It’s this time of year that I often get the call of Hawaii. It’s not a phone call or a text, but the Aloha spirit, reaching out, whispering of the warm ease and sweet fragrance, sea breezes and lapping waves.
No trip to Hawaii this winter, it’s not a safe or wise time to travel. I’ve put that call on hold. But when it’s time, I’ll be back to Maui, one of my favorite islands in America’s 50th state.
You can google Maui activities and come up with hundreds of ways to spend your time, below are a few of my favorites.
The second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui rose up from the sea in the form of two shield volcanoes. Today the island is two mountains: West Maui and Haleakala. They are old volcanoes and dormant.
My favorite thing about Maui in winter is the humpback whales. They’re everywhere.
From December through April, up to 10,000 humpbacks migrate to Maui from Alaska, to breed. The water is warm and shallow–good conditions for birthing and avoiding deep-water predators.
You can spot whales just about anywhere, evident by the exhalation breath spraying from their blowholes.
Whales have been migrating here for centuries. Lahaina, a city on the west coast of Maui, was a lively center for the global whaling industry in the 1800s.
These days whale-watching is the big attraction on Maui, and harpooning is out. An exciting way to spend the day is on a whale-watching boat, cruising the waters looking for whales, and waiting for that special moment when they breach.
Snorkeling is great fun, too. A good map of the island (published by University of Hawaii Press) will yield hundreds of suggestions for good snorkeling beaches, and is helpful for bypassing some of the more web-linked popular tourist spots.
This bay, below, is off the radar. We had to trek through some overgrowth to get to it, and the beach is not sand, it’s rocks. But under that water we found butterflyfish, parrotfish, goatfish, tangs, triggerfish, wrasse and more. Left center in this photo are three dots. Those are the only other snorkelers. That, to me, is paradise.
Sea turtles bob around, and, if you’re lucky, you might hear the singing of the humpbacks underwater. We did.
This spotted dove joined us on the beach.
Birds on the Hawaiian Islands are either native or introduced. Natives are the prize for birders, but rare; most are introduced, they arrived on the islands in numerous ways centuries ago.
It is interesting to see the array of introduced birds in the lowlands, but it is absolutely thrilling to go to the mountains and find some of the rare, native birds.
Introduced, non-native birds in the lowlands are bright and exotic. Hotel and resort grounds, residential backyards, and parking lots are festive with them.
Introduced lizards, like this green anole, thrive in ornamental landscapes.
But if you want to see what the Real Maui looks like, you have to leave behind the warm temperatures and sea frolics of the lowlands, and head up to the higher elevations.
We never go to Maui without at least one, preferably two, day-trips to Haleakala. From the west coast, where we usually stay, it takes 2-3 hours to reach the summit.
The farther you drive away from the tourist towns, the more Hawaiian culture you will find. Fruit stands brimming with papayas and guava and homemade banana bread, school kids getting off the bus, local life.
Then, as you ascend Haleakala, you come to overlooks with views over the whole island–land and sea. If you scan the sea with binoculars, you will see a whale spout or two in the distance.
About 75% of the island of Maui is Haleakala…that’s how big the mountain is. The tallest peak: 10,023 feet (3,055 m).
One of our favorite Haleakala places to go is Hosmer Grove. We have spent many rain-drenched hours searching for rare, prized native forest birds in this thicket, below, in Haleakala National Park.
Inside that mass of tangled trees we were rewarded with sightings of several native birds, two shown here. They have the curved bills to draw nectar from flowers.
At Haleakala’s summit are incredible overviews of this sacred mountain and its cinder cones.
Only a few plants, birds, and insects live on the summit with its harsh conditions and volcanic slopes.
Just a few virtual moments in some of your favorite places are a pleasant reminder that we have a marvelously diverse planet, and many more adventures await us.
Written by Jet Eliot.
Photos by Athena Alexander.