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  • Dana Tutela

A Ginger in Maui

Updated: Jan 25

Finally, this Ginger Visited Hawaii! First Stop: Maui.

Maui sunset with palm trees

Hawaii was always number one on my bucket list and it was supposed to be the destination for my 50th birthday celebration. I couldn't wait to see the waterfalls and lush tropical landscape. Too many episodes of Fantasy Island as a kid? Unfortunately the pandemic lockdown cancelled that trip, and this ginger didn't get to reschedule her trip to Maui until recently.

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After months of research and budgeting, Bob and I decided to stay at the Waldorf Astoria's Grand Wailea as part of a Hilton Grand Vacations promotion. The hard sell promotional presentation wasn't that bad. In fact, we almost invested in the program until we saw how much we needed to put down up front.

In the end, sitting through a 90 minute presentation to get the incredibly low rate we paid was worth it. The resort property was luxurious and the food was incredible with plenty of options.

hotel lobby with tropical flowers

The grounds are exactly what I had envisioned decades ago: verdant pathways leading you through palm trees and blossoming flowers of orange and red; waves crashing onto volcanic rock and sandy beaches; exquisite pools and water fountains. It felt like paradise, especially so for this avid gardener.

lazy river at Grand Wailea resort

Palm tree surrounding reflection pool and fountains

Before You Go!

Reserve a Jeep Early

If you are planning to rent a Jeep, reserve early because they are taken up quickly. We rented Jeeps on both islands and thoroughly enjoyed them. Plus, having the Jeep when we drove the Road to Hana was a smart decision. It's not exactly off-roading, but there is significant rough terrain in certain areas. Pack a car charger for your phone!

Reserve Tour Group for Mount Haleakala Sunrise

We knew we wanted to go watch the sunrise from the top of Mount Haleakala and reserved with Polynesian Adventure Activities ahead of time. Even though the weather didn't cooperate, we had a fantastic time. More on that in a minute!

Hawaii doesn't allow sunscreen with chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate that harm the marine life. Therefore, order reef-friendly sunscreen before traveling to save money and have it ready for application.

Even though we did this before our trip, we still ran out and had to purchase more on the island. The selection was better than what was online, but it was more expensive. This ginger is all about sun protection!

Reserve a Luau

I wanted to attend a luau and immerse myself in the Polynesian culture, but there were no reservations available when we arrived. Apparently the Grand Wailea Luau is one of the best! So book early if this is on your to-do list.

Purchase Tickets for the Wai’ānapanapa State Park

This popular state park on the Road to Hana requires advance reservations. Again, we neglected to make a reservation in time and missed out on a fantastic experience. We were able to see a Black Sand Beach from a distance, but we were disappointed. Learn from our mistakes!

Carry On a Back-Pack Cooler

This is Bob's favorite travel hack for our adventures! He purchased a Yeti Backpack Cooler years ago which he uses as his 'personal item' to carry-on. He packs it with spare clothes, wallet, travel size bluetooth speaker, and his laptop. Then when we get to the hotel, he unpacks it and we have a cooler to use wherever we go. No more styrofoam grocery store coolers!

If you don't want to change your carryon luggage into a backpack cooler (ladies, I'm talking to you), then consider the ICEMULE Backpack Cooler. This one collapses and can be packed in your luggage. It's lighter weight and is suitable for small paddle boarding or kayaking. Bonus-it floats! Mine is grey, but check out the other fun colors they offer.

His other carryon is an 40L Sized Backpack which he fills with clothes and toiletries and other necessities. This handy backpack has covered thousands of miles and served us well all over the world.

Please enjoy a free copy of our Hawaii Packing List.

Hawaii Packing List (1)
Download PDF • 326KB

Checklist for packing luggage on trip to Hawaii

Mount Haleakala "House of the Sun"

Here's the CRAZY idea I had: Mount Haleakala sunrise tour busses pick up at 2-3am (Hawaii time) at the hotel. I booked our tour for our very first morning in Maui because I figured we would still be closer to our east coast time brain. My evil plan worked! Exhausted from traveling all day, we were asleep by 8pm and woke up for the tour 6 hours later feeling pretty good!

The middle of the night bus ride to Mount Haleakala was very surreal. If you haven’t learned this yet: it's freezing up there! My Florida roots were not happy about visiting Hawaii and being cold! The resort let us bring a blanket in addition to the stuffable puff jacket that I brought, and I was still freezing! Plan carefully, my friends.

Also, keep in mind that the cloud bank might not lift for the sunrise. Unfortunately this is what happened on our visit and we were very disappointed, but the tour guide made up for it with his banter and knowledge. In fact, having this guided tour on the very first day was very helpful and informative.

