The Road From Hana
Sunrise To Sunset On Maui
Visit the local hangouts at any dive destination in the world, start asking travelers about their favorites, and chances are you'll hear Maui come up again and again. A startling variety of reef fish can be found here, including the humuhumunukunukuapua'a, or rectangular triggerfish. In fact, in Molokini Crater - one of the most famous dive sites on the planet - a patient diver will find all of Hawaii's some 450 species of reef fish.
And Maui is more than just pretty fish. Conger eels, octopi and sharks abound here, as do the ubiquitous honu (green sea turtles). There are dive sites all the way around the island. From mid-December through mid-May, chances are your dives here will have background music: the love songs of courting humpback whales.
Mention "driving" and "Maui," and most travelers will nod and say, "Of course: the Road to Hana." And the Pacific's most famous one-lane drive is certainly memorable. But divers might want to start their drive in Hana. For one thing, you can begin your day trip with an amazing Pacific sunrise and end it with an equally killer Pacific sunset.
The North Coast leg of your drive will be along a road that undulates to hug the drapes and folds of volcanic slopes - plan on lots of stops for scenic overlooks, and bring an empty media card or two for the camera. Almost as soon as you've begun driving, you'll get to Waianapanapa, famous for black-sand beaches and underground pools. Waterfalls are also plentiful along this drive.
A good first dive stop is Baldwin Ranch Beach, a shore dive off a classic white-sand crescent. It's a little sandy and a little rocky, and so best for advanced divers. But the pluses include a chance to see big pelagics while your non-diving companions catch some Hawaiian rays. Or they can take a side trip to the Bailey House Museum in Central Maui to see what life was like here more than a century ago.
Hopping across the peninsula and taking a side trip to the southeast, you come to Kihei, arguably Maui's shore-diving epicenter. Three rocky points at Kamaole parks provide sites where both divers and snorkelers can enjoy shallow-water tropicals. Then, after lunch in Kihei, you can head west again and make a second shore dive at the scenic lookout just after the tunnel. Turtles will probably greet you here, as will eels and a host of tropicals. But save some energy for the trip back up to the car - it's a bit of a climb with dive gear.
You can either wind up in Lahaina to do a little (or a lot of) shopping, grab an early dinner and watch the sun go down, or continue up the coast to shore-entry sites like Black Rock (lots of eels, eagle rays and also a great night dive) and Kapalua Bay (reef and tropicals off one of the most beautiful beaches in the world). But if you really want to top off the day, jump on a dive boat and head out to the Carthaginian, an old tallship sunk just outside of Lahaina Harbor in 96 feet of water. Wherever you wind up at sunset, don't forget to take time to look west. This just might be the time that you finally see the green flash.
Must Do: See a Goose out of Water - Venture up-slope on the East Maui Volcano (sometimes erroneously called "Haleakala," a name that actually applies only to its summit region) and look for the endemic Hawaiian nene, believed to have descended from Canada geese that arrived here (exhausted, no doubt) millions of years ago. The nenes now spend their entire lives on dry land - they don't even have webbed feet.
Must Dive: Molokini Crater, Hana Bay Scenic Lookout, Kapalua Bay, Black Rock, Carthaginian