We took a real vacation for the first time in 5 years and spent a week in Maui, Hawaii! Yes, even full-time RVers need a vacation from their travel life every now and again. 🙂
Why Maui? Our good friends of many years decided to get married on Maui, and invited us. I suggested to Kathy that we turn it into a week-long vacation, especially as we were flying to Hawaii from Atlanta, Georgia. If I’m going to fly for 10+ hours, then I’m going to stay at the destination at least a week.
While we were in Maui we saw and did a lot. I’ll share where we stayed, what we did while there, and a brief description + photos of the places that really stood out. I’ll also share how we deal with flying and how we store the RV for travel – plus I got a new lens for our Sony A6000 Camera just for this trip. Here’s the whys, wheres and whats in no particular order:
Our Flights and Accommodations
We flew out of Atlanta and we were able to get round trip tickets for only $600/each.
To get such reasonable prices we started shopping for flights 4 months before our travel date. Flight prices initially were $800+, so we set alerts and checked back regularly. When prices dropped to $600, we jumped.
We stayed in an AirBNB Condo across the street from the beach in Kihei – on the central west coast of Maui. Kihei area has lots of good beaches and isn’t as crowded and as expensive as Lahaina and Kaanapali areas.
Our AirBNB Condo was spacious and opened onto a large tropical garden with a pool and hot tub. It was a great deal at less than $1000 for the entire week, and that included the cleaning fee.
The other advantage of renting a condo is that we had a full refrigerator and an included parking space for our rental vehicle. We kept costs down by eating breakfast and some other meals in the condo. Dishes, pans, coffee filters, etc. were included – and the owner even provided a gift basket of goodies from Maui.
A good nights sleep is super important to us, and it can be difficult to sleep away from home. While we can’t bring our bed, we can – and do – bring our Marpac travel sound machine so we get a good nights sleep wherever we travel.
A sound machine is extra helpful if you’re in a noisy area or if the upstairs neighbors are loud. Fortunately for us our condo was super quiet and we had quiet and respectful neighbors on all sides. We were still really glad to have our sound machine, and both slept great the entire time.
As mentioned we had a rental car and that was our last expense. We splurged a bit and got a Jeep. We were given a good rate – $350 for 8 days. The only ‘snag’ we ran into with our rental is that we showed up about 2 hours early to get it as that’s the time the flight arrived. The rental car industry is sneaky, and they dinged us $22/hour for the extra 2 hours – almost the cost of an entire day! It was better than sitting at the airport for 2 hours, but felt very opportunistic. Just another reason we usually travel by RV. 🙂
Tip – When renting a car use a Visa card. All Visa cards include excellent rental car insurance, so you can turn down the expensive insurance at the rental counter.
If you do the math, not including food, drinks, and events we spent about $2600 on our vacation. Not bad for a Hawaii trip for a week, especially considering we had a condo to ourselves across the street from the beach! We didn’t spent much more on food than normal as we cooked a lot of our own meals in the condo. That said, food and gas on Hawaii tend to be more expensive than on the mainland, so be prepared.
How we deal with long flights
Even though we love to travel I (Rich) hate to fly! I’m a big guy at 6’4″, and airline seats are very uncomfortable and tight – and they keep getting tighter! I’m not scared of the flying itself, I just find the entire experience uncomfortable and unpleasant.
To keep my sanity I bring two things when I fly:
#1 – My Amazon Kindle. Both Kathy and I have 6″ Paperwhite Kindles, and I’d recommend a Kindle to anyone. They’re especially excellent for full-time RVers, as books & magazines are heavy and bulky and a Kindle is light. The e-ink screen is great for reading outside – unlike tablets with glossy screens – and the battery lasts nearly forever.
I also have a subscription to Kindle Unlimited that we both use. It gives us access to hundreds of thousands of books and lots of magazines for only $9.99/month. It’s worth it to us and a great value if you read a lot.
#2 – Noise Cancelling Headphones. Earbuds don’t do much to cover up jet engine noise, so it’s over-ear headphones for me. I have an older pair of wired Sony’s (vs bluetooth) that work great and that I can plug into the airplane’s headphone jack for watching movies during the flight.
I often wear headphones without listening to anything, just to block outside noise as I have sensitive hearing. This is extra helpful if you sit next to someone chatty and just want to read!
What we did on Maui
We had a great time on the island – and Maui turned out to be a lot different than I thought it would be. I’ve always had an impression of the Hawaiian islands as being very commercial with expensive hotels dominating most of the beaches, but this really isn’t the case.
In reality Hawaii is full of beautiful, natural places with lots of hiking, paddling, and snorkeling – all with free parking and minimal crowds.
We had a great time, and really enjoyed these highlights:
Maui Public Beaches
The reality is that while there are some hotels in touristy areas, most of the island is covered with stunning public beaches and lots of free parking (one of my favorite things).
The beach parks are nearly continuous on the west side of Maui, and the beaches are pretty awesome all the way along. There’s outstanding snorkeling as there are coral reefs just off shore with lots of tropical fish and sea turtles. Most beaches have restrooms in the parking area, and as I mentioned, parking is free. What’s not to love?
