Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

Front Street in Covid Lahaina

Sig and I had an errand to run in Lahaina today. After our errand, we parked as we always do in the Hilo Hattie’s parking lot on the Northern end of the Front Street tourist strip to see what Covid Lahaina looks like. By sheer habit, we wandered into the Adidas outlet. Sig always finds something there for the kids. Hilo Hattie’s has moved out of their street front location into the space directly behind Adidas. I wanted to go in, but the doors were locked while staff were on a half hour break.

After our obligatory Adidas purchase, we wandered through the deserted Outlets of Maui towards Front Street. It’s sad to see. This shopping center was once bustling, then died only to be revitalized a few years ago with a number of outlet stores. Now it’s pretty dead again. The big box stores were open, the smaller shops closed.

We walked past our first homeless gentleman towards Front Street. The former Hard Rock Cafe is being renovated, and there is a (strangely) newly opened Waikiki Brewing Company. The Adidas girls told us they serve bbq and is supposed to be good.

We’ve had king tides this week, so the sidewalk was wet from being sloshed with waves. Bubba Gump (Sig’s favorite restaurant) was open but on brief glance, I saw only one person at one of the less favorable tables. It was 5pm. This place would normally be bustling with people. The gift shop appeared to be closed. On the wall just past Bubba Gump’s there were four or five homeless people, just chilling. Another was talking to the security guard across the way. From there on most of the shops were closed, some boarded shut. A couple restaurants were open, such as the Lahaina Pizza Company. I have a few musician friends who used to play there, I had always meant to go and hear them play live, but never have made it.

Honestly, we turned around and walked back to our car. Front Street was depressing. While I generally don’t like how commercial it is, particularly not the high pressure face cream places, this was really sad. Acquaintances used to have jewelry places along Front Street, and year’s ago we’d heard of the $30,000/month rent payments. No wonder everything is closed.

The empty Banyan Tree – Covid-style

The good news

I like to think positive when I at all can. In my opinion it is so much easier to walk through life with a positive attitude. So here is the good news. It only took us 40 minutes to get to Lahaina today, very unlike normal non-Covid driving conditions. And there was very little traffic on the road. And our meeting went well.

But, I wonder when tourism will reopen again.

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Quarantine extended!

Unfortunately we knew this was coming, but today Hawaii Governor David Ige made it official. The ‘negative Covid test to avoid quarantine’ exemption has been pushed out to at least September 1, 2020. Mandatory 14 day quarantine extended. Sigh.

Here is a link to my previous post about the mandatory 14 day quarantine and that there was going to be a testing option. Travelers could take a test 3 days prior to travel, have negative results, and avoid the quarantine.

Unfortunately there are problems with that. For one, local politicians and Hawaii residents have the jitters thanks to the surge in cases on the mainland. We are being told there is a shortage of testing kits because of the mainland surge. Many travelers and mainland owners are reporting problems getting tests (without having Covid-19 symptoms) and timely results which would be required at flight check-in. Finally, public school is slated to begin the first week of August and allowing tourism at the same time would make it more difficult to see if new flare-ups are community-based or due to travel (or so I’m told).

In short, it’s a bit of a kaffuffle.

Unfortunately, this further delays tourism to Hawaii and with that a kickstart to the economy and completely flat-lined tourism industry.

We wish you were here. I really do. In the mean time, we hope the US mainland is able to curb their cases so Hawaii politicians feel more comfortable with reopening to tourism. But we also hope the increasing numbers of returning Hawaii residents who traveled to the mainland this summer adhere to the terms of quarantine so that Hawaii also can keep its numbers under control.

How many people are actually arriving in Hawaii?

In case you are interested, here are the posted mainland arrival numbers for yesterday 7/12/20 as compiled by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. For comparison purposes, in 2019 the average arrivals were 35,000/day.

mainland arrival numbers as posted by the Hawaii Tourism Authority for 7/13/20
  • Crew = flight crew members
  • Transit = people who are in transit to another location through Hawaii and aren’t leaving the airport
  • Military = military exempt personnel
  • Exempt = people who are exempt from the 14-day quarantine after receiving prior approval from the state
  • Relocate to Hawaii = people who are moving to Hawaii
  • Returning Resident = people who indicate on the DOT’s form that they’re returning residents
  • Visitor = people who are not in the above categories
a torch ginger bloom – not because it has anything to do with this depressing news, but because it made me smile yesterday as I checked on our Kihei Surfside #405 condo

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What to expect at a Sunrise On Haleakala

Our family has lived on Maui for ten years now, and believe it or not, I had never been to see sunrise on Haleakala. There have been a few reasons – but mainly having young children and my general dislike of crowds.

