We have departed Maui and have flown to the Big Island of Hawaii.
To many who visit Hawaii for the first time, on a nice vacation or honeymoon, Maui is the go to island. To us, Maui is the “odd” island of the Hawaiian archipelago. We’ve been here twice before so we have had some time to form this opinion, and this last stint did little to change it.
For us, coming to Maui is not usually as deliberate a choice as the other islands. With the other islands there was something we wanted to return to and experience again. With Maui that wasn’t so much the case. This is not to say Maui doesn’t have much to offer; it does. It has the Hana Highway, Lahaina, Haleakala mountain top crater, Jaws and more. Also, a lot of celebrities choose Maui as their second residence – like Oprah, for example. Come to think of it, most of the friends we know who have come to Hawaii have come to Maui; like our friends Paul & Amanda, Jason & Cheryl, Scott & Justine and Tim & Cheryl. Also my buddy Adam made this his island of choice for his Hawaiian destination. I think it’s safe to say that we don’t really know anyone who has been to the other islands aside from Cynthia’s aunt & uncle, who used to frequent all islands at one point.
Maui doesn’t have any impoverished areas (that we know of) and there is rarely the site of poverty or homelessness, which is common on the other islands we’ve been to (I say this in contrast to what someone might expect from the Hawaiian “paradise” they heard about or saw in pictures).
So why do we have this feeling towards Maui? It’s hard to define, but I can think of a couple of reasons:
It shares the physically beautiful characteristics of all the other islands without being “king” of any of them. What I mean by that is that it has mountains, but they aren’t the tallest in Hawaii (the Big Island holds that title). It has a visibly volcanic past, but only the Big Island of Hawaii is actually active. It has rain forests but it doesn’t trump the forests and jungles of the garden isle of Kauai. It has shopping and beaches, but nothing quite like Oahu and the Waikiki area for shopping, or the Hanalei Bay on Kauai for our favourite beaches. It’s dry area, small towns and plantations all have history and charm, but to us the more secluded islands of Moloka’i and Lana’i give you a little more of that. It seems to me that Maui has a bit of everything you’d want if you had to combine all the islands, but without giving you the best of any of them. I say this carefully because I have been in awe at the splendor of the Haleakala crater, the steep drops along the gorgeous Hana Highway and the majestic giants being surfed at Jaws. I’ve had many great experiences in Maui over the years without any concerns or issues. In fact our favorite place to stay, ever, on the islands was on Maui a few years back. So what overshadows those wonderful physical aspects of this island? Perhaps the answer can be found in reason number 2.
Maui, like the other islands of Hawaii, has many types of people. Some are native Hawaiian, some bought a vacation property, some retired here from the mainland, others came over for fun and sun and decided to stay. The difference with Maui is the ratio of each. On the other islands you definitely get a sense of the Hawaiian heritage and culture. I cannot say the same thing for Maui – you have to look harder for it here. What you can find easily here is all the other groups.
Maui is quite affluent; more so than the other islands, it seems. It also has a large hippie and new age culture that can be seen in almost any little town. These are not your typical hippies though; they are well off and own shops and businesses in these towns. They bring in many homegrown products to sell and have many specialty restaurants serving the best vegan dishes around. This is not a bad thing on its own, but it seems like this suppresses the Hawaiian culture a bit, or at least mingles with it in a way that makes it unrecognizable to us.
Of all the islands we’ve been on, we’ve connected the least with the people of Maui. The problem could be us but we’ve had no issue with this on all the other 5 islands we’ve been too. You sometimes forget your in Hawaii on Maui because native Hawaiians are rarely seen on the streets of these towns.
I’m not entirely sure why I decided to write about this topic when discussing our time on Maui. We enjoyed our time here and the place we stayed in for the month of January. I had a great experiencing hiking the Haleakala crater for 3 days and seeing the surfing at Jaws. I also had a super time at the Golf Tournament of Champions. The wife and kids had some nice times at the beach and playing in an actual backyard, for the first time. We saw whales splashing wildly, we rode the Hana Highway, we hiked the bamboo forest (Pipiwai trail) and watched the sunset from above the clouds up on the mountain. We also enjoyed the many towns and dined with the kids at Ruth’s Chris for their first time.
Maui has a lot to give any visitor, but if this is all that our friends experience of Hawaii, then it’s no wonder some of them didn’t have the “Hawaiian experience” we’ve been boasting about.
It is safe to say that Maui is our least favorite of the archipelago islands – but that is like saying you’re not going to take a gift of a million dollars because its delivered in singles. Maui is still beautiful, enchanting and hospitable to its visitors; and it’s definitely Hawaiian. My only advice to potential vacationers is to visit more than just Maui – but that could be said about any of the islands if you were going to pick just one. They are as similar as they are different, so take in as many as you can, I say.
On that note, we are now on our final island in this 6 month journey. We’ve been to Kauai for 24 days, Oahu for 40 days and Maui for 28. Our remaining 3 months will be spent on the big island of Hawaii. Its the tallest of all the islands at almost 14,000 feet. It also can fit all other Hawaiian islands inside its land mass. This is not an island you can just drive to the other side of on a whim, and that is okay; we plan on actually “living” here. We want to carry out our days like we would back in Brooklin, more or less. I think our time here will be more structured and less like a vacation. We still have some goals left and treating this place completely like a vacation won’t help us achieve them. That is not to say we will not enjoy all this island has to offer.