– Maui, Hawaii –
Today was a national park day. That’s pretty exciting. We’ve completed 51 of them now. Only 8 more to go, until they add a new one: 5 in Alaska, 1 in Hawaii, 1 in American Samoa, and 1 in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We will get that Hawaii one later this week, and be down to 7 total. I’m sure you noticed the last 7 are some of the hardest ones.
We began our day with a run just down the sidewalk along the street outside of our hotel. It wasn’t a fantastic run, as the scenery was much more road than beach, but we made do, and it was very convenient. We’d planned to do a different run tomorrow, but the park where we’d need to leave the car doesn’t open until 7am, and that’s way too late for us. Ah, well. Back to the street tomorrow.
After our run, we had our breakfast in our room. It’s still yogurt, granola bars, bananas, and juice, but this time the juice is a tropical mix from the islands and the bananas are a tiny local variety called apple bananas. It seems like they could’ve come up with a better name. They are cute, though, even if they do taste the same.
We made our now customary trip down to the beach post-run. I mentioned this yesterday, but the beach is in our backyard, so it was no big deal to walk down there to take a swim. The surf is a little rougher here on Maui, or at least where we are, and the rocks along the shore require a bit of extra caution. It is a nice little beach, and it wasn’t very busy so early in the morning.
Have I mentioned the name of this hotel? It’s the Days Inn Maui Oceanfront. It’s a cute little place. It doesn’t have elevators or continental breakfast, and the parking is a little tight, but the wifi goes to all of the rooms and works reliably and it is right on the ocean. It’s also clean and well-kept. It’s much nicer than our hotel in Honolulu, even though I still think that one was fine. This one is just a little nicer and more modern, especially for the price.
After reluctantly leaving the ocean after the sun really started to come up, we showered and posted things to our various internet blogs when we finished, then packed up the things we’d need for our trip to Haleakalā National Park.
Haleakalā is a huge dormant shield volcano. According to Wikipedia, 75% of the island of Maui is made up of the volcano. The other 25% is made up of the forest reserve we visited yesterday, and its volcano Mauna Kahalawai. Haleakalā rises to just over 10,000 feet, and its last eruption was believed to be sometime in the 17th century. The most popular thing to do in the park is watching the sun rise.
We didn’t make it for sunrise, though we’d never intended to. You actually have to make reservations to drive up for sunrise viewing, since it’s so popular. They only take 150 cars per day. We knew that beforehand and elected not to go. I’m sure it is nice, but it didn’t seem worth the hassle to us, especially when you consider how many other people would’ve been up there with us.
Instead, we took a leisurely drive up to the national park, stopping in Kahului for iced teas and reading our book while the roads were still straight. If you’ll recall from yesterday, I mentioned that it’s a long way around to the park from our hotel, and it is, but a long way on Maui isn’t really that long. It only takes about 1.5 hours to get there.
Even though we stopped a few times, we were still in the park only a little after 10am. The park has 3 visitor centers, with one at the entrance around the middle of the climb, and one at the top of the mountain. The third is along the bottom of Maui, on the coast. We will visit that one tomorrow. The entrance fee for the park is $25, though we didn’t have to pay it since we have our national park pass. It has definitely already paid for itself this year.
It’s worth noting that not everyone seems prepared for the weather on Haleakalā. It made it up to 95 degrees in the middle of the island today, but when we were at the top of the volcano, it was only 57. We were expecting that, so we brought light sweatshirts, but not everyone was so fortunate. We definitely saw some folks wearing just flip-flops and tank tops. They looked cold, too. We were even cold in our sweaters when we were really out in the wind.
From the bottom of the volcano, it is a 22-mile climb to the top, but it takes quite a bit longer than you’d expect. Like climbing any mountain, the road was comprised of constant switchbacks, and on the portion of the road leading up to the park, but not quite inside, bicycle tours were releasing tourists by the truckload. The tour van would tow a trailer full of bicycles up the mountain, then unload the bicycles and turn the tourists loose to coast down to the bottom. All of these people, but particularly the children, were terrifying to see on the road and a terrible nuisance. Coasting down that hill at ungodly speeds in front of cars that can’t see you coming around the switchbacks doesn’t seem like the greatest idea to me.
Despite the road hazards, we did eventually make it to the top. On the way up, the mountain was covered in fog. Then, we noticed the fog starting to break. Finally, we climbed so high up the mountain that we were above the clouds, and the sky was clear and blue. It was a lovely sight. You can tell that we had a lot of fun taking pictures that looked like we were at the edge of the world.
At the very top, there’s the visitor center, and then a parking lot at the summit with a little building for viewing the crater below or the sunrise. Off to one side is the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Observatory, which doesn’t allow visitors. It’s also just called Haleakalā Observatory, since it includes several other organizations in addition to the Air Force.
The crater at the top almost seems to be filled with another little mountain range, and in a way, it is, since each of these is its own tiny volcano. They aren’t truly separate, but are really just offshoots of the big one. Regardless, they make for an interesting view.
