Maui – The Adventure Island, at the Banana Bungalow offering free tours galore!
After the quickest flight ever, it pretty much goes up and then down, we landed on Maui. We arrived at the hostel which is in Wailuku, it has a pretty local vibe with nothing more than a few pawn shops and a taco bar, not forgetting the standard golden arches. We were shown around the place and on first impressions, it was really welcoming, homely, yet pretty cool. Everyone is ever so friendly, whether they are here for a holiday, travelling through or living/working here. It only got better once we saw the full itinerary of free tours.
After dumping our bags in our not too shabby room, we signed up for the tour the next day – Snorkelling. Everything in Wailuku shuts by 6pm, but we were in search of dinner, so the guy on front desk told us to try the pizza place just a short walk away. It was run by a guy from New York and it was seriously immense homemade pizza. On our way out of the pizza place, the New Yorker waved us over and introduced us to couple of fellow English girls trying to order pizza. Coincidentally, they were from Tom’s neck of the woods, Southampton – small world! We headed back and sorted our things for the tour the next day.
Snorkelling and Kihei town
Our first tour took us snorkelling in the hope of seeing some turtles. Henry, our tour guide who lives at the hostel puts the tunes on and we race off in the mini van full of fellow backpackers. We arrived in a pretty lush, grand area of the island where this beach was, however, there were no tourists, so the ocean was effectively our own. Having never snorkelled before, I expected tons of people in shallow water abstracting your view. This wasn’t the case. we were part of just a handful of people in the ocean going out extremely deeper than I had imagined to find the reefs to see the fish and turtles. We swam out for a practise run. I saw lots of sand, then started to see some reef, when I popped my head up, we were already quite far out and deep. I headed back.
Tom came back and said we just needed to go out more, so we went back in and just stormed past the bits that had amazed me already to something even better – a little under water city. Here we saw puffer fish, Dory’s (from Finding Nemo) and tons of the other species of fish/eels that we need to look up. We didn’t see any turtles which sucked, as most other people did. Had we gone just that little further and closer to the waves crashing on the rocks, we might have seen some turtles. This was pretty intimidating for my first time.
After the snorkelling, we headed to Big Beach in Wailea for some volleyball which unfortunately was called off by the strong wind. Instead, we played some beach soccer (Tom shouts football). It was great going with a big group and even some random beach dwellers joined in the games. We headed to the supermarket and bought our food for the week – bread, cereal, fruit, yoghurts, rice and honey. It was still expensive to eat in the supermarkets as Hawaii imports nearly all of it’s produce. Surprisingly it’s not very self sufficient, growing mainly sugar cane and pineapples. After food shopping, we wondered around the small town stumbling on a tattoo shop. Tom wanted new tunnels and then he decided to get his ears stretched up as it was free! He got some pretty cool ones! We headed back to meet the group and watched some locals perform the Hula and blow their horn as the sunset in the background.
Haleakala Volcano Hike
Every saturday is the most popular tour, a 12 mile hike through the worlds largest dormant volcano! We set off super early and bounced to Henry’s tunes whilst ascending on a windy drive to the 10,000 ft summit of Haleakala. We started off in desert terrain common to Maui, this soon turned to farmland then weirdly into forest as we got higher. It started to get really cold! They did say bring lots of layers, but when you’re in the heat of Hawaii, your brain finds it hard to compute that it will be actually cold. We started the hike near the summit. It would take us down into the crater across some pretty crazy terrain. This crater has over 35 miles of trails, its huge! There is desert, red mars sand, mini volcanoes within it, solidified lava, green pastures and steep jungle mountain cliffs with weird space like plants called Silverswords. It’s literally like being on another planet, the air is crisp and thin. As you head down into the crater, it gets sweaty and hot again. You are above the clouds, so the sun beams down!
