As Hubby and I were touring our way around Maui we had several “lessons learned” moments that would have been nice to have known ahead of time. Actually, it would have been nice if these things were in the travel book we used to plan our trip. I’m not gonna write a travel book, but if you go, here’s what we learned.
Take cash — and your Visa card. It costs $10 to get in to the state park and go to the crater or the summit, Fearing that a state park might not take a Visa card (and we weren’t going to drive up 10,000 feet and be turned away) we got cash from an ATM before heading up. The park ranger wanted small bills and wouldn’t take our $20. But, he accepted Visa, Mastercard, etc. So be prepared to use exact change at the entrance or have a credit card handy. Small bills will also be needed at the crater gift shop. In fact, the crater gift shop takes cash only (probably no phone lines for a credit card machine at 10,000 feet). The official visitor center at about 7,000 feet takes credit cards, but it’s a smaller shop with not as many options as the shop at the top.
If you go at sunrise, ask your hotel if they offer jackets or blankets because it is cold up there at 5 a.m.! Our hotel offered blankets, I read about another that offered jackets. So just ask.
Any time you go take a snack and something to drink because there’s nothing at the top to eat or drink unless you bring it. However, if you go for sunrise, on your way back down at around 9 or 10 a.m. stop at the Kula Lodge for breakfast. It’s about half way down the mountain with a beautiful view and a good $10 plate of eggs and bacon and toast. Also, if you’re interested in touring the Alii Kula lavender farm or shopping in the lavender farm gift shop, do this after breakfast. The lavender farm is a quick stop (less than an hour) and will save you from having to drive back up the mountain later in your trip. (We didn’t do this but wish now we would’ve.)
The only advice here is take a poncho, umbrella or both because it may rain. It is the rainforest. Also, consider doing this in the morning and then making a short 10 mile (20 minute) drive over to Lahaina for lunch and shopping.
Speaking of Lahaina, this was one of my favorite parts of Maui. If we were going to live in Maui (which we just might someday, I’m thinking retirement), this is the area where I’d want to be. It’s a perfect mix of beach, harbor and shopping but also has a hometown feel. For us southerners it’s like Gatlinburg, Tenn., or for Indiana folks, think Nashville, Ind., but at the beach instead of in the mountains. It’s a mix of locally run mom-and-pop shops with bigger names like Crazy Shirts, Na Huko and Whaler’s too. I made special effort to look for things made in Maui — not just made in Hawaii, because there were several things made in Honolulu — but actually made on that very island. There were great selections of perfumes made in Maui as well as candles in coconut in shells. And the scents of all of these were amazingly Maui.
We actually visited Lahaina twice — one evening for the Old Lahaina Luau and we went back as a daytrip for the shopping. If you’re staying on another part of the island (as we were) you can do both in one day. Go over at lunch time, eat at Cheeseburger in Paradise (the original, not the Jimmy Buffet chain) about mid-way through the strip, and shop for 3-4 hours until time for the luau at 5:45. There’s no reason to show up at the luau early — tickets come with assigned seats and they don’t let you in until 5:45. However, if you’re shopping before the luau, go ahead and check in because when you receive your tickets you receive a coupon book for the Cannery Mall which is across the street from the luau.
The Old Lahaina Luau is hailed as the best luau on the island. It’s the only luau we went to so I don’t have much to compare it to, but it was very nice and had “extra” stuff to do that a lot of other luaus didn’t describe having — extras like hula demonstrations, local crafts people selling homemade jewelry, a photographer to take your picture and the unearthing of the kulua pig from the imu (underground oven). It’s buffet style and you’re sent to the buffet by tables, with the tables closest to the stage going first. Your seat is assigned according to how soon you buy tickets, so buy early if you want to sit closer and eat earlier.