WHERE WE STAYED:
Paia: on Maui’s north shore, a one-intersection hippy/surfer town. Cute bars + restaurants, (pricey) organic groceries and an amazing surfing beach nearby (Ho'okipa). Our place was in a residential neighbourhood, on a dirt road. A fully equipped little apartment with a garden and bbq. The perk: The location.
Hana: A remote, naturally stunning area at the end of the infamous “road to Hana”. We rented a room/small apartment in a beautiful house with a lush tropical garden full of exotic flowers, mangoes and curious wild creatures. The perk: A natural fresh-water pool just across the road.
BEST MEAL: Low end—Road-side mango bread and off-the-tree bananas. High end—Capiche in ritzy Wailea, recommended by my fancy publisher. Catch of the day, Mahi Mahi, was to die for.
WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS: Swimming with beautifully slow sea-turtles (but no touching! Strict conservation laws merit a $1000 fine.) near the island of Lanai which was once owned by Dole exclusively for growing pineapple. Included whale and dolphin sightings. Operated by knowledgable guides at Adventure Maui.
• Horseback riding with native shaman and guide Keone who started and ended our trip with Hawaiian chants of thanks and reminded us that Hawaii is still considered an illegally occupied territory by the US in the eyes of the United Nations.
NATURAL HIGH: Haleakala volcano. Zigzagging up the fastest climbing road in the world to 10,000ft for moon-like landscapes. Watching the environment transform from tropical to sub-zero desert once you rise above the clouds. Appreciating the size and shape of the island while admiring both coasts from your perch.
• The incredible Banyan tree that spans a full city block in Lahaina (you can see it on Google maps). Particularly breathtaking at dusk in December when the light is golden, the birds hiding in the tree get loud (!) and the Christmas lights strung throughout are aglow.
DON’T MISS: Seven Sacred Pools (aka Oheo Gulch) in the National Park, although crowded with other overexcited tourists, it's a place with incredible views and vegetation. Definitely take the hour-long hike to Wailua Falls, it will take you past smaller falls and pools, bridges and through the incredible bamboo forest.
• Mambo cafe in Paia for delicious quesadillas and great atmosphere.
RISKIEST MOVE: Driving on one lane (for both ways) dirt roads that voided our rental contract.
BEST BUY: Dark chocolate-covered Macadamia nuts, in bulk.
BIZARRO SIGHTING: Surfing dog! Yep, it's true, we have photographic evidence. It seemed like a bit of a bumpy ride, but at least he was staying safe, wrapped in a life-jacket.
HOW COULD THERE POSSIBLY BE SO MANY: Pit bulls guarding surfboards on the backs of pick-up trucks.
FIRST TIME: Rising with the sun almost every day. Lack of curtains in Hana made it easy.
WORST MOMENT: Ken: heart-stopping local favourite—beef patty on rice topped with gravy and poached eggs. For breakfast. Ugh. Una: Slamming pinky toe in the car door right before a rain-forest hike, coming back to it twice-the-size and a deep shade of mauve.
MUST-BRING ITEM OF CLOTHING: Very warm coat, if you plan on going up to Haleakala.