Notes From Our Recent Maui Vacation

Kaanapali Beach in the Morning from Maui Sheraton

As most of you know, we recently took my parents to Maui for their first visit to Hawaii. I will be posting our itinerary with details in a future post, which I think will be an excellent first timer’s guide to Maui, but in the mean time I just wanted to share some notes from the visit.

The Good Stuff

* I’ve updated my post on finding the best Maui restaurants, I’ve added a couple new ones to my recommended list.

* I had a really difficult time choosing which Maui luau to take my parents. I was torn between the Old Lahaina Luau, the Feast at Lele, and the Sheraton Kaanapali Sunset Luau. Each one had it’s pros and cons. I eventually decided on the the Feast at Lele and it turned out to be a great choice. It’s not the typical buffet style setting and you aren’t sharing a table with four to six strangers. The six-course meal is served to you at your private table. The entertainment was a bit more abbreviated compared to some luaus I’ve tried, but they do have a Samoan fire knife dancer as the grand finale. I wanted to make sure Mom and Daddy got to see a fire knife dancer.

* Mahalo to Liza for the warm aloha she shared with us at her church in Kihei. My parents were really surprised and honored that Liza brought beautiful leis. We were at her church on Easter and were fortunate to get to see their Easter hula presentation. It was really well done and beautiful.

* After admiring the Sheraton Maui for years, I finally got to stay there. It was by far the best place we’ve stayed on Kaanapali. Watch for an upcoming review of Sheraton Maui.

Humpback Whale Tail

* Mahalo to the humpback whales for sticking around. 🙂 We knew we were visiting during the tail end of the season, but thankfully we got to see some great action. We took a whale watching tour with Pacific Whale Foundation and got to see some whales practicing synchronized swimming. Well, actually maybe it wasn’t all the synchronized, but it was really a treat to see two, side-by-side whale tails at the same time. From the lanai of the Sheraton Maui, we saw lots of other activity. We probably saw 20 breaches in just one afternoon. I think it must have been a playful calf.

* Once again, we had a bug-free car from Avis. To me, that makes a huge difference. I plan to be  loyal Avis customer in Hawaii.

* After shopping around at Hotwire, Expedia, and Kayak, we booked our rental car through Discount Hawaii Car Rental who offered a much cheaper price. Before we looked into the rates we could get at Discount Hawaii Car Rental, the cheapest we could find for a full-sized car was around $304 plus taxes and fees which would run another $60 – $70 for the week. Through Discount Hawaii Car Rental, we got a rate of $294 including taxes and fees and we got to choose Avis.

* Each time I go to Maui, I’m reminded of how special it is to gaze onto the other nearby islands that make up Maui Nei.

The Bad Stuff

imageWell, it’s time to mention the elephant in the room. All in all, we had a nice time though we did have some hostile encounters which has made it difficult for me to even talk about it here with you. One of my all time best memories from Hawaii is the first time driving the Road to Hana. Ironically, it is also now one of my all time worst vacation memories.

As we were returning back to Kaanapali from the road to Hana, we encountered some extremely hostile locals who decided that the sound of their horn and shooting out curse words to “haoles” was better than the sweet sounds of the rainforest and waterfalls. Just like them, we were stuck in a long string of traffic. Once we were able to safely move off the road so they could pass us (which we always do for locals anyway) we ended up following them for about 25 miles into Paia.

The next day we observed some other unwelcoming local behavior. A guy drinking beer in the middle of the day at Hookipa Beach Park was trying his darnedest to get his middle finger captured in another tourist’s photo.

One thing that you can always trust from me at Go Visit Hawaii is that I will be honest with you. After my shock and dismay, I felt that I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention to you that not everyone in Hawaii is glad you visit. Every place has jerks and Hawaii is not immune. When we visit Hawaii, we go out of our way to be very respectful to the people, culture, and land. Essentially, we walk on egg shells. Sometimes, just our pure existence seems to make locals mad and we have experienced a few other minor incidents during our many visits to Hawaii. Hopefully, it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter hostility, but what should you do if this happens to you? Look for a way out and just try to ignore it.

What’s next?

Look for upcoming posts and reviews that will help you make the most of your vacation to Maui.

