Exploring Maui – Hawaii, USA


After a leisurely start to our first full day on Maui we took a drive to Lahaina which was about 45 minutes north of where we were staying.  Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1820 to 1845, when the capital was moved back to Honolulu.  In the 19th century, Lahaina was the center of the global whaling industry, with many sailing ships anchoring at its waterfront, today pleasure craft make their home there.  Lahaina’s popularity as a tropical getaway has made its real estate some of the most expensive in Hawaii; many luxury homes and condos are sold for more than USD2 million there.

There was a monthly art exhibition on under the largest Banyan Tree in the USA so we had a wander through there.  We then explored the famous Front Street which is ranked as one of the “Top Ten Greatest Streets” by the American Planning Association. There are many historic buildings housing restaurants, art galleries and shops which back onto the water.  We stopped at one of the local seafood restaurants and had lunch overlooking the water.  We then discovered the outlet malls at the end of Front Street so did a bit of retail therapy : )

Lunchtime view

First cocktail on the island

Seamen’s House & Hospital – completely restored in 1982 to its original appearance, the Seamen’s House was first built in 1833 on the commission of King Kamehameha III.  At the time, Lahaina did not extend much further north than Dickerson Street, which was then a stream flowing alongside a missionary compound.  This building was deliberately situated about a mile from the homes of the missionaries and devout Christian Governor Hoapili.  The King approached a Honolulu merchant to build a house on his property which would cater to visiting sailors as an inn and a store.  The King also had another purpose in mind: he needed a place to indulge in activities not condoned by the influential missionaries and to be away from their prying eyes.  They frowned on the partaking of “ardent spirits” and maintaining the old tradition of a sacred marriage between closely related high chiefs.  So it was here the King could meet his beloved sister, Princess Nahi’ena’ena.  By 1841, Joaquin Armas, a Mexican cowboy who was hired as the “King’s bullock catcher”, became landlord of this estate.  In 1844, the structure was leased to the US State Department to serve as a hospital for seamen, particularly whalers who flocked to these shores in 1860.  During archaeological excavation, a “permanent guard” was found under a corner of the foundation: the skeleton of a human sacrifice which lay halfway outside the building.  After being blessed by a Hawaiian minister, the skull maintains its permanent vigil over the building to this day.

Bamboo Forest Hike

The next day we decided to explore the other side of the island and take the road towards Hana.  The waiter at the Outback Steak House had recomended this hike in a bamboo forest.  I had done some googling to find the exact spot as there is another bamboo forest hike at the bottom of the island.  We went past all these cars parked on the side of the road but they were doing the Twin Waterfalls walk – apparently this is very touristy and busy so we carried on to the lesser known bamboo forest hike which was also marked by a number of cars parked on the side of the road although no where near as many.  We entered the hike through this narrow opening in the bush and followed the track down what became quite a slippery slope – Steve took one look at this and turned back.  The rest of us including George of the Jungle, aka Taj carried on.

We negotiated our way down the slope via bamboo and then had to rock jump across a river.  The track lead us to a waterfall and swimming hole.  Paul got chatting to a lady who turned out to be originally from Wellington – her and her family were currently living on Maui.  She told us that the track carries on up to more waterfalls and swimming holes, each one higher than the other.  She told us that normally it was fairly dry in there but that had had a lot of rain causing it to be very muddy.  There was a rope to get up to the next level which we initially thought might be a bit tricky carrying Taj so Paul and I went up to explore.  It didn’t take long to get to the next waterfall and swimming hole which was quite cool.  Paul decided to go back and get Ashleigh and Taj.  Meanwhile I got my bikini on and took a refreshing dip.  It had got really hot and humid.

Ashleigh and Taj made it safely up the next level albeit with a bit more mud on them.  Ashleigh and Taj hopped in the water and Taj loved splashing about in there.  I had to go and do the rope swing : )

​We noted to get to the next level you had to climb quite a precarious looking ladder so thought we had gone far enough.  After cooling off we made our way back to the car gathering a bit more mud as we went.  We really weren’t that prepared for getting dirty so had to make the best of what we had, that is, wearing wet and muddy shoes for the next wee while.  We got back to the car and Steve was still there – bonus!  We stopped off at a fruit stall on the way back to Paia for a freshly blended juice.

