Explore Maui in the Hawaiian Islands

Explore Maui in the Hawaiian Islands

Maui was the first stop on my trip out to the Hawaiian Islands in June.  After hearing countless stories about how beautiful and amazing this island is, of course, I wanted to explore Maui’s different areas to experience it all.  I was not disappointed.  There is so much to do here and different parts of Maui are completely unique.  If you like water sports, hiking, nature, beautiful sunsets and natural produce, you will enjoy.  And who doesn’t, really…

To explore Maui, let me reference the different areas of the island.

Central Maui

This is the area in between/ connecting West Maui and the rest of Maui (if you picture a lopsided figure 8).

–         The Maui airport, aka OGG, is in Central Maui.  From here, rent a car to get to your final destination.

–         Kahului is the main town in Central Maui.  It’s more commercial here with brands like Costco, Target, Whole Foods, Macy’s, etc.

–          Queen Kaahumanu Center is the largest mall in Maui.  Also, it’s where the buses convene so if you are heading to West or South Maui, come here to catch the bus ($2 per ride).

West Maui

–          Lahaina is a main town in West Maui.  Here you’ll find lots of waterfront dining and shopping options.  It’s a bit touristy because everything here is geared towards tourists.  The beach is easily accessible, beautiful and cold (or refreshing, depending on your perspective).


explore maui


View of Kaanapali Beach from Whaler’s Village.

–          Kaanapali is another main town in West Maui north of Lahaina.  The beach here is very beautiful.  This is also a more upscale and expensive area of Maui.  There are a lot of resorts and hotels along the beach here.  We stopped off at a shopping/dining complex called Whaler’s Village for lunch.  It is beachfront and you can dine with an ocean view.  It’s a bit pricey but there is a range of options for both dining and shopping.  You can swim in the ocean or lounge on the beach.  Ka’anapali Beach makes it onto Best Beaches in the World almost every year.  I can see why.  It’s beautiful (and busy and cold) with the mountains in the distance.

–          Driving along Hwy 30, there are fruit stands and local markets to stop off at and buy locally grown produce.


explore maui


In between West & South Maui, there is Maalaea town.  For me, this was an overlook stop out to the ocean.  From here, you can spot humpback whales.  It’s a beautiful view.  Not much else to do there.  If you are driving from South Maui to West Maui, before you get to Maalaea, you will see the Maui Ocean Center on your right.  It’s pricey at $28 per person.  You probably get more intro to sea life by snorkeling on the reefs.

South Maui Shore


explore maui


–          Wailea is the main town in South Maui.  This is where I stayed at the Waimea Resort by Marriott.  The beaches are absolutely beautiful here and in my opinion, warmer than the beach in Kaanapali or Lahaina.  There is a paved beach path that you can access to walk or jog along the beachfront.  Access the path from most Wailea resort beachfronts and also Polo beach (South of Wailea beach).

Haleakala National Park

This one deserves it’s own post, Discover Haleakala National Park & Crater on Maui.

Explore Maui’s ‘Upcountry’

This is the area north and west of Haleakala Crater; also south of Kahului town/Central Maui.

This area of Maui has a lot of farms, ranches and agriculture.  Most of Maui’s produce comes from this region.  I recommend a drive through this area and moreover a stop or tour at one of the farms or ranches.  To get to this area may take a bit of time as there isn’t a direct east/west highway.  You’ll have to go up to Kahului town (Central) and drive south on Haleakala Hwy.  Branch off onto Kula Highway towards Kula.  I recommend combining Haleakala National Park with a trip/tour of a farm in Upcountry region.  They are both in the same area and you’ll save time from not having to drive back and forth.

The Kula Highway is a very scenic drive with overlook of Central Maui, the water and the West Maui Mountains.  It’s very misty but beautiful.  The roads are also winding and bumpy here.

