Tag Archives: hawaii

Outdoor Adventures in Maui: Ziplining

Maui undoubtedly has many opportunities to play in or near the water: Surfing, snorkeling, scuba, parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking, paddleboarding, just to name a few…But Maui also has a very diverse landscape. It would be remiss not to mention the exciting activities that the interior has to offer.

You can explore the island in so many different ways: driving around (check out the Road to Hana), hiking in the Iao Valley, or even taking a helicopter tour. One of my favorite adventures was ziplining in the mountains of West Maui.

We signed up for our ziplining tour with a company called Skyline Eco Adventures. Our tour guides were awesome and definitely contributed to our great experience. They were a hilarious duo, and both clearly love their job. After getting a safety briefing from them, were were outfitted with the proper equipment and started our way down the course.

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This was our first time ziplining, so I wasn’t sure how it would go. It was a bit scary at first, but I was relieved to find that it wasn’t too steep or too fast. And while it probably goes without saying, the views from up there were gorgeous!

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This particular course had eight zip lines, with a stop half-way through for some food and rest. We weren’t tired at this point, but it was a nice way to break up the trip. It was also a good opportunity for one of our guides to take a group photo (himself included!):

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Now ziplining isn’t completely without risks. One of the younger girls in our group did get stuck half way across one of the zip lines. Good thing she didn’t panic, and luckily our guides knew what to do. They first started shaking the line up and down to see if it would give enough leverage to bring her across to the other side, but eventually one of them had to physically go get her. She was fine, but I’m sure it was an anxious moment hanging from such heights for a few minutes!

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We had so much fun on this tour. It was full of laughs and thrills the whole time and is one of those experiences I won’t soon forget. Ziplining in Maui can be a great way to spend some time off the beach, learn more about the island, and make new friends.

Outdoor Adventures in Maui: Parasailing

Welcome to Part Two of my “Outdoor Adventures in Maui” guide! To see Part One: Snorkeling, Click Here.

As I mentioned in my first post on outdoor adventures, Alex and I find ourselves looking for active pursuits when we travel. Despite being on an island famous for its beautiful beaches, we got antsy at the thought of sitting on the beach and sunbathing all day. Parasailing is one of the many activities that we filled our time with:

Parasailing

This was our first time parasailing. I didn’t know what to expect, but was open to the opportunity and was curious to try it out. After making reservations online with a local company, we drove to Lahaina, where we boarded an inflatable boat docked right on the beach…it was very informal, and I thought we might have been in the wrong place initially. But we stepped on board the inflatable boat, which then takes you to the larger boat that you will parasail from. There were about 6-8 other people with us at the time and everyone had to wear a lifejacket. One couple at a time, the boat crew sent us off to soar behind the boat for about ten minutes or so. When our turn came, Alex and I were strapped into the harness on the back of the boat and then released. Slowly, we become airborne and were looking down below from extraordinary heights.

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Surprisingly, it was not a scary experience like I’d imagined. There was no wind up there, and it was incredibly peaceful and quiet. I don’t remember feeling much movement other than the gradual takeoff and landing, which was smooth. The views were also extraordinary, and well worth the experience.

Outdoor Adventures in Maui: Snorkeling

I’m one of the last people who wants to go on vacation and just sit on the beach. That’s why I was admittedly apprehensive when we decided to spend a week and a half in Maui. While I’d imagine many people would welcome that much time to sit and sunbathe, it sent me into a bit of a panic. I personally see vacation as a time for exploration and active pursuits that you just can’t do back home.

I was surprised to find how much Maui had to offer for people like me. While this list won’t be comprehensive, I’d like to share some of my experiences with you in the hopes that all beach destinations aren’t written off by active travelers.

Snorkeling

There are unlimited opportunities for water activities in Maui. You can go swimming, scuba diving, jet skiing, or surfing to your heart’s content. But I’m highlighting snorkeling because you can do it anywhere and the cost can vary from extraordinarily cheap (renting a snorkel on the beach) to very expensive (full day, inclusive tour).

We went snorkeling twice while in Maui. The first time, we opted for a 5 hour boat tour to Molokini Crater. The second time was at the beach near our hotel.

The boat tour: The boat leaves from the dock early in the morning and arrives to Molokini crater’s snorkeling area. The tour provides everyone with wet suits, snorkels, fins, etc. They also feed you afterwards, with a nice lunch and your choice of drinks. This is a fun group trip and an opportunity to sail away from the island. The views of Maui while coming back to shore are just stunning. As far as drawbacks, some people would prefer to snorkel on their own time. The time spent snorkeling may be too short for some, and too long for others. If you want to either take your time or just try out snorkeling independently, this may not be your best option. As far as sea life, we were able to see turtles, butterfly fish, trigger fish, sea urchins, tangs, and coral.

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On the beach: The cheaper option for snorkeling is to rent (or bring) a snorkeling set and walk down to the beach. We were staying at Kaanapali beach and chose to rent some snorkels down there. This is a much cheaper and faster option than the boat tour. While there was mostly sand below us rather than coral, we saw some of the same wildlife, including turtles and tangs. We also spotted additional fish species, including the unicornfish and the Hawaiian state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a (pronounced “hoomoo-hoomoo-nookoo-nookoo-ah-poo-a-a”). The only major downside about snorkeling on the beach is that the number of people around can be a bit overwhelming and intrusive. I was bothered by the various people who kept harassing the sea turtles and trying to grab them, pet them, etc. Please be aware: TOUCHING SEA TURTLES IS ILLEGAL in Hawaii. I know it’s tempting, but it’s not worth disturbing them. It’s just as exciting to say that you swam with them.

