Valley Isle Excursions Road to Hana Maui Tour Thu, 18 Dec 2014 23:10:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Maui Photography Tips From A Pro Mon, 03 Nov 2014 02:32:44 +0000 There are so many ways to get great photos on your next Maui vacation. Here are some tips and how-tos from our pro. Use great equipment or your cell-phone, either way use this advice to make your photos on Maui the best vacation photos ever.

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How to Create Great Maui Vacation Photos

As a professional photographer working in Maui for over 20 years I can tell you that every day there is something beautiful to photograph here.  Being a teaching artist for the last 12 years I’ve created some of my most memorable images of Maui while teaching.  I’ve done photo workshops throughout the island and at Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center a few miles from the beautiful upcountry town of Makawao.  This amazing property has endless photo opportunities and I highly recommend stopping by or look into taking a class there while you’re visiting Maui.

I always tell my photo students that there is a difference between taking a photo and making a photo.  Get the overall “in the can” image and then give yourself permission to get creative.  My favorite definition of getting creative is to get closer – then closer – then CLOSER.  Clean up your background and simplify.  Less is more even in a grand landscape image.

I feel that photography can motivate us to savor life more intensely.  Getting up for sunrise or hanging around on the beach after sunset can be the highlight of an entire vacation, not just for the images but for the experience.  It’s not hard to get some decent travel photos in Maui but there are some challenges to creating memorable images in this harsh tropical sunlight. Let me share a few of my favorite tips with you that can help improve the capturing of your best moments in Maui.

There are many types of cameras and phones in use today and most of this info will apply to all but some of it will be about DSLR and digicam techniques plus some tips about video filming.  I’ll also include some tricks for phone users including some of my favorite apps.

But first the overall stuff…

Photo Techniques

Composition – The Rule of Thirds

Maui Photographer Rainbow Windsurfer

Compose images so they have a flow and readability to them

The rule of thirds is used by all visual artist’s and at it’s core this rule says, “Don’t put anything in the center”!  It doesn’t mean this rule can’t be broken with great success but I notice that a lot of people don’t fill the frame enough and end up with too much distracting background clutter around a centered subject.  We don’t read from the center of a page out and a creative image should have some element of flow. I suggest framing subjects in the four quadrants of intersecting lines of the rule of thirds and especially try to keep horizon lines (especially the ocean) in the upper or lower third of the frame.  It’s not meant to be an exact science but it is a great starting point.  Placing people in these quadrants of a grand scenic is also great because it gives the landscape scale.  Sometimes I will put the camera on self timer and jump in the shot myself with my back to the camera.  Publishers love this as people viewing images in print can place themselves in the image as long as there are no recognizable faces.


Maui Photography Detail Fruit Stand

Get the overall view first then continue to get closer

Horizontal framing is for landscapes and vertical framing is for portraits.  I would say it’s better to think of framing as matching the shape of your subject.  For instance a single flower is taller than it is wide so frame it vertically.  I usually frame both horizontal and vertical so publishers have a selection to choose from depending on the various layouts they may use.  Also, diagonal framing says “Fun” so try it – just remember to fill the frame…get closer…and closer…then CLOSER!   Ahh – perfect!


More often lately I’ve been playing with panorama images.  They are especially easy toMaui Beaches, maui photography make using a smartphone.  However, the highest resolution panorama will come when shooting multiple images which are then merged in panoramic stitching programs within photoshop or lightroom.  Just be sure to overlap images by at least ⅓.  The main thing to remember here is to keep the camera level during your pan otherwise it can warp the final image.  Know too that panoramas can be created vertically also for subjects that are tall like trees, buildings, cliffs and waterfalls.  It is possible to stitch as many as 8 or more images together.  Why you would want to do that will be discussed later in this article.

Timing – Sunrise to Sunset

Everyone pretty much knows about the “golden hour” of capturing landscapes. For me that includes 1/2 hour before sunrise and a 1/2 hour after sunset.  For this light I recommend using a tripod. However, I certainly continue shooting all day long.  Harsh midday sun can look beautiful when it’s wrapped around subject that are in the shade.  Mid day is also when you will see theMaui Photographer Haleakala Sunrise maximum effect from a polarizing filter.

Many people choose to go to the top of Haleakala (Maui’s 10,000′ dormant volcano) for sunrise.  This is a spectacular event but bring warm clothes and get there early… leave earlier than you think because it is a slow drive with not much time and room at the summit lookouts.  If you can bring an extra camera and tripod and set it up for some time lapse video.  This location is also fantastic for shooting panoramas which will be discussed later in this article.

Photo Equipment


A tripod may not seem like a needed thing with all the bright sunshine of Hawaii but there are many exceptional images that you may miss without one. It really doesn’t matter which kind you bring along as long as you can attach a camera to it securely.  You will want to use a tripod for low light before sunrise, after sunset and at night which is often some of the more amazing light that can beMaui Photography Hybrid Tripod hard to see with the naked eye.  However todays camera’s are amazing and able to capture some fantastic long exposures!  There are many different kinds of tripods so check out a few before buying one.  I recommend ball head type tripods as they are the quickest to set up and level the camera with.  Hybrid tripods that can pan and tilt for video plus flip up for vertical stills can be useful as well when traveling light.  I also have a small table top tripod for use with smaller cameras or for a ground level perspective.  I try Maui Photography Table Top Tripod to travel as light as I can so consider a carbon fiber tripod for the bigger cameras.

My new favorite tripod imaging work is astro-landscapes.  If you have a DLSR or equivalent and a tripod try this cool technique with the amazing Maui night sky:  Shutter speed – 30 seconds  Aperture – 5.6  ISO – 3200.  Increase the shutter speed if needed but try not to stop down past 5.6 (this reduces flare) and use the widest angle lens you have.  This will ensure maximum sharpness. Shut off the auto focus and manually focus to infinity.  Frame with the night sky filling at least 2/3 of the frame and use a remote control or the self timer to fire the shutter.  Frame up 4, 8 or more images both high and low angled for stitching together later and you’ll have much more of the night sky in your image.  Also be prepared to have your mind blown!  You won’t believe the amount of color in the stars… especially if you can make it up at night to Haleakala!


Polarizing Filter

There is one filter that can not be duplicated with software and that is a polarizing filter.  The effect is dramatic and will take your images to the next level.  Students often ask me about equipmentMaui Photography Polorizing Filter and which camera/lens they should look at for their next purchase.  I always ask them what filters they have and recommend buying filters (at least one polarizer) before buying more lenses or a new camera body.

Polarizing filters not only darken blue sky but saturate the colors of foliage, flowers, ocean and clouds.  Even a dull cloudy day can snap to life with a good polarizer.  By rotating the front of the filter you can dial in the amount of polarization which mainly cuts glare from reflective surfaces but it can also enhance the reflections as is the case with rainbows.  A polarizer can add an amazing clarity to rainbows the eye cannot see.  Another great thing about a polarizer is it will allow you to shoot through windows without having nasty reflections ghosting in your images.  This is a great way to get shots from a moving vehicle when you don’t have a chance to pull over – like out on the road to Hana!

Be sure to do your research though as not all polarizers are not created equal.  Cheap ones can cause weird color casts. I use Hoya HRT circular polarizing filters.  HRT stands for “high resolution transparency” which means it doesn’t block as much light (thus resulting in the ability to use faster shutter speeds) as most polarizers do.  This way I can shoot a lot more handheld action images in low light (surfing at sunset or rainy days) without dealing with too much motion blur.  Small digicams and phones are not set up for filters but you can hold a filter in front of the lens or use your polarized sunglasses. Either way make sure to cup your hand over the front of the filter to block surface flare from the sun which will look like a fogged area in the image.  Also make sure yourOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA fingers are not in the frame when using this technique.

Graduated Neutral Density Filter

If you have a polarizer I would next recommend a graduated neutral density filter.  It’s a filter with half of it’s surface tinted dark and fading to clear at the center.  Get at least a 2 stop density graduation as the sky is usually at least 2 stops brighter than the landscape below it, especially in Hawaii.  This filter will bring out an amazing amount of detail in the sky that normally would take a lot of time messing with to get the detail looking normal in photoshop.  My goal as a professional is to get the best image possible in-camera so I don’t have to mess with it later.  A soft gradation is the most versatile for me. This filter will make a big difference in the professional look of your landscape images when used with a polarizer.  Just be sure to take it off when you’re done shooting landscapes.  Half of a face darkened can look silly and is hard to fix!

Things to Photograph in Maui


photography Maui

Hana waterfall 8th of a second shutter speed

Maui photography

Hana waterfall 1 second shutter speed

Most people are looking to photograph waterfalls when they visit Maui.  One of the best places in whole state of Hawaii to experience waterfalls is Maui’s road to Hana. To get the dreamy mist like blur of flowing water you’ll need a shutter speed of 15th of a second or slower.  Usually the slower the shutter speed the better for waterfalls but there is a fine line.  Waterfalls create their own wind and surrounding foliage can be doing the hula which will also result in patches of blur in the image.  I always view the image on the camera screen and zoom in to check sharpness before I decide I’m finished.  I usually end up at 8th of a second at f22.

The road to Hana has many amazing waterfalls and if you’ve never driven this road before it’s hard to know which ones to stop at and for how long.  There could easily be a bigger better one just around the corner.  That’s why I like taking a tour because: A – I don’t have to drive this crazy road and B – the guides know where all the cool photo spots are.  Whether you take a van tour or drive yourself you will need to be ready to grab a shot at a moments notice.  It is best to have your camera ready to attach to a tripod, set up quickly, shoot multiple images and then keep moving down the road.  It’s a long day to see all the amazing things the road to Hana has to offer and if you get stuck in one place you could miss 5 more by the time it gets dark…so keep moving!

Also be prepared to deal with rain out on the road to Hana. It’s a rainforest after all so bring along a rain jacket or some plastic bags.  I also like to have at least one decent hand towel to dry my equipment and hands with if I’m shooting in a rainy spot along this road.


Keep in mind that built in light meters in todays cameras are always exposing for the “average” amount of light in a given scene.  This can throw the exposure to the dark side when the sun is presentsouth Maui beaches within the frame.  The trick with sunsets (and sunrise) is to frame to either side of the sun, depress the shutter halfway to lock in exposure, reposition the sun into the frame and depress the shutter the rest of the way.  Sunsets are also great for bracketing.  I like to shoot at least 3 frames – one at normal exposure, one 2 stops under and one 2 stops over for HDR post processing.  I’ll talk more about that a little later.


You can’t swing a tripod without hitting a bunch of flowers in Maui so be ready.  If you get a chance stop by a flower farm prepare to have your mind blown…again!  An epic flower photo usually Hibiscus-Pink-Variated.jpg involves soft light (shade or overcast sky) and some careful framing.  I’m always looking for contrasting light.  Dark against light or vise versa.  Finding a beautiful flower with a dark background or shadow behind it is a favorite.  Same goes for a dark or shaded flower with a bright background such as the sky.  You will have to compensate the exposure for a bright background though (also known as “backlit”) which usually will start with +1 stop.


