For several months now I've been hosting travel posts from bloggers all over the world and this week I thought I'd take a stab at it myself with giving you a travel post from my favorite place in the world: Maui.
Alaska may be cold but perhaps the greatest thing about our state is how close it is to Hawaii and as a child our family used to spend Thanksgivings or spring breaks down south soaking up sun and surf. The next few weeks I'm sharing three tips that will guarantee paradise should you ever venture that direction.
Today's tip? Avoid Oahu. Hawaii has eight main islands, six of which are inhabited. Oahu is where the capitol, Honolulu, is located along with tourist attractions like Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor and the Polynesian Cultural Center. If you absolutely must see these things before you die then fine, go to Oahu and get it out of your system, but if you're like me and require that a vacation be relaxing and carefree rather than filled with entry fees and guided cattle tours then you don't want to even touchdown on Oahu if you can help it.
We tell people this all the time but for some reason very few listen. It's as if they're afraid to venture out into the unknown and prefer to stick with the places that get the most press but seriously--don't go to Oahu. Waikiki, though famous, isn't that great of a beach. Humauna Bay, while legendary for it's snorkeling, is more crowded than the subway at rush hour. If you're a serious surfer then maybe you'd go for the wave action on the North Shore but if you insist on seeing Oahu for you'll most likely come back from your vacation thinking it was nice but wondering what all the hype is about.
So which island do you chose instead? Depends. Hawaii, or the Big Island, is large and arid and exciting with volcanic activity (that's where the Mauna Kea observatory and Kilawea, the active volcano, are located). The terrain is very different from other islands--rocky and desert-like--but the tourism there is strong.
Lanai and Molokai are small and less-developed but gaining popularity. If you're the kind who wants to really get out there away from it all then one of these two smaller islands might appeal. Kauai is another popular destination but gets quite a bit of rainfall so guaranteeing a rain-free vacation can be tricky. Of course it depends on when you go but here in Alaska we always go in winter which can make it harder to stay dry. If I remember correctly, Kauai boasts the spot on earth that gets the most yearly rainfall which should be a tip-off what to expect.
Maui is a little unusual in that the northeastern side of the island gets all the rainfall and by the time the clouds hit Haleakala, the world's largest dormant volcano, they're all spent and the southern side of the island is quite arid by comparison. You have the variety of the famous waves on the north shore, the tropical jungles on the northeast, the shopping and golfing on the west coast (not my thing) and the biking and hiking High Country activities.
It's not as crowded at Oahu--not by a long shot--yet is big enough to have a lot of the modern conveniences like Sam's Club and Costco for your vacationing pleasure. Plus you can get direct flights into Kahalui on Alaska Air which not only saves the cost of the island hopper flight but shaves off a couple hours of commuting.
So that's tip number one. If you're smart enough to take my advice I promise you've taken the biggest step to ensuring your Hawaiian vacation is wonderful.
The last time I was there was 2005 and Andrew and I drove all over the island--I don't think there is an alley or dirt path anywhere that we didn't explore. But of all the things we saw the two favorites were Ching's Pond and Haleakala.
If you go to Maui you'll fly into Kahalui airport then most likely stay in either Kihei/Wailea down south or in Kaanapali to the west. Either way you've got to explore the island.
Go clockwise on route 30. The map doesn't show it going all the way around the island but it does--just don't go when the school buses are running because at some points it's so narow you'll never get your share of the "two lane" path. Go north around the tip by Kahalukoa or save the western half of the island for another day and cut through the middle of the island toward Pa'ia. But get on the road and drive. All the way around the island.
As you drive there are a few must-sees but if you only can stop at one spot make it Ching's Pond.
As you can see from the picture it's a crystal pool surrounded by volcanic rock and that bridge at the top is where the cars pass. The narrow winding road above doesn't give you much warning and unless you're alert you'll miss the spot. Find a spot to pull of then hike down the overgrown path to the pool below where the cold fresh water cascades over the rocks through the filtered sunlight.
If you go in the morning you'll probably be alone but if you happen to have company you might get lucky and see someone diving off the bridge. The report is that there's a tiny spot in the pool where it's deep enough for diving and only the best divers can jump off the bridge and hit that narrow window but it can be done.
As I mentioned, Haleakala is the world's largest dormant volcano and while I'd visited the mountain plenty of times before only on our last trip did I get it right. I told our crew I wanted to drive up the mountain at night.
While the kids could appreciate the benefits of staying up late they weren't that thrilled about being in a car again and at first merely humored me. We started at dusk and as we climbed up the winding road toward the crater we could smell the eucalyptus forests in the warm evening air.
By the time we got to the top it was amazing. If you live anywhere close to a city you'll understand how the stars are crowded out by city lights but on Haleakala, where you're 10,000 feet closer to the sky and away from urban life they're breathtaking. You can see the band of the Milky Way and more stars than you thought possible.
Even my kids were impressed and we all talked about the night as the highlight of the vacation. If you're particularly adventurous you might try going up just before dawn rather than at dusk. I've heard that viewing sunrise from the crater is nearly a spiritual experience.
Another thing to note about Haleakala if you're interesting in seeing Maui from a real outdoorsy angle is that there are biking and hiking tours of the mountain and public use cabins available for ridiculously low fees. If luxury hotels on the beach aren't your thing then you might consider checking those out.
I'm saving that for another trip.
Congratulations to Sharon for winning the jaC Jewlery giveaway for those subscribed to the Scribbit Newsletter and to another as yet undisclosed winner for winning the Friends Forever Girls Dolls Giveaway from this last weekend. She's going to love those dolls! Check your emails ladies to claim those prizes!
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