Let’s Explore — Maui, Hawaii

Emily and Peter in Maui

Oh man, you guys — my Hawaiian vacation was so amazing!

I just spent 10 wonderful days on beautiful Maui with Peter’s family and I can’t stress enough how awesome it was. The last time I took an extended vacation, I was only 17 years old, so this was long overdue. The last year has been incredibly crazy for both Peter and I, so it was so nice to just relax on a beach and get tan and breathe the ocean air.

Maui is a decent sized island, but since we had a rental car, it was easy to get around. And since this was my first time to Maui, I wanted to do some exploring in between sipping Blue Hawaiians. Here are just some of the things I highly recommend you check out the next time you’re on the island — from activities to destinations to restaurants!

The Feast at Lele

Feast at Lele

If you’re going to Hawaii, you gotta go to a luau, right? This was my first luau and the Feast at Lele was truly amazing. This isn’t the typical buffet-style, pig-with-an-apple-in-it’s-mouth, and a couple minutes of hula kind of luau — this was an experience. The Feast at Lele takes you through the Polynesian islands of Hawaii, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Samoa with a flurry of food, drinks, and dances from each island.

Feast at Lele Dancers

Each “trip” to the islands included three family-style dishes (an entree and two sides) and a performance of a traditional dance from each of the native Polynesian cultures. They also had some suggestions for beers and cocktails to go with each dish, most of which actually came from the specific islands. My favorite dish, by far, was the Kalua pork from Hawaii. Seriously, I could eat that every day for the rest of my life and die fat and happy.

I really liked the relaxed, sit down set up of the Feast at Lele and it was hard to beat the location and the entertainment!

Front Street

Rasta at Spanky's Riptide

If you’ve ever been to the north west side of Maui, chances are you’ve been to Front Street. It’s kind of the main drag of that part of the island, full of shops, restaurants and bars right along the Lahaina Harbor. Our condo in Ka’anapalii was just a short, 10 minute drive from Front Street and we went there a few times (it’s also were the Feast at Lele is located!). On our first trip to Front Street, Peter, his father, and I had lunch in this bitchin’ sports bar called Spanky’s Riptides at the far end of the drag. The food was solid, locals were mega friendly, and (my favorite part) was that it was a dog friendly bar! Rasta, the doggie pictured above, is one of a few regular “bar dogs” who’s owners come their specifically because it’s one of the only bars that allow it.

Pakaloha Bikinis

A lot of the shops on Front Street are your standard souvenir shops with basically the same things for sale, but there are also unique art galleries, local stores, and both mainstream and mom and pop eateries. I bought a few souvenirs, but my big purchase was from the Hawaii-based Pakaloha Bikini store. I’d seen a few advertisements for the brand, marketing them as a surf/swim/athletic bikini — their slogan is “bikinis built for the barrel” —  so I wanted to check them out. I ended up buying one of their Honolua bottoms and wearing it for swimming and paddle boarding. Not only was it mega cute, but it didn’t ride up or slip off at all!

Fleetwood's

There  are a lot of great places to eat along Front Street, but the coolest was probably Fleetwood’s. My mom is a HUGE Fleetwood Mac fan, and they’re also one of my favorite bands, so it was such a fangirl moment to eat in the restaurant of drummer Mick Fleetwood. Mick wasn’t there unfortunately, but the restaurant had tons of memorabilia from the band and a full drum kit, which our server told us was given to Mick when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — it’s plated with 24 carat gold and worth $50,000, by the way. As you would expect, the food was amazing and if you have a chance, you should check out the rooftop dance floor!

The Road to Hana 

Bamboo Forest

Here’s some real talk for you: pretty much everyone you talk to on the island will recommend you do the Road to Hana. They’ll make it sounds like a right of passage — and it kind of is, because it’s not an easy journey. The Road to Hana is 64.4 miles of winding road that includes 59 bridges (46 of which are only one lane) and takes about 2.5 hours to drive if you don’t stop. There are things to see along the way, but you really have to commit a whole day to this if you want to drive there and back like we did.

Waterfall

So, what’s at the end of the Road? Well, a few things, but we made the trip in order to get to the Pipiwai Trail/Waimoku Falls and the ‘Ohe’o Gulch. The Trial is a 4 mile walking hike round trip that includes a giant bamboo forest and the towering Waimoku Falls. As pretty as the waterfall was, the bamboo forest was what took my breath away. The hike was not bad even if you have kids or aren’t in the best of shape, it’s really the humidity that kills you.

'Ohe'o Gulch

The ‘Ohe’o Gulch is colloquially known as the Seven Sacred Pools, but locals hate when you call it that because that’s not it’s real name. We actually learned that the myth of the Seven Sacred Pools was a made up story used to entertain Maui’s early visitors that kind of took on a life of it’s own. The Gulch is cool, but it’s probably more impressive during the wet season. Even so, lots of people were swimming and milling around in the water while we were there.

Rock & Brews

And let me tell you — after spending a collective 6 hours in the car with 7 other people and a sweaty, 4 mile hike — we needed some delicious food (and I need a stiff drink). Rock & Brews in historic Paia Town was just what we were looking for. It had a big selection of beers on tap, a wide range of choices to please even the pickiest eaters, and it was playing classic rock and pop hits on half of the screens and surfing on the other. It was a great end to a very long day.

MauiWine

MauiWine

Having grown up in wine country, I’m always interested to taste wine in other parts of the country. Also, I just really like wine. So, when we discovered a winery in the middle of the island, Peter and I drove there during my birthday excursions. Why did this winery catch our eye? Um, cause it offers complimentary tasting and a complimentary tour of the grounds. Yeah, you read that right — FREE. We got to try pineapple wine (it’s made with only pineapple, no grapes) and ended up loving their red blend so much we bought three bottles! And while we were on the tour, it started to pour rain — so we had to make a made dash to the car with our bottles.

Crush at MauiWines

Aside from the yummy wine and gorgeous (if a little rainy) surroundings, I loved MauiWine because it had a cat! I missed my two fur babies terribly, so it was nice to give some kitty pets. This little guy was named Crush and had been adopted by the winery when we was a little kitten. He was definitely happy to be out of the rain.

Kula Botanical Gardens

Side note: We also stopped at the Kula Botanical Gardens on the way to the winery and it’s worth a trip. It has nearly 8 acres of plants, trees, and flowers, as well as a koi pond and two aviaries. It’s only $10 to get in and you could easily spend an hour here looking around. It also has some nice views and a few picnic benches if you wanted to bring lunch or some snacks!

Any Water Activity 

Paddle Boarding

Come on, you’re on an island, people! It was so convenient for us to hit the beach staying in Ka’anapali because it was literally right there, so we spent a lot of time on the sand and in the water. I did paddle boarding for the first time — loved it! — and I did a lot of swimming around and body surfing. I was hoping to do some surfing, but paddle boarding was just as good of a workout and really fun. I ended up being pretty good at it too, and I only bailed once!

Swimming in Maui

If surfing or paddle boarding aren’t your jam, you could alway do some snorkeling or swimming. We had goggles and there was a little reef right off shore, so it was easy to see fish and urchins and even an eel without having to go to far or swim too far down. I have a bit of anxiety about dark water and getting snuck up on by creatures, but the beautiful clear waters of Hawaii helped ease some of my fears. I even took some underwater video on my GoPro, so be on the look out for a wrap up video.

Aloha and mahalo for all the good times, Maui!

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