Maui has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  On any given day the conditions can change from one side of the island to the other but of course sunrise and sunset are the best times to Maui Photography Baldwin Beach be at the beach… in my opinion anyway.  The pro tip here about beach photos is use a polarizer and careful composition. I love the diagonal lines of nature so try and create flow to the corner edges of the frame and keep an eye on those waves… a beautiful beach is even more so when cresting waves are captured just before they break!

Action/Ocean Sports- Surfing – Windsurfing – Kite Boarding

Got a big lens or a camera with a big telephoto zoom?  Well then head to Maui’s north shore!  Places like Hookipa Bay or Kanaha Beach Park Maui Photography Surfer at Sunset are excellent places to see some world class ocean sports. The lookout at Hookipa is a bluff overlooking the whole bay and is fantastic for viewing the action.  It can get windy here though so use a tripod or image stabilization if possible.  For most sports photography I try to get the highest shutter speed setting possible to stop the action.  The rule here is to use a shutter speed that exceeds the MM of the lens.  Example:  300MM lens = 500th of a second shutter speed. This is one of the reasons why the pros love fast glass.  A lens that is f2.8 will blur the background isolating a subject and allow for fast shutter speeds!  These lenses will cost you though.  The price for a telephoto that is f2.8 can run between $1500 to $4000.  That being said I’m a big fan of learning the rules then breaking them.  For fun try panning the action with a slower shutter speed.  This will motion blur the background while your subject will stay sharp if you have a steady pan hand…

From Helicopters

I love flying.  Photography from the air is a spectacular experience but there are some challenges. Helicopter-Cockpit-over-Lahaina-e13749717674361.jpg One is shooting through the windows.  Because i’m usually being hired to shoot from a helicopter they take the doors off.  However if you’re on a flight-seeing tour this won’t be the case.  First bit of advice is to wear a black shirt.  Shooting through the reflections off a window of say a light, bright or white colored shirt will degrade images profusely and are almost impossible to correct in photoshop. Second tip is to use image stabilization with a high shutter speed and third would be to get as close to the window glass as possible.  All this can result in some decent images which can be sharpened to acceptable levels later.  Oh… and shoot a lot! Sometimes the lower angles at takeoff and landing have more depth and better composition than a straight down shot.  Also watch for the rotor blades sneaking into the frame.  The higher shutter speeds will stop them in mid spin which will look like somebody just stuck a stick into your image while you weren’t looking….

How To Capture A…



When I first started teaching 12 years ago I realized I was like the mechanic who never works on his own car.  The need to have a photo of myself for teacher’s bio and promotion got me into self portraits.  Fast forward to today and we find that most everyone is constantly taking selfies.  My wife has done a great job of photographing me in the act of teaching photo workshops which is wonderful and useful. Lately I’ve been shoot selfies while i’m out by myself at sunrise.  But really the best way is to have someone take a photo of yourself for you.  I learned this from my wife.  She will ask almost anybody to take a quick photo of us with our phone.  It’s also another great reason to take a tour.  Most tour guides do this for people daily and some have gotten really good at it!  Plus a guide can really become a new friend…who lives in Maui!


camera filming photography

A hood and a good microphone make all the difference in the world when filming

The biggest challenge for filming is steadiness.  Tripods are almost a must but it is possible to smooth out a clip in post production.  I find iMovie works great for what I do and I have gotten useable footage hand held.  It takes a steady hand though.  However my most usable footage are 20 second clips of static shots from a tripod.  Shoot wide, then zoom in a bit, then zoom into a tight detail within the scene.  This allows you to compose a story about this location or activity in post processing.  I use additional equipment when I’m filming.  A magnifying hood helps me fine tune a composition and check for sharp focus.  I also use an external mic for sound.

Phones and Apps

Phone photography is at a marvelous place right now in my opinion.  The cameras have decent resolution and the lenses are getting better.  My iPhone 5s creates a wonderful file that can be sharpened and enlarged in photoshop to somewhat acceptable levels.  In low light however they fall far short. Also be aware of lens flare from the sun.  Shade the lens with your hand when possible if you notice those pesky lines or a faded image.  Remember to keep your lens clean too…

The coolest thing about phone images for me are the apps.  There are so many of them to choose from but I use a couple to fine tune images and layer in effects.  Snapseed let’s me adjust basic stuff like brightness, shadows and contrast and sharpness.  Simply HDR and/or Pro HDR give me a ton of settings and templates to try and Moble Monet will finish it to a hand colored look I’ve enjoyed since my colored B&W print days.  Also for fun check out Tangled FX… trippy artsy stuff!

Post Production

I won’t go into a lot of photoshop techniques as that would be another entire article but suffice to say that just like in the film days, for me anyways, images should be processed.  For me the task is Maui Photography 4 Season Pool mostly sharpening and color balance.  I usually open up the shadows just a bit, add maybe some warming hue and a touch of saturation.  If for some reason I wasn’t able to use a graduated neutral density filter on a scenic shot I might have to work the sky to a better balance with the foreground.  I do this by creating a copy layer, darkening it, then erase the top image layer to reveal a darker sky.  Keep the eraser at around 35% to help blend it in.  Couple swipes and usually I’m done.  Flatten the image in layers and save as a Jpeg.

Well there you have it.  No matter what kind of equipment you have you will get great photos on your Maui vacation.  Just be careful and keep your gear protected.  Salt water, sand and slippery rocks can wreak havoc on camera equipment and phones.  And don’t forget…. you GOTTA see the road to Hana!

Aloha Nui Loa

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The Definitive Guide to Maui Beaches Fri, 22 Aug 2014 07:13:36 +0000 It’s a bit of a joke in Maui about the titles the media gives our beaches.  Pretty much any Maui beach you’re standing on was a “Best Beach in America” at some point.  Our beaches are often mentioned in some of the world’s best beach category too!  America’s Best Beaches award has been picked from Maui’s [...]

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It’s a bit of a joke in Maui about the titles the media gives our beaches.  Pretty much any Maui beach you’re standing on was a “Best Beach in America” at some point.  Our beaches are often mentioned in some of the world’s best beach category too!  America’s Best Beaches award has been picked from Maui’s beaches every year dating back to the 1980’s.

This is because there are so many fantastic Maui beaches to choose from!  Everyone in Maui has their favorite beach they like to go to.  Usually it’s a beach that’s close by, which means they’re all good!

Maui from the airMaui has 130 miles of coastline and over 30 miles of beaches!  In many spots, especially the south side you can walk for miles from beach to beach.  As a professional photographer who has lived in Maui for over 20 years I was assigned to photograph Maui’s beaches.  I was able to count 36 beach areas with over 80 named beaches on the island!  That’s a lot to photograph and film!  I say beach areas because some beaches stretch for miles and some beaches are unseen except from the air.  Oh boy…

As I had a little over a week to get as many as I could and it was my plan to get up at sunrise and photograph and film Maui’s beaches to get some video and stills in the morning light.  As it turned out every day, even the rainy ones, where spectacular!  What an adventure!  As I have an extensive archive of the island I already knew what beaches were in my files and which ones I needed more of.  By day 8 it became a wonderful morning routine.  Driving around Maui can be a challenge but just before sunrise is smooth sailing!

Beaches Maui Kihei Rainbow-216I felt blessed with amazing things like rainbows, turtles on the beach, sand art and countless people playing in the ocean. I also learned a lot about about Maui’s ecology including native plants, animals and the reef from the many info plaques and signs installed along the paths to the beaches, especially in South Maui.  I’ve now been assigned to write my own Maui beach guide article and hopefully it should give you a good idea about what you may encounter along every side of this amazing island!

I’ll break this Maui beach guide up into the different sides of the island; North, South, East and West but first….

Tips For Enjoying Maui’s Beaches

suntan lotion spray maui1)  Sunburns hurt! Even if your lotion gets confiscated at the airport, get some more (please choose “reef safe” ones) and use it often!  Pay particularly close attention to the top of your feet if you’re a pasty white mainlander…

2)  Bring a cooler with plenty of water and some food.  The sun and water can be exhausting resulting in polynesian paralysis…

3)  Keep a jug of water in your car for rinsing your feet.  Many of Maui’s most beautiful beaches have no showers… like big beach Makena.

Most Maui beach info is centered around beach parks. There are plenty of maps showing where they are. Though many of Maui’s beach parks are quite old they are well kept and much appreciated by all who enjoy them.  A beach “park” usually contains some amenities like bathrooms and an outdoor shower.  Parking is often provided for but usually minimal.  Best advice is to get there early.  Some beaches, especially out along the north shore and along the road to Hana, are wild and unpredictable.

Maui’s North Shore

Maui by AirA favorite for ocean sports Maui’s north shore beaches encompass a wide area.  The first beaches on this side of the island start at the edge of the West Maui mountains.  From a rugged coastline these beaches start at Waihee Valley and continue through the town of Kahului to Kanaha Beach Park.

It could be considered central Maui but I think of them as a northern shore because they too are influenced by the northerly flow of wind and waves.  From Kanaha Beach Park the beaches continue for miles past Baldwin Beach and on up the coast to Hookipa Beach Park.  In between these two points are some beautiful yet rugged coastal reefs and beaches.  The surf and shore break can really work a swimmer or surfer here and reaching some of the remote places may require a 4 wheel drive vehicle.  This side of the island is not a good area to get stranded in as it can be quite remote with spotty cell phone reception.

Kanaha Beach Park

Maui's Kanaha BeachThis area is known as a major kiteboarding and windsurfing area with steady trade-winds and some nice offshore surf when the conditions are right.  This is also true for most of the north shore beaches but this area has long sandy beaches and decent parking. Steady trade winds along this northern shoreline are some of the best ocean sports conditions in the world. This is why a lot of the watersport instruction happens with windsurf and kite-board rental trucks parked right up to the beach.  There are bathrooms here but they are near the first entrance parking lot which is a bit of a walk from the beach.  Kanaha Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand broken up with occasional lava rock outcroppings.  The farther down the coast you go heading east the bigger the lava rock outcroppings get until they start turning into cliffs the closer you get to Hookipa Beach Park.

Sprecklesville Area

Maui beaches northTechnically not a beach park, this gem of a beach is located about half way between the towns of Kahului and Paia.  It’s not easy to find.  Because of this it’s a favorite for locals.  Locals refer to it as the north shore Baby Beach.  Not only because it’s kinda small, but because there is a shelf of reef that protects the beach from waves.  This makes for ideal swimming conditions for babies and small children.  There are no bathrooms here and the parking is minimal and chaotic with lots of people parked along the road in instead of going all the way to the beach.  The parking area at the end of this residential road is Maui dirt parking at it’s best.