A Farm Tour


explore maui


One of the farms I visited was the Alii Lavender Farm.  I looooove lavender so I had to stop here.  It’s a lovely farm filled with lavender plants.  The smell is heaven.  You can also purchase lavender plants to take back home.   There is a gift shop that sells lavender items.  I found most of these items to be very overpriced.  As well, you can get a lavender tea, lavender honey and lavender scone (all made with real lavender) to munch on.  I did and it was also yummy.  It’s about $3 per person to enter or $12 pp for a walking tour of the farm.  I didn’t do the walking tour because the farm is very walkable by yourself.  I think the guides may tell you more about the plants, gardening, etc but I thought that price was steep so I opted to just roam and enjoy.

A few things to note: The lavender farm is large and there are slopes. My trip was in June which is when a lot of the lavender plants are in bloom.  If you are here in the winter or fall months however, you may not see the blooms in their full glory.  During that time, it may be more worthwhile to visit another farm or ranch where the produce or plants are in bloom or season.


Unfortunately, I didn’t have additional time to explore Maui’s North and East shores.  My references below are from research and peer recommendations.

North Shore


explore maui

Photo of Paia, Hana Hwy/North Shore by Luca Bravo

–          Paia is the main town in North Shore.  This is a town known for surf shops and surf viewing.  Check out Hookipa Beach for surfers, windsurfers and kiteboarders putting on a show.

–          -Road to Hana (Route 36) starts in Paia and traverses 55 miles to the east.  It’s a winding road all the way east and around Maui’s east coast.  I didn’t take this road (because I was weathered from the winding roads of Haleakala and Upcountry) but I’ve heard the views are lovely.  In the summer months, there will be a lot of traffic on this highway so leave enough time to complete this activity.

–          Waianapanapa State Park:  Explore Maui’s only black sand beach

East Maui

–          Kipahulu is the main town in East Maui.

–          The two main attractions are Charles Lindberg grave and Oheo Gulch.  OG is part of Haleakala National Park and includes a series of cascading streams/waterfalls.  You can also hike up Waimoku Falls (2 miles).


The best way to explore Maui is really to relax and enjoy the views & the vibe.  Take a drive along the coast, visit the crater or enjoy the beach.

For more Maui articles, check out my hotel review of Marriott’s Wailea Beach Resort and my post on Haleakala National Park.

Feature photo of surfer on Maui beach by HHach on Pixaby.


Kaanapali - West Maui

Lahaina - West Maui


Paia Town

Haleakala National Park & Crater



Oheo Gulch

Lavender Farm


Maui Hotel Review – Wailea Beach Resort

Maui Hotel Review – Wailea Beach Resort

Below is my Maui hotel review for the Wailea Beach Resort by Marriott.  This Maui hotel is located in the south of Maui and is beachfront on two beaches, Wailea and Ulua.  The property is immaculate, expansive and stunning.  Every view is beautiful and it’s very tranquil and calming.  I booked my reservation 3-4 months prior to arrival using Marriott Rewards points.

For more Maui info, check out my posts: Explore Maui in the Hawaiian Islands and Discover Haleakala National Park & Crater.


Wailea Beach Resort – Maui Hotel Review

3700 Wailea Alanui Drive Wailea, HI 96753, USA



Maui Hotel Review:

My 2 night stay at Marriott Wailea Beach Resort was during the month of June.  Upon arrival, you are welcomed by beautiful and large trees, a welcome drink and a gorgeous view of the ocean.

My hotel room was clean, beautiful and had a partial view of the ocean.  The floors were tiled which helped to keep it cool.  Onsite, there is a gym, multiple pools (including an infinity pool), restaurants and complimentary wi-fi.

This beach resort has expansive grounds where you can lounge out on the grounds by reserving or selecting a cabana or lounge chair.  It’s a short walk down to the beach which is also beautiful.  I can see why so many weddings take place at this resort.  The landscaping, scenery and views from all angles are stunning.

