Hawaii Part I: Maui

Truly the trip of a lifetime. (For all photos, see here.)

Day 1: Friday, October 9

We left JFK at 10am on a Hawaiian Airlines flight direct to JFK, which put us in the Honolulu Airport around 2:45pm. The six hour time difference gave us an even stronger justification to grab a few drinks during the two and a half hour layover.

Brian Honolulu Airport Trip to Hawaii

After a quick 40 minute flight, we arrived in Maui around 6pm. in time to pick up our four door Jeep Wrangler (hard top!) from Avis.

Aloha Welcome to Maui Airport Sign Hawaii

Maui Jeep

From there, we made the short 28 minute drive to Kula Lodge (15200 Haleakala Highway, Kula, HI) with one pit stop for water and snacks, in time for our 8pm dinner reservation at Kula Lodge.

Kula Lodge Maui Hawaii Kula Lodge Maui Hawaii Mai Tai

Day 2: Saturday, October 10

The jet lag assisted in our 4am awakening. We left Kula Lodge quickly and made the drive up the windy road to the summit of Haleakala.

Drive to Haleakala Maui Hawaii

We arrived in time to watch the beautiful sun rise through the clouds.

Sunrise Haleakala Maui Hawaii 1Sunrise Haleakala Maui Hawaii   Sunrise Haleakala Maui Hawaii 4

The temperature quickly jumped from around 30 degrees into a much more tolerable 50-60 — perfect for our hike on the incredible Sliding Sands Trail. I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like it — the landscape is more akin to what I’d imagine Mars to be like than anything on this planet.

Sliding Sands Trail Haleakala Maui 1Brian Kroski Haleakala Hiking Sliding Sands Trail Maui Hawaii

Just be careful: going down is infinitely easier than hiking back up!

Tamara on Sliding Sands Trail Haleakala Maui Hawaii

Once we had completed our hike, we meandered around the visitors’ center and checked out the “lookout” points.

We drove back to Kula Lodge and had some coffee and fruit around 10:30.

Kula Lodge Maui Kula Lodge Upcountry Maui Hawaii

On my itinerary, I had Polipoli Spring State Recreational Area & Forest Reserve on our list (also in Kula). From a website I found:

The Polipoli Spring State Recreational Area & Forest Reserve is one of the most magical areas in Maui to go hiking. Many different trails are available, ranging from .6 to 7 miles in length. Polipoli is elevated at an average 7,000 feet above sea level. The skyline offers gorgeous views of Maui’s South Shore and outer islands. When hiking through Polipoli, it is common to feel like you are one with the clouds, and suddenly transported into a misty fairyland full of baby Redwood trees and native Hawaiian flora and fauna. The Polipoli trail is an easy one for those traveling with children, maxing out at .6 miles crossing through the Haleakala Ridge Trail. The Redwood Trail encompasses 1.7 miles, winding through Redwoods, trail junctions and tree groves. It is also the trail that accesses further trails, including the Plum Trail (via the Tie Trail (.5 miles), and Boundary Trail). Please note that Polipoli Spring State Park is a network of trails, and shorter and longer options are available. Pay close attention to the trail signs while hiking. There are no fees for entering or parking at the Polipoli Spring Park.

However, the drive up there spooked us a bit. Given the muddy conditions and the frequent signs warning us about hunters, we eventually abandoned our quest to hike Polipoli.

PoliPoli Maui Hawaii

We abandoned ship and instead spent some time driving, around Makawao town and through upcountry.

We also checked out the north shore, where you’ll find some of the best surfing.

Later in the day, we checked into Paia Inn (93 Hana Highway), an adorable little inn on the north shore of Maui that provides beach access and a quaint ambiance.

(You’ll notice we encountered a turtle that I initially thought was fake …)


That evening, we headed down to Charley’s (142 Hana Highway) for some food and entertainment.

Day 3: Sunday, October 11

We woke up early to embark on the legendary Road to Hana. After filling up the gas tank at Mana Foods (49 Baldwin), we departed Paia and began the long and twisty road to the east side of Maui.

