Maui. After a look at the importance of an own car (if I want to see something of Maui), the rental prices and the hostel and Airbnb prices I knew I had to come up with a plan. Hostel and car rental would be too expensive. So I chose to stay the first 2 nights in a hostel – to get a warmup with Maui – and afterwards change to car and camping for the remaining 4 nights since camping on Maui is a bargain. And something new to tryout again.
The cool thing about staying at the Banana Maui Hostel for two nights was that they offered a free tour every day. Mostly hiking and snorkeling but on my full day there they had whale watching on the list. Of course this wasn’t a fully free tour but the transfer to the harbor and to the town Paia afterwards for food and strolling around was well worth it.
I was so excited. Especially since an unexpected Christmas gift from Jenny and Keks made it possible to pay the amount for the cruise on a boat of the Pacific Whale Foundation. And the nearly 100% chance to see a Humpback whale as they love hanging around the Hawaiian islands this time of the year made me smile even before I went on the boat.
And it was amazing. These were my first whales ever but I can’t think of being not excited when seeing them again and again. With a lot of special moments in life you don’t have a camera at hand or don’t want to take a picture at that precious sight where you’re connected with something wonderful. We saw many whale backs, some dives, a couple of tail and pec fins. So this low res pic need to stand for this very special moment.
Thank you, my friends, for that gift!
Hostel life and getting ready
The free hostel tour got me also into talk with other travelers and so all around the whales and Paia we had chats about Hawaii, traveling and the world. I talked about my plans of going around Maui with a car and camping at different sites and made partly joking, partly honest the offer that anyone can join. After being calm for a while the “Fuck, I’m in.” outburst of Kerrie and a handshake afterwards suddenly got me a travel mate for the next days.
We ended the night with a free keg of beer at the hostel, an impromptu performance of slightly drunken guys dancing the Thriller choreography and my mistake of drinking a stupidly named and sugared can of random alcohol which of course led to a hangover and booking the flight to LA half drunk. Memo to myself: Stick with beer or at least a quality drink!
We headed out early the next day to get the rental car from the airport. My first ever rental car. Ever. Can you believe that? I was totally overwhelmed when the lady said I could choose one of the SUVs in the parking lot and I suddenly stood in front of 6 different cars that I all wanted. “We could get the pickup truck!” I was tempted. But the thought of maybe the need to sleep in the car and the ridiculous fuel and parking space needs of these cars made me go with a reasonable sized Jeep. I think i never drove such a new car before. That’s why I freaked out at first every time I got close to the car it to find it m unlocked until we figured out that it is on purpose when you come close with the keys. Wow. I never had to get the key out. I know for some of you that’s nothing new. But I kept repeating to Kerrie how excited and happy I am with that car. And she laughed a lot at me.
So hostel done, car shopping done, we got to Target and bought our camping gear, food, a coffee and off we were on our spontaneous adventure!
Road to Hana
The Road To Hana is a sweet, curvy road trip around the east coast to – surprise! – the little town Hana. It’s fun to drive your car smoothly along coastal roads, through green valleys and over uncountable one lane bridges. The cars you’re passing are not that blooming and diverse as the landscape and mainly consist either of the convertible Ford Mustang – in white, silver or red – or the classic convertible Jeep – in white, silver, red or black. We put on some good road trip music, got the windows down – who needs air condition anyway? – and made stops as often as we liked. Mostly for roadside food and coffee. Somewhere I read that the opening scene of Jurassic Park was filmed here (not an Kaua’i as many more scenes were) and with a look into these valleys I had the Jurassic Park theme hummed in my head for the whole way back the road.
Between the there and back ride we had an overnight in the camping ground and a short hike on the Pipiwai Trail before getting into the car for another 3 hours. The short 2 hour trail gets you to a waterfall, passing by an old and impressive tree and through a bamboo forest. It was pretty. Though every waterfall has a hard time with me since I’ve been to Iceland. I really try to be open and not judgy again. Concerning waterfalls.
Originally I wanted to do a sunrise drive to the crater. But like so many things you now need to get a ticket online in advance and they were all gone for weeks. Sticking to my motto “Sunsets are even better” and with the side note from Kerrie “… and we don’t have to get up that crazy early” we went for one of the hopefully impressive sunsets on the 10,023 feet (3055 meter) high Haleakalā.
While driving up the crater a massive rainbow popped up behind us with the whole island literally lying beneath. It’s one of these moments we’re you start slowing down because you can’t take your eyes of what you see. „Wow, look at that incredibly huge rainbow,“ was my most heard line that day. Next to „have I already mentioned how much I like this car?“
Quite soon we reached a thick layer of clouds but not long after driving into it we were greeted by sunshine on the other side. I wonder why the clouds seem to be so much lower here then in other parts of the world.
The road seemed to sneak its way endlessly on along the crater side and less and less trees, bushes and life remained. We were lucky to get one of the last parking spots in the summit area and were lucky again to have some warm clothes from our past travel destinations to wrap around us as we got out of the car. Some people had taken the warning „It’s really cold up there“ not literally and still wore there shorts and t-shirts only added by a beach towel wrapped tightly around there shoulders.
The sunset was beautiful and took a long time since after the sun passed the clouds and was gone for us it still had a long way beneath the clouds to the ocean until sunken in between the waves and waiting for a new morning. Not long after lines of bright white dots made there way down the curvy mountain road again.
I think the picture that I will remember the most was still during the day and a bit lower when I could actually see the shape of the island, looking down from the mountain road. It fascinates me every time to see a map come to life.