On our eighth mile break, after trekking over one of the red hills and down into the lava field, we had the opportunity to go into a lava tube! To be able to climb through this, was a pretty rare opportunity and as we got there, the sign said closed. The national park had removed the ladder so we had to climb down into it. Once about 20 metres in, it’s pitch black and wet. The lava solidifies into sharp points and you can see how it has dried, it literally looks likes it’s been stopped in its tracks. Our poor friend Kathrin from Germany bumped her head on this sharp lava rock and was forced to go back! Using all our iPhones as torches together, we made it to the end, after some 15 minutes – pretty sketchy but the best experience. Then came the real part of the hike…
We had only seen a group of people riding their horses through the crater, their job is to clean the rocks from the paths, one lady was 80 years and had been doing it for 50 years! it was a pretty long job! It’s a pretty extreme climb with 3 miles of solid twist backs, making your mind go crazy, as its never ending whilst you just get higher. It was relentless in the sun, but when looking across the valley, shadows the shape of mountains formed and you could tell the sun was soon going to set, so we had to be quick as the plan was to watch the sunset.
It was one of the hardest hikes I have ever done, at the top, everyone high five’d each other and we were all ecstatic with our achievement – 9 hours hiking! We then drove up to where we started to watch the sunset, all swigging tequila in celebration on the way. We were so lucky that there was a full moon and it was supposed to be one of the largest for a long time. As the sun went down, it was freezing and the pro star gazers arrived with sleeping bags to capture the moon and stars. The clouds turn an awesome colour and as soon as the sun was down, the moon was up. We sprinted back down the hills as it was so cold for a crazy, fast drive back down the hill.
Knackered after the hike and in need food, but too tired to cook, we just bought a cooked roast chicken. Tom was pleased with the high protein fix – caveman.
Little Beach, Sunday Beach Party
Hearing all the weirdness that goes on at this beach from Claudes, who did this day trip, I was expecting nakedness, hippies and strong waves, but it really is a case of seeing is believing! We had to cross over a Lava wall from Big Beach, Wailea to get to Little Beach.
At first sight was a ton of willies, seriously a lot! Followed by the sound of drums and the smell of happy drug times. Basically, this beach welcomes anyone, clothes or no clothes, no one cares what people think of them. Anyone with a drum can join in the main music circle, including little toddlers who are given mini drums. Even Henry, our cool tour guide brought his trombone along and had a jam with a trumpet player and several other drummers. People dance in the middle of the music circle, some off their faces, some just happy! There is the infamous ‘helicopter man’ who literally spent the whole time dancing with his willie, make constant rotations, whilst his extremely hippy girlfriend watched on not even batting an eye lid. We were entertained by chubby a guy, who had maybe had one too many hash cakes and was completely out of it, falling over in the water. Then had to crawl like a baby. Everyone cheered once he found his towel to pass out on.
Spot the boobs and willies! Its a bit like Where’s Wally.
The waves are also fun to play in and surprisingly powerful. People body surf them….again, naked! needless to say, there wasn’t much nakedness from the hostel lot, but people danced to the drums and got pretty involved with it all. You feel like you belong for a few hours. Its not like at home, where you sunbathe naked to not get tan lines, this is so you dance, fall asleep star fished, play music, surf and do crazy dance yoga naked – to feel liberated. Once it starts to get dark the fire poi starts, we had to leave and try to get back over the Lava rock.
What’s quite awesome, is that the government know of this spot and if they wanted to raid it, they could, but they don’t. Everyone is harmless and happy. It’s also so nice to be able to have beers on a beach, everywhere else in the US is so strict with it. It made it feel a bit more like home.
IAO National Valley Park
This trek is only a 10 minute drive from the Hostel and wasn’t an early start, which was nice. We stopped off at cultural centre where there were beautiful Korean gardens and then parked up at the National Park.
Everyone comes here to see the needle (big mountain) called Kuka‘emoku from the viewing area. Our tour guide, Nadine, hopped the fence and we are on a jungle trail, it wasn’t very public. We were basically walking a 2 mile ridge to get awesome views of the valley and see some of the sites where Jurassic park was filmed. It was a path only wide enough to go in single file and very muddy and slippery. On the way up, Nadine pointed out things we could eat. We had a strawberry guava, a coffee bean (eat the fruit then suck the bean) and a jungle raspberry. You don’t see much other than your feet the whole way up, as you’re pretty scared of falling, but there are lots of trees to hold on to so everyone resembles monkeys as they climb.
