If you follow my life at all, then you must know that I am an avid fan of ticking things off of lists: countries, sights, beers, etc. When I left Epic in 2013, I took a trip out west and visited states 48 and 49 (Idaho and Alaska), but I have been sitting with an incomplete list of states visited since then. After returning from abroad, I made this my goal for 2017: visit my 50th state and my 50th country. Well, the 4th of July was a perfect time for that. The holiday sat right at the end of my contract in Baltimore.
Since I was working that week, I wanted to take a travel break on my outgoing flight. I booked an overnight layover in Los Angeles. I figured I could grab the first flight out to Maui the next morning. I posted on Facebook to start collecting ideas for things to do. I also started browsing my suite of travel blogs. Wow, there is a ton to do on those little Hawaiian islands. I knew I wanted to visit as much as I could with this trip. Treat it like an All-U-Can-Eat buffet is my theory. I can sample different things to see what I like this trip. Then when I return, I know what I need to repeat.
I planned the route to include Maui, Oahu, The Big Island, Kauai, and back to Maui. I needed to come back for better flight prices and to get my tattoo. As a Marriott loyalist, there were so many good options for lodging. I chose the Wailea Marriott Resort for my lodging. I used AA to fly out and back, but I used Hawaiian Airlines for my inter-island flights. If you are big at all, I recommend buying the first class ticket. These planes are very dated and small.
The flights from Baltimore to Dallas to LA were actually very quick and easy. Landing at LAX is just as nightmarish as I remembered. I picked up a rental and did a little exploring, but I knew I had an early flight. I knocked off one local brewery and a beer bar. The flight from LA to Maui was early, and the time flew by. Ha, see what I did there? I wish I had booked a window seat for this first flight. I would have loved to see the island as we came in.
I had arranged for a Jeep rental on Maui. I went with the Standard Wrangler. The hotel was a solid 30 minutes from the airport, and right away I realized I would be driving a lot more than I had originally estimated. I love driving, so this was awesome. I arrived at the Wailea, only to find that my room wasn’t ready. They have a great transit waiting locker room where I was able to shower and change. I knew I wanted to check out a luau, so I scheduled the Old Lahaina Luau as my first activity. Instead of waiting for a room, I headed over to that side of the island to skip traffic. This allowed me to check out Kohola Brewery and the Maui Brewpub. I enjoy good locally crafted beers. This was so refreshing for me.
I lucked out and got a front parking spot at the luau. I recommend getting there early, as parking is a real annoyance. My buddy, Julian, had warned me that wearing a Tommy Bahama shirt would not be accepted, but he underestimated the power of tourists… Everyone had some floral pattern on. So I fit right in. After mingling with the others, taking sunset photos, and learning some dance moves, we took our seats. I was with a mother and her two daughters and a family of four. The food is served buffet style, and the drinks are pretty delicious. I really enjoyed the dance entertainment that followed the meal. My mind was blown and how quickly they can move their hips while keeping their heads still. Absolutely amazing. While storms were predicted, not a single drop fell. My buddy Jeff was working double time keeping my first luau dry.
After the luau, I headed back to the hotel and finally checked in. The hotel grounds are quite expansive, and my room was very well set up.
I got up early and headed out so I could get the jump on the traffic for the Road to Hana. It seems I got a little help from Jeff again on this, as he let the rain come through in the morning. This kept a lot of traffic from starting early. The road was nearly deserted, and the views were perfect. I made my first stop to pick up some coconut snacks and refreshments. I made friends with a lovely local cat who shared some banana bread with me then got back on the road.
Beaches, mountains, waterfalls, rainbows, lava tubs, roosters, palm trees… Yep. all in a day. The lava tube was worth the ticket fee. I have never been in a cave like that before. Black Sand Beach was next. The black sand is very strange.
Then I finally made it to Hana which as places go is somewhat mundane compared to the journey itself. I at the picnic lunch I had purchased at the start of the road. then got back out there for the southern loop of the trail. I hit the Seven Sacred Pools of Ohe’o. These were quite cool and worth the park fee. If you are going to do the sunrise at Haleakala then the ticket works for both.
From here I headed to Lindbergh’s Grave. The church gave me a nice place to meditate and pray, and the grave is well-kept.
The last leg of the trail, the southside coming back was probably my favourite. Most drivers turn around and deal with traffic because the road turns gravel for a while. But I had a Jeep. FORWARD! It was wide open roads, but I kept seeing little tire paths veer off. I decided to follow some, and I was greeted some genuinely fun off-roading.
I made a stop by the main Maui Brewing location to celebrate my adventures. The beer was a perfect finish for my day. That night I relaxed and had some sushi.
I wanted to drive the rest of the island, so I headed out in the morning to see the blowhole on the north side. Getting to this proved to be a quite treacherous drive: one lane switch backs for miles. The blowhole itself is cool, but it is pretty dangerous getting down to it. I slipped and injured my ankle on some loose rocks.
I made my way around the island and tried to stop by the Banyan Tree in Lahaina. I was instantly stricken with sadness. Seeing tourists pour trash everywhere, hammer signs aimlessly, destroy nature at their whim, and everything else hurt my soul. I was literally too sad to even get out. I made my way back to the resort so I could have one good afternoon in the pools. I was lucky enough to catch a nice send off sunset, and I made some friends in the pool.
The time had come to hop islands, so I checked out and grabbed the Jeep. Overall, the first island was pretty amazing. The natural beauty of Maui blasts through all the other attractions.