Thanks to a certain viral video, the Hawaiian island of Maui is experiencing an upsurge of interest from Kiwis seeking some of that Max-and-Amelia magic. But you don't need to be ultra-rich to experience Maui: flights to Hawaii are more affordable than ever and accommodation on the island is available at every price point. And, of course, Maui's very best attractions – those glorious beaches – cost nothing at all.
The West Coast
The Key house is located in Wailea, an exclusive resort community of five-star hotels, private homes and immaculate golf courses. Like all beaches on the island's leeward (western) side, Wailea Beach is a dreamy blend of sugar-fine sand and calm water. Indeed, Wailea is so gorgeous it was named “America's Best Beach” in 1999.
But if you're not a golfer there isn't much else to do around Wailea. All the action is at Lahaina, Maui's biggest town, a 45 minute drive north. This is where you come for a night out, or to go shopping (the wares range from cheap trinkets to exquisite local arts and crafts), or to head out on a whale watching tour. Lahaina has a long and fascinating history including a 25 year period as the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Stop by the Lahaina Visitor Center in the old Courthouse (next to an enormous, 12-trunk banyan tree) and pick up a free walking map of key historical sites.
Located on Maui's northern, or windward, side, Ho'okipa is noticeably wilder than the beaches on the west coast. It offers some of the world's best windsurfing, particularly in the Northern Hempisphere winter months. The calmer summer season is a better time for snorkeling the on-shore coral reef; this is also when you're most likely to see families of green sea turtles bobbing in the water or basking in the late afternoon sun.
The Road to Hana
A meandering 103km route taking in waterfalls, swimming holes, tropical rainforest, spectacular coastline, and countless historical points of interest, the road along Maui's northern side to the township of Hana is one of the world's greatest drives. Nervous driver? You should probably opt for a bus tour to avoid the truly nerve-wracking hairpin turns along the way. If you're driving yourself then decide on an itinerary before setting out. This is particularly important if you're planning on doing the entire length in one day, which won't give you much time for each attraction. Popular sites include the Wailua Falls, the Hana Lava Tube, Honomanu Bay Lookout and the legendary Oeh'o Gulch.
Mt Haleakala and Ohe'o Gulch
Two of Maui's most famous sites, the massive dormant volcano Mt Haleakala and idyllic Ohe'o Gulch bathing pools, are both located inside Haleakala National Park (entrance fee from USD$8, valid for three days). A stop at Ohe'o, commonly known by its more marketable name Seven Sacred Pools, is doable on a Hana roadtrip, but you'll want to make a separate excursion to Mt Haleakala. A confection of waterfalls and interconnected pools surrounded by bamboo forest, Ohe'o Gulch is justifiably popular with visitors – get there as early as possible to avoid the crowds. You'll want to make an even earlier start to get to Mt Haleakala's summit in time for sunrise, a genuine Maui must-do. Mark Twain called it “the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed”. Blankets of stars slowly dissolving into fiery orange daybreak – it's an experience you'll remember for the rest of your life, guaranteed.