Those two blocks are no longer a factor – the kids are older, in fact I was able to bribe one of them to come along with me this morning. And as for crowds…. Haleakala National Park has limited visitors with a sunrise registration system a few years ago. And now with Covid, the park has further reduced those numbers.

What to bring before leaving the house/condo

  • winter clothes, wind breaker… you mainland folk may be used to standing in near freezing temperatures for an hour or two (don’t forget about wind), but apparently my blood has thinned from living on Maui. I was so cold – but loving every minute of it!
  • your wallet (credit card and ID, credit card only $30 for park admission, cash for Komoda’s donuts – they have a $10 minimum for credit card purchases)
  • a print out of your Haleakala sunrise reservation
  • drinks, snacks
  • enough gas to get there and back
  • Note: the last place to purchase anything on the way up would be a 24/7 gas station or perhaps McDonald’s in Kahului

Our journey to Sunrise on Haleakala

This morning we left our home in Kihei at around 2:20AM. Right off the bat, we saw a deer right next to the Piilani Hwy by the Kihei police station. I’m sure glad it stayed off the road as we passed. There was little traffic besides a black SUV also headed to sunrise.

We saw someone walking along the Veterans Hwy (formerly known as Mokulele, taking us towards Kahului). He also thankfully stayed on the bike path.

We hit our only red light at the turnoff onto Haleakala Hwy by King Kekaulike school in Pukalani. At this point the highway becomes a two lane road (with exception of a one lane bridge you come upon pretty quickly). It’s a gorgeous drive by day. As we passed through a grove of trees just before Kula Lodge area, we saw a large bird (I think an owl) flying in front of us. For a moment I worried he’d fly right into my windshield, but he changed direction, picked up speed and took off into the trees.

A little past Kula Lodge you follow the signs and turn left and at this point the roads get pretty wind-y as you really go up in elevation. Just past the tree line and past the second cattle gate, we came across a beef cow and her calf. Yes, we have in the past encountered them even laying down on the road. Definitely watch for them.

We reached the National Park gate which is just above the 6500 ft elevation mark when you come to a forested area). I picked up an annual park pass ($55 vs the $30 for a 3 day vehicle pass). We will certainly come up at least once more this year making it worth it. Note, if you have a US national park pass, bring it along as you can use it for admission. The park employee cross-referenced my name with her sunrise reservation list. Then we drove another half hour to reach the summit, passing crater valley parking lot on the way. Guess what – we were the only car there!

The sunrise experience

We bundled up in our winter jackets, hats and gloves, in our excitement completely forgetting to don our face masks. We were about an hour early for the show to begin but enjoyed some stargazing, though the moon was about half full, which didn’t allow us to see the Milky Way. On the plus side, we didn’t have to use our phones as flashlights as we walked around the in part cracked sidewalks. No tripping at the top of the world! Any medical care is a good hour’s drive away at the Kula fire station or perhaps tiny Kula hospital.

We could see Kihei and Kahului’s lights, as well as the faint flashing red lights along the windmills in Maalaea. We could also faintly see a few lights in the distance – I am pretty sure they would have been from Hawi, Big Island.

Haleakala Sunrise
gazing down at Kihei (left) and Kahului (right)

The skies started lightening around 5:10AM today, in the mean time another five cars had joined us. We walked back up to the lookout area (due to Covid-19 the shelter area was closed). It was a balmy 46F (7.8C) and thankfully no wind. We sure enjoyed the view, the sky changing colors above the cloud cover until finally the sun rose just before 6AM.

By sunrise another 20 cars arrived – a number of them ended up completely missing the show. We stopped briefly at crater valley and headed back down the mountain for our rewards of Komoda’s donuts in Makawao.

Would I do it again?