One thing I do recommend is watching the sunset (or sunrise) from the grounds or beach.  Bright orange, pink, purple and breathtaking.  The picture above really doesn’t do it justice.

Nearby is shopping, restaurants and retail at The Shops of Wailea.  Although beautiful, I found it to be very overpriced.  Therefore, if you’re on a budget or just don’t want to waste money, I would drive by/through but keep going.

Getting to/from:

Marriott Wailea Beach Resort is a 15 miles from Kahului Maui Airport (OGG).  I used a rental car, which you can pick up at the airport, to get to this Maui hotel.  It’s a really easy, relaxing drive.  Once you arrive at the hotel, there is ample parking.  However, the hotel charges a daily $25 USD fee to park.  I really disliked having to pay for parking at all the hotels I stayed at in Hawaii especially when there isn’t an alternative choice.  I mean, where else are you going to put your rental car?

Also, an alternate choice is the Maui public bus.  I’m including the link to it from the Marriott website.  But I didn’t use it while in Maui so I have no opinion to share either way.

In addition, onsite at the Marriott Wailea Beach Resort there is an Enterprise rental car service.


maui hotel trees



For my 2 night reservation, I used Marriott Rewards points.  For this stay, 35,000 Marriott Rewards points were needed per night.  The 35K points represents point-saver award levels as this hotel recently went through a refresh/refurbish.  Thus, 70,000 points total for the stay.

I was charged only for parking but not sure if this hotel now charges a “resort” fee on top of the room rate.  When I used Marriott Rewards points, there wasn’t a “resort” fee added to the tab.


Recommend (Y/N): Yes

I would stay here again and recommend this hotel.

Fun things to do near Rapid City SD

Fun things to do near Rapid City SD

There are many fun things to do near Rapid City SD if you have an extra day or two.  One of the main things is of course, a visit to Mt. Rushmore, a quirky American attraction.  But Mt Rushmore isn’t the only national park, sculpture or nature outing near Rapid City SD.  There are numerous others.  During my visit, I was able to sample a few.


things to do near Rapid City SD


Crazy Horse Memorial

This is Rapid City South Dakota’s other famous carving.  Unfortunately, only the face of Lakota Chief Crazy Horse has been carved to date.  Work continues on today.  If the final carving looks like the model sculpture, it will be really cool.

The history of Crazy Horse Memorial is really fascinating.  For one, the sculptor of Crazy Horse also worked on Mt Rushmore.  In addition, there is a history behind this memorial with the Lakota Native Indians that is very interesting.  Check out this picture and history slide show for more details.

For Pricing and admission, click here.



Custer State Park

If you don’t have enough time to drive out to Badlands National Park (which I didn’t), then consider a visit to Custer State Park.  Here you will see bison roaming (as you would at Badlands) as well as other wildlife.

In addition, check out Needles Highway, a winding roadway through the park with views of the forests and mountain.  The ‘Needles’ are the granite spires and pillars that have eroded over time.   Drive through the Needles Eye tunnel if your car is small enough lol.  As well, check out the Cathedral Spires which are a grouping of ‘needles’.

This scenic drive will take you to Sylvan Lake and the unique rock formation formed from the inclement weather.  I have to admit, it was extremely windy here and in general in Rapid City in late October.  Sylvan Lake is considered the crown jewel of Custer State Park.

The topography here is really interesting and distinctive.  To me it fits in perfectly with the other creative or quirky attractions in Rapid City like Crazy Horse and Rushmore.  I only mean that in a positive way.  In fact, I really enjoyed this spirited and cultural aspect of Rapid City.  These unique attractions are only found here in South Dakota which makes a trip here to be so worthwhile.

