Maui For Beginners: What You Need To Know
Maui, Hawaii's Island of Plenty offers Organic Fruits and Delicious Dining
By Kurt Jacobson
Maui--just uttering the name conjures up images of pineapples, palm trees swaying in the breeze, beaches full of sun worshippers, sea turtles, and Haleakala Volcano.
For first time visitors, there’s a lot to know before you go.
For those of you planning a trip to Maui, you’re in for a fantastic vacation. I recently returned from my first trip and learned a lot about this green paradise with black, golden, and red sand beaches. There were so many surprises, some good, some not so good I share with you so you have a good experience.
Arriving And Departing With Food
There’s lots of excellent produce in Maui. Even though Hawaii is part of the U.S. there are restrictions to arriving with or departing with fruits and produce. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are forbidden entry. Prepared foods are usually okay.
Before you check in and clear security to return home; your bags are checked for fresh fruits, vegetables, berries of any kind, several types of flowers and plants.
I had bought an avocado to take on the flight back to Baltimore to make a quick sandwich. I was told I couldn’t bring an avocado with me, but that guacamole was okay.
Don’t try and take local fruit home as the fines can be high enough to ruin your vacation. You can and should buy Maui Gold pineapples in the airport.
For around $30 get three delicious pineapples in a handy carrying case. The big pineapples farms have moved away but small farmers still grow the famous fruit locals and tourist love.
What About The Traffic
As we left the airport to Lahaina’s Plantation Inn at 4:45 p.m. we hit heavy traffic. In just a mile from the airport we found ourselves in a bumper-to-bumper rush hour crawl.
I had no idea traffic in Maui could be so slow. Our trip took over an hour, but luckily we didn’t have to arrive at a certain time.
The trip from the airport to Lahaina takes only 40 minutes in light traffic. If possible, try and plan your driving accordingly between certain areas that have slowdowns.
Don’t let short distances betray you. Ask your host how long any given trip might take so you arrive on time. It would truly suck to miss the boat on a snorkel dive, whale watching tour, or other timed events due to traffic.
What About The Weather
Maui is known for a splendid climate throughout most of the year. Winter time visitors be warned, it might be chilly some days during your visit and a windbreaker or a light jacket are useful. When we landed at 3:30 p.m. on February 28th I was surprised at the temperature and wind. At 68 degrees Fahrenheit and a 15-20 mph wind, this was not the tropical weather I was expecting.
The next day wasn’t any warmer, but at least it didn’t rain. Our scheduled trip in a traditional Hawaiian paddle-powered canoe was canceled due to the wind. No biggie as we opted to drive the fabled road to Hana instead.
Even though it was colder than usual the sun warmed us the whole way out to Hana and back. The Hana area receives around 400 inches of rain per year. Getting a dry day to make the long round trip is a bonus.
If you want to have the best chance of dry weather, stay in the Kihei area. Kihei, Kula, and Wailea are in the rain shadow of Haleakala volcano and get around 15 inches of rain annually.
Modern Navigational Marvels.
To get the most out of your drive to Hana, or Haleakala buy an app for a smartphone tour. We purchased the GyPSy Guide and thought it was a great deal. This GPS guide follows you there and back.
On the way, GyPSy points out most of the sights, food stops, history, and attractions. Starting at just $5.99, this app will get you through the 600+ curves, one lane bridges, and narrow spots like a local.
If you’re in a rental car, it will be best to buy a cigarette plug adapter with two USB ports. We tried powering our smartphone using the car’s USB port but the app wouldn’t work unless we plugged into a two-port adapter.
Another tip is to switch your phone to airplane mode to save on battery usage when not plugged into the car’s power source. There’s little signal on the road to Hana and your phone will be exhausting the battery looking for a cell tower in vain.
Off The Beaten Track
To break away from the crowds, try visiting one of several farms offering tours and meals. O’o Farm near Kula offers farm breakfasts or lunch. Tour their farm and pick some of the veggies for lunch on this tasty option.
Surfing Goat Dairy is one of the goofiest, and fun tours I’ve ever taken.
