Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hawaii, January 2012--Driving in Maui

Surfer, Hamoa Bay, Maui
Just spent a few days on Maui to meet with a client and see if there were any goodies to be found in local thrift shops and antique stores.  Let’s just say that my shopping forays were not so successful--it’s a very different vibe from the East Coast.  Still, it was good to prowl around and see what there was to be had.

I’d not been to Maui before, so I was happy to take in a few of the sights.  I stayed at the Westin Maui over on the west side of the island. Quick review:  I am not a resort kind of a girl--too many people, too loud, too generic.  I’m a huge fan of the Westin brand, but once I was in the hotel, I could have been in Columbus, or Chicago or anywhere.  It makes me sad to think that a visitor to Maui might go to a resort, seldom leave and think that they had really seen Hawai’i.  Needless to say, I did not hang around the pool all day! 

After checking out some shops in Wailuku, I decided to drive back to the resort around the northwestern side of the island, instead of the more usual southwestern route.  I had not read the guide book before I set out so I did not know that the road gets progressively more narrow and winding as you go, to the point where it is one lane in spots.  So what’s the big deal?  The one lane has a cliff dropping to the ocean on one side and a wall of rock on the other.  And no guard rail.  There was really only one hairy moment when I came head to head with another car and had nowhere to go.  I love to drive, so this was a delightful side trip for me, though I can see how nervous drivers might freak out in some parts.

Maui, northwest coast, with Moloka'i in the distance
The reward, though, was some extraordinary scenery and very few people, which is just right for me.  At one point, I sat on a boulder high on a cliff overlooking the ocean--no people, no cars, just me and the wind and the water.  I swear, for a few minutes it felt like I was the only person in the world, staring out on to thousands of miles of ocean. 

After that spectacular drive, I almost didn’t drive the renowned road to Hana--I figured it was probably just more of what I had already done.  I left very early (6am) to avoid traffic which was well worth it, as there were very few cars on the road and the morning light was beautiful.  Really, after my drive the day before it seemed long, but pretty easy (guard rails!), and full of twists and turns and one-lane bridges.  The scenery is lush and green and smells of earth, waterfalls and flowers. 
Lava rock shoreline at Ke'anae
The prize at the end of the drive is Hana, which guide books will tell you is no great shakes, but that small-town, laid-back vibe is just right for me.   Always on the lookout for the good surf spots, I headed to Hamoa Bay, touted as a pretty consistent break.  I got waylaid at nearby Koki beach, the legendary resting spot of goddess Pele’s bones that now abuts Oprah’s Hana estate.  It was still early when I got there and I literally had the entire beach to myself for a while. It was not too sunny (good for this pale girl) and the waves were suitably dramatic, so I ended up spending all morning there.

Koki Beach, Maui
I finally made it to Hamoa Bay, with its crescent-shaped beach and 4-6 foot waves.  A couple surfers were out and more boogie boarders.  The latter were not to be underestimated, as they were taking on the same overhead waves the surfers rode, which is pretty impressive.  This beach is right next to the Hotel Hana Maui, which is where I would stay if I could do it all again. 
Hamoa Bay, near Hana, Maui
My time on Maui went quickly, so I didn’t have a chance to see everything I might have liked (no, I didn’t see Haleakala at dawn--3am wake up call?!?).  Overall, Maui was much more crowded with tourists and just bigger and more spread out than what I am used to on Kaua’i.  Antiquing was a bust, but I was happy to see a bit more of Hawai’i.

On to Kaua’i...

© All text and images are copyright of Jeni Sandberg

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