I’m in the Pacific Ocean in my wetsuit swimming with a five-foot tall, 400-pound turtle. In the clear water I spy the spectacular sight of marine life: gracing the red and yellow coral reef are giant manta rays, eel, moonfish and the Humuhumu Nukunuku Apua’a (for the uninitiated, that’s the Hawaii state fish). I look up at the aqua skies bejewelled by a resplendent rainbow. It’s all so breathtaking that I wonder whether God took all the splendours of the world and put them into Hawaii.
Swimming with giant turtles is just one of the once-in-a-lifetime things you can do in any of the six islands in the ‘Aloha’ state of Hawaii.
Maui, known as the Valley Isle is the most popular of the islands with its plumeria-scented sea breezes, perfect blend of hula and hip-hop and all the rest of the activities it has to offer which include volcano hopping, surfing and biking. Here are 10 must-dos that will make a visit to this beautiful island a truly memorable one.
Snuba diving is a combination of scuba diving and snorkelling. Hawaii is one of the few places in the world that offers snuba diving. It is a fantastic option for those who are not certified in scuba diving but still want to visit Hawaii’s tropical underwater paradise.
There are many operators who offer snuba diving but the most reliable are Pride of Maui and Aqua Adventure who take you to Molokini Crater and Turtle Town, and provide equipment and a free meal on board. The morning trips are advisable since the water is less choppy.
If you think of Maui’s shape as a a fist with a thumb sticking out, then the West Maui Mountain is the thumb and the Haleakala, the fist. At 10,000-feet Haleakala is the world’s largest dormant volcano and presents one of the world’s best sunrise views from the Haleakala Crater.
Mark Twain described the sunrise at the summit of Haleakala as “the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed.” You can drive yourself but it’s better to take a sunrise tour where you can bike down the mountain after viewing the sunset. It’s 45 km through one of the most unique landscapes on the planet, complete with towering cinder cones, red and black sand, and wide-open views. It’s advisable to take one of several tours of either Haleakala Bike Company that allows you to do an adventurous self-guided mountain biking route or Ekahi tours that follows you down the mountain as you bike (a safer option for the faint-hearted).
A visit to Maui is not complete without a drive on the Hana Highway. Set aside an entire day to drive through wonderful sights like the taro field view at Ke’anae Peninsula, the black sand beach and lava tube at Wai’anapanapa State Park, the wonderful waterfall at Pua’aka’a State Wayside Park and the Seven Sacred Pools at Kipahulu Area. At the start of your drive to Hana, do drop by the Garden of Eden, not often mentioned in guidebooks, where you can take pictures with striking Macaws.
For a night of Polynesian culture, traditional hula dancing, fire shows and sumptuous dining with the Kaanapali sunset as a backdrop, head to a luau (party). You’ll get to eat some of the best food of your life, with dishes like Fafa, Harore Kumara and Roasted Kalua Pig. The Lahaina luau and the feast at Lele are the most popular.
Haleakala National Park
At the summit of Haleakala lies a moon-like crater in the national park. You can ride a cycle, or a horse, or even walk through the park. The rare and beautiful plant, Silversword, found nowhere else in the world except for Maui and the Big Island, can be spotted here.
There are tonnes of things to do if you have even half a day in South Maui. If you’re in the mood to see turtles, sharks and reef fish, you can visit the Ocean Centre at Maalaea; see the works of Picasso in the art galleries at Wailea or take a dip in the Sugar Beach at Kihei.
One of the biggest draws, and free things to do in Maui, is to visit the Big Beach or the Makena Beach — one of the 81 island beaches — with the most unusual wave patterns in the world. Watch out for the surf breaks though!
Located in Central Maui, near Wailuku, it is worth taking a day trip to this historical battle site. You can hike to the cliff top and be rewarded with amazing views of the Kahului Harbour, the lush green valleys and the natural 2,250-foot high Iao Needle.
The West Maui Mountain is a spectacular drive. From the bustling shops of Lahaina to the beautifully manicured golf courses of Kapalua, the Maalaea Harbour in West Maui has something to offer everyone.
Kaanapali in West Maui is famous for its wide, white sand beach and upscale hotels like the Sheraton, which sits on Black Rock, separating the main Kaanapali Beach from the more quiet North Beach area. Whaler’s Village is an upscale shopping centre here where you can easily spend a day.
Maui is also the perfect starting place for a fixed-wing tour of the volcanic activity on the Big Island of Hawaii. It can set you back by $250-400 (Rs 12,900 to 20,650) per person for a one-day trip but with a helicopter ride over the spectacular active volcano of Mauna Loa and Kilauea, it is one of the most exceptional experiences in the world.
Meghna is a Mumbai-based freelance writer