The BFH Healthy Travel Guide to Maui, Hawaii
Hawaii had always been one of these mystical places I knew about, but truthfully had no desire to go to in relation to all the other places in the world. It felt almost cliché, that place everyone goes to on their honeymoon. But something shifted inside of me when I knew I was leaving Australia and heading back to Canada; you see, Hawaii is basically on the way, and a pretty common layover.
Life hack: if your travel destination has a layover: extend the trip and spend a few days in the layover city. The flight doesn’t cost more, and it’ll allow you to explore a place of the world you would might never otherwise actually go to.
That was my idea, really. I knew that Hawaii would probably never be one of my top travel destinations considering how insanely long my travel bucket list already was, so I figured why not explore a bit. I’ll keep it short for now (although I’ll definitely go deep in another post) and say that my intention for a couple of days soaking in the Hawaii sun turned into a three month love affair with Maui, working and living 100% off the grid, on a solar-powered organic farm in the West Maui Mountains (a link to a detailed account of that experience can be found at the bottom of this article).
During my time there a friend I hadn’t seen in years was coincidentally also on Maui, and so together we had the opportunity to explore just about every inch of this magical island. It should definitely give you all the inspiration you need to have the most active, mystical, Maui vacation of your dreams.
Warning: In this travel guide I admit to committing a federal offence and multiple degrees of trespassing.. and honestly I didn’t think for a single minute of not including these experiences. I believe that land belongs to the people, and although I understand the law is in place to try and facilitate order- I will never let the law get in between me and my relationship with Mother Earth. My connection to nature is a sacred bond, and I enter these experiences with a very humble awareness that they are not always safe, and with a deep respect for the land as I explore it. No destruction, no trace of my existence. Please exercise judgement in navigating this guide, and know that I am not suggesting you break the law; what feels right for me might not be right for you.
Speaking of respecting the land, there is an ancient Hawaiian legend, known as Pele’s Curse. Pele’s Curse is that any visitor who takes rock or sand away from the Hawaii islands will suffer bad luck until the native Hawaiian elements are returned. This legend speaks to the sacred nature of these islands; take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footsteps.
CAFÉS + RESTAURANTS
Farmacy Health Bar, Wailuku
Mana Foods food bar, Paia
Paia Fish Market, Paia
Bamboo Fresh, Lahaina
Choice Health Bar, Lahaina
Honolua Farms Kitchen, Lahaina
Paia Bowls, Paia
Jaws Country Store, Haiku
Mana Foods, Paia: this place is heaven on Earth. Mana is all you could ever want from a health food store. It has heart, soul, an organic food-bar, and is hands down the best place to stock up on local organic produce, all the best health-food brands from across the world, and somehow also manages to be the most affordable health-food/ supplement store on Maui. Make sure you try the absolutely mind-blowing “Pono Pies” raw desert made from local breadfruit, macadamia nuts, and other goodies.
Upcountry Farmers Market (Saturdays 7-11am where- off @hwy 37 at the Kulamalu Town Centre- near Long’s Drugs)
Kula Country Farms Produce Stand (Tuesday to Friday 10am-5pm and Saturday/ Sunday 10am-4pm where @Kula)
Maui Nui Farms Farmers Market (Thursday to Sunday 8am-5pm @the Maui Nui Farm in Kula, on the slopes of Mt. Haleakalā)
Hana Fresh Farm Stand (Monday to Friday 7am-3pm @the front of the Hana Medical Centre
Wholefoods Maui, Kahului)
Down to Earth, Kahului
Hawaiian Moons Natural Foods, Kihei
Kumu Farms, Wailuku
Red Sands Beach, Kaihalulu Bay, Hana: one of my favourite beaches on this planet. Red Sands Beach used to be where the native women would come to give birth, and the area has truly held that sacred energy. I went on a day that was pouring rain and it was one of the most healing experiences of my life: laying in the red sand in the pouring rain and swimming in the crashing waves. This beach is a must see. Location: Park at the end of Uakea Rd. which runs on the ocean side of Hotel Hana Maui, parallel to Hana Hwy.
Venus Pools (aka Waioka Pond), Hana: this spot is very hidden, but you’ll notice a worn path all the way through a paddock off the side of the road that winds right and pops out to this epic swimming hole. Perhaps the best place to safely go cliff jumping on Maui, with different heights (see picture). I believe you are technically trespassing to access the pools but this is truly a popular tourist attraction, and so a perfect way to break your trespassing virginity if you generally play by the rules. Location: Mile Marker: #48.1 (bridge over stream) (Hana Hwy aka Hwy 31).