We had been recommended the Flatbread Company in Paia for a bite so that was our lunch spot.  Paia pronounced Pah-ee-ah reflects its heritage as a unique Hawaiian plantation village that originated in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  The first mill was constructed in the 1870’s as the sugar industry took hold on Maui.  Paia Town was established later in 1896 with the founding of a company store for workers.  The Paia Sugar Mill up until 2000 was Maui’s oldest operating plantation.

In April 1946, Paia experienced the largest tsunami in Hawaii’s recorded history, which was the result of an earthquake originating in the Aleutians Islands.  Although 159 people lost their lives throughout the Hawaiian Islands, Paia only had one death.  The town did suffer extensive property damage and thus launched another rebuilding period.

In recent decades, Paia has become a laid back town with local businesses and a coexistence between longtime residents and those attracted by the area’s world class windsurfing.  In 1978 a group of young guys discovered the perfect windsurf conditions at Ho’okipa Beach Park in Paia.  From that day forth, Paia began to develop its reputation for being the “Windsurf Capital of the World”.  As word quickly spread, in the 80’s and 90’s Paia saw an influx of windsurf enthusiasts from the world searching for the windsurf mecca they had heard countless stories about.  Many of the moved to the Paia area.

The Flatbread Company is very popular so we had to sit on a bench seat outside the store and wait for a table which didn’t take too long.  Due to the muddy conditions of Paul’s shoes he had decided to go barefoot – I thought that would be quite acceptable in the hippy town but no he was sent packing to put some shoes on : ). The food was definitely worth the wait though.  They source local organic ingredients and the flatbread dough is made from 100% organic wheat that is milled into white flour and the wheat germ restored.  We choose Mopsy’s Kayla Pork which is their best seller along with a Pele Pesto.  DELISH!

Diving and Snorkelling

There are so many snorkelling and diving spots on the island just off the beach.  Paul did a dive off the beach at Kahekili Beach Park with Ty from In2Scuba ( https://www.in2scubadivingmaui.com ).  He loved it and got to see sharks and turtles.  Ashleigh joined him a couple of days later at Mala wharf where they again saw sharks, turtles and a moray eel.  Ty was an awesome instructor and really took the time to explain where they were going and then what they saw when they got back.

Mala wharf was once a fully-functioning pier which served as a shipping facility for the island’s pineapple and agriculture. In 1992, however, 30 feet surf came marching into Lahaina as a result of Hurricane Iniki, and the end of the dock was completely destroyed. Today, the pilings from the old dock lie scattered along the ocean floor, and what was once a shipping facility above water is now a healthy artificial reef which is home to a vast array of marine life.

We decided to take a snorkelling trip offshore too.  We were recommended the Pacific Whale Foundation trip that goes out to Molokini Crater and to Turtle Town.

The Pacific Whale Foundation is a not for profit organisation and their mission is to protect our oceans through science and advocacy.  They accomplish this through ongoing marine research, education and conservation programs.  Through their ocean ecotours, they have educated nearly 3.5 million people about the marine environment, while raising needed funds to support vital whale and dolphin research studies, educational programs for children and adults, as well as important conservation programs, including the fight to stop commercial whaling.

The crew were very friendly and included a couple of marine naturalists.  We went out to the Molokini crater first which is a crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater that forms a small, uninhabited islet located in ʻAlalākeiki Channel between the islands of Maui and Kahoʻolawe, within Maui County in Hawaiʻi.  It is the remains of one of the seven Pleistocene epoch volcanoes that formed the prehistoric Maui Nui island, during the Quaternary Period of the Cenozoic Era.  The islet itself is a bird sanctuary and you are not allowed to go ashore.

They backed the boat in and we kitted up and jumped in – the water wasn’t as warm as we had been expecting but it was really clear.  There were so many fish, it was so cool.  Paul & I had gone in first as Ashleigh was trying to get Taj to have a sleep so he could be left with Grandad.  We hadn’t been in the water long when Paul tugged my arm and pointed below us – a reef shark was casually swimming along the ocean floor.  It was so cool – a definite highlight of our trip to Maui for me.  We spent about an hour in the water before up anchoring to move on to our next spot.

The next spot is known as the Turtle arches due to its lava arch formations and the frequent sightings of green sea turtles.

The green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), also known as the green turtle, black (sea) turtle, or Pacific green turtle, is a large sea turtle of the family Cheloniidae. It is the only species in the genus Chelonia. Its range extends throughout tropical and subtropical seas around the world, with two distinct populations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but it is also found in the Indian Ocean. The common name comes from the usually green fat found beneath its carapace; these turtles’ shells are olive to black.

Like other sea turtles, green sea turtles migrate long distances between feeding grounds and hatching beaches. Many islands worldwide are known as Turtle Island due to green sea turtles nesting on their beaches. Females crawl out on beaches, dig nests and lay eggs during the night. Later, hatchlings emerge and scramble into the water. Those that reach maturity may live to 80 years in the wild.

I was very excited to see one of these turtles.  I joined the snorkelling safari taken by one of the naturists which was so cool as she dove down and pointed various fish out and then came up and told us all about them.  One of the other snorkellers yelled out Turtle so we all swam over to have a look – it was very cool swimming gracefully through the sea.  It actually turned quite choppy so I decided to hop out – I had seen a turtle so I was pretty happy.

We then had a BBQ lunch on the boat while one of the crew gave us a talk about sharks.  She was very passionate about sharks and said that they were to be revered not feared.

Basic Facts about Sharks

There are more than 465 known species of sharks living in our oceans today. Sharks are an apex predator at or near the top of their marine food chains, and they regulate the populations of species below them. Research has shown that massive depletion of sharks has cascading effects throughout the ocean’s ecosystems.

Sharks belong to a family of fish that have skeletons made of cartilage, a tissue more flexible and lighter than bone. They breathe through a series of five to seven gill slits located on either side of their bodies. All sharks have multiple rows of teeth, and while they lose teeth on a regular basis, new teeth continue to grow in and replace those they lose.

Shark ‘skin’ is made up of a series of scales that act as an outer skeleton for easy movement and for saving energy in the water. The upper side of a shark is generally dark to blend in with the water from above and their undersides are white or lighter colored to blend in with the lighter surface of the sea from below. This helps to camouflage them from predators and prey.


Most species of shark eat things like fish, crustaceans, mollusks, plankton, krill, marine mammals and other sharks. Sharks also have a very acute sense of smell that allows them to detect blood in the water from miles away.


It is difficult to estimate population numbers since there are many different species spanning a large geographic area. However, overall shark numbers are on the decline due to the many threats they face in the wild.

Habitat & Range

Sharks have adapted to living in a wide range of aquatic habitats at various temperatures. While some species inhabit shallow, coastal regions, others live in deep waters, on the ocean floor and in the open ocean. Some species, like the bull shark, are even known to swim in salt, fresh and brackish waters.


Most sharks are especially active in the evening and night when they hunt. Some sharks migrate over great distances to feed and breed. This can take them over entire ocean basins. While some shark species are solitary, others display social behavior at various levels. Hammerhead sharks, for instance, school during mating season around seamounts and islands.

Some shark species, like the great white shark, attack and surprise their prey, usually seals and sea lions, from below. Species that dwell on the ocean floor have developed the ability to bottom-feed. Others attack schooling fish in a feeding frenzy, while large sharks like the whale and basking sharks filter feed by swimming through the ocean with their mouths open wide, filtering large quantities of plankton and krill.


Sharks mature slowly, and reach reproductive age anywhere from 12 to 15 years. This, combined with the fact that many species only give birth to one or two pups at a time, means that sharks have great difficulty recovering after their populations have declined.

Soon after birth, sharks pups swim away to fend for themselves. They are born with fully-fledged sets of teeth and are able to feed and live on their own.

Sharks predate the dinosaurs by 200 million years. The largest known species of shark, C. megalodon, might have reached a maximum length of 67 feet.

One of the naturists on board then ran an educational session for the kieki’s (kids) on board about coral – Taj attended his first ever class.  He was very well behaved and sat their quietly taking it all in.  Paul sat with him and we think this may have been one of the few times that Paul has ever listened in class too 😂😂. Taj did get distracted when a cute little blonde girl sat next to him – he tried to get her attention but she was eyes front!

