Maui, back in time

The drive above the clouds

Being in a time zone that is behind everyone else is quite nice: you wake up when the rest of the world is going about their day; it seems to complement well with Hawaii’s laid-back take in life. But being 6 hours behind meant that every day started early, and especially early for our son the first few nights – when the sun wasn’t even up yet. Strangely enough, I would actually have a normal bedtime, crashing before or by 11 pm.

I wasn’t too sold on Maui when we booked our trip, as I didn’t really enjoy it last time we were here. But by the end of our trip, I told my sister that we should do this again in a few years; bonus points: the kids had a great time together (no crying in the church nursery)!

Highlights: Minimal diaper duty – yay, daddy duty!, local food (poke, ahi tuna, fish tacos, gelato / sorbeto in my case), super nice weather, walking distance to beautiful beach sunsets, laid-back vacationing – didn’t feel like our itinerary was jam-packed, even though we had activities every day, and because time change happened while we were gone, we had one less hour to adjust to coming back.

Low lights: Lost luggage – it’s material but annoying that we lost our epipen, 2lbs of Kona coffee, a brand new jump starter battery pack, and a family photo in a photo frame with two bonus prints from Maui Ocean Center (because it was their first day and they were still testing the waters); I was feeling so smug about being packed for our next trip too. More about that in the next section.

As my family was sick leading up to the trip, I finally got sick on the first day or two of the trip; what was nice that even though I felt perpetually cold inside because I was fighting a fever, I just had to sit outside for an hour or two to warm up. By the second day, I decided to buy some generic cold+flu medication and that helped tremendously.


One downside is that Maui is very far – we chose to board three planes going there, and two coming back. For those on the West Coast, it makes sense, whereas we probably would fare better in the Caribbean – and maybe it was the time of the year, but the waves were a little too much for the little ones to enjoy. Thankfully, kids were great on the plane; while we had very little sleep, even on a red-eye flight, there were no major crying episodes. Because we stopped over at YVR on our way back, the rest of my family met us there for a quick catch-up over a short breakfast; it was extremely nice to be able to see them! For future reference, it takes about 1.5 hours to walk from the gate in Canada through security and customs to the US gate (and a pee break) with young children; we just made it for boarding.

Strangely enough, after we boarded early and clipped in the car seats, a couple of passengers came on and told us that we had their seats. Sure enough, their boarding passes had the same seats that we did! As I went to try to sort it out with the flight attendants, we discovered that other seats and passengers had the same problem; they called it “seat tubing” (or something like that?!) but I couldn’t find what the problem was on Google. Thankfully, everyone ended up being seated in a seat, and we didn’t have to move.

A beautiful view approaching YVR from the middle seat of row 19E #redeyeflights

On our way back, at the luggage drop-off, the attendant offered to check-in a carry-on for us for free, so we took her up on the offer, as it meant that we didn’t have to carry it around with us in YVR. At YVR, the WJ folks were so nice to offer us a ride on a golf cart so that we didn’t have to walk the long walk from the gate to customs.  At customs, the kind security person just waved us over to the flight crew line and we bypassed 9 flights of passengers, just like that! I don’t know if we would’ve been able to sit down and have breakfast with my family otherwise; we only had about 45 minutes to do that even with the expedited process because our flight departed late.

Because it was a carry-on, we had left some of the more important items in that suitcase (like our epipen) and didn’t have a “this belongs to” tag on it. Somehow, in our rush to pick up our luggage at YYZ, we forgot about it, and didn’t think about it until we got to our Toronto home. But, the airline had not seen it when we called, so somehow it is still missing. WestJet has graciously offered to settle with the amount we claimed or give us a little extra in WJ credits!


Memorable highlights:

  • Costco sold unique items like poke, sashimi (ahi and marlin), wild ahi and moonfish steaks, Japanese-style boxed and frozen mochi, coconut rolls, Kona and other Hawaiian coffee, local papaya