Baby Beach/ Baldwin Beach, Lahaina: one of my favourite beaches on Maui, this spot is divine. The sand is so white and the water is crystal clear blue, it doesn’t even look real.There is a big break wall near the beach so the swimming area of baby beach is super calm/ family friendly. There is also red clay in the parking lot leading up to the beach… the whole scene is truly magical.
Makena Beach State Park: this beach has two parts, “big beach” is massive and beautiful, and if you go to the very end, climb through the rocks and pop out the other side you’ll land on “little beach” one of Maui’s very few nudist beaches. Location: Makena Alanui Rd., (4 Mi S of Grand Wailea Resort)
Makena Cove (aka Secret Beach, or Paako Cove): heading towards La Perouse just before hitting Makena State Park you'll see a little rock wall (on the right side of the road) with a path leading down to the water. This not-so-secret-anymore beach is a classic wedding destination and will take your breath away. Try hitting it up for a sunrise, as it is tiny and can get crowded quite quickly.
Kapalua Bay: this picturesque beach technically belongs to the resorts, and are totally polluted by tourists’ sunscreen. But the snorkelling is probably best on the island (hence the slo of sunscreen), and you can rent snorkelling gear for $10 from the Montage Hotel beach front. You’ll see all the bright coloured tropical fish you could imagine and come face-to-face with giant turtles too!
Jaws Surf Break (aka Pe’ahi): this spot consistently wins the biggest wave surfed in the world each year. Note that this area is mad dangerous and only open to surf for a very limited time of the year, during which the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave goes down. Location; Mile Marker: Between #13 & 14 (Hana Hwy aka Hwy 36).
HIKES / WALKS/ NATURE
Road to Hana: This winding road along the North-East shore of the island is the reason most people visit Maui. Driving through mystical forests, along sheer one-lane cliff sides (and praying no one else is coming from the opposite direction…) this drive is absolutely insane. You’ll see more waterfalls than you even know existed on the planet. You can do it as a day trip (if leave before sunrise), but consider spending the night in Hana if you really want to get the most of it. I included many beaches/ hikes throughout the guide located in Hana. If you’re only doing it as a day trip I recommend hitting up the Venus pools to watch the sunrise, then hike and explore the Seven Sacred Pools/ Pipiwai trails, and then a swim at Red Sands Beach before heading home. Oh, and pack some fresh ginger to chew on to prevent car sickness, trust me.
Waihe’e Ridge Trail: a must do for anyone who visits Maui. This hike is legal and it's f’ing EPIC. I was lucky enough to be living just around the corner, so I did it multiple times during my time on Maui. And it was just as magical every. single. time. If you do one thing on Maui, make it this hike. Location: Mile Marker: #6.9 (Kahekili Hwy aka Hwy 340).
Haleakalā Crater: an absolute must-do. You can hike up if you’re a gangsta, but we drove each time. The ride up through the Haleakalā National Park is mystical, make sure you open your windows to smell the Eucalyptus as you drive through the the Eucalyptus tree forrest. You can go at any time of day of course but aim to be there for sunrise or sunset, as the peak (10,000ft up) is above the clouds, so watching the sun rise or set from the top is a deeply spiritual experience. To see the sun rise on Haleakalā you have to book a spot but honestly, it’s just as special to watch it set. It does get quite busy (none the less magical), so make sure you get there ahead of time to secure a good spot. Oh, and bring blankets/ bundle up: despite spending that very morning in a bikini, the summit hovers around 0-5 degrees Celsius (35 degree F) in the SUMMER! (read: you will freeze your tits off).
Haleakalā Sliding Sands Trail: I actually didn’t end up being able to do this hike while I was on Maui, but it looks epic (I saw the route of the hike many times from where it begins at the top of Haleakalā). Note: this 18km hike looks easy, but is extremely difficult given the atmospheric pressure of being 10,000ft above sea level.
