Category: Maui to-do

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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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.

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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.

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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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Waihee Ridge Trail

Yesterday we hiked Waihee Ridge Trail. It was absolutely beautiful.

School is basically out for the year. Normally we would be planning a Canada trip to visit grandparents and then some additional travel to teach the kids more about ‘the world’.

However, Covid happened and so we aren’t going anywhere soon. We are faced with another 2 1/2 months of summer (in addition to the 2 months of kids doing ‘at home’ school. So in an attempt to maintain some form of sanity, we’re determined to do some hiking and exploring within the government approved parameters. Check here for some Maui hikes we’ve done in the past few years.

Yesterday’s actual plan was to hike at Poli Poli. However as we were headed towards Kahului on the highway we saw it was raining upcountry. Change in plans. I suggested we try the Waihee Ridge Trail. We’ve never done that hike and I’ve heard it’s beautiful. With next to no visitors on island, I figured chances were good the parking lot wouldn’t be full. I was right.

The drive to Waihee Ridge Trail

To get there you drive through Wailuku and Waihee and end up on the road that circles the island counter-clockwise. Not a good idea, by the way, to circle the island from this direction. If you do want to drive around the island, I’m told always to start in Lahaina and then drive clock-wise towards Wailuku from there. This road is very windy and in part one lane only. Always better to be on the inside against the mountain as opposed to on the cliff side. Note, I saw a sign that portions of this road are closed to all but local traffic (similarly to the Road to Hana).

When you get to Mendes Ranch, the road turns left and you immediately turn up the driveway on the left where there is a large parking lot. Do not stop there, continue through the gate and up the mountain to the Waihee Ridge Trail parking lot (end of driveway). There is a private residence and also the boy scouts camp (Camp Maluhia) which you pass enroute.

The trail

The trail itself begins with a steep uphill paved climb. I think it’s to discourage you from trying it. Oh my word. Once you get to the water towers (you can see them from the parking lot), you veer off onto a regular path and it gets significantly easier. You then continue the uphill climb through a forest until you get to the ridge, peering down into Waihee Valley. It is absolutely beautiful. Waihee river looks like a creek from up high, but based on the sound, you know it’s more than that. From there on I’m told we got lucky. This portion of the trail can be very muddy and slippery. We had in fact worn our hiking boots (thankfully) but the trail was dry. It continues uphill.

once we came out the forest we were rewarded with beautiful views of Kahului harbor and Kihei in the far distance
looking down into the Waihee valley

We sent the two older kids ahead with Sig and I and our youngest bringing up the rear. At some point they texted us they had made it to the top and started returning. Honestly, we called it a day at that point as our youngest was having a hard time of it.

Was it worth it?

Absolutely. It is a stunning hike with gorgeous views. I loved seeing all the ferns and plants. At the beginning of the trail hike there are boot brushes with instructions to wipe shoes so as to avoid bringing non-endemic plants up the path.

Will we do it again?

Maybe. Probably. But for now we have other hikes to try, such as Poli Poli and the Lahaina Pali Trail. How about you? What is your favorite Maui hike?

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Do you love hockey?

One of our sons has been playing hockey for… well, forever. He started playing as a 10 year old because, after all, it’s the Canadian thing to do. When he first started, I knew nothing about the sport. In all truthfulness, I still don’t understand much of it. But it’s fun to watch.

Did you know that Kihei has a hockey rink? No, it’s not an ice rink. It’s inline. Maui Hockey has a youth league with kids ages 5-16 and an adult elite, adult rec and 35+over league.

At last night’s adult elite game. Such a fun game to watch!

The rink is located at Kalama Park in Kihei, right along the ocean-front bike path. Games and practices are evenings (it’s just too hot to wear all your gear in the hot Kihei sun).

When are the games?

If you are in the mood to watch a little, here’s the schedule:

  • Monday night: 8:15-9:45 PM rec league (2 games)
  • Tuesday night: 7:45-9:45 PM adult league (2 games)
  • Thursday night: kids games start at 5:30, 35+over league begins 8:30-9:45 PM

Lights out is a hard 10PM per County rules.