We finally made it to the top of the ridge, it was big enough for about 10 people and it looked like some locals had been married at the top as flowers were everywhere. The views were pretty epic, and so different from the volcano of Haleakala. Apparently this is a snip it of what Kauai looks like, which is our next destination. You could see many ‘water walls’ which are even prettier than waterfalls and you can hear the water running all the way down into the towns below. It’s a pretty sacred place with offerings made to the gods. After taking in the view for ten minutes or so, we then started the even bigger hike down, this was even crazier as it was so steep, you pretty much had to slide down in the mud clinging onto the trees wherever you could. We arrived back to the hostel pretty early, so we had some downtime to sort some washing and try and work out our plans for New Zealand – camper van time!
The road to Hana
This is called ‘one of the best drives in the world’ and it’s all about the journey there! Hana doesn’t have much in it, it’s the way you get to it that counts.
We started off on the bus and stopped off in Paia, a small little local town, to grab some snacks for the day, apparently this is Woody Harrison and Steve Tylers favourite hang out, at the hemp shop! We then hit the road to the first stop, which was an awesome beach and a local hut selling fresh baked banana bread. It was immense, just out of the oven! Tom was super happy with this pudding delight! We also saw a monk seal chilling in the sun which are endangered, so that was pretty special. You can see all the cooled lava in the sea and a cute church made from Lava.
Then the bends continued, the road to Hana has 600 bends and 50 one lane bridges all over streams and waterfalls! It’s amazing, but it was hard not to get car sick, which a lot of people felt. It really is the most beautiful road I have been on, ocean, rainforest, waterfalls (Tom swam in one), rapids, amazing plants and trees. We then stopped off at an awesome, little local beach for an hour in the sun and then headed to go and get lunch. This was from a van in someones front yard! They were the best BBQ ribs ever with rice and macaroni pasta. Wild chickens roam, kind of weird when devouring our second meal, which was chicken! There are little to no restaurants on the way to Hana, so street food is the way.
After lunch it was time to go swimming / potholing in a cave and see black sand beach. The cave water was freezing and it was an old lava tube, so super sharp with rocks everywhere. If you like the cold, pitch black, small spaces filled with water, then this is for you. I have never been a fan after watching all those pot holing horror movies. As the group disappeared into the cave I lost them in the darkness, we only had one tiny torch. They came back out and all said you have to do it, so feeling big FOMO (fear of missing out), I went in with Henry and Tom came in for a second go. We had to swim into the main cave which led to a smaller cave, at this point it’s pitch black. The water level was low, which meant you could see the very small hole you put your feet into and slide your body down. This leads into another cave, I stupidly thought this would be like a slide but it was jagged and sharp, so letting go was not a good idea, I scratched up my back but I made it into the third cave. This was a 12ft pool, so it was pretty deep. You then look for the light and climb! With the little torch, we made it up and back out of the caves. A scary experience, but I’m so glad i did it.
After this it was time for the hike, to a 400ft waterfall through the rainforest and bamboo forest. This was amazing, only in Hawaii would a hike turn from a tropical rain forest into a bamboo forest. The hike only took us about an hour and a half, Tom did it with the flu which had been progressing over the last few days leaving him with a tissue glued to his left hand. We missioned the hike, crossing small rivers and finally reaching the 400ft waterfall. This was an epic sight and makes the hike totally worth it, to be rewarded with a waterfall at the end. We headed back down to the mini van for the long journey back from Hana via the winding roads.
Banana Bunglow pass on secrets and take you to the places that even The Lonely Planet guide wouldn’t suggest for travellers. Our stay in Maui was fun packed! We hiked, body surfed, snorkelled, climbed, caved, potholed, swam in waterfalls, tramped, explored, ate off the land, lava tubed, foosballed, volleyballed, saw a ton of naked crazy people! All in all, we had an amazing exhausting week, the good tired feeling.
We met so many lovely people. There were groups of mates, couples, solo travellers but everyone mixed together. The staff are also awesome, they are up for a laugh, yet also professional and run a really good setup. It was the best hostel we have stayed in yet, by a mile!
If you are coming to the islands of Hawaii, Maui is a must do and so is Banana Bungalow, even if you are just coming for a holiday and not backpacking. My favourite memory was being with a van full of people from all over the world singing “we are the champions” after climbing the Haleakala volcano whilst drinking tequila at the end to celebrate!
Love to all and missing you lots! xxx
We tried to do one of those cheesy jump in the air traveller pictures…as you can see it didn’t quite work – Sorry Tom!
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