Iao Valley State Park Maui: shit is about to get hell-a illegal here. The Iao Valley has been covered in a barrage of metaphorical red tape since 2016, when massive destructive floods hit Maui. These flash floods literally changed the landscape of the island, completely washed away a large touristic part of the valley, and cause the permanent closure of areas like the 7 Sacred Pools in Hana. Serious business. As Maui tries to rebuild the are and ensure safety, the whole area up the mountain creating the valley (which is federal land) is closed off. You can legally walk along the actual valley hollow (along the water-way/ river), but crossing up into areas that were previously hiking paths is forbidden. Signs stating incarceration and $10,000 fines + jail time are plastered all over... so you’ve been warned. Anyways- I packed water, snacks, and entered on what turned out to be one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I’ll save the details for a separate post, but there is a “secret” hike up in the Iao Valley that even when the park was open, was still off-trail and illegal to do- this hike while the park is actually closed is a double (perhaps triple? quadruple?) whammy because of the federal land closure, but if you want to do it- make your way to this sign, and keep going. The hike took me about 8 hours round trip, up to the top of tiny muddy mountain peaks, though bamboo forests, and ended by scaling an insanely steep side of a tree-covered mountain side where I ended up in natural rock pools. There is absolutely no cell service in this area of Maui, and I did this hike alone with no idea where to go other than that it started at the “do not enter” sign. Thrill seekers and nature warriors lace your hiking boots up because this one is a life-changer. If you get lost, make your way down the mountain towards the Iao River (west side of the cliff), and you know that the river leads back into town so just follow the water.
La Perouse Bay Lava Rock Fields, Kihei (aka Hoapili Trail) + Secret Swimming Hole: much of the lava rock fields have been shut down to pubic use due to damage by tourists, but a huge part of it is still open, and the open part is definitely incredible. You drive all the way to the end of Makena Rd, and from the parking lot start walking left. This hike is fairly flat but takes your through multiple surreal landscapes, and definitely requires good balance because the uneven surface and crumbling lava rocks are unstableAF. This hike also has a secret swimming hole, so secret that it took us two times to find it. Basically you treck all the way to the end of the lava fields (theres like a loop with some sort of metal light structure), and then off the side of the cliff climb down until you see the ocean rock pools. Genuinely the most magical swimming hole I’ve been in- the ocean crashes over the cliff and the whole rock pool sways with fresh salt water. I’ve marked the spot on a map HERE. ps. pack a hat/ protection from the sun. This whole area is very dry and the lava is black so you basically are asking to be roasted alive (I speak from experience…).
Pools of ‘Ohe'o (aka the Seven Sacred Pools): this hike/ swimming hole was actually closed when I was on Maui because of the devastating flooding of 2016. As far as I know these pools are permanently closed. Not that that stopped us from going… These seven freshwater pools were pretty gross TBH (still full of whatever genetically-modified run off foam was spilling out of the land) but the view from the top alone is worth popping in there to check it out. Location: Mile Marker: #42* (Hana Hwy aka Hwy 31 – *After Hana the markers go back down).
Pipiwai Trail: this trail actually starts at the Seven Sacred Pools, and runs North. Because the pools were closed (and definitely too foul to swim in) we decided to get hiking. We didn’t get too far along the marked path until a sign saying “DO NOT ENTER FATALITIES HAVE OCCURED” out in the bush (not anywhere you would think to go naturally). Needless to say, we ditched the path for this danger zone and stumbled on this fucking insane hidden waterfall. Full disclosure this was beyond unsafe. We had to scale a sheer, wet, cliff (with no idea how we were going to get back out) but needless to say it was epic.
Ke’anae Arboretum: A majestic six acre arboretum and botanical garden full of local trees and flora. Location: Mile Marker: #16.7 (Hana Hwy aka Hwy 360).
Swinging Bridges (aka Waihe’e Valley Trail): alright technically this guy isn’t the most legal of hikes, as it is on and off of private property. I’m sure you know by now that that doesn’t stop me (and quite frankly makes me want to go there even more..); so enter at your own risk, and do know that people have been fined. But this hike is pretty insane, it runs in and out of these massive swinging bridges, and end in a mystical watering hole. I had really no idea where I was going, and just kept hiking and hiking deeper into the Waihe’e valley because I knew there was meant to be swimmable waterfalls at the “end” of the hike. The trail would occasionally split and I just crossed my fingers and took a turn, and did eventually end up at these (man-made) water falls in the middle of the Waihe’e valley. They were created to divert water I think, but anyways its a straight up insane swimming hole, and totally worth the risk of incarceration. This hike is not for the faint of heart, its about 3.5kms hike from the road to the entrance of of the hike (where you’ll find all the no trespassing signs), and the hike itself is strenuous (about 6 hours round trip), through small rivers, through a couple of bamboo forests, along cliff sides, and the bridges are sturdy but tbh not the safest. Oh! you’ll also hike through an orchard of wild mountain apples, which are totally edible! Location: Mile Marker: #4.9 (Kahekili Hwy aka Hwy 40), turn onto Waihe’e Valley Rd.
