So most people know that Hawaii is a collection of islands formed by volcanic activity. There are the Hawaiian Islands, the largest of which is actually Hawaii, but mostly just referred to as “the big island.” Catchy.
Each island is amazing and known for something special. Oahu has Diamond Head, Waikiki and epic surfing, Kauai has lush greenery and rainforests, the Big Island has the constantly erupting active volcano Kilauea.
Maui has the best of both tourism and nature. It has beautiful resorts, the bustling Lahaina area, and the mountains and waterfalls. Fun Fact: some of Jurassic Park 3 features those coastal mountains and waterfalls.
I went in November, over Thanksgiving week, which is a pretty good shoulder season. Nothing felt overly crowded and the weather was perfect. I couldn’t have ordered it better from room service. Also, going on in November was the Maui Invitational tournament which was incredibly fun as well, especially since my Vanderbilt Commodores were playing in it.
I went by myself by met up with some friends out there, but this was one of my favorite trips ever. In Maui I was utterly relaxed, happy, and able to completely clear my mind. When I was on the island or snorkeling in the Pacific the concerns waiting back in the mainland US suddenly seemed so unimportant. If I could have convinced my family to send my furry children I might not have come back.
Every day was a new adventure, and I was up with the sun every morning to make the most of it. Here are some of the things I think you need to do for an epic adventure:
1) Dive Molokini Crater– Molokini Crater is one of the top 10 dive sites in the world, its a caldera that is a couple hundred feet deep with crystal clear water that you can see all the way to the bottom. Just sitting in the boat, you can see the reef and all kinds of wildlife. I went out on Pride of Maui, which left at sunrise (note- sunrise on Molokini is spectacular) and they gave us breakfast, but the highlight was their fresh guava juice. It was amazing, and I think I drank a gallon. I was itching to get in the water and we say a small Reef Shark and a Moray Eel within minutes. I absolutely loved every second, and they had to make me leave. On a sad note, whole sections of the coral are bleached. Everyone please be careful about what chemicals you wear in the water, even sunscreen bleaches the sensitive coral.
2) Helicopter Ride over Maui’s cliffs and waterfalls– If you want to feel like you are in a Jurassic Park movie, do this!! We took an hour tour on Maverick Helicopters of Maui’s coast. We had an up close in depth look at the mountains, and giant waterfalls. I kept expecting to see a dinosaur pop out at any moment. The view was incredible. An hour too long for you? They have trips of varying length.
3) Snorkel Turtle Town or Black Rock– I was constantly in awe of all the sea turtles just hanging around everywhere. We snorkeled Turtle Town (lots of the turtles aren’t far from the surface, so its really not necessary to dive either location.) The first thing we saw as we pulled up to turtle town was two turtles mating. Very cool. We stayed here about an hour and there were turtles all around. Black Rock is another area that has lots of turtles, and the added bonus of fun cliff diving! We stayed at the Sheraton Maui on Kaanapali Beach, which was an incredibly beautiful resort (more on that later). Black Rock is right outside the hotel’s door on the beach. You can rent free snorkeling gear and jump in. I did this every single day. Turtles are a mere 20 feet off the shore. ** Please DO NOT touch the turtles. There is a federal law with stiff penalties. Plus, its just rude. Nobody likes the asshole grabbing the turtles for selfies. Don’t do it.**
3. Lahaina – This is probably the main tourist center with many shops and restaurants. Every restaurant that I tried was fantastic. Literally every one. Maui is a foodie paradise. Or maybe just paradise. There are lots of great art galleries, jewelry shops, and of course places to buy the souvenirs for people back home here. Two of my favorite restaurants were Lahaina Grille (get the Hawaiian snapper with spinach risotto) and Honu Seafood and Pizza (get the ahi tuna bruschetta.) At Honu, the view is amazing as well- the water is 10 feet from the restaurant.
4. Get a beachfront massage– There are a lot of really great spas here, but I’m not sure there is anything more relaxing than a massage in a private cabana on the beach listening to the waves.
5. See a sunrise and a sunset– Sunrises and sunsets on Maui are visually stunning. Every one is a riot of colors, that is just casually breathtaking, like oh yeah, here we are again, just the most beautiful thing ever, no big deal.
6. Sit on the beach and listen to the waves– ok, so this really shouldn’t have to be said, but its tempting to try to do everything and forget to do nothing. I rented a cabana, laid down and just listened to the waves. Nothing better.
7. Maui Ocean Center- This is a fantastic aquarium but with a twist. Every animal will be returned eventually to the natural environment around Hawaii. They rescue, rehab, tag, and study. It’s large, lots to see, and really well done. Take an afternoon, drive along the cliffs and check it out.
8. Four Seasons Maui– This is a beautiful resort and worth checking out. My recommendation would be to make a dinner reservation at Spago and go a bit early. The pool is beautiful with live grass growing beside it, there are grand fountains and grander views, great boutiques, but best of all there is a piano player in an open air bar/ lobby. Have a drink, sit and listen before possibly the best dinner on the island at Spago. Seriously.
9. Whaler’s Village– smack in between the Westin and the Sheraton, this is the high end open air shopping area in Maui. Bespoke jewelry and high fashion brands are located here. Get some fresh ceviche at Hula Grill on the beach when you need a break.
10. Take advantage of the fresh seafood and fresh fruit on the island! I had fresh pineapple every day, I enjoyed exotic juices (sometimes even without booze), and ate fresh seafood everyday. I think I ate every few hours, but was so active I didn’t gain any weight.
I stayed at the Sheraton Maui which I loved, they had a great buffet every morning, a couple of restaurants, coffee stands, a beautiful sand beach, and huge pool. It was a resort in every sense of the word. In fact if you ask them, they will set up a portrait session for you free of charge, you just pay for the pics you want (hello Christmas cards! And airbrushing!). There are plenty of places to stay, but if you need to unwind, unplug, and generally feel human again- come here.