MAUI TRAVEL GUIDE
We made our first trip together to Hawaii last month! It was a trip we had talked about taking for years together, and after a lucrative first part of the year I was able to buy tickets and surprise Alex for our 1 year wedding anniversary. The trip coincided with our 9 year dating anniversary, so it felt like the perfect place to celebrate and make some new memories together! Alex had been to Maui once as a kid, at around ten, but had few memories of what to do or see and mostly remembered sea turtles and black sand beaches from his first visit.
The first and hardest decision was simply what ISLAND to go to! There are 8 major islands, though obviously a few are far more frequently traveled than others. It had come down to choosing between Maui and Kauai for us, as we'd heard they both offered a very "Hawaiian" experience. Oahu and Hawaii seemed a little too 'city-like' for a vacation, and Kauai only lost out because I heard its better AFTER you've experienced Maui. Kauai is a much more 'rustic' and jungle-y island, more for the hikers and campers in your group than those who prefer to lounge pool- or oceanside. While we didn't stay in a resort (not our style!), we definitely felt the in-between on Maui of having everything you needed but also being a reasonable drive from anything you wanted. We loved it!
We flew out from LAX and took a direct flight to Maui. Five and a half hours later we were flying over Molokini, the horseshoe shaped crater off the southwest coast of Maui that we'd be snorkeling in just a few days later. It was incredibly gorgeous from above!
We stayed in an AirBNB and LOVED it (check out the house here), but we'll get there in a moment. After landing we scooped up our rental car, a basically requisite red open air Jeep to tour around the island in. Perfect for taking in that salty ocean air and traversing the sometimes sketchy roadways along the Road to (and from!) Hana.
On the way to our AirBNB we drove through our first real little beach town and the one that easily become our favorite throughout the week, Paia. Paia is a tiny, adorable little stop on the north side of the island. Since we were staying in Makawao, just south and toward the center of the island, Paia became a frequent stop for us going in and out of town. The first little spot we fell in love with was Choice Health Bar. Located directly downtown, this clean and bright spot offers fresh, often locally-sourced dishes with specials that change daily. Our first stop I just grabbed Lilikoi (local type of passion fruit) Acai Bowl, but we ended up back there often for their warmer lunches and dinners, too. Below you'll see their Kale Caesar Salad and Ulu Breadfruit soup. We kept coming back for these dishes after long days at the beach, and they satisfied every time. For the record, breadfruit grows like a fruit on a tree but tastes like a potato or squash and is a cousin of the Mulberry. It is super nutritious and we were told than a single breadfruit tree can produce a ton of fruit and feed a TON of people! (Not like a LITERAL ton. But a lot!) There's a picture of an actual breadfruit tree down by the blue smoothie below. It kind of looks like a jackfruit while growing!
When we arrived at our AirBNB, a Plantation Style Tiny Home, we totally fell in love! Pictured below, it was a super cute guest cottage or 'hale' on a young, local family's small, private farm and orchard. It overlooked the orchard and banana trees, and had a screened in kitchen porch that made cooking up leftovers and farmers markets finds a truly unique experience! It was also super enchanting to hear the rain showers gently pound against the tin roof at night and had my husband asleep even before I was! Inside the place was small but perfect for us for the week. A single room with a large, comfy bed and a small futon, plus some gorgeous vintage furniture inside, and a completely renovated bathroom with some really cool features. Plus, a shower for two!
On our first full day of exploring we made our way across the island to Valley Isle Kombucha. We're not big drinkers but we'll go almost anywhere for good kombucha, and it was really amazing how much of it was on the island. We went to two different kombucha bars (Valley Isle was the best!) and even the general stores in the area had locally-made kombucha on tap. Valley Isle had at least 16 taps of different, fresh kombucha on tap, as well as a case full of bottles and a full lunch menu, too. They also partner with a company called Alchemy Maui that bakes fresh loaves of bread and baguettes right in their kitchen, so you can grab a loaf for the road or take it with you to the beach afterward!
