Travel Details for Maui January 14-18, 2008: Route, lodging, dining, and shopping
Guides and General Information
We flew in and out of Kahului Airport.
At the airport rental car counter we took advantage of an upgrade that put us in a red Mustang convertible – the ubiquitous Maui tourist vehicle, but a fun ride. (Albeit a under powered ride. What do they do to these rental cars to make them so wimpy?)
We relied on Wizard Publication’s Maui Revealed for most of our tourist information.
I had planned to spend most nights at bed and breakfasts, but Maui was in the process of either adopting new regulations or enforcing the existing regulations (the story varies considerably depending on who is telling it), so a lot of B & Bs would not guarantee they would still be in operation when I needed to stay there. Others required too many nights for a minimum stay. It was really frustrating.
We spent our first night at the Maui Beach Hotel in Kahului because it was a good jumping-off spot for the Hana Highway. The staff was friendly and the common areas pleasant, but our room was small, warn, dark, and sort of unpleasant. (It did have internet access though.) The web site indicates it is/has been remodeled, but they clearly hadn’t gotten to our room yet. There isn’t much in the neighborhood (it’s a strip commercial area), but we did have a good restaurant within walking distance.
In Hana we stayed south of Hana town at the prosaically named Hana Accommodation. We had the Lani Makaalae Studio, which was located just off the highway, but with a nice view and a private patio and garden.
The room itself was pretty clean and spacious, but with a few quirks – like no bathroom sink (you had to use the kitchen sink). The shower was a little scary because it never really dries, so bring shower shoes. The decorations were eastern (Indonesian or Indian maybe), which we liked, but might not be to everyone’s taste. For the price (under $100 a night), we thought it was a good deal and the location was excellent, but it is far from a lux accommodation. For the price, we would gladly stay here again though.
In Makena: Despite some issues, I would also recommend the Maui Prince – as long as you understand how the property is situated and what you are a getting for your money.
On the plus side:
- The beach is magnificent and a short swim lets you observe sea turtles.
- The service is excellent.
- All of the restaurants seem to be wonderful. We ate in Hakone twice and in the bar once, both of which were excellent. The sushi bar at Hakone was exceptional (but expensive).
- The central courtyard is drop-dead gorgeous, but there are few places to sit and enjoy it.
- Parking is free, as are most of the other amenities that many other spots either charge for on an ala cart basis or in a separate (mandatory) “resort fee.”
- It is a large property and, even when fully-booked, you’ll think you are the only ones here.
- The surrounding area is relatively undeveloped, making for lovely views and pleasant walking – although there seems to be a lot of construction underway near the hotel, so that lovely isolation may soon be gone.
On the other hand:
- An ocean view room means you can see the ocean from some far corner of your lanai. You may face the more unattractive edges of the property from a lower floor. This is explained on the website, but I never found it when I booked my room. (I looked!) Had I known what I was getting, I either would have paid extra to up-grade or looked elsewhere, as this was the most expensive hotel on my itinerary and I was expecting a place where I could see the ocean.
- Apparently they have very few king rooms. The vast majority of rooms have two full-size beds, not even queen beds.
- Internet access is $10 a day.
- The hotel is NOT located right on the beach. From an environmental perspective, I appreciate this. However, this distance from the ocean means lower-level rooms and the restaurants do NOT have a view of the beach, although lower oceanfront rooms do have lovely views of the ocean through swaying palms. Nor is there a beach bar. Again, not a bad thing, just something to know – especially if you have a weakness for beachside cocktails at the end of the day 🙂
Nothing is cheap at the Prince, but there aren’t many extra charges either. The price is reasonable when compared to similar properties at this end of Maui – as long as you understand what you are getting.
I didn’t realize what I was getting and was very disappointed with the lack of view (you could see the ocean from one tiny corner of our lanai) and the fact there was nowhere else on the property to relax with a drink and enjoy the scenery. However, when I finally got really frustrated and complained that the website needs to be clearer on what sort of view the rooms have, I was upgraded for our final night to an oceanfront room with a glorious view.
