Today we got up and headed to the highest point on Maui, the Haleakala Crater. At 10,000 feet above sea level, it would be the highest place in many states, but not in Hawaii. The big island boasts two 13,000 foot volcanoes.
The traditional way to “enjoy” this outing is to rise at 3:00 am and take a van up to the summit in the dark. The temperature at that hour is around 50°. I can “enjoy” this sort of dark cold weather almost 5 months out of the year back home!
The point is to watch the sunrise. Then you ride bikes down the crazy scary road. I say “crazy scary road” from the perspective of having driven it in the daytime in a car. These people ride it at dawn on a bike! This experience had no attraction for me, but I did want to do more than just ride up in a car.
It was high enough that the temperature dropped almost 20 degrees! We went from sunny weather to cloudy, to in the clouds, to above the clouds! We also saw the landscape change from lush tropical to more grassy farmland, to a total lunar moonscape!
The road up is a series of switchbacks and at many points it looks like you’ll drive off the edge of the earth. At the summit, however, you can see the big island of Hawaii 100 miles away!
We decided we would do some hiking at the summit. The crater is a national park and there are numerous hiking trails of all lengths and abilities. The problem is, they are all at 10,000 feet! There is precious little oxygen up there! We did a brief hike up and around a cinder-cone. We were huffing and puffing and wishing we had an oxygen tank with us!
It was, however, strikingly beautiful! The interior of the crater is a patchwork of different colors from centuries of lava flows. Unlike an explosive volcano, this one oozes every few hundred years and the lava flows to the sea, essentially enlarging the island. The last time it happened on Maui was the end of the 18th century; but the big island continues to grow.
There is a government weather station at the summit with several observatory-style telescopes. They track things like all the satellites in orbit, climate changes, and geographical shifts. One telescope we were told, could see something the size of a basketball 20,000 miles away!
We also saw rare flora and fauna. There is a rare goose unique to this summit which does not migrate and can only be found up here.
There is also a plant called the Silversword which looks like a cross between a palm and a cactus but is a ground shrub. It too can only be found up here.
The entire time at the summit we were above the clouds. In fact, the cloud layer looked like snow below us.
On our descent we drove through fog so thick we had to simply focus on the car in front of us.
At the bottom we stopped in the town of Paia. This is a really laid back surfer town. In the morning the surfers dominate the beach and in the afternoon when the winds pick up the wind-surfers take over. Kite-boarding, as it’s called is really exciting to see. The surfboard is very small and they go incredibly fast as they sail out to sea. On the way in they ride along the crest of a wave the way a surfer would, but using the wind to stay aloft.
We stopped in Paia to get some lunch and had a couple recommendations. One was way too nice and we instead made a reservation for dinner there on Friday. Look for Mamma’s Fish House on Saturday!
The other was recommended by our hotel concierge but just did not work for us. We instead opted for a place we happened to walk by and thought, “boy, that place looks inviting!”
Cafe Mambo is a welcoming laid back beach bar. it was open to the street and had a sort of cantina look to it. We walked in and got a couple cold draft beers, Alice got the Bikini Blonde Lager and I got the Big Swell IPA. These are both local brews.
After tramping around at 10,000 feet this was just what the doctor ordered! We promptly ordered another round. The staff was warm and fun and we placed an order for their Pacific Seafood Platter. The menu is a great one, ranging from comfort food like hummus and salsa to local fish and burgers.
The seafood sampler arrived and it was mussels, shrimp, calamari, and caramelized onions in a white wine garlic broth. I mean really, what was not to love!?!?
Life continues to be good on Maui and I can’t believe I don’t live here! Alice said she wanted to visit some of the surrounding shops and the last thing I needed was the third beer for lunch, but curiosity killed the cat and they had a Coconut Porter on their menu. I had to try it.
I got talking to the manager, Maita, a pleasant, beautiful lass who told me they were in the process of opening a second location in the Hamptons in New York! Almost as far away from Maui as they can get in this country!
All I can say is if they get the formula right in the Hamptons as they have in Paia, you New Yorkers are in for a treat!
When we got back to the resort (after some alcohol-infused shopping) we changed into our suits and went straight into the ocean. The tide was at its highest and the water temperature is perfect! We bobbed in the surf and rode the waves and were acutely aware of how much we love it here.
The day had been somewhat cloudy all day so I wasn’t sure what sort of sunset we would see. A little after 7:00 however, the sun slipped below the clouds and offered the best sunset we have seen since we arrived!