tefilin and davening in the car (except for shmona esre). It really wasn’t too cold at this point with the sun heating things up rather quickly.View of West Maui Mountain just after sunrise
We ate our pancakes and were off to the upper visitors center to hike the Sliding Sands trail. We never intended to hike the whole thing, just enough to get a feel for it and enjoy the view. After about 45 minutes we'd had enough and wanted to see the actual summit of 10,023’. It was empty when we got there so we just took some pictures and headed down the mountain.Sliding Sands trail leading into Haleakala CraterPeak of Haleakala
Now I should mention that after going up and down the mountain we noticed that there was a weird noise coming from the front left tire well. I wasn’t sure if I did something (I’m fairly certain I didn’t) or if it was really an issue to be concerned about at all, but either way I wanted to play it safe and exchange the car just in case.
After picking up our stuff from Jodi’s house (and meeting her for the first time) we headed off the drive West Maui backwards with a quick stop at the airport to exchange the car. It was a relatively easy process and they upgraded us to an Altima for the trouble. With a nicer car and 1 hour of time wasted we were off at around noon.
We simple loved the backside of West Maui. The road was small and windy; barely enough room for one car at times, but it was just beautiful. I really enjoyed the ocean and coast views on one side and the West Maui Mountain on the other. We passed a few cars coming the other way and let a lot more cars pass us along the way.Hwy 340, the back of West Maui
Our first major stop was the Olivine Pools. This was the first time the Maui Revealed app came in handy. We used the app to follow the trail down to the pools, although in truth there really is no official trail. It’s just a bunch of rocks and boulders you have to hike over to get down the mountain to the pools below. We spent some time swimming in the pools before heading back up to the Nakalele blowhole.Olivine Pools
We had initially planned to do the acid war zone hike to the blowhole, but due to our car trouble needed to scrap those plans and just go to the blowhole directly. Turns out the blowhole was not really blowing when we arrived. We waited for around 20 minutes and nothing, barely a spray.Nakalele Blowhole, not blowing
We did attempt the acid war zone hike though. We really wanted to see the area, hearing how unique it was, but we ultimately couldn’t find our way. We were in a bit of a rush (it was 2 hours until sunset), and even the app couldn’t help us. We read the book for instructions and followed the GPS on the app but we couldn’t fine it in the end. Oh well, something to save for next time.
We drove from there to Ka’anapali to see Big Rock and the beaches there. We saw ended up parking in the free beach parking at the Hyatt Regency and going to the beach there. It wasn’t really very comfortable though, as the beach was packed, it was almost 90° (pretty warm for the winter), and there was no breeze.
We decided at this point just to drive to the Andaz. We drove through Lahaina on the way, taking Front Street for most of the way. We passed by Warren and Annabel’s (we didn’t end up going to a show) and stopped by a Foodland for more veggies and a Mincha break. We then drove to the hotel and pulled in just as the sun was setting. It was really cool to walk up to the hotel for the first time seeing the whole thing bathed in sunset.Andaz Maui entrance
We were upgraded, as Platinum members) to an ocean view room in the Akau wing on the 5th (lobby) floor. It was quite a walk from the front desk, but it was a nice room with a good view. At this point we were both exhausted. We made dinner (after exchanging the broken microwave they’d put in our room) and were in bed soon after that.Andaz Maui, room entranceAndaz Maui, bathroomAndaz Maui room at sunsetAndaz Maui, bed with sliding walls revealing the shower behind them Andaz Maui, view from our room at sunsetAndaz Maui, Pools as seen from LobbyTuesday: Lava Fields hike and Snorkeling
Since we got the sleep very early the night before we were up in time for the sunrise on Tuesday. While not as impressive as sunset from our room, it was still nice. We got ready for our day, which would start, with a morning hike of the lava fields near La Perouse bay. We opted for the 5-mile loop. Let’s just say that everyone is correct when they say this hike is an adventure. The first part of the hike is pretty easy to follow without much help. The path is pretty clearly marked even once you veer from the Kings Highway and take the ocean side path. However once you get to the tide pools, the path disappears; like it’s completely gone.First part of the lava fields hike
Here, for the second time, the Maui Revealed app was invaluable. We were literally climbing over lava rocks without any guidance save for the GPS on the app. We bumped into a group of hikers who were also looking for the path and couldn't find one. I showed them my app and for a while they stared just following us. After realizing that it would be a little more difficult for their 60ish year old bodies to climb over what we were doing they just decided to head back the way they came while we pressed on.
