Maui: The Weekend Less Planned – Pt. 4

Continued from
Maui: The Weekend Less Planned – Pt. 3

We’ve just returned from a long, wonderful weekend in Maui.

Before we left, I labored over what I’d hoped would be the perfect Maui itinerary. In the end, though, we left ourselves open to spontaneity…and had a better time for it.


Okay, so we did plan one thing.

The Molokini Crater is 15 minutes offshore from the west coast resort area of Wailea, and Adam and I were on fire to snorkel at this marine and seabird sanctuary.

However, we’d arrived on Friday at the Hotel Wailea without a tour rez, so we asked the front desk to remedy this. Happily, they booked us a two-part, 4-hour Kai Kanani snorkeling tour, one of the best experiences of our trip.

A little after 8:30 on Monday morning, we were delivered by HW shuttle to the Makena Beach & Golf Resort, Kai Kanani’s launch point. After signing in to avoid that pesky Open Water situation, we dumped our flip-flops in a bucket and walked straight from the brown sugar sand to the catamaran.

We’d continental-breakfasted at the HW, but we could just as easily have done so on board. There were lots of hot drinks, juices, pastries and fruit — and the food would just keep comin.’ After a brief introduction by the calm yet hilarious Cap’n Anthony, we picked out our snorkel gear and got to chatting with the honeymooners next to us, a young couple from L.A. that had managed to score three weeks off work from both of their employers. Nice.

Arriving at Molokini, we were fascinated by the crescent-shaped crater and the lapis lazuli-blue water…which turns out to be the exact same color underneath. Can we talk about gorgeous? With the sea floor a crystal clear 20+ feet below us, we kept elbowing and thumbs-upping each other over rainbow-bright parrot- and triggerfish, forest green wrasses, yellow tangs, skinny needlefish, big red spiny urchins, ripply little pufferfish and lots more. (Check out this cool chart of Hawaiian reef fish.) Few things sound sillier than trying to talk with the person you love through a snorkel mask, but Molokini’s the kind of place that inspires you to try.

After a half-hour or so, we climbed back aboard for some kettle chips and coffee (oh, like you don’t make poor nutritional choices on vacation), and it was on to the next snorkeling site. Turtle Town is usually a popular spot for sea turtles to gather, but we weren’t lucky enough to spy one underwater.  

However, right after we came back to the boat and wrapped up in sweats and towels (it had been intermittently overcast and cool), Miss Honeymoon, a certified scuba diver, saw herself not one but two turtles. Again, I say — nice.

Mai Tais started flowing — they’re Cap’n Anthony’s specialty — and we got to chatting with a fun group of Canadian West Jet flight attendants taking a break from a Saskatchewan winter to gallivant across the Hawaiian isles. As a lunch of cold-cuts, veggies, fruit and PB&J was being set up, the skippers briefly brought up a small brown octopus, its head no larger than a grapefruit, for us to admire.

I’ll tell you, though, the big attraction of the day was a whole lot larger: Adam and I looked off the front of the boat at that same moment and saw a humpback whale breach entirely out of the water.

Cheering, high-fiving and smiles all around, this was one of the coolest things we may ever see. (Snorkeling tour, $206 for two)

Arriving back at Hotel Wailea after checkout time, we retrieved our stored luggage, showered in the spa and sadly bid this clifftop idyll adieu. Choosing to explore our neighborhood before leaving it for good, we backtracked on Highway 31 towards the four Makena beaches, ogled some choice real estate opportunities along the road, were surprised by the rocky red moonscape of the ‘Ahihi Kina’u Natural Area Reserve, and clambered over black volcanic tide pools beside deep turquoise La Perouse Bay.

Having skipped the sandwiches on the boat, by now we were hungry; I remembered that blogger Kris Traveler had loved the Mala Ocean Tavern in Lahaina. It was a half-hour’s drive away (heading north, Highway 31 becomes Highway 30), and 90% of Lahaina’s downtown is a cruise ship-catering nightmare of souvenir shops and pasty crowds, but the Ocean Tavern itself is past the main drag in its own far, quiet corner. We could eat their “My Big Fat Greek Salad” with its lemon-tahini dressing every day, sipping mojitos beside the bay…if only we lived on Maui.  *Sigh.* (Salads and mojitos for two, $55)

With a few hours to kill, we headed back to the nearby, lush and dramatic ‘Iao Valley State Park to revisit its soaring needle and rushing, rocky streams; we’d come here 11 years ago on our honeymoon, having then been married for all of four days.

It holds a special place in Polynesian history, too: In 1790, this was the site of a great battle that decided Maui would no longer be independent, but instead one of Hawaii’s islands.

Feeling nostalgic, we cut a purposely convoluted path to the Upcountry town of Makawao. (From ‘Iao, it’s easiest to take Highway 32 to Baldwin Avenue in Pa’ia, turn right and head up towards State Highway 400 and the heart of town). On our honeymoon, we had poked through the town’s Western-themed shops and found cool little trinkets and cowboy gear. Some of those shops are still in business, but several high-end galleries and clothing stores were new.

In one of the latter, The Mercantile (3673 Baldwin Avenue, (808) 572-1407), we’d find some Maui-made bath products for our dogsitter; in a recurring theme, we’d also find a salesgirl who was just about to move away from Maui, this one bound for Austin, Texas. Turns out that after four blissful years, a sane person can have too much paradise.

But we still wanted a few more hours. We spent them at the Hali’imaile General Store, a legendary Maui restaurant that began as a catering company in 1985. The over-the-top presentation of some dishes still vibe like the Brat Pack is alive and well, but this is nonetheless a great place to indulge in the freshest local food Maui has to offer. Don’t miss the theatrical Sashimi Napoleon or the Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Terrine, and be sure to try a guava or l’ilikoi lemonade. (Dinner for two without alcohol, about $100)

With the sky now indigo-black and a warm wind ruffling the sugarcane, it was time to go back to our regular lives…but I’m convinced that some part of us has stayed behind, all at peace.


See also
Maui: The Weekend Less Planned – Pt. 1
Maui: The Weekend Less Planned – Pt. 2
Maui: The Weekend Less Planned – Pt. 3
Hotel Wailea: Above the Fray
Maui: Scenes from a Mall
Images of Maui
Heading Back to Maui
TWT Travel Binder: Hawaii


  1. Melanie – you two sure packed in a lot that last day.

    I’m more than just a little jealous that you can take long weekends in Hawaii. 😉

    So, glad you got to see a humpback breach up close. In all the times we’ve been to Hawaii during whale season, we’ve only seen a breach that close just once.

  2. It felt epic writing it…but I have to say, it really was a very relaxing day! We just hung out as long as we wanted at each place, and got moving when we were ready. The only thing that felt difficult was actually leaving Maui…

    You can be jealous of my West Coast-proximity to Hawaii all you’d like — YOU live 5 hours closer to Europe!

  3. Melanie, you’re making me want to return to Maui! I was singing the praises of your series to a friend on the weekend who is considering travelling to Hawaii next year.

    I would love to do the snorkelling!

  4. Maui sounds like a great spot for snorkeling and of course to unwind in such beautiful places!

  5. This is great and those pictures make me hungry, and thirsty! The best part is how bloggers depend on other bloggers for advice on where to go — I love it! Thanks so much for sharing!


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