The shores of sunny Maui are quite likely your first stop after (finally) landing and getting your bearings after the long flight. Soaking up sun and relaxing are always top of the agenda for me, but after about a day or two I tend to get stir crazy and want to experience the island not as a tourist- I want to check out where the locals hang and see the history and geography of an island that is completely different from my own hometown.
Haleakalā is a perfect place to start. With panoramic views of the island, this inactive volcano is one of the best ways to see the island. 10,000 feet up, it’s brisk climate will be a departure from the sunny shores of Maui, so pack a light jacket and some water to drink- especially if you plan on heading out on one of the rugged hikes that pepper the National park. Also a good thing to pack, Gravol. We attempted this climb 3 times before making it to the top- one of the kids would inevitably be car sick and we’d have to turn back for a change of clothes (or cars!).
Once you’re back on terra firma check out Maui’s stunning upcountry. Upcountry is near Pukalani, you’re pretty much half way down and a little northwest of Haleakalā. Consider it a perfect perch for a midday bite, with loads of local restaurants, markets and even a few wineries too. The Ulupalakua Ranch Store is a great place to grab a bite, with roaming steers nearby all but assuring the burger you’re chomping on is the freshest. Plate lunches, a Hawaiian specialty, are always on the menu here, as are the beefy BBQ burgers, sandwiches and salads. The store itself was originally founded in 1845, adding a historical nod to the day trip. Make sure to stop inside for local eats and treats.
Nearby you’ll find the Maui Winery. The gardens themselves are totally mind blowing, with massive Camphor trees dotting the landscape and artsy wood carvings adding a nice little bit of kitschy Hawaiian charm. The wines are more than decent, there’s fruity pineapple based blends, but they also feature full bodied reds like Syrah or Malbecs.
Also in upcountry, check out Ali’i Gardens Maui. Lavender is their main draw, but the rest of their landscape is picturesque. The even have a visual scavenger hunt (perfect for kids to run amok) with cookies for prizes. One afternoon we spotted one of Maui’s pop up pizzerias on site, so expect the unexpected! We were inspired (and maybe slightly klepto) when we spotted their GIANT rosemary bush! So, sorry if you’re reading this, but we *may* have plucked a few branches for dinner back at the house that night!
A hop, skip and a jump away, is another must see/do. Surfing Goat Dairy not only makes fabulous goat cheese, but it’s a slam dunk visit- a petting zoo full of amped up goats for the kids (ouch, bad pun) and deliriously gourmet goat cheese for the adults. If they have the ping pong balls in stock you should probably bring me back some.
Some of the kids are born that day, this cutie pie was HOURS old when we visited!
After getting your fill exploring Upcountry, Maui’s pristine shores are a solid next stop. The beaches are world class, but consider something a little friskier and adopt the local sport of surfing. The beautiful beach town Paia might be a little advanced for newbies, but it’s definitely inspiring to gawk at the pros conquering the 10 feet + waves that crash the shore. Nearby in Lahaina, you can try your luck on mini waves, there’s hordes of onsite surf schools right on the beach to show you the ropes.
While you’re in Lahaina, you may want to grab a bite. Many franchises and fast food spots line the beach, including the mostly epic Cheeseburger Nation. The chain has a few locations dotted over the Hawaiian Islands (and one in Las Vegas). Stick the the script on this one- burgers are their bounty for a reason. Boozy Mai-Tai’s are the perfect complement.
Wash down the burger burps with a glorious gelato, made with fresh Maui ingredients, it’s the best cone on the island. Ono Gelato‘s founding operator learned the tricks of the trade in Italy, guaranteeing you some serious pedigree with every scoop.
A trip to Hawaii wouldn’t be complete unless you lived up to the cliche, so don your best floral button down and scope out a luau. Cheesy, yes, but guaranteed fun- especially considering they’re open bar. Yowza! All luaus offer varying degrees of entertainment- live music, hula dancing, those are as guaranteed the pig cooking in the sand awaiting your arrival.
Digging a little deeper, some offer more than others. One of my favourite luaus is The Old Lahaina Luau. Smack in the middle of Lahaina, this luau offers both party pooper table (which chairs) as well as traditional mat seating- which offers a much better view of the show, as well as introducing the odd pillow fight into the flow of the evening.
Served buffet style, tables are called up cattle style, one by one to help themselves to mountain of food- which includes pig (Pua’a Kalua) of course, Pipi Ko’ala (grilled steak), a fresh local fish, usually Poke Ah’i, and all the side dishes- like taro and loads of fresh veggies.
Only some luaus include the exciting fire show, and the Old Lahaina isn’t one of them. We tucked into The Grand Luau at The Grand Wailea Resort which is definitely more touristy- this show features some aerial acrobats as well as a fire show ending- which included them bringing my five year old daughter up on stage to light a guys straw pants on fire. Memories- they’re made in Maui.
Now, where to stay and how to get there! Check out my earlier post on the sumptuous surroundings that is Ho’olei.