a State of Mind
Visit Maui, jewel of the Hawaiian archipelago, then hop from
isle to isle
By Toby Saltzman
|Surfing at Waikiki Beach
The surf was roaring dangerously high at Hookipa Beach. But the
rolling swells and crashing waves were just too tempting for the
string of spellbound surfers who stood staring at them from shore,
weighing the odds of thrills and spills. Boards in hand, they splashed
into the sea then paddled away, forever in search of "the Big One."
Surprisingly, these sun-wizened musclemen were not youngsters;
in fact, most of them were in their 40s and 50s - the original folk-singing
flower-children-cum-surfers who invaded Maui in the '60s, vowing
to surf till they died. They settled in Paia, now an aging hippie
enclave, to create jewelry, weave baskets and bake bread to sell
to tourists who visit the gorgeous and wild territories along the
hairpin Hana Highway - one of Hawaii's most beautiful drives.
For years, Hawaii's palm-fringed beaches, lush rainforests, secluded
waterfalls and sybaritic resorts seemed elusive. When the islands
became accessible via easy and relatively inexpensive flights from
the eastern states and provinces, temptation and curiosity led many
northerners to discover the exotic diversity of the isles in the
archipelago. When my husband and I finally decided to make the trip,
we were ecstatic. But could we pack all that Hawaii has to offer
into a couple of weeks? For a leisurely trip, narrowing our sights
to four islands made sense.
|The historic Sheraton Royal
Hawaiian Hotel is known as
"The Pink Lady" of Waikiki.
Maui beguiled us with its natural beauty, the historic charm of
Lahaina - the old whaling port, once the capital of the Hawaiian
kingdom, is now a haven of chic eateries and galleries - and its
options for diverse activities, especially golf. Oahu, famed for
Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor, would be our gateway. Lanai was
irresistible for its secluded resorts. Hawaii, dubbed The Big Island
for its size (twice that of the others combined), offers the rare
spectacle of active volcanoes, not to mention the best beach in
all the islands. We had no time for tempting Kauai.
Historians figure that Hawaii's earliest settlers migrated to the
Big Island's tranquil Ka'upulehu Bay from Marquesa and Tahiti about
1500 years ago. Sparse evidence of their culture still exists in
the form of petroglyphs (primitive stone etchings) and in the crude
remains of ancient heiaus - the stone platforms where leaders decreed
laws and honored gods with rituals and human sacrifices. When explorer
James Cook arrived, the people lacked a written language. Their
history remained an oral one until 1820, when missionaries translated
their words phonetically using five vowels and seven consonants.
Today, Hawaii boasts a rich melange of Polynesian, Asian and American
cultures on its seven inhabited islands.
For us, Maui proved to be an island full of memorable experiences
and overwhelming beauty. The trek to Hana and the gorgeous waterfalls
and ponds of the Seven Sacred Pools - a daunting expedition that
led us up to the mountainous, wild corner of the island - was worth
every tight, hairpin curve. Since Hookipa Bay was so rough that
day, many of the hippies were out flaunting their caches of crafts
at volcanic beaches, hidden waterfalls, and all the other sites
en route that draw tourists - which was fine with us, since their
friendly chatter added some local color to each spectacular viewpoint.
|Quiet luxury at
the Manele Bay
Hotel on the isle of Lanai.
We hiked through shady bamboo forests, the Keanae Arboretum - a
wonderful park of rare, exotic trees - and stopped to look out over
the wet taro fields where farmers harvest the roots by hand, much
as they did centuries ago. We rested on velvety jet-black volcanic
beaches and explored shallow tidal pools brimming with strange marine
life: yellow butterfly fish, prickly sea urchins, bloated starfish
and nimble-legged crabs. We watched whales flip and spray delightfully
close to shore. On the Road to Hanna, the world seemed a perfect
place and Hawaii became a state of mind.
Things to see and do on Maui
Vibrant Lahaina was once the bastion of bible-thumping missionaries
who clashed with the whisky-drinking and womanizing whalers. The
1800s trading port and former whaling town is now a National Historic
Landmark, albeit a commercialized one. Go at night for the street
and gallery scene, and during the day for a historic walking and
cultural tour. Guide maps are available at the Baldwin House Museum
on Front Street. (Tel: 808-661-3262)
For information on the scores of other activities available, from
whale-watching to scuba diving to day trips on other islands - like
trips to Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island or to the day
resort of Club Lanai - check with your hotel's concierge or any
tourist booth in Lahaina.
|Tourists explore the jet black
beaches on the Road to Hana.
The Road to Hana, Maui's thrilling day-long scenic drive, is best
enjoyed at your own pace in a rental car, provided you relish the
challenge of navigating the narrow, often steep, and always breathtaking
hairpin turns. A map or audio cassette highlighting the stops en
route will enhance the experience immeasurably. There are few stops
along the way, so take a full tank of gas, a picnic lunch, and plenty
of water. Wear peelable layers, a rain-proof shell and sturdy shoes
for the short hikes. By the way, anyone considering a swim in one
of the inviting mountain pools might want to reconsider - some may
be contaminated by wild pig dung swept by streams into the waterfalls.
But the West Maui Mountains pale in comparison to the 3050-metre-high
Haleakala, the largest dormant volcano in the world. Haleakala,
also called the House of the sun because the sun seems to rise from
inside its crater, is now the center of a national park beloved
by photographers, birders and nature lovers. Hikers, drivers and
horseback riders are advised to bring trail maps and to register
at the Haleakala Visitor Center.