Elephant image credit to BitBoy

  1. Awesome post, looks like overall it was a great time. Yaling was anxious to hear how you guys like the Feast at Lele. Looking forward to hearing more 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing from your recent trip. How many seats were there at the Luau? We are leaning towards attending the Old Lahaina Luau, but it can seat a very large crowd. Also, what was the drink policy? I have heard that some luau’s only allow one drink. Thanks for your expertise.

  3. @ Bruce – I’m glad Yaling told me about the fire knife dancing!

    @ Kathie – I’ve been to Old Lahaina Luau and it is very good. If you don’t mind sitting on mats on the ground, you can get some great views of the stage. The biggest downside to Old Lahaina Luau is that they don’t have a fire knife dancer. They try to stay true to Hawaiian traditional dances and fire knife dancing is from Samoa.

    If I remember correctly, the Feast at Lele has about half the seating capacity of Old Lahaina Luau. The other big difference in seating is that at Old Lahaina Luau, you share tables with strangers, but at Feast at Lele, you have private tables.

    On the plus side of Old Lahaina Luau, their show is great and the grounds are spacious.

    The sooner you book the better because they seat everyone according to when the reservations are made. The folks that own Old Lahaina Luau also own Feast at Lele.

    We rarely had to wait for drinks to be delivered at the Feast at Lele. The table service was very good. When you go to the Old Lahanina Luau, you have to go to the bar and wait in line to get your drinks.

  4. I am so glad to see you are posting back. And this post is very well written, all sides should be shown – good and bad. That what makes this blog a winner.

    It was great meeting you and your parents. I wish we had more time to chat. I hope you come visit again so we can “talk story” longer. Some rude locals will always be here, but I believe for every one rude person on Maui, there are hundreds nice and living ones who exudes the aloha spirit.


  5. Thank you for sharing your good and not so good experiences of Hawaii. I have encountered 2 of the not so good experiences while on Maui and Oahu. The wierd thing is those folks who showed me the hostility looked like me, a haole! I have seen bumper stickers saying “Aloha, now leave”. I will continue going to Hawaii regardless but more of the travel sites should address this with travelers instead of covering it up and not being honest about it. Tell innocent folks, (victims) how to handle it like you did. Thank you again for telling it like it is.

  6. Sheila, I am so sorry you had a bad encounter with the locals while you were trying to give your parents the perfect vacation. I commend you for your honesty to your readers. My friends returned from Maui 3 weeks ago and had a couple of incidents also. They had their granddaughter with them and locals at the beach were yelling obscenities at her. They were quite frightened. The following day, their car was vandalized. As a former Maui resident who encouraged them to visit, I was somewhat embarrassed. I’m happy to say that while these things happen, they are not the norm. Everyplace has its share of jerks.

  7. My one and only drive down the road to Hana was amazing even though we ran out of gas. 🙁 Doooh!

    The tourists who were on the road just drove by without offering help. The first local person who drove by stopped, asked us if we needed some help, took us to his house, got a gas can, siphoned some gas out of his truck and got us back on the road. 🙂

    We tried to pay him for the gas and the help but he didn’t want anything. He even tried to make us feel better by saying that said that it’s pretty common for people to run out of gas on that road. Wow! – What a great guy! (Who knows how many people he’s helped?)

    But yeah… No matter where you go… There will always be a few jerks, bitter failures and other anti-social people with mental disorders or whatever.

    Just try your best to ignore them and don’t let them ruin your vacation.

  8. With permission from a loyal reader, Lauri from Oregon, I’m cutting and pasting what she shared with me in an email:

    Well, I appreciate the whole picture version.
    Hawaii is a beautiful Island and I respect we are only VISITORS to it.
    But…. as you noted gently on your blog today it has an ugly side as well.

    When Norm & I went to Hawaii last year for the 3 weeks to renew our vows and enjoy the beauty, we too encountered some of Hawaii’s hidden “Friends”.
    on the road to Hana, we too found that the locals had more than a shaka to share when they insisted on pushing you off the road with negative words and that wonderful tall finger salute.
    We were even accosted when we stopped once we reached a place large enough to pull over with a verbal assault of wonderful language. (I can tell you it would have made a sailor blush)
    The native driver was inclined to share his views of how my mother must have raised me & how ignorant I must have been so I could not possibly have been from HIS island!
    I did not interact with him, I simply rolled up my windows & we drove away to escape his “Island greeting”

    But these stories are NEVER shared as if it is almost TABOO.
    but there is a TRUE Hawaii, and it is REAL and it does happen.

