We landed Tuesday evening at Kahului airport, took the shuttle to Avis, and drove our Ford Explorer to Mama’s Fish House for dinner before sleeping at its inn. Our kids’ Christmas present was finally beginning.
I had the “traditional Hawaiian” meal for dinner, and the smoked wild boar was the best pork I’ve ever eaten (and I eat a LOT of smoked pig). We learned of the restaurant and inn from the 1000 Places to See Before You Die book I consult before going anywhere new.
Because we don’t like to ease into vacations or get over jet-lag, the next morning, we loaded the car and drove the famous road to Hana. We used the Shaka Guide app, which places you via GPS and describes where you are and where you should stop and see stuff along the way; it also provides history (and music!) relevant to each area. We chose the “loop” option, as we had planned to go to Hana and spend the night our first day, continuing on the less paved (and more frightening) part of the road on the second day, but it’s closed for construction until August, meaning we had to turn around and head back the way we’d come, so we effectively did the “classic” version.
The app tour was awesome. We left shortly after sunrise, so we never found ourselves stuck in traffic the entire day. Also, we started from Paia instead of from further west (or southwest) like most folks do. If you’re wanting to do this 40-something mile drive with > 600 curves for several hours, I’d recommend starting there (it’s a short drive east of the airport).
Some of the places we opted to stop included Ho’okipa Beach Park, Huelo Lookout fruit stand, Ke’anae Arboretum (with rainbow eucalyptus trees!), Keannae Peninsula, the hidden lava tube cave, Coconut Glen’s ice cream stand, Kahanu Garden (an impulse visit but very cool) and various short hikes to waterfalls along the way.
This ice cream was the bomb! Vegan and organic–it’s made from coconut milk! Quite possibly my favorite anywhere.
That discreet hole opens up to a giant room and keeps going–very cool find!
In the afternoon, we toured the Hana Gold Cacao Plantation and learned all about chocolate, and then we ate lots of delicious dark chocolate, and since my 11yo doesn’t particularly care for chocolate, I also ate lots of her delicious dark chocolate, and then I grabbed the bits off anyone else’s plate from the tour that would have otherwise been discarded and emotionally scarred forever, because Hawaii turns me into a beacon of benevolence.
After that, we went to the Kipahulu Visitor Center at Haleakala National Park, so the children could get their junior ranger workbooks to start on that evening. We hiked the Pipiwai Trail and saw the 7 Sacred Pools and Makahiku Falls plus –and this is something I’ve wanted to do my entire life–the Red Sand Beach just before sunset, which was every bit as cool as I envisioned (but sort of a scary hike with 3 children).
That evening, we ate at The Preserve and stayed at Travaasa Hotel in Hana; both were excellent (and were also from the “1000 Places” book). We watched the sun set from our lanai before putting on swimsuits.
After nightfall, we all 5 sat in the hot tub, and I enjoyed a Cuban cigar under the stars. It was just about perfect. Even after a week in Maui, I found the first day to be my favorite.