“Dear Ocean, thank you for making us feel tiny, humble, inspired and salty…all at once.” – Anonymous

Maui is one of my favorite places, full of natural beauty on land and in the water. I was fortunate enough to visit Maui after winning a trip through Travelocity’s Roam with the Gnome contest. This was the first (and only) time I have ever won anything so you can imagine my excitement. The contest covered flights to Maui and 4 nights at the Marriott in Wailea but we decided to make more of a vacation out of it by booking extra nights in Lahaina and renting a car during those extra nights so we could explore the island a little more. I am so glad we decided to do this because Maui is the kind of place you need to leave the resort and see.



Lahaina is a historic whaling village, where as many as 1,500 sailors would take their leave, including Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick. This town is now a cute, artistic town with its sprawling banyan trees (including the oldest banyan tree in Maui), adorable little geckos scurrying around, and several small gift shops and restaurants. Also make sure to pick up a cup of Kona coffee and some ahi poke from the local supermarket, along with some fresh mangos.

Lahaina Jodo Mission

There are lots of places to explore in Lahaina, but one place we spent some time at was the Japanese Buddhist Temple, Lahaina Jodo Mission. The place has a feeling of peace engulfing it, you can stroll around the sandy property taking in the pagoda and the enormous 12-foot high bronze Buddha statue. The statue was installed in 1968 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Japanese immigrants to Hawai’i. It is free to explore with the option of leaving a donation.




Haleakala is a volcano that forms around 75% of the Island of Maui. Haleakala means “house of the sun” and legend has it that it was home to the grandmother of the demigod Maui. Apparently, Maui’s grandmother helped him capture the sun and slow its progression across the sky to make the day last longer.

There are lots of options for how to best spend your time on Haleakala. You can go by horseback, foot, or bike (in some parts) with many different trails to choose from including short hikes or long, backcountry hikes, and sunrise or sunset hikes (which require a reservation). No matter what you choose, though, you will not be disappointed. Haleakala has this otherworldly feel to it, with its reds, purples, and shades of brown.

The weather can be unpredictable, however, so dress appropriately and bring water and sunscreen (you are in Maui after all, not Tatooine). We chose the Sliding Sands summit hike, a strenuous hike that descends 2,800-feet in the first 4 miles to the summit floor. It is beautiful to say the least.

Iao Valley and Iao Needle

Another one of our stops was the Iao Valley and Iao Needle, which I just found out closed in September 2016 due to flooding. Apparently due to the flooding the river shifted and destroyed the trails, which cannot be repaired. At the time of our visit, however, it was a great stop with lush mountains and beautiful ponds surrounded by fantastic tropical plants.

Iao Gardens

There was a trail that followed along a river and around gardens with a viewpoint of the Iao Needle. It is a greenery covered stone that is actually a volcanic remnant and is surrounded by the Pu’u Kukui Crater. This was the site of a battle in 1790 between King Kamehameha I and the Maui army in an attempt to unite all the Hawaiian Islands.

Road to Hana

The road to Hana is a must see if you are planning a trip to Maui. The road is not super wide and can be treacherous but we managed to navigate it with minimal problems in our little economy rental car. There are lots of places to stop along the way, here is just a taste of some of those spectacular stops.

Hana Lava Tubes

Lava tubes

The Hana Lava Tubes are a series of tunnels below ground where lava once flowed. This was formed as lava flowed down towards the ocean creating a crust, which allowed lava to continue to flow below it. Once the lava had drained out a huge tunnel was left in it’s place. It is the largest lava tube in Maui and the 18th largest lava tube in the world.

Each section of the Lava Tubes had its own special features and there is lots of signage around describing what you are looking at. My favorite part of this self-guided tour was the chocolate corridor of stalactites. The entire corridor looked as though it was oozing chocolate kisses. Not going to lie, it made me kind of hungry.

