Amanda and I were fortunate enough to have a week in Maui at the beginning of December for our honeymoon – and it was a truly magical trip. We’ve focused our travels on Europe for the last few years, so it was nice to head somewhere tropical. Thanks to the advice of friends, locals, and even our wedding photographer, we enjoyed the week so much that it’s definitely the favorite vacation we’ve ever taken.
1. Rent a Jeep
Maui is a big island, with attractions spread out in far-flung areas. Relying on Uber or taxis to shuttle you around would cost an arm and a leg (and forget about driving the Road to Hana). Your best – and cheapest – bet is to rent a car. While a compact can be had for about $30 a day, if you’re willing to spend just $10 more each day, you can enjoy the island with a convertible Jeep – and join in the fun with every other tourist. As you drive around the island, you’ll notice that everybody else has a Jeep just like yours. One caveat – the Jeep we rented didn’t have any USB outlets, so we had to buy an old-fashioned cigarette lighter adapter to power our phones on extended trips.
2. Go to Costco
Everything on Maui is expensive. Like, crazy expensive. A well-planned trip to Costco can literally save you hundreds of dollars. On our first full day on the island, we drove to Kahului and braved the madhouse of a parking lot. We stocked up on reef safe sunscreen, snacks, liquor, gifts for the poor unfortunate souls in our family who had to stay behind, and even a new bathing suit. If you’re going to be in Maui for a week or longer, it’s well worth the trip.
3. Get a (virtual) Tour Guide
Thanks to our amazing Raleigh wedding photographer Mikkel Paige (who also doubles as a travel and lifestyle blogger at Sometimes Home) who turned us on to the GyPSy Guide to Maui, which is a GPS-driven app that narrates your travels hands free without an active cellular connection. The full version costs $9.95 (and worth every penny), though they do have versions specific to the Road to Hana or Haleakala National Park for less. There’s a wonderful freedom in driving the road and listening to narration that points out coming attractions and clues you in on Hawaii’s rich history and mythology – especially on the Road to Hana where your eyes need to be on the road at all times and a cell signal is unreliable.
4. Drive the Road to Hana
Do. It. Even if you hate driving. Even if you are prone to motion sickness (like me). Even if you panic at the thought of not having cell service for 30 minutes. It’s worth it. Amanda described it as the best thing we’ve ever done on vacation, and that includes my proposal atop Sacre Coeur in Paris, so you know she means it! And I agree. For between five and 12 hours, depending on how fast you drive and how many stops you make, you’re transported to another world with verdant landscapes, stunning seascapes, and deeply rooted native communities literally around every corner. We stopped about 10 times to hike, get pictures, and stuff ourselves with delicious pineapple, coconut ice cream (the first vegan dish I’ve actually enjoyed), fresh fish, coconut shrimp, and banana bread. This trip takes you far away from the trappings of your resort or hotel and gives you a glimpse at the soul of Maui. One caveat – motion sickness is a thing on this drive, so stopping frequently actually makes the drive more enjoyable.
5. Hang Out Under the Sea
Who goes to Maui without getting in the water? I can’t scuba dive on account of a congenital birth defect with inner ear, but I can snorkel at the surface and was blown away by the quality of snorkeling at Molokini Crater. Our outfitter, Alii Nui sailed us out to the crater for a prime mooring in the sheltered cove that makes Molokini snorkeling or diving so incredible. We saw 30+ types of fish, some eel, and even a sneaky octopus. For those who want to SCUBA, apparently the backside of the crater is a world-class dive. The best part was that we only had to bring ourselves – the boat provided all equipment, breakfast and lunch, snorkeling instruction, reef safe sunscreen, in-water guides (aka lifeguards), a photographer, and even heated towels! One note – the trip was five hours, but the snorkeling or diving portion was just shy of 90 minutes based on the captain’s judgment of water/wind conditions.
6. Stuff Your Face at a Hawaiian Dinner Theater (aka Luau)
Yes, it’s terribly touristy. It’s also delicious and a lot of fun. For three hours, you get to stand in assorted lines, eat all the foods you’ve heard about (kahlua pig, poi, Maui noodles, genuine Hawaiian sweet rolls), drink watered Blue Hawaiian drinks, and watch a festive hula show that tells the story of Hawaii. If that description sounds snarky, it’s not meant to. A good luau is one of the reasons people come to Hawaii, so enjoy!
7. Do nothing.
You’re in paradise. You don’t have to do a single thing to enjoy yourself. With the exception of the day we drove to Hana (that’s a full day trip), we didn’t schedule anything before noon. Waking up every day and being lazy poolside was a treat.