Who has not ever dreamt of going to
? Yes, to any of the Hawaii Hawaiian Islands? This paradise on earth frequently cited in songs, TV shows or luxury travel magazines. “All my life I wanted to see. The island called ” was sung by Beach Boys in the fifty’s. But why are these islands so idealized? Is it because of its marine wildlife, landscapes, a surfers haven or for its quality of life? Or is it just because it is part of the Hawaii and its propaganda machinery? United States of America
With no doubt, the Hawaiian archipelago is one of the most desired destinations for travelers around the world. So here I was, arriving to Maui, the second largest
, hoping to see people with flower garlands, canoes on the sea and Polynesian hula dances all over the place. That's not what I found, I found something even better: nature, genuine experiences and happy people, truly happy people. island of Hawaii
Getting to know the wonders of
Maui requires effort and adventurous spirit. Renting a car and prepare to face dizziness are two basic premises to start with.
In the treasured natural areas there are no amenities, so bringing fresh water and some food is highly recommended, along with a map, as Internet signal is quite limited in certain areas. Along the northeast coast of the island runs
Hana Road, a scenic road that goes through forests, viewpoints, waterfalls, bridges and natural pools. The trail begins at Haiku and ends in the small town of . A sixty mile and about six hundred curves drive to get to Hana, but in this case, is not about the destination, it is about enjoying every little thing throughout the journey. Hana is the first stop on the roadmap and the first waterfall to stare at on your way, the more easily accessible and therefore the most crowded. If you have a desire to explore, the trick is to hold up at the beginning and save forces to get lost at the end, unpopulated and wilder waterfalls and landscapes, where nothing is marked, the trails can be craggy and slippery, so be careful there. Twin Falls
However, getting to Hana has its rewards:
. A red sandy beach with clear green waters, hidden among volcanic walls. It lies behind the bay and the only signs you will find on its hidden sneaky path, is the one informing you: “walking at your own risk” because of the danger in precipitating off the cliffs. As for me, not to inconvenience anyone, I opted for dragging down my rear. My shoes ended up with a hole and the rump of my pants unrecoverable but was really worth it, indeed. It is the place with the best energy I've ever been. The feeling when we lied down is that the earth was embracing us, so there we stayed, being cuddle by mother earth until the sun fell. Red Sand Beach
But the wonders on this side of the island do not end in Hana, so spending the night in this small town and continue the journey further down the south the next morning can be a very smart choice. And this is getting to Waimoku Fall, a four hundred feet fall, and to the Sacred Pools of Oheo Gulch; seven natural pools surrounded by vegetation where you can swim contemplating the sea. These pools are located on the slopes of Haleakala, the world's largest dormant volcano and from whose entrails gushed to what is now the
. To visit it is strongly advisable to have a look at the weather forecast beforehand, otherwise, as in our case, will be a waste of time and money, because if there are clouds on the top you won’t see nothing up there. Welcoming the hikers there are some annoying rangers, who have chosen to sing to distract the attention from disappointed tourists- Yes, singing with tremendous effort and intonation telling the history of the volcano, the crater routes or the characteristics of the flora; certainly ridiculous. island of Maui
Once at the top of the mountain, reaching the mouth of the volcano is not as easy as some guidelines suggest as it can take up to four days walking, so that part of the adventure we left it to the well-equipped and experienced hikers.
In the downhill of Halekeala’s you will find some little cute inland towns that deserve a stop. Kula has a unique octagonal church that the Kings of Portugal donated to workers of sugarcane plantations in 1894. Several miles down the road, you will find Makawao, a reminiscent of the far west, a village of wooden houses and chickens running around everywhere. And then some miles down the road, almost touching the coast, is Paia, also small and cozy but much more lively as it is the town that provides all kind of goods and services to Hamoa Beach visitors, one of the best places on the planet to catch the waves, it has actually been the hosting beach of several surfing world championships.
You do not need your sunglasses to see the best of Maui, but your diving goggles, the beauty that stands apart of Maui is on the inside, inside the sea.