See baby goats (kids) hanging out in a surfboard playpen, taste goat cheese, milk goats, and hand feed their charming goats on the Evening Chores Tour.
Makawao is a small upcountry town. Check out Makawao Marketplace, an affordable open-air market. We stopped and talked with Earl of xxtreeme Mana.
He sold us on his two-pronged deer antler massage tool that works wonders on backs and necks. On either side of Earl was a vendor selling small decorative quilts, and a vendor selling fruit, flowers, and veggies.
In The Summer
At lunch one day I remarked about the chilly weather to a local who told me, “It’s colder than usual but in the summer it can get unbearably hot. The ocean breezes that usually blow daily sometimes take a break roasting us in 90-degree weather during the summer months.” Typical temperatures in Maui are 75-80 Fahrenheit.
If you’re visiting Maui in the summer and are used to having air conditioning, be sure your hotel or other types of lodging have A/C. Not all have A/C as electricity is triple the price from what Mainlanders are used to paying.
Eating Well In Maui
Here’s another big tip for the road to Hana: try the roadside food vendors along the way.
About three-quarters of the way to Hana, you’ll see a group of food vendors hawking fish tacos and Hawaiian BBQ.
Don’t miss Max Bullah BBQ! The chicken is superb and comes with a side of veggies if you want.
We also stopped at the Halfway to Hana vendor for their banana bread. It was so fresh from the oven it was still warm! If you love good banana bread stop here and consider their other baked goods like the macadamia nut dream bar.
Dining in Maui can be quite expensive. At one fine dining restaurant, we noticed desserts cost $17 each! We ordered one entrée, one appetizer, two glasses of wine, and one dessert. The total came to almost $200! But don’t worry; there are several bargain eateries on the Island.
The best deal we found for dining was Maui Brewing Company in Kihei. Their happy hour runs from 3:30-5:30 and features $10 pizzas, $1 off all beers, and $3 off cocktails.
Their food is excellent and watching the sunset from their deck with a craft beer and hand is priceless. With three locations in Hawaii, you’re sure to be close to one of them.
In Makawao try Habibi, a Middle Eastern open-air cafe run by husband and wife team Lindsey and Michael Worrell. The portions tend to be big in Maui and Habibi is no different.
Try splitting their delicious Al Song Mezza combo with lamb, chicken, fried cauliflower, and sides for just $16-enough for two. Kula Bistro, a BYOB restaurant, is also a delicious choice with affordable entrees and baked goods galore.
Where To Stay
Lodging is expensive in Maui. We stumbled upon What a Wonderful World bed and breakfast in Kihei. For $225 we got a spacious suite complete with tea kitchen, living room, private patio, and free deluxe breakfast.
Eva, the owner is one of the best hosts ever! Some of her rooms have a king size bed and a sleeper sofa for up to four guests. Depending on the room and season, Eva’s prices start at $160 per night.
Eva loans items like coolers, beach umbrellas, beach towels, and boogie boards. This home-like B&B is only a ten-minute walk, or two-minute drive to Kamaole Beach for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.
When booking accommodations keep in mind Hawaii has a 14.42% room tax that might be hidden until you check out.
Beware of resort fees at some hotels and resorts that can be unwelcome surprises. For those who want to rough it, try the National Forest Service cabins on Haleakala for just $75 per night.
Keep in mind the weather can be extreme on Haleakala. This year and last year Haleakala got significant snow and wind on President’s Day. Some of the cabin renters were stranded for a couple of days until the mountain thawed out.
Don’t Touch The Critters
Wildlife is abundant in Maui. It’s possible to be close to monk seals, sea turtles, dolphins, and humpback whales on your visit.
Stay ten feet from turtles, 50 feet from seals and dolphins, and 100 yards of humpback whales.
Don’t be like the guy from Alabama who posted a video on Instagram touching a sleeping monk seal. He was fined $1,500 for the infraction. If any of the above wildlife approach you, it’s best to remain calm and back away.
These are just some of the tips to make your trip a success. Come see why so many love Maui and return often. I know we’ll be back to explore more of this island paradise.
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Kurt Jacobson lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and spent many years as a professional chef. Now he travels the world and shares his stories here and on other travel websites.