I have to say that Hawaii was the best place I’ve ever visited and the trip was made better as I was joined by Olivia who wasn’t with me for the Rio 2016 trip last year. It was great to be able to share our first ever ‘couples’ beach holiday somewhere so wonderful, blessed with sunshine and great vibes. It really was paradise in The Aloha State. We went to Maui and O’ahu, both very different islands but equally beautiful. Although many people asked if we were getting married, Hawaii is not just for honeymooners!
Our first week was on Maui, one of the eight main islands that make up Hawaii. (There will be another blog post on O’ahu shortly!)
We had an early start from Heathrow so it was a good shout booking into Club Aspire Lounge to relax and have breakfast before getting on the 11 hour plane to Los Angeles.
After a short layover in LA, it was on to the next plane for another five hours to Maui. Although it was a long journey, Virgin Atlantic were excellent and provided lots of food, drink and entertainment – they didn’t disappoint.
Can you do Hawaii, specifically Maui without getting a car? The answer is YES!
Despite what a lot of people say online, we discovered that Uber was available on the islands in Hawaii (and Lyft had recently started up too) with plenty of drivers available to ferry us around. The only place they’re not allowed to pick up is the Airport but drop offs are fine #UberEverywhere 🙂
We were staying in an area called Kihei and it was great to have local Hawaiian people around and not just tourists. Our Airbnb apartment was in a complex with the luxury of an onsite swimming pool and the beach only a stone’s throw away. Kihei was a great place to stay, chosen purely by accident when booking and it was probably the one thing we didn’t research down to a T. Many of the restaurants we had been recommended were close and there were a load of cute local shops right next to us.
Everyone was friendly and people always greeted us as we passed each other on the spotless pavements. People take great pride in the islands and there was no chewing gum or litter on the streets at all. We also didn’t really notice anyone smoking on the whole trip – and it seemed like it was banned in most public places like parks and beaches.
Early mornings were no problem in paradise but our body clocks were still screwed so we were pretty much up when the sun was. This meant I could watch Arsenal beat Chelsea to win the FA Cup sat in bed, with the game kicking off at 6.30am local time! Definitely worth it.
On our first full day on Maui, we went Horseriding at Lahaina Stables on their Morning Ride – an 8.30am meet, about a 40 minute drive from where we were. After our chatty Uber lady getting a bit confused trying to find the stables, we arrived on time and saw, heard and smelt plenty of horses.
They were all well cared for and we each had a carefully selected horse that they match to your height and riding experience.
I was on Willie and Liv got to ride on Uli. They were cool, calm trail horses who were clearly used to walking this path as creatures of habit. There was so much to see on the trail from the sloping hills, many tropical plants and flowers, million dollar houses (some with amazing infinity pools) and of course the views of the coast when we took a moment to #lookdwn.
We were in a small group of eight who all said we were very eager getting up early on our very first day to travel out for the ride. We had two funny and interesting instructors and after watching the instruction video from the owner Ray, Liv and I headed the pack behind Dani who guided us along the route with Alyssa at the back.
They also provided some cold drinks and snacks after the ride, which was needed after two hours in the hot sun. They also offer sunset rides with champagne and chocolate. For an inner city boy from London being on a horse for the first time, I was made to feel really comfortable and my horse did exactly what I wanted him to.
Most beaches on the islands are “beach parks” with grass, benches and spaces for public barbecues. On Maui they were really quiet and had plenty of space for us to pitch up and relax on our Beach days. Our local one was Kamaole Beach Park II and on our first visit we took beach gear that our Airbnb host kindly left for us. As the evening winds picked up, I saw our umbrellla blow away in slow motion right into a poor girl and her boyfriend sunbathing – “No more umbrella”.
There are a few Dog Shelters in Hawaii that look after and rehouse dogs. We had emailed Maui Humane Society before we headed out and booked onto the Beach Buddies programme where you can take a rescue dog to the beach for a day. Not having a car meant we did have to cancel which was a massive shame but Nancy who runs the shelter was really helpful with loads of other Maui recommendations. Hopefully all the dogs get their forever homes soon.
