I have visited Maui, Hawaii, many times and enjoy it more each visit. For the past several trips, my husband and I have visited Maui as a two-day stop on the Pride of America cruise ship. On our trip we try to drive the road to Hana, visit the top of Mount Haleakala Crater at sunrise, shop and dine in the former Kingdom of Hawaii’s capital of Lahaina, watch windsurfers, have dinner at Mama’s Fish House, and enjoy some of the best waterfalls, beaches, and views in all of Hawaii. I have put together a plan of how you can visit many of Maui’s best highlights in two days if you have the same amount of time. If you have more time, you could do the same at a more leisurely pace. Click on the audio link at the end of the article to listen to the accompanying podcast for even more about visiting Maui.
If you take the Pride of America cruise that leaves Oahu every Saturday evening and returns the following Saturday morning, when you wake up on Sunday morning you will be docked in Maui for two days. If you have not previously driven the road to Hana and witnessed sunrise at Mount Haleakala, you will have time to enjoy both of these bucket list experiences on your visit. If you enjoy world-class dining experiences, try to fit in a visit to the top-rated Mama’s Fish House in your plans. It is possible to do all of this and more using the following plan.
We usually rent a car through Thrifty, and they and other rental car companies have buses waiting at the cruise dock to pick us up and take visitors to their nearby rental location at Kahului airport. Be sure to join the frequent renter program so you can skip the line of other cruise guests and pick up your car and begin sightseeing on Maui.
Note: There is no longer free parking near the ship at night, so if you plan to keep a rental car for two days you will need to park the car at the airport at $15 per night. Then, take the rental car shuttle to the rental car location. Then, you will need to take the rental car’s cruise ship shuttle back to the cruise ship from the rental car location. Be sure to check with your rental car company about the last time to get a shuttle back to the cruise ship.
Of course, there are shore excursions and tours from the ship and from hotels throughout Maui to each of the main sights on the island. You may want to review these sights and check out options for what you want to do on your own or with a tour company or shore excursion group. For example, you may want to experience the Road to Hana on a tour if you don’t want to drive. Then, experience the remaining highlights on your own.
Road to Hana, Maui
If you have never done it before, your first day of a two-day visit is the day to drive to Hana, especially if you are visiting on the cruise. If there are any problems with your journey to the remote location, you won’t have to worry about missing the ship on the first day of the two days in Maui. So, as soon as possible, get your rental car and start driving to Hana. This drive, more than any other in the world, is about the journey and not about the destination.
As soon as you come out of the airport with your rental car you will hit a main intersection where you will turn left on to State Highway 36. This will become HI-360, the Road to Hana. Just continue along the road, and it will soon become curvy with over 600 bends in the road and over 50 small bridges, including many one-lane bridges.
The road will mostly likely be crowded with other tourists driving the road. If someone comes up behind you, pull over when you can and let them pass. If you were to drive straight through to Hana it would take a couple of hours to drive the 50 miles to Hana, but plan on a full day. You will want to stop and see the sights along the way and take time to enjoy the waterfalls and parks. Also, if you continue for another 13 miles beyond Hana, you will reach Sacred Pools of ‘Ohe’o and the grave of Charles Lindbergh.
There are limited options for food as you get near Hana, so consider stopping to grab some lunch items to enjoy as a picnic at a scenic spot when you get hungry. There are a few places to pick up picnic items on and near Hana Highway at Baldwin Avenue just after the Paia Mini-Bypass Road turns off to the right. There is a Shell gas station in this area, too. After this, options are limited for food and gas. As a minimum, make sure you have water.
Before your trip, check out places to stop along the road to Hana that you might enjoy. The Hawaii Guide website has some good suggestions for you to review in advance. Be aware that Internet and cell service can be limited or not available at all on your journey.
