An Unforgettable Maui Vacation, From Top to Bottom

By Charles Hopkins Published 09/20/2007 | Travel
If you are looking for a vacation not easy to forget, plan on taking yours on the Hawaiian Island of Maui. From breathtaking ocean views to panoramic sunrises high atop Mount Haleakala, Maui is the undisputable playground of Hawaii. And whether you are enjoying luscious treks through bamboo forests or coasting your bicycle down 10,000 feet of volcano, there is almost nothing you cannot do on Maui. If there is a heaven, Maui is the road that gets you there.

Some History...

Maui is the second largest island in the chain of eight known as the Hawaiian Islands. Captain James Cook discovered the islands in 1778 while on his third expedition to Alaska. His search for the Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans would forever change Hawaii, its culture and its people.

In 1894, during Sanford Dole's Presidency, the United States recognized the Republic of Hawaii and made it an official territory in 1900. Over the next century, sugar established itself as the leading industry and the heavy farming of pineapples a close second. The island of Lanaii was bought for the sole purpose of growing pineapples.

Towards the end of the 20th century with land prices on the increase and competition from other parts of the world, sugar and pineapples became less profitable. And while the sugar industry is all but dead on the islands, pineapples are still grown commercially on Maui and Kauaii. Tourism would become Hawaii's most popular industry and getaway location.

Getting There...

Unless you live on Maui, the only way to get there is by plane or boat. Cruises are great if you have the time, but if you want to get there quick, hop on a jet. When planning your trip a travel agent can be helpful. However, the Internet has become the preferred choice of shopping some great deals. You will want your hotel and transportation lined up before you get to the island. Travel agents are also great resources for researching activity packages.

Depending on your departure location, expect flight time to be about six hours. Do not worry; you will have a few in-flight movies and a little pillow time to make your flight tolerable and comfortable. Here's a short list of some stuff you will want to bring. Obviously, you will not bring everything on this list, but you can use it as a guideline when planning your unforgettable Maui vacation.

A hat or cap for sun protection
Large insulated water jug to keep in the car
Waterproof sunblock, SPF 15 or higher
Bathing suits for plenty of swimming opportunities
Shoes, thongs or throwaway sneakers, reef shoes, hiking shoes
A light rain jacket
Camera with lots of film, or megabytes for that digital crowd
Mask, snorkel and fins
Warm clothes (for the top - Haleakala trip)
Shorts and other cool cotton clothing (for the bottom)
Mosquito repellent for hiking (lotions with Deet, rather than liquids, seem to work the best and last the longest)
A fanny pack

A Little Geography...

The island of Maui is made up of two volcanoes. The largest mountain on the east side of the island is known as Haleakala, or "house of the sun". The other great mountain on the west side was originally called Pu'u Kuku'i, or "hill of the candlenut tree". That was later changed to West Maui Mountain.

Of the two, West Maui Mountain is the oldest. Streams cut deep into its slopes, which cascade into majestic waterfalls. Hiking is treacherous here but there are plenty of helicopter tours, complete with music and song, to enjoy them. Take plenty of film for this ride.

Haleakala is the youngest mountain. At just over 10,000 feet, the view from the top is breathtaking. The drive will take a little over two hours, barring any stops or side trips. Bring some warm clothing because it gets cold! And make sure you leave early enough to catch the sunrise. Nothing else beats it. Be sure to snap a few pictures of the "Silver Sword" before you leave. Silver Swords are native to the island and you will not find this plant anywhere else in the world.

Hot Spots...

Maui is full of places to see and explore. Here are a few to add to your must see list.


Start your Haleakala trip early in the morning. You will want to catch this sunrise to start your day. Bring some warm clothing and hiking equipment. There are 27 miles of trails on Haleakala so bring plenty of film to capture the incredible views from inside the crater. There is "Sliding Sands Trail" which descends 2,400 feet and the hike around 3 8/10ths miles each way. The "Halemau'u Trail" is about four miles each way at 1,400 feet. And for the professional hikers, there is "Kaupo Trail" which descends all the way down the mountain. But you can only access this trail if you are camping, so plan accordingly.

Road to Hana

The Road to Hana has been dubbed the Crown Jewel of Hawaii and the most desired drive of all the islands. This two-lane highway with many one-way bridges has been compared to the Garden of Eden. All told, there are about 600 turns on this winding road filled with lush forests and beautiful waterfalls. Speed limit on Hana road is a whopping 35 miles per hour, so do not expect getting anywhere fast. As the Chinese say, "Fulfillment is in the journey, not the destination".

Banyan Tree Park

Located in Lahaina, this park is a must see. As you look into the park, it appears as though there are many trees, but in reality, it is one tree. This tree is so big it encompasses the entire park! Some other sites around the park include the old courthouse, Baldwin House (reported to be the oldest house on the island), and the old prison.

Dragon's Teeth at Kapalua

Located near Kapalua, this lava formation resembling dragon's teeth owe its creation to the wind and sea. During the great lava flows, turbulent winds and ocean waves pushed shards of cooling lava upwards toward the sky, giving the formation its unique dragon teeth shape.

These are just some of the wonderful sites you will experience on your unforgettable Maui vacation. There are plenty of vacation guides covering every aspect, nook and cranny of Maui, so plan wisely and plan it now. Mahalo...