Na'ili'ili Haele Stream & Waterfalls (aka Bamboo Forrest): this hike runs through an incredible bamboo forrest, and connects between 5+ waterfalls (some are swimmable). Hike to the first major waterfall is easy, but continuing along requires climbing up rope ladders. Experienced hikers can venture into the jungle past the last waterfall. Awesome spot. Location: Mile Marker: #6.7 (Hana Hwy aka Hwy 360).
The Painted Grove: this is really just a hop-out-of-the-car-and-have-your-mind-blown moment, but along the road to Hana (between mile marker 6 and 7- roughly MM 6.7) there are a cluster of rainbow-bark Eucalyptus trees. Don’t miss these truly psychedelic trees, I recommend going to give them a hug... but you do you.
Sunflower fields: these fields are located on Central Maui off of Kuihelani Highway near Honoapi'lani Highway and bloom miscellaneously throughout the year. If you're lucky you'll be on the island while they're in bloom and can run through the field while the sunflower heads dance in the wind.
Kapalua Coastal Trail: dis one for the lazy folk, it’s beautiful (duh, you're in Maui), but is flatAF and paved. You’re basically walking in between fancy resorts. Not super adventurous, but a good way to stretch your legs in between tanning sessions if you’re already in the area.
Kaupō Gap hike: dis one for the hardcore mo-fos! this hike runs along the backside of the Haleakalā volcano and is for experienced hikers. Proper gear (shoes, dressed for the weather) and good fitness definitely required for this 14km downhill hike through ancient lava formations and dense dry bushland.
Camping in Kaupō: one of my most memorable experiences on Maui was camping under the stars, along the shoreline in Kaupō. For this you definitely need experience driving an off-road friendly car; I had a friend who has been living on Maui for over a decade and who knows the island well drive me along the Pillany hwy (the one road on the backside of Maui) at which point we just started driving down through the rock formations all the way to the water. The night was so warm that we actually slept right under the stars, and didn’t even set up the tent. It was a new moon so the stars were incredibly visible in the dark sky, and Kaupō is so desolate there was no light or breath of human existence for miles and miles and miles. Honestly writing this gives me goosebumps, it’s a life changing experience.
Nakalele Point (Blow hole): about 8 miles North of Kapalua (at mile marker 38.5) is a great, short (but steep) hike down to an incredible natural blow hole. Make sure you know the exact mile marker because this little gem is unmarked and is in an area with no cell-service. At the bottom of the hike is this insane natural blow hole that shoots water up to 100ft in the air. It’s awesome. Note that people have died at this blow hole because the powerful blast of water is followed by an even more powerful suction: don’t be a dumb dumb get too close. Location: Mile Marker: #38-38.5 (Kahekili Hwy aka Hwy 340).
Ho’okipa (Lookout): Great spot to stop and have a walk around, there are often giant turtles down on the beach, food trucks, and lots of surf. Location: Mile Marker: #8.8 (Hana Hwy aka Hwy 36).
Secret rock pools near Ho'okipa: unfortunately I don’t have a direct mile marker for this guy, but if you drive (less than 5 minutes) past Ho’okipa lookout, you’ll surely see some parked cars on the ocean side of the road. Hop the fence (I’m sure you’re an expert trespasser by now), walk down the grassy dip and up the other side, and prepare to feel your jaw drop. This landscape looks like Mars; swimmable ocean rock pools over looking the whole North West coastline of Maui. We watch the sunset here, and all cried because of the beauty, for reals.
Maui Tropical Plantation: cute spot to walk through well-groomed gardens of native Hawaiiian plants, trees, flowers and breathtaking view of the West Maui Mountains.
Twin Falls, North Shore: touristyAF, I won’t get too into the Twin Falls because every other Maui guide most definitely touches on this spot. It is worth the visit, especially if you’re with kids (super family friendly).
Invent your own: Maui is an insane place full of corners and hidden gems to explore. I would often just start walking, and find myself in an insane gorge surrounded by rock formations, hanging vines, and end up in the middle of nowhere with the most magical view of the island.
GYMS/ FITNESS/ HEALTH/ WELLNESS
This section is blank because I really stayed off the grid for most of this trip. Apart from occasionally getting groceries, I didn’t frequent traditional gyms/ saunas/ etc, and only wen’t to the gym once because the person I was with had to run an errand in town and I had time to kill. There are so many ways to exercise, sweat, detox, and truly embody health and wellness on Maui that require nothing but nature. If you’re visiting, I’m sure your hotel has a gym or whatnot, but I was working 6 days a week on a farm, and let me tell ya- that shit is nature’s gym. Pack your hiking boots and your swimmers and Maui will provide you every health/ wellness/ fitness experience you need: free of charge.