After about 30 minutes of blindly flowing the GPS we saw some white rocks placed as markers for the “path” we were supposed to be following. This was a bit more reassuring, and not too long after we saw the first one we were on the Kings Highway. At this point we had a choice to make: head to the beach or head back. I would’ve been all for going to the beach, but my DW decided against it. Kings Highway part of the hike
It was a shame to come all that way and not even see the unnamed beach, but that’s life. Another activity will have to wait for our next trip.
We got back to the hotel with just under 45 minutes before we had to leave for our snorkeling trip. We packed lunches and got changed for the water and were off.
I booked the afternoon snorkeling trip with Four Winds, per Maui Revealed’s suggestion. I was going back and forth about where and how to go snorkeling, and ended choosing them after realizing that going to Lanai would not work out for us on this trip. Check in for our trip was at 1:00pm, so we left the Andaz around 12:30 just to play it safe.
Usually the afternoon trips are to a place called “Coral Gardens.” Only about 10% of the time is the weather cooperative enough to make it out to Molokini, the usual spot for the morning trip. Well G-d was really helping us here, as we were able to go to Molokini. The usual trade winds were not blowing and the captain of the boat made a last minute decision to go. I was both excited and nervous at the same time. Why would I be nervous? Well I get sea sick, like really easily. Molokini is a 1 hour boat rise in each direction where “Coral Gardens” is about half that. While the waters in Molokini Crater were smooth and clear, the water on the way there was not so much.
After a stomach-churning and quite sickening hour we made it to the crater. There was 130 ft. of visibility in the water that was nearly still. Best of all, since Molokini is a morning place for most snorkeling companies we were the only ones there! However, after only 15 minutes in the water, my stomach was acting up again, and I had to get out of the water. My DW stayed in though. We got some pictures while we were both in the water and had an amazing time. There were tons of fish and sea urchins all over the coral. After waiting for everyone else to finish up we headed back for a somewhat smoother ride to the dock.Coral in Molokini craterFish and coral in Molokini craterFish in Molokini crater
Another benefit of going to Molokini in January is that it’s smack in the middle of whale watching season. We were fortunate enough to get a great view of a cow (whale) teaching her calf how to jump out of the water to strengthen his back fin. After seeing that group of 3 whales both ways, we were officially yotzei whale watching. Let me tell you, having the boat stop and rock in the waves for 15 minutes each way when you’re really seasick is not fun, but I survived.
We made it back to dry land and headed back to the hotel for another early night. We drove through Kihei on the way, but didn’t find it especially interesting. We had a big day planned for the following day so we just crashed after dinner.Wednesday: The Road to Hana
We were once again up at the crack of dawn (5:45am) to prepare for our drive on the Road to Hana. We were out the door and on the road by 7:00am, having davened (it was Rosh Chodesh), learned, and eaten breakfast. We were told to get an early start to beat the traffic, which turned out to work. What no one told us is that if you’re trying to drive on the east side of Maui just after sunrise it’s nearly impossible to see the road with the sun glaring in your eyes at every blind turn! Once the road started getting windy this really presented a challenge trying to navigate the turns, but B”H we made it without crashing.
