Disclaimer: I’ve never been one for big tourist attractions. They’re usually over-priced, over-crowded and, ultimately, over-hyped. All of these things make me irritable.
I’ve found that no matter where you go there are always certain things people tell you that you MUST experience. This is especially true when you tell people you’ll be travelling for an extended amount of time. In the past week since I set out on this journey I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “What, you’re not going to Thailand?” when I say I’ll be travelling to Vietnam or “Don’t miss your one opportunity to see New Zealand!” when I mention I’ll be visiting Australia. Excuse me strangers, this is not the last trip I’ll ever go on. If I fixated on that “one [lost] opportunity to visit New Zealand” comment dished out by a well-travelled middle-aged lady in a hot tub in Lahaina, I might either go crazy or end up completely blowing my budget to re-plan my itinerary.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found plenty of great tiny hideaways thanks to fellow travellers, so I know that it’s important to take into account the suggestions you get from others. But it’s also essential to take them with a grain of salt. One person’s “must-do” might be rather ho-hum in my books.
The one thing you’re definitely supposed to do when visiting Maui (according to my guidebook, fellow travellers and the zillion pamphlets you find in every shop and restaurant on the island) is drive The Road to Hana. If you “survive” the snaking road which winds across the island’s east coast, you can buy a t-shirt and use it for bragging rights once you return home.
Well hear this: I survived the Road to Hana…and it made me nauseous. I’m not saying the trip was completely without its merits. We discovered a fabulous deserted swimming hole (pictured here) but the rest of the drive, though beautiful, isn’t necessarily more stunning than the drive around, say, Cape Breton (which is close to where my boyfriend grew up) or the road to Tofino (where I lived for several years).
The highlights of the day we spent on the Road to Hana were actually the discoveries we made ourselves. I don’t know why this wasn’t in my guidebook, but I nearly fell out of the car window when I saw these rainbow eucalyptus trees (no, they weren’t painted like that by some hippie, they actually grow that way!). A friend told me to keep my eyes peeled for them and I’m definitely grateful for that tip!
Another amazing discovery: Flatbread Company pizza in Pa’ia (the last town before you actually get on the Road to Hana). Not only was their pizza unbelievable, but for some reason the place was also hopping with celebrities! Yes, I know the beauty of nature can’t compare to seeing Flea and Pink chatting together in a pizza parlour but maybe it’s that I knew I’d see fabulous views on the Road to Hana, but I was stunned to see Hollywood celebs at lunch.
Anyways, here’s MY advice: If you travel to Maui you COULD head to Hana in search of the trees with the multi-coloured psychedelic bark and you COULD go search for celebs over a “loaded baked potato” pizza in Pa’ia. But I think the best suggestion I could give you if you’re planning to visit this magical place is not to stress over all of the things people tell you that you HAVE to see and do. You could spend every on the beach and playing in the ocean on surfboards and stand-up paddleboards, as we have for the past few days, and you’d still see plenty (I actually sailed by a spotted eagle ray out on my paddleboard the other day).
I’ve decided that the only thing you really MUST do while on vacation is whatever makes you happiest –whether that’s celeb-spotted, sightseeing, surfing, or blissfully laying back in the sunshine doing nothing at all.