Did you know, last season the 16U team kicked the adult rec league’s butts? It was an awesome season, but to keep things competitive and fun, they’ve been split up for this season. They are practicing as a team (together with the rest of the leagues) for an Oahu tournament this April at Kapolei’s indoor hockey rinks (what a treat!)

Pickup hockey

If you love hockey, come down to the rink on Sunday nights for a round of pick-up, starting at 7:30PM. Sign a waiver, pay $10, borrow some gear and play ! It’s a fun crowd! What else do you have going on on a Monday night? And – what could be better than playing hockey on Maui? Inline hockey, that is!

Open skate

Yes, for those who want to just skate for fun, there are three open skate nights, Wednesday 6-8 PM, Friday 6-9 PM and Saturday 6-9 PM. Admission is free, skate rental is $5 (bring your own socks!). Skate night is run by volunteer hockey parents/skaters.

Check here for a few more hockey related posts on this blog!

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Upcountry drive

It’s been oddly stormy weather here over Christmas, with Kihei even getting rain showers. So we yesterda opted to go for an upcountry drive.

Here are a few pictures for your enjoyment.

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park

This is a small upcountry memorial park dedicated to a Maui resident who was interestingly involved in the 1911 Chinese revolution, overthrowing the monarchy. The fish taking a bite out of the roof cracked me up. And this well fed rooster definitely stole the show. I know I just turkey for Christmas dinner but…. I couldn’t stop admiring the size of his thighs.

Ulupalakua General Store and Maui Wine

Next up we stopped at Ulupalakua General Store for some homemade burgers from their own meat. I tried the elk, the rest of the family enjoyed the beef burger. There’s just something about an outdoor grill and eating burgers upcountry at a picnic table.

The restroom is across the way past Maui Wine. We stopped in the Maui Wine building where they have an interesting history display of the ranch. The story on this plaque struck my funny bone. I love history – it’s full of interesting stories.

Captain Mackee was at the time the owner of what is now Ulupalakua Ranch

Maui Wine has changed the way it runs the tasting room. You can still go for complimentary tours (we have yet to go on one, our timing is always off), but tastings run $12-$16 for a flight of wines and they have pupus (cheese and charcuterie boards are available for purchase too). They have expanded the seating area and the gift shop, it is quite lovely. Old Jail tastings are $40. Do check the website for more information.

Grandma’s Coffee House

Next we stopped in at Grandma’s Coffee House for take-out coffee and desert. They grow their own coffee and have a nice display case of homemade treats. Their lunches are also excellent.

Finally, we headed back towards Kihei, driving through rain showers and sunny patches and past this amazing poinsettia hedge right along Kula Hwy.

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Planning for Christmas dinner

Our family loves Christmas. The kids look forward to their school break and of course presents. I do a lot of Christmas baking (I have to store it in my bedroom if I want to ensure it lasts more than a week – ha!), Sig does the Christmas shopping (and wrapping). I plan a Christmas dinner (usually turkey). And then of course there are all the other Christmas activities surrounding this time of year: Christmas concerts, parties, school events…. and tourists!

at a recent upcountry holiday event

Did you know, the holidays are the busiest time of year on Maui? The first two weeks of December are generally calm, and then all of a sudden – right around now – you go grocery shopping at Safeway and realize, it’s high season! Families of tourists shopping for groceries, many more cars on the road, difficulties turning left at intersections….

I’m not complaining. Visitors to our island are our bread and butter.

I thought for today’s blog post, I’d post some Christmas dinner ideas – on the off chance that you are here this Christmas (or planning for next year)…

Yes, some restaurants are open for Christmas dinner. They will mainly have buffet or pre-set menus to order from. If you plan to eat out, do make reservations NOW (many, though not all, use OpenTable for reservations).

If you can’t get a reservation (or prefer not to pay that kind of money), some grocery stores offer pre-made take-out dinners. Check with Whole Foods (Kahului) to preorder your meal. Unsure if local grocery stores (Safeway, Times or Foodland offer anything this year).

Guess what, if you are staying at one of our condos, you could also just plan to eat in. Throw something on the BBQ, or head to one of the beach parks for a sunset picnic (that would be my choice).