We also fell in love with Coralynn, the server at Valley Isle and a local artist. She gave us so many tips - things to check out and places to go, and we ended up buying one of her gorgeous hand-drawn stickers to take home with us! The locals on the island were all incredibly helpful and friendly, which lent itself even more to the idyllic perception of island life. Nowhere to go fast and time to chat with everyone along the way!
Our second full day we decided to do The Road to Hana, basically an all-day adventure around the outer eastern edge of the island. We downloaded the GyPSy Guide, which is an app that adds historical and locational notes to your drive. It'll tell you where to stop for the best sights along the way the entire way there, and will give you history of the island on the drive back. I'd highly recommend spending the few dollars to download it, it was really fun and useful on the trip, and since most rental car companies don't insure you to drive all FULL Road to Hana all the way around the island, it gives you something fun to listen to on the drive back in the dark.
We started in Paia, heading East. Our first real stop was at The Garden of Eden Arboretum. In the bottom left picture, you can see the pointy rock to the right of the V - that's the rock shown in the opening scene of Jurassic Park! We loved getting out and walking around the lush gardens, enjoying the tropical flora and fauna, and checking out the waterfalls and 100-year old mango tree inside the park! Worth the visit for sure. Especially if you like birds - tons of them, including peacocks everywhere! A small admission fee, very much worth the stop if you take the trip - though I don't recommend wearing nice shoes. I forgot my extra flip flops the first day and totally destroyed my favorite fancy sandals. Whoops!
I won't tell you about every stop we made on the Road to Hana - we'd be here all day! But I recommend stopping often and eating often, too. There was SO much good food, but THE BEST BANANA BREAD ON THE DRIVE (this part is important - can you tell?) is at Aunt Sandy's along the Keanae Peninsula. Trust me. Buy at least 3 mini loaves for the day, you will not regret it! We saw painted eucalyptus trees, black sand beaches, and a million farmstands. We bought and ate local lilikoi and sugarcane, banana bread, and local kombucha and took selfies in front of waterfalls and fell even more in love.
We stopped at Coconut Glen's on the way up after many suggestions and had the BEST vegan ice cream I've ever eaten. We tried the coconut and lemongrass ginger flavors, which both had chunks of real coconut meat mashed inside. Literally could eat it for every meal ever - the perfect blend of sweet and fat and creamy. It was a perfect day.
We ended up checking out a ton of beaches, but the best for snorkeling and beach hanging while we were there seemed to be on the south side of the island, toward Wailea-Makena. We ended up returning here a couple times to hang and swim in calmer waters away from the resorts. At Big Beach there were waves so high and so powerful - shore pounders - that lifeguards weren't allowing people to swim, and one beach over at Little Beach we stumbled upon a nude beach! It was a fun, if unplanned, surprise and definitely a memorable one. At first I was intrigued, but after realizing the beaches occupants were almost entirely men, I was less enthused. This ended up being one of the places we also saw a TON of sea turtles swimming one afternoon in the rock outcroppings off the beach. Super cool!
We visited Lahaina and spent a morning and early afternoon walking around checking out the beach city, but if I'm being honest, this was one place I definitely only needed to see once. It was super touristy and felt kind of fabricated - I prefer to hang like a local when I travel and all of Lahaina felt like a tourist trap. Also, it was just down the street was a ton of huge resorts and the contrast of seeing how locals are forced to live in poverty next door to these huge tourist draws was more sad and reflection of the financial struggles really facing the island. BUT, we did meet a really cute little hippie kid selling vegan, gluten-free, marijuana-infused banana bread...and we definitely bought some and enjoyed a hazy afternoon on the beach.
