In February of 2014, I visited Maui for my best friend Erin's wedding. Three years later, I am currently traveling around Oahu! I am super excited to have the opportunity to explore another Hawaiian Island this week.
So, in anticipation of sharing my Oahu adventures on the blog, I wanted to take a look back at the experience I had in Maui. I was maid of honor at the time, so I was mostly busy helping out with the wedding. But, in between wedding plans, I had the opportunity to see a lot of the island. I drove the road to Hana, swam in a waterfall, drove up a volcano, hiked a bamboo forest, explored caves, went whale watching, attended a Hawaiian luau, and lots more.
It was during a time before I had my nicer camera, but I still took tons of photos with my Windows Phone and received some great shots from the friends I was with. Regardless, this photo-centric post will show you what Maui is like and the types of activities that can be enjoyed on a Hawaiian vacation.
The Flight: NYC to Maui
In 2013, I was learning how to travel hack to save up tons of miles and points for the round-the-world trip I would take the following year. I designated 40,000 of those miles for my trip out to Maui for Erin's wedding. Those miles got me a round-trip flight from New York to Maui with a layover in Los Angeles. It cost me a whopping $10 in fees.
The flight out was uneventful but the layover was awesome. I had never had airport lounge access before until this time. I was able to take advantage of complimentary United Lounge passes that came as a perk with my Chase United Airlines credit card. Free food and drink, Wi-Fi, comfy seating, and great views of the runway made this a welcomed wait for my next flight.
Our Hippie Home for a Week
As maid of honor, I was tasked with identifying budget-friendly accommodation to fit 10-12 wedding party guests. I managed to find a place that fit well with the bride and groom's spiritual, earth-friendly lifestyle. It was a polynesian, bali-style, totally sustainable, off-the-grid home in the middle of the jungle of Haiku in northern Maui.
Koy ponds with mahogany walkways connected three separate buildings, each roomed with walls that opened up to the jungle outside. You could sit in a bathtub set into the ground, entirely open to the elements or opt for a completely outdoor shower. "Lanais" (balconies) opened up from almost every room with hammocks or a wood-fired cedar hot tub for excellent relaxation time. Trees and plants bearing papaya, starfruit, pineapple and more were just a few feet away down ying-yang painted stone pathways.
We had a lot of rain during our stay, so we were often trying to conserve energy in our solar-powered home. I didn't mind because it made it feel like a fun glamping experience.
North Shore Waves and Volcano Driving
For my first few days in Maui, I had the chance to explore some of the nature of the surrounding areas.
The North Shore had turtles to view and big waves to watch surfers. Then, we all took our rental cars up Haleakala (meaning "House of the Sun" in Hawaiian). Sadly, we did not time the trip well enough to make it all the way to the Haleakala Volcano Crater.
Luau at the Grand Wailea
All wedding guests who were in Maui early came to the Honua’ula Luau at the Grand Wailea. It's often considered to be the top rated Luau in Maui. There was a buffet, drinks, music, traditional dancing, and other performances. The sunset was gorgeous, too!
The Wedding, Weather, and Whales
After a couple of rehearsals with the wedding party, we were finally ready for the big day. The Kukahiko Estate was the perfect place to rent out for my friend's mostly do-it-yourself wedding. It turned out beautifully, and my then-platinum blonde hair matched well with the bright and beachy setting.
My favorite part of this location and time of year for the wedding on Maui was the weather and the whales.
Storms pass through the islands frequently and quickly, making for a really dramatic backdrop with sunlight piercing through dark puffy clouds and winds sweeping through the yard. Only about 200 meters from the shore, guests could watch whales breaching as the sun began to set and the photographer snapped photos of the happily married, Erin and Brent.
We left a little surprise for the bride and groom for when they got back to our Haiku home on their wedding night.
The wedding party bought traditional Hawaiian frangipani flowers to spread across the floor leading to their suite. It looked so pretty against the mahogany floors with all the candles around!
Whale Watching Cruise
The day after the wedding, we went to a brunch buffet at Kahili Restaurant. Then, the majority of the wedding guests joined in for a whale watching cruise with the Pacific Whale Foundation.
As you know, I am big on authentic animal interactions and minimizing the impact of tourism on wildlife. I chose this particular cruise company because it is a non-profit organization dedicated to conservation and education of whales and other sea creatures in the Pacific. They also have a strict policy about not getting too close to where the whales are playing.
The Road to Hana: Bamboo Forest & Waterfall
The Road to Hana is a just-under-65-mile journey mostly along the north shore of Maui. The journey starts in Kahalui and ends at Kaupo, passing through the far east town of Hana. It's a winding road with sheer cliffs down to the ocean on one side and magical, beautiful, natural attractions to stop at along the way.
The first of these stops was a Bamboo Forest which leads to a waterfall that we happily jumped into and lounged around like brides-mer-maids.
The Road to Hana: Caves and Rainbow Trees
Along the Road to Hana you'll find Rainbow Eucalyptus trees. They look like they should only exist on a distant, yet colorful, planet!
You'll also find opportunities to explore various caves, including the very large Hana Lava Tubes that were carved by hot lava erupted from Maui's volcanoes. They give you headlamps on hard hats to wear and walk through self-guided.
Then there's Wai'Anapanapa Cave, with it's bright blue, crystal clear water that you can jump right into (if you can withstand all the mosquitoes!).
Fairwell to Maui
The Road to Hana was the grand finale to our time in Maui and it made me very sad to leave. Although I saw and did a lot, I felt like I had just barely scratched the surface of what Hawaii had to offer.
There were reports of flight cancellations due to a snow storm on the east coast back home. So after a short stint at a beach near the airport, I returned my rental car and hurried on to the airport.
On the shuttle to the airport, a couple of United flight attendants suggested I get a flight back through San Francisco in case my flight to New York was cancelled. This way I would have friends who I knew to stay with. Turns out, it was cancelled. So this was very good advice. Meeting these flight attendants was fortuitous for this reason and also because they gave me free drink tickets for my ride home. Wahoo!
With wine in one hand and my phone in the other, I snapped this photo of the coastline of Maui, looking forward to the day when I would return to Hawaii.
And Now For A Different Island…
I am so excited to finally be back in Hawaii this week!
While Maui stole my heart 3 years ago, I anticipate Oahu will, too. I can’t wait to share my latest (and greatest?) adventures in "The Aloha State." Check back in two weeks for my first post about Hawaii's most popular and populated island of Oahu!
Aloha, to all my readers!
Follow my Instagram - @deviatingnorms - to get live updates from my current travels around Oahu!