I'm including photos from my niece's trip to Maui because she and her husband actually experienced the incredible sunrise.

couple standing in front of Mount Haleakala sign
House of the Cloud?

Cloud bank hovering over volcanic rock

My niece and her husband drove to see the sunrise on their own when they visited and had an incredible sunrise!

*Ginger Tip: Save your park entry receipt because it will work at the other national park entrances like on the Road to Hana.

sunrise over cloud bank
Photo by Kylie Rickard

man standing by jeep overlook sunrise
Photo by Kylie Rickard

*Ginger Tip: If you are worried about the sunrise being a disappointment, book the sunset tour instead!

The breakfast afterwards at Kula Lodge was remarkable, and the coffee was magnificent! I felt like we stepped back in time when entered the establishment. The rooms were authentically decorated and the grounds were lovely. I'm all about the gardens! I highly suggest you visit this restaurant and take the time to explore the paths behind it. Check out their brick oven pizzas, too!

Hawaiian dining room overlooking valley
View from Kula Lodge

rainbow over maui landscape

Back at the Resort

Once we returned to the resort, we headed straight to the pools and beach area. The grounds at the Grand Wailea are stunning! If you are lucky enough to stay here someday, promise me you will do two things: Drink a MaiTai and try the Poke Nachos. Every time we sat by the pool, we ended up ordering both. Yum! They were so good, we had to recreate them when we got home!

tuna poke nachos in white bowl

mai tai with pineapple wedge on glass rim

palm trees on beach sunset maui

Every day of our visit ended with a lovely sunset!

The Road to Hana

road to Hana blind curve

If you are on the fence about adding this adventure to your time on Maui, please consider it!

I had all of my reasons why NOT to go:

I get carsick very easily.

It's an all day activity.

Bathroom availability.

I really wanted to sit by the pool with Mai Tais and poke nachos all day instead.

If you DO go, the following tips will be very helpful:

Rent a Jeep and Reserve it Early

This tip is so important, it's in my blog post twice! A Jeep allows you to take full advantage of the rugged experience, AND I believe that having the top off the Jeep and the windows down helped suppress my usual carsickness symptoms. Mints are also helpful.

Pack a Cooler

Remember the Yeti backpack cooler? This is where it comes in so handy! We packed ours with water, fresh fruit and muffins from the breakfast buffet. I also brought a couple of wet washcloths from the hotel and put them in the cooler (old soccer mom trick) for an end of trip refreshing clean up.

*Ginger Tip: Ask the waiter to bring you a box after the breakfast buffet for 'leftovers' and save some money on snacks for later!

Pack a Daypack

Remember the other backpack Bob carried on? Once again, he knows how to prepare. The obvious supplies for a day trip include sunglasses, hats, sunscreen, and towels. In addition, I would add travel-sized handy wipes/sanitizer, a change of clothes/swimsuits. Ladies, consider a scarf or head band for your hair or it will be in knots when you return. I detail my favorite scarf below.

Beware of the Sun!

Being a redhead, I am well aware of the damage the sun can cause, so please plan ahead! I love this hat with the wide brim. It also has a ponytail hole and adjustable chin strap. It can pack into a suitcase and be reshaped. It can get wet and dry quickly. I have several and have gifted many to fellow fair maidens!

I also swear by sun-shirts. I don't love them when it's unbearably hot and humid, but we were riding all day in a Jeep with the top off and the breeze was nice. The shirt helped immensely.

Finally, if you haven't tried a sun scarf, trust me-they are essential. These sun scarves by RipSkirt Hawaii are soft and lightweight and cover the delicate chest and neck skin. If the wind is blowing your hair everywhere, pull it up over head. If you're worried about germs, pull it up as an impromptu face mask. They are great to have on hand and store easily. Plus they come in fun coastal colors!

woman overlooking cove on road to Hana

Download the Shaka Guide App on your Phone

This app was the key to our success! It does cost $20 to download the driving tour, but it is soooo worth it. We used the car connect with our phone and played the app through the stereo system. Remember your car charger! The voice of the guide is a former local radio host who narrates and navigates while you drive pointing out key stops, places to take a dip or to grab a bite to eat. The GPS was very accurate and helped us find secret caves and waterfalls that we would've driven right past if we hadn't been using the app.

screenshot of Shaka Guide app

There are two driving plans to travel the Road to Hana: The "Classic" and the "Loop" tours. Both start in Kahului and both take 10+ hours to complete. The Classic is an out and back tour. The Loop takes you past Hana along the back side of the island, and does not return back the way you started. The Loop is rougher terrain, so check with your car rental company if you're allowed to drive this portion. We did the Loop, but I'm thinking the Classic would be more practical. Regardless of your route, choose before you go because each one costs $20. If you do not want to commit to 10-12 hours, download the Classic and turn around when you want to head back.

