I had grand plans for my 2 weeks of winter vacation on Maui solo. And, then a storm came. Fortunately, the rain always came at night, but it did cause me to change my SCUBA plans for a couple of days. However, the Hawaiian island of Maui is gorgeous regardless of the weather. And, there are so many beaches and little towns ripe for exploration.
I’d reserved a rental car in advance, which was smart since the rental car agencies sell out of their less expensive vehicles. I stayed in various free (Couchsurfing) and paid lodging. Each day I did activities since I enjoy a bit of adventure. These included hiking, SCUBA, paragliding, flying over to Molokai in a helicopter, whale watching, and ‘doing the road to Hana’. I did not lay on the beach since my doctor has precluded me from getting tan.
I eat every day, and the food is what I love about travel. This food is great after a day in the sun and wind, or in the water.
- Supermarkets have the most variety of fruits, but even here it’s expensive. Wander the store and you might find that they sell fresh pokē, which is similar to ceviche.
- Musubi is basically a sushi roll filled with non-fish meats such as sausage and spam. I had a sausage and jalapeño musubi at the Sugar Beach Bakeshop, which is on the road between Kihei and Maalaea.
- Grilled pineapple can be found at food trucks.
- Coconut water can be found at roadside stands. Make sure to eat the white meat inside, too. Delicious!
- Sushi restaurants abound. A local told me that the best one is the Makawao Sushi & Deli. It’s on the way down from Mt. Haleakala, so great for an afternoon snack or dinner.
Cheap Hotels in Maui
In terms of budget, Maui is one of the most expensive places I’ve traveled, primarily due to the cost of lodging.
For Kihei cheap accommodation, I used Couchsurfing for free and small bed & breakfasts for $75 and up. If you have a group, you can rent an Airbnb or VRBO and share the costs.
Hana’s secluded beach town vibe means there aren’t many cheap options. I found this budget hotel, Joe’s Rentals. This was my cheapest paid lodging at about $50 per night, and it has a kitchen! It’s clean but rustic in the sense that the toilet paper holder in the bathroom was falling off the wall.
Hostels and Farmstays – There are a number of hostels on Maui, ranging in price depending on the type of room. And, if you’re willing to work, you can find a farmstay.
Camping – Ok, I know camping is not the same as a hotel, but it is cheap! There’s a campground on Mt. Haleakala and a number of other places. Here’s the State Camping reservation website. Here’s the Maui County campsite website. And, here’s a comprehensive listing of all Maui campsites, both public and private.
Maui Car Rental
- I used Kihei Rent A Car, since they had the best price. Since they were out of their regular cars, they rented me an older car at a discounted rate. I’m not sure this turned into a great deal since I got poor gas mileage going up Mt. Haleakala (steep uphill) a few times and on the drive to Hana. However, the service was wonderful, which is definitely necessary for a nice vacation.
- Gasoline / Petrol – Costco has the cheapest gas by about $1 per gallon less than other gas stations, so don’t forget your Costco card!
SCUBA on Maui
My #1 mission for this trip: Advanced Open Water (AOW) SCUBA certification. Based on a recommendation from another dive shop, which could not accommodate my tight schedule, I took courses with Maui Dreams. And, I cannot recommend them more highly!
I dove with various instructors on 3 different days. During my buoyancy training a few sea turtles swam by, so I practiced with them. Another day, we entered sea caves and observed sleeping sharks. Deep underwater there is a whole new world, and watching animals behaving calmly and naturally in their own environment is incredible.
Whale Watching Around Maui
We saw whales! It was amazing! We saw mama and baby whales. I saw them from our SCUBA boat, and one evening I went on an official whale watching tour for sunset.
I went with Pacific Whale Foundation, since I thought they had the best price for a sunset cruise (I was SCUBA diving during the day) and because I’m happy paying a little extra in support of a non-profit organization.
Hiking on Maui – Mt. Haleakala
I actually drove up Mt. Haleakala 4 times during my two-week visit. The first time was the morning after a big rainstorm, and I had to turn around half-way up due to a huge tree blocking the 2-lane road. The 2nd time I roamed around near the observatory and visitors center and did some photography. The 3rd time I hiked the Sliding Sands Trail described here, and the 4th time I drove up and flew down! (see Paragliding section below).
Mt. Haleakala – Sliding Sands Trail: day hike – Park near the hiker pickup at Halemau’u trailhead. Passing vehicles will stop to pick you up on their way to the summit (easier in the morning, since more folks going uphill before lunch).
Start hiking from the Visitor Center near the summit, and pass through the craters’ amazing ecological habitat with silver sword plants and a Martian-like landscape. From the Holua cabin, it’s a steep hike up a level path back to the parking lot.
The views are amazing the entire hike! Take plenty of water (2 liters for me) and snacks, since it’s hot with no shade for the majority of the hike. It’s always recommended you hike with a partner just in case you twist an ankle. I came upon other hikers resting at the cabin, so we hung out and ate snacks on the lawn. You can get a copy of this map at the Visitor Center.
I met Abhai, a paragliding instructor when he and his friends picked me up at the hiker pickup on my way to the summit of Mt. Haleakala one day. He took me on a tandem flight off the top of Mt. Haleakala on my very last morning on Maui.
We flew all the way to Kihei Beach, a 10,000-foot descent. This is a unique flight I’ve been told since it’s the biggest descent in the world– even launching off Mt. Everest, the descent is less.
I was lucky that weather conditions were good. Launching is not always possible due to wind speed and direction. And, there were no 2nd chances, since my flight home was just 2 hours after we landed.
Road to Hana
On the road to Hana, I stopped at the arboretum and some waterfalls for plant photography. In Hana itself, I visited the red sand beach. It’s a fun little walk up and over a hill, and the snorkeling is fun with so many fish in the water!
Although I was on a solo Maui trip, in the Hana area it was easy meeting people on the beaches. I met another solo traveler and we later met up for a hike on Mount Haleakala.
This entire trip was paid for out of my own pocket. No discounts or free items were provided or requested.
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Have a look at blog posts for other places I’ve visited that begin with the letter M. I spent a month in Mongolia and 5 weeks in Myanmar. And, if you’re visiting a touristy place, and want some tips for getting off the beaten path, try a few of these 7 ideas.
Looking for an off the beaten path place in California? Try north northern California. North Table Mountain is beautiful in springtime with wildflowers. Waterfalls run all the time, but there are 14 during the spring rains!