Maui: Best Activities

CAR RENTAL

Where do you start when you arrive on this luxurious island? You probably want a set of wheels so that you can explore all the options. You can spend a lot and get a current model or you can save some serious dollars by booking with Kihei Rent A Car. As instructed, we called them as we deplaned in Maui and by the time we grabbed our luggage (yes, we needed to check our snorkel equipment even though everything else was contained in our carry-on bags) their shuttle driver was waiting for us curbside. The drive to their shop was not real far. Soon we were packed into our Jeep Wrangler. The ragtop was a bit frayed, the front seats did not move smoothly for back seat access, but we felt like long term natives tooling around the island. Our daughters’ hair was flying in the breeze, and we toggled the 4 way sound system between the island’s two beach stations: 92.5 and 107.5. Equal measures of reggae and hip local music was our perfect playlist. The vehicle was otherwise well-maintained, as evidenced by its 107k mileage. Even though we had some trepidation about the lack of storage space, we found that most of our island roadtrips were only with snorkel gear.

Forget the other vehicles….this family wants a Jeep Wrangler for our Maui excursions.

Kihei Rent A Car has been in business for nearly a quarter of a century, and they have developed a reputation for friendly service with very competitive rental prices. The hassle of wrestling with the passenger seat to let my daughters get in the back seat soon became a family joke. Indeed, my wife became the seat wrangler, befitting the name of the Jeep model we enjoyed.

ZIPLINE

The vast bulk of visitors flock to the Maui shore, but there is at least one great activity ‘upcountry’ in the mountains. The growth of ziplining is evidenced by the several operators on Maui. Seek out Piiholo Ranch Zipline for a great experience. Their staff had exactly the right blend of humor and confidence to make us comfortable and adventuresome. We weighed in at the office and then headed a few miles further upcountry for our treeline tour across six lines. We were fitted into our harnesses and helmets by our sender guide and receiving guide. The latter is “the only thing between you and the tree, so be friendly with him.” Both Ben and Jon were easy to like, and once prepped we set out into the forest. A hundred yards later we climbed up to our first perch, and then traversed a slat and rope bridge, Indiana Jones style.  Our first zipline served to get us accustomed to stepping off the ledge. We eased into our confidence about the double locking harness system, so much so that Ben soon had us leaning backward over the perch prior to launch. Within the next few lines we were spinning and even launching ourselves blindly backward. Those brave enough to also choose the ‘no peeky’ option were guided into their landing by Jon. Our daughters quickly became flying squirrels, whereas my wife and I took a bit longer to get the hang of it, pun intended. Jon and Ben pointed out some of the local flora and fauna, and its use in the local culture. By the sixth line we were sad to have our ziplining come to an end.

Young daughters playing Indiana Jones

Swinging in the breeze

PIZZA

There are dozens of restaurants from which to choose after a day of island activity on Maui, but head for Lahaina to get a taste of Pizza Paradiso. Featuring Italian, Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine, there is plenty from which to choose. With most ingredients sourced locally, you will get a real taste of Maui. We had a few slices of their signature pizzas, and we can understand why they were voted “Best Pizza” in Maui three times by readers of The Maui News. We also tried the chicken shawarma, which was tender and flavorful. We finished with some homemade tiramisu and locally created gelato. We were certainly fortified for our next adventure.

SNORKEL

Certainly it is the water that attracts visitors from all over the world. Maui is blessed with a variety of places and ways to enjoy the water, from waterfalls off the Hana Highway to offshore snorkeling havens. We signed on with Paragon Sailing Charters for a cruise to Molokini, an extinct volcano whose upper crater forms a crescent above the water. Parking was easy at Maalea Harbor, where we boarded our catamaran helmed by Captain Greg. He and first mate Ron got us squared away with continental breakfast and soon we were heading to Molokini, an hour offshore. The trampoline front of the boat was the optimal place to watch Molokini growing larger on the horizon. Some of the other tour operators boast first arrival, but Captain Greg pointed out that our trip was more leisurely and “the other swimmers will warm the water up for us.” The most dramatic aspect of the snorkeling at Molokini was swimming toward the rim of the submerged crater’s top edge. The depth was about 15 feet as we approached the submerged top edge of the rim, and as we swam over it the opposite side dropped off 200 feet below. It was a remarkable experience. All sorts of fish were visible, and the current that pulls you to the backside of Molokini was noticeable but not dangerous. Captain Greg called it the “Aloha Current, as in not the hello part of aloha.”

Molokini

Not a mermaid, but my daughter at Molokini

First mate Ron had been in the Coast Guard, and came to know intimately the rigging on sailing schooners. Captain Greg started working with the family that owns Paragon in a non-nautical role, but when they decided to explore the business of sailing he was the logical man to steer that ship. He now spends the morning sailing charters and the afternoons windsurfing. He admits he never has any real plans beyond the next two weeks. These Jimmy Buffet types exist the world over, and are an inspiration for the rest of us who spend most of the time flying desks.

SNUBA®

As the perfect stepping stone from snorkel to scuba, SNUBA® is viable for any swimmer from about eight years old. Our teenage daughters have grown comfortable in the water with snorkel equipment, so we were pleased to give SNUBA® a go. There are about half a dozen SNUBA® locations on Maui (and over 90 across the globe). We found our location on Ka’anapaali, where Royce was our instructor. He is transplanted from the Pacific Northwest, where he was a professional diver doing welding and the like. As such, he is very comfortable with scuba and SNUBA®. He competently guided us through our pre-dive preparation. In that my wife and I have been certified as scuba divers, we were familiar with the concept of underwater breathing apparatus. The 20 foot SNUBA® tube is attached to an oxygen tank secured in an inflatable raft, from which two tubes dangle. Royce had two rafts ready for us on the beach. He hooked us in, and we all backed into the water. As he predicted, the entry was the most difficult due to the slightly higher surf coupled with the weight belts around our waist.

But soon we were through the surge and ready to use the regulators. One of us had a bit of trouble descending, but Royce was gently firm that we all entered and left the water together. Soon he had us all under the surface, tooling around with ease. His hand signal instruction was effective, as we were all delivering the island “OK” greeting with thumbs and little fingers extended. His next hand signal was the best: turtle sighting. We had yet to see a turtle on our island trip, so this sighting was huge. The turtle moved through the water more like a bird in flight, its huge shell gliding seemingly weightless under the power of its flippers.  These were moments of magic with my family I will remember always.

Our daughters getting acclimated to Snuba

Priceless

Royce led the way underwater; he was untethered and using scuba equipment. We saw a bounty of fish amid the coral. We swam along for 47 minutes (“two minutes longer than expected!” Royce said later), our four tubes happily intertwining. When we finally resurfaced, we were down the shore quite far from our entry point. But we emerged from the Pacific exhilarated, finally able to communicate with words. Our girls took to SNUBA® like, well….fish to water. SNUBA® is a tremendously simple way to explore the world beneath the waves.

www.kiheirentacar.com/

800.251.5288

www.piiholozipline.com

808.572.1717

http://pizzaparadiso.com/

808.667.2929

www.sailmaui.com/

808.244.2087

http://shorelinesnuba.com/maui/

808.281.3483

 


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment and technology scene for many years. He has written for Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and once upon a time won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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