Even with its reputation as an unparalleled tropical destination, Maui always finds new ways to impress. This Hawaiian island boasts an array of gorgeous beaches, hidden waterfalls, volcanic landscapes and lush greenery within its 727 square miles. Visitors spend their days snorkeling with sea turtles, hiking through rainforests and feasting at luaus.
Explore Maui: The Valley Isle.
While it’s not as large as the Big Island or as populated as O’ahu, Maui is consistently ranked as the best island for tourism in Hawaii (and sometimes the world). The Valley Isle has more than earned this reputation, and it deserves to be a bucket-list destination for every traveler.
In many ways, Maui mixes all the qualities that make Hawaii so great. It’s the second largest island in the archipelago and the third highest in population with roughly 150,000 residents. This gives the isle a perfect balance between modern development and naturalistic beauty. Even Maui’s location is about halfway between the more rural Big Island and bustling O’ahu.
Arriving in Paradise.
Whether you fly or take a boat into Maui, you’ll likely arrive in Kahului. This “dream city” was designed to be the commercial hub of the island back in the 1950s. Today, it’s home to a pair of shopping malls, the island’s largest airport and a deep-draft harbor. While not the biggest tourist locale on the island, Kahului is Maui’s largest city and a great urban starting point for visitors.
Maui can be divided into five separate regions. The most popular with tourists is South Maui, which is the sunniest and driest part of the island. West Maui also features many attractions, including luxury resorts, golf courses and zip lines. While North and East Maui are more remote, they offer beautiful scenic coastlines and protected volcanic parkland. Central Maui, which includes Kahului, is a more populated region with many art galleries and trendy bars.
No matter which ends of the island you visit (probably all five), it’s important to be prepared for the tropical yet windy climate. Grab the SWISSGEAR 6305 Zurich 28” Expandable Luggage and organize all your gear inside its ample interior. Secure light shirts, shorts, bathing suits and beach hats underneath the tie-down straps. And slip your sandals, hiking boots, and a pair of dress shoes for a romantic beachside evening inside the large zip mesh pocket. Store extra gear and must-haves inside its front pockets and keep your things readily accessible when on the move. Of course, every visitor should also be equipped with a SWISSGEAR 8756 Deluxe Framed Toiletry Kit. Separate toiletries and grooming items in a bottom compartment, and throw an extra bottle of SPF 50, lotion and hand sanitizer inside its top compartment.
Flying and Driving Through the Heavens.
For first-time visitors, a Maui helicopter tour provides a great introduction to the island. There’s something about being several hundred feet in the air that makes topographical wonders even more amazing. You’ll see everything from the Haleakala Crater to the Iao Needle as your pilot weaves through forested cliffs and valleys. Getting a bird’s eye view of Maui’s jagged mountains and coastal ledges is a perfect primer for what you’ll see up close later on your trip. Most of the best tour companies are based in Kahului.
Just east of the city marks the beginning of the Hana Highway, one of the most legendary scenic drives in the world. This 64-mile highway goes through more than 600 hairpin turns and 54 bridges to get to the coastal town of Hana. Yes, the journey does require a lot of cautious driving, but it’s worth it. You’ll see everything from cascading waterfalls and lush forests to botanical gardens and secluded beaches. It’s no wonder why they call this area a “slice of heaven.”
Be sure to plan a whole day for the drive, and pack plenty of snacks and bottled water in your SWISSGEAR 2789 Laptop Backpack. Many of the Road to Hana’s best sights, including Twin Falls and Hana Lava Tube, require a bit of hiking. If you’re in search of adventure, you’ll love working up a sweat while trekking through this coastal rainforest. At the end of the day, you can cool down by taking a dip in the Ohe’o Gulch. Don’t forget to also grab some icy treats from the Shaka Pops cart in Hana (these delicious sweets are celebrated throughout Maui).
Maui is called the Valley Isle because it’s made up of two volcanoes with an area of low land in between. The largest of the two can be found within Haleakala National Park, which takes up a good portion of East Maui. In fact, Haleakala covers 75 percent of the island and is the largest dormant volcano in the world.
This East Maui Volcano, which ascends 10,000 feet above sea level, is famous for its spectacular sunrises. If you can manage to arrive at least two hours before dawn (and make the necessary NPS reservations online), you’ll have enough time to take a walking tour to the summit of Haleakala. When the sun rises, you’ll be treated to an unforgettable light show as the fiery rays glisten through the morning clouds. It will become clear why the natives call this volcano the “house of the sun.” After the sunrise, you can hike into Haleakala’s 19-square mile crater. It may be the closest you’ll ever be to the inside of a volcano.
The West Maui Volcano is known as Mauna Kahalewai, or the West Maui Mountains. Visitors can see these volcanic formations at Iao Valley State Park. The most iconic rock feature in this green landscape is the Iao Needle, which rises about 1,200 feet into the air. For a mild hike that leads to a great view, try the 0.6-mile Iao Needle Lookout Trail. There are also some more challenging trails that cut through the verdant valley.
Snorkeling With Honu.
Honu is the Hawaiian name for the local green sea turtle species. On the western and southern shores of Maui, these guys are practically celebrities. There are even revered craftspeople in the coastal town of Lahaina who make wood sculptures of Honu. If you want to see one of these 300-pound turtles in the flesh, book a snorkeling tour off the coast near Wailea Point in the south or Pu’u Keka’a in the west. Many of the beach resorts even provide free snorkeling equipment to guests.
First-timers will be amazed at just how effortlessly these magnificent reptiles glide through the ocean. Maui’s waters are so clear that grabbing a photo with a waterproof camera is easy. While sea turtles are mostly harmless, it’s important to keep a safe distance away. After all, honu is a protected species on the island.
Of course, there are hundreds of other aquatic species to admire. The experienced tour guides can take you out to best snorkeling spots off Honolua Bay and Kaanapali Beach. Once you take the dive, you’ll enter a world of colorful fish patrolling unique coral reef habitats.
Prefer to stay dry while you admire sea creatures? Well, you can always spend the better part of a day at the Maui Ocean Center in Wailuku. The highlight of this facility is the 750,000-gallon Open Ocean exhibit, which is home to more than 2,000 fish. This exhibit features a tunnel that allows visitors to see Hawaii’s underwater ecosystem in a controlled environment.
Do not forget that Barcelona lies on the Mediterranean shore. Take a break from your escapades around the city and head to the beach. In fact, Barcelona has two – La Barceloneta and Platja de la Nova Icaria, separated by the Port Olimpic harbor. The former is livelier, but both present the perfect setting for sunbathing, swimming, jogging and even bike riding.
In the opposite direction loom the Collserola hills, which not only afford a panoramic view of Barcelona and the sea, but also invite hiking, mountain bike riding and jogging. If you are reluctant to leave the city, however, Montjuic hill in the center of Barcelona is the place to go for an escape into nature – and history. Its bucolic gardens are the perfect spot to shake off the bustle of the city. The stone castle has layers of history to unravel – from its watchtower purpose in the 11th century to its role in the War of the Spanish Succession to its prison function during the War of the Pyrenees.
From its remarkable architecture to its local markets, from its brilliant seashore to its underrated museums, Barcelona pulsates with a rhythm of its own, one that is unmistakably modern and, yet, beguilingly antiquated. It is a city that truly beckons. It is a city that will leave you pining for more vacation days once your stay comes to an end.
For an ocean experience that’s closed off from civilization, try Wai’anapanapa The Black Sand Beach.