The last time I visited Maui, I remember only eating. Ok, well, I did more than just eat, but because I was there primarily on a food tour and to serve as a judge for the Ag Festival held every year, it felt that most of my experiences had everything to do with food and very little to do with anything else.
Mind you, I’m not complaining. Discovering Maui’s food scene, as well as being able to meet so many of the farmers and chefs was is a highlight of any visit to the island.
There is a lot to share from the trip, all of which you can enjoy too when you visit, but in this post, I am going to focus on the highlights, starting with the kick-ass helicopter ride I took with Air Maui.
Getting ready for take off with pilot Dylan.
Let me tell you something about helicopter rides: they are every bit as nerve-wrecking as you would imagine them to be, especially when flying through turbulence. But then you find yourself hovering over the ocean or cliffs, with a view that you would never have otherwise, or you come this close to a waterfall and realize getting on that helicopter qualifies as one of the most fun things you will ever do in your life. No joke. I may have teared up a little too.
Outrigger canoeing was a first. (Confession: before taking on this sport I had no idea what an outrigger canoe was, and because I always like to be surprised in my experiences, I didn’t research it beforehand. All I knew was that there was a canoe of some sort involved). First of all, the canoe itself is cool looking and heavy, which made me feel confident about its ability to hold all of this booty without flipping over.
Also, our guide Tim Lara was pretty awesome (and cute) and full of information and historical facts that really complimented the experience. In other words, we weren’t just paddling around, we were actually learning something and envisioning what this practice meant culturally and historically for the Hawaiian people. That in itself is enough reason to call Hawaiian Paddle Sports and book a tour. But, it wasn’t all we did.
My absolute favorite part was snorkeling by the coral reef and seeing all of the wildlife in the water. We’re talking all sorts of colorful fish, sea turtles, and a huge moray eel! At the end of the day, I’m an island girl, and being in the ocean always gives me life.
Photo courtesy of Tim Lara, Hawaiian Paddle Sports
I could have stayed there for hours, it was so beautiful. This tour is about three hours long, but you’ll want more time. I told Tim that I totally wanted to sign up to be on his outrigger canoe paddling team, just to keep my career options open. (I would totally rock it, by the way. So, really Tim, if you need an extra paddler, I’m your girl!)
As far as relaxing, I couldn’t have landed in a better spot. The Fairmont Kea Lani spoiled me so much from dusk to dawn.
I loved my suite overlooking the pool, or rather one of the pools, and the ocean which was a treat to wake up to every morning. I indulged in the experience of having breakfast poolside every morning, and walking along the promenade by the ocean during sunrise (yay for jet lag!), and taking in the morning breeze from one of their “chill zones”.
But their spa. Oh my goodness, their spa! After a few hours here, I totally understood why they are so deserving of accolades so soon after they opened. So after you experience a relaxing massage (or facial or any one of the many treatments they offer), you get to go into this awe-inspiring lounge, where you can try out their mud treatments, sauna, steam room, and showers. Not just any shower, but three themed shower experiences. My only suggestion would be to make this a couples option too. I mean, the tropical shower has ambiance music, lightning and thunder, and water that sprays sporadically at different pressures all over your body! Sure, it’s pretty relaxing on your own, but think about how nice that would be with your honey. Just sayin’, think of the added value for honeymooners.
Oh, and right near the Fairmont Kea Lani is the beautiful Grand Wailea Resort. There you will enjoy a heavenly stay as well, and an informative Hawaiian Cultural Tour with Kainoa Horcajo. Not only will you learn a lot about the property and the thought to detail throughout, but also about cultural tales and practices that have influenced the Hawaiian people for generations. I warn you, Kainoa is pretty poetic, so be ready to walk away inspired.
Touring the hotel with Kainoa Horcajo
I had fun the first time I went to Maui, but this time, I was reminded of the things that really shape my positive experiences of a place. For me it’s the people. The guides and friends, old and new, had me smiling a lot on this trip. I woke up every day looking forward to a new adventure and discovery, like these sunrises.
And breathtaking sunsets.
Oh, and of course the cocktails and food.
I think Hawai’i looks good on me, if I may say so myself.
They say that when it comes to the Hawaiian islands, everyone has their favorite. What I can say is that both times I have been to Maui I have been greeted with so much affection, been shown so much cultural pride, and have gone on such fun adventures, that I have developed a soft spot for the place.
For example, there aren’t enough times to take the Road to Hana. Every time I visit, I feel like I see something new, or something familiar in a new way. I also get better at it because I don’t speed through it like I did the first time, and allot enough time to actually stop and watch the waves (and eat banana bread at Aunty Sandy’s on the Keanae Peninsula). Pro tip: Head out early!
The beautiful eucalyptus trees along the Road to Hana.
On your way to Hana, make sure to stop at the Kahanu Garden, a National Tropical Botanical Park. It is home to the Pi’ilanihale Heiau (House of Pilani) was a place of worship completed in the 15th century. It is one of the most important archeological sites in the Hawaiian Islands and a beautiful, serene place to relax, take in nature, and connect with the island’s history.
And to think, this is just one of the many islands that make up the state of Hawai’i. So much to see, do, and love.
I can’t wait to go back and do it all over again with my family in tow.