Now maybe it was just because I hadn’t gotten over the seasickness from the day before, maybe it was because I was dehydrated, or maybe it was a combination of the two, but I did not do well of the road until Hana. We had many stops planned, but only stopped at a few of them, besides for a couple unplanned bathroom breaks to easy my stomach. I really tried to be a trooper and see the sights, but I’m afraid we did miss some things.View on the way to Hana
Our first long stop was at the Black Sand Beach in Waianapanapa State Park. By this point I was going a bit better, having consuming about 1 liter of water, and was finally able to force down some food. It was really fun seeing the beach and exploring a cave there (to the right of the beach). We also ate lunch there, or at least my DW did. I still couldn’t get down more than a banana.Waianapanapa State ParkBlack Sand BeachCave at Black Sand Beach
Next we headed to see the Red Sand beach in Hana. This was also a nice beach, but we didn't hike the whole thing since I wasn’t feeling 100% yet.Red Sand Beach
We then headed to the backside of the Road to Hana towards the Venus Pools and Oheo Gulch (or the Seven Sacred Pools). We totally missed the Venus pools and (again I was queasy still) didn’t head back to find them. We did make it to Oheo Gulch just fine. After paying the $10 entrance fee (since or summit visit was free) we did the lower loop to the pools. This is just a half-mile loop that allows you to hike around the pools at the bottom. It was really nice, but it was a bit crowded as a few tour “busses” showed up just before we got there.Pools at the Seven Sacred PoolsTrees leaning in the [non existent] wind
We then did the 2-mile hike to the big waterfall, except we never made it to the waterfall. I know, by now you’re thinking what’s with this guy? He went to the blowhole but not trough the acid war zone, the lava fields hike but not to the beach, the front part of the RTH without many stops, and now on a hike to a waterfall without going to the waterfall! Fair points, but by this point (even though I was all better), my DW didn’t want to go all the way. We made it as far at the bamboo forest, which was really pretty. I know, we were really close to the waterfall, but we really didn’t want to get stuck on the road without sunlight and it was nearly 2 hours until sunset. Had we hiked even 30 minutes more we’d have ended up driving in the dark, which would not have been fun.Banyan Tree, Seven Sacread PoolsBamboo forest, Seven Sacred Pools
We enjoyed ourselves tremendously on the way back. This side of the road is far less windy (and not at all windy when we went, even though it usually is) and more roller coaster-like. While the road does alternate between nicely paved, poorly paved and unpaved, it almost is all a series of ups and downs, enough to make your stomach drop if you’re going fast enough. The scenery couldn’t be any more different that the front side of the road, yet it was beautiful all the same. It was also different than the front side in that you can see the coast almost the whole way. The front side of the road gives you glimpses of ocean, but most of the time it’s hidden between the trees so it feels more enclosed. Hwy 37, back side of the Road to Hana
After stopping in Kula to pick of my glasses I’d forgotten at Jodi’s house, we headed back to the Andaz after yet another tiring day for another early night.Sunset from Andaz MauiThursday: Relaxing at the resort and leaving
It was our last day of vacation, yet in some ways it felt like the first. We didn’t have to get up early (and we didn’t) and we didn’t have any activities planned for the morning other than lounging around at the beach and in the pools. After a leisurely breakfast we headed down to the beach. We figured it’d also be a good opportunity to tovel the shot glass we’d picked up, as it was more convenient than going to a mikvah at home. We spent some time in the ocean and then in the nearly empty pools. It was nice to just relax for a couple hours without having to run anywhere and do anything.
We got packed up and ready to go and by 11:45 were off to Costco again for gas on the way to the airport. We got to the airport, returned the car without issue (we’d done it once so we knew exactly how to do it), and checked in for our flight. By the time we got to the gate and ate lunch it was time to board or flight back from paradise. It was a super fun trip and we’d both go back in a flash.Random thoughts:
1. Don't go snorkeling by boat if you get seasick.
2. Don’t worry about seeing all the “must see” sights. You’ll get to enough of them to tide you over until your next visit.
3. The RTH is not for those who get carsick easily, even while driving, or for those who are dehydrated.
4. Spend some time relaxing. It’s worth it, even if it’s only for a couple of hours.