Some of the best things we ate, besides all the fresh local lilikoi, mango, starfruit, dragonfruit, guava and papaya - were macadamia nut chocolate chip pancakes (pictured above!), fresh mahi mahi, and basically any combo from Ululani's Shaved Ice, but especially the Paia location which ALSO carried Coconut Glen's vegan ice cream. My go-to order (we got it 5 times in 4 days - no joke) was CG's original coconut ice cream covered in lilikoi, strawberry, and guava shaved ice and topped with house made mochi. I am literally drooling just thinking about it! We also fell in love with a local coconut kefir that we found at the local health food store, Mana Foods (also pictured below), that we would come home each night and top with local lilikoi and take to munch in bed.
Since we were in Maui celebrating our 9 year dating anniversary and 1 year wedding anniversary, we decided to treat ourselves to a reservation at the fanciest restaurant on the island - Mama's Fish House! We got all gussied up and and headed to the loveliest dinner. Did it cost us a couple hundred dollars? Maybe yes. Was it worth every penny as we looked over the over eating some of the best food ever, more in love than ever? YOU BETCHA! An expensive dinner out, but VERY worth it if you can make room for it on your itinerary. Heads up - reservations go fast! We made ours 6 months in advance.
We loved finding tiny, locally owned places like Brekkie Bowls to eat at all week long. We like supporting local economy whenever possible, and frankly - the locals have the best recs for snorkeling, finding sea turtles, and sharing secret sunset spots! I also loved how accessible fruit, smoothies, acai bowls, and juice was on the island. My digestion was high functioning and I felt great all week long - which is NOT always the case when I'm traveling!
One of the definite highlights of out trip was snorkeling at Molokini, the horseshoe shaped crater off the coast that boats calm water, tons of beautiful fish, and sometimes even seat turtles! We didn't see any turtles but we had a blast boating out, snorkeling together, and filming underwater with the GoPro. We saw tons of beautiful, brightly colored fish and coral reef, and had a great time with the crew on the boat. We were out from about 7 am to 2 pm and chose to sail with The Four Winds. Highly recommend their outing, they let us hang out way longer than all of the other tourist-filled boats and they prepped a great lunch with a veggie burger option! We saw tons of dolphins on the way back too, some even swimming alongside out boat for over 20 minutes. Super cool!
I loved that we were able to hit the island's big Saturday Upcountry Farmers Market. It was full of local vendors selling unique and delicious specialties, and we feasted on a local eggs, probiotic coconut yogurt, tons of tropical fruit and of course - fresh coconuts! The market had something for everyone, and there was no shortage of vegan and vegetarian options, which was pretty cool to see in such a small place. We made friends with some locals and ended up bringing some local raw honey and bread back on the plane home a few days later!
We searched high and low for turtles while we were there and I don't know if was the time of year or just our luck but we barely found any. We FINALLY stumbled - literally I thought it was a rock until we got pretty close - upon a giant sea turtle at Tavares Bay, and hung out watching him for awhile. Like I mentioned earlier we also saw some near Makena Bay, but other than that - not a one!
Also if you have time, get over to Bamboo Forest Hike that leads to Pipiwai Waterfall - it was easy and a fun way to spend a couple hours after a heavy lunch and was super photograph-friendly.
One day ended up being SUPER rainy (it's Hawaii so daily rain is expected but this day was SUPER wet) so we decided to ditch our hiking plans and booked an afternoon at North Shore Zipline, which happened to be literally a half mile from our AirBNB. We had a damn blast! I expected it to be a little cheesy or lame but honestly the guys that worked there went above and beyond to make sure everyone had fun, and I would go again if I had the chance. Also - the photos at the end didn't suck like most places that try to sell you photos, so we actually bought them. Worth it! They gave us like 30 pictures for $30. Again - not normally a sucker for that stuff, but it was SUCH a fun outing and they really made it worth every penny. Check them out if you're in the area - we had a kid as young as 6 in our group so it's definitely family friendly!
