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Part 2: Maui’s Do’s and Dont’s

January 31, 2013

coastline in maui - kyle ellison

6. Don’t: Drive to Hana without stopping along the way

As we mentioned in our article “Ten Tips for Driving the Road to Hana”, there is a decidedly “right” way and a decidedly “wrong” way to drive the famous Road to Hana. A 52-mile stomach churner which has no shortage of one-lane bridges and dramatic vistas, the best way to experience the road is to remember that it’s the journey—and not the destination—that makes this one of the most famous drives in America. The town of Hana itself is just a small, single stop-sign community with some nice beaches and a few stores. To break up the drive and get the most out of the excursion be sure to stop at fruit stands, hike to waterfalls, let others pass you, and take time to drink in the tropical beauty that oozes around every hairpin turn. As an added bonus, consider driving the “back road” to get back to your hotel, although do understand that it’s a one-lane road which is unpaved and bumpy, although the scenery afforded is on par with the ends of the Earth.

7. Do: Tip your activity staff

Tourism is Hawaii’s number one economy, yet despite the millions of tourism dollars which pass through the islands annually most activity staff are still dependent upon tip-income as a means of paying their bills. Sure, working outside in paradise is an enviable way to make a living, but remember that these “dream jobs” often come with little to no benefits (no 401k, no paid vacation, no sick leave, etc.), and oftentimes only pay just barely above minimum wage. In the same way that you would tip a waiter in a restaurant it’s standard to tip activity staff, particularly if you feel they’ve made an effort to show you an enjoyable outing.


8. Don’t: Schedule sunrise at Haleakala before a luau or after a scuba dive

Watching the sunrise from the top of Haleakala is something every Maui visitor should experience at least once, but the sleep-deprived reality is that you need to wake up at about 2:30am in order to see it. If you’ve traveled from the East Coast and are still jet-lagged there’s a chance you’re going to be waking up that early anyway, but most-likely by the time evening rolls around you’re going to be completely spent. Do yourself a favor and don’t stack up too many activities on top of each other, because it’s a shame to yawn your way through a luau performance simply because you’ve been up for so long. From a safety perspective, if you plan on doing any scuba diving during your stay in Maui you won’t be able to visit Haleakala for at least 24 hours. Due to the nature of breathing compressed air it isn’t safe to fly for a full day after diving, and seeing as Haleakala tops out at over 10,000 ft. in elevation this constitutes the same altitude as a low-flying airplane. Even seasoned divers who are aware of the flying restriction forget that—even though they aren’t stepping on an airplane—it’s still possible to ascend to potentially dangerous heights.

9. Do: Take a moment to learn about Hawaii’s cultural history

Much more than just a tropical vacation destination, Hawaii is unique in that it’s the only U.S. state which was once its own independent country. It’s important to remember that although Hawaii has only been a part of the United States for 114 years (it was annexed in 1898), historians date the arrival of the earliest Polynesians at somewhere between 400-600 AD. For nearly 1,300 years the Hawaiian people lived a culturally rich and sustainable lifestyle which is still very much alive for those who take the time to seek it out. Many museums around Maui such as Lahaina’s Hale Pa’i Musuem recount Hawaii’s fascinating history and detail the way in which the Hawaiian culture is making an encouraging resurgence.

10. Don’t: Leave without trying some of the local food

It’s often been said that the food of Hawaii is the perfect metaphor for the state’s “mixed-plate” of cultural diversity. Due to the arrival of sugar and pineapple plantation workers from Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Portugal, and Puerto Rico, Hawaii is one of the only state’s where there is no ethnic majority. Upon arriving in the islands many of these laborers brought their customs and their cuisine, and by piecing together a few items from each culture the Hawaiian islands have developed an array of famous foods which are rooted in cultures from across the globe. While foods such as ahi poke, haupia, and poi are of Polynesian origin, other dishes such as kalbi short ribs, banana lumpia, or sugary malasadas owe their existence to those who originally immigrated here. The fish in Hawaii is also some of the freshest on the planet, and between the copious amount of mahimahi and mixed plate lunches the food of Hawaii is a reason in itself for visiting time and again.


Kyle Ellison is a freelance writer based in Maui, Hawaii who frequently finds himself in obscure international destinations. Over the course of traveling through 60 different countries, he has taken part in everything from climbing mountains in Borneo to eating clams while scuba diving in an underwater Vietnamese cave. Despite his penchant for novelty and adventure, the beautiful island of Maui will always be the corner of the world where he calls home. All of Kyle’s writing and adventures can be found by visiting his website,  Kyle is also an ambassador and contributor to VacationRoost.

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