Baldwin Beach Park

Maui Beaches North Shore-34This is one of the most popular beach parks on Maui’s north shore with lots of parking and plenty of space to stretch out as it’s a fairly large beach.  This is where the locals go for Pau Hana (after work) and get together for sunset.  There is a large pavilion here but shore erosion has taken out the original bathroom building.  Portable toilets are in use here for now.  Paia town is a few minutes away with nice restaurants and wonderful shopping which works out great for some morning beach time and a nice lunch in town afterwards.  From Paia there are several small beaches that are tough to find with limited parking.  Lots of private land makes access difficult also, so you might as well head to…

Hookipa Beach Park

Maui BeachesThis bay is one of the worlds premier surf spots, especially for windsurfing.  In the wintertime the swells can grow to 20 feet or more!  On mild surf days kids can be seen (known as Groms) learning the skills of Hawaii’s ocean lifestyle.  The overlook to this bay is just past the beach itself and it is a spectacular viewing area for the entire bay and all the ocean sport action. The parking here is hit or miss.  If the surf is big or it’s a holiday, good luck!  It can stack up 3 deep in the sand and dirt parking area at beach level.  If you’re surfing and may be there for hours no problem.  If you’re sightseeing it’s best to park at the lookout up top.  Either way this is a beach that should definitely be on your list of things to see in Maui, even if it’s just a short stop for those headed out on the road to Hana for the day.

Maui’s South Shore

south central Maui beachesMaui’s south shore is probably considered the premier beach area of Maui.  Mostly because the beaches are many with every kind of ocean activity you can think of.  This shoreline stretches for approximately 8 to 10 miles and is composed of close to 20 beaches which is the highest concentration of any area in Maui.  A general rule is the farther north along the Kihei coastline you are the faster the wind comes up as the day progresses.  The farther south you go along this coastline the calmer the waters and the better the reefs get for diving and snorkeling.  This is why the resort areas are at the southern end. Known as Wailea, this area is home to some of the most luxurious hotels in all of Hawaii.  At the southernmost end of this beautiful Maui coastline is Makena Beach (Oneloa Beach) or what locals call Big and Little Beach. At the far south end of this beach is Secret Cove, a tiny beach hidden by a lava rock wall.  More weddings take place here than any other beach in the Hawaiian Islands.  Past this is considered remote with the shoreline progressively turning into lava fields for as far as the eye can see.

North Kihei – Maalaea and Kealia Pond

Beaches Maui Kealia Pond-114This National Wildlife Sanctuary is located at the far northern end of Kihei along highway 310 which leads to Maalaea Harbor (home to the island’s many boat tours) and Maui’s west side.  Known by locals as “the mud flats” these ponds encompasses a 691 acre wetland preserve and are some of the last wetlands still intact in all of Hawaii.  The beach here runs from north Kihei’s Sugar Beach all the way to Maalaea Harbor and is a prime nesting site for the endangered Hawaiian Hawksbill turtle.  In 2010 a boardwalk was completed along with a small parking area just off the highway.  This boardwalk stretches for 2200’ along the back edges of the ponds next to the beach. Home to the endangered native Hawaiian Stilt (ae’o) and Hawaiian coot (‘alae ke oke’o) are easily observed and photographed from this boardwalk. The stealth fishing technique of the ‘Auku’u (black-crowned night herons) is fun to watch and are quite active if the wind is calm.  This wetland is a feeding and nesting ground for many migratory birds from places as far away as Alaska, South America and even Asia making it one of the most important places in the state for migratory waterfowl. The boardwalk has many wonderful info plaques explaining the birds, habitat and history of this impressive wetland. Get here early before the winds pick up in the afternoon as the birds tend to hunker down in the high winds.  It is possible to walk the beach from North Kihei to here and back, about a 3 mile walk.

Kenolio Beach/Suda’s

Kihei Beach WharfFrom the Sugar Beach resort heading south down the beach you’ll find Kenolio Beach area also known as Kihei Wharf.  Locals often call it Suda’s as a store of that name sits across the street from here. It is also here that the Kihei Outrigger Canoe Club takes visitors out bi-weekly into the bay for early morning paddling and Hawaiian cultural immersion.  I was so happy to hear the morning chant (canoe paddling sessions begin with E Ala E, a traditional chant to welcome the rising sun) spoken in Hawaiian and repeated by all the paddlers.  As we say in Hawaii a true “chicken skin” experience.  For me it was another blessing and a wonderful reason to be out on the beach at sunrise!

Kalepolepo Beach Park & Whale Sanctuary- Fish Pond

Beaches Maui Kalepolepo Beach-136Another amazing cultural example of the intelligence of ancient Hawaiians are the revitalized Ko’ie’ie fish ponds just down the road from Kihei Wharf.  The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is worth a visit even if just for a quick stop.  Here you will find some great info on Hawaiian culture originating in this area and the marine wildlife of Hawaii.

Kalama Park/Cove Park

maui surf south shoreThis is one of Maui’s largest parks but it doesn’t have much of a beach.  It does have a play park for kids though and the small cove at the far end next to south Kihei road is a great place to learn how to surf.  The reef is shallow here so use booties and stay off the bottom as much as possible as it damages the coral.  This park is right across the street from restaurants, shopping and Foodland grocery store.  Surf boards, SUP and kayak rentals are set up in this beach parks parking lot every morning.

Kamaole Beach Park l ll & lll

Beaches Maui Kamaole Beach l Board Walk-155These three parks are lined up heading south along South Kihei Road and are some of the most popular beaches on this side of the island. They have bathrooms, showers, lifeguard towers and some wonderful new interpretive signage.  The county of Maui has put a lot of work recently into building boardwalks through the dunes to the beach.  This is part of a beach dune restoration project.  It is nice to not have to scramble across hot sand to get out on the beach also.  All three of these beaches have beautiful reefs for snorkeling and the largest one, Kamaole III, has plenty of parking with picnic tables, fire grates and swingsets for the kids.

Wailea – Keawekapu

south Maui beachesWailea is an amazing resort area loaded with world class hotels fronted by some of Maui’s most beautiful beaches.  Keawekapu’s north end starts at the Mana Kai Resort and extends a good ½ mile to a small parking lot at the other end.  Snorkeling and diving are excellent here and the shore break can be great for body surfing during south swells. It is possible to continue past here along several pathways or around rocky outcropping to….

Ulua/Mokapu Beach

Beaches Maui Ulua Mokapu Beach Wailea-253This is a great beach for diving and many companies start at this beautiful beach with reef and rock outcroppings at both ends which makes for some fantastic snorkeling.  The parking is ok but located a short walk from the beach.  With a circular driveway set up for dropping off scuba gear it is one of the few beaches with such a set up.

Wailea Beach – The Four Seasons & Grand Wailea

south Maui beachesIf you’re staying at either of these two resorts you’re in for a real treat. Wailea Beach fronts the Grand Wailea and is the one of the ultimate in pampered luxury in Maui.  The Four Seasons is right next door but is situated more on a hill overlooking this beautiful stretch of sand. I won’t go into it too much here because these resorts have plenty of info about all they offer.  Suffice to say it’s worth it to spend a day poolside at either of these resorts.

Polo Beach

south Maui beachesPolo beach is fronted by one of Maui’s oldest resorts, the Polo Beach Club.  There is plenty of parking here and a great little park that is a favorite for locals too.  The water is calm and beach activities include outrigger canoe paddling in front of the Kea Lani Resort on the north end and Polo Beach Resort on the south.  Bathrooms and showers round out the amenities.


Beaches Maui Makena (Big) Beach-144This is one of the largest beaches on Maui in width and has three entrances.  The first one puts you closest to the north end of “Big Beach” with a large red cinder cone (Pu’u Ola’i) at the oceans edge that can be seen all the way from Maalaea Harbor.  The sand here is steep which can make for some pretty dramatic and somewhat treacherous shore-break.  Skimboarding is the main activity on this beach and it’s fun to watch the locals who come here on an almost daily basis.  Snorkeling is not worth it here as it’s mostly a sand bottom off shore and the water can get rough.  If you’re feeling adventurous you can take a short but steep hike up the path at the far north end to visit…

Little Beach

Maui Makena Little BeachThis is south Maui’s clothing optional beach.  It’s quite laid back though with nice waves for surfing, boogie boarding or body surfing.  Sunday nights and full moons become a haven for the drum circle hippies and hippies at heart here.  Unfortunately the parking lot gate is locked nightly at 8pm which requires parking along the road for evening beachgoers. Bring a flashlight as this can become quite a hike in and back in the dark.  Cars have been broken into here so secure your valuables for any “after hours” events at Little Beach.

Makena Cove

maui wedding beachJust past the third parking lot at Big Beach is a tall lava rock wall hiding what is known as Secret Cove or Makena Cove.  This tiny beach is the number one beach for weddings in all of Hawaii and for good reason… it’s incredibly beautiful!  Turtles frolic along the edge of the lava rock outcropping that extends out into the ocean from this beach and the sunsets are spectacular with the island of Kaahoolawe and Molokini Crater offshore.  A truly stunning and unforgettably romantic setting for any wedding!

Maui’s East Side

Hana is a place to recharge for most people who live in Maui.  I have been traveling this crazy road for over 20 years and I can tell you this…. it never gets old!  For years I have been going out in tour vans because they sit up higher than cars and the bigger windows give me a great viewing advantage for photos.  Plus I don’t have to be concerned with food, gas, ect.  This time though I booked a vacation rental so I could stay overnight and get 2 days of photography in. Although we started out in the pouring rain this made for some amazing waterfall action.  Luckily we had a rental van but even that was still a lot of work to get shots and keep my gear dry.  I still kinda wished I was in the tour van…

Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Park

hana maui beachesThis is one of Maui’s most iconic beaches.  I have been here at least 20 times and have enjoyed photographing this park for many years because it’s so spectacular!  This time however was extra special.  My plan was to photograph and film the sunrise here.  However, when I arrived at 6am rain and clouds covered the horizon.  Since I’ve never been to Hana’s black sand beach that early in the morning I knew if I just kept exploring I would find something interesting.  It turned out to be someone interesting.  A local guy was fishing on the beach.  Turns out his family has lived on this land that is now a state park for centuries.  His great grandparents are buried in the small cemetery in the park at the edge of this bay.  He told me a story that his great grandparents, who only spoke Hawaiian, told him about how they, in the “old days”, raised sharks and dolphins and trained them to help catch fish by chasing schools of fish into this bay to be netted by the awaiting Hawaiians.  Amazing!  It reminded me of how special this place is not just to the people who visit it every day but to the people of Hana and their Hawaiian ancestors who have lived here for centuries.

Hana Bay

road to Hana beachesNot known as a major stop along the road to Hana this bay is none the less a major landmark in ancient Hawaiian history.  The hill that overlooks this bay is called Pu’u Ka’uiki and was once the site of an ancient fortress.  Many battles were fought here for control of Maui from invading Big Island Alii (royalty).   Queen Ka’ahumanu was born here in 1768.  Her mother was from Hana and her father was from the Big Island of Hawaii.  Her hand in marriage was promised to a young warrior from the Big Island by the name of Kamehameha.  Ka’ahumanu became his favorite and most trusted wife as she supported his conquest and subsequent unification of all the islands.  After his death she became the first Kuhina Nui (Royal Prime Minister) and encouraged women’s rights and christianity which would change Hawaiian society forever.  She is honored every year on Queen Ka’ahumanu day on March 17th which is her birthday, with parades and entertainment including Hula shows.