Waiʻānapanapa State Park, Maui
We enjoyed stopping at Waiʻānapanapa State Park at Mile Marker 32. It is only two miles before you reach Hana off of Hana Highway on Honokalani Road. It has a black sand beach, a lava tube, and some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. Check out this Hawaii Magazine article for detailed information about the park:
Sacred Pools of ‘Ohe’o, Maui
About 12 miles past Hana, you will come to the Sacred Pools of ‘Ohe’o, although these are closed since September of 2017 due to landslides. The hiking trails here are open, though. Check the National Park Service website below for updates:
Charles Lindbergh’s Grave, Maui
Continue for another mile if you want to visit the grave of Charles Lindbergh.
Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, moved to Kipahulu in 1968. Many people say he wanted a respite from the attention he received wherever he went. He died here in 1974 and is buried in the graveyard of Palapala Hoʻomau Congregational Church.
Turn left at the signs for the church and for Maui Stables just past Hana Highway Mile Marker 41. There is a small parking area at the end of the drive.
If the church is open, feel free to enter. Note the window painting of a Polynesian Christ draped in the red-and-yellow feather capes of Hawaii’s highest chiefs of the past. Be careful not to disturb the furniture and objects in the church.
Behind the church, Lindbergh’s grave is a granite slab laid upon lava stones. His epitaph is from the Bible: ‘If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea.’
Walk seaward to view the ocean from here, but be careful not to get close to the edge. There is a steep cliff that can be subject to landslides.
Return from Hana, Maui
Even if you drive as far as Lindbergh’s grave, do not be tempted to circle around Maui and return from the opposite direction from the way you drove to Hana. Many rental car companies will not cover you if you try to drive on the more dangerous road beyond this point.
Hookipa Beach Park, Maui
As you drive back toward the center of the island to return to the airport or the cruise ship, just after Mile Marker 9, Hookipa Beach Park will be on your right. World championship wind surfing contests are held here. On almost every windy afternoon you will see many of the expert wind surfers here. Park at the entrance on the high bluff or drive down to the beach and park alongside the pavilion, and stop and watch the wind surfers. Facilities include restrooms, a shower, picnic tables, and a barbecue area.
Mama’s Fish House, Maui
If you think you will be able to handle a special dinner after a long day in Hana, drive less than a mile more to Mama’s Fish House. Make reservations at www.opentable.com if you want to be able to get in to this busy spot, rated as the second most popular restaurants in the United States by Open Table. People drive from all over Maui to have dinner here, and you will be driving right past it on your way back to the cruise ship or airport. Menu items run from $50 for most of the fresh fish specialty entrees to $100 for surf and turf options. The restaurant is also open for lunch. Check out the website for more information:
Mount Haleakala, Maui
On the morning of your second day on Maui, get up about three hours before sunrise and grab your jacket as you drive out to watch the famous sunrise on top of Mount Haleakala, a crater formed by violent eruptions about 750,000 years ago. The cold, barren summit looks like the surface of the moon. At 10,023 feet, it is the highest point on Maui.
Note that reservations are now required to view the sunrise on top of Mount Haleakala. Reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance. There is a fee of only $1.50 per car for the reservation. This is in addition to the park entrance fee of $25 per vehicle payable upon entry with credit card only when the entrance gate is unmanned. The Haleakalā National Park Headquarters Visitor Center near the entrance opens at 8:00 am. It has clean restrooms, information about the park and a small shop.
To make the required advance reservation for the sunrise celebration, check the website below:
To get to Mount Haleakala from the airport, drive about 10 miles on State Highway 36 to HI-37 in Pukalani, and take a slight right to stay on HI-37 for about two miles. Take a slight left onto State Highway 377 for six miles, and drive to State Highway 378 to the top of the summit for about 21 miles. It will take at least 90 minutes to drive the 40 miles. There will be many steep switchbacks as you get close to the summit.
Kula Lodge, Maui
On the way back down from the summit of Mount Haleakala, turn right off of Highway 378 when it meets Highway 377 about 22 miles down the mountain road. Stop and have breakfast at Kula Lodge. At 3,200 feet above the beaches of Maui below, you will have a beautiful view of the area as you enjoy your breakfast. Be sure to walk around the beautiful grounds outdoors before or after your meal to enjoy the flowers and greenery.