I’d recommend Custer State Park as a relaxing, nature-oriented and fun attraction.


things to do near Rapid City SD


Keystone Town

While driving to Mt Rushmore National Park on Hwv 16A, visit Keystone Town in the Black Hills, SD.  If you are driving really fast, you may zoom past it as it’s only a mile long.  It’s a town focused on South Dakota items.  Do stop by the Rocky Mountain Taffy Shop for tasty treats in the shape of Rushmore or good ole fashioned candy.  This used to be called Coffee Shoppe Fudge store/café a few years back (pic above) but it looks like it got a makeover.  I really like the feel of this small town (population 337 per the 2010 census).  Also, there are souvenir shops with Black Hills, South Dakota and Rushmore themed items lining the street.  Fun stop.



More fun things to do near Rapid City SD

List includes the Presidential Wax museum, Bear Country USA, Badlands National Park, Big Thunder Gold Mine and 1880 Train.  I wasn’t able to visit any of these (except the entrance to the wax museum).  However, if I was in the area again, I would visit any of these places.  Thus, I don’t have a recommendation either way but they could be worth checking out.


Custer State Park

Crazy Horse Memorial

Keystone Town - Taffy Candy Shop

Visit Mt Rushmore, a quirky American attraction

Visit Mt Rushmore, a quirky American attraction

My trip to visit Mt Rushmore is one of my most favorite and memorable vacation jaunts.  I took this trip in late October 2010 with my sister near to my birthday.  It was fall weather and cold.  I was beyond excited to visit Mt Rushmore which I constantly referred to as “a slice of Americana”!  It was.  Mt Rushmore is one of those places that you see on tv but never really make an effort to go visit.  Hopefully, after reading my post, you will be inspired to visit Mt Rushmore. I promise you will not regret it.  I loved it.


visit Mt Rushmore


Beginning your visit Mt. Rushmore starts with parking your car at the Mt. Rushmore National Park parking. If you go during the fall, there should be ample parking. During the summer, it will be crowded. Entrance to the park itself is free but parking is around $10.


visit Mt Rushmore


The Avenue of Flags

After entering the park, walk through the Avenue of Flags that displays 50 flags for each of the 50 United States of America. There are 6 additional flags for Washington DC, USVirgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and Northern Marina Islands.


visit Mt Rushmore

After walking through the Avenue, you’ll arrive at the Grand Viewing Terrace where you can view the Mt Rushmore in all it’s glory.


visit Mt Rushmore


Mt. Rushmore

Mt depicts the faces of 4 US presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Chosen for their contribution to our great nation, this represents over 150 years of history.

The sculptor Gutzon Borglum began work in 1927 and completed the Mt. Rushmore in 1941. Let me share some fun facts that I found on Mtrusmoreinfo.com website.

Rushmore Facts:

  • Sculptor Gutzon Borglum began drilling into the 5,725-foot mountain in 1927, at the age of 60.
  • Creation of the Shrine of Democracy took 14 years and cost a mere $1 million.
  • Rushmore’s granite faces tower 5,500 feet above sea level.
  • The carvings on Mount Rushmore are scaled to men who would stand 465 feet tall.
  • Each head on Mt. Rushmore is as tall as a six-story building.
  • More than 800 million pounds of stone were removed from Mount Rushmore while carving the presidents.
  • Each president’s face is as tall as the entire Great Sphinx of Egypt, measuring 60 feet from the chin to the top of the head.
  • The presidents’ noses are 20 feet long, each mouth 18 feet wide and the eyes are 11 feet across.
  • The workers had to climb 506 steps daily to get to the top of Mount Rushmore.


visit Mt Rushmore


Presidential Trail

Do be sure to take the Presidential Trail which is a half mile trail around the Mt Rushmore.  From the trail (picture above), you can view each president from a unique vantage point that showcases that president. As well, you can take lots of pictures (as I did).  At the end of the trail, you’ll have the full view of the 4 presidents.  This view is also available from the Grand Terrace (earlier).



Visitor’s Center

Do check out the visitor’s center for more information on this fascinating and unique attraction. During the summer, there is a video of the sculptor, Borglum, the workers and the process of completing Mt. Rushmore.

