From what I understand, Maui has some fantastic beaches on the west side. And beautiful Molokini Island is on to the southwest. Well, our trip concentrated on the east side. After landing in Kahului, we took the long and winding road up (and I mean up!) to Haleakala National Park. The road to the top winds back and forth with hairpin turns. You tend to hug the side opposite of the steep drop off's as you try not to look down (at least if you are the driver). Eventually we started driving through and above the clouds. With the time constraints we had, there wasn't much that you could do at this park other than drive the drive and stop at the few parking lots for scenic view points.
Much of our view of Maui below was blocked by pillowy clouds, but that was site to see in itself. When you reach the parking lot at the summit, you are over 10,000 feet above sea level. You can feel it if you overexert yourself. You will also feel cold. Since we were above the clouds, the sun was unobstructed and intense, yet it was still pretty chilly. If the clouds were overhead, it would have been freezing. We were told by visitors at Volcanoes National Park that Haleakala was more impressive. I can't say that I agree. Some of the scenery is more striking at Halekala and Volcanoes is much lower in elevation, but its activity makes it more interesting.
Halekala on Maui in the foreground with Mauna Kea on the big island in the background
We are also told by several people that we should drive the road to Hana when we were in Maui.
So that's what we did. We headed back down the mountain and out to the north coast to head east to Hana. I must say that both Mark and I felt like this was a complete waste of time. There were much better ways that we could have spent our time in Maui in retrospect. The road to Hana is 50 some miles of winding, curving road through dense vegetation. The speed limit is slow; there are 600 curves and 54 bridges, most of which are one lane. You get stuck behind a stream of cars that cannot pass the slow car in front. The vegetation is so dense that you don't even get many scenic views of the ocean. It took us more than 2 1/2 hours each way. Then once you get to Hana, you really can't understand why you came. They have a couple of red and black sand beaches, the latter of which is really hard to find. We saw several people scratching their heads trying to find this beach that travel books tout like they were on a scavenger hunt.
Mark walking on the clouds
There is one hotel complex here and only two restaurants, one of which closed at 3:30 pm. Unless you are staying at Hana for the peace and tranquility or you just have a day to kill, I wouldn't suggest driving there, especially if you have motion sickness.
Road to Hana
So Maui was a bit of a disappointment for us, but I'll know where to go and not go if I ever make it back there again. On our way back to Kahului, we spotted many wind and kite surfers surfing along the shore, but we didn’t stop to take a picture. Before we headed back to the airport, we ate a surprisingly good Mexican restaurant in Kahului called the Mañana Garage.