I’m thrilled we were able to experience a Haleakala Sunrise, even more so that we didn’t have to face the crowds so many are used to seeing at sunrise. However, I think I prefer sunset on Haleakala. Sunset doesn’t require reservations, there are fewer people, you can see if the mountain is cloud-covered prior to leaving Kihei (because it’s daytime). You aren’t exhausted from getting up super early. On that note – I would plan Haleakala Sunrise when you are still undergoing jetlag (at the beginning of your Maui trip).

Silver swords (‘ahinahina) in bloom

What a treat! It’s silver sword blooming season. These are such bizarre, delicate plants that are found exclusively on Haleakala.

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Saying goodbye to the Maui Tropical Plantation

This weekend we saw the sad announcement on social media – the Maui Tropical Plantation is closing indefinitely. While I understand given the current economic realities, it is so sad to say goodbye to this place.

We’ve been coming to the Maui Tropical Plantation since early 2004, back before we lived here, when we fled rainy West Coast Januaries and came to Maui on vacation. Besides the gift shop and restaurant, they have a beautiful lake, ducks to feed and a trolley you can take to see and learn about plants that grow here on Maui. Back then they even had a monkey enclosure (those were moved to a new home a few years later).

A few years ago the Maui Tropical Plantation was revitalized, given new life with funky Sugar Cane Factory equipment incorporated into the landscape. It is to date one of my favorite places to go, enjoy the landscape, have a coffee, shop the gift shop and grab some fresh veggies at the Kumu Farm stand. I always intended to try their beginner zipline with the kids. Their Mill House Restaurant had stunning reviews, and though I never ate there, I did eat at the train bar once (yes, it had a full size sugar cane locomotive right there in the bar). This is on the ‘must do’ list for all boy moms, after all!

What happened?

Well…. Covid happened. The island all but shut down with mandatory quarantine imposed on all arrivals and with that tourism died – temporarily at least. As with many businesses, the Maui Tropical Plantation closed temporarily, only to reopen a few weeks ago. However, I imagine there was just not enough traffic to keep it viable and so now they are closing indefinitely.

This week they are having a closing sale at the gift shop, daily 10-4 (in person only, not on the website). I arrived shortly after 10 and…. the lineup went around the building, all the way to the shops in the back. While in line I chatted with those around me (all wearing our masks, sometimes in the shade, sometimes in the bright hot sun). We are all so sad to see this special place go.

What did I get?

Unfortunately I didn’t make it into the store today. The line was moving, but too slow for me to make it in and out on time to pick up my son from Kanaha Beach Park. I’ll try again tomorrow. It’s not so much that I wanted to buy something, it was more about going for one last visit. But yes, I know I would have found things I ‘need’. Like HI Spice hotsauce.

Tourism will return one day and with it, I hope, this beautiful place will be revived. For now, we say aloha and a hui hou (goodbye and until we meet again).

goodbye
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How to avoid the mandatory quarantine

A few months ago the Governor of Hawaii instituted a mandatory quarantine for all arrivals into the State of Hawaii. We even had to quarantine when traveling between the Hawaiian islands with a few exceptions including medical travel.

The inter-island restrictions were lifted as of June 16th and slowly inter-island travel is resuming. A few days ago the Governor held another press-conference. Visitors and returning residents to the islands will be able to avoid the mandatory quarantine by having a negative pre-travel Covid-19 test, to be completed 3 days prior to travel.

Here is the Governor’s press release

Governor’s Office:

Pre-Travel Testing Option for Trans-Pacific Travel Beginning August 1

Gov. David Ige announced today all travelers arriving in Hawai‘i from out-of-state will be required to get a valid COVID-19 test prior to their arrival, and to show proof of a negative test result, to avoid the 14-day quarantine. The pre-travel testing program begins Aug. 1.
Out-of-state travelers arriving in Hawai‘i must get a PCR test prior to arrival from any testing location approved by the Hawai‘i State Department of Health. Evidence of a negative test result must be provided upon arrival in Hawai‘i. Without this, passengers arriving from out-of-state will be subject to the 14-day quarantine. No testing will be provided upon arrival at the airport.

DOH is still in the process of developing this program but anticipates requiring an FDA-approved PCR test from a CLIA certified laboratory. Travelers will be required to provide printed or emailed pre-test certification as evidence of a negative test result. Travelers will be responsible for the cost of the pre-travel test. 

