By Blake Bieber
When people think about travelling to Hawaii, they typically consider somewhere like Waikiki, a popular, full-of-events kind of place. Afterall, no matter where you go in Hawaii you can expect to have a great time because of the warm weather and gorgeous beaches. However, let me tell you about a trip I took to a more remote location called Lahaina, on the island of Maui. With a population of only about 12,000 people, you can expect way less tourism, while still having access to all of the activities Hawaii offers. Lahaina will give you the same feel as a place like Waikiki except it is farther separated from businesses and tourists, allowing you to relax and feel more like a native Hawaiian.
I visited Lahaina with my family in December of 2016. Let me tell you, even during the winter months the weather was reaching up to 90 degrees. Staying at a small rental home, we would bike to the downtown area practically every day. This is where we would typically get ice cream, check out the local shops and markets, and then make our way to the beach which was only about a stone’s throw away. At dusk, it seemed like just about everyone in town would find somewhere to sit and watch the sunset. Whether on the sand or at a restaurant overlooking the shore, I loved how people gathered to witness the beauty of the painted sky, as if this was a usual activity you would hate to miss. Finally, after the sun went down, most people would head to the bars or go for a walk on the beach since it would still be warm out. One of the coolest features of this area was a massive Banyan tree, which turns out to be the largest in the United States and one of the largest in the world. A man by the name of William Owen Smith, who was a Kauai native and the attorney general for the Republic of Hawaii, planted this tree in 1873 for the 50th anniversary of the first American protestant missionary in Lahaina. At first, the tree stood only at about 8 feet tall. Now it is over 60 feet tall and reaches 1.94 acres wide, occupying more than the length of the city block. With a quarter mile circumference and 16 trunks, the Banyan tree is one of the most fascinating sights to see in Lahaina. It is home to hundreds of birds and shelters a number of benches allowing people to relax under its octopus-like limbs. With all of this being said, many events and festivals are held in this park. Some of these include Art in the Park, dance performances, and The Annual Lighting of the Banyan Tree which illuminates its branches with 6,500 lights. If you ever get the chance to visit Lahaina, I can personally assure you this may be the coolest tree you will ever come across.
Although most days my family and I would hang out in this local downtown spot, some days we drove to Kaanapali Beach, only about 9 minutes north of downtown Lahaina. This is one of the most popular beaches in the area, stretching 3 miles wide with white sand and clear water. Along this beach were many hotels and resorts as well as a nearby shopping center. This was the first place I ever got the chance to snorkel at and it was absolutely incredible to say the least. While swimming I saw beautiful, colorful fish, reefs, and baby sea turtles who let us pet their shells. Furthermore, I recall to the right end of the beach was a huge rock cliff that kids would jump off of. I, however, never participated because it was quite a long swim back to shore and I am not the strongest swimmer. I would even have to take a break from snorkeling about every five minutes just to catch my breath. Nevertheless, we spent hours at Kaanapali Beach soaking up the sun, drinking smoothies, and admiring the sea creatures when we snorkeled. With many hotels and resorts in the area, there were also many activities offered, one of which we decided to do: whale watching. Never had I been whale watching nor thought it could be fun, but one day we jumped on a boat and gave it a shot. To tell you the truth, it was actually crazy getting so close to these huge mammals. I do not know if it was just that day, but they were splashing around and jumping out of the water left and right.
The fact that we had a car allowed us to check out other parts of Maui as well. One activity I really enjoyed was a hike through what is called the “bamboo forest.” For about 3 hours my family and I explored through what felt like a jungle, surrounded by thousands of bamboo trees. Throughout the forest were several trails, streams, and even a massive waterfall with a swimming area at the bottom. Despite my hatred for mosquitos, this journey was an unforgettable experience as I got to witness the true, natural beauty of Maui. In addition, Maui revealed to me the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen on another hike my family and I went on. Haleakalā, or the East Maui Volcano, has an elevation of just over 10,000 feet. One morning we woke up at about 5 a.m. to drive to the east side of the island and up the mountain. I remember thinking to myself “this better be worth it” as I dragged myself out of bed. We got to the top of the mountain, I could barely breathe because of the elevation, it was freezing cold because of the elevation, but then the sun started to peak over the mountain tops. Standing about eye level with the clouds and not far from them, the sun beamed into a glorious shade of gold and faded into the ocean blue sky. Talk about a breathtaking view. The scene was unreal, and I thought to myself “okay, this was definitely worth it.”
Overall, this trip stole my heart. The island of Maui, specifically the town of Lahaina, was without a doubt the most relaxing yet exciting trip I have ever been on. I hope I get the pleasure to visit again and I sure hope you guys get a chance to visit too.