Hershey kisses

Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach

This beach is located just off the Hana Highway and has beautiful 360 views. There is a little trail off the beach that leads through lush greenery with beautiful blue pools of freezing cold water. As you wander around the area you get different aspects of the beach, from the black sand to the various rock formations jutting out into the ocean.

Black sand beach

This beach is situated within the 120-acre Wai’anapanapa State Park and consists of black lava cliffs and a beach created by a lava flow several hundred years prior. It’s beautiful here. I did have one mishap here however, I was admiring the waves crashing in and tried to hop from rock to rock into the waves without getting wet and as the waves came crashing in I tried to leap back onto the sand. As I hit the sand my foot immediately sunk in and my flip-flop snapped leaving me shoeless. It was a hilarious disaster and I have the photo of the incident to remember that oh so magical moment. Sigh*


Hiking Trails

There are several hiking trails along the Hana Highway. One trail in particular that we stopped at was the Bamboo Forest on Maui’s Pipiwai Trail. This trail was like a tropical oasis with bamboo shooting up all around us.

Bamboo forest

You have to follow the Pipiwai Trail for 1 mile before reaching the Bamboo Forest but it is definitely worth it. Not only is it a bamboo forest but there are several spots to stop and check out some waterfalls. We didn’t do the entire hike due to time constraints but it was lovely.

Trees at work

Food and drink

I can’t forget to mention the food and drinks along the way. We stopped at two spots in particular. One was a fruit stand, where I finally got a coconut (my first one ever, which I can’t tell you how excited I was) and we picked up some fresh mangos, mangosteens, and coconut.


We also stopped at an open-air food market along the way. There we had swordfish (also a first for me) and picked up some coconut chips (amazing!). The people were super friendly and the food was fantastic.

Outdoor eating


Wailea is what I would consider a resort town. It was the location of the Marriott where we would spend our free nights. The hotel was super nice with infinity pools, hot tubs, views of the ocean and right off the beach some of the best snorkeling we could ask for. The food and drinks were not included, so that was a bit of a bummer but if you sign up for the Marriott rewards card you got a discount on the buffet breakfast, which was fantastic.


Every morning at around 6 am we would get up, eat a fresh mango and go snorkel around the rock jutting out from the beach. This was when the water was the calmest, as the day went on the water seemed to get choppier. The snorkeling was phenomenal, we saw turtles, eels, and tons of tropical fish and cool corals every morning.

After our morning snorkel we would hit the breakfast buffet, filling up as much as we could eat. This allowed us to skip lunch and save some money. Then we would spend the rest of the day hanging out at the beach, sitting by the pool, or walking the nice paths along the water where lizards could be seen basking in the sun.


There is so much to see and do in Maui and we didn’t even get to a luau! Have you been to Maui? What did I miss that should be on this list of places to see?

About the author: Nicole


  1. Wait what?! You won the Travelocity’s Roam with the Gnome contest? This gives me hope that internet sweepstake dreams DO come true! Maui looks incredible, but I have a huge phobia of lizards so I think those neon green geckos would give me the heebeejeebies! And after the popularity of Moana, it’s so cool to read about the legend of Haleakala as the grandmother of the demigod Maui! So cool!

    • I’m telling you it was crazy that I won a free trip, I never win anything! I may be maxed out now on my wins but it was worth it!! Glad you enjoyed the post!

  2. Of all things to win, you got the right one! So awesome. Beautiful photos by the way!

  3. Wow. So beautiful. Hope to go there one day. So cool to read about Maui because I love Moana. Thanks for your post.

  4. such beautiful places. Thanks for sharing this post. You trip inspires me. I hope you’ll write more about this topic.

  5. Maui looks stunning yet the most stunning thing that came to my mind was that you were lucky enough to win a trip to Maui – gosh I haven’t even won a give-away! I particularly love the Wai’anapanapa beach – nice name btw – thanks to its beautiful blue water and black sand, I mean, it looks like a heaven on earth! Thanks for sharing!