Hamoa Beach

road to Hana maui beachesVoted best beach in America so many times it’s now almost a shoe in for a top 5 spot every year, Hamoa Beach is a small beach with steep banks and cliffs on both ends.  A little hiking is involved to get down to this beach but it has a beautiful pavillion and the surf here can be fun in the right conditions.  Be careful though.  Any and all beaches on this side can get rough with a strong rip tide showing up at any time.

Koki Beach

Hana Maui beachesLocated on the other side of Hamoa Beach along this small peninsula Koki Beach is a mix of red, yellow and gray sand.  The view here is amazing as a small island off shore called Alau Island gives a beautiful accent to the waves and deep blue ocean on the horizon.  This shoreline has some decent parking, which is something you won’t find on the other side at Hamoa Beach.  There is what looks like a cool little food shack here too, which is a recent addition.  The beach is large but the surf here is on a shallow reef. Local knowledge about where to go into the surf is a must.

Kaupo Area

Kaupo church maui east sideThis area past Hana along the southern coast is known as the “back side” of Maui.  Kaupo is vast and dry compared to the rainforest that most people spend all day driving through.  Locals love this side as it’s remote rocky beaches have some of the best fishing in all of Maui’s waters.  There are remnant stone foundations of villages right on the beaches here.  However, the roads to the shoreline are treacherous and crazy steep.  It’s best to stop at a few lookouts along the road to get a good look at the beaches and watch the sea crash into the lava arches all along this coastline.  It truly is one of the most stunningly expansive landscapes you will see in Maui.

Maui’s Western Shore

west maui townsThe west side of Maui is where the first resorts sprang up over 50 years ago.  Much of Maui’s post contact history starts on this side of the island in the town of Lahaina which was the first capitol of the newly unified Hawaiian Kingdom in the early 1800’s.  Kaanapali was favored by the Alii (royalty) and Kaanapali beach now boasts some of the most beautiful resorts on the island.  The shoreline from central Maui to Lahaina is a long string of beach areas with mellow surfing and snorkeling to be found along the way.

Papalaua Beach Park (Thousand Peaks)

west maui beachesThe ocean cliffs between central Maui and the west side of the island is known as the Pali, which is Hawaiian for steep slope or cliff.  As you drive out of this cliff area the beaches begin to line up all along this shoreline.  The first one is Papalaua but locals know it as Thousand Peaks.  Located right off the highway coming out of the Pali it can be a dangerous left to pull into the dirt parking lot under the trees, so be careful!  I’ve seen locals camp here often and the surf is a wonderful easy rolling swell that makes for long smooth rides.

Ukumehame Beach Park

Beaches Maui Ukumahame Beach-177This is a tiny little spot that has minimal parking but in the right conditions there’s some fun surf just off shore.  The view here looking back towards the Pali and Haleakala can be beautiful though.  The whales can be seen offshore here in the winter months as well.  Heading west from here are a few miles of sand that is narrow and long.  If you pull of the highway here be careful.  A car can get stuck in the soft sand as soon as you turn off the pavement.


This small bay on Maui’s southwest shore has a fairly calm and shallow reef.  Again it’s a tricky turn off this busy highway to dirt parking so be careful.  The trees here at the waters edge offers nice shade and shallow waters make for some ocean fun for little kids and beginner snorkelers.  Several kayak tours launch from here also daily.

Laniopoko Beach Park

west maui beachesThis is a well known spot and easy to find.  A stop light at this beach parks entrance just before you reach Lahaina town makes for a nice in and out of this parking lot.  A circular rock wall keeps the surf out and creates a small calm water beach in the center of this park. On both sides of this are fairly expansive areas for picnics and lounging in the shade.  This and the slow rolling waves offshore make for a great place to take a surf lesson.  This park is also a favorite of the locals because it is minutes away from Lahaina and has plenty of trees and picnic tables to hang out at.

Puamana Beach Park

This is a tiny beach park with minimal parking but people enjoy it mostly for the nice mellow surf just off shore.  It also has a minimal little beach which can make for some great sunset photos with beautiful coconut trees all along here due to the Puamana Resort directly next door.  For the most part this location is rocky with little room for lying about on a beach but the surf is great for beginners.

Lahaina/505 Front Street

west Maui beachesNot known for it’s beaches but there is one here in front of 505 Front Street shopping mall.  This is another great place for surf lessons and gear can be rented within walking distance.  Lahaina is a wonderful town with plenty of history and it is definitely worth a stop.  Check out the banyan tree and old courthouse and museum.  The historical info plaques throughout town are wonderful and you can just feel the vibe of old Hawaii once you get past all the tourist shops.


Beaches Maui Kaanapali Beach-193This beach is the hub for activity on Maui’s west side.  Kaanapali is loaded with resorts, condos, restaurants and a fairly large shopping mall at Whalers Village.  There is a concrete sidewalk that runs the entire length of this beach which makes it a great place to grab a bite to eat or a beverage just feet from the sand.  Hula Grill and Leilani’s are the most popular restaurants here.  You can book boat excursions which land right on the beach here or rent gear like kayaks or stand up paddle boards for some ocean fun.  Once a place in ancient Hawaii for royalty Kaanapali is a destination all in itself for people staying at nearby hotels.

Honokowai/North Kaanapali

This is more of a stretched out area than a single beach.  Located a few minutes from Kaanapali this area is fronted by numerous condos and resort timeshare properties strung out for about 5 or 6 miles along this coastline.  Almost every property here along this coastline has a beach out in front of it.  Most are small yet beautiful beaches in front of amazing resorts.  Airport beach is popular with decent parking and is located near the Westin Villas.  Kaanapali Beach Club, the large pink resort, has a wonderful beach out front.  Farther down the road towards Napili on lower Hanoapiilani Highway is Honokowai Beach Park.  Small but quaint, it is near some nice local shops and stores.

Napili Beach

This small hidden gem of a beach is quite spectacular in the sense that you can rent a condo that pretty much sits right on this beach.  Napili Kai Beach Resort is the main resort here and has a nice restaurant just feet away from the sand.  All beaches in Maui have public access but this is a good example of how it is sometime hard to find a beach that is surrounded by vacation properties.  The only good place to park here is at a resort and they prefer paying customers to the general public.  Still, have a drink at a nearby restaurant and you’re in!


Beaches Maui Kapalua-27This location is one of Maui premier luxury resort areas.  The Ritz-Carlton is the biggie with boutique hotels and condos filling in most the gaps.  Championship golf happens here also with 3 courses with one of them, Kapalua Bay Course, that meanders right down to the ocean cliffs overlooking Kapalua Beach.  This beach has a decent parking lot and is fairly large.  Popular on the west side surfing scene it can get pretty rough when the ocean swells are up, especially in the winter.

D.T. Fleming

This is another Maui beach that gets a “Best Beach” title every couple years.  It’s pretty much the last beach park on this side of the island and one of the most beautiful for sure.  The wave action here is 2 part, surf on the outside (farther offshore) is smooth and big and the shore break is perfect for boogie boarding and body surfing.  Good parking and some picnic tables make for a nice spot whether you’re there for some beach time or ocean fun or just passing through.

Not far from this beach is Honolua Bay which is an amazing reef and marine sanctuary.  Boat and kayak tours are the best way to experience this amazing bay as there is no real beach here.

Beaches are a way of life on Maui.  It is the lifestyle envied by the world. To be able to meet up with friends for a sunset pupu party, or just walk hand in hand with a special someone, Maui will never leave you feeling like heading to the beach was a bad idea…

Aloha Nui Loa

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Maui Ancient History Fri, 02 May 2014 18:05:53 +0000 Along the Road to Hana Ancient Hawaiians were a people without writing who preserved their history in chants and legends. Maui’s ancient history was passed down through the generations by the Kahuna priests (wise men) of old Hawaii.  Hana, on the eastern side of Maui, has some of the richest and most vibrant history of the entire [...]

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Along the Road to Hana

Ancient Hawaiians were a people without writing who preserved their history in chants and legends.

Maui’s ancient history was passed down through the generations by the Kahuna priests (wise men) of old Hawaii.  Hana, on the eastern side of Maui, has some of the richest and most vibrant history of the entire Hawaiian island Maui Hana Helicopterchain.

Empires were born in Hana and many battles were fought here, not just for the right to rule Maui but also for the conquest of the entire island chain. Hana was invaded many times by Alii (rulers) from the Big Island of Hawaii. It was common for kings from both Maui and the Big Island to rule multiple islands from this lush paradise. Unfortunately, only the last few hundred years of history is archived.

What exists today is largely taken from what was chronicled by sea captains in the late 1700’s, missionaries, Hawaiian language newspapers in the 1800’s and later by historians in the 1900’s. Information was gathered from the living descendants who still remembered the ancient stories and chants. Many of these accounts and stories are archived at Bishop Museum in Honolulu.

As you travel along the road to Hana keep in mind that it is not only a stunningly beautiful drive but that it also has many amazing stories of life in ancient times.  The reverence Maui’s locals have for Hana is anchored in their ancient connection to the land and these stories of their ancestors.  It would be a challenge for anyone to learn about the many accounts of Maui’s ancient history on a one day trip to Hana. It is best to take a Hana tour with a knowledgeable guide who can point out the places and stories that connect the ancient history of Hana with modern day Maui.

In ancient Maui, Hana was an area favored by the Alii (royalty) and became the seat of power for the entire island. Until the 1400s, Maui was divided into three territories with different rulers: Wailuku (West Maui), Lele (East Maui), and Hanahonomanu maui road to hana (East Maui). Around 1550, King Pi’ilani married the daughter of Hoolae from Hana, resulting in the unification of East and West Maui, thereby making a joint royal family ruling Maui. Peace and prosperity was experienced during the family’s reign.   The largest Heiau (Hawaiian Temple) ever found in the pacific is located in Hana. It is called Pi’ilanihale.

Chief Pi’ilani’s greatest accomplishment was that he commissioned many significant “public works” projects.  It took Pi’ilani his lifetime and that of his two sons to complete the building of fish ponds, irrigation fields and paved roads, some of which were 4 to 6 feet wide that traveled around the entire island. Amazingly, this includes what we know today as the Road to Hana. After the completion of this road it united the villages and chiefs of the island and made Maui one of the most powerful of all the islands.  So powerful, in fact, it became a major goal of Kamehameha The Great to conquer it.

The first European explorer to see Maui was Captain James Cook on November 26, 1778, but he was not able to land on Maui. On May 29, 1786, it was French Admiral Jean-Francois de Galaup La Perouse who first set foot on Maui by landing on the shores of what is now known as La Perouse Bay.  He continued around the island to Hana where he made note of it’s beauty and wild sugar cane.

Soon after the first western contact with Captain James Cook in the Hawaiian islands it is said that KingHawaii ancient history illustration Kamehameha of the Big Island procured canons and armaments seized from British ships.  He then built a fleet of war canoes estimated to be 1000 strong that could hold between 20 and 100 men each. His first conquest was Hana. As you travel the road to Hana just imagine the scene, estimated to have happened in 1790, of 1000 sailing canoes offshore. ancient Hawaii etching

King Kamehameha invaded at points stretching from Hana Bay to Hamoa Bay along the Hana coast.*  Their arrival was sounded by messengers who ran the foot paths from Kaupo to Hana Bay and beyond to as far as Honomanu announcing the call to arms. It is said the battle raged throughout the Hana coast. Maui warriors repelled the invaders several times.

