December 17, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Heidi and I decided on Hawaii’s National Parks early on in the year, however we weren't that sure that we were going to be able to go. I don’t think that I’ll ever forget her excitement when she told me that she had booked the tickets and said “We’re going.”



The airport in Maui is small and the entire island is pretty easy to get around. There can be some traffic going from one side to the other, but sitting in traffic in Maui just doesn’t seem to take the same toll on you as it does in Chicago. Weird!

Our first nights were spent in Kaanapali at the Kaanapali Beach Resort. A little older with clean rooms and grounds and the beach was a very nice white sand beach. The Tiki Bar by the pool was a nice place to relax after a long day of site-seeing. Yes, most certainly I would stay there again. What everyone seems to ask is “Was it expensive?” Yes. So is everything in Hawaii. I’m sure that there are deals if you look and before going we read about everything from renting a time-share to stocking up at Costco.  Research, set your budget and then be prepared to crush it.

The first stop planned was Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui. We decided to make the trek to see the sunrise atop the 10,000 foot peak. The sunrise at Haleakala is the number one thing not to miss on Maui! From the top of the dormant Volcano, you are above the clouds, and the light changes in seconds. The peak looks as if it is from a different world with old cinder cones and volcanic rock.

(Sunrise Haleakala)


It’s cold. 35 is tough after enjoy an 80 degree day at the beach. People were wrapped in their hotel blankets.

(Heidi at the summit)

It’s crowded. Get there early! Parking at the top fills up fast, and there’s only one winding road to the top.

It’s desolate. One road-side coffee shop about halfway up, and yes, at 4:00 in the morning, they were open.

It does clear out fast 15 minutes after the sunrise. Plan to enjoy the summit and take your time on the way down. It’ll be slow going anyway as you dodge the bicycle groups heading down.



After the sunrise Heidi and I walked a couple of the trails and checked out the views. Making her way into the visitor’s center she had her book stamped and park number 20 on her bucket list was logged.

Heading back down the mountain we stopped at the hotel to lose about 30 pounds of clothes. We decided to hit the north shore of the island and check out the various beaches, cliffs and overlooks.

(Nakalele Blow Hole)

(North Shore, Maui)


After a couple of nights there, including our Thanksgiving Luau, we made our way to Hana, and the Travaasa Hotel.

(Road to Hana)

(Road to Hana)

(Heidi trying to catch crabs)

(Haleakala National Park)


What a place! No TV, radio, or clocks in the room. A perfect spot to call home base and relax while exploring the rest of Haleakala. Each day we explored new sites along the coast and hiked to several waterfalls within the park. Two pristine beaches on the way are straight out of a postcard. I loved Hana, and although Heidi would have liked a few more restaurant / shopping choices, it was perfect.

(Hana Sunrise)



We flew to the big island and made our way to the Volcano House Hotel located in (number 21 for us) Volcanoes National Park. Typical National Park Hotel and you can tell that it had recently gone through a makeover. Heidi and I have enjoyed the times that we have spent at National Park Hotels and, while they may not have every modern amenity, the character hooks us every time. Our room overlooked the crater and at night gave a nice red glow letting you know that the forces of nature were still working away forming a bigger island.

(Volcanoes National Park)


While no lava was currently hitting the ocean we enjoyed this island immensely.  We spent 3 nights exploring the various areas of the park and making our way along the southern edge of the island up to Kona which was much more touristy. In and around Hilo there were other areas to explore and we can't wait to get back and see the areas that we missed.

(Hawaii Tropical Gardens)

(Akaka Falls)


Wonderful trip and we just can't wait to return to paradise.

To see more photos:

Haleakala National Park

Volcanoes National Park




Photographing Haleakala Sunrise

Get there early, a tripod and GND filters are must haves

Cold, but a not-to-miss destination


Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook by Andrew Doughty

One of the best travel books and a must have


Kaanapali Beach Resort

I give it 4 of 5 stars

Great staff, beach, Tiki bar, clean room

Pricey breakfast buffet


Old Lahaina Luau

No corniness, good show, and food. Drinks could use some help.


Road to Hana

Yeah, yeah… 600 curves, 100 one-lane bridges, etc., etc. Not that big of a deal, SPECTACULAR scenery. Take it, explore it, and stay in Hana a night. What’s the hurry anyway?


Travaasa Hotel

4 out of 5 Stars

Seaside cottages are amazing

Restaurant Staff needs some training, which is a shame


Volcano House Hotel

Awesome, 5 out of 5 stars. Food and view are just great.


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