Hi all! As you probably know, we recently went on vacation in Maui, Hawaii, and now that we’re back, I’d like to tell you everything about this adventure! Yep, it took me a while to put this post together because, you know, life interferes, but better late than never, right? 😉 To begin with, let me say that we had a wonderful time, and were surprised to find out that Maui is a perfect place for a vegan-friendly vacation.
I originally wanted to put together just one post about our experience, but realized that it would most likely be mile-long, so I’m splitting my recap in two parts. Today I’ll tell you about all of the awesome places we visited on Maui – hopefully you’ll find this useful if you’re ever planning to go there yourself. My next post will be about all of the vegan food on Maui, and I’m sure you’ll be very impressed!
First of all, why did we pick Maui as our vacation spot? Well, Rob and I went to Hawaii for our honeymoon 3 years ago, so these islands will always hold a spot in our hearts. As much as we loved the island of Kauai that we visited for our honeymoon, we knew that we wanted to see what else is possible. Maui seemed like a good pick because it’s quite big, and according to my research, it was supposed to be pretty vegan-friendly.
So without further ado, here are the places we visited and enjoyed on Maui:
Beaches on West Side
The western part of the island boasts a few beautiful beaches with easy access. We stayed in a condo in Kihei, a town in the southwest of the island, and had an opportunity to walk to the beach right across the street from our condo building. There’s also a nice beach to the south of Kihei called Makena Beach, and another great area called Ka’anapali Beach in the northwestern part of the island.
One thing I have to say about going to the beach in Maui – beware of the waves! Of course, it depends on the time of the year you’re visiting, plus it didn’t help us that there was a hurricane passing by in the Pacific, but the waves in the ocean were pretty impressive. We watched numerous people wiped out by the breaking waves right at the shore, and one wave even sent me tumbling around. So please use your judgment, especially if you’re not a great swimmer.
Volcanic Eruption Area, South of Makena Road
Hawaii gives you a unique opportunity to see freshly created volcanic landscapes that look a lot like you’re walking on the Moon. One such area in Maui is located at the southern end of the island, accessible by Makena Road. Fields of dark brown lava rocks have been created here as little as a couple hundred years ago, and very little vegetation has moved in so far.
Since two hundred years are not enough for plants to start growing freely, it’s interesting to realize how long the span of time must have been for some of the areas of these volcanic islands to turn lusciously green. This volcanic area definitely made me think of how patient Mother Nature must be!
On a good day, you’ll see multiple surfers in the water in this peaceful little bay. There’s a coral reef not far from the shore, and you can see its numerous fragments washed over on the shore. Some of them are quite large and have a beautiful texture!
Road to Hana
Now this is an epic trip for those who are not weak at heart! Hana is a small town on the eastern shore of Maui, and not an easy one to get to. The town is located only about 52 miles from the central city of Kahului, yet it takes anywhere between 2 and 3 hours to reach Hana following Hana Highway – a stretch of road with as many as 620 hairpin curves and 59 bridges, many of them built a hundred years ago with one lane only. However, you’ll be rewarded with most amazing views during your drive, and may even find vegan coconut ice cream on the way (more about that in my next post)!
Rob and I set off to drive to Hana fairly early in the morning on a Tuesday. It was a pretty good timing because afternoons and weekends are very popular with tourists –> the traffic can be stressful, especially going across those one-lane bridges. Rob is not a big fan of heights, and I get car sick fairly easily on bouncy roads, but we powered through the drive and were rewarded with seeing the most beautiful areas along the way.
If you take this trip, make sure not to miss the black sand beach area in Waianapanapa State Park located just before you get to the actual Hana. We found this park even more beautiful than Hana itself. Slowly eroding volcanic rock has created beautiful cliffs and caves, and there’s a small beach with black sand that was quite busy when we got there, but apparently can be more intimate sometimes.
The northeastern part of the island is home of the lovely Leilani Farm Sanctuary, located just off of Hana Highway. I found out about it when researching vegan-friendly activities on Maui. The sanctuary is a nonprofit organization run by volunteers, with the founder Laurelee Blanchard as the head coordinator and tour guide. A variety of animals can be found here – lots of chickens, cats, three pigs, two deer, a few goats, tortoises, rabbits, donkeys, etc. The sanctuary hosts two weekly tours for visitors, on Wednesdays and Saturdays – be sure to reserve your spot in advance if you’re interested in a visit.
Laurelee, the founder of the sanctuary, gave up her corporate job in Southern California, and came to Maui many years ago to found the place where rescued domestic and farm animals could live together in peace and safety. Laurelee is also a vegan, so throughout the tour she put in subtle, non-preaching notes about the equality of all animals (the ones people eat and the ones they keep as companions), and gave us vegan brochures at the end.
Leilani Farm Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization, so it survives entirely on donations. There’s no set entrance fee, but $20 donation per person is greatly appreciated. And no, they didn’t ask me to promote them – this is my own idea.
Trip to the Top of Haleakala Volcano
We knew we wanted to drive to the top of Haleakala, the large dormant volcano that had built the eastern part of the island, but after the somewhat nerve-wracking drive to Hana we came to a conclusion that it would be best to go there on a tour bus and save ourselves from the fear of having to drive to the head-spinning height of over ten thousand feet. So on Thursday morning, we joined a tour group lead by a hilarious local lady named Judy, who drove us all over the creation and told us so much about the history and the biology of Maui and Haleakala in particular, and shared multiple local legends. The tour was very well organized, so in addition to the drive up the volcano we also saw the Iao Valley and the Heritage Park in Western Maui (more on those below).
Every day in early afternoon or midmorning, clouds roll into the crater of the Haleakala volcano, and the visibility gets compromised. We were lucky to get to the top just before the clouds arrived, and got to capture these gorgeous views.
Iao Valley, Western Maui
Iao Valley is one of those hidden gems on Maui that if you don’t research specifically, you may miss it completely. Located within what used to be another volcano on the island (sitting on its northwestern side), this lush valley has a mountain river running through and directly or indirectly feeding the vegetation. Lots of daily rain happening up in the mountains also contributes to making Iao Valley look gorgeously green.
The centerpiece of the valley, of course, is the Needle – a pointy standalone mountain that was formed through ongoing water and wind erosion. There are a few fun local Hawaiian legends surrounding the Needle: one of them says that the great king Kamehameha, who lived around 18th century, once climbed this mountain, and the tip of it (being the Needle) was so sharp that as he sat on it, he jumped up and screamed, ‘Iao!’ This is how the valley got its name.
Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens
On the way out of Iao Valley, we stopped at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens – a place honoring the multiple cultures from around the world that played a role in the history of Maui. The garden has memorials for various countries like China, Japan, Portugal, the Philippines, and New England. This is a lovely place for an afternoon stroll – where else can you find historical Chinese structures right next to a quaint Portugese garden with a Madonna as a centerpiece?
The Heritage Gardens are a home of the second largest banyan tree on Maui – you can’t miss it as you’re driving by. See how tiny I look compared to it! The whole thing is the same tree – its tendrils reach the ground, plant their roots and eventually become new trunks. The largest banyan tree (that happens to be the second largest in the world, according to our tour guide) grows in Lahaina in the northwestern part of the island.
Believe it or not, but at this point I’ve been writing this post for almost three weeks because of my crazy busy schedule that includes work, a new workout and meal prep routine (Why? See this Facebook post), and trying to make sure my husband doesn’t forget that he’s married to me. So let me wrap up my Hawaiian novel – or at least its Part 1 – here. Next time, I’ll share our vegan culinary adventures on Maui, and trust me, there will be plenty of juicy info there! As long as we both have patience.
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