Luau in Laihana
I have a flower garland around my neck, a Mai Tai in my hand while being surrounded by Hawaiian shirts in all colors and patterns. And they are playing the Hawaiian songs of Disney’s Lilo & Stitch while we wait to be seated for the Luau. I can’t believe I’m in Hawaii. I mean, I know it. But it’s still in a way unbelievable and surreal. Especially during the first Hawaiian songs and dances once we were seated I’m really close to the water – literally in both ways as the Luau takes place on the beachside next to Black Rock.
But the dancing isn’t the only thing you get during a Luau. It’s a party, a feast, and that includes pretty good food and drinks as well. For me mostly the food since I’m the assigned driver for the way back to our camping ground and that welcome Mai Tai stays the only cocktail I have on that night. The guests we share a table with seem to not really believe that we’re camping on Maui. And that Kerrie and I have met just 2 days ago and now share the trip, the costs and the adventure. But that’s fun with meeting people. We have such a different understanding what a good holiday on Maui is, yet we’re all sitting together at that table for the Luau.
We get distracted from the traveling conversation as our table is finally allowed to go to the buffet and load plates. And – everybody who knows me might smile – „loading“ is a well chosen word for me and my hunger. „Wow, I can’t believe a skinny guy like you could eat so much food.” is my rewarding comment afterwards when I can’t really move anymore, lean back in my white plastic chair and enjoy the show. I’m happy.
I’m still trying to digest as they announce to do a special Samoan song and dance for us that evening in appreciation of the different Polynesian culture.
I have to smile as it doesn’t really look like a Samoan dance and my memory takes me back to the boys at Matareva Beach Fales who showed us some of their dances which have been so much better. Of course.
Hiking and the Big Beach
I couldn’t leave Maui without doing at least a smaller but proper hike. The choice fell onto the Waihee Ridge Trail. Kerrie took a time out with reading a book while I tied my boots, took my water and a snack and head off.
“Good Morning Hawaii” played on a Bluetooth speaker on top of the hill where a group of teens tried to get the perfect picture. A nice song, I made a memo. Yes, good morning, Hawaii. I missed you.
Back down with an hour earlier than the suggested loop time we drove the car down to Kihei and food at the Café O’lei before getting even more south to the Big Beach.
The Big beach is, well, quite big. But the best thing was after getting a refreshing jump into the ocean that a couple of humpback whales were hanging around quite close to the shore. No one did a proper breach but there was lots of diving, tail and pec slapping.
The sun gave us an excuse to treat ourselves with a big shaved ice before we took the car back on road to Laihana for exploring the town and having a nice last dinner together – just pizza, but it was a really nice one.
We stayed in 3 different camping grounds, the first two were even free of charge as we bought a Hawai’i Tri Park Pass for the National Parks on Maui and Big Island. It was very basic in total. Very basic. But the order of the sites gave us at least the feeling of being upgraded from site to site.
- No. 1: No water at all.
- No. 2: Drinkable water.
- No. 3: Outdoor showers and flushing toilets. Hooray!
Camping ground 1 – Kipahulu:
There were so many things going slightly different than expected with this spontaneous camping trip. Setting up the tent and trying to get the pegs down in firm rocky ground made me a bit hangry. But the Moana soundtrack playing from the Bluetooth box of the family next to us helped a lot with calming down and laughing about it. And to get over all the other little things like with having no electricity around Kerrie’s air bed needed a lot of lungs work to be useful. Some gin tonic might also have been involved.
Especially when we were getting the air bed inside the small tent and realised that for my little air mattress there would be no space anymore. “You will sleep in a little coffin,” Kerrie burst out laughing and I was happy to have chosen the right car on this windy and rainy evening where sleeping literally under the stars would have gotten me very wet.
We chatted in the dark with people from Maui camping here. I played my guitalele and was joined by a 12 year old boy and had a very nice chat with him. And I watched so many bright stars and felt so small underneath.
Camping ground 2 – Hosmer’s grove:
No. 2 got us into 6.500 feet, potable water but still no showers. The sleeping arrangement changed as well and Kerrie would move with her air bed into the car while I got into the tent. Compared to windy warm on the last ground it was now pretty cold sleeping in the tent. I even needed to get my New Zealand long sleeves out, but then I was fine and comfy in my sleeping bag.
And the stars were amazing. Why didn’t I do this before?
Camping ground 3 (and 4) – Olowalu:
After the windy and rocky site, the cold up in the air mountain site we finally got to the warm beachside spot. With so many roosters around.
That ground also finally had electricity and a plug close to the check in hut to blow up Kerrie’s air bed properly – just to find out it has an undetectable hole somewhere and she would sleep on a deflated air bed in the car. Poor Kerrie. She had to go through a lot with me. I didn’t dare to ask her if she said yes again to the trip.
We had warm evenings. Warm showers outdoors. Stars overhead. Who would choose a crazy expensive hotel room over this wonderful experience?
On my way to the airport I dropped Kerrie off at the hostel and gave the boxes in the car a last test drive with loud music. I knew on Kaua’i I would have a way older and well used car so I enjoyed the luxury of that cute Jeep for a last time and let my mind wander a bit.
It’s funny how native English speakers I meet are falling more easily into their normal accent and speed with me. And don’t recognise when I get lost. Totally. Sometimes. But it gets better. The latest guesses for my nationality are very accurate – German – or have at least something to smile for me – you have a bit of a New Zealand in your accent.
I learned a couple of new things about Polynesian culture and the similarities between the Maori and the Hawaiian on my days here. And I even had my Samaon reminder. I hope I get more on the other two remaining islands.
I’m happy to be here in the Pacific.
Off to Kaua’i.
PS: Oh, and if you ever come to Hawaii you might stumble over the Union Jack here and there next to the Stars and Stripes. Why? Because it’s the state flag of Hawaii. I was so confused at first….