We skipped some stops due to the mudslides and rainy weather, but did see the following:

Garden of Eden Arboreteum – Beautifully maintained. Check out the 100 year old mango tree, bamboo, spectacular views of the ocean — just make sure to bring your OFF. I was eaten alive by the mosquitoes.

Garden of Eden Road to Hana Maui Hawaii

Halfway to Hana Stand (Mile Marker 17)

You have many options for fresh baked banana bread along the Road to Hana. I think we’ve tried them all. And though we’ve never been disappointed by any of the breads sold, we think the bread here is the best. They sell other food and drinks as well.

Nahiku Markeplace (Mile Marker 29)

This is a fun spot to pick up some gifts and have a great meal. They have some of the better kalua pork tacos we’ve ever had. Some guidebooks will have you travel down Nahiku Road. We feel it’s just as beautiful as Hana Hwy and frankly a waste of time. Also, much of it is private land, so it’s best to respectfully move on.

Hana Lava Tubes (Mile Marker 31)

At around the 31 mile marker, you’ll need to turn left on ‘Ula’ino Road and drive for less than 1/2 a mile. On the left, you’ll see where you can get your flashlights for this massive lava tube. Also, they have a garden maze that’s fun to cruise through.

Wai’anapanapa State Park at Mile Marker 32 – Amazing black sand beaches.

As described here:

As far as Maui scenery goes, this is where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. Meaning “glistening water”, Wai’anapanapa offers a little something for everyone, including a picture-perfect black sand beach, sea arches, a blowhole, freshwater caves, hiking and walking trails, lava tubes, cliff jumping, and stunning panoramic views of the rugged East Maui coastline. The turquoise water against the black sand and bright green plant life is truly gorgeous, and while most visitors only stop to snap a few photos and move on, we highly recommend taking a little longer to explore this park fully. Take a dip in the refreshing freshwater cave, stand inside of the lava tube and watch the locals cliff dive from jagged islets. Park entrance is free for visitors, and camp sites and cabins are available with advance notice for visitors who wish to stay longer with friends and family.

We drove past Hana and decided to hike the Pipiwai Trail, which was an incredible experience.


Pipiwai Trail, a 4-mile roundtrip hike which leads visitors to a giant banyan trees, through a thick bamboo forest and ends at Waimoku Falls, a gorgeous 400 foot cascading waterfall. Great place to stretch your legs and take a swim! Full restroom facilities and picnic tables available. ‘Ohe’o Gulch is located 12 miles past the town of Hana at Mile Marker #42. Public parking is available past the entrance.

We ended our day with dinner and drinks at the Hotel Travaasa (5031 Hana Highway).

Room in Hotel Travaasa Hana Maui Hawaii

Day 4: Wednesday, October 12

Still not completely recovered from my jet lag, I found myself awake before the sunrise on Wednesday, and took advantage of the opportunity to walk the grounds and watch the sun rise over the ocean — an incredible experience.

Sunrise Hotel Travaasa Hana Maui Hawaii

We made the trek back from Hana quickly, and were happy to be done driving for the day as we checked into Mama’s Fish House (799 Poho Place), which Brian and I agreed was perhaps the best meal we’d ever eaten.

Day 5: Tuesday, October 13

Another early morning. Today’s adventure started at Buzz’s Wharf, where we left with Sail Trilogy for an exciting day snorkeling on Molokini Crater.

After snorkeling, we checked into the Hyatt in Kaanapali (200 Nohea Kai Drive) and drove to Lahaina (Front Street) for the Feast at Lele (505 Front Street).

Feast at Lele Brian Maui Hawaii Feast of Lele Maui Hawaii

After the luau, we returned to our hotel for a late night drink.

Day 6: Wednesday, October 14

Time to check out of the Hyatt and head to the airport!

Read about the rest of our trip in part II …

Credit Cards, Accounts, and Other Tips

As a personal finance nerd who is always in search of a bargain and spends her free time reading NerdWallet and PointsGuy (and who may or may not have shed a few tears when Suze Orman went off the air), I’m happy to share some of my findings. Add your own tips and thoughts in the comments …

France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, Italy, WHEW!

Brian and I seem to have a real thing for the jam-packed itinerary … join us on a recounting of our trek through Europe in June. (Full photos here.)