Maui beach, facing Molokai
I have been greatly blessed to spend Christmas in Hawaii twice. As we suffer under a strong weather inversion in Salt Lake City this week (warm air above trapping cold air and pollution in the valley), it is making me wish I was heading some place warm for Christmas (or at least someplace with blue sky and breathable air!) If you have a chance to spend Christmas on Maui, here are some of my favorite things.
Aquarium tank at the Maui Ocean Center
Visit the Maui Ocean Center. There are tanks of colorful reef fish, green sea turtles, sharks, and more. There is a touch pool where you can reach in and pet various sea creatures. My favorite spot is the room with a huge tank of jellyfish in the center. Music plays and the lighting is dim. You can sit on a bench and watch the ethereal jellyfish float up and down.
Green sea turtle at the Maui Ocean Center
If you time it right, you may even get to watch them feed the green sea turtles.
Parrotfish at the Maui Ocean Center
If you go to Hawaii in the winter months (December through April, with peak whale watching in February and March) you can watch the humpback whales. We have seen whales breach from the beach. The humpbacks migrate 4500 miles from Alaska to the warm water for the breeding season. On our whale watching tour, we saw another whale breach, listened to whale songs, and had a mother and curious calf swim right up to our boat.
Tail of a humpback whale
Baby and mom approaching our boat.
Maui isn't that big, and it is easy to cover a lot of ground in a few days. We went to Haleakala on one trip. If you go, arrive early so you can see inside the volcanic crater valley before the clouds move in. Haleakala is at high altitude, about 10,000 feet. If you aren't used to it, you may find yourself a bit out of breath. On another drive, we went to the Iao Valley and wandered through the gardens and walkways. Not as many plants will be in bloom in December, but it is still beautiful.
Shopping in Lahaina is another favorite pastime. Be sure to stop in the park by the old banyan tree. This is a very large living organism, and its size is best appreciated in person.
The banyan tree in Lahaina.
A view of Lahaina
Browse the art galleries, tee shirt shops, restaurants, and jewelry stores on Front Street. While you are in Hawaii, notice the beautiful plants. Plumeria in bloom is my favorite. It is also fun to see bananas growing on trees on the grounds of your hotel.
Take time to smell the plumeria!
The drive to Hana is curvy and slow. It has breathtaking views, but if you are susceptible to motion sickness, take medication before heading out. There are multiple waterfalls along the way. Stop and hike to one to enjoy the view or even take a swim.
One of many waterfalls on the road to Hana.
When you reach Hana, check out the Black Sand beach and stay at the state park. The black sand contrasts beautifully with the turquoise water. One year we stayed in rustic cabins at the park. You might also swim in the Seven Sacred Pools at Oheo Gulch or visit Charles Lindburgh's grave.
Sand turtle on the beach.
But my favorite thing in Maui is quite simply, the beach. We schedule as many beach days as possible, and have snorkeled, body surfed, swam, and watched the waves to our heart's content.
Body surfing at the beach.
If you are fortunate to be in Hawaii this year at Christmas time, eat some fresh pineapple and drink some guava juice for me! And save me a chair on the beach. Mele Kalikimaka!
My favorite beach on Maui.
Sailboat at sunset from the beach.