The next day ended up being FAR nicer outside, so we packed a day bag and drove to Kula, basically where all the lush farmland lives at the center of the island. We found a super cute pumpkin patch flooded wit families and overlooking the ocean and stopped to take pictures and enjoy literally the most beautiful and scenic pumpkin patch maybe ever. It was incredibly gorgeous, and after we continued into Kula to the Ulapalakua Ranch Store, full of fun kitsch and really great locally raised, grass-fed burgers. Driving through Kula and all of the pasture and free roaming cows (literally no fences - drive carefully through here as they sometimes travel through the roadway to get to another pasture!) was a little bit like being home in Maine - if Maine started suddenly taking on a jungle climate.
That last afternoon we made the loooong (2-3 hours) drive from Kula to Haleakala National Park to see the sun set over the Haleakala Crater. It was SO incredibly worth it. It was a super cool, winding, beautiful drive up to the top, and then we parked and hiked the last mile or so to the very top. The place was crowded, but there was plenty of room to hunker down and watch the sun go down. We were ill-prepared clothing wise, both in shorts after a long day at the beach, but it was worth every shivering second to see what looked like literal heaven play out in front of us. Make the trip, but bundle up first. The drive down will take a little longer than you'd expect because of all the other people also departing as soon as the sun drops, so reward yourself with an extra trip to Ululani's on your way home!
We loved Maui SO much and can't wait to go back and take advantage of the chill vibes, beautiful views, and delicious food! If you're considering going, check out my rec's below as well as all the one's mentioned above, they're an easy copy and paste into your phone before you go so you can reference place as you drive around. And when you go - LET ME KNOW so I can live vicariously through you and your vacation. 😉
Food places we tried and loved: Choice Health Bar, Valley Isle Kombucha, Tin Roof for super traditional Hawaiian cuisine, A'a Roots, Paia Bowls, Brekkie Bowls, Mana Foods, Flatbread Company, Paia Fish House, Joy's Cafe in Kihei, Maui Kombucha Bar, Choice Health Bar, Aunt Sandy's along the Keanae Peninsula, Mama's Fish House, Farmacy, Paia Inn Brunch, Mokuroots, Ululani's Shaved Ice, Coconut Glen's, Ulapalakua Ranch Store, and the Upcountry Farmer's Market.
Places to See + Things to Check out: EVERYTHING! But specifically - Sea Turtles at Tavares Bay, Turtle Beach, Makawao Forest Hike, Bamboo Forest Hike to Pipiwai Waterfall, Lao Valley, Waihee Ridge Trail Hike, Paia, Poli Poli, Haleakala Crater + National Park for sunrise or sunset (sunrise requires a planned ahead permit), Kaupo Drive (the long way back from Road to Hana - only if you've got a jeep), Red + Black Sand Beaches, Maleaka Beach, Ulua Beach, Ahihi Kinau Natural Reserve, North Shore Zipline, Kula Country Farms, Little Beach (NUDE beach!), Upcountry Farmer's Market, snorkeling Molokini, Lahaina, Road to Hana (download the GyPSy App!).
Amsterdam Travel Diary
Okay guys, it took me 4 1/2 months BUT our Amsterdam Travel Diary is finally here! After our wedding, we spent the weekend recovering and packing and then left bright and early Tuesday morning for LAX where we boarded our the first leg of our flight to Reykjavic, Iceland and then over to Amsterdam for the first 5 days (technically 4 - we didn't get to our AirBNB until like 10 pm on the first night) of our 14 day honeymoon. When we first stepped off the train we were right downtown, just outside the Amsterdam Centraal Station. The sun was just beginning to set low in the sky - they're on about 20 hours of daylight over there in late June. We found our way to our AirBNB, not far from downtown but worth jumping on the metro. We checked in - our host was awesome and even had warm beer waiting for us - which apparently is how they prefer to drink beer in Europe. I had no idea...and my Dad is a US beer company executive! 😝
Since the sun wasn't due to set until around midnight, we were wide awake when we hit the AirBNB. Plus, we were just SUPER excited to be in Amsterdam! We used the HappyCow app a couple times during our trip to find vegan food, but mostly just used the incredible lost of recommendations you guys sent us on social media. I collected them all on a list and then starred all the places on Google Maps, so that as we were walking around cities I could see how close we were to our recommended places at all time! PRO TIP: You can download maps for offline use on Google Maps, so before our trip I downloaded maps for all of the cities we were visiting (Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, and London) and then used them offline and without burning up data overseas while we walked and traveled through the cities. Since your GPS works without needing data, you'll even see where YOU are on the maps. Very convenient!