One account speaks of Maui warriors who were skilled in the art of slinging stones. *  It was said they could throw stones 100 to 200 yards from shore accurately enough to kill warriors and damage canoes. As you travel through Hana town look for a steep hill at the south end of Hana Bay, this is Ka’uiki Hill. In ancient times it was a fortress which was the fall back position for Hana’s inhabitants and warriors in times of war.

The battle for Maui’s rule ended when it was conquered by Kamehameha.  His army chased the Maui warriors into Iao Valley along the eastern shore of the West Maui Mountains. It was such a bloody battle that it is said the bodies damned up Iao Stream!

Kamehameha set up his new Kingdom of Hawaii in the village of Lahaina, known then as Lele.  He married into the Maui Alii (royalty) by taking a wife by the name of Maui historyKaahumanu, who was born in Hana.  This is how the conquering Alii of Hawaii cemented their control of the community through social and political structures.  Lahaina remained the capitol from 1802 until it was moved to Honolulu in 1845.

Kamehameha first began trading with the foreigners after conquering the Oahu chiefs.  At first the main export was salt, but soon it was overshadowed by the sandalwood trade which destroyed the three layered canopy rainforest covering the mountain slopes of every island in a few short years.  With the proceeds Kamehameha built an estimated 30+ European style ships.

Some of the first westerners to arrive in Maui observed a well organized caste society.  The Hawaiians had mastered many aspects of living including the creation of stone tools and an incredibly strong rope made from coconut fiber. The concept of private property was unknown to ancient Hawaiians but they did have an ingenious system of land management known as the Ahupua’a. Several of the early sea captains who arrived in Maui saw the rich resources of Hana as a way to make a living and began cultivating the sugar cane which grew wild. Eventually Hana was the location for one of Hawaii’s first sugar cane mills in 1849.  By 1883 there were six in the area.  The original trail constructed by Hana’s Chief Pi’ilani hundreds of years earlier was finished as a roadway in 1926.  It is what we call the road to Hana today.

So as you travel the road to Hana keep in mind that this area was the cornerstone of an ancient struggle to control all of Hawaii.  Please travel with the same respect and reverence that the Hawaiian people have for this sacred landscape.

 A Brief Chronology of Hana History

* 1550 (est) – Maui Chief Pi’ilani rules Hana in a time of peace and prosperity.  He orders the building of a trail system circling Maui, thus uniting the entire island.

 • 1759 to 1779 – Kalani’opu’u of the Big Island captured and held power over Hana. Eventually, West Maui chief Kahekili surrounded him and forced Kalani’opu’u to retreat to defenses on Ka’uiki Hill. Kahekili defeated him by stopping all freshwater flow to the hill and forcing them to surrender.

• 1768 – Queen Ka’ahumanu was born in a cave at Ka’uiki Hill. She was King Kamehameha’s favorite wife and largely responsible for the abolition of the Kapu System.

* 1790 – King Kamehameha invades Maui and conquers the island with the help of British armaments.

*1794 – King Kamehameha brings all the island under his rule and establishes Lahaina as the capitol of the Hawaiian kingdom.

• 1849 – Sugarcane is introduced to Hana via a sugar mill by George Wilfong. In 1883, there were 6 plantations in operation. Before this Hana and the neighboring Ko’olau districts survived by cultivating dryland taro and local fishing.

• 1926 – The original Hana Highway was completed. It was a gravel 1-lane road.

Sights of Maui by Elspeth P. Sterling – Bishop Museum Publishing

*Moses Manu, The Story of Kihapiilani, Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, Aug. 9, 1884.  MS SC Sterling

*S.M. Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii, Translated from the newspaper Ke Au Okoa  1961 SC Sterling

*Abraham Fornander, An Account of the Polynesian Race: Its Origins and Migrations  London 1876-85

*Pi’opi’o State Park signage- Hilo, Hawaii – Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association, Mamalahoe Chapter

Maui parks front street lahaina hawaii history Hawaiian artifact ancient Hawaii artifact Pools of Oheo Hale Maui ancient artifact Hawaii ancient history modern version maui hana bay Maui road to hana

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Maui Tropical Fruit Tue, 22 Apr 2014 01:04:34 +0000 Where to find the best Maui tropical fruit It goes without saying that you will try some of Maui’s tropical fruit while visiting the island.   Probably on your first meal outing.  Papaya, mango and pineapple are on just about every menu no matter where you go.  But those who live on the island know [...]

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Where to find the best Maui tropical fruit

It goes without saying that you will try some of Maui’s tropical fruit while visiting the island.  

Probably on your first meal outing.  Papaya, mango and pineapple are on just about every menu no matter where you go.  But those who live on the island know there are many varieties of fruits throughout the island and knowing things like the times of year when certain fruits ripen or perhaps a tree and or farm location that the fruits originate from can make a difference.

One of the reason the fruit is so amazing in Maui, I think, is because Hawaii has always been an agricultural society.  The ancient Hawaiians created land divisions based on food production.  Known as an ahupua’a these land divisions started in the mountains and ran all the way to the ocean. They used the lush valleys and streams for farming by building terraced growing beds called Loi which diverted water into the fields and returned it to a nearby stream.  Where these streams entered the ocean a village was built along with fish ponds reaching from shore out into the ocean and back again forming large, in some cases huge, stone fences near the mouth of streams and rivers.  Nutrients from stream runoff fed the fish which where easily caught within the pond.  This system of sustainable food production supported a large population for hundreds of years.  Today most of Hawaii’s food is flown in but there is still a large network of local food on the island… if you know where to look.

Lately farmers markets and fruit stands are showing up more and more in Maui.  Locals and visitors alike are seeking them out and getting into the movement of farm to table freshness.  It’s hard to go wrong wherever you may find fresh fruit in Maui but here are some tips that will help you get your hands and taste buds on some of the best fresh fruit Maui has to offer.

Tip # 1 – Grocery banana pineapple of maui

Safeway, Foodland, Whole Foods, and Costco all have tropical fruit selections.  Look closely however because these big stores bring in produce from around the world and not all of it is local.  Sometimes you may see displays in the produce section for local fruit which is good but check it closely – may not always be the ripest.  Also the prices can be somewhat high compared to farmers markets and fruit stands.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s not good fruit.  More and more of these stores are working with local farmers to bring local organic food to their store shelves.  Hooray for that!  Also the health food stores in Maui are excellent!  Down to Earth in Kahului and Mana Foods in Paia have a fantastic selection of organic fruits that is far better that most grocery stores. Bring a fat wallet though….

Tip #2 – Farmers Markets.hana maui fruit

To find a farmers market in Maui the best thing to do is check out the Maui County Farm Bureau websight.  It’s a comprehensive list that covers the entire island and these farmers markets usually offer many kinds of vegetables along with fresh fruit.  Farming vegetables in Hawaii is not as easy as it would seem because of insects and the heat. However fruit is fairly easy to maintain. That is why just about everyone has some type of fruit tree growing in their yard.

The Maui Swap Meet in Kahului on saturdays is a great place to taste some delicious fruit samples as well as baked goods and dishes made with Maui’s tropical fruits as well as crafts and art. Though many of Maui’s farmers markets have some wonderfully tasty produce and have locations throughout the island the main challenge with them is they are not open every day, as you can see from the farm bureau link.  A nice alternative is the ability to not only try some great fruit but to have it shipped back home.  Check out Mr Pineapple in Kahului.  They have a great location that is right along the way to the airport.

Tip #3 – Fruit Stands.maui tropical fruit

Maui has an amazing array of fruit stands.  These stands are also located in various areas throughout the island and are usually open daily.  If you think you’ve had some great smoothies wait until you try one made with fresh sugar cane juice!  Yum!  These stand are usually easy to find as you explore the island and offer some fantastic homemade treats like coconut candy or Macadamia nut brittle.  Some even offer entrees like smoked chicken and fish.  I tend to look for fruits types that are hard to find like large smooth skinned avocados, Tahitian yellow limes, or lychee.  The small apple bananas are amazing too along with rainbow papaya, which I love to bring home.  It really is endless but at some point you have to get picky.  It’s a bummer to have more than you can eat. Having to watch it spoil is somewhat heartbreaking.

Tip#4 – Hana Fruit Stands.maui fruit stand

One of the best areas on the island to find these amazing fruit stands and farmer’s markets is along the road to Hana.  This is the rainforest side of the island with a rich history of farming.  Many battles were fought in this area in ancient times for the resources of food and fresh water that are so abundant in Hana.  Consequently some of the largest and oldest fruit trees grow here.  While taking a Hana tour our guide sstopped at a small fruit stand near Hana’s black sand beach where we found the most amazing avocados I’ve ever eaten.  They were huge!  At around 2 lbs each and about as big as half a loaf of bread, they an incredible flavor of smoked almonds. She said it was her favorite tree in Maui.

You could spend all day just stopping at the huge array of Maui fruit stands in Hana.  They range from buckets at the end of a driveway with a sign and a pay box to fully enclosed buildings with a kitchen.  Some of my favorites are Twin Falls Farm Stand (awesome smoothies) and Sandy’s Fruit Stand at Ke’anae Peninsula (amazing banana bread)

There are many opportunities to try Maui’s fresh tropical fruit, so be sure to keep an eye out for trying all the varieties of fruit as you drive around.  You won’t regret taking the time to stop and sample one of the best things about a Maui visit – Tropical fruit!

Aloha Nui Loa

van-stop-at-fruit-stand Shopping for Fresh Fruit on Maui Family fruit stand Maui Road to Hana fruit stands farm fresh tropical fruit maui fruit Maui fruit Maui fruit stand Hana Fresh maui fruit stand hana fruit stand maui hana maui fruit farm maui tropical fruit stand hana maui fruit maui fruit stand maui fruit maui hana fruit stand maui tropical fruit stand hana

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Road to Hana – Top 10 Things to Do Thu, 20 Feb 2014 18:50:42 +0000 There are so many great stops on the road to Hana and beyond that we can't tell you them all at once.  Here are our top 10 favorite experiences we try to see on and off the Hana Highway.

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There is so much to do and see on the road to Hana that most people miss something that they wish they had the time for.

 This is why Maui has one of the highest return rates in the destination travel industry.

The road to Hana on Maui’s lushly rugged east side is a stunning yet spooking adventure into the heart of what most people dream about when they think of Hawaii: tropical waterfalls, pristine beaches and delicious fruit hanging everywhere in the rainforest.  The road to Hana is definitely all of these and more.  It does take some planning though, and unless you’re on a tour van where everything is taken care of you could end up feeling stressed out.  That’s the opposite of what a vacation is supposed to be.