Big Beach and Little Beach
Big beach is one of the largest and best beaches on the island. It’s just south of Kihei, so it was a pretty easy drive from our condo.
Big beach and little beach are divided by a lava wall of sorts, and you need to climb the wall and descend the other side to get to little beach. I stood on the wall to take the above picture of big beach, so as you can see it’s quite tall.
Other than the view, the only reason to climb the wall is to get to the little beach. Little beach is a nude beach – just an FYI. There were quite a few people on Little Beach when we were there, and about 80% were naked. If that makes you uncomfortable, then it’s easy enough to head right back to Big Beach. 🙂
The Lava Fields and Hoapili Trail
A little ways past big Beach and Makena State Park the road dead ends at the Lava Fields. This is the site of the most recent eruption from the Haleakala volcano, and the lava goes way out into the ocean. That makes it not such a great place to go swimming, but the views and hiking are outstanding.
Also, the road to get to the lava fields gets very narrow. In some areas you need to yield to oncoming traffic, which is a common theme on some of the more remote roads on Maui.
Haleakalā National Park, Puu Ulaula Summit, and the Haleakalā Crater
Our drive up the dormant Haleakalā Volcano was a highlight of our trip. If you do only one thing – other than sit on the beach – during your Maui trip, a drive up Haleakalā should be it!
Haleakalā (House of the Sun) is a massive shield volcano that dominates the eastern side of the island. The volcano tops out at over 10,000 feet at the highest point – Red Hill. The road to the summit is steep with lots of sharp switchbacks and hairpin turns.
On the day we visited it was raining across the entire island. By the time we reached the National Park entrance we were already above some of the clouds. Further up the mountain at Red Hill peak and the surrounding area, we were well above the clouds and the rain.
The Haleakalā Crater is one of the most impressive things we’ve ever seen. It’s massive at 7 miles deep by a couple miles wide and full of multi-colored cinder cones and volcanic rock formations. The crater is not a caldera (formed by volcanic eruption and collapse) but rather it was formed by erosion over time. It’s thought that Haleakalā was at one point even taller than Mauna Kea on the Big Island at 13,796 feet.
You can view the Haleakalā crater from a few stops along the drive up. Some require hikes, but the best viewing point in my opinion is located at the top of the path that runs up the hill next to the Summit Visitor Center parking.
We stayed on Red Hill until late and watched the Sun set into the clouds. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the sun set into the clouds before from 10,000 feet, and certainly not in the dramatic way it unfolded on Haleakala.
You can also go up Haleakalā for sunrise, but it requires reservations that sell out well ahead. There’s only so much parking available at the peak, and that’s all the visitors they allow. If you’re visiting last minute and want to see a sunrise, check tour services for best results. Keep in mind that it’s cold at sunrise at 10,000 feet – and pretty cold at that elevation most of the time. Bring a jacket!
We Drove the Road to Hana
The Road to Hana is one of those things you’re told you should do at least once. The road runs on the north side of the island – the wettest, most tropical side. That means a rainforest-like setting, complete with lots of waterfalls and wild flowers — and we saw tons of both. (In retrospect, the prettiest part of the drive is the first 45 minutes of it, where the road winds deeply through the rainforest.)
The waterfalls were beautiful, although many of them are in difficult-to-photograph locations – like right along the road or a bridge where you can’t stop, because there’s nowhere to stop. Several are located in parks and you can hike to the falls and even swim in the pools underneath.
The Pools of ‘Ohe’o – the 7 Sacred pools – are some of the most famous pools and waterfalls on the road, but they are a ways past Hana itself. If you drive to Hana definitely go to the 7 Sacred Pools and take a hike. I’m not sure if the pools and waterfalls or the ocean just below them were more impressive. Watch your step on the bluffs!
We probably wouldn’t chose to drive the Road to Hana again. The road is very tight and switchbacks constantly. There are many sections that are one way and require yielding to oncoming traffic. That makes it a very tiring drive as you have to be hyperaware at all times.
Due to the number of stops, it takes hours to get to Hana itself, and the town of Hana doesn’t have much going on – contrary to what you hear. From what we could see it’s a sleepy town on a remote shore of the island.
Even scarier than the road to Hana was continuing on the road to finish the loop. Beyond the 7 Sacred Pools, the road breaks down to dirt and gravel with very scary cliff exposures.
In the end it was mostly worth doing – at least once. It’s a lot of beautiful scenery at the very least. It did take most of a day to do the entire drive and sightsee along the way. Last thing – make sure to bring cash as they don’t take cards at most stops on the Road to Hana.
Maui Brewing Company
After driving the road to Hana all day there’s nowhere better to go than Maui Brewing Company. Maui Brewing makes a very famous toasted coconut porter that’s delicious – desert in a glass. At the brewery they have an imperial version of their toasted coconut porter that’s absolutely unbelievable. It’s one of the most delicious beers we’ve ever had. Highly recommended!
Other than that, Maui Brewing’s location in Kihei has at least one – sometimes two food trucks parked right outside and you can order food and enjoy it right on the patio. If you don’t like beer – or are underage, Maui Brewing also brews soda plus they have a large selection of guest beverages.