In Kahului we had dinner at the Latin-inspired Manana Garage [now closed]. The restaurant has an auto garage theme, a friendly cat, and great food and beverages. The menu was creative and everything we tried (and we tried as many things as we could!) was beautifully prepared. Service was attentive and helpful. However, it was under new ownership the week we arrived, so things may have changed.
On the Road to Hana, the best trail mix and banana bread imaginable is available at the Keanae Landing Fruit Stand just off the main highway.
In Hana we stocked up on pupu at Hasegawa’s Store, where the packages of poi stacked by the cash register bore a big sign that read “Please do not play with the poi.” (Hasegawa’s sells pretty much anything anyone could ever need and a few other items besides.)
For dinner in Hana I had made reservations (which proved unnecessary) at the Hotel Hana Maui’s Ka’uiki [now merged into a new restaurant]. This is the fanciest restaurant in town, which features modern Pacific fare in a lovely modern space. It’s quite expensive, but our meal was lovely and we really enjoyed it.
Other dining options along the route can be found at Maui Menus Online [now Menusearch.net].
In Makena on the other side of Maui, we found Hakone at the Maui Prince so good (and convenient) that we ate there two nights. The second night we ate at the sushi bar, where we had an amazing, made-to-show-off sushi roll. Yum, yum! We also ate in the Molokini Lounge, which had a nice assortment of tasty appetizers.
In Wailuku (near the Iao Needle) we ate at the hard-to-find and highly touted Saigon Café. Maybe the dumpy, sort of sticky, small-town Italian restaurant atmosphere was too much for me to see beyond, but I can’t figure out why this place is supposed to be so special. I had the shrimp pops, which were interesting, but not outstanding, along with another (dull) appetizer. Lane’s meal was also pretty ordinary. The food was ok and fresh, but not anything special. Sit on the back porch for a bit of fresh air (the smell in the main dining area was pretty strong), but be prepared for indifferent service. We went to a lot of trouble to find this place and I was very disappointed.
The Road to Hana is a great drive, but it’s not Highway 1 in northern California either – it isn’t as dramatic, although the numerous one-lane bridges add a sense of adventure. (How I wished we’d had my Miata instead of the stodgy Mustang!) It is best done in a convertible where you can see above, otherwise you would miss half the scenery.
Don’t try to do it the road a day. Yes, it’s a hassle to switch lodgings in Hawaii (where every place is geared to travelers staying in the same place for a week), but plan to spend at LEAST one night in Hana. Two would be better and three would be best. The extra time lets you stop wherever you want along the way, gives you time to go beyond Hana (which really is the most beautiful section of the entire drive), and spend a day or two exploring that area. We did not have enough time here.
There are many, many stops one can make on the road to Hana, most of which seem to be pictured at About.com and at Thomas on Islands.
Additional information and history on the road and its attractions are discussed in the Honolulu Star-Bullentin, the Hanalani Hideway website, and, of course, Maui Revealed. Information on Hana town can be found at Hasegawa’s website.
Haleakala National Park actually extends all the way down to Kipahulu to the south of Hana, but the summit area is reached form the north. The park service seems to have a couple of web sites, whatever that is all about. Beside the Park Service information, professional photographs taken in the park. This is the only park that charged an entry fee, but we were able to use the same pass for three days, which allowed us to pay at the Seven Sacred Pools in the south and then reuse our pass to visit the summit. It seemed like a very good value.
The Ioa Valley would be a lovely spot for a picnic, as it really is a pretty place. Watch for a sunny day though, as the area was swathed in clouds and rain during much of our time on Maui.
Lahaina is a funky beach town with lots and lots of bars, restaurants, tacky tourist shops, and an inexplicably large number of high-end art galleries. There are also always lots of cars and people here too.
Molokini is one of the best (if not the best) snorkeling spot on the island. This means it will be crowded. Still, it is worth it for the amazing number of fish you will see. We booked through our hotel with Kai Kanani Charters, which turned out to be a good choice. While not a small ship, it is smaller than many, has a knowledgeable staff, and provides a good experience. There is an early morning “Express” tour that is much cheaper, but consider what time the sun rises and how much light you’ll have.