Taj made friends with a family from Cape Cod in the USA.  The Mum was travelling with her 14 year old daughter and 12 year old twin boys.  The boys were very taken with Taj and he of course enjoyed the attention.  They were great boys, very sociable and loved all sports known to man.  They were also very into their snorkelling and one of them had seen the spotted moray eel before everyone else and was pointing it out.   One of the boys said that their Dad had stayed home because he needed some space : ). After lunch we had warm chocolate chip cookies which the boys ate a lot of – they seemed to think that Taj could eat as many as them so kept giving him biscuits.  He of course was willingly accepting them until Ashleigh put a stop to it.

We were up near the Great Barrier Reef in Australia earlier in the year and there is a lot of talk about coral bleaching and the death of the coral reefs.  They didn’t talk so much about the bleaching in Hawaii but there was a lot of talk about protecting them and the importance they play in the ecosystem.  One thing I hadn’t thought of before was the damage that certain sunscreens can do to them – the crew talked a lot about this – the common chemical is benzophenone-2 or BP-2 and this is highly toxic to corals.  See below for more information as to why coral reefs are so important and need to be treated with the utmost respect.

We also did some snorkelling off the beach at Honolulu Bay which was a very popular spot.

One morning Ashleigh and I drove back to Turtle Cove which it turned out wasn’t far from where we were staying and did a snorkel off the beach.  I really wanted to see some more turtles.  We explored the reefs round from the beach and Ashleigh spotted another moray eel.   We then came across a turtle swimming in between the reefs and then another, and another.  In total I think we saw about ten turtles either swimming, resting on the sand or eating the coral.  It was so cool and you could get fairly close without disturbing them.  We spent an hour in the water and saw a lot of fish.  What a great way to start the day.

Kamaole Beach Park was just across from where we were staying and was a lovely spot for a refreshing dip and Taj enjoyed himself playing in and eating the sand!

Nakalele Blowhole

Even though Maui has a dormant volcano that will likely erupt again, Maui’s most active eruption has nothing to do with lava.  Rather it’s a forceful explosion of seawater that erupts on a regular basis – often as frequently as every few minutes when the surf and wind are both up.  We took a drive to see the Nakalele Blowhole on Maui’s northwestern coast – it is a natural geyser where seawater trapped in an underwater lava tube is searching for a way to escape.  Since it can’t go back the way it came in – there’s too much pressure from the waves – the only outlet is a tire sized hole in the jagged, jet black lava rock, where a column of water is powerfully jettisoned up to 100 feet in the air.

When we pulled up into the carpark to walk down to the blowhole we noticed all these police cars had closed the road further round the island and a helicopter was flying overhead with a monsoon bucket dangling from it.  There was a scrub fire just up on the hill –  we couldn’t see the fire only a bit of smoke.  As we walked down to the blowhole the helicopter made numerous trips down to the ocean to fill up the monsoon bucket.  Seeing a helicopter against the cliffs gives you quite a good perspective on how high some of the cliffs actually are.

I had read on the internet about the dangers of the blowhole and that you need to keep your distance.  There have been terrifying instances in the past where the blowhole has sucked people into the hole who were literally standing right over it and some have drowned.  Despite the warning signs on the way down there were a couple of young guys standing over the hole and putting a GoPro down the hole.  To be fair the blowhole didn’t look in full swing but accidents happen so quickly.  We kept our distance and only hung around to get some cool photos – Steve really kept his distance choosing to climb along the cliffs at the top rather than climb down to the blowhole – we don’t call him Precious for nothing : )

There is also this heart shaped hole in the rock which is quite cool.  Apparently pictures of the rock are even more popular on Instagram than the blowhole these days.

Exploration done and pictures taken we headed back up the cliffs to the car.  We headed back towards Lahaina where we stopped off on a hill overlooking Honolua Bay to have a picnic lunch.

Maui Swap Meet

The Maui Swap Meet has been an institution loved by both local residents and tourists since 1981. It is held every Saturday morning from 7 AM to 1 PM, in the parking lot of University of Hawaii Maui College.

This is the place to find the only real bargains on Maui. It’s like a large flea market. T-shirts, jewelry, flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables, hand-painted shirts and dresses, and an amazing variety of other STUFF, is all for sale by Maui residents. 200 vendors and thousands of customers (60% locals and 40% tourists) show up here every Saturday morning, knowing this is the place for a good deal.

There’s also plenty to eat at the Maui Swap Meet. Food trucks and other vendors sell snacks, nuts, candies, drinks, shave ice, and complete lunch entrees. This is an opportunity to taste some authentic Maui foods for less money than you would pay in Maui’s restaurants.

We spent a couple of hours here and it was cool to look around all the arts and crafts. we all tasted some local delights and I did a bit of shopping. Taj enjoyed eating the flesh of a coconut after we had drunk the water out of it.

In fact Taj enjoyed many of the local fruits as did we…

Mango seed
Blueberry Smoothie

Basic Facts about Coral Reefs


a) Coral: Coral is a hard substance of various colors, made up of skeletons of a kind of tiny animal (Chambers Universal Learners’ Dictionary, 1980).

b) Reefs: Reef is a submerged ridge of rock or coral near the surface of the water

(Princeton University, 2003)

Hence, to avoid any confusion on the definition, coral reefs can be said as reefs in general.

What is a reef?

Reefs are limestone formations produced by living organisms, found in shallow, tropical marine waters. Among the predominant organisms in most reefs are stony corals, colonial cnidarians that produce an exoskeleton of limestone. Many reefs result from biotic processes which is the deposition of sand, wave erosion planning down rock outcrops and other natural processes. A healthy reef has 25 percent of all the marine species living among the corals which include sponges, fish, crabs and many more organisms often living symbiotically (Ministry of agriculture and agro-based industry, 2004). However, the best-known reefs are those of tropical waters developed through biotic processes dominated by corals and calcareous algae.

There are three types of reefs which include the Fringing reefs, Barrier reefs and Atoll (Ministry of agriculture and agro-based industry, 2004). Fringing reefs are coral platforms which grow around island and mainland shores that are more or less continuous with the shore and expose at low tide. The second type of reefs which are the Barrier reefs occurs further offshore. This happens when land masses sink and Fringing reefs become separated from shorelines by wide channels. As an example the Great Barrier Reef of North East Australia is the largest known complex of coral reefs. The last type of reefs which are called Atoll is a reef surrounding a lagoon that has no central island with passages through the reef to the sea.

Why are reefs important?

(a) Medical treatment

According to Andrew Bruckner a coral reef ecologist in the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Office of Protected Resources, Silver Spring, Maryland The prospect of finding a new drug in the sea, especially among coral reef species, may be 300 to 400 times more likely than isolating one from a terrestrial ecosystem.

The antiviral drugs Ara-A and AZT and the anticancer agent Ara-C, developed from extracts of sponges found on a Caribbean reef, were among the earliest modern medicines obtained from coral reefs. Other products, such as Dolostatin 10, isolated from a sea hare found in the Indian Ocean, are under clinical trials for use in the treatment of breast and liver cancers, tumors, and leukemia. (Issues in Science and Technology, 2002)

Aside from this, natural compounds in corals have proven to be of immense value especially in terms of medicinal properties. For example, the bark of the Pacific yew tree yielded a compound that has helped battle some forms of cancer. Such finds have led to a new industry–bioprospecting–and such prospectors have fanned out across the globe in search of nature’s remedies. Now a compound isolated from coral collected off the coast of Okinawa has shown the ability to slow down and possibly prevent virus replication and it may hold promise as a cancer treatment. (The Coral Reef Alliance, 2006)

(b) Tourism

The conservation of coral reefs is vital also because in some countries it is a huge source of revenue, which can enhance the countries economic growth, and this is derived from the tourism industry.

For example, the coral reefs in the Malacca Straits alone have a total assessed economic value of US$563 million for tourism, shoreline protection, fisheries, and research potential, whereas the sustainable value of Southeast Asia’s coral reef fisheries on the whole is estimated at US$2.4 billion per year. (Wild Asia, 2005)

Within Malaysia the islands off the east coast of the Peninsular are a major tourist attraction, for example, according to the Tioman Development Authority “An average of 190,000 tourists arrive annually in Pulau Tioman, based on tourist arrivals from 1995 – 2003.”