The road to Hana is an all day journey that never gets old.  It seems there is always something new to be discovered.   New flowers, new views, new hikes, new waterfalls, new roads, new fruit stands, new seasons and constantly changing weather.  At the same time there are many things that do not change.  The ancient landscape of waterfalls, peninsulas, farms, flowers, and forests have coexisted in this rugged jungle environment for centuries.  Having spent just over a decade traveling and photographing the road to Hana I have developed a list of my tried and true favorites.

As a professional photographer who has lived in Maui for over 18 years, I have been blessed to work with many of Maui’s tour businesses.  Over the years I have photographed tours on boats, helicopters, bicycles, horseback, paragliding, zipline courses, golf courses and even submarines, but my all time favorite location in Maui to photograph is the road to Hana.  I have traveled the road in every way imaginable and there are some differences between taking a tour and driving yourself, so I’ll try and address these differences as I go.  Just remember if you go alone, leave early and pick several stops that look the most interesting and try spending a little more time there.  Consequently you may have to bypass some of the not so interesting stops, but in my opinion you can’t see it all in one day anyways.  If that’s you’re goal, take a tour.

So here are my top 10 things to do and see along the road to Hana.

The Hana Rainforestmaui rainforest

Once you’ve gone through the town of Paia and past Hookipa Bay the road starts to get narrow and winding.  For the most part the view is mostly rock walls and dense rainforest gultches sprinkled with an occasional view of the ocean.  That’s why I like to stop within the first 30 to 45 minutes of the drive just to get out and see the trees and forest up close.  There are not a lot of hiking trails along this road and for good reason… one wrong step and it can be hundreds of feet free fall to the ocean.  If you’re on a tour van this is not an issue as a guide knows where all the safe stops are.  I like stopping at the painted eucalyptus trees for a couple of quick photos and a nice leg stretch to start the day.

Ke’anae Peninsularoad to hana ocean

This is a great place to stop and get a feel for how wild and raw the Hana coastline really is.  The view looking back from where you just traveled is stunning.  This is also a bathroom stop and the banana bread stand at Ke’anae Landing is excellent.  Be careful of going out too far on the lava rocks though.  The tide pools are fascinating but rogue waves can show up at anytime here.  Several people have been injured or lost their lives at this location from these waves.  A tour guide can show you where the big waves hit and share some history about the old stone church that sits a few yards from the bathrooms.

Black Sand Beachwaianapanapa state park hana

Waianapanapa State Park is an amazing place where you’ll not only get to walk on Maui’s black sand beach but there are interesting paths, trails, lava tubes and fresh water caves to explore.  Walk the path along the coast and you’ll discover a blow hole, ocean cliffs and amazing native plants.  There is camping here which is first come first serve and several “primitive” cabins that must be reserved in advance.  Staying the night in Hana is really one of the best ways to see and experience this side of the island but if you only have a day this is a fantastic place to spend some time.  If your on a tour this is a good 45  to 60 minute stop with the added benefit of local stories and history thrown in.

Fruit Standshana fruit

Farmers markets have increased greatly in Maui over the last few years but fruit stands throughout the Hana area have been around for decades and are well known to have the best variety and sweetness.  Many of these stands have smoothies for sale made with fresh sugar cane juice, which is my favorite.  I usually stop at several because I’m always on the lookout for my favorites like apple bananas, Tahitian lilikoi and the big prize… monster avocados!  Whatever you find I recommend getting a little more than you think you can eat.  By the time you get back to your hotel or condo you’ll wish you had more.  Tour drivers know what’s ripening when and who has the best trees and thus, the tastiest fruit.

Koki BeachHana beaches

This reddish gold sand beach is on the other side of Hamoa beach.  Hamoa beach is well known in the guidebooks but very small and it can be difficult to park and hike down to it.  Koki beach is much more accessible and beautiful in my opinion since Alau Island can be seen just off shore from here.  The red cinder cone behind this beach has a great ancient Hawaiian legend I learned about from a tour guide.  Always something new….

Foodhana picnic

Since this road is a 10 to 12 hour drive you should have a plan for lunch.  You can bring your own food and supplement it with fresh Hana fruits and banana bread, or you can grab a burger or sandwich at Hana Ranch Restaurant in Hana town.  Hasagawa General store has groceries also, but be prepared to pay a premium for OK food.  If you’re on a van tour this is not an issue.  Food is usually provided but be sure to ask what kind of food.  Hana van tours have various food choices.  They can often range from a simple sandwich and chips to a full picnic meal with beverages all day to a stop at a Hana restaurant.  Whatever you do be sure to have your food and beverages together when traveling this road.  There are not a lot of choices for food along the way but I am seeing more roadside BBQ places.

West Wailua WaterfallHana waterfalls

The road to Hana has many waterfalls of various sizes and configurations, but the iconic waterfall most photographed is West Wailua.  Located between Hana town and the Pools of Oheo, this waterfall is one of the largest seen along the road.  Here you’ll find some decent parking (by Hana road standards) and various locals selling handmade items of all kinds. It’s a beautiful “quick stop” for a photo and a plumeria flower hair clip.  You can also hike down and take a dip in this waterfall pool, but the next stop is much better for swimming, weather permitting of course.

Pools of OheoHana bridges

Located about 15 minutes down the road from Wailua Falls is Haleakala National Park’s Kipahulu area that includes the Pools of Oheo.  After you buy a pass at the gate there is multi level parking, a visitor center and a wonderful trail system. The trail down towards the ocean takes you in a loop all the way around to the pools and back.  The trail heading upill leads across the road and up into Oheo gulch, which is an epic hike through bamboo forest and jungle streams to the incredible 400’ Waimoku Falls.  It’s about an hour long hike mostly uphill. Since most people arrive at the pools late in the day, and this hike is best left for an overnight stay or camping at Kipahulu, in my opinion.  It is an amazing place in the morning light and I love camping here, but I’ve seen dozens of people scrambling up this trail as I was coming down at sunset thinking they can squeeze this hike in.  I tell them there is not much to see in the dark!  If you’re on a tour this should be a good hour long stop.  This is plenty of time to find out how cold the water is and hike the 1 mile loop trail.

Kaupomaui kaupo

Known in Maui as “the backside” Kaupo is a landscape of stunning contrast to the winding rainforest roads of Hana.  This area is where Haleakala laid down a steep but flowing mountainside that is the shortest distance from ocean to the 10,000’ summit on the island.  Stark and somewhat barren it is none the less breathtaking in it’s scope and vastness. It is also some of the roughest road you’ll find in Maui.  Not a problem for a tour van built for the road, but some rental cars may give you quite a jostling.  Some of the canyons seen along this side of the island are enormous and speak to an ancient past when this was the wet side of the island instead of the dry side it is today.  It is also the location of Maui’s newest wind farm because of the strong winds that get funneled between islands here.

Tedeschi Winerymaui winery

The history of the Ulupalakua ranch lands here in what is known as Upcountry Maui dates back to 1845 and includes visits by Hawaii’s royalty.  Wine grapes were first planted here in the early 1970’s and while waiting several years for the vines to mature it was decided to try making wine with something readily available – pineapples.  It turned out to be popular and thus started the Tedeschi Winery venture.  Today the wines are superb with varieties for most palates including their well known pineapple wine.  I don’t really care for sweet wines but the Plantation Red is excellent! Walking throughout this property is one of my favorite things to do and photograph in Maui.  If you’re planning on a tour be sure to ask if wine tasting at Tedeschi winery is on the list.  It’s a great way to finish off a spectacular adventure like the road to Hana!

Aloha Nui Loa

Alau Island Offshore of Koki Beach Road to Hana fruit stands black sand beach and cave Hana Fruit Stand Hana Rainforest Trees Maui black sand Hana camping Maui waterfalls in Hana Hana's Black Sand Beach 1 hanamauipicnic Kaupo Maui Kaupo view with people Lava rock shoreline at Keanae Maui keanae waves Hamoa area of road to Hana Rainforest Road to Hana Tedeschi winery Maui winery upcountry Hana swimming and hiking in Kipahulu and Oheo Gulch Waterfalls on Road to Hana

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Driving in Maui and the Road to Hana Mon, 03 Feb 2014 23:05:14 +0000 Maui Sightseeing by Car Getting to the airport, security lines, layovers and feverishly counted hours on a plane and you’ve finally made it to Maui. Now you can relax.  Except now there are so many things to see and do.  Exploring in a car in Maui actually has it’s own level of stress.  The narrow [...]

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Maui Sightseeing by Car

Getting to the airport, security lines, layovers and feverishly counted hours on a plane and you’ve finally made it to Maui.

Now you can relax.  Except now there are so many things to see and do.  Exploring in a car in Maui actually has it’s own level of stress.  The narrow roads often have little or hard to understand signage. Intermittent wifi and cell reception mingle with the often chaotic traffic.  Locals commuting to and from work coupled with thousands of lost visitors can make driving in Maui stressful.  Luckily the best thing about driving in Maui is that it’s beautiful wherever you go and rarely is it difficult to find a beach or park to pull into when you’ve decided you’ve gone far enough.Olowalu area beaches Maui

Having lived in Maui for close to two decades I can tell you that the roads have improved a lot over the last few years.  The divided four lane expansion of Mokulele Highway running between Kahului and Kihei was completed 2008 and last year Maui’s first roundabout was built.  These are much needed upgrades for sure, but the best advice I could give you about driving in Maui is to leave early, be patient, slow down and use the “Shaka”.  For the locals this “hang loose” hand symbol is waved for everything from lane mergers to stop signs.  Be sincere and use it generously.  You may find traffic, and your vacation, suddenly running smoothly.

Depending on where you’re from you may also find that driving in Maui is quite pleasantly different.  It can be adventurous and safe with amazing views.  I especially enjoy the roads in the upcountry area which includes Haleakala National Park.

Highway 30 running from Kahului to Lahaina is well kept and widened in recent years.  It is best to avoid being on this road during the two daily rush hours of approximately 8-9am and 4-5pm weekdays.  Aside from the rare road closure due to brush fires or car accidents this road has plenty of beauty with fantastic scenery. The Papawai Scenic Lookout is a parking area along the Pali.  It sits high on a cliff and overlooks two neighbor islands plus the slopes of Haleakala.  The sunsets and whale watching from here are stunning.  There are also plenty of surf spots up and down this coastline because of the shallow reef.  Snorkeling here is great too but whether you snorkel or surf be careful… this shallow reef is fragile and very sharp!

Of course one of the most famous and adventurous drives on the planet, much less the island of Maui, is the Road to Hana.  Without compare it can be the highlight of any Hawaii vacation.  However, with over 600 hairpin turns and some 50 plus one lane bridges, it is not for the squeamish.  Those who live here know that the road to Hana is not just a road with great views.  The road to Hana is a culture; it’s a lifestyle that is hundreds of years old yet it has fairly modern attributes if you know where to look.  It is for all of us who live on the island a heavenly place to recharge and relax, but few wish to drive it themselves.Hana Highway views

That’s why we go in groups.  I know I’m always looking for someone to do the driving on the road to Hana so I can take pictures and enjoy the scenery along the way.