That day was late and threatening rain, so we decided not to explore and bet on a quick win;
Slaughter House Beach in , west of the island. A pretty wild beach with reef corals where the day before we saw a good quantity of different fish. Upon arrival I put my goggles and went snorkeling straight away, fulfilling my new facet as an amateur diver. Once in the water, I noticed something odd, the water was more turbid than the previous day, the fish were moving faster and interestingly all in the same direction; I followed mine. Until one of my neurons connected with my film archive and found the similarity of those moments with previous shark attacks in such movies. Instinctively I turned sure enough that something was about to happen, and there it was, something huge, less than two feet next to me; an eye, a wing, a shell… a turtle bigger than me! I freaked out! Five seconds took me to return to the mainland. Poor thing, I must have scared him well but at that instance, my only thoughts were to run and evacuate the children from the beach. Kapalua Bay
Once the initial shock passed and calmly thinking of what just happened, I decided to return into the water, much cooler and excited of the possibility of reuniting with my old friend, I found out that there was not one, but four majestic creatures. They were eating seaweed from the rocks. I stayed contemplating their moves as if I was one of them for hours until my strength allowed me, after that I kept watching them from the outside rocks, seeing pulling out their heads periodically to breathe. It was something hypnotic, because I was not able to leave, a unique experience, one of the best ones of my life.
The next day we took a boat heading for Molokini, a moon crescent shaped little island that two hundred thousand years ago was part of the mouth of an ancient crater. Remaining just half of it and because of its morphology, similar to a gigantic ship, during the Second World War was used by the
U.S. military for shooting practices as a target. Today, freed of ammunition exploding, is a reserve for birds, fish and corals and is preserved with care; it is considered one of the top ten diving sites in the world.
The water, deep blue and very clean, especially in the outer wall, offers visibility hundred feet beneath and that's when you say; “Oh My God, I am a microbe!” Hundreds of peaceful fish swimming around you; parrotfish, triggerfish, butterfly, globe or trumpet fish and even the occasional octopus. But not all fish are so naive. Hidden among the rocks we spotted a moray eel showing us his sharp little teeth, and seen on the bottom are regularly sharks, though we were assured that they tend to be quite shy when humans are around. According to statistics each year many more people die on the beach by the drop of a coconut in the head than due to a shark attack. But we know that there is nothing worse than taking a bad rap.
Not far from Molokini, just a few miles towards inland Maui, you arrive to the waters of Makena peninsula, an area also known as
. We let ourselves dropped the boat again for diving and soon enough those majestic creatures appear again, this time with no surprises. Although they should be frightened by human presence, they were not, at all, on one occasion we had to go back to not crash with one. Green turtles are endangered and trying to touch them or disturb them in Turtle Town is punishable by fines of up to one hundred thousand dollars. Hawaii
The next bay towards the south is La Perouse, the youngest piece of land on the island formed by the magma and sediments spitted by the volcano when last erupted in 1790. A deep dark barren land that can be hiked and from where is also relatively easy to spot groups of bottlenose dolphins by the coastline.
Maui is a safe area for turtles, dolphins and whales, but there was a day, as in many other parts of the world that it was hell for them. From December to April, humpback whales, "Koholas" in Hawaiian, migrate from Alaska to the warm shallow waters of Maui to breed. The town of , today a lovely place, full of nice shops and restaurants, was a whaling town that gathered each winter the most prolific harpooners across the Pacific. Thus, in the late nineteenth century, whales came to be virtually extinct in the area. From that, luckily nothing remains today and Lahaina is home to the Pacific Whale Foundation, the organization responsible for the study and protection of these sea creatures that also offer tours for sighting and whale watching. Lahaina
Lahaina is also a good place to stay, not just because the serenades of courting whales can be heard but because it is a good alternative if you want to avoid the colossal resorts of Kaanapali. Finding small family hotels or private guest houses allows you to deal with locals, a highly valuable experience in
Maui. People are calm, respectful, wise and what is most important; smiley. The people of Maui are happy, so maybe their local saying of Native Hawaiians it’s true, that the health of humanity is inseparably linked to the sea.
I could be writing more about
Maui for ages. I could write tons of new things about it.
I also have the feeling that if I’m back again I still have amazing things to discover yet as I definitely feel I've left things in the pipeline. In fact; I would live there, but for now and until I do so, I just have this paradise freshly in my memories and beach boy’s melody that helps too.