It’s strange to think that it’s easier to get to Hawaii from New Zealand than to visit home. We hadn’t seen my family since we moved to Auckland… but instead of travelling all the way to Washington, DC, we decided to have a reunion at the half-way mark – Hawaii!
It was a big milestone birthday for my brother, so we had a lot to celebrate! He picked an amazing condo at the Honua Kai in Kaanapali, and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
Generally we spent a lot of time hanging out and catching up poolside – with Duke’s drinks in hand. We ate a TON of fresh poke (who knew some of the best on the island comes from Safeway?!). But we also were able to do some exploring. Here are some of the excursions we took – that I’d highly recommend!
Bike down a volcano at sunrise:
Witnessing a sunrise from the very top of Haleakala is supposed to be amazing and worth the 2:00am wake-up call. But, if you get unlucky and get bad weather – there’s still a silver lining.
There’s really no way to guarantee that you won’t have freezing rain at the top (like we did), since the weather is so drastically different at that elevation. We completely missed the supposed sunrise, but that meant that as the weather clears, you’ll have the most vivid rainbows during the downhill bike ride. I mean, look at that photo opp! We went with Cruiser Phil’s guided tour (which was awesome, and had an option for the parents to ride in the passenger van while the kids biked).
The tour ended in Paia Town, a super cute little place that grew out of the sugar cane plantation business. I’d never seen this local side of Hawaii before!
Drive the Road to Hana:
Or in our case… take over 7 of 10 seats on a tour bus (we chose Valley Isle) so no one has to navigate the twisty roads! The Road to Hana is the longest drive through a rainforest in the US. There are so many sights along the way, and it makes for a very long day, but worth doing with a good, entertaining bunch of people! You’ll see rainbow eucalyptus trees, waterfalls, black sand beaches, lava tubes, farm stands and more.
My favourite stop was Waianapanapa State Park where we got to explore the lava tubes and crops – all the black sand and lava was such a striking contrast to the bright green vegetation. I also liked the Waikamoi Ridge Trail – another place they let you out of the bus to stretch your legs. We insisted on a bonus stop for coffee at the cutest local stand – again, possible when you make up the majority of the bus!
Go snorkelling with massive sea turtles:
Molokini is a crescent-shaped reef and one of the most popular snorkel spots in Maui. It gets crowded, but our tour was the very first boat to arrive in the morning. We booked with Pacific Whale, whose tours benefit their foundation’s research. The best part was stopping at Turtle Tower on the cruise back. We got really lucky and saw two enormous sea turtles emerge from their hiding places, and then watched them each return.
Eat delicious seafood in Lahaina:
Again, I’d never seen such cute little towns in Hawaii. Most of the areas I’d been before (in Kauai and the Big Island) were either super remote or very resorty. Stop to see the Banyan Trees in the town square! Plus, there are tons of cute shops to walk around and some delicious-looking restaurants. We went to Mala Ocean Tavern which felt super local and had amazing dishes and cocktails.
Oh, plus our resort had a little group of stray cats and a volunteer group that fed them each morning 🙂