Sculptor’s Studio

Take a tour of the studio that Borglum used to envision his creation. Again, during the summer, there is a ranger talk about the creation of the monument.

Don’t forget to swing by the gift shop for a souvenir, the bookstore for more information or the café for a snack.

Visit Mt Rushmore @ Sunset

There is a sunset illuminated viewing of the Mt. Rushmore but unfortunately, I didn’t make it to that. I’ve heard from online reviews that it is really wonderful. It does take place during late October timeframe but I was elsewhere and didn’t make it back over. For Illumination hours, click here.

I can’t say enough how fun this trip was. To visit Mt Rushmore in person really brought it to life for me. Don’t hesitate to make this trip. Where else in America (or elsewhere…) can you find this? In addition, the surrounding area of South Dakota and Black Hills have a lot to offer.

For more information on where to stay while in South Dakota, check out my hotel review, Rapid City hotel review – Fairfield Inn.


Rapid City Hotel Review – Fairfield Inn

Rapid City Hotel Review – Fairfield Inn

Below is my hotel review for the Fairfield Inn Rapid City Hotel in the Black Hills region of South Dakota.  I booked my reservation 2 weeks prior to arrival using Marriott Rewards points.

For more information on Rapid City & Mt. Rushmore, check out my blog post.


Fairfield Inn Rapid City Hotel – Hotel Review

1314 N. Elk Vale Road  Rapid City  South Dakota  57703  USA;   Marriott.com



My 2 night stay at the Fairfield Inn Rapid City Hotel was at the end of October.  This is considered to be off-peak season for Rapid City.  Their peak is during the summer– mid-May through mid-September.  You will see this reflected in the room rate which can get up to $200/night.  If you visit during Oct, your room rate can be as low as $46/night.  What a difference!

My room was a 2 queen bed room and was spacious and clean.  When I arrived, it was very late (because my flight was delayed) and very, very windy.  I’m not sure if that is common weather in Rapid City but the wind was howling and made the temperature freezing.  I could hear the wind from inside my room.  During the night, I wondered if the roof would be torn off and blown away.  To this hotel’s credit, however, when I awoke, all was well.  There appeared to be no debris or anything off its hinges outside.  Whoever built this hotel must have been good.  Solid is what I’m saying.

The hotel is a standard Fairfield Inn and includes a comped breakfast.  There is free wi-fi and a fitness center onsite.  As well, there is an on-site restaurant called Sliders Bar & Grill.

Nearby is a McDonalds and Arby’s.  You can probably walk there if the weather permits.  Within walking distance, there isn’t much else.  In addition, there are a few hotels nearby.  For me, a city & beach girl, looking out to see bales of hay and lots of open fields was wonderful and relaxing.

Next door is Watiki indoor waterpark resort.  You can purchase tickets at the Fairfield Inn Rapid City Hotel.  I couldn’t even contemplate water sports in October so I didn’t inquire.  Kids will like this activity.


Getting to/from:

Fairfield Inn Rapid City Hotel is a short 9 mile drive from the Rapid City airport.  I would recommend that you rent a car at the airport and drive over.  There is a Hertz car rental (and maybe others?) inside the airport terminal.  This is convenient in that you don’t have to take a shuttle to pickup your rental.

Parking is free at the hotel.  Alternately, the hotel has a complimentary airport shuttle that you can call and schedule ahead of time.

Downtown Rapid City is 3.5 miles away.



For my 2 night reservation, I used Marriott Rewards points.  However, since that time, Marriott has changed the number of points required for this hotel.  Currently, you will need 35,000 points per night.  I find this to be high.  If staying during an off-peak time, I would keep my points and use cash.  If staying during peak, consider using points and cash or points.  I still think 35K is a lot.  There are more hotels in Rapid City now than a few years ago so shop around before using all your points on this one hotel.


Recommend (Y/N): Yes

I would stay here again and recommend this hotel.