Lahaina, Maui

Nancy Norris
I had the immeasurable pleasure of spending a few weeks on this island paradise, and then was even more fortunate to enjoy follow-up visits on two Hawaii cruises taken the same year. To say that I have fallen in love with Maui is an understatement. As I share my thoughts, impressions and suggestions of Maui, bear in mind it will reflect a compilation of each of these experiences. TIP #1: If you have any choice in cruise line or itinerary, select a cruise that tenders overnight in Maui. Having done both, overnighting is the only way to see even a fraction of what this island offers. Arriving by ship, you will tender in the Lahaina Harbor. Lahaina, once a sleepy whaling village, is an eclectic mix of waterfront restaurants and bars, chic clothing shops, and art galleries. It is a great place to start your tour of the island. If you are lucky enough to be in port on a week-end, there is usually a craft fair set up in the park under the huge Banyon tree in the center of town. If all you plan to do is shop and enjoy the beach, then I recommend grabbing a cab, or the Whaler’s Village shuttle (both available right off the tender pier) that will take you to nearby Ka’anapali Beach. A beautiful beach, with the backdrop of an avenue of fashionable hotels and oceanfront restaurants makes this a very popular (and crowded) spot on Maui. Add to that the expansive Whaler’s Village shopping complex and one could spend their entire vacation on this small strip of land. If you are more adventurous or wish to explore more of the island, my suggestion would be to rent a car. TIP #2: On Maui the airport is on the other side of the island, well over 45 minutes away, so make sure use a national rental company that has a location in Ka’anapali, or a local agency in Lahaina. Way too much valuable time is wasted garnering and returning a vehicle from the airport location! During whale season, a drive south along the coast to MacGregor Point should provide great whale spotting opportunities. If you choose to venture north head to Kapalua Bay (impressive by the way) and make sure to stop at Napili Bay, one of my favorite spots on the island. There is a great little restaurant on the beach that serves a very reasonable lunch, and potent drinks. The beach there is secluded and is usually quite calm. Having shopped, toured the coast and enjoyed the beach (if you are lucky enough to have taken TIP #1 and selected an itinerary that overnights in Lahaina) nightlife awaits. Lahaina is one of the few places on the islands, other than Honolulu, that can actually claim to have a nightlife. This island, inhabited by many “hippies” in the late 60’s, then gradually replaced by artists, still has wonderful local color and a friendly ambiance where everyone is accepted and welcome. Now, if I were to recommend just one “not to be missed” activity, it would be the Sunrise Bike Trip on Mt. Haleakala. Although you have to be prepared for a 4:00 am van pick up to deliver you to the top of the mountain in time to watch the sunrise (By the way, another reason to adhere to TIP #1, as this trip cannot be done otherwise), it is well worth the inconvenience. The magnificent sunrise and awesome beauty of this bike ride was one of those life experiences I will never forget! TIP #3: If possible, book this trip with an excursion company that will allow you to reserve space, but not actually pay until the day of the trip. First, if the weather is cloudy and rainy, don’t go. Rather than witnessing a marvelous sunrise, you may be subjected to no sun and strong winds driving cold, wet sleet in your face for the 38 mile bike trip down the mountain. Secondly, there is the off chance that tenders will not be running to get you off the ship, if waters in the harbor are rough. Having also taken the Road to Hana, I would suggest you save this trip for a return visit to the island when time is not of the essence. Although very beautiful, it is very long and can be grueling. I would like to end this review with one final tip. TIP #4: If you rent a car and plan on keeping it overnight, there is a hidden treasure known by the locals – a place to park for free. I am privy to that secret and if you e-mail me, I would be more than happy to share the knowledge, e-mail me at nancy@portsidetravel.com..              

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