Though I have been to Hawaii several times, this was my first trip to Maui. I was struck by the beauty of the island. From the spectacular lush green mountains to the royal blue waters surrounding it, Maui is quite a welcome sight for the weary traveler. But, it is not just the physical beauty of the island that is the draw. Every year, from December until April, Maui’s favorite wintertime visitors are in residence. The Humpback Whales, thousands of them, migrate from their summer feeding grounds in Alaska to the warm and sheltered waters of the Hawaiian Islands. I was skeptical as I scanned the calm water but after a just a few minutes of diligent observation, I was rewarded with the splash of a Whale's tail in the distance. How cool is that!? On the rest of the drive I had four more whale sightings and I was hooked. I always thought you had to go out really far on boats to see any whales but here on Maui, all you have to do is look out at the water from the beach, your hotel room, your car, wherever. They are literally everywhere.
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Sunday / Monday – Kahului, MauiSaturday evening you leave Honolulu and Sunday morning you arrive (or wake up) in Kahului, Maui. This port and town is much smaller than Honolulu but that doesn’t mean there isn’t as much to see or do. Just a short walk from the ship is a hidden beach that was normally deserted in the day but often held bonfires and post-work parties by fellow cruise ship employees.
Kalaupapa National Historical Park
Kalaupapa National Historical Park is bittersweet, not the kind of place you travel to buy souvenirs. It is the kind of place from which you bring back lasting memories. Novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer, Robert Louis Stevenson described it as a prison fortified by nature. It is not easy to get to but so worth the effort. On the Hawaiian island of Molokai, it is surrounded by the crashing waves of the pacific ocean on three sides and 1,700 ft high sea cliffs on the other. There is to say the least, limited access to the peninsula. You can fly in by small plane, hike or ride on mule back down the 2.9 mile steep trail with 26 switchbacks and the most breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Unless you are a guest of one of the few residents, the only way to visit is with Damien Tours. Very exclusive, only 100 people are permitted to enter daily, and that includes resident’s guests.
Haleakala National Park
Haleakalᾱ volcano rises 10023 ft above the Pacific Ocean and occupies almost half of the Maui Island of Hawaii. The geologic history of Haleakalᾱ is estimated to have begun a million years ago, around the time of woolly mammoth and saber tooth tigers! It comprises of colourful cinder cones scattered throughout the valley floor. The most recent eruption took place in 1802. This volcano is considered to be an active but currently non-erupting volcano. I got a chance to see this place a few years back. It is a matchless heaven weathered and coloured over time. The rains have oxidized the earth and the winds have emphasized the cinder cones! When I actually got to the summit, I wondered what was so good about this volcano. I hardly saw the cinder cones and the lush bright colors of the soil! We were told to hike up a trail to experience it for ourselves. Therefore, we started trudging towards what we really hadn’t anticipated. What I am going to quote is often said my the people of Maui that clouds in and around the summit of Haleakalᾱ carry whispers of another time. It is said that the demigod of Maui fished Haleakalᾱ and all the Hawaiin volcanoes from the sea, pulling them up and flinging his fishhook to the heavens. On clear nights, the fishhook of Maui, now the Scorpio, can still be seen in the sky from the summit of Haleakalᾱ.
Ho'okipa Beach Park
If you’re an experienced surfer, head to the north coast of Maui, close to Kahului, and catch the morning waves at Ho’okipa Beach. If you windsurf, you’ve probably already heard of Ho’okipa as a windsurfing mecca. Wait until the afternoon and hit the water with hundreds of other windsurfers from around the world. Maui also has a world-class spot for kitesurfers, known appropriately as Kite Beach.
While halting in the isle of Maui, we got a chance to snorkel in the deep seas. We chose to go to the island of Molokini about 2 ½ kms from the mainland. The island of Molokini is an extinct volcano in a shape of a crescent which provides protection from waves and powerful currents, making this area one of the top ten dive sites in the world. It is said to be a home for nearly 250 species of fish which are found nowhere else on earth. Our day begun at 6 am in the morning with a perfect weather taking us through the pristine waters of the Pacific Ocean. I had no clue about what we were about to witness, something so magnificent and unimaginable! They were the humpback whales swimming, splashing, playing and enjoying the warm waters of the island. While talking to a local on our boat, he mentioned that these whales come to the Maui waters to protect and teach their calves to survive since the water is warm and safe from the rest of the ocean. It was over-whelming to see 45 foot long whale spouting water through its blow-hole giving us a fantastic view, just what you see on National Geographic or the Discovery Channel. Being in that moment and capturing the site is beyond any explanation. After our experience with the humpbacks we came across the most loving, playful and popular fish of the big seas – yes, I am talking about the dolphins! They frolicked, flaunted and danced in front of our boat. It almost felt as though they were trying to please us or as if they have put up a small act before us. Whatever it was, the spinner dolphins did their best to impress us to the core!
Kalaupap4a Mule Tour
When we heard about Molokai’s Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour, Rick was ecstatic! The great outdoors, wild animals, the highest sea cliffs in the world, and a leper colony all were the makings of a great adventure. Sandi said “I can’t do it. It’s too high up, too dangerous, there are big animals involved, I’m scared, and I’ll just wait for you back at the barn.” With a little coaxing and the promise of a cold beer at the Hotel Molokai after the ride, Rick convinced Sandi to give it a try. Mule skinner, Hawaiian cowboy and co-owner of the Molokai Mule Ride, Buzzy Sproat matched us up with what he felt were mules that suited us perfectly. We were confident in his choices after he reassured us that he’d never seen a suicidal mule. In fact, he has expertly trained and matched mules to riders for over 30 years. From the cliff hugging 2.9 mile ride down the highest sea cliffs in the world to the extraordinary afternoon we spent learning about Kalaupapa, Father Damian and the struggles and courage of the people banished to the leper colony, we took off on what was one of our most spectacular adventures to date.