Anyway, after we arrived we went to a HappyCow recommended, vegan restaurant near us called Mezebar Bodrum that served a sort of Greek-inspired tapas that was truly phenomenal. The first real food we'd had in hours, sure, but we went back again and I can confirm that is truly wonderful. The owners were sweet and accommodating and gave us awesome recommendations of stuff to see all over the city, plus they literally served us dinner at like midnight. The best introduction to this super friendly city! After we ate we found a 'coffee shop' and tried our first joint in Amsterdam. We didn't really understand why it made us feel SO weird until later, when we figured out that spliffs in Europe are usually rolled with tobacco. For a California girl used to a regular old joint, it was an unpleasant surprise and a serious head rush. Ick. We walked it off around the general area of our 'home' for the week before calling it a night. We were staying in a cute 1 bedroom overlooking the East side of Rembrandt Park. It was a huge, beautiful green space not far from the more famous Vondelpark. The parks and green spaces like the Bos quickly became our favorite part of being in the Netherlands. That and all of the friendly, off-leash dog culture! So many chill dogs, it was truly amazing.
Day two we started early, grabbing bagel sandwiches at the Bagels & Beans nearest us. I got hummus and veggies - a welcome meal after all the traveling. They are a chain, so we were able to find them all over the city. Perfect in a pinch! (I did bring probiotics with me while traveling to help with my crazy wonky digestion - more on how I pack for trips in an upcoming post!) After food we walked the city - over 17 miles the first day we were there! I came back with THE best, strongest booty I've ever had. It was awesome. We perused the canals and hit up the Van Gogh Museum area, including the Park Museumplein where the I Am Amsterdam sign is. There were also a bunch of small eateries, touristy shops, and plenty of people tripping on mushrooms in the park. We also stumbled upon some super cool Banksy and Salvador Dali exhibits at the Moco Museum, just across the park. We even found some kombucha at a small grocery store! It wasn't quite the 'booch we're used to, but it was cool to try different flavors and brands. We tried to get one or two different brands in each country and definitely ended up finding our favorite brand, Jarr, while we were in London. The whole 'I Amsterdam' area was super cool and busy with locals and tourists, and we stopped for lunch after seeing a big sign advertising vegan hemp burgers. It was delicious, and awesome to see so many plant-based options in Amsterdam. I totally fell in love with that area, and we ended up walking through it again on day 3, too!
Because of my soy and dairy allergy and dietary restrictions, we ended up eating a LOT of bread. This was no problem since I LOVE bread, but I did start craving fresh veggies at every meal pretty hard early on into our trip. Luckily for Alex, a baguette a day is literally what he wishes he could eat everyday. Luckily for me, we walked 11 more miles on day two, so I could deal with the bread intake. And of course the freshly baked bread from real neighborhood bakeries was SO much more satisfying than the grocery store crap we have here in the States. That said, we were super excited to find Maoz Vegetarian (last picture in this post), basically the Chipotle of falafel in Europe. It was so convenient and easy to make your own pita pocket stuffed with things you actually liked, and nearly everything was soy-free. Score!