I didn’t really know anything about the island of Lanai before we went on a Boat Trip with Sail Maui. We went out on a boat called Paragon and had a fairly small group size compared to a lot of the other overloaded boats we saw boarding at Lahaina Harbour. Breakfast was provided and we got to see a pod of sleeping dolphins floating on our way out to the island. We had a tiny bit of rain but all in all a scorcher of a day with reef-safe sunscreen provided.
Just before we arrived at the island we jumped into a reef in the middle of the sea for some snorkelling. Floats were available for non-confident swimmers (six months ago I couldn’t swim at all). As a kid, I had a borderline phobia of deep water, but this time I felt at home being in the sea. Liv and I didn’t spot any turtles, but with tropical fish and coral reef all around us, it was really special and made for excellent GoPro filming.
The boat took us on to Lanai and we saw the exclusive Four Seasons Resort (starting at around £900 per night) from our lunch spot at Hulopoe Beach. The beach was pretty much untouched – perhaps 20 people on the whole beach including the 12 of us from our boat. This was definitely the bluest water I have seen in my life and probably some of the smoothest sand too. We held back laughter watching as a woman was continuously knocked down by waves whilst trying to get up, while her husband unhelpfully stood by.
The lunch provided by Sail Maui on the Lanai Snorkel Tour was delicious and abundant with pre-made fresh sandwiches, snacks, fruit and drinks.
On the sail back to mainland Maui we also got homemade brownies and a choice of local Hawaiian beers, champagne, juice or Mai Tais (white and dark rum, liqueur and juice). Overall an excellent experience with a company that really cares about the islands and showing them off. Thanks to Ray who captained the ship, Lacey and Lucy for the best boat trip and my first attempt at snorkelling. Simply perfect*
We booked a tour with Roberts Hawaii online while we were in Maui and they do tours of four of the islands in Hawaii. They collected us from our apartment and we were able to see Haleakalā , Iao Valley and Lahaina all in one trip. Our tour guide Edmund was really knowledgeable and our group only included two other couples so we were able to ask questions and take time at each stop. The bus wound its way around the island and by the end, we heard about every single tree and fruit that grows on Maui!
Haleakalā National Park was the first stop and although we knew it would be cold at ‘the House of the Sun’, it was absolutely freezing and we both had to whip out our jackets.
Being on top of a dormant volcano was a bit of a weird feeling but the views from up there were insane. Some very special plants also grew at the high altitude.
Iao Valley was the next stop and on the drive there we drove through a “cowboy town” called Makawao and past many pineapple and sugar cane plantations.
Many native Hawaiian people (as opposed to mainland American “expats”) were spending family time and playing with their young kids in the stream that flows through Iao Valley (known as the site of a battle with the interestingly named King Kamehameha).
The main Iao Valley State Monument was closed in September 2016 after being damaged by heavy rain and flooding, but what we saw at the bottom was still impressive and I wasted no time trying to climb onto some of the giant rocks!
There were also Oriental Gardens for a number of countries and also a tribute to Black (African American) Hawaiians which was quite insightful.
We ended the tour in Lahaina, which is the more touristy area of Maui. It had ice-cream parlours with eccentric staff and free samples, souvenir shops, restaurants and lots of art galleries. Lahaina is also home to some more giant Banyan trees like nothing we’d ever seen before.
One place we had to pop into was Fleetwood’s on Front Street owned by Mick Fleetwood from Fleetwood Mac. Liv’s friend Becky is a massive fan so we grabbed her a special hand-signed gift and waited here with some food and Aloha Friday cocktails to see if the man himself would show up. It turns out he came in the night before! Damn
Other celebs that have called Maui home include Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Clint Eastwood, Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson.
It happened to be the monthly ‘Art Night’ where on the last Friday of the month artists open up their galleries and invite the public in to meet them and view their work. There were some really stunning pieces but we decided against buying any as we have some things at home that we’ve still not framed or hung up.
