To that end, and on the heels of my third trip to Maui, I offer my own thoughts on what Travel + Leisure magazine names "the best island in the world" year after year...
(**NOTE -- These recomendations are for people looking to be out and about, they speak nothing to the resorts found in Lahaina or Kihei, which are different beasts entirely)
MUST DO ~ Sunrise at Haleakala
As you can see from this week's random photo, sunrise at Haleakala is nothing short of incredible. Another one of those moments where, regardless what your religious or non-religious afillition may be, you can't help but be touched spiritually, reminded that there simply must be something bigger than us out there.
Yes, in order to do it you must get up painfully early. We were up at 330, on the road by 345. Yes, it is cold and windy at the top. I was wearing three layers, many of them containing the word 'wool', and was still chilly. Yes, in true Aloha spirit, they charge you to get in. $10 per car. And yes, the road is ridiculously windy, and there is no guard rail between you and a 10,000 feet mountainside.
Yes, it is all worth it. I would go again tomorrow morning if I could.
MOST OVERHYPED ~ Road to Hana
I'm willing to concede that maybe I've just happened to do this the wrong time of year, but we were supremely disappointed in this one. For those unfamiliar, the Road to Hana is a 35 miles serpentine trek along the north shore of Maui, tracing the northern edge of Haleakala Crater. It features an average speed of 20 mph, has 617 (no exaggeration) hairpin turns and 43 one-lane bridges.
The appeal of this route is SUPPOSEDLY the unparalleled beauty of the seascape and waterfalls along the way...except that there was no water. Over the course of the entire drive, we saw maybe three waterfalls, most of which were barely more than a trickle.
If you have short time, or anything less than an iron stomach, save the time/effort on this one.
HIDDEN GEM ~ Kaihalulu Beach, Hana
Of course, should you not heed my advice and make the trek anyway, once you get to Hana, be sure to check out Kaihalulu Beach, otherwise known as Red Sand Beach. In my time on Hawaii I've seen white, black, and green sand beaches, but this was definitely a first for me.
Finding the place is a bit tough, and the hike to it can be a bit tricky (be sure to stick to the rocks, otherwise you'll be hugging a cliff face), but it is entirely worth it once you arrive.
(Rumor has it the place also serves as a nudist hangout for local hippies, a fact I can entirely believe given how secluded it is, but we didn't see anything of the sort while we were there. Just know that it could happen, and you were warned.)
BEST GRINDZ ~ Paia Fish Market, Paia
This is a classic example of sticking to the basics. Word on the street is that this place had the best fish burger in Hawaii. It certainly did. And then some.
(Avoid the fish n' chips though...again, just trust me)
BEST BREAKFAST ~ Krispy Kreme, Kahului
To mainlanders, this may sound like blasphemy, but (1) this is the only Krispy Kreme in Hawaii, and (2) there are few joys in life like seeing the red Hot N Ready sign glowing on your way back from a long, chilly morning atop Haleakala...
BEST PLATE LUNCH ~ Geste Shrimp Truck, Kahului Harbor
Simply put, this place is what Giovanni's on Oahu pretends to be.
The menu features five different kinds of shrimp, served w/ rice, crab mac salad (fanastic), and cabbage. We opted for the spicy pineapple and found a picnic table to watch sea turtles playing in Kahului Harbor. Utterly amazing, all the way a