Maui Eco-Adventures: The Best of West Maui Mountains

Even if you think you’ve seen everything there is to see on West Maui, and even if you think you’ve already been everywhere there is to go on West Maui, you owe it to yourself to experience West Maui with Maui Eco-Adventures. Their “Best of West Maui Mountains” hike takes you to places well off the beaten path, places that aren’t part of the common itinerary. Very few tours that I know of have guides with the knowledge of the island demonstrated by our guide. And not just concerning the location of landmarks and touristy areas of interest. Our guide knew, and freely demonstrated his knowledge, about history, legends, even rainfall statistics.

The night before our adventure, my eleven year old son and I made sure we had everything we would need to go on the hike: closed toed shoes (no crocs or slippers), swim suit, and a good night’s sleep. That’s it. We didn’t need anything else. You can bring a camera if you wish, but Maui Eco-Adventures takes care of everything, even the towels for the swim. Anyway, the swim suit was easy; the shoes we had to find. Living in Lahaina, we don’t wear shoes that often. It’s usually slippers all the time. For this escapade, hiking shoes, tennis shoes, or sturdy sandals work fine. If you have shoes that can get wet, that’s even better. We swam in a few tide pools and the bottom was a little bit rocky.

So, dressed in board shorts, t-shirts, and tennis shoes, we were ready early in the morning. It was a short walk to Aina Nalu on Wainee Street in Lahaina for our pick-up. Since Maui Eco-Adventures is a full service company, they offer to pick up their guests for the “Best of West Maui Mountains” at designated spots all over the West Side.

Promptly at 7:30 the Eco-Maui Adventure tour van rolled into the parking lot of Aina Nalu. We opted for this pick up spot because my wife has a shop at the Wharf Cinema Center and this seemed like the most convenient spot. For many of the other activities, Maui Eco-Adventure also offers pick up service. Check their web site for more specific information or ask about pick up locations when you book your trip.

Based on my experience with activities on Maui, everything starts on “Maui time” and this was a welcome change. After introducing ourselves, and exchanging greetings and business cards, our tour guide Bryce offered us coffee and cold water. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was indeed an indication of the entire day’s hospitality. Bryce was the host, we were his guests, and the entire West Side of Maui was his party. Bryce reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t quite figure it out. It took me a while before it dawned on me. Bryce is a Maui version of Danny Bonaduce. And I mean that in a good way. Lots of personality. Outgoing and gregarious. Very funny, very entertaining, and extremely knowledgeable about all things Maui.

Since the tour bus has multiple pick ups on the West Side, our first stop was the Lahaina Shores just up Front Street in Lahaina. On the way there, Bryce didn’t waste a minute of time, he started right in with our first lesson regarding cloud coverage and how the weather in Lahaina is different from anywhere else on the Maui. The West Maui Mountains act as a funnel to keep the clouds away from Lahaina. Bryce explained that he lives in Iao Valley. It can be cold and rainy there, but hot and sunny in Lahaina. Two more guests boarded the van at Lahaina Shores and our lessons continued.

Our next stop was the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua. Kapalua is north of Lahaina, so we drove up Front Street to the Honoapiilani Highway and turned left. It was a beautiful drive with the ocean on the left and the incredible West Maui Mountains on the right. On the way, we learned more about the Island of Maui and some of the new developments being built on the Lahaina side. Bryce’s lesson was non-stop and I needed to stop taking notes so I could pay closer attention. When we arrived at the Ritz Carlton, we picked up two more guests, bringing our total to ten including our tour guide. There was still some room in the van, but by keeping the number small, Maui Eco-Adventures is able to maintain a high level of personal service and make the trips that much more enjoyable.

From the Ritz we headed back to the Honoapiilani Highway. It was drizzling just a bit and Bryce explained how quickly the weather can change. We continued north, and as we drove passed The Plantation Golf course, Bryce shared with us a little bit of Island trivia regarding Tiger Woods. It seems he never plays in the Mercedes-Benz Championship because he is sponsored by Buick. He is also building a new house right off the golf course. I shared with the group my recent dining experience at The Plantation House (insert hyperlink). When you call for dinner reservations or when you just stop by for breakfast of lunch, be sure to ask for Bob, the general manager, and tell him you heard about The Plantation House from 808 Reviews. You’ll be glad you did.

DT Fleming Beach Park was our first stop after picking up all the members of our Eco-Maui Adventure.

Note: Normally, I don’t comment about the bathrooms along the way, but I feel obligated (in a good way) to share this with you. The bathrooms at DT Fleming had no towels or soap. To make up for this lack, Bryce stood outside the bathrooms holding a bottle of hand sanitizer for us. He offered it to each and every one of us as we finished up. This attention to detail and the comfort of all their guests is one of the many ways that Eco-Maui Adventures sets themselves apart from the rest.

From DT Fleming, we made our way to Honolua Bay and our continental breakfast. Consisting of fresh fruit, muffins, and coffee, the breakfast was simple and filling. The pineapple and strawberry papaya were my favorites; my son was partial to the honeydew and cantaloupe melons. The funny thing about breakfast was the way it was served. There were no table or chairs on the look out over Honolua bay, so Bryce held the tray from which we ate our food. He stood there, unable to eat himself, the entire time while we ate a piece of this and a piece of that. Bryce even placed an empty cup in the side pocket of his cargo shorts so we would have a place to put our melon peals and pineapple rinds. Always the patient tour guide, Bryce continued our Island education while we ate. He described how DT Fleming loaded rocks into the bay during WWII, the meaning of the Hawaiian word “Hono”, and the incredible surf at a spot called “slaughterhouse”. I am not going to give away the details nor teach you everything we learned; you have to go on the “Best of West Maui Mountains” to find the answers.