If only for its sunners and surfers chasing ocean curls, tradition
dies hard on Honolulu's legendary Waikiki Beach. Across from the
hotels lining the shore (like the Royal Hawaiian and Sheraton Moana
Surfrider, to note the historic beauties), booths offering various
touristy excursions sit amid swank designer shops, chic eateries
and tacky posters of Don Ho. We were amazed by the Pearl Harbor
tour, the famed USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri Battleship,
though we were more impressed by the numerous Japanese tourists
so palpably intent on learning the true story.
|Hiking through the
Volcanoes National Park.
A quick flight took us from Maui to Lanai, where we came across
what seemed like hundreds of pediatricians at one of those "splurge
of a lifetime" holiday-cum-conferences. Lanai, famous for pineapples,
is a paradise of solitude with a beauty that shifts from pristine
beaches to forests to dry gulches to mountains to red cliffs. Lanai
resists crowds, with only three hotels - one economical, in town:
two ultra-luxurious, at opposite elevations. To maximize our experience,
we split our stay between the Manele Bay Hotel on the sunny coast
at Hulopoe Bay and the woodsy Lodge at Koele near the misty mountain
summit. We saw whales breaching at dawn from our Manele Bay suite,
and then later again while we played golf on the magnificent cliffside
Nicklaus course. We explored the island by jeep, ran into a puddle,
sank into a trench of mud. Hours later, after being rescued by police
from the island's only station, we headed for the Garden of the
Gods - a surreal landscape of strange lava formations and multicolored
boulders. When thick mists rolled in behind us, we sped back to
THE BIG ISLAND
Considering that the Big Island boasts Hawaii's most reliable weather
(on the Kona-Kohala coast), best beach, most diverse scenery, and
best preserved Hawaiian temple, not to mention a landscape burgeoning
with new lava flows and the world's clearest astronomical vantage
point (Mauna Kea Observatory is the premier site for optical infrared
submillimetre astronomy), surprisingly few tourists see it. We preferred
our accommodations Hawaiian-style, and were enchanted by two exotic
but completely different coastal properties: Kona Village, an enclave
of authentic-type Polynesian hales (thatched huts) blissfully tucked
on the edge of the world; and the Hapuna Prince Hotel that sits
on Hawaii's most beautiful beach - Hapuna Bay's wide arch of sugar-white
You must visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to the famous
Mauna Loa - the most massive mountain on Earth - and Kilauea Caldera,
a smaller volcano tucked into Mauna Loa's side. Although witnessing
a glowing eruption from within the glass bubble of a helicopter
may be thrilling, nothing beats a hike for a more palpable sense
of the volcanoes' potency, their capacity for devastation and the
powerful beauty of natural regeneration.
According to Hawaiian mythology Halemaumau Crater, Kilauea's steaming
fire pit, is home to Pele - the Goddess of Fire. Many islanders
still believe that it's she who spews up plumes of sulfuric steam,
belches flames skyward, and commands the fiery lava. In spite of
the seismic activity recorded at Halemaumau's rim, bribes to Pele
- orchids, ohelo berries - are often left here. Hawaiians seem to
thrive under the threat of Pele's fury.
say: If you give your lei to a Tiki God you are sure to return
The 80-kilometre drive along the Chain of Craters Road will blow
your mind, especially if you stop en route for short hikes. Since
the park's terrain changes quickly from steamy rainforests to chilly
summits to parched plateaus, remember to bring plenty of water,
layers of clothing, a waterproof shell, long pants and sturdy, closed-toe
shoes to hike in. Stop first at the Kilauea Center for an essential
guidebook and to view a fascinating film that puts the obliterating
power of volcanoes into perspective. Take a jaunt behind the Volcano
House - a 1941 lodge perched precariously close to the crater's
edge - for an astonishing view of the immense Kilauea Caldera and
the steam curling from the vents in its parched floor; the fiery
hole of the Halemaumau Crater; the reddish cinder cone of Kilauea
Iki Crater; and in the distance, the snow-peaked majesty of Mauna
Loa. Somewhere along the Chain of Craters Road, you'll also catch
a glimpse of puu Huluhulu erupting: Soaring white plumes escape
by day while volcanic steam glows red at night, all of it rife with
hydrochloric acid and glass particles that can cause respiratory
distress and irritate skin and eyes. Note: the parks' steam vents
and sulfur banks aren't recommended for people with respiratory
problems, infants, young children and pregnant women. Also keep
in mind that some paths run dangerously close to the crater's rim,
so rambunctious kids should be held by the hand at all times.
One final - if mystical - detail to remember if you visit Volcanoes
National Park: Stealing volcanic rocks or sand angers Pele. Skeptical?
Don't take the chance. The manager of the nearby Volcano Hotel receives
dozens of mailings of lava rock each year from visitors who, citing
bad luck, want their cache of stones returned to Pele.
Aloha Airlines (Tel: 800-235-0936) provides frequent service among
the Hawaiian islands. Flights average about US$69. Travel lightly:
you may be charged for overweight luggage.
If you choose to rent a car or a jeep, note that the rental companies
stipulate that your insurance coverage will be forfeited while you
drive on certain off-the-beaten-tracks like the ones near Hana or
in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Convertibles aren't worth the
premium if you intend to sightsee in rainy areas such as Hilo on
the Big Island, where it's wet 300 days a year.
Get a free, comprehensive travel guide to the Hawaiian Islands.
Visit: Hawaii Visitors Bureau: 2270 Kalakaua Avenue, 8th Floor,