We are scheduled to spend two days in Maui before leaving for the big island. This first morning started with an awesome view of the island from our stateroom balcony as we sailed into the port in Kahului. We had a yummy breakfast in the Skyline Restaurant on deck 5 before leaving the ship.
Our first tour was a “Waterfalls and Rainforest” hike in the northern part of the island. We boarded a van with our guide Tony for the 30 minute drive to the trail. Tony is originally from Kansas City and got a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Administration at Oklahoma State before moving to Maui in 1981. He spent a lot of time on the drive telling us about why he likes Maui so much, and it was obvious that he has a love for the island.
Our destination was a trail along a series of waterfalls called “Twin falls.” On the way, Tony told us a lot about Maui. It is the second largest of the Hawaiian islands at 720 square miles. The population is approximately 150k with about 1/3 of those being visitors at any given time. Like all of the Hawaiian islands, there is a wet side and a dry side. The wet is to the north and the dry is to the south.
Sugar was the #1 industry on Maui for 100 years until tourism overtook it in the 1960s. The last sugar company ceased operations in 2016. Today there is wild sugar cane still growing in the fields, and we saw a lot of this on the drive.
Tony also told us that when King Kamehameha united all of the Hawaiian islands in 1810, he made Lahaina in Maui the original capital of his monarchy. So Lahaina was the first capital of Hawaii before it was eventually moved to Honolulu.
At the Twin Falls site, we loaded our packs and started off on the hike through the rainforest. Tony did a great job all day of telling us about the plants and trees growing in the rainforest, most of which are not indigenous to the island. They were beautiful, and some of my favorites were:
Bamboo with Thorns
“Maui Gold” Pineapple Plants – This is considered a hybrid pineapple and we got to sample some it. Probably the best pineapple I’ve ever had. It takes two years to grow a new pineapple plant then it fruits annually.
Hibiscus Trees – the blooms on these trees last for only day before they start to die.
There were a number of varieties of hibiscus trees along the trail, but my favorite was one that was made up of massive, nested vines, that covers a lot of ground and grows around other plants and trees.
There was one of these that had a “tunnel” we hiked through for maybe 100 ft.
Kukui Tree -State tree of Hawaii. The nuts from this tree are used to make leis and are covered in a green husk.
Banana Trees – they were a variety that are very small. We also got to try some of these and they were delicious.
Lobster Claw Heloconia
Pink Torch Ginger
Indonesian Wax Ginger
Another highlight of the hike was visiting three waterfalls and getting to swim and play in the pools beneath two of them.
The first one we came to had two falls that were right up against a rock face and moved a lot of water.
Kate, Sara, and I joined our guide Tony in hanging onto the rocks beneath one of the falls and sliding through it.
The rocks were slippery and the water was deep, so Sara freaked out once the water started pounding on her head. Tony grabbed her and basically carried her to the other side of the falls. Tony was her buddy for the rest of the day.
After getting under the first falls, I climbed the rocks beside the second falls a couple of times and jumped down into the pool below.
The next falls that we came to were a lot taller, but not quite as powerful, and were not directly up against rocks. All four of us got into this pool to swim after grabbing some lunch. Kate, Sara, and I got to swim under the falls. The water in both pools was quite cold but felt pretty good on a warm day in Maui.
Tony told us that the stream feeding these falls was created by a collapsed lava tube. At one point we had to cross the stream on the trail in calf-deep water, and the current was pretty strong. Most of the trail was fairly muddy with lots of exposed roots. There were some sections with gravel, and one rock face we had to use a rope to climb. In total we hiked about three miles with lots of stops. We do a lot of hiking, and this was a top notch hike. It was actually one of the best excursions I’ve ever been on.
We got back to the ship around 2pm and grabbed a quick bite to eat in the Aloha Cafe before changing clothes and leaving again for our next tour.
The evening tour was to visit the basin at the top of Haleakala for sunset. Haleakala means “house of the sun” and rises 10,023ft above sea level. However the road from sea level to the top is only 36 miles. We boarded our shuttle for this journey with our guide and driver Kama. He told us that Haleakala is considered to be a super volcano. Today much of it is within a National Park that was opened in 1963. The park averages over 4.8 million visitors per year.
He told us that Haleakala was originally over 13,000ft but has been getting shorter since going dormant in the late 1700s. The last major eruption was believed to have occurred sometime between the 1300s and 1500s.
As we drove up, it was interesting to see how the terrain and foliage changed as we. The consistent part was that the views were amazing. The bottom part of Haleakala is residential and covered in trees, but there are no houses above 4,000ft and the terrain transitions to open range. Kama told us that above 5,000ft used be bare lava, but is now covered in grasses and small plants. At 5,000ft we also reached the cloud line. While clouds almost always surround Haleakala, the peak is usually above the clouds. We saw both cattle and goats in the open range areas. Goats are considered predatory in Maui. A small band of rainforest started again around 7000ft, which is also where the National Park begins.
Many of the plants in the park are endemic to Haleakala and are endangered. This includes the Haleakala Silversword (‘ahinahina), which was my favorite of the endemic species that we saw. I was able to see one up close at the National Park Visitor’s Center when we stopped.
Continuing on past the Nature Center, we emerged from the clouds around 8,000ft and this was overwhelming to see.
It was simply breathtaking to be on top of clouds but not in an airplane.
At 9,000ft the growth began to end with only bare lava rock and silversword remaining. We stopped on one side of the rim at around 9,500ft and got our first view into Haleakala Crater which is is huge at 6.99 miles across, 2.0 mi wide, and 2,600ft deep. It is like looking out over a vast volcanic desert and it is stunning.
Our final stop was at the Haleakala Visitors Center at 9,740ft where we got another view into Haleakala Crater and then settled in to watch the sunset behind the clouds.
I don’t know which was more beautiful, the view of the sunset on top of the clouds or the view into Haleakala Crater. Either way, this was another fantastic excursion.
By the way, the temperatures were in the upper 80s when we left sea level and in the 50s when we started to descend back to the ship. The drive back was very dark, but also very peaceful.
We got back to the ship just before 9pm and were able to have a quick dinner in the Skyline Restaurant. The most notable thing about dinner was that Sara order off the regular menu instead of the kids menu. This is not a regular thing.
Tomorrow we were supposed to do the road to Hana, but the Moana Kea protestors are planning to block the routes to Hana and Haleakala tomorrow, and all of those tours were cancelled. So, we’ve had to call and audible and will instead do a tour called “Best of Maui.”