Hawaii is truly a paradise with delicious food and beautiful sceneries. I spent 5 days on Maui, the second largest island, over MLK weekend and wished I could stay longer. I saw the most beautiful sunrise from the summit of Haleakalā National Park and chased waterfalls on the 64-miles drive on the Road to Hana. On the other hand, I was also in Hawaii when the erroneous ballistic missile alert was sent out. Among the good and bad, this was definitely a memorable trip.
We flew from SFO to OGG on Alaska Airline and arrived around noon on Thursday. Most of the restaurants were around Kahului by the airport and we ate Hawaiian cuisine at Da Kitchen. I ordered the Notorious B.I.G. Loco Moco and it was delicious and massive. After lunch, we drove 50 minutes to Ka’anapali on the western part of the island to the Westin Resort where we stayed. The drive was absolutely stunning with green, luscious mountains on the right and aqua blue water to the left.
We spent the afternoon chilling at the hotel pool and watched the sunset from the beach. From shore, we saw Lanai to our left, where the sun set behind, and Molokai on our right. It was a clear day so we were lucky to see Molokai’s peak, otherwise it’s usually covered by clouds. There were also a bunch of whales breaching in the ocean, some of which very close to shore. We saw them blow water, flip their tails out, and even jump out of the water.
Dinner was at Leilani’s at the Whaler Village. It claimed to have the best fish tacos in Maui, but it was just mediocre. After walking around the shops at the Whaler Village, we went to bed early in preparation for a 2:30 AM departure the next morning for sunrise at the Haleakalā crater.
It felt more like a nap than a night’s sleep. We left the hotel at 2:45 AM and drove 1 hour 45 minutes up the windy roads to the summit. It was pitch black and the roads were super curvy, so be careful doing the drive. We were probably the 20th car at the summit, but had we been 30 minutes later we would’ve had to park at the visitor’s center and hike .5 mile up. It was freezing (40 degrees) and super windy at the top.
I spent an hour by myself taking night photos and attempted to get shots of my headlamp shining upwards towards the stars. But it’s nearly impossible doing that solo with a tripod. I tried.
After a quick nap in the car, we waited outside for the sun to rise. We chose the outdoor area over the indoor pavilion to get a better view, but had to weather the elements at 10,023 ft. We were above the clouds and even without the sunrise the view was beautiful. The sunrise over the clouds was breathtaking – totally worth the early morning drive and braving the cold.
When we left the summit, it was 40-some degrees, but by the time we reached the bottom it was 80-some degrees. Ridiculous. We had lunch at Tin Roof Maui, a take-out place with yummy poke and other dishes.
For most of the afternoon, we drank champagne and mimosa in the hotel awaiting Tanisha’s surprise sunset booze cruise. It was a pretty epic surprise where we blindfolded her and walked her to the beach to board the cruise. She was pleasantly surprised.
The cruise was about 3 hours with an open bar, and we saw a ton of whales out in the ocean. It was so relaxing watching the sunset from the cruise with good company and booze. It felt timeless. Coming off the cruise, we were sufficiently boozed up and spent the rest of the evening hanging out with everyone in the hotel. And then had dinner at Star Noodles.
The next morning, we left the hotel around 7 AM for the Road to Hana. We drove for an hour and reached the town of Pai’a when all of our phones went off and we thought it was just an amber alert. Never in a million years would I expect to see an alert that a missile is inbound to where I am. We pulled into a parking lot and tried to figure out what’s going on with other tourists and locals. Long story short, that was the longest 20 minutes of our lives with all sorts of emotions and thoughts running through our minds. It’s a feeling I’ve never experienced, and never want to, before.
After the whole scare was deemed a mistake, we continued our journey to Hana! The road has 600 hairpin turns and 54 one-lane bridges. I drove on average 25 mph because it was that windy. We drove to Wailua Falls at the end and made our way back. We were bummed the Seven Sacred Pools was closed, but everything else was still beautiful.
Wai’anapanapa State Park was one of my favorite. There were jagged volcanic rocks along the cliffs and black sand beaches. What made it even prettier were the luscious, green plants everywhere and the blue waves crashing into the rocks. The entire coastal viewed looked like that.
Next, we grabbed food at Nahiku Marketplace, one of the few places with food along the drive. It was just a strip of shops and food trucks along the roadside. Half of the food trucks were closed, but the Thai food we ordered was pretty good.
Further along the road, we stopped by Keane Peninsula to see the giant waves and more coastal views. The waves here were even larger and made giant splashes as they crashed against the rocks. I love coastal views and watching the ocean more than I enjoyed chasing waterfalls.
Our last stop was the Garden of Eden. It wasn’t very big, but it offered a high vantage point overlook the water. We saw the rock where the first Jurassic Park was filmed and walked through trails with local plants. Our car also got surrounded by a flock of peacocks because I decided to feed them a bread crumb from the window.
Overall, the Road to Hana was enjoyable. The drive wasn’t too bad, just have to be careful and alert. I thought it was beautiful along the entire drive, so even if you don’t stop at too many places it’s still nice. A full day is definitely necessary to make the trip worth it, and we heard that it’s not good to drive the road at night. Make sure you gas up and stock up on food before starting the journey, because they’re scarce and expensive.
After two days of pre-dawn starts, we slept in the next morning and had lunch at Pai’a Fish Market in Lahaina. All the dishes we ordered, from fish & chips to Cajun Mahi Mahi, were all delicious. After the main meal, we had Ululani’s Shaved Ice – it has 5 stars on Yelp with over 2,000 reviews! It lived up to its hype and my passion orange, mango and guava shaved ice was so good.
Tanisha drove Ashley and Jackie to the airport while Xavier, Adrian and I walked the 4 miles back to the hotel. The walk was scenic for most of the way, along the beach and through the hotel districts. We passed by the Hyatt and saw tropical penguins!
We spent our final afternoon in Maui chilling on the beach with cocktails in hand. The waves were massive so I attempted, and succeeded, at body surfing with a boogie board. When I timed it right, the wave picked me up and I was pushed towards shore so quickly. We also threw a mini football around but as we drank more, our throwing and catching abilities dwindled.
Our flight out of Maui the next day was in the afternoon, so we drove to Ho’okipa Lookout in the morning to take in the view one last time. The waves here are massive, especially during this time of the year, and they host surfing and kite surfing competitions here. We saw a couple of surfers out on the water and they were tiny compared to how high the waves came up. It was a great way to end the trip
I was sad to leave Hawaii and its beautiful sceneries. Five days was just enough to do most things on Maui, but I could relax there forever. My favorite part was the sunrise at Haleakalā and feeling like I’m on top of the world (almost literally). And of course, the people made the trip memorable and filled with smiles and laughter. I made new friends and got closer to old friends. For a group that’s never traveled together, we got along very well and had such a fun time together.