Temperature checks will continue at airports across the state. Anyone with a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees or who is experiencing other symptoms will be required to undergo a secondary screening at the airport with trained healthcare staff. In addition, travelers will be required to fill out the State of Hawai‘i Traveler and Health form. 

Gov. Ige said, “Now is the time to work together to ensure that our residents and local businesses can safely reopen to incoming travelers. We expect more cases as travel reopens and the State is confident in its ability to monitor and respond to new cases. This is a marathon, not a sprint.” Numerous community leaders were instrumental in helping to develop the plan along with county mayor’s and legislative leadership.

State Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson commented, “Lifting the 14-day quarantine for out-of-state travel will require an intensive airport screening process, increased contact tracing and monitoring of cases, and careful tracking of the state’s progress in controlling and containing the coronavirus. This is a huge undertaking by the state and a tremendous commitment from public health as we embark on these new and untested initiatives and face many unknowns. It is definitely a new normal and we have much to learn as we lift restrictions and rebuild our economy while safeguarding the health of our people.”

Exact details have yet to be figured out. Visitors would need to have the testing done at their own expense prior to getting to the airport and have results in hand.

What is an FDA approved PCR test?

The press release specifically mentions needing an FDA approved PCR test. I know there are several tests out there. Several of my side-job coworkers had them done in the past few months (thankfully testing negative). One had the full-on nasal swab experience (the turnaround time on her particular test was nearly a week), another had a cheek swab and had the results within a few hours. Here is what the FDA has posted on PCR tests – apparently there is even a home test kit. Who knew. At the press conference, Governor Ige mentioned working with CVS pharmacies for this proposed testing.

What does this mean for your Maui trip?

Not having to do the mandatory quarantine is in my mind definitely game-changing when it comes to planning your next Maui trip (or for us Hawaii residents, our next mainland trip). However, there are still many questions to be answered. Will visitors be able to get these tests on the mainland? How can you be sure to get the results on time for your trip? What if you test positive (please get trip cancellation insurance!!)?

I know the Hawaii visitor industry as a whole will be pushing hard for the governor’s office to provide answers and finalize details in the coming weeks. As I find out more information, I will post it here on the website.

Please contact me with questions

If you have a Maui trip booked at one of our condos, please message me. If you’ve booked through VRBO or Airbnb, please message me through those platforms to keep all communication in one place. If you booked direct (good for you! You always save this way), please send me an email.

quarantine
the entrance to our Palms at Wailea condo – taken a few days ago when I prepared our condo for a local family’s staycation. Wish you were here!
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Reopening for vacation rentals!

I had just sent an email to all our upcoming guests yesterday and then sat down to watch Maui Mayor Mike Victorino’s press conference. I was expecting more of the same, information that affects me as I live here, but nothing positive about vacation rentals. Then – surprise! – he announced the reopening of vacation rentals effective June 16, 2020.

What does this mean for you?

If you live in Hawaii or have already finished your 14 day quarantine after arriving in the Islands, we are able to rent to you. We are offering 20% off rates for stays from June-September 2020 – coupon code ALOHA.

If you are coming to the islands and need to do your 14 day quarantine, I’m really sorry – but we cannot rent to you until you have completed the quarantine. Per the governor’s latest decree, we as owners can be held criminally liable if we rent to those under quarantine orders. Yikes.

When will the mandatory quarantine end?

As of this Monday Hawaii Governor Ige extended the mandatory 14 day quarantine through July 31. He talked about infrared temperature scanners and possible testing that will be implemented at island airports in the coming month. We are hoping the quarantine will NOT be extended any further. However, with the recent upswing in Covid cases on the mainland, who knows.

When will the US-Canada border reopen?

I recently read in a CBC article that the Canada/US border is actually only closed to land and sea crossings, but that you can currently fly from Canada into the US. If you can find a flight. Of course, there still is the mandatory 14 day quarantine into Hawaii to deal with. And the mandatory 14 day quarantine back into Canada upon return. It seems like a big hassle.

Continued reopening

On my walk along South Kihei Road yesterday evening I saw patrons sitting on a lanai at Fred’s Mexican Cafe. In normal times the restaurant would be packed with lines out the door, especially on Taco Tuesdays. I’ve seen people in line to pick up take-out, but this was the first time I saw someone being served on the lanai in…. months. I can’t wait til things get back to normal. Whatever the new normal will be.