  • Fruit stands on the side of the street:
    • Creamy, buttery, large avocadoes for $1
    • Passionfruit –  2 for $1
    • Miracle berry: makes everything sour taste like sour candy! A former co-worker told me about this, so when j.w saw them, I told him that 4 for $1 was worth trying, even if it was just for the novelty
    • Starfruit – 2 for $1
  • Maui Gold Pineapple: it must have been at the end of its season because by the last day or two, it sold from over $1.49 /lb to $0.88/lb for all available pineapple, which were mostly Dole ones; they taste different from Dole.
  • Candy apple bananas: native to Hawaii, they have a tinge of orange to them, are slightly firmer, and have a fruitier taste; you can bring this and pineapples back
  • Banana bread: yes, surprisingly, market stand banana breads are very moist and tasty; some are even dairy and nut-free!
  • Kulolo: a sweet dessert that reminds of baked nian gao (年糕), made of taro, coconut milk, and sugar (and original recipes call for ti, whatever that is; even the modern recipes for kulolo  seem quite labour intensive!)
  • Sorbetto at Ono Gelato: so much choice! If you aren’t dairy-free, the gelato options looked incredible too. If you have an entertainment book, there’s even a BOGO free coupon. There was another gelato place that had less choice in N. Kihei, that had a sweet potato coconut milk based sorbetto that was delicious, but I prefered Ono.
  • Shave ice at Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice – the mochi topping was so soft and chewy. I prefered this over Local Boys, as Ululani’s claims to use real fruit-based syrup but Local Boys uses artificial syrup, even though the one at Lahaina had excellent service; not only did the gal at Local Boys Lahaina give free samples for us (no buying expected), she even gave me half of her pitaya smoothie, because I had asked about it but that side of the store was closed.
  • Pineapple beer. Pineapple wine. Good thing neither of them got lost.
  • Coconut milk beverage: unsweetened and very creamy delicious, especially the Vita Coco brand; I can’t find it here it seems
  • Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonades has freshly squeezed lemonade with toppings and other fruits (and entertainment book discounts and happy hour special pricing)


  • Fresh poke at the grocery store, Costco, fish restaurants; ranged from $12/lb to about $18. Fresh poke meant ahi tuna, marinated in a variety of sauces like shoyu, wasabi, spicy mayo; cheaper poke (and other fish variety) could be had but they were previously frozen
  • Spam musubi: even the ones under the heat lamp at the grocery store tasted delicious. I had seen them on a prior trip but hadn’t tried it before. Shame that I couldn’t try deep-fried spam musubi at Da Kitchen (has dairy in it).
  • Pork fried rice at Kihei Cafe: sadly, we didn’t get a chance for a repeat visit. There’s a kid-friendly room for families to sit and eat (and draw on tables) but it was a little chilly with the air-conditioning on, so we ended up moving to one of the outside patio tables.
  • Ahi (poke)-stuffed calamari at Cafe O’ Lei: such a casual sounding, punny name for a fancier restaurant!
  • We also liked Coconut’s Fish Cafe for their fish tacos, and everyday value – the Azeka location had better service, but the Kihei one had a lot more space (I’d prefer the service over space). You can ask me for my toss-away phone number for their points if you go, so you can take advantage of discounts and freebies.


I’ve discovered that you can be a beach person without needing to play or wade or splash in the water; sitting on the sand is just as nice. Perhaps it was the time of the year, but almost every beach on the map had waves that were quite strong, especially for the kiddies to play in.

Sunset escape

Comments on the beaches we visited, with my favourite at the top:

  • Unnamed “secret” beach: walking distance away from where we stayed – there was a walking trail that led to it from the road (no parking). The rocks broke the waves and it was a nice quiet due to the secluded spot; this was easily my favorite spot for the kids and to watch sunsets.
  • Baby Beach, not the one in Lahaina, but the one by Paia: a wall of rocks break the waves so that they don’t crash onto the shoreline. This also allows for some shallow swimming and snorkeling opportunities to see turtles. Unfortunately, a few beach visitors did not heed the dogs-must-be-leashed rule and our kids were kissed by two really hyper (likely young) and free-roaming dogs (the owners were not in sight when they came up to us), and that pretty much ruined that visit for them. At least the owners leashed them up after this incident.
  • Charley Young Beach: if you walk it, you can walk to Kamaole I, II, III from Charlie Young; it’s less busy than Kamaole beaches, but all are good spot for sunsets
  • Kamaole III beach advertises a park playground but it’s really only a set of swings; the better playground is at Kalama Park, which is next to Cove Beach, a seemingly popular spot for SUP and surfers.
  • Kapalua Bay Beach: we were looking for Napili Beach but couldn’t find the signs for them, so we found this one instead. I wouldn’t recommend it as it had limited parking, lots of people, and deep fryer smells like onion rings wafting in our direction. However there was plenty of shade to sit under.
  • Makena Beach: a very long beach – it takes a while to walk from one parking entrance to another along the beach. It was so windy there that our beach umbrellas blew away; this was where a local told us that the current was stronger at this time of the year – something to do with leeward / windward tradewinds? [Ed. I hadn’t read the comments about this beach until now, but it seems the strong currents are normal here]
  • Kenolio Beach: conveniently located across the street from Ulanani’s, so if you go near sunset, you can grab a shave ice before it closes and then enjoy the sunset or walk across to look for turtles along the pier (and stay dry while at it!) during the day. Next time, I hope to be able to join this group to go paddling on their outrigger canoes!A turtle's head pokes out of the water

