After we departed breakfast by the entrance to Haleakala, we had some time to kill before checking into our next accommodation. We decided to drive to Iao Valley, a lush state park situated between the towering peaks surrounding. I was fooled by a few travel sites into thinking this was going to be quite the hike and was a little disappointed that it took all but 30 minutes to walk through. Still, the valley was a beautiful emerald dream. Even with the constant hum of visitors, there was peace in the rushing streams.
When the Valley became a little too crowded, we checked into an Airbnb listed as “The Dancing Turtle” in Kihei. After two long nights at a bug-ridden hostel, we were so relieved to step into not only one of the cleanest properties we’ve ever stayed in, but also one of the most welcoming. And the beauty of the home was just an extension of our lovely hosts, Maxi and Woody. We traded stories of our backgrounds and how the pair ended up in Hawaii (they vacationed there once a month while living in Seattle, so they figured, why not just live in Maui?).
Every morning we were given a breakfast of fresh papaya from their garden, breads, and french press coffee. When Ty tried to clear the plates, Woody interjected “No please, let me do it. It makes me feel useful.”
Tyler painted, I wrote, and our towels dried in the breeze on the lanai. Although I’m fairly certain we could’ve stayed at Woody and Maxi’s all day, we gathered our packs and moved onto the next thing.
Tried as we might, I couldn’t locate the unofficial nude beach called “Little Beach” that was pretty much adjacent to the tourist areas. It’s not like I’m an exhibitionist, but I’ll try anything once; twice even if I don’t like it. Despite tired efforts, we ended up on gorgeous “Big Beach” on the southeast shore of Maui. After yesterday’s Haleakala adventure and the previous day’s Road to Hana excursion, nothing would’ve pleased me more than going full lizard and finding a hot spot to lay on all day. Thankfully Maui’s south side has some of the most beautiful beaches in the United States. The best part: they’re all public, even the ones surrounded by resorts.
Besides getting hustled by a group of women bearing fruit-hacking machetes, the Kihei area is not as overcome with tourists as the frequency of giant resorts make it seem.
I guess the last three days in Maui went...just as planned. We scheduled most of our adventuring in the beginning portion of the trip so we’d have plenty of time to see our friends and celebrate the marriage of Luke and Shannon. Tyler and I haven't spent many vacations with the honest goal of just relaxing; we may not be adrenaline junkies, but we mostly feel like days without some kind of adventure are wasted.
Thankfully Maui, even in it's residential areas, is unlike any place we've been before. Even when we spent 20 minutes on a bench under the Giant Banyan Tree, we felt a sense of accomplishment by being able to witness something we otherworldly, at least to us.
Lahaina's charm is not stifled by the rows of kitschy souvenir shops. I found that a conversation with a shop owner or art gallery assistant was a fine souvenir in itself. Stories of escapism from the mainland, handmade treasures, and love of visitors were all spoken with whispers of paradise. Everyone in Maui loved being in Maui. As Maxi put it, "You are not tourists. You are visitors, and we love sharing our beautiful piece of heaven with anyone willing to make the trip."
Luke and Shannon's big day finally arrived. Between the traditional lei ceremony and warbling voice of a local ukulele musician, it was easy to see why Maui was a choice spot for nuptials. I only wanted to sneak one photo of the ceremony setup out of respect for the couple's privacy, so you'll have to trust me when I say it was easily the most beautiful wedding I've ever attended.
With only one afternoon remaining for our Maui adventure, Tyler and I rented snorkel gear for two hours and swam with the sea turtles, puffer fish, and sharks (just kidding, but the latter was certainly forefront in my mind). Had I known how much I would enjoy snorkeling (after the initial freakout about my nose being covered underwater), I would've spent at least a day combing the shoreline to revel in the turquoise home of colorful sea creatures. Note to self: In areas with crystal clear waters, always make time to explore the depths.
I would say Tyler and I ended the trip with a bang, but it was more like a sweet Hawaiian kiss. The soreness from miles of hiking and swimming wore off so the last few days were ours to unwind, and to remember why slowing down is just as important as finding an adrenaline rush. We were so thankful for the opportunity to leave the mainland, and even happier that we got to do it for reasons of love and friendship. Love takes us to the sweetest of places.
Sometimes the best parts of an adventure are not the high-octane, adrenaline-fueled excursions but the moments when everything becomes...still.