*Ginger Tip: Locals drive this road every day and they drive fast! It's good etiquette to pull over when appropriate and safe to let them go past.

Fill up with Gas and Hit the Road to Hana!

Enjoy discovering the wild side of Maui. Listen carefully to the app and feel free to skip stops that do not sound appealing. Towards the end of the tour, we were actually tired of waterfalls! We saw so many!

waterfall with red tropical flowers in foreground

woman on road to Hana in front of waterfall

I especially liked this waterfall that went under the road so you could actually see it on both sides. Be careful! Like I said, the locals drive fast and the tourists are looking all around at the scenery, not for pedestrians.

waterfall that flows under road to Hana

The Shaka app helped us find this secret cave (lava tube?) that we never would've seen just driving along. Most people drive right by it.

lava tube cave on road to Hana

The Garden of Eden Arboretum

Since I'm an avid gardener, we HAD to stop at The Garden Of Eden on the Road to Hana. This is a self guided tour through 26 acres of botanical gardens, roughly 2.5 miles of trails. We hiked over most of the area and found some interesting secret spots, but our favorite was finding the location used for the opening helicopter scene of Jurassic Park!

view of rock from opening scene of Jurassic Park

park sign of Keopuka rock from Jurassic Park opening scene

Another favorite of mine was the Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree. My photo doesn't do it justice, but it feels like it should be in Avatar. The color streaks in the bark look like someone took sidewalk chalk and drew them.

rainbow eucalyptus tree with colorful bark
Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree

Find the statue in this water garden...

water garden with statue and water liles

Pipiwai Trail -Oheo Gulch (aka: Seven Sacred Pools)

After the town of Hana, we stopped here and hiked for over an hour. We didn't go all the way to the top because it would've been about 4 hours round trip, but what we did see was incredible. FYI, this hike was manageable for us active 50+ year olds. I would think twice about little kids or health restricted individuals, though.

Please note that there are EXTENSIVE warnings about safety here, especially at the falls. Use good judgement and stay safe!

*Ginger Tip: This stop is part of Mount Haleakala National Park and has facilities. Save your ticket for entry into other parks!

seven sacred pools waterfall in volcanic jungle
Seven Sacred Pools

waterfall on Maui
Makahiku Falls

national park sign of Makahiku Falls

Since we chose to do the Loop, we saw the rarely traveled backside of Maui. We liked trying a route that was off the beaten path, but after a while we felt weirdly out of place. If doing it again, I would choose the Classic and backtrack to the beginning of our expedition.

We did experience a wide variety of landscapes on the backside!

ocean view from backside of road to Hana

ocean view from backside of road to Hana

rugged rocky terrain on backside of raod to Hana

Additional Suggestions:

Our daughter and her husband traveled to Maui for a wedding shortly after we did and she shared her thoughts with me.

Consider staying at the Makoa Resort.

They highly recommend this location for its location in Kihei, amenities and decor. In contrast to the Grand Wailea where we stayed, this resort is smaller and more quaint, but is newly updated and well appointed.

Visit Maui during whale watching season.

The season is between November and May (peak season is January -March). Victoria and Jon found the outrigger experience more satisfying than the large tour boat to see the whales. They even had a baby whale approach them!

Check out Makena Beach, but use caution!

This is known as Big Beach due to the 1.5 mile length, but is also nicknamed Breakneck Beach for obvious reasons. Watch the surf conditions and be safe!

Stroll along the Wailea Beach Path.

I agree completely! We did this practically every morning as well because it is directly outside the Grand Wailea where we stayed. It's a naturally lush path along the shore with multiple photo locations and cute restaurants.

Try the Whale's Tale for a piña colada!

This is on the Wailea Beach Path and offers some amazing food options in addition to yummy piña coladas.

Mahalo! I hope you found our travel experience in Maui helpful. This ginger thoroughly enjoyed exploring the wild landscape of the island of Maui and sharing it with you. Aloha!

rainbow spanning open view of Maui

For more Ginger Traveling Ideas, explore Ireland with me:

Redhead overlooking cliffs in Ireland

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1 comentario

21 ene

I never realized how much you did on this trip! What beautiful photos. I loved the added Ginger Tips! Great job!!

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