By the time we were there, while the park had a reasonable number of visitors, it wasn’t totally packed, which surprised me to some degree. People were having trouble parking at the visitor center when we were leaving, but not at the summit. I guess the crowds left long before we even arrived. Sunrise is well and truly over by 10am, of course. All in all, we probably spent at least 2 hours on the volcano, and since there’s no food available up there and we’ve been used to an early lunch, we were starving by the time we started heading down.
It took us a couple of tries to find someplace on the map to eat, and we ended up at a little Mexican place, which again I recognize isn’t ideal, but it was the best we could do. The restaurant was called Polli’s, and they had quite the selection of vegetarian items. Pretty much anything on the menu could be made with either tofu or their veggie taco mix. It was good food, but not good Mexican food, if you know what I mean. It tasted fine, but it did not taste like what real Mexican food would taste like.
It was only a little after 1pm when we finished, so we weren’t sure what to do with the rest of our day. Mark remembered spotting a sugar cane museum that he’d been wanting to visit, so we out that way to check it out.
In the end, the museum, called The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, was a reasonably entertaining things to do. It was only $7 a person, which is much closer to our speed than the aquarium (which we looked into doing as well). That would’ve cost $30 apiece and probably only been okay.
The sugar museum exhibits were largely text and photographs inside, but outside they had the big equipment, which I think is what drew Mark out there in the first place. He took a ton of pictures of trenchers and haulers and who knows what else. I’m not sure what to call half of it, but it is cool nonetheless. We watched a little video of the stuff in action, which was nice.
I’d never actually seen sugar cane in person before this trip, and to me it looks quite like bamboo. We got to see some up close outside the museum, instead of off in the fields off the side of the road. The museum sits on what used to be a sugar plantation and mill, though the mill seems abandoned and the signs in the museum said the farm has now diversified its crops and grows things other than sugar cane.
Mark really enjoyed the abandoned (or semi-abandoned?) mill as well. First he ran across the street to take some pictures, then we had to drive over there. It’s interesting to see how many ways you could still get into the mill area today, and I suspect if Mark had been traveling with his brother or a friend, he might’ve snuck in to take some photos. Unfortunately for him, he brought along his wife instead, and I had to be the voice of reason. Boys, right?
With the museum finished, we were once again out of things to do for today, without ruining our plans for what to do tomorrow. Mark mentioned seeing some information about white sand beaches, so we thought we might try to find those.
First, though, we drove the couple of miles back into Kahului and got ourselves some more iced tea. Then we stopped by a Target for a few tiny sundry items that we were missing. The Target was built only recently, and the buildings around it were still under construction. It will be a large shopping center eventually. We also stopped nearby for gas.
Now properly hydrated and refueled, we drove down to the area where we’d heard they had white sand beaches. We drove all along the road, looking for these beaches before we realized that the dark golden brown color that we were seeing is what the map was calling ‘white.’ Hah.
From the internet, I learned that most of the truly ‘white’ sand beaches are actually in the Caribbean, and the tales of such beaches here on Maui are largely exaggerated. Instead, the golden beaches are called white for some reason. The internet suggested it was because the color is still beautiful and only light brown, and the water is very clear. It just seems misleading to me.
It was now just after 4pm, and we started back towards our hotel to rest for a little while before we had to go back out for dinner. On the way, we drove past a Farmers’ Market, and since we’d talked about visiting one, we pulled in. It wasn’t particularly impressive, so we might have to try again later. Nothing there seemed too different from what we’d seen at Target earlier in the day.
We also drove down to a little area we missed when we drove south of our hotel yesterday. It was called Five Caves, and it is apparently a popular snorkeling area, though we didn’t know that before we visited. Mark spotted a snorkeler floating in the water with her back to the sky and had a brief moment of panic, thinking he’d discovered a dead body. Luckily she was still moving, and the little cove we visited was pretty, though I’m still not sure where the Five Caves were supposed to be.
At about 5:45, we left our hotel to go grab a light dinner. We’d planned on stopping at a cheap Vietnamese takeaway stand, but it was apparently closed for renovations. With no backup plan in place, we floundered a bit, trying to find something to eat that would cost us $40 and wasn’t too heavy without working internet, which wasn’t ideal. The cell phone signal is spotty down here at best, and that really makes finding cheap vegetarian food difficult.
In the end, we stopped at Da Kitchen, which is a popular Hawaiian food restaurant. We just split a garden burger and had some fries, so I can’t say how the Hawaiian food was, since they didn’t have any without meat in it. It was loud and busy and our burger was $10.95, even though it said $7.50 online. I would not go back. It didn’t even taste that good.
Tomorrow we will do the bottom part of Maui and the rest of Haleakalā. It looks like the drive should take around 5 hours round trip, so I expect we will get to see lots of fun things on the road. For now, it is a half hour past by bedtime and I’m wilting like a flower.
– Trip Total : 572 miles –