I’ve never traveled anywhere alone. I was afraid of getting lost, feeling lonely, making the wrong decisions, and talking to strangers (can’t help it- introvert here). But the thought of turning 30 years old subsided those fears and I booked a ticket to Maui. What is that? Is that maturity? Is that independence? Is that crazy? Is this my weird way of rejecting turning 30?
With 60% nervousness and 40% excitement, I packed my bags and headed to Maui.
Oahu -> Maui (~ 30 minutes) <hey, don’t laugh, baby steps of solo travel.>
Day 1: Road to Hana
I arrived at Kahului Airport, Maui at 630AM and I was ready to start the day. I picked up my rental car and I was on my way to Hana. Coffee with extra shot of espresso in the cup holder and Google maps on my phone, I ventured out to my first stop: Ho’okipa beach/lookout (one of Maui’s famous winter big swell surf spots).
It was exciting to watch the brave/skilled surfers drop in on these monstrous waves. I could’ve watched them for hours & hours, but the road was calling my name.
It’s not the destination— it’s the journey to the destination. You hear that a lot, but this phrase especially pertains to Road to Hana. I drove past beautiful waterfalls, interesting rock formations, and unique beaches. The roads were narrow and winding, with no guardrails to protect your car from falling 100ft into the ocean as you’re driving up this steep cliff with crumbling rocks on the other side. Drive slow to not fall into the ocean or drive fast to avoid getting crushed by a gigantic boulder? I don’t know, what’s the least painful?
I know what you’re thinking— why would you drive through dangerous roads just for the sceneries?
1. Waterfalls in plain sight. No hiking necessary.
2. Black sand beach, Red sand beach, Green sand beach.
3. Bamboo forest.
4. Cows roaming freely/happily through miles & miles of grass fields and unpaved roads.
5. Tons of easy/family-friendly hikes.
6. Makai to Mauka, jaw-dropping beauty is everywhere.
If you could do ONE hike, Pīpīwai trail is the one. Located on the southern entrance of Haleakala visitor center, the trail starts right next to the visitor center. 4 miles RT, the trail takes you through man-made bridges overlooking waterfalls, dense forests with well paved trails, bamboo forest, and eventually ending at the tallest waterfall in Maui.
Hana town was anti-climatic, but I’ve been told this repeatedly by friends– so I wasn’t disappointed. I continued on from Hana to Makawao town (my B&B location). This drive was, by far, my favorite part of Maui! Holy cow. COWS everywhere! They roamed freely on these unpaved roads, crossing back and forth to play in the grass on either side of the road. I followed them slowly, unable to stop smiling at these cute happy creatures.
Needlessly to say, I arrived at my B&B at dark and immediately passed out. Who knew driving could be so exhausting?
Day 2: Haleakala
After eating a hearty breakfast and spending some downtime at the beach, I ventured out to Haleakalā National Park. Again, scary, scary drive up to the top. What is it with Maui and no guardrails? I was driving like a snail up to the top, afraid of falling off the road as the road quickly gained elevation. But before I knew it, I was in the clouds- and soon, above the clouds. Yikes.
I parked in the last visitor center, right before the summit, and looked for the trail into the crater.
I didn’t do my research. Visitor center was closed. I was so confused of which way to go— I just turned left after seeing this sign and followed the obvious trail. This led me directly into the crater! Score!
The colors were absolutely unreal. I felt like I was in another world! Mars? Where the hell am I? I marveled at the sight and skipped down into the crater.
How these plants thrive in these harsh conditions, I’ll never know. The air was so thin, wind was strong, yet the sun was harsh against the skin.
After walking down for about an hour and snapping tons of photos, I turned back around to make sure I didn’t miss the sunset. Plus, I figured being inside the crater when the sun was gone seemed like a horrible/frightening idea. The trail is very easy, don’t get me wrong. Also, it’s not steep at all. But the thinness of Haleakalā’s air made it impossible to not huff & puff while making my way back up to the summit. Lesson learned: don’t underestimate volcanos.
I made it back to the top in one piece just in time for the majestic sunset. I drove up to the summit, put on my thermal, coat, scarf, ear muffs and gloves, and set up shop (tripod & camera) on the ledge along with other tourists and photographers.
As the sun set into the thick clouds, I was overwhelmed with pure joy and excitement. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life.
I was completely in love with Maui.
Day 3: Going with the Flow
I was supposed to stay on this catamaran for 2 nights. I figured it’d be a nice way to fit everything in one: whale watching, snorkeling, boat ride, kayaking, swimming with dolphins. But the weather didn’t permit. Strong gusts of wind and big waves prohibited me from kayaking to the catamaran. So instead, I got to wander around the island– I stumbled onto a nude beach. Apparently, there are several nude beaches in Maui. And apparently, I’m the only person not willing to go nude! If you’re wondering, they are called Secret Beach, Little Beach, and Red Sand Beach. 😉
Day 4: Rainstorms
Obviously, I’m still unable to get on the catamaran. I ventured out to Lahaina where I shared drinks with random tourists from Oregon and Idaho as the rain poured down on Maui.
Day 5: Sunshine and home
Is Maui happy that I am finally leaving? The sun showed on the day I was heading back home so I purposely missed my flight to have one last hurrah! YOLO. *thanks Hawaiian Air for putting me on stand by free of cost*
I drove through the north west side of Maui through another winding/narrow roads. I was on a mission to find the heart shaped puka (hole).
After the 38 mile marker, I found the 38.5 marker and several cars parked on the left side of the road. I parked next to these cars and wandered towards the ocean. There were tons of tourists climbing up and down the rocks to witness the heart shaped puka and the Nakalele blowhole so I knew I was in the right spot. When I finally made it down to the blowhole, I saw the puka. It was tiny. TINY. It was the size of my face.
But hey, I was still excited. After snapping several photos, I climbed back up to the top and continued on towards the airport.
My first solo trip made me realize that I am capable of being independent. Traveling alone also taught me that happiness comes from within. I felt true happiness when I was standing above the clouds on top of Haleakalā. The pure joy and excitement I felt while driving through breathtaking roads of Maui is something I’ll never forget.
Maui, you’re wonderful.