From the top of its dormant Haleakala volcano crater to its lush rainfores and pristine beaches, the Hawaiian island of Maui offers a magical Pacific vacation.
Maui, named after a Polynesian god, is as close to paradise as it is possible to get. Originally six different volcanoes created a single landmass that, over the millennia, separated to become the islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe. All remain administratively linked today as Maui County.
Maui is the second largest of the populated Hawaiian islands (after Hawaii Island), and also boasts the second largest population in the state. Its two main features are the Haleakala crater (the name means 'house of the sun'), which is the largest dormant volcano in the world; and the underwater valleys that connect Maui with its sister islands in the surrounding ocean, providing shelter for an abundance of marine life.
The island's main business centre is the town of Kahului/Wailuku, while the major resort area is in the west and concentrated in Ka'anapali and the historic whaling town of Lahaina. In the south of Maui is another busy resort district around the town of Wailea. Maui's tropical north shore is quieter without large hotels, only bed and breakfast establishments providing a relaxing break. The island offers several points of cultural and natural interest worth exploring, over and above its beautiful beaches and underwater wonderland.
The Haleakala National Park extends from the summit of the volcano, down into the crater, then across the volcano's southeast slopes to Maui's east coast, beyond the town of Hana. The main reason for the park being visited by nearly one and a half million people a year, is the attraction of peering down into the crater of what is the world's largest dormant volcano. Haleakala last erupted in 1790, and has been deadly quiet ever since, although it is not considered to be inactive. The massive crater covers 19 square miles (49 sq km): big enough to hold the whole of Manhattan. Hawaiians regard the crater as a sacred site.
It is possible to drive to the summit along a twisting road that climbs 10,000 feet (3,000m) in just 37 miles (60km); visitors can also explore the desolate landscape inside the crater on hiking or biking trails. There are numerous other opportunities for recreational activities in the National Park too. The Park's headquarters just inside the park entrance provides information of activities and programmes offered. The Haleakala Visitor Centre near the summit of the volcano explains, via exhibits, the history, ecology, geology and volcanology of the area.
The Maui Ocean Centre is an unrivalled aquatic experience and the largest tropical reef aquarium in the Western Hemisphere. The Centre is located in oceanfront Ma'alaea Village off the Honoapiilani Highway, within minutes of all major resort areas; it consists of indoor and outdoor displays allowing visitors to see, touch and explore Hawaii's unique marine environment. The walk-through aquarium contains thousands of fish showcased in more than 60 interactive habitat exhibits, including the Turtle Lagoon, Hammerhead Harbor, Sea Jelly Gallery, and the Marine Mammal Discovery Center.
One of Lahaina's best preserved 19th-century landmarks, the house in Front Street built by Rev. Dwight Baldwin in 1834, stands now as the oldest house in Maui. Baldwin was a missionary who started a farm on the island and was responsible for growing the first plantations of Hawaii's indigenous pineapples, the fruit that is now enjoyed worldwide.
Baldwin's home gives an insight into island life in the missionary era. Alongside is the Master's Reading Room, another of Maui's oldest buildings, which used to be frequented by visiting sea captains when missionaries closed down seafront bars in the early 19th century. The building is now occupied by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, which issues maps and guides for visitors wishing to take a walking tour around Lahaina's historic attractions.
No visit to Maui is complete without hitting the highway - the Hana Highway, that is - that runs for about 50 miles (81km) between Kailua and Hana on the northeastern coast of the island. This hair-raising but incredibly scenic coastal drive was built in 1927 by gangs of convicts. It twists and turns its way along the coastal cliffs, containing 56 bridges and 600 hairpin bends. The route winds through numerous lush valleys lined with dozens of waterfalls, dense rainforest, bamboo thickets, fern groves and tulip trees.
Visitors need at least a day to traverse the highway, stopping to enjoy a dip in mountain pools or exploring off-shooting hiking trails, many of which lead to historic sites, like the little 19th century church built of lava and coral in the village of Keanae. There are two national parks on the route, some lava caves, blowholes, temple ruins and of course unsurpassed views.
Maui is a tropical island with a mild year-round climate tempered by the Pacific Ocean. At sea level, the average afternoon winter high temperature is around 79°F (26°C) during the coldest months of December and January. August and September are the hottest summer months with average temperatures of about 86°F (30°C). Like most volcanic tropical islands, however, many different microclimates make it essential to pack for a variety of conditions: swimsuits and light hot-weather clothing for the beaches, a lightweight windbreaker for the occasional shower at higher elevations, and protection that is more serious during inclement conditions when hiking Haleakala.
The main mode of public transportation in Maui is the Maui Bus, which operates several daily routes through large towns like Wailuku, Kihei, Lahaina, Wailea, and Kahalui. The bus routes don't cover the island comprehensively however, so most travellers in Maui opt to hire a car; note that hired cars must be booked well in advance as they can sell out, especially on holiday weekends.
Maui is one of the most popular islands in Hawaii for tourists thanks to its famous beaches, commanding volcanoes, lush jungles, and idyllic waterfalls. Encompassing all that travellers dream of in a Hawaiian getaway, the island offers no shortage of things to see and do.
Hiking is a popular activity on Maui, and there are a number of excellent trails in Iao Valley State Monument and Haleakala National Park. Makawao State forest also offers good trails for both hiking and mountain biking. Another way to enjoy the trails is be horseback, with guided tours available from Maui Stables.
Hana Highway is a great way to see the island, offering spectacular views and stopping points like the Garden of Eden arboretum and Wainapanapa State Park. Adrenaline junkies will be sure to try the Piiholo Ranch Zipline, soaring up to 600 feet (183m) above the tree canopy.
It's no surprise that many of Maui's best activities happen in or near the water. Snorkelling in 'Turtle Town' south of Wailea offers the chance to see tropical fish, coral reefs, and of course sea turtles; other great dive spots include Ulua Beach, and the cove south of Black Rock.
Canoeing and kayaking are also fun ways to pass the time in Maui, or visitors can take a sunset cruise to look for whales and dolphins. Whatever the preference, there is always something to do in Maui.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination