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Maui is definitely a beautiful island paradise. The island consists of two volcanoes, one ancient and mostly eroded away, the other merely dormant. Between the two volcanoes is a broad valley. We stayed near Maalaea  in an apartment right on the sea shore, the windows opening out on to a 'lanai', Hawaiian for balcony/patio, looking out into the bay, where we could at times see whales playing.

maui map

We spent a lot of the time on one of the beaches at  Kamaole, known as the 'big' beach. The waves were big enough to play in, but not surf, and beyond the breakers, you could snorkel, especially near the rocks at one end. Not vast numbers of fish, but enough to make it worthwhile. One of the beaches has a field between it and the road, where children came at weekends to practise Hula.

We had the opportunity to see the real thing at a local fete, in aid of the Whale Foundation, where professional dancers gave their performance free, it would have cost us a fortune had we gone to a similar display at a hotel.

Aio Park is the more accessable part of the countryside formed by the erosion of the older volcano, we didn't venture very far from the entrance, but the scenery and land forms are amazing. There are hiking trails however, if you have the time.

A favourite trip is the 'road to Hana' from the northern end of the valley, round the north coast, to the town of Hana, just on the eastern side of the island. You can't go any further unless you have a four wheel drive vehicle. You buy a cassette tape  (ask anyone, they'll tell you how) and play it in the car as  you drive, stopping and starting it as you pass landmarks, it will tell you what you are seeing. The coast road is narrow, by American standards, winding, and has lovely scenery. Many waterfalls, an Arburetum to visit, and a rocky sea shore, formed from lava, with black sand beaches. Hana itself is a sleepy little town, but the journey is certainly exciting.

No visit to the Hawaiian islands could be complete without going whale watching. We made the trip to Lahaina where the boats leave from, and chose a yacht which in it's earlier days had been an America's Cup contender. It took just 8 passengers. The day we chose to go out was overcast, though still warm, and whether this had anything to do with it I don't know, but the whales were fairly inactive, not like those we had seen frolicking from our lanai. However, there were still plenty to see. The  Humpback whales come to Hawaiian waters to breed, and don't eat while they are there, so we were told.

Finally, the volcano, the Haleakala Crater. The road winds up, through then above the clouds, onto lava, then the crater itself, windy and surprisingly eerie.

2004 Gillian Gatland

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