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I have to say that the variety of fish species found near the beach was just as good as on the boat tour, so don’t feel like you are missing out if you can’t afford it. Mostly you are paying for the expertise of the crew, the experience of riding on the boat itself, and the buffet lunch provided to you.

Lastly, don’t forget your underwater camera. Disposable underwater cameras work well if you only need it for a day; otherwise, it may be worth renting a high quality digital underwater camera for the time that you need it. Many dive shops and stores around Maui offer cameras for rent.

Sunrise at Haleakala

One of my favorite moments in Maui was watching the sunrise from the summit of Mount Haleakala, Maui’s tallest volcano. It stands above the clouds at 10,023 feet above sea level. You can see it in its entirety on a fairly clear day, as pictured below:

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To view the sunrise from the top, you must drive in the dark for nearly two-hours along a thin road with hairpin turns. An experience in and of itself, to say the least. For those who are brave enough to do this, you need to get up well before sunrise. I believe we got up at 3 or 3:30 in the morning, coming from the other side of the island. I would also recommend getting there early, as they close the top once the parking lot is full. Don’t forget to fill up on food and gas before you leave, and pack warmly as it will be very cold at the top!

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Since it’s Hawaii, most people don’t think ahead to pack warm clothes. I found that many people wear pajamas or sweatpants and bring either towels or blankets to wrap around. This is a good idea, as you will most likely be waiting outside for the sunrise. We brought a blanket from our hotel and it worked out just fine. Another option to stay warm is to choose to wait in the car or watch the sunrise from the glass viewing room at the summit (which is still fairly cold, but not windy). I highly recommend bringing a flashlight or using your cell phone to provide some lighting while you are at the summit, as it is pitch black. I used a flash for the nighttime photos but this is deceiving. We couldn’t see anything in front of us that wasn’t directly illuminated by our phones. Be sure to step carefully as there are inclines and people to navigate around!

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Finally, we got to see what we’ve been for. Minutes before the sun appeared, the sky slowly began to illuminate. Our eyes adjusted and we began to realize the magnitude of what was around us. We found ourselves sitting atop the clouds with nothing around us but the mountain itself. Everyone was consumed by silence in these moments…it’s quite a surreal experience.

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After a few minutes, the sun finally emerged through the clouds. It instantly elicited gasps and awes from everyone around.

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Many have said that Haleakala looks like the moon, and I’d have to agree. But to me there’s also a very otherworldly vibe that Haleakala brings, making it a magical experience that should not be missed. For those of you who like adventure, consider taking a tour bus to the top and then riding back down on a bicycle. If you are so inclined and have the time, it seems like it would be a thrilling experience. People who have done it highly recommend it!

Hawaiian Luaus

Luaus are a “can’t miss” opportunity if you have the chance to go to Hawaii. They give you a fantastic introduction to Hawaiian food, music, and culture. Yes, they can be incredibly cheesy, but I guarantee you will have fun. Even the cynical and cantankerous Anthony Bourdain once admitted that he had a great time going to one.

So what does a luau consist of? Basically, great food and a great show. We attended one in Maui, but luaus are very similar no matter where you go. I went to one in Oahu nearly 10 years ago, and not much has changed since then. Since Hawaii thrives on tourism, I’ve found that most places are pretty consistent when it comes to delivering the “authentic” Hawaiian experience.

You will find that the food at a luau is typically served buffet style. Before serving the main dish of pork, everyone gathers around an underground pit, called an imu, where the pig has been cooking. It’s a very interesting presentation, and I’d imagine a bit disturbing to young children who might wonder why a pig is being shoveled out of the ground for consumption. Nonetheless, it’s those same children who stand at the front to watch.

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Aside from the pork, the buffet offers chicken, rice, sweet potatoes, and poi. Poi is the grey “pudding” that only Hawaiians seem to like. It’s made from the taro plant and, in my opinion, tastes like clay. Drinks are found in abundance: you can choose from various alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. I also can’t forget about the dessert, which was my favorite part of the buffet. We had guava cake, pineapple upside-down cake, and haupia, which is a soft jello-type dessert made from coconut milk. In case you are wondering, yes, I did treat myself a slice of each!

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As the sun sets and you are finishing your meal, the show begins. We get to watch as performers showcase a variety of traditional Polynesian dances, including hula, fire, and stick dances.

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Most luaus have an interactive portion during the night. At our luau, the host of the show asked about the Honeymooners, and invited the grooms to come up on stage and perform a dance for their new brides. Since we came here on our Honeymoon, my dear husband is featured 4th from the left in the picture below!

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After this “Honeymoon dance”, other people were welcome to come on stage and try their hand at hula dancing. As you can see, it was the funniest part of the show as the guys up on stage tried in vain to circle their hips properly.

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Overall, luaus are a great way to spend an evening in Hawaii. The food is copious (not to mention delicious) and the show itself is interesting, impressive, and at times hilarious!