Stealthy picture of one couple on Fred’s lanai.
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Life without tourists

Another month of our new ‘life without tourists’ has come and gone. Here we are a week into June. It has been 2 1/2 months since most our guests left for the mainland. Our last guests extended their stay a little and left early April. Surreal.

Hawaii State has thankfully stabilized its Covid-19 cases. The State has been reopening, as of last week restaurants are allowed to reopen for modified dine-in service. Some have, but others haven’t. My personal fave, Gannon’s, announced they are not reopening until life without tourists ends. Another friend told me their (Gannon’s) monthly rent. As the number is unconfirmed, I won’t post it here – but suffice it to say, my $120 for lunch every few months is not even a drop in the bucket. I understand.

We are anxiously awaiting June 16th – the day the inter-island 14 day quarantine is finally lifted. This is generally seen as one of the precursors to the mandatory 14 day quarantine from the mainland being lifted.

The roads are becoming busier as locals stop self-isolating. I find this ironic. I work part-time at a medical office and one of my jobs is to make appointment confirmation calls. Patients swear to me they have been staying at home, self-isolating. Then who is driving on the roads? Oh right – that’s me, I guess!

covid
This was the highway in Kaanapali yesterday on our way to Kapalua for a hike on the Kapalua Coastal Trail. Normally this road would be filled with traffic! Life without tourists.

With no summer travel in sight for our family, we have made it our mission to explore new things on Maui. There are a surprising number of things we have never done yet in our ten years on Maui. So far we have been doing a lot of hiking – I love it!

What else is on my bucket list?

I have yet to see sunrise on Haleakala. Haleakala National Park recently reopened for limited hours. Once they reopen for sunrise, I’ll be there! Sunset is amazing – I also want to do that again!

Zipline – I have never been ziplining, so that is something I’d like to try. This would be a fun birthday activity with the kids. I guess we’ll see which ones reopen and decide.

Maui Ocean Center – our local aquarium has been closed for the past few months. Once they reopen, I would like to see the new humpback whale exhibit and video in the new dome. They have incidentally repainted the blue waves along the outside of the building. Interesting.

Road to Hana – it has been closed for travel to all but those who live there since Covid-19 due to the remoteness and lack of medical facilities on that side of the island. I get it. But once they reopen, there are some hikes that I need to check out!

Look what I was able to do yesterday! Remember the lookout on the Pali, between Maalaea and the tunnel on the way to Lahaina? We were able to pull into a near empty parking lot, park and take pictures of the view!

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Pali lookout view
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Kapalua Coastal Trail

Another week, another family hike. This time we drove out to the West side, past Lahaina and Kaanapali to hike the Kapalua Coastal Trail.

We’ve been out there before of course, to hike around Dragon’s Teeth and for the PGA Tournament which always takes place early January. But this was our first time walking the Kapalua Coastal Trail. The trail description marked it as easy, so we didn’t worry too much about our foot wear. Next time, I would at least wear enclosed shoes. No matter.

We parked at the end of Office Road and followed the signs. The section in front of the Ritz was fenced off for security since the hotel is closed. So we headed south instead. It was really a sweet adventure. The sky was overcast and there was a nice breeze coming off the ocean.

It turns out, despite the signs, I managed to take the family off course. Just around the Montage, we veered off the trail and ended up at Akin’s Jumping Rock where there a group of 40+ local kids were having a party and cliff jumping. Oops. That trail appeared to dead-end. At that point we turned around and headed back towards the Ritz and our car. Long story short, we clearly did not do the entire walk. However, the portion we walked was beautiful. I would definitely do this again.

If you’ve walked the Wailea Beach Walk, this path is in parts narrower. I have no idea how busy it is regularly. But now during the Covid-19 shut-down, it was pretty ideal with nearly noone on the trail.

Different lava rock

I love looking at the rock formation. Hopefully someone with more geology background can explain it to me sometime, but some of the lava rock is all bubbly-looking. I presume from the ocean water hitting, or I could be way off base. It is very neat.

hiking
Sig and I at the lava outcropping along the Kapalua Coastal Trail
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Sugar Beach Walk

Have you been on the Sugar Beach walk? Last weekend the pool at our Sugar Beach Resort condo reopened for condo owners and guests. With Covid-19 restrictions in effect, there are very few owners and guests on property. Sig has been doing a lot of work at our condos and wanted to sit in the hot tub, so off to the pool we went.