    We were walking in the evening to a restaurant for our anniversary dinner on Oahu when we came a cross a young person who was pushing a needle into his arm and all the while cursing the maker for his problems.
    We were both appalled and frightened and concerned for not only our well being but his as well.
    we DID call the police who advise they had REAL situations to deal with & this was not really a priority that we should just continue on our way!
    Sad thing was we knew we had to walk the SAME way back to the hotel! With concern & fear for our own safety we did, but preparing for the unknown was not easy.
    so I was a bit saddened by the response.

    Or on the Big Island when we went into an open air market to get some fresh fruit & were offered Marijuana from a wonderful man, and the response my dear Husband shared was, No THANKS!, but the officer in that car parked over there might be.
    I can not say I have ever seen a human being ‘Vaporize” in my life but he beat feet very quickly.

    And in Lahaina Harbor, I believe we met your drunken friends relations, because at the most spectacular sunset I had seen on the Islands, he insisted on sharing his verbal colors with anyone within earshot at an extremely LOUD tone.
    and a Lahaina Police Officer WALKED right NEXT to him as if it were just fine to be holding the jug of alcohol & cursing at the top of his lungs about how poor life hade treated him in public.
    what a shame to have the smudge on the face of such a beautiful place, but it is the reality that EVERYWHERE even paradise has its difficult situations & it is just part of life. PERIOD!

    But I applaud you for sharing these tidbits and being honest so there is not a candy coated blissful covering when people are planning to visit for the first time. a truthful FULL picture is the best!

    Another honest reason I LOVE your Blog!
    Thank you for sharing!


    And when I asked Lauri if I could share here message in the comments and with some tourism folks, this was her follow up:

    No worries, you are WELCOME to post it, share it or what ever works, and you can leave our names on it, I do not mind!

    But the only thing I want people to know, is NOT to let this Miniscule part of the experience STOP them or FREEZE them in fear to the other SPECTACULAR wonders that await them! and the fact it is such a minute percentage of the experience that it should not deter from the BEAUTY of Hawaii.

    I WILL go back!
    I concluded that it was simply part of the OVERALL experience, good or bad, it was what it was.
    I know in my heart I will always recall the Beauty, the kindness of MANY others and the Wonder of the islands to my memories!
    I will NOT let the negative few moments in a 3 week visit tarnish the spectacular overall wonder of the Hawaiian Islands!

    Did It make me more aware? does it make me more cautious? HECK yes! But My most heartfelt wish was to know how to prepare myself for the unknown.
    I was a Virgin Visitor to Hawaii………… now I am educated with details that can help me in the next visit.

    I just was VERY pleased to HEAR someone come forth and have the strength to mention the negative side, small, but important as well.

    Sheila, you are a ONE IN A MILLION!
    I love how you shoot straight from the hip!
    Your experiences are VERY cut & dry with both positive & negative blended in the mixture.

  9. Yes, you’ll find a few jerks everywhere. We’ve got one locally that’s painting blocks of cement black and leaving them in the roadway at night….But that’s another story.

    We’ve driven the Road to Hana quite a few times. Our normal experience with locals is a friendly wave when we yield the right of way to them.

    In 10+ trips to Maui, I’ve only had a few bad experiences with locals. Usually just a quick derogatory remark or look.

    I was talking to a local guy one day and he said to me, “Man, I live in paradise, but I just don’t see it.” I think that sort of sums up the problem, we’re there visiting paradise, they’re just trying to make ends meet. Theres bound to be some resentment.


  10. Hi Sheila, Thanks for the really good post. Honesty about your visits is the best route to take. The truth is that everyplace on earth is made up of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. Expecting everybody here in the islands to be nice and polite is not very realistic. The good thing is that most of the time most of the people are pretty nice. But, there are also a lot of jerks out there. The best approach is to let everybody know that Hawaii is beautiful but you have to always be on guard. Sad but true. I would give the same advice to everybody whether traveling on vacation or simply going to the mall at home….jerry

  11. Hawaii is a “Real Place” where “Real People” live. It’s not a male-believe place like Disneyland.

    One of the cool things about Hawaii is that it’s illegal to fence off the beach and keep people out.