Most nights they also have live music, and the musicians we saw the nights we were there were outstanding. It really is a perfect place to hang out after driving to and from Hana all day – we both recommend it!
Oh Yeah – We Went to a Wedding!
Our good friends from California planned an awesome wedding at the King Kamehameha Golf Course Clubhouse. It was a great time and I think it worked out really well. Our Condo was less than 30 minutes from the club, so it was easy for us to attend both the wedding and a couple other events. I (Rich) don’t golf, so I skipped out on that part.
The King Kamehameha grounds really are beautiful, and the golf course is pretty high up, so provides stunning views of the surrounding countryside and ocean. Our friends got married right on one of the greens near the clubhouse, and then we moved into the clubhouse for the reception.
We also visited the couple and their families at their rental house up in the Lahaina/Kaanapali side of Maui. It’s the most popular part of the island for rentals and hotels and for good reason. There are more beautiful beaches plus lots of shops and the famous Banyan Tree Courtyard. Fun if you’re into touristy stuff. 🙂
Overall the wedding was a lot of fun. I felt like we did it right – we were there for our friends for their special day! We also took a real vacation and spent most of our time out sightseeing, exploring the island, and – most importantly – sitting on the beach! 🙂
Wrapping up Maui
As mentioned at the top, Maui was a lot different than I expected. While it had the hotels and golf courses that you see on TV, it also is covered with Free Beach Parks, stunning public beaches, volcanoes, waterfalls, national parks, and lots more. It was a fantastic trip – and a great vacation, and I’d recommend Maui as a destination to anyone.
That said I’d recommend it more for people on the West Coast. The flight from the East Coast is FAR! It took us 11+ hours with layovers, and the 6 hour time change really messed us up (jetlag).
On the east coast there are other fantastic tropical options such as Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, or the Mayan Riviera in Mexico that are all closer to your time zone and come with much shorter flights.
So yeah – Hawaii is definitely worth a visit, but I still hate to fly. 🙂
New 35MM F1.8 lens for Our Sony A6000
Before flying to Maui I got a new lens for my Sony A6000 Camera. One of the first lenses recommended for general shooting and clear, excellent photographs is a 50mm prime lens. 50MM is roughly equivalent to what you see with your eyes, so it’s a great walking around lens.
As the Sony A6000 is a 2/3 cropped sensor that means that the Sony 35mm f/1.8 lens is effectively a ~52.5mm focal length on the A6000 so just about perfect.
The other lens often recommended for the A6000 camera is the Sigma 30mm F1.4. I strongly considered the Sigma, as it costs less than the Sony, has slightly better low-light performance at F1.4, and has a slightly wider field of view.
I went with the Sony 35mm f/1.8 lens because it has built-in image stabilization which results in clearer and better hand held photographs (vs a tripod). I also like that the Sony lens is notably smaller and easier to carry than the Sigma. Finally, the image stabilized lens is better for video filming – the Sony A6000 can film in 4K, and image stabilization is a must for video.
Almost every picture in this post was taken with the Sony 35mm f/1.8. I think it did an amazing job and takes incredible pictures. If you have a Sony A6000 or similar camera, I recommend picking up the 35mm f/1.8 lens. I use it more than any of my other lenses by far.
What we do with our RV when we fly
We don’t fly often, but when we do we have to do something with our RV. Much like in a stick and brick home, there are a few things you need to do before you lock the doors and take off.
First – where do we put our RV while on Vacation?
If you have local friends or family that will let you park in their driveway or on their property, that’s generally the best and cheapest option. Unfortunately we usually don’t, so we put our RV into storage.
In our experience the best place to store an RV is at an RV park. Many (Most?) RV parks have an RV storage lot, and they tend to be less expensive and more accommodating than traditional storage lots. We stored our RV for only $30 for a month in an RV park storage lot in south Georgia.
You can also store your RV right in a campsite, but unless you’re paying the monthly rate and using the RV during the remaining weeks (3 weeks in the RV, 1 on vacation), this option usually doesn’t make financial sense.
RV Storage Checklist:
- You’ll need to empty your fridge! This is challenging with condiments, but with good planning you can eat everything leading up to vacation and have minimal waste.
- If you’re storing somewhere cold, you’ll need to winterize your RV.
- Turn off the propane at the tank.
- Also make sure to turn off your house batteries (usually a switch by the door).
- I prefer to leave the holding tanks about 1/2 full of water, then drain them upon return.
- Close all windows, vents, and pull all the shades/blinds – especially over the windshield.
- Make sure all doors and storage bins are locked!
As an added bonus of storing at an RV park, when you get back to pick up your RV you can usually set it up right at the campground where you stored it. This is especially helpful as a full-time RVer, as you want to get the fridge cold, buy groceries, and ‘move back in’ to your RV as quickly as possible.
I hope you enjoyed our photos of Hawaii! If you get a chance to visit Hawaii, we both definitely recommend it. Actually we both already have plans to go back and maybe check out Kauai or one of the lesser-visited islands. Of course next time we go back we’ll get ourselves to the West Coast first to cut the flight time in half. 🙂
Until next time, happy trekking!