I felt the need for exercise and went for a Sugar Beach walk prior to joining him in the hot tub. If you have never been, this is a five mile stretch of beach in North Kihei in front of our Sugar Beach condo. It can get pretty windy, so you may want to time your walk to a less windy time of day to avoid the free exfoliating treatment! One of the best things about this walk is, if you get hot, just step into the ocean to cool off!

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Ahhhhh…. the beach

I do enjoy walking the beach. There were a number of people enjoying the sun, playing in the water, bringing in a sail boat and fishing. A few years ago we saw a fisher catch and then of course release a ray at this beach. That’s certainly not something I’ve seen caught before but I suppose it happens.

Keawe trees

A portion of the beach is lined with Keawe trees. You will want to be very careful around these trees. They have thorns which are painful to step on especially when barefoot. Incidentally it seems every time my brother-in-law goes on a bike ride when on Maui, he gets a flat tire thanks to Keawe tree thorns.

hiking

A rare direct flight!

In other news, while sitting at the pool after my walk, I saw a plane flying into Maui. These days with Covid-19 that is sooo rare. There are currently three direct flights to Maui from the mainland. They are all Delta Airlines and arrive from LAX. If you are flying anywhere else, you have to first fly to Honolulu (HNL) on Oahu and then off. Life sure has changed.

flight
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Waiakoa Loop Trail

Another day, another hike with the kids, this time the Waiakoa Loop Trail in upcountry Maui.

I’ve been wanting to go explore the hikes at Poli Poli for a while now. Last fall my cross-country running kid had a team practice up there. It turns out, I had a completely mistaken idea of where the hikes were.

The car adventure

Of course, to preface this – you drive all the way from Kihei past the Kula Farm stand along the Kula Hwy, then turn up the mountain and, just next to Kula Botanical Gardens, turn right up Waiopuli Road which takes you what my teenager had told me was Poli Poli. It’s the bottom of a large meadow with signs featuring hang-gliding. That portion alone is about a one hour drive from Kihei.

To get to the hikes, you traverse a large meadow with a newly paved one lane road featuring many hair pin turns, then continue up through forested areas (with more hair pin turns) until you get to the first of a series of trails. The hairpin turns aren’t so bad, and there are occasional pull-outs to allow for oncoming traffic. The sketchy part is – the newly paved road has steep dropoffs on either side of the asphalt (4-8 inches for sure which is great for the car). However, this balances out with the spectacular bicoastal views.

After our car adventure, we chose to go with the first trail we came upon – the Waiakoa Loop Trail.

Waiakoa Loop Trail

The Waiakoa Loop Trail has a very small parking lot (fitting maybe 3-4 cars) next to an ominous-sounding ‘hunter check-in station’. Consider yourself warned. The road continues up the hill promising further adventurous driving, but instead you head down a dirt access road (as of today this road has some deep ruts in it, my van would not have done well on it had it been open for driving – it’s not). The trail starts off with a steep downhill section, followed by a steep uphill section (not quite as bad as the beginning steep uphill section at the Waihee Ridge Trail). After that it levels out with alternating uphill/downhill parts, but not bad at all. This coming from an inexperienced hiker.

Waiakoa Loop Trail

After 0.7 miles you get to the beginning of the loop trail. Close the gate behind you and brush your shoes to prevent carrying non-endemic plant seeds onto the trail. This hike is completely in the forest (no views beside forest). We were partly in the clouds. It was however absolutely beautiful. We heard so many birds (my dad would have had a field day with his bird watching app). We saw absolutely no wildlife on the trail (though we had seen a nene bird near the trail head).

Disclaimer, we did not walk the entire trail. The entire trail is 3.8 miles (from the parking lot). We walked about 0.7 miles past the gate and then turned around, so a respectable 2.8 miles total.

Waiakoa Loop Trail
the hikes in the Kula Forest Reserve. You are here marks where you’ve already walked the access road and gotten to the gate. The orange dot on the yellow road is the hunter check-in station where you park.
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