    The positive: You get to enjoy every beach in the island, including the beaches right in front of the best hotels, even if you are not staying there.

    The negative: So does everyone else, including the occasional jerk.

    In New York City – The rude people are one of the attractions… In Hawaii… Not so much.

  12. David makes a good point about the cost of living in HI. Many people there work 2 jobs just to make ends meet. They don’t really have the time or money to enjoy Paradise. Still, most of them are full of Aloha and Dave’s experience with the guy who helped with his gas is much more common than the negative encounters we have all had. There is a drug problem in HI, just as we have here on the West Coast. One of the big differences is that on a small island, you are just more likely to see it up close. Hawaii is still very special, but everyone just has to be smart. Tourists are easy targets everyplace.

  13. Aloha Sheila,

    I too have driven the road to Hana and understand how it can be a stressful experience. It certainly is beautiful, but the narrow roads that twist and turn made it one of the most stressful drives I’ve done. But in the end, it was worth it! To hear what happened to you and the family on top of it all was uncalled for and embarassing. It’s unfortunate that these types of things happen to good people like you and as friend born and raised in Hawaii, it’s truly not the island way. Why people chose to act this way towards our visitors I have no idea. But it’s clear they don’t embrace the Aloha Spirit we aim to share with each and everyone that touches our shores. I hope you’ll give Hawaii a second chance to make things right and as you know, you have a lot of friends here that would enjoy the opportunity to make things right.

    Aloha and a hui hou,

  14. My husband and I moved to the Big Island four years ago. The negative experiences that tourists experience, we experience on a daily basis. I have been run off the road at least a dozen times since I have been here, yet never had this happen on the mainland.
    Customer service is almost non-existent. Last time I visited my children, I kept saying to my daughter-in-law, “Are people always this friendly”. Because after 4 years, I am not used to being greeted with a smile when entering a place of business or given what I would consider to be decent service.
    The “aloha spirit” is just a marketing gimick.
    I hate to be so negative but this is what we have experienced.
    It is amazing that the people who should understand how much this state depends on tourism for the local economy, would act this way.
    We are hoping to return to the mainland asap.

    1. I have been coming to the islands for several years and have seldom experienced any negativity. On the rare occasion when this occurs, I usually smile and ask how their day is going. Most often they will open up and it’s usually because they are stressed over something…same as folks on the mainland.

  15. I just wanted to say that I appreciate everyone sharing their thoughts, experiences, and opinions.

    I’m grateful for the support many of you have shown to me through your comments and privately. It was really hard to write this post, but it has been a bit of a relief.

    My good experiences with locals does outweigh the bad experiences. I think when you have a bad experience no matter where it is, it leaves you feeling a bit of shock like a deer in the headlights.

  16. The folks you ran into remind me of the grumpy old man who yells… “Hey you kids! – Get off my lawn”.

    Nobody likes that guy or takes him too seriously.

    My advice is – Don’t take it personal and try your best to ignore grouchy people like that. They have problems and you are not it.

  17. I’m so sorry, Sheila! Hana and Lahaina are my two best memories of Maui and it always hurts to hear about the negative things that can and do happen. Sigh.

    Much like everyone else, I appreciate your candor. It’s just painful to hear. It hurts worse, I think, because I know how much you love our home.

    They’re just stupid and they need a few slaps and a couple of back-hands! I hope you and Andy will try to let it roll off as just plain juevenile stupidity. Regardless of their biological age, their behavior says otherwise.

    You know you’re always welcome here! So, when’s your flight? 🙂

  18. So I’m a little late to the game here commenting, but I did read your post shortly after it was posted. Coming back now and reading through all the comments and feedback, I have to echo what these great folks are saying.

    I, personally, and one of those folks guilty of sweeping this type of stuff under the rug on my blog. It’s not so much as denial or trying to mislead my readers that Maui is a 100% perfect paradise. It just pains me to relive those moments, as they do exist, when the vast majority of my memories are so amazing.