(c) Ecosystem balance and biodiversity

The marine ecosystem relies largely upon the survival of coral reefs as it provides a shelter for thousands of species of marine life, and since corals are at the base of the food chain, it provides food for the rest of the reef community. It ensures the energy flow through the marine community, creating ecological interactions.

The coral reef which is the base of the food chain is also known as a producer, which produces energy through photosynthesis. Among them are three main types of producers. The first is cyanobactera or blue-green algae, which fix nitrogen and enhance nutrient availability. The second type is seaweeds, which consist of both micro algae and turf algae which are grazed by herbivores. The third type is reef building, or hematypic corals, which have a special relationship with tiny plant-like organisms called zooxanthellae. The zooxanthellae live inside the tissues of the coral and share mutual benefits. (Hawaii Coral Reef Network, 2005)

These producers in turn are essential for the existence of its consumers, which are organisms that consume energy by eating other organisms. Consumers can be divided into two categories. The first is herbivores, animals that eat plants, such as sea urchins, surgeon fishes, and parrotfish. Herbivores contribute mainly to the coral reef by controlling the overgrowth of seaweed and turf algae. The second is corallivores, animals that eat corals such as butterfly fish. The presences of corallivores are a good indicator of the health status of a reef. Coral reef organisms construct huge and intricate physical structures that are home to nearly one quarter of all known marine species. (Hawaii Coral Reef Network 2005)

It is also an essential to maintain a biodiversity of marine life. “In Malaysia, there are approximately 450 coral reef fish species, which include such important species as Pomacentridae (Damselfish). The total of 101 species of damselfish found in Malaysia is 82% of the total from Indonesia and 86% of the total from the Philippines.” (Wild Asia 2005) From this it is clear that coral reefs contribute to a huge biodiversity of fish and is of enourmous global value.

(e) Protects the shorelines from natural disasters

Coral reefs ultimately provide protection from natural disasters and shoreline damage. Coral reefs assist in the prevention of beach erosion, which according to new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The report, titled “In the Front Line: Shoreline Protection and other Ecosystem Services from Mangroves and Coral Reefs”, estimates that a typical coral reef can absorb up to 90 percent of the energy of wind-generated waves thus protecting coastal areas from damage. The report cites a study from Sri Lanka which shows that one square kilometer of coral reef prevents 2,000 cubic meters of coastal erosion annually.

Coral reefs also provide protection to coastal areas, by reducing the impact of tidal waves or tsunamis. According to Simon Cripps, director of the Global Marine Program at the environment group WWF International, “Coral reefs act as a natural breakwater and mangroves are a natural shock absorber, and this applies to floods and cyclones as well as tsunamis.” A comparison was made after the Asian tsunami disaster and indicated that places with “healthy coral reefs and intact mangroves were far less badly hit than places where the reefs had been damaged and the mangroves ripped out and replaced by beachfront hotels and prawn farms.”

(f) Maintain fisheries resources.

Coral reefs ensure an abundant source of fish as it functions as a breeding, feeding and nursery grounds for fish. According to WWF Malaysia report, As much as 30% of fish caught depend on coral reefs in Malaysia. Therefore in order to protect the fishing industry and ensure a continual source of food and a livelihood for fishermen, it is of utmost importance to protect coral reefs.

In many countries such as the Philippines namely the small islands, many of the households rely on fishing as a primary source of income. For example on tiny Malalison Island approximately three-quarters of the households (55 hectares) in the central Philippines make at least part of their income from fishing, and 75 per cent live below the poverty level (Agbayani et al, 2000). By the late 1980s, live coral cover was down to 35 per cent and the community catch had shrunk to a small fraction of what it once had been (Baticados and Agbayani, 2000). This of course clearly demonstrates the crucial role that reefs play.


This blog was originally set up to share our 9 month adventure around Europe and the USA with friends and family in 2014. On returning to NZ in January 2015 I decided to carry it on so I could continue to share any future travel adventures - it has become my electronic travel diary. I hope you enjoy and get inspired to visit some of the wonderful places we have visited.
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