Out of Office: Jenna’s Family Trip to Maui

February 25, 2015 by

Beach & Water Adventures, North America

Viator’s team of travel insiders is obsessed with finding the best things to do everywhere we travel. From traditional tours to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, everywhere from Australia to Zimbabwe, we spend our time scouring the globe for the best tours and activities around the world.

Whether traveling for work or pleasure (or both!) our staff members are always on the go and we want to share their experiences with you! In this new series, Out of Office, we’ll bring you their stories, highlighting the best things to do and see in destinations around the world, as experienced by a real Viator Insider.

Jenna, enjoying Hawaii's tranquil waters

Jenna, enjoying Hawaii’s tranquil waters

The Traveler: Jenna Valdespino, Destination Content Coordinator

What’s your role at Viator? I manage content that goes along with our tours to fill customers in on destinations around the world — from recommendations on the very best things to do in the Dominican Republic to details on the top attractions in Finland.

The trip: Maui for 8 days in January, 2015.

Why did you choose this destination? What appealed to you about the place?

I’m always on the lookout for a great airfare deal, and this was one of them — I scored a great fare for myself and my family in the last 15 minutes of a two-hour flash sale. After her initial shock, my mom was, of course, very pleased, and her birthday even fell during the trip. We don’t get much of a winter in San Francisco, but January is as good a time as any to visit Maui, and we were especially excited to see humpback whales on their own annual winter getaway from Alaska.

What did you do on the trip?

Sunrise at Haleakala

Sunrise at Haleakala

I lazed a few days away parked in the sand reading and watching the waves, which is just the sort of thing that comes to mind when you think island vacation. I stayed in Wailea on the quieter side of the island’s west end but also spent some time in other parts of Maui with my brother David, who served as my exploration partner (while our parents hung back for true R&R at the beach).

Hidden pools on Maui

Hidden pools on Maui

We spent a full day crawling around the island’s east side on the winding Road to Hana, complete with stops along the way for a look at a black-sand beach, a dip in the Seven Sacred Pools, and even freshly baked banana bread from a small shack, open every day until the bread is gone. The Road to Hana doesn’t necessarily have a final destination — the destination is definitely in the journey. The two of us also woke up crazy early (think 2:30 a.m.) to catch the sunrise at the top of Haleakala, a 10,023-foot mountain, and got a bird’s-eye view of the island’s west side on a helicopter ride.

The Road to Hana

The Road to Hana

The whole family drove up to Lahaina one night to walk the strip and do some sunset whale-watching before dinner. Maui’s relatively small size makes it easy to fit a lot of adventure into even just a week, from beaches and waterfalls and resorts to volcanic craters and bamboo forests. My brother took adventuring to the next level — he learned to surf and got a tattoo! I stuck with wading and henna.

What was the best experience?

Hawaii from above

Hawaii from above

My absolute favorite experience was our West Maui and Molokai Exclusive 45-Minute Helicopter Tour. The best way to take in Maui’s stellar landscape is undoubtedly from above, and helicopters provide such a personal, one-of-a-kind point of view. We saw the craggy hills of Maui’s surrounding islands, got up close to super tall waterfalls and even saw whales down below in the ocean. Forty-five minute was the perfect amount of time to be in the air, and I was surprised at how much we were able to take in. Insider Tip: Avoid wearing light colors on your helicopter ride. They reflect back into the photos you’ll take through the windows!

What sight, activity, or experience would you tell people they should not skip?

Bundling up for sunrise

Bundling up for sunrise

Haleakala National Park is a can’t-miss. It feels worlds away from the resorts strips and just otherworldly in general. Despite the large crowds, seeing sunset from the top was truly magical, and it’s easy to see why Haleakala was deemed sacred by the ancient Hawaiians. I wish I had had more time to see everything the area has to offer, but we did stop at many scenic outlooks on the way down and saw some Haleakala silverswords, a plant found nowhere else in the world — not even anywhere else in Hawaii. Waiting for sunrise at 5am also allowed us to take in a different type of scenery, as the pitch-black night made for incredible stargazing. Our guide even pointed out the Hubble! Next time, I’ll make sure I have time to spend a night camping in the national park.

What was the best thing you ate or drank?

Local cuisine

Local cuisine

We ate a few swanky resort dinners, but I found and ate my absolute favorite meal in a side-street Kihei parking lot. The South Maui Fish Company food truck just opened in December, and the guys behind it head out to fish each morning in order to serve the freshest ceviche poke bowls, poke nachos, and fish like mani mani, ono, and ahi, each available for purchase by the pound. After a surf lesson at Kalama Beach Park, follow the signs (and the surfers) to the red food truck for the day’s fresh catch and some pineapple and coconut coleslaw.

Read more about where to eat on Maui

What are your top three recommendations to any visitor?

  • It can be easy (and enjoyable) to spend a whole trip to Maui at the beach, but don’t miss out on the island’s adventurous side. There’s a happy medium between never leaving your resort and having a jam-packed full schedule.
  • Get in the water. There is so much to do on the surface and so much to see below it!
  • Consider renting a car. Maui has a pretty diverse line-up of things to see and do, and having your own car takes the hassle out of getting where you want to go.
Relaxing Maui

Relaxing Maui

What’s the best Insider Tip you can offer future visitors to this destination?

Many parts of Maui get very quiet come nightfall. The locals filled us in on what is known as “Maui midnight:” 9 p.m. Many people turn in early, and with that, a lot of restaurants and bars do the same. The bar at my hotel pool closed every day at 5 p.m., and everyone disappears once the sun sets. This is perfect for early risers and those wanting true serenity on their vacation, but anyone looking for nightlife might want to hop over to the Big Island for a night.

Where are you off to next?

I’ll be heading to Ireland in April with an old college roommate to see this country in all its green glory for the first time! I also can’t wait to visit the Trinity College Library and the Cliffs of Moher.

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