After breakfast, you will still have time to drive to about one hour to Lahaina, the historic capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1820 to 1845. Shop and/or dine on Front Street, ranked one of the “Top Ten Greatest Streets” by the American Planning Association. Be sure to see Hawaii’s oldest lighthouse here, too.
I love sitting beside the water for a casual seafood lunch at the Lahaina Fish Company on Front Street. If you plan to eat here, make reservations at www.opentable.com and take advantage of their 3 hours of free parking. See the details below:
Many tourists believe the Old Lahaina Luau is the best in Hawaii. It is held nightly. Check the official website for more information or to reserve seating:
To get to Lahaina from the Kula Lodge, follow Highway 377 to HI-37. Turn left on HI-36 and left again on 380 to cross the island on Highway 380. Turn right onto HI-30 and continue to Lahaina. It will take about an hour to reach Lahaina from the Kula Lodge.
If you are returning to the cruise ship, plan to leave Lahaina by 2:30 pm to have plenty of time to return the rental car by 4:30 pm. It should only take about an hour, but give yourself an extra hour just in case of any traffic issues.
Or, after breakfast drive about 45 minutes to Wailea and enjoy the ocean here. Swim at Wailea Beach, walk along the Wailea Beach path, and/or shop at the Shops of Wailea. Park at the Shops of Wailea and walk on the road to the left of the shops as you face the beach to reach the Wailea Beach path. Or, park at the Grand Wailea resort next door to the Shops of Wailea and have lunch or a drink at the casual Bistro Molokini as you gaze out at the volcanic top of Molokini Crater Rim peaking out of the ocean right in front of you.
To get to Wailea from the Kula Lodge, follow State Highway 377 and HI-37 to Hansen Road in Kahului for 13.6 miles, and turn left on Hanson Road. Drive 2 miles and follow HI-311 South and State Hwy 31 to Wailea-Makena.
If you are returning to the cruise ship, plan to leave Wailea by 2:45 pm to have plenty of time to return the rental car by 4:30 pm. It should only take about an hour, but give yourself an extra hour just in case of any traffic issues.
Other Maui Options
If you have visited Mount Haleakula and/or the road to Hana in the past, Maui has a number of options for sunset cruises, winter whale watching cruises, snorkeling excursions, nightly luaus, and helicopter tours. Check the cruise excursion list and/or www.viator.com for options.
Return to the Ship on Maui
If you are returning to the Pride of America cruise, the ship will most likely leave Maui on Tuesday at 6 pm, so you will need to return the rental car no later than 4:30 pm to catch the rental car shuttle back to the ship and be on board by 5 pm. Of course, be sure to verify these estimated times while you are on the Pride of America.
Remaining Pride of America Cruise Ports in Hawaii:
Stay tuned for my next blog and podcast if you are enjoying the Pride of America cruise and/or want an overview of the remaining Hawaiian cruise highlights of Volcanoes National Park, Chain of Craters Road, Kilauea Caldera, the Holei Sea Arch, and Rainbow Falls at Hilo, The Big Island, Hawaii; lava flows at night from Kilauea Volcano; coffee plantations, the Painted Church, and Magic Sands Beach on Kona, The Big Island, Hawaii; and enjoying the island of Kauai, Hawaii and the Na Pali Coast.
Finally, if you are taking the Pride of America cruise from Honolulu or visiting Oahu, Hawaii, be sure to check out my blogs and accompanying podcasts to help you enjoy Waikiki, Pearl Harbor, the North Shore, Hanauma Bay, Diamond Head, and the Manoa Falls Rainforest. See my three earlier articles and podcasts about Oahu here:
Remember to click on the podcast link to accompany this Maui, Hawaii, blog at the audio bar below.
You can always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, I hope all your travel days are just perfect!