In Maui, I found natural beauty that I've never seen before, that can't be described in pictures or words, in a sunrise and 28-mile bike ride down the Haleakala volcano. That's the good news.
The bad news: our alarm went off at 1:45 a.m. on Day 5. Thus ensued puffy eyes, scratchy contacts, grumbling about getting out of bed, and no talking. Our hotel set up a spread of banana bread and make-your-own coffee, cappuccinos and espressos at 2:00 a.m. so it made it a lot easier! Mountain Riders picked us up promptly at 2:15 a.m. and we went to their office to pick up the rest of the group and watch Miss Hawaii 1999 talk about best safety practices on a video. We picked out helmets and bright yellow windbreakers and pants and headed to the summit of Haleakala.
Here's the best tip I can give you: DRESS WARMLY and in LAYERS. I was told these things so I put on three layers. But I was so cold that I wished I had my winter coat, bomber hat, a sweater, two scarves, and a hot potato for my hands. Everyone shuffles around on the summit in a variety of colored windbreaking pantsuits and shivering as they wait for the sunrise.
You're above the cloud line on Haleakala and so the sunrise feels like you are on another planet. The moon is so close you want to reach out and touch it, which slowly turns to the sun rising. I became quite philosophical and lines like "darkness always turns to light" ran through my very cold head.
The experience is something I'd fly to Maui for a day to do again. It is just that beautiful. And there is no ride like the Haleakala bike ride in the world. You are cruising down, barely exerting any effort so I felt like I was a kid again, gulping in the air, the smells and the views. We stopped in Kula (famous for Maui onions) for a snack.
I loved the experience and would do it again in a heartbeat. However, next time I will do it without a group. I found myself wanting to just cruise down the mountain but as a group, you cater to the lowest common denominator, or the slowest one. As we continued down, I felt the anger grow in our group of just wanting to go down without constantly braking. Despite this, I will never forget the sunrise and the bike ride and plan on doing both again at least once in my lifetime.
Mountain Riders is the only company that ends the tour at Paia Beach, which was a great way to end it.
We got back to the hotel at noon and took a nap before we had to leave for the Old Lahaina Luau at 5:00 p.m. I ordered room service and sat out on the balcony, soaking in the view. Hurricane Irene news was swirling back home in NYC so I caught up on the evacuations and rushes to buy canned goods as I ate my lobster salad. Yes, I knew how lucky I was in that moment!
I am so glad we went to the Old Lahaina Luau. It was 45 minutes from the Four Seasons, on a highway that has better views than Highway 1 in California, and Lahaina itself has great shops and restaurants. The luau brings everyone together who came to Hawaii for different reasons. We met tons of honeymooners, families that return to Hawaii every year and couples celebrating big anniversaries (25, 40 and 50 years together).
I loved closing the day with a Lahaina sunset when we started it with a Haleakala sunrise. As the sun begins to set, you're greeting with an "Aloha" and an explanation by your server, followed by wandering around and discovering traditional crafts and history.
Don't miss the unveiling of the KALUA PIG, as it's unearthed from the Imu, or Hawaiian underground oven. Get there 20 minutes before they unveil for a good view.
The hula show starts with a little Polynesian flair, moving on to the ancient Hawaiian hula and ending with more modern hula dances.
The luau runs from 5:45-8:45 in the summer, perfect for us to get back to the Four Seasons and enjoy our last night in the lobby bar (with more than a few celebs enjoying it with us!).