If you’re visiting on vacation the road to Hana can feel more like the road to !#%*.  With so much to see it’s hard to know the timing of stops.  “Should we stop at this waterfall/wayside/overlook/fruit stand, or keep going to the next one?”  Sure, you can get a map, GPS, guide book and the audio CD, but then you could easily get distracted by all that stuff.  How?  Well when the wi-fi doesn’t work, the mile marker is missing and the guidebook sends you down a road that’s been gated you may start to use the term “road to !#%*”.  Until you’ve done the road to Hana a few times, it’s difficult to know what’s where and how much time to allow for a particular stop.  If the timing is off you could end up driving back on this winding jungle road in the dark.  It really does take some planning.  Or you could just book a Hana tour and be done with it.

I highly recommend considering a road to Hana tour.  Having a professional guide do the driving plus share stories ofwaianapanapa state park hana life and culture of the whole island is worth every penny.  What you will learn about the history and lifestyle of Maui can be compared to reading 5 or 6 books about the island, all in one day!  This truly is the best way to get your bearings about Maui and the road to Hana in a safe and comfortable environment.

Either way you owe it to yourself to get out on the road to Hana however you can.  This is one of the top 5 scenic drives in the WORLD and should not be missed!

Aloha Nui Loa road to hana road views driving maui hansen road Hana road one lane winding-cliffside-road Waves And Hikers At Keanae Waterfalls on Road to Hana East Maui irrigation system Forests and ocean view from Kula View East From Keanae Peninsula Van on Rough Kaupo Side Ukumahame Beach Looking East Pools of Oheo Swimmers maui-backside-road Kaupo Gap Kaumahina-State-Wayside

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Maui Beach Weddings Tue, 07 Jan 2014 18:06:58 +0000 Maui Beach Wedding – Do it Yourself! Maui beach weddings are big business on Maui.   Being a professional photographer on the island for over 20 years I’ve shot many weddings, mostly back in the 90’s and several for friends since 2000.  Lots of people come here to get married because of the simplicity.  A [...]

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Maui Beach Wedding – Do it Yourself!

Maui beach weddings are big business on Maui.  

Being a professional photographer on the island for over 20 years I’ve shot many weddings, mostly back in the 90’s and several for friends maui wedding on the beachsince 2000.  Lots of people come here to get married because of the simplicity.  A couple friends on the beach, a minister and a photographer is really all you need.  It wasn’t until I decided to get married myself on the beach did I find out exactly what’s involved.

First off you have to pick your beach.  This is because the permit needed to have a Maui beach wedding requires 2 maui wedding licensethings: 1st – a permit from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and 2nd – they require event insurance.  I first checked with my insurance agent to see if my home insurance had any kind of event coverage.  I actually did – up to $100,000 but the state of Hawaii requires $500,000.  After getting a quote of $250 from an on island agent I decided to call DLNR to see what exactly was required from them.  My call was eventually routed to Steve Molnen who is in charge of wedding permits at the DLNR offices in Honolulu.  He was wonderful and let me know insurance could be found on-line.  All permitting is done on-line through e-mails.  I found an on-line insurer for $65 which got me $2 million in coverage!  I scanned and e-mailed Steve the policy and he sent me a code that would enable me to “pull” the permit.  He suggested I wait till the day of the wedding to pull the permit in case of weather or unexpected delays.  Once it is issued there is no refund.  It cost $20 to use 100 square foot of the beach.  He also let me know that the general rule is that the wedding party for a Maui beach wedding should be no more than 25-30 people.  Any bigger and you should start looking into a private property situation.  He said they have never denied a permit and that over 600 weddings per month are permitted throughout the state.  I very much appreciated his help.

Next thing for us was to find a minister. Since both my fiance and I have lived on Maui for over 17 years we put the word out on Facebook that we were looking for someone to marry us.  Eventually we found Julia Hill at Hawaii Wedding Company  through our long time friend Katie. She was fantastic and helped with our wedding vows and arranging the progression of the ceremony. Julia also shared with us the info on where to apply for a marriage license.  The local registrar’s name is Cynthia (808-875-8459) and she had an office in her house in Kihei.  We called and made an appointment.  She said she was quite busy but was able to schedule us in a couple days, so don’t leave this till the last minute.Hawaiian monarch butterfly

We mentioned to Julia that we were thinking of having a butterfly release and she directed us to a company who provides Hawaiian Monarch butterflies for weddings.  We were excited to have this as part of our wedding and also to be involved with re-introducing a native species of butterfly to the aina (land).

Next we needed flowers.  Our good friend Robert Bendivese of Cloud Flower Protea had us stop by the farm and took us out into the fields to pick flowers.  It was amazing to watch him put together a beautiful bouquet in about 1 minute.  He had buckets of flowers to choose from and it was wonderful to lay out how our circle of flowers would look like that we planned to have on the beach for our ceremony. Our friends daughters also made us flower leis from their plumeria trees in their back yard!

maui secret cove wedding circle

As I have photographed many Maui beach weddings and have seen some great ceremonies we decided to have one with some Hawaiian as well as native american type elements involved.  First off for the ceremony I laid out a circle of flowers on the beach. Next I marked the four directions around the circle , north south east and west, with flowers.  Using the circle allowed all our friends to encircle us during the ceremony.  Our bridesmaids and groomsmen were couples standing at each of the four directions with us and the minister in the middle of the circle.  During the ceremony we went to each directional spot and the couples there shared their hopes and wishes for us with us.  We then released the butterflies.  They were delivered to us at the beach before the ceremony.  They were in individual paper boxes in a cooler.  We were instructed to take them out of the cooler a few minutes before releasing them but we forgot.  When the boxes where opened they were still cool and did not fly away.  This turned out to be a great thing as we were able to get some great photos with them before they flew into a nearby tree.  Another thing that made our Maui beach wedding so special to us was that there were two turtles (considered a Hawaiian blessing) in the ocean nearby the entire time.

After our “kiss the bride” moment we invited everyone inside the circle for hugs and congrats.  We then waded into the water and out onto some rocks to be photographed with the turtles.  A second Hawaiian blessing came in the form of light rain showers after finishing the wedding photos which were shot by our good friend Steven Hodges.  Rain is rare for this part of Maui as the Wailea area is a very dry part of the island with an annual rainfall of only 4 inches.  It was truly magical!maui wedding couple and turtle

Because we have many friends in Maui and wished to keep things simple we decided to have our reception poolside at our condo in Wailea.  The property at the Wailea Grand Champions Villa was perfect for this and not far from the beach where we planned to have the ceremony.  We saved a lot of money shopping at Costco and cooking the food ourselves with the help of friends.  We made 3 big pans of chicken and crab enchiladas (our wedding was on May 5th, Cinco De Mayo) and everyone had plenty to eat.  It was fun to play around in the pool (especially for the kids) and afterwards our friends daughters did hula dances for us.  It was an incredible day we will always remember!

There are many ways to get married on Maui and this is just one of them.  We actually saw two other weddings, one at the Four Seasons and one at Mana Kai Resort.  They both looked like everyone was having an amazing time! We really enjoyed the way our beach wedding all came together and we did save quite a bit of money.  Of course any savings were actually spent on some outstanding meals at places like the 4 Seasons Wailea and activities like a road to Hana tour, which is a Maui must do.  However you decide to do a Maui beach wedding there is one thing that’s for sure, Maui is an amazing place to get married!

Aloha Nui Loa maui wedding on the beach maui beach circle wedding happily mauied wedding maui bride and groom Maui flower farmer and guest maui flower farm maui protea flower farm maui protea flower farm kihei beaches maui four seasons resort maui









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Thanksgiving Day in Maui – Top 5 Things to Do Fri, 22 Nov 2013 16:48:17 +0000    There are many ways to enjoy Thanksgiving day in Maui and I won’t go into everyone of them here but I will share with you my Top 5 Things To Do if you’re visiting Maui for Thanksgiving. Having lived for close to 20 years in Hawaii I have experienced Thanksgiving day in Maui in [...]

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There are many ways to enjoy Thanksgiving day in Maui and I won’t go into everyone of them here but I will share with you my Top 5 Things To Do if you’re visiting Maui for Thanksgiving.

maui upcountry keokea

Upcountry Maui is home to these beautiful Poinsettia which grow into large hedges and begin turning red in late November

Having lived for close to 20 years in Hawaii I have experienced Thanksgiving day in Maui in dozens of different ways.  Ohana (family) in Hawaii is a big deal.  Hawaiians can chant their family lineage back hundreds of years.  However, even if you’re not a local Hawaiian,  everyone living in Maui develops an ohana of friends who make up for family far away on the mainland during the holidays.

November is a very special time of year on the island.

The Humpback whales have returned to frolic in Maui waters by mid November and the winter rains have plumped up the green foliage of the mountain slopes making them stand out against the blue sky.  The winter swells bring large waves to all sides of the island and the Poinsettia plants that grow into large hedges here begin to turn red.  It is very easy to be thankful to be in Hawaii during the winter months!

The first Thanksgiving I encountered here in Maui back in the 1980’s was with a local family who cooked a turkey in an underground oven.  It is called an Imu.  You may have seen one of these if you’ve ever been to a Luau where they are used to cook whole pig for kalua pork.  It is a pit filled with red hot lava rocks heated by an open fire pit.  A certain kind of smooth porous lava rocks are gathered from river beds. These stones work best because they hold heat and will not crack from the extreme temperature.  Next the turkey is coated with Hawaiian rock salt, wrapped in taro leaves and wrapped again in banana leaves.  The turkey is then put on top of the hot rocks in the bottom of the pit and covered with a burlap sack.  After being covered with dirt it is left to cook underground all day.  The resulting turkey is some of the most tender and moist bird you’ll ever encounter.

#1 Restaurants Serving Thanksgiving Dinnersouth maui restaurants at the beach

If you’re visiting Maui for thanksgiving there are a lot of restaurant and resort options to choose from.  Almost every restaurant on the island has a Thanksgiving day special.  There are too many to list here but a good place to check out who is serving what is which is part of Maui Time Weekly.

#2 Thanksgiving Day Dinner Cruise

Another fantastic way to enjoy Thanksgiving day in Maui is a dinner cruise.  Pacific Whale Foundation has a Thanksgiving day dinner cruise out of Maalaea Harbor with live music and of course, whale watching.  Many of the dinner cruises have a Thanksgiving day tour so if you have a favorite boat give them a call.  Chances are they’ll have some turkey onboard November 28th.

#3 Thanksgiving Day Luau

Another fun event to consider is a Thanksgiving Day Luau.  Many of the luaus in Maui add turkey to the menu for the holiday crowd.  I know the Thanksgiving luau at Honua’ula in the Grand Wailea Resort does a great job roasting turkey in their Imu.  On top of that they have a seafood boil station and an amazing array of desserts including pumpkin cheesecake with maple creme brulee.  Yum!  Check with your nearest activity agent to get the full rundown on luaus in your area of the island.

