Day 2: Haleakala

A previously planned tour from Seattle had us up before dawn at 6:00 to join our tour to Haleakala – the volcano on Maui. It felt like a short night, but we had slept the sleep of the dead and were perfectly ready to rise by 5:30. That time change traveling west helps, too.

We went to the lobby at our assigned time to see the Gray Line tour bus waiting by the door. We asked if this was the Haleakala tour and someone said “No. It’s the best of Maui tour.” Well, little did we know, they are the same thing. Not even our driver recognized this at first. (And when we returned to our room at the end of the day we had a message on the phone that our driver was probably making as we stood confused in the lobby, saying she could only wait two more minutes for us and then she would have to leave.) The mix up was quickly solved; we boarded the mini bus and took off as the sun was rising over Haleakala. It was a beautiful morning. There were 15 people in all on our tour and our driver was Hokeu (which means “Star.”). It made for a very pleasant day.

Hokeu expertly drove us on switchback roads to the top of the volcano, which took us to 9,240 feet above sea level. It was also above the clouds. The views were stunning on this pristine, clear day and we not only saw the crater of the volcano, but most of the island of Maui as well as the two highest peaks on the Big Island, to the east. I can’t describe what the crater looked like; only a picture can tell it all. To my mind it looked like something out of a science fiction movie – barren; rocky; red; with small pulverized rock and intermittent large boulders. Very strange, but oh, so intriguing. This volcano last erupted 500 years ago – yet it looks like it could have been yesterday. There were a minimal number of small bush-like plants with bright silvery-green, spiked leaves. The little plant, silversword, is only found on this volcano. It lives for about 90 years and only blooms once – right before it dies. Now, doesn’t that sound like something out of a science fiction movie? But, we saw it. Right here in Maui.

Coming down the mountain was filled with the same magnificent views, mountains and landscapes – only this time in reverse with sunshine from a little higher in the sky. All of it beautiful. Breathtakingly beautiful.

Once down the volcano, we stopped in the little town of Makawao and entered a small restaurant with “Casanova” proudly displayed on every server’s T shirt. I could only guess that was the name of this little Italian Cafe. It was a sheer delight to be treated to such delicious fare. The pasta was all made in-house and the sauces were individually prepared in the searing pan. It really was exquisite. And the shock of it all was . . . it was the least expensive food we have purchased on the island so far!!!

Following lunch we were given time to walk the little town and explore some native shops. Everything was beautiful, but what these visitors ended up finding was the local bakery. Of course we purchased items for breakfast tomorrow. And for dessert – a donut on a stick. I guess that’s very Hawaiian. When we told Hokeu we were surprised as we had never heard of such a treat, she laughed a hearty, deep, joyous laugh. But these donuts on a stick were no laughing matter – they were excellent!

Then Hokeu took us across the valley on Maui between the two volcanos and into the heart of the Iao Valley and the state park that is named for it. Now we saw what Hawaii must have looked like long before all the commercialization and expansion. It was like a PBS show of native lands untouched by growth or modernization. It was approaching late afternoon and the clouds were beginning to make the sun play hide and seek, but still the land was absolutely picturesque and iconic. The scenery was the exact opposite of the volcano: green, green foliage and colorful, unique local flowers. How can two such contrasting landscapes exist only miles from each other? Answer: Because they are both in Hawaii.

We were first to be dropped back at our hotel and we were happy to return to a little air conditioning and a soft chair. We saw so much on our tour that it took the remainder of my phone battery just to look over my pictures of the day.

As the sun set (at 5:45) we journeyed out onto the beach for some pictures. How many ways are there to say beautiful? I could never come up with enough variety to do this land justice. Let’s suffice it to say it is graced.

A small pizza at the cafe next to the hotel capped off the day. Who could ask for anything more?