Whale watching, hiking, museums — all free of charge when you follow FTF's No-Budget columnist to Hawaii's favorite isle.
The island of Maui is a natural wonderland. From its hilly mountains, magnificent waterfalls, gently swaying palm trees and aquamarine waters, to some of the most colorful flowers and plant life, Maui truly takes your breath away. Some visitors say the same about the prices. Yet for visitors with know-how it is possible to enjoy a wide range of Maui’s wonders absolutely free.
Go On A Whale Watch
Maui is best Hawai’ian island for whale watching. From December to March, North Pacific humpback whales appear in its warm, shallow waters to mate and give birth, and then travel to Alaska before summer to feed. The stretch of shoreline along Highway 30 between Lahaina and Maalaea provides the best observation spots for catching sight of these magnificent creatures. The best one is McGregor/Papaluau Overlook.
Also free to the public is the Whalers Village Museum (808/661-5992) in the Ka’anapali Beach resort area, lauded one of the finest whaling museums in the Pacific. There is a collection of photo murals, ship models, authentic artifacts, harpoons, sailors’ journals, and an extensive scrimshaw collection. It recounts the history through the eyes of an ordinary sailor of the whaling era from 1825 to 1860. The introductory films about whaling history and the humpback whale (Hawaii’s State animal) are shown daily. The Museum is open daily from 9:00am to 10pm.
Snorkel & Dive
Snorkeling or diving spots abound in Maui offering lots of corals to explore and tropical fish to admire. You might even see turtles along the way and occasional tako (octopus).
Some of the most popular places you can drive to for snorkeling are Honolua Bay in Northwestern Maui; Kanahena in Southwestern Maui (past Makena beach); and Polo Beach between Wailea and Makena in front of the Kea Lani Hotel. For convenience and to save on rentals, bring your own snorkels, fins and mask. They take up surprisingly little space in your luggage.
The excellent website www.maui-vacation.net/snorkelmap.html has a map of recommended snorkeling spots on the island.
Relax On The Beach
This island paradise is a perfect spot for holidaying for those who yearn to relax on vast stretches of sandy beaches. (Maui boasts 120 miles of shoreline with 80 beaches, to be exact).
Some of the best family beaches are Hana Beach Park, lauded as the safest beach in east Maui and Makena Big Beach, located four miles past Wailea. Makena is wide and peaceful, and though somewhat underdeveloped, is still counted among Maui’s best beaches. Adjacent is Little Beach, Maui’s popular nude beach.
Kapulua Beach is a beautiful golden stretch along the west coast of the Keanae Peninsula, with a spectacular view of Molokai. It was once voted the best beach in the world by CondÃ© Nast Traveler Magazine. Another family favorite is Palauea (it means ‘lazy’) Beach in Wailea. It is ideal for families with young children because it is sheltered from the winds and the water is shallow.
Take A Hike
Join the park rangers who lead a four-mile roundtrip hike to the Waimoku Falls every day except Saturday. This spectacular waterfall, the largest on Maui, drops 400-feet down a sheer lava rock wall into a boulder-strewn pool. The meeting place is the Kipahulu Visitor Center (808/248-7345), located 10 miles past Hana, at 9:45am, the tour departs at 10am, and calling ahead is recommended.
Explore Historic Town Of Lahaina
This picturesque, fun-loving historic town was once the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom, bustling whaling port and the place where the first missionaries landed. Nowadays, 55 acres of the town have been set aside as a historic district containing 31 sites designated as National Historic Landmarks. When in Lahaina, paying visit to the gigantic Banyan tree covering an entire park is a must experience. (On weekends the tree shelters an entire art show).
A free self-guided Lahaina walking tour map can be obtained at the Lahaina Restoration Foundation (Front & Dickenson Streets). Another excellent free publication, the Lahaina Historical Guide (Honolulu Publishing Company, Ltd.) describes each historic site in more detail. Hon Pub also publishes very informative Drive Guides for each island (free from all car rental companies).
Another must-do is Lahaina’s Friday Night Is Art Night event on Front Street, sponsored by the Lahaina Arts Society (808/667-9175). Worth checking out are: Lahaina Galleries, Center Art Galleries, Dolphin Galleries and Larry Dotson Gallery. There are exhibits, tours and appearances by local and nationally recongnized artists from 7pm to 10pm.
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