#4 Pick up Thanksgiving Dinner to Go

On several occasions I have enjoyed Thanksgiving day in Maui on the beach.  Many grocery stores and some resorts will package up a full turkey day feast that can be taken to many of the beach parks around the island.  One of my favorite beaches for this is Kamaole Beach Park 3 in Kihei.  Also known as “Kam 3” this park has a wonderful choice of picnic tables overlooking the beach and ocean.  I first met my lifelong friends Dave and Mara for Thanksgiving dinner to go at Kam 3.  It was their first time to Maui and a friend had sold them a timeshare at the Kihei Mana Kai.  Since they didn’t know anybody in Maui my girlfriend and I volunteered to show them some Thanksgiving day Aloha.  We met them at the beach with a turkey dinner to go from Foodland.  We had such a great time together that they moved to Maui a few months later and have been part of our Ohana for over 15 years.  Such is the magic of Maui.

#5 Cook a Turkey Yourself

Visitors can often cook in their own condo equipped with a kitchen.  With all the amazing local spices and marinades at your disposal you may Marinated & Rubbed Smoked Turkeyend up making a fantastic version of a Hawaiian turkey dinner yourself.  Try stuffing your turkey with pineapple before roasting!

Of course if you live on the island most people enjoy cooking a turkey dinner themselves.  Foodland grocery stores have a discount program for residents called the Maika’i Rewards card. As you shop with them you accumulate points and eventually receive a coupon.  We save these because the week before Thanksgiving one coupon is good for a free turkey.  Free I tell you!  If you’re visiting try asking around to see if anyone may know of an extra Maika’i Rewards Coupon.  Most people do and may be happy to share some free turkey Aloha!
marinades in hawaii huli huli

Because I have a smoker I have cooked as many as 3 turkeys at a time for our ohana as gifts or for a big Thanksgiving day party in the backyard.  For the brine I use soy sauce, fresh ginger, brown sugar and saki.  Huli Huli Sauce is a recent favorite I use as a mop during this 5 hour cooking process.  You can view my main Hawaiian Turkey recipe HERE.

Maui is a special place and all of us who call it home are thankful to live in such beauty every day.  That’s why we love holidays like Thanksgiving.  I hope you get a chance to enjoy Thanksgiving day in Maui someday too!
Aloha Nui Loa

smoked meat maui maui resort grand wailea maui luau tahitian hula dancer south maui surf maalaea harbor wailea maui restaurants and resorts maui tour boat sunset and west maui mountains humpback whales in Maui Maui whale watching and snorkeling Sheraton Maui Resort south maui restaurants at the beach kihei beaches maui four seasons resort maui

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Maui Tour Guides – Road to Hana Tour Fri, 01 Nov 2013 17:53:21 +0000 Imagine for a moment what it must be like for Maui tour guides driving the road to Hana every day… If you’ve ever been on the road to Hana, you’ll know it is one of the most beautiful yet harrowing drives in all of Hawaii.  As a professional photographer I have been photographing for a [...]

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Imagine for a moment what it must be like for Maui tour guides driving the road to Hana every day…

If you’ve ever been on the road to Hana, you’ll know it is one of the most beautiful yet harrowing drives in all of Hawaii.  As a professional photographer I have been photographing for a variety of companies in Maui’s activity industry for close to 20 years. The first time I was driven out to see the Hana side was in 1986 on assignment for the Maui News dining scene column to photograph food at Hotel Hana.  Since then I have returned many times on my own.  I have also experienced it in many different ways like camping at the Pools of Oheo, staying in state park cabins, and various vacation rentals including one of my favorites, staying at Hotel Hana.  In 2000 I began working with Hana tour companies and have since been on many kinds of Hana tours.  All told I’ve probably taken this journey at least 30 times and for over half of them I was on a Hana tour. tour to hana van

I have gotten to know many of these Maui tour guides on a personal level and had plenty of time to ask them questions about their job.  Valley Isle Excursions is a Hana tour company I’ve worked with for over 12 years.  They are one of the most popular on the island and seemingly the first Hana tour to get out on the road in the morning.

At first I thought the job of a Hana tour guide looked to me like it would be a grueling one. The guides day starts at 5am at the tour van base yard.  They load up the vans with iced coolers full of soda and water, do a checklist lookover of their vehicle and review the manifest of people they will be picking up that day.  This is the beginning of a 14 hour day for them.Road to Hana on Keanae Peninsula

The tour has hotel pick up and drop off and the first pick up time for the west side of the island, which is about 30 to 40 minutes from the base yard, starts at 6:45 am.  Since these vans only carry 12 passengers and most people come out on tour as couples, they are usually making about 5 to 6 pick ups before heading to breakfast.  Arriving at about 7:30am for breakfast this tour begins the day at Maui Lani country club for a continental breakfast.   It is a beautiful central Maui golf course with a great view of the West Maui mountains. As the guests enjoy breakfast and get acquainted with fellow passengers the guides check in with each other. I always try to join them for a quick chat as many of them are friends.  Also this is often when I get a chance to hear about their work and why they do it.

These guides are often locals who are retired and actually do this for fun.  Some are hoale (caucasians) who have lived on Maui most of their lives. They have all told me in one way or another that the road to Hana gets in your blood.  Many even go out to Hana on their days off!  Some have family in Hana, some grew up in Hana but all are not only proud but honored to share their Aloha and knowledge of the island and Hana with visitors from around the world.  Often I hear them referring to their guests as “my people”.  They feel that showing people the Hawaiian way of thinking and living is something that can make a real difference in the world.  To be honest, most of them would make great stand up comedians also!  Laughter is definitely a big part of the Hawaiian culture.

Aside from being fully trained professional drivers these guides are also storytellers. Part historian, part botanist, part climatologist and entertainer they are, for the most part, speaking all day long.  Having been on so many tours I have become aware of how a lot of guest start the day quiet and somewhat shy and by lunch the whole group has become more like a giggling kindergarten class.  Another thing that amazes me is how these drivers know how to time themselves differently so that the stops aren’t crowded with six of seven vans at a time.  Somehow they decide (maybe at breakfast?) who will lead the pack and who will be the caboose.  Each stop can be anywhere from 15 minutes at an overlook to a full hour for swimming and some hiking at the Pools of Oheo.  At Valley Isle the lunches are stored in a hot box on the van so luch can be served just about anywhere.  Usually this BBQ chicken meal is served up at a flower farm or at Waianapanapa State Park.  With real plates and silverware, the guides unpack everything, serve the food buffet style, and pack it all back up. This all takes in about an hour and then it’s back on the road.

I feel what people enjoy the most from these guides are the stories of life and living on Maui that they share throughout the day.  I remember a Hana guide who shared a childhood story about how her parents would not let them play in the streams alone in Hana until they could hear a stone thrown into the water rolling with the current.  The streams of Hana often have unannounced flash floods that start high on the mountain and roll all the way down to the often sunny coastline.  When this happens the only warning is the sound of the rocks being pushed by a wall of water.  As she put it “growing up in Hana you have to have jungle smarts.”maui tour guides and guests along road to hana

The last stop of the day is at Tedeschi Winery and some wine tasting for the guests.  The guides are now within cell range and all check in with the base yard.  After about an hour and maybe some ice cream at the Ulupalakua Ranch Store, the guides drive everyone to there respective hotel or condo.  From Tedeschi Winery this can be another hour or so on the road for people staying on the west side or a half hour for the south.  After all guests have been dropped off the van is refueled and dropped off at the base yard.  Mechanical reports are filled out (any new squeeks?) and another 14 hour day if finished.

My hat goes off to these men and women of Maui who not only inform and guide, but keep people safe.  If you really want to get a feel for life in Maui take a Hana tour. It may be one of the best things you’ve ever done in Maui, or anywhere for that matter!

Aloha Nui Loa

Hana tour guide at Keanae Maui tour guides on road to Hana Maui Tour Guide Van 2 Maui Tour Guide Stop On Road to Hana Maui Tour Guide Van window view Kaupo Hawaii tour guide road to Hana Hawaii tour guide road to Hana Maui Tour Guide Hana Van Stop Maui tour guide and beaches on road to Hana Hawaii tour guide road to Hana Hana Black Sand Beach View Through Trees waianapanapa state park hana Tour van at Keana'e road to Hana Hana Highway Cliff and Road Road past Hana

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Hawaii National Parks Re Opened Sat, 12 Oct 2013 20:30:33 +0000 Hawaii National Parks were closed during the government shutdown in 2013, and sadly that includes the summit of Haleakala. Most of the national parks throughout the U.S. are transitioning into the change of season during the closure of the government.  This is sad because the fall colors in these parks are often the most spectacular [...]

The post Hawaii National Parks Re Opened appeared first on Valley Isle Excursions.

Hawaii National Parks were closed during the government shutdown in 2013, and sadly that includes the summit of Haleakala.

Most of the national parks throughout the U.S. are transitioning into the change of season during the closure of the government.  This is sad because the fall colors in these parks are often the most spectacular times to visit.  However it is in the fall that many of these remote parklands are winterized as the visitor counts drop with the temperature. However,  Hawaii National Parks are a different story.  I have personally known and interviewed many park rangers in several of Hawaii’s National parks in my 30 year career as a professional photographer. I have often heard them say “the park service is not about managing nature and animals, it’s about managing people.”  The fact that there are no people in the national parks right now could be seen as giving the land and facilities a rest.  Haleakala Visitor Center

Hawaii National Parks enjoy beautiful weather year around, and thousand of people  visit the state’s eight national parks.  However, people visiting now may not get a chance to enjoy these amazing natural wonders because of the shut down.  Luckily, the state is considering ways to end this soon.  On the island of Maui, Haleakala National Park is a big visitor draw.

The effect of Haleakala’s closure has been a strain on the island economy, particularly the upcountry area.  It has been estimated that up to 70% of visitors to Maui make the drive up to Haleakala summit for activities such as sunrise but since the government shut down the park visitors traveling up this steep and winding mountain road has dropped dramatically.  While I have lived in upcountry Maui for close to 20 years I can tell you there is still an incredible amount of wonderful things to see and do on the slopes of Haleakala that can easily encompass a full day.  However, I think one very best ways to experience the mountain is to circumnavigate it on the road to Hana.  waianapanapa state park hana

Haleakala may be closed, but the road to Hana is not.  Even though the Pools of Oheo are in Haleakala National Park on the Hana side of the island and are also closed, the Pools are but one of dozens and dozens of stunningly beautiful place to stop along the Hana Highway.  All state parks along the road are open, including Hana’s black sand beach.  Also the Kaupo area past the Pools is a spectacular view of the southern slopes of Haleakala were the mountain rises from sea level to 10,000′ elevation in just over 2 miles!

Of course we recommend taking a Hana tour, but no matter how you get there just go!  The road to Hana is one of the top 5 scenic drives in the world, but it is not a national park.  So even though the summit of Haleakala is closed, a great alternative is to go to Hana instead.  It is truly a Maui must do!

Aloha Nui Loa

Haleakala View from crater Taro farming Loi Hana Tour van at Keana'e road to Hana hana road cliffs maui kaupo cows southern slope waianapanapa state park hana Haleakala views in maui southern Hana's Black Sand Beach 1 Hana hiking and swimming Maui black sand Hana camping Valley Isle Excursions tour Road past Hana Black sand at Waianapanapa State Park


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