The 2nd night in town we ventured over to the famed Red Light District, or De Wallen. We found it near the Hash, Marijuana + Hemp Museum, among other coffee shops, boutiques, cheese counters and tourist trinket shops. It sure was something! The dark, thin alleyways were lit up so that you could see them before you arrived. After turning down the alley you are immediately greeted on both sides by matching glass doors, spanning the length of the alleyways. Each has a woman in the window, usually wearing a small amount of lingerie or waggling her finger at you as you pass by. It's kind of crazy to see, but in a country with legal prostitution and brothels, its certainly not out of the ordinary. Rumor has it that the woman are actually generally quite respected and have close relationships with city police. We saw that in action, with friendly ladies chatting up the local police patrolling the area, offering them a drink or letting them in to chat. It was a very professional way of doing things, really, and was wonderful to see the women so in charge of their space and presumably their bodies. As a couple we were smiled at a lot but I think they generally knew we were tourists just talking a look; we did see a few people enter the rooms and quickly shut the door behind them, but for the most part, everyone around were curious tourists, too. We even found a few tobacco-free joints in that area, and enjoyed those for the rest of our stay in the area.
Day three we decided to trek like locals and rent bicycles! That's how most of the population gets around in Amsterdam, and it felt only right that we participate while we were in town. We started early in the morning, trekking nearly 6 miles over to the Amsterdam Bos, a huge green space of over 2,500 acres with a full forest, rowing lake, and even a few small restaurant snuggled inside. It's over three times the size of Central Park!
That was probably my favorite part of Amsterdam - the incredible swaths of bright green space. Not overly manicured, but full of people enjoying it. I wish we had more spaces like that here! We spent hours biking around, watching a rowing race, stopping at small cafes for rolls and fresh fruit, and just straight up loving being on our Honeymoon. For a late lunch we headed from the Bos back toward a place I'd been recommended on instagram called De FoodHallen, which was basically this amazingly designed old warehouse that has been converted into a community space for restaurants. There were at least 12 small cafes and restaurants in the space, and a bunch of long, community style tables in the center. Alex ordered a veggie temaki roll from Meneer Temaki and LOVED it, and I found and fell in love with a small Mexican place call Fento. They made killer jackfruit nachos and homemade iced teas, and I was really impressed that there was such good Mexican food in the middle of Amsterdam! Turns out Fento is owned by someone from LA who moved to Amsterdam and opened up this place - which is probably why it tasted to authentic and good to us. I totally LOVED it and highly recommend stopping by! After lunch we headed back to the AirBNB for a nap - those long days were killing us! - and then back out to a small, local hole-in-the-wall Indian spot for some chickpea curry for dinner. We returned our bikes and headed home. Renting bikes are enjoying the city really is a must-do while you're in the area, but know that the bike traffic moves fast and waits for no-one. Know where you're going before you start biking so you stay out of the locals way!
On day four we walked all over the city one last time, hitting up all of the favorite spots we'd accrued over the previous 3 days. We went all the way across town on foot to get to Dophert, a restaurant we'd heard literally rave reviews about. It was pretty good, and a super cute spot - plus the staff was incredibly friendly. That said, like most of the places we visited on our trip, the soy-free options were abysmal, and the portions were pretty small. But Alex really liked his Fried Seitan Sandwich, and we ended up loving walking around that part of the city, so it was totally worth the visit. I even found and made Alex take my picture in front of 'St. Peterhalsteeg' street sign! We finished off our last day walking the canals and stopping by the Vegabond vegan grocer. They didn't have a ton of options for on-the-go eating, but had some great groceries to take back to the AirBNB and a quality selection of kombucha, too. That night we hit up Mezebar Bodrum one more time and crashed hard, and were up early the next day for our train trip to Brussels! Hopefully I'll get it together and have THAT travel diary up next week! 😝 Until then, check out the resources below to help plan your trip, and check out our IG posts from the trip for more on what we ate + saw, and make sure to visit our youtube channel to watch the video recaps of our Amsterdam trip here. Vaarwel!
IG Photo Links:
Ask the locals! Seriously - they know.