Our favorite restaurants in South Maui

Here are a few of our favorite restaurants. Note, almost everywhere on Maui lunches are significantly less expensive than dinner. And at lunch you can enjoy oceanviews which disappear after dark.

  • Gannon’s – lunch or happy hour with a view
  • Mulligans – Irish pub with a view
  • Maui Brewing Company – fun atmosphere
  • Nalu’s – I dream of their ahi tuna sandwich
  • Fabiani’s – I dream of their bakery case. However, also a great Italian restaurant
  • Pita Paradise – fresh fish
  • 5 Palms – amazing oceanfront setting

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Sunset atop Haleakala

I love watching sunset, watching the colors change. But there’s nothing quite like watching it at the beach. Except perhaps from atop the highest mountain.

Yesterday we dropped our turkeys off at an upcountry imu (here’s a link to last year’s imu roast for lots more info!) and then continued up the mountain. We got there just before sunset which was great as it allowed us to see the crater valley which is spectacular in itself. I almost think it’s better in the morning though, when the sun really shows off all the different colors in the valley.

Haleakala’s crater valley

We had passed through some clouds on our way up to the summit (10,023 feet elevation), but it cleared up just past the National Park gates (yes, this is a national park – 3 day entrance fee starting in 2020 is $30, an annual pass is $50).

a silversword plant – these are endangered and grow only on Maui. A step on their root system will kill them, so don’t get close.

Sunrise viewing is hugely popular on Haleakala, so much so that a few years ago the park instituted a reservation system. If you want to go see sunrise, make sure two months prior you go online and buy a ticket. Tickets are cheap – only $1.50/car (however, you ALSO need to purchase or have along your national park pass to enter the park). But they are day-specific, so you do need to go on that day (this limits the total number of cars to 150, which is the number of parking stalls up there). They do release a few additional tickets two days prior, so that’s always an option also. Note, park wardens will not allow you into the park between 3-7AM without this special ticket.

I’ve never driven up for sunrise. I would prefer to see if it’s cloudy or clear before I drive all that way (rather than taking my chances leaving at 3AM to get to the summit in time for a possible sunrise).

Yesterday the top parking lot was full, but there were plenty of parking spaces in the crater parking lot.

Stargazing with cows

We stayed at the summit until it was quite dark and then drove back down the mountain. Just past the national park gate and forest, we encountered cows on the road. Yes, there are signs warning of cows, do watch for them as they like to munch grass right next to the road. In fact, I’ve come across cows lying on the road in the evening (which is nice and warm from the sun).

We parked in a pull-out near some cows, turned off the car and stood next to it, gazing up at the stars. It was so dark, we couldn’t see the cows, just hear them snorting and munching their grass. As you know, we used to own a dairy farm, so we loved that. It was a beautiful evening.

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Kula Lodge

I had an errand to run today near Kula Lodge. Kula Lodge is at the 3200 ft elevation. As you drive up our volcano (Haleakala), you will find that the roads get narrower, the speed limits drop and the views become increasingly spectacular.

The Kula Lodge is the highest sit-down restaurant on Maui with an outdoor pizza oven and stunning bi-coastal views. This is also home to the Curtis Cost Gallery – his Maui scenery paintings are just spectacular. You can also stay at the Kula Lodge, though we’ve never done it.

One of my favorite things to do (though I haven’t done it for a while), is to kick off an evening of stargazing with pizza at the Kula Lodge. It’s time we did that again.

The poinsettia hedge in the parking lot is starting to bloom. It is mid-November. Where did the year go?

Kula Marketplace

As I was a bit early, I stopped at the Kula Marketplace gift shop to look around. Always on the look out for new Made in Maui products and goodies. Today I found a few: a new to me hotsauce by Volcano Spice using Maui grown scorpion peppers. I love the HI Spice Smoke Scorpion sauce, so I’ll have to taste-test these two. I love the color.

I also found these coasters which I thought would make fun Christmas presents.

Kula Lodge
Christmas coasters

I may have mentioned a time or two how much I love upcountry Maui. I don’t know what I love more – the scenery and the views, or cooling off from Kihei’s heat!

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