Winter Wanderlust Hawaii Edition: Maui and Oahu

There’s been an ongoing theme at Seattleite with stories covering travel destinations and weekend getaways in an effort to escape the grey backdrop of Seattle during the winter months. Even though I’ve lived here my entire life, the dark, rainy months between late November and May can be hard to bear. Hawaii is one of my favorite vacations because you’re still in the United States, but it feels like a complete escape. 

hnl// FLY // The cheapest flights to Hawaii are on Alaska Airlines. Alaska offers direct flights from Seattle to the Big Island, Kauai, Maui, and Oahu. Each seat on Alaska aircrafts is equipped with standard and USB power outlets to charge your laptop, smartphone, or tablets. Read more about the Alaska experience.

// MAUI //

Hawaii is actually made up of six separate islands. While Maui is small compared to the “Big Island”, Maui has a great atmosphere and every type of climate from dessert to rain forest. Maui serves up plenty of historic and cultural attractions as well as luxurious resorts and shopping. Because Maui is small, you can easily plan a day trip to catch all the sights. You can visit the top of Haleaka at 10,000 ft, and still have time to go snorkeling in the calm blue ocean in the same day.

STAY: The Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas is perfect for families or groups. These unique residences are vacation homes designed for comfort with an extensive list of amenities on Ka’anapali’s North Beach. Most of the units come with a full kitchen, refrigerator, dining/living room, washer/dryer, and an oversized whirlpool. You can make a stop at Costco to pick up snacks, meat, and produce to cook so you don’t have to go out for every meal.

For more of the resort experience, the Westin Maui Resort & Spa is located on the beachfront with spectacular views of Lana’i and Moloka’i. One of their amenities, Heavenly Spa, has an oceanfront setting with views of the beach and spa services in a tranquil and soothing sanctuary leaving you relaxed and recharged.

RICH CULTURAL HISTORY: The historic Lahaina town is one of the most visited spots in Maui. It’s home to the oldest Banyan trees in the state of Hawaii. When it was planted in 1873, it was only eight feet tall. Now, it spreads out to cover a two hundred foot area. These trees grow outwards and then drop its roots that become additional trunks over time. It’s majestic and hard to capture in a photo (believe me, we all tried). It’s worth seeing for yourself.

Learn more at the Lahaina Visitor Center.

Haleakalā National Park.

If you rented a car (you probably should), take the scenic and curvy drive up to Haleakalā National Park. With the exception of stormy and rainy weather, you will get a gorgeous view above the clouds from sunrise to sunset. 

SHOP: Located right on the water Front Street is the best outdoor shopping centers for taking a stroll, getting an ice cream, or a beachfront meal. There are also fun events here throughout the year.

// OAHU //

The most iconic Hawaiian city and capitol of the state of Hawaii, Honolulu, is located on the island of Oahu. Honolulu is where Waikiki Beach is located. It is touristy, but probably a must-visit if you’re never been to any of the Hawaiian islands before. If you are looking for more of a local experience, rent a condo instead of staying in a hotel on Waikiki and rent a car so you can visit restaurants off the strip and drive around the island.


HIKE DIAMOND HEAD: This 1.6 mile round trip trail to the summit of Le’ahi (Diamond Head Crater) gives a picturesque view of the southeastern shoreline. It’s a moderate hike that most people should be able to manage in about 2 hours. More info on the trail here.

EAT: Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop is located in downtown, just 10 minutes away from Waikiki, is the best brunch spot. With menu itesm like Pound Cake French Toast and “Milk & Cereal” Pancakes made with frosted flakes, you won’t be disappointed. For something on the savory side, try the 12-hour cola braised Calentado short ribs or the Smothered Biscuit Sandwich with chorizo, cheddar, gravy, and smashed potatoes.

box_graphicLeonard’s Bakery specializes in malasadas—pillowy, light, not-too-sweet Portuguese doughnuts. It’s like a beignet, but better. Their original flavor (plain sugar) or the cinnamon sugar is a must-order. If you like filled doughnuts, the custard, chocolate, or haupia (coconut) are a luscious treat.

It’s not easy to find fresh and flavorful poke (Hawiian tuna tartar). In Oahu, the most unassuming places actually have the best poke, whether it’s a family restaurant or a local market. I always have to make a stop at Ono Seafood which does so well they don’t even need their own website. The store isn’t anything fancy, it feels really homestyle, but it tastes phenomenal. You can sample them before you buy and it’s served over rice.

We visited Marukame Udon twice during our stay. They handmake udon in a time-consuming process to produce their signature chewy, aldente noodles. The cafeteria-style setup (think: Chipotle) is casual and efficient and you can build your meal exactly what you want. Choose from ten different bowls, all the fixings, and sides. Two locations in downtown and Waikiki.

SHOP: There’s plenty of shopping in Waikiki from local shops to high-end brands. Stores open and close late—10:00 am to 11:00 pm. If you’re staying on the strip, as soon as you leave your hotel, the streets are packed with tourists from all over the world. People are speaking different languages, stopping to take pictures, and a lot of people come here to get married.

DRINKS AT MAI TAI BAR: Happy hour daily from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. $5 drink specials for 9 different specialty drinks, including our favorites, the Lava Flow and the Lychee Mai Tai. More about the Mai Tai Bar here.

Next up: Big Island and Kauai.