It turns out that we had booked to be in Hawaii when American schools break up for Summer (in May!) and it was also Memorial Day weekend which is an American Holiday that commemorates those that have died in service – but nowhere seemed crazily busy we just had to contend with traffic on the highway.
On our final day the Paddle boarding lesson we’d arranged with Hawaiian Paddle Sports was cancelled due to the conditions on the water (something called a king surf combined with a high tide). They also run Maui Surf Lessons on the island with the same instructors. Hopefully next time we will get to try one of these!
Our final Maui Uber driver happened to be a Trump-supporting lady who had really travelled the world. She said she’d experienced racism before when she lived in Australia so it really baffled me that she supported a man so public in his Xenophobia and dislke of so many groups! I still rated her ★★★★★ for the driving though.
Our other days on Maui were spent at the beautiful beaches, swimming in the sea or relaxing with a book.
I loved all the tasty fruit and veg particularly the things you can’t get anywhere else in the world – some of the fresh mangoes were sweeter than ones from Jamaica. Macadamia Nuts were also the local delicacy and we had to give the toffee and chocolate flavours a try.
We did pay nearly $5 for a loaf of bread (£3.90) – which shows just how much things cost on the island with bread around £1 in London supermarkets. It was really nice to try all the Hawaiian/ American delicacies though.
We attempted to walk to a place called Wailea from Kihei. We’d read that it was an upmarket area filled with swanky hotels and restaurants. The walk took us past new beaches and some intriguing wildlife, but in the heat, we didn’t make it all the way.
We stumbled across Sarento’s on the Beach by Keawakapu Beach where we bought a spot of food and indulged in some nice drinks deals and gorgeous views of the ocean.
We had a really tasty dinner in Wailea at Fabianis, which had a relaxed café type vibe with flavoursome Italian food. Monkeypod next to it was highly recommended online and by everyone we spoke to, but we didn’t get a chance to eat there.
Cafe O’lei Kihei was a bustling restaurant just by our flat. Many of the local joints had a closing time of around 9pm which probably explains the notoriously early Happy Hours sometimes running from around midday until 4pm. Food was great and cocktails were strong!
Maui Tacos gave us a delicious lunch to takeaway. It is clearly popular with their walls adorned with pictures of celebs who’ve visited the restaurant. We also had a tasty breakfast at Fred’s Mexican Cafe where we had a handy voucher for money off. They also have the Irish-style pub Moose McGillycuddy’s which had a nice selection of draft beers plus drinks deals every night. They also have another site in Waikiki on O’ahu.
Going to Coconuts was our signing off meal for the trip. It was Nando’s-esque ordering at a counter and grabbing what you need. Tables are wooden and carved into the shape of surfboards and the emphasis is on fish – all freshly caught around the island! Our food was delicious and brought out by the owner and head chef who explained the origin of the fish and how it was seasoned and cooked.
We didn’t get to go to Kihei Caffe but it had some of the best reviews of all the breakfast places on Maui with huge portions at low prices.
During the trip we indulged in many shave ice’s, particularly from S & Q’s Shave Ice and Coffee and of course cinnamon rolls from the aptly named Cinnamon Roll Place. We also treated ourselves to delicious gelato from Kihei Aloha Ice Cream. My midnight snack of a giant waffle on this island was from Maui Gelato where the swirly gelato all looked amazing and there was even a chalkboard you could sign your name on.
Maui was by far our favourite of the two islands and we will definitely return!
Top tips for Maui
- Wake up early, seize the day, see the sun rise
- Swim in the ocean as much as you can
- If you’re not hiring a car, download Uber! Local buses are quite infrequent
- Sunsets with the clear, unpolluted skies are pretty impressive too!
- Lots of vouchers in maps and brochures on the street/outside shops can save you money on activities and restaurants
- Look up Groupon deals online before you go
- Try to stay in one of the areas near to a beach and also some good restaurants
- Try all the local tropical fruit
- Look out for all the cool animals and creatures