Beautiful Drives

These drives aren’t necessarily for the faint of heart, but if you go slow, drive carefully and be alert, the breath-taking scenes make it worthwhile. If you attempt any of these, I would recommend driving during daylight hours as there are no street lights, minimal guard rails, and little to no shoulder; in fact, you might have to share a lane with oncoming traffic.

In order of perceived danger (considering factors like narrow lanes, tight turns, unpaved roads, proximity to the cliff, cattle crossing, weather) where the top is probably the safest:

  1. Our path as recorded by Google Timeline

    Haleakala Highway to the volcano’s summit (10,023 feet says the sign): the roads look maintained, relatively wide and has reflectors, but here are some things to watch out for – especially if you’re driving up for sunrise or driving down after sunset:

    • Cattle crossing: cows just wander onto the road
    • Weather changes from warm at the base to super windy and cold near the top (e.g. from 26C to 9C); it could also change from sunshine to rain
    • Fog (or when you’re driving through the clouds): when it’s bad, you can barely see anything in front of you; it also just randomly shows up even if it’s clear as day at the top or at the base
    • Roll down the windows, open the vents when you see forest trees around you, and you’ll be able to take in the fresh eucalyptus smell; mmm, breathe it in!

    Even if you don’t go during sunrise or sunset, you will feel like you’ve landed on Mars once you get to the top!

  2. Snapped from Google Timeline

    Pi’lani Highway: otherwise known as backside of Road to Hana/Haleakala. The recorded path on the Google Timeline map doesn’t look as bad as the one above, but it is known for its narrow, and unpaved and uneven roads (single to the point of needing to back up if you meet oncoming traffic), tight turns, and risk of landslides and washed out (resulting in closed) roads in wet weather; thus, I would recommend not taking this route if it has rained at all. Most recommend taking it clockwise so you are not driving on the side of the cliff. At one point, if you are driving slowly enough and then stop on the side and walk over, you can actually see an abandoned vehicle (I keep thinking it’s a white jeep) that has crashed and fallen off the cliff. At the slowest point, it took us almost 2 hours just to drive 37 kms (with a few stops but quite minimal since we were trying to get out of there before dark and catch up to the other car). The drive reminded at times of the California coast, the Cabot trail in the Maritimes, and what I’d imagine coastal drives in Europe might be like.

    An abandoned car wreck along Piilani Highway
  3. Snapped from Google Timeline

    North of West Maui: After going through Pi’ilani and reading the reviews and comments about this route, j.w decided it wasn’t worth it, so we skipped it. The other car was going to attempt it but opted to let their kids play at local beaches instead on the day we went up Haleakala. However, we did drive the part from Lahaina to Nakaele Blowhole before we did Hana, which was probably one of my favourite activities on this trip as I got some hiking in (though j.w got the worse of it as he took one in arms, and one in a backpack hiking carrier UP the rocks) and we saw the blowhole in action (sadly, I can’t say the same at Waianapanapa State Park as all we saw was the sign that day); I didn’t dare to go too close as I was paranoid about being sucked in – due to the stories circulating online. The drive, though winding at times, didn’t feel so bad, so I’m going to assume that it gets bad after the blowhole.

Worth mentioning

  • Maui goes all out on Hallowe’en: so many costumed characters and almost every place has a treat for the kids. Who needs to go neighbourhood trick o’ treating when you can head to a local mall; you even get treats from restaurants too…
  • Wild roosters and chickens seem to roam free everywhere
  • You can watch hula dancing by keiki (kids) for free (put on by the hula dancing school) at the Cannery Mall
  • Hawaii state law prohibits touching turtles, so leave them alone if you see them with you in the water!
  • Whale watching: we tried twice without any luck – since whale spotting was guaranteed – once from Maui Ocean Center docks and the other from Lahaina. 3 out of 4 adults in our party got a bit queasy. However, we did spot spinner dolphins (too many to count) on the trip out of Lahaina and they were so social and entertaining to watch!Spinner dolphins

If you made it this far, congrats! This probably should’ve been multiple posts, but I was too lazy to separate it; maybe some other time.

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