Are you familiar with the term non-attachment? It doesn’t mean non-commitment or non-emotional. It means to be non-attached to preconceived ideas.
I love this concept because if you are attached to situations in life that you can’t control, then you are going down a path that will more than likely lead to frustration.
One of my most favorite things to do in life is to travel. My most adventurous and, ultimately, most memorable trips have occurred with the least amount of planning.
Which brings me to a recent trip to Maui. My wife and I, along with another couple, went to Maui this spring. I had only two objectives (excluding eating as many fish tacos as possible): backpack Haleakala National Park and ride a bike up the volcano. The road up Haleakala is the shortest distance from sea level to 10,000’, via a road, on the planet.
We booked two “wilderness cabins” in Haleakala (Palikū and Hōlua) when reservations opened through recreation.gov, six months in advance. I planned meals for four people for three days and purchased all the food ahead of the trip. Hawaii is expensive, and if we wanted beach days and time to hunt down the best fish tacos, we were to land and head straight for the national park.
The backpacking portion planning had been done well in advance, thanks to my cousin, who was a hiking guide on Maui for ten years. I researched our meals over at dirtygourmet.com. I reserved bikes from a local shop and made sure I had all the gear I needed.
What to Bring
I always tend to pack and repack and obsess about what to bring on a trip. Especially with shoes. I decided to bring my Oboz Cirques because, being Oboz the fit is superior, they are lightweight and the “Dark Shadow” looked good enough to wear to most dinners.
I also brought a pair of Oboz Selway Flip’s and a pair of suede pointy toed dress shoes that I picked up in Ipanema forever ago (always a big hit and weigh nothing.)
We were set.
Natural Disaster (a.k.a. snow)
Then, 48 hours before our departure, the unthinkable happened. For the first time in history there was a massive snowstorm on Haleakala with a foot of snow at 6,000’. The Summit District Visitor’s Center where we were to start is at 9,740-feet.
“Sorry folks, park’s closed.”
As in shut down, completely crippled with no means to re-open anytime soon.
We read weather reports and checked nps.gov every hour the day prior to departure. Outlook not good.
As the trip planner for our group, I was defeated. Then I realized, I’m still going to Maui. I was non-attached and left my 30-lb. backpack at home.
I threw an extra pair of board shorts in my small duffel and called my cousin.
He suggested that we head to the town of Hana.
Maybe you’ve heard about “The Road to Hana?” Maybe you have even seen a “I survived the Road to Hana” t-shirt: 617 curves, 52 miles, 56 bridges.
It was the most touristy thing you can do on the island. Everyone goes to Hana. I wanted to go there after going off the beaten path. My group didn’t care. Next thing you know we had booked a room at the only hotel in Hana.
We landed on Maui, went to Paia, the village where we’d reserved bikes, to cancel that reservation, and then went out for sushi.
Then we headed to what is known as “Up Country,” the area that is halfway from sea level to the top of Haleakala. We had booked lodging in the village of Kula, since it was close to the park. It was rainy and cold. Not what we were hoping for, but we had our Oboz B-dry®.
There wasn’t much to do, so we headed out to Hana, when I saw the sign for the lavender farm.
The clouds burned off and a beautiful point-to-point rainbow appeared and my spirits lifted with the clouds. We strolled the lavender fields and gardens at Ali'i Kula Lavender. Would definitely recommend a visit.
After the lavender farm, we went to Makawao, a small farming community that has a bakery from 1947 and chickens waltzing Main Street, for provisions.
On the way to Hana, we stopped by the famous Mama’s Fish House on the off chance that we could get in without a reservation. It was lunch and on a Friday. The setting on the water front lined with palm trees was hard to beat The lobby was full of portraits of every famous person who had dined there. Again, my tourist antenna was in full effect. The food and cocktails were really spectacular however and it was clear that Mama’s was must do on Maui.
Pretty much any stop you make between Paia and Hana has something to offer. We were a little tired of driving and pulled off at a turn that looked like a trailhead. We went on an impromptu hike, just to stretch the legs. The weather was damp. It was muddy and riddled with tropical roots. It was beautiful and quiet.
A little “lets stretch the legs” turned into a nice 5 mile loop through a dense tropical forest. It was actually a great first trial run in the new Cirque’s. Given the weather, we kinda put them through the ringer. Guess, that’s the point.
Hana Inside Line
Next on the list for us was Hana. There’s not much there, just a general store and a collection of food trucks. That made finding our hotel simple. There’s only one: Travassa. And it’s well-appointed.
We preferred the food trucks down the road to the hotel restaurant. AE’s Thai Kitchen is an absolute must and The Surfing Burro was a go-to for breakfast burritos before we hit the nearby trails.
I was actually relieved that Hana was pretty much nothing. As much of a tourist trap as I was expecting, it was anything but and it made a great basecamp for a few days of exploring beaches and some amazing hikes nearby.
Here are some notables: the Black Sand Beach in Wai'anapanapa State Park was absolutely incredible and a must do.
Go there for sunrise, you’ll have the beach and the nearby blowhole to yourself, well before the crowds or the campers with beachfront property even unzip their tents.
Skip the public beach in Hana and go to Red Sand Beach. It’s a beautiful hike as well. The locals don’t like talking about it because they don’t want tourists ruining it. Sorry to tell them it’s all over the internet.
Back to the national park debacle, turns out that Haleakala has two separate areas within the park: the Summit District (closed) and the Kīpahulu Coastal Region (open). Success! We were to make it to the park after all.
The Coastal Region offered fewer people and more diverse scenery. The Pipiwai Trail led to a bamboo forest that leads to a 400’ waterfall, the reward from the 2-3 hour hike (each way).
Here are a few other notes on what to do on Maui. It’ll get you started for planning your adventure there. Mahalo.
Best Fish Taco Food Truck: Jaws at Big Beach
Best Fish Taco in a Restaurant: Paia Fish Market (in Paia) and the Paia Fish Market “South Side” in Kehi.
Best Banana Bread: Some kids selling it out of a van on the side of the road.
Best Beach: Hamoa
Best Tiki Bar: South Shore Tiki Lounge
Best Splurge: Mama’s Fish House
Best Swanky Hotel that we didn’t stay: Andaz (go for sushi at Morimoto)
Best Hawaiian Ice: I’d rather eat a fish taco.
Best Local Radio Station for your road trip: Mana’o Radio 91.7FM
Guest blogger Rich Rodgers works in advertising in Denver, Colo.
Follow Rich on Instagram here.