18 April 2014

Roadtripping Maui

Hawaii is a beautiful place and the island of Maui has the laid-back-stuck-in-the-60s feel that puts you immediately in the right frame of mind. Everyone has a tattoo somewhere, everyone surfs or windsurfs before going to work, everyone smiles and all you can hear everywhere is reggae. Maui simply confirms the idea that island living is definitively the best type of lifestyle.

Then you get out of the main town of Lahaina to explore the rest of the island and the beauty and rugedness of the volcanic origins can only top this feeling.

I went to Hawaii on a long weekend trip. From  Manila. That trip made me straightaway the coolest person, and the luckiest too, among my friends. It was slightly crazy and one of those things that only someone who travels 9h each way every week would deem reasonable. 

But for me, with the usual 18h in the air per week to/from client location, this was just like any other week. Completely insane, but so was my life for the 8 months I commuted Dubai-Manila-Dubai on a weekly basis. 

Rainbow welcoming me upon landing in Maui
 We saw the Hawaian Airlines Honolulu flight check-in every Thursday evening at the airport as we were taking our return flight to Dubai and we knew that we had to take it once. So it was a matter of time until a long weekend opportunity came up that we had a ticket already.

The flight is only 10h but across the dateline which means that you land in Honolulu before you left Manila in what promises to be one of the longest days of your life. 

To get to Maui you need to take a connecting flight. Maui seemed like a quieter more authentic part of Hawaii away from the high rise buildings of Honolulu but, apart from that superficial thought based purely on TV series and movies, I had no other expectations on the island. 

We were proved right. Maui was absolutely stunning and just what you would expect from a far away pacific island: green, volcanic, windy, pretty beaches, full of happy people, organic food, early nights, beautiful sunsets and island life. Not to forget the surf.

Surf life

Because we only had so little and wanted to see as much of the island as we could we rented a car. It was the best idea. 

The island has split personality. Down in the south tourist resorts dominate the landscape and the beaches. Resort after resort line up next to each other by the sea.But escape the resorts and the rest of Maui is a different world.

Out of the main town and resort areas in the south some of the roads are rough and there is little traffic, also very few petrol stations to refuel, we almost ran out of fuel at one point. 

Some of the cliff side roads are too narrow for more than one car but they are oh so beautiful!

All of a sudden you see a volcanic cliff, a natural pool by the sea, an idylic lookout, a small roadside post selling banana cake and candy, a food truck in the most impossible of locations with the most incredible of views. Maui surprised us at every turn. 

Driving on the north of the island along the coast was magical. We stopped at beaches filled with surfers trying their luck and watched them riding waves. I was mermerized by the rhythmic moves and the coordinated dancing. Everybody is a surfer on Maui, from the elder to the youngest. Parents take their kids that are no older than 2-3 years old to the beach to learn how to surf.

Stopover for banana cake and candy
We stopped at Olivine pools, a few tidepools on barren lava along the ocean's road, what a divine find! 

You have to descend on the wall of the cliff and then you rech the bottom pools where water from the sea waves splashes onto the pools. The hike down and up is a bit dangerous as it is quite steep and made of rocks so be sure not to wear flip flops. 

Olivine Pools
We were told that the place has become a bit of a touristy attraction with tour operators taking visitors to see them on a day's tour as a secret location. It can be quite full so be sure to go early or late in the day

The north coast
Our trip also included a helicopter tour of Maui and, from the air, the island looked even more stunning with changing landscapes, dormant volcanos, waterfalls, lava beaches...all seemed so extreme, so wild and also so empty without a hint of human intervention beyond the coastal areas. 

The views from above
Maui's topography and mountainous ranges give it a very varying weather and clima. Up in the mountains, inland, the weather is wet and rainy. Even on a clear day down by the shore a helicopter tour will show you the other side of the climate with clouds and rain.

It was well worth the investment. From above, Maui looked not only pretty but also a contrast from the ground view. The green mountains, the calderas of extinct volcanos adn the long and high waterfalls that can't be seen from any other point all appear to the naked eye.

The coast also evolves from low land flat areas to the rugged cliffs and mountains. From the air it is clear that most people live in a few coastal areas. Once you get away from the coast there is little to no human presence. There are cirtually no roads and the island is untouched.

Caldera of a stinct volcano

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