After packing up the remains of the breakfast, stowing the empty water bottles for recycling, and refilling the coffee cups for the road, Bryce made sure we were all comfortably back in our seats before driving us off to our next destination. I had never heard of Lipoa Point before and was interested in seeing what it was. Lipoa is the Hawaiian word for seaweed and I was curious to see if this was going to be indicative of the area. The Point, as it turned out was an incredible lookout point for seeing many of the sights we had already seen, just from a different angle.

Nakalele Point was our next stop after Lipoa Point. My son and I had been there just a few months before and I was interested to see if we would have a similar experience as the last time. The weather was not quite as accommodating. It was incredibly windy when we exited the van. Bryce did not lead us down the trail to get an up close view of the blowhole, instead we parked just passed the beginning of the trail and had a chance to see the blowhole from a better angle. We were not disappointed. We had a terrific view of the blowhole and when we reached our next stop, Bryce’s plan made even more sense.

During the quick ride to our next point of interest, Bryce began an introduction about the Olivine Pools. My son had been looking forward to swimming in the pools since I mentioned he would be able to come with me for this excursion. He was very excited when we parked the van and Bryce started passing out the Fanny Packs for our personal belongings. Bryce made sure we all had what we needed and carried a backpack full of towels. He also provided sunscreen for anyone who might be prone to sunburn and demonstrated another way Eco-Maui Adventures goes the extra mile.

The hike down to the pools was worth foregoing the hike down to Nakalele Point, and is the real reason we needed to wear closed toed shoes. With perfect foresight, I would recommend wearing shoes you can wear in the water, too. The bottom of the Olivine Pools is a little rocky and slippery. We went barefoot and while I was fine, my son is a “tenderfoot” and was a little uncomfortable. Still, he loved the fact that he had the opportunity of a lifetime. How many people get the chance to come to Maui, tour the North Shore, and swim in the Olivine Pools? Ask around, it’s not very many.

After our swim, we dried off (with the towels Bryce carried) put our shoes back on and headed back up the trail to the van. It was easier going up the trail than down the trail, and my son was proud of the fact that he was the first one back to the van. Personally, I prefer to be the last. That way I have more time to enjoy the view.

Our next stop was to one of my favorite places on Maui. It’s also home of the best banana bread in the world — baked in Kahakuloa by Auntie Julie. There is more to this little village than meets the eye. As we drove (really slowly) along the one lane road into town, Bryce gave us incredibly detailed information about this sleepy town with no gas station or restaurant and only about 100 people. We passed Auntie Lorraine’s (best shave ice on Maui) and parked up near Auntie Julie’s. The secret to her banana bread is the apple banana. She also makes very good coconut candy, and sells dried fruits and nuts. Bryce is considered “Hanai” and was given a gift (which he graciously shared) of banana bread. Still, I recommend buying a few loaves whenever you’re here. Once you taste it, you’ll understand.

We ate the banana bread as we continued on to the Kaukini Art Gallery just up the road from the banana bread stand. It is the home of Karen Lei Noland — literally. She built the home and art gallery on land that was a gift from her family. Currently the gallery supports over 100 local artists and displays their hand crafted works. The grounds of the gallery are incredible and the views from the garden are spectacular. There are two dogs that live there and welcome every guest as they come into the yard. Some of the artwork can only be found on Maui. I thought the koa wood carvings, especially the rocking chair, to be spectacular.

While we walked through the gallery and marveled at the works of art, Bryce was busy back at the van preparing our late-morning snack of chocolate chip, white chocolate chip macadamia, and oatmeal raisin cookies. The timing was perfect and my son and I found a nice bench on the porch to sit, relax, and eat our snacks. This day, so far, was extremely active and filled with a lot of information and things to see. It was nice to take the time to relax and digest everything we had taken in. It was hard to believe that it was barley noon. There were still a few stops and a whole lot of sites to see. The “Best of West Maui Mountains” hike takes us all the way around the north section of Maui.

The drive from the Kaukini Gallery was another forum for Bryce to teach us more about the history and folklore of Maui. He has been with Maui-Eco Adventures for over three years having been hired initially to help the company become more green. And by green we mean to help the company become more “at one” with the environment. Bryce knew more about the Island of Maui than just about anyone else I have met. It was easy to see why the company hired him.

We continued on to look at the Makamake’ole waterfalls and some amazing sites. When Bryce pulled over to the side of the road, the view was as spectacular as in Kahakuloa. Bryce showed us a waterfall and the path down from the road, in case we wanted to return when we had more time. It was tempting to be sure, but my schedule is pretty full and I knew that unless I was on another assignment, I would probably not be back for quite a while.

Too soon, it was time to get back in the van for our return to Lahaina and the West Side. During the course of our “Best of West Maui Mountains” we had the opportunity to travel all the way around the northern most part of Maui with a wonderful guide who, I bet, knew more about Maui than most of the people who were born here. We were treated like the Ali’i and experienced parts of the Island that most people never have the chance to see. All in all, it was a great way to spend a day with my son.

Maui Eco-Adventures
“The Best of West Maui Mountains”
180 Dickenson Street Suite 102
Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761
808.661.7720
877.661.7720
www.ecomaui.com

Tiny Bubbles Scuba
About Maury Hoffman |Things to Do on Maui | Restaurant and Activity Reviews

Senior Editor of 808 Reviews and freelance travel writer, Maury Hoffman lives on Maui with his familiy, iPad, iPhone, and other gadgets. His writing proficiency is directly related to the quality of his morning coffee. He prefers Peet's Coffee, but also enjoys Living Java.

Tiny Bubbles Scuba