    We’ve had a few less-than-ideal moments on our trips to the islands, and I imagine those living on the islands encounter more of them throughout the year than just the short time people like us get to visit. Someone here mentioned about the differences between living and visiting here, and perhaps because we are on vacation and not trying to make ends meet, we arrive with rose colored glasses.

    I recall our first experience of some of the realities of how Hawaii is just like everywhere else. It was when Cindy and I were honeymooning in Waikiki and we saw the homeless living along the beach areas early in the mornings. Homeless people in Hawaii, just like here in Chicago, right in the middle of the tourism capital of Oahu. The ones we saw were ultimately harmless, but it was a sobering reminder that problems like these exist everywhere.

    You mentioned this was a difficult post to write, but I applaud you for doing something that I’m not sure I could have done myself. From the responses here, it was obviously the right decision to share this with everyone.

  19. Okay, now that I got that part off my chest, time to get back to the good stuff.

    I’m really happy you guys loved the Sheraton Maui Resort. We’ve always been biased because it’s the only placed we’ve stayed at, but to hear multi-island veterans as you and Andy give it the same kudos makes me smile.

    Thanks for the notes on the Feast of Lele, it sounds like something we’re definitely going to try out for ourselves. Watching those whales out of the water is always exciting, especially later in the season when you don’t think you’ll see much. I’ve seen some of Andy’s photos from Hana on Flickr and they look as amazing as any I’ve seen.

    It was also neat to see you were able to meet up with Liza and keep our little Maui Tweetup tradition alive. I will say, however, that Easter Day services will probably go down as the most formal of those meetings. 🙂

  20. Hi Sheila,

    And wow! I had not seen this post until now and I feel like I was missing out. First I would like to thank you (and you too Kris!) for the lovely things you have to say about the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. It was great to have you and Andy stay on property! You are both welcome back anytime, and I truly hope that your experiences on the Road to Hana will not spoil the beauty of Maui forever.

    I’m a newbie – here for only a year and a half so far – and I can tell you the people from Maui that stick out in my mind are people like my friend who is determined to teach me to surf or share a hike off the beaten path, or my co-worker that invites me to camp with her (and her very large extended family) in Hana whenever they go. Those are the people to care about, not the angry folks.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, try and remember there’s good people out there waiting for your return.


  21. Been going to Maui for 10 + years.The west side of maui is beautiful.However here’s another insight into Lahaina Kaanapali West Maui.Activity, restaurant prices are hurting visitors

    A tourism executive said, “We haven’t seen such revenue and visitor declines in Maui since we’ve been keeping records.”(on condition of remaning anonomus)

    A fresh sign of the woes are being unleashed by a Maui economy mired in boom-time pricing marketing and the Great Recession.

    Those vacationing on Maui are, unfortunately, not finding ways to reduce their restaurant and activities expenses once here. Visitor confidence in finding reasonably priced activities and restaurants in Lahaina/Kaanapali is exceptionally low.

    Next year will not be any better than this year if the needs of visitors cannot be met.

  22. I wont take a trip to Maui since I have been told by people and reading bad experiences from vacationer’s. I don’t want to go to a place where locals start drama with the tourist and are down right rude, mean and hateful. I have enough of that from the society in my home state. Having a rude attitude towards someone for no reason is not acceptable. Im the type of person who can make friends from all around the world. There are other places in world where people are more polite, well mannered and welcome tourist from all over the world. People have told me go to Thailand, Malaysia, Costa Rica and New Zealand and that’s where I will be going!

    1. Amy – for what it’s worth – we have taken three more trips to Maui since writing this post. We haven’t encountered any more rude behavior. Most people are very friendly and welcoming, but sometimes it’s the few bad apples that spoil the whole bunch. Fortunately, we’ve not encountered any more bad apples in recent trips.

  23. First of all, great blog! As for Maui – my husband and I have been visiting there regularly since our honeymoon in 1992. I have never encountered anything harsh from natives. Once in Kauai we encountered a man in a truck who yelled at us and honked for being tourists.

    I grew up and live in Napa Valley. While I am thankful to the tourist industry that feeds our community, at times I can feel frustrated at lack of stores/restaurants for locals, slow drivers taking in the scenery and everything being overpriced. I would never behave badly though. I just understand.

    Going back to Maui in two weeks. 🙂

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