Hawaii Surf and Mai Tais
February 1, 2019
Hawaii Surf Sun and Mai Tai's
Hawaii: Surf, Sun & Mai Tais
Hawaii might be one of the United States, but this group of islands has an exotic mysticism that sets it apart from its 49 companions—and even from other tropical destinations. If you've ever traveled there yourself, you'll know what I'm talking about. There's no way to adequately describe the feeling of peace and well-being that surrounds you upon setting foot in this unique paradise. There's something to offer every island lover out there, from surfing shirts for beach bum to dancing shoes for the night owls.
There's only one fly in the mai tai—if you can even call it that; this is a first-world problem if ever there was one. With so many gorgeous destinations to choose from, narrowing down the options can be a tough prospect. Although you're bound to have an excellent time no matter where you end up, it helps if you have a solid launching pad to start from. Whether this is your maiden voyage or a return visit, here's a primer on some of the Hawaiian hot spots you won't want to miss.
Surfing the North Shore
When you first catch sight of the epic waves that the North Shore is famous for, you'll feel like you stepped right into a logo on one of those classic surfing tshirts. This seven-mile strip of sand draws some of the world's most competitive surfers in the winter months, when the sets are at their most majestic. In summer, the waves are more suitable for those who are just getting their feet wet, in a manner of speaking. Even if you never set foot in the water, the experience of visiting the North Shore is one that you'll never forget. Don't forget to visit one of the local food trucks, so you can sample the delicious garlic shrimp that the region is known for.
Kayaking to the Chinaman's Hat
This gem of an island is tucked into the waters off of Kualoa Ranch, and the views from the top of the mountain are spectacular. You can get there easily by kayak, but if you're feeling energetic, it's also possible to swim there. If you're staying in Waikiki, ask around to find out which tour guides might provide you with the best experience.
Taking a zipline tour of Kualoa Ranch
As long as you're in the area, why not tackle another pulse-pounding adventure at Kualoa? Soar amongst the lush green treetops at exhilarating speeds, enjoying the tropical scenery as you go—assuming you're able to keep your eyes open, that is. While definitely not for the fainthearted, this adventure will put a spring in your step and shake the dust off your surf shirts for a day or two.
Touring Diamond Head
This is definitely one of the more touristy items on our list, but with good reason. The crater dates back over 300,000 years, offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and nearby Honolulu, and is the center of a state park that offers a ton of useful intel on the area, as well as maps to guide you on your hike. Because, make no mistake, you will be hiking this monument. Even if you arrive intending to take it in from a grounds-eye view, you won't be able to help yourself once you take in the sheer splendor of the sight.
Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Although surfing gets the majority of the attention on Oahu, you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you ruled out a snorkeling expedition to this gorgeous nature preserve. The swimming ground was a volcanic crater once upon a time, and is now a lively reef home to scores of colorful fish and forests of coral. You're free to bring your own gear if you have it, but should you come armed only with your beach tshirts, you can rent a snorkel, mask and fins for a decent price. Guided tours are also available for the uninitiated.
Strolling along Front Street in Lahaina Town
This historic whaling village is home to several shopping districts, enticing restaurants, and one of the world's largest banyan trees. Lahaina (the name means cruel sun in Hawaiian) is perched on the edge of the West Maui Mountains, and so enjoys dry and warm weather year-round. Browse through the shops to select your ideal assortment of beach shirts and tees, and chow down on an actual Cheeseburger in Paradise. Many of the bars offer happy hour specials on island favorites such as mai tais and lava flows (pina coladas with strawberry puree) when the sun goes down. If you're visiting around Christmas, be sure to take in the holiday light spectacle at Banyan Tree Park. Also, don't put your surf shirts away—the Lahaina reef is one of the top surfing destinations on the island.
Driving the Road to Hana
The notorious Road to Hana is a picturesque marvel of emerald hills, turquoise waterfalls, and stunning rock cliffs. With a photo opportunity around every winding curve, you'll find plenty of excuses to pull off to the side—and a good thing, too, since the road is too narrow in places to allow two cars to pass one another. The trip takes at least half a day when done properly, but you won't want it to end.
Playing on Kaanapali Beach
If the words "surfing shirts for beach bum" get your heart throbbing in triple time, you'll be right at home in this West Maui mecca. Located just 20 minutes north of Lahaina Town, Kaanapali offers visitors the ultimate getaway for beach luxury and relaxation. Everything you need is just a short walk from the clear blue Pacific waters: warm sand, tropical beverages, beachside bars offering everything from sashimi to hamburgers, and boutique stores where you can purchase enough surfing tshirts to complete your ultimate collection. Bodysurfing is the main draw here, but you're welcome to bring your board as well—you won't be the only one.
Saying Aloha to Ho'okima Beach
When most people hear the words "North Shore," they immediately think of Oahu. While there are solid reasons for that, you shouldn't pass up a trip to Maui's north shore either. Ho'okima Beach will give you ample reasons to keep the words "surf's up" in your island vocabulary. Windsurfers, too, will especially appreciate the north- and northwest swells that make this one of Maui's top destinations for surfers. Note that you should hold on to your beach tshirts when visiting this spot, as the riptides can be quite severe and even dangerous, especially when coupled with the sharp rocks and coral reefs. It's best to brave these waters only if you're a seasoned expert.
Getting Your Paia Groove On
You might not hear a lot about Paia in the guidebooks, as its upcountry location puts it a little off the beaten path. If you're looking for an authentic island experience that will make you feel right at home in your beach shirts, though, you can't go wrong with this groovy little hamlet. Pay a visit to the Paia Fish Market, one of Willie Nelson's most frequent Maui haunts, and enjoy the freshest ono you'll find anywhere on the island. Nearby, enjoy a glorious craft cocktail at Milagros Food Company, which features a myriad of tequila options as well as a daily happy hour. If you're heading for the North Shore, be sure to stop in at Paia. You might find that it's the highlight of your entire trip.
While many of the things you'll hear about Hawaii are true—you'll fall in love with the place the moment you arrive, the Lahaina rainstorms are rare but epic when they occur, tees are acceptable as semi-formal wear, there are avocados available on just about any food item you order—there are some myths among the legends as well. One major misconception concerns inter-island travel—many visitors assume that they'll be able to island-hop as easily as they might switch subway cars back home. The truth is, once you settle on a particular island, you'll probably be spending all of your time there (unless you've arranged to fly to other islands in advance). The good news? You'll be having such a wonderful time, you won't feel the need to wander any further. Aloha!