Maui 101: Play

Picking up where we left off yesterday, the activities on Maui are endless, and range from free to bank-breaking and back again. We tried to pick and choose, making sure to fit in a few days of nothing but glorious, beach-y lounge time.
Incoming Wave
 While we had a vague outline of things we wanted to do (see the volcano, snorkel) and not do (driving the Road To Hana with a carsick-prone husband) on the island, we took the approach of waking up, heading to the beach for a snorkel, and then deciding on our day's plans from there.
Yellow Hibiscus
But I'm ahead of myself. Snorkeling is my favorite thing to do in Hawaii, and it was a new activity for Nate. Even if you're not a terribly strong swimmer, snorkeling is pretty approachable (lots of places rent life jackets too, if you need some extra buoyancy). We rented our equipment from Boss Frog's, an omnipresent gear rental and adventure cruise booking company that has roughly a million outlets in each town. For $30 a week each, we picked up their most advanced snorkel and mask, flippers, and anti-fog potion, all housed in a handy mesh beach bag. You can rent by day (as low as $1.50/person) or, like us, by week. After that, it's head to the nearest beach and go for a swim.
Thanks to our GoPro, great underwater footage/photos!
Blue on blue on blue. Crystal clear water = Fabulous snorkeling
Maui has a wide variety of topography, and we were able to get a good taste of the West Maui Mountains by heading to the lush Iao Valley to gawk at the Iao Needle, a beautiful vertical rock formation. A national park, it was $5 to drive in and park, then we got to meander around the short trails to various view points and gardens. There are also a strange amount of wild chickens and roosters wandering around. So... There's that. Cooler and misty, it was such a different landscape from the beach town we were used to in Kihei.
Iao Needle
Selfie at the Needle
And talk about a different landscape: Haleakala Volcano National Park is about as far from lush and tropical as you can get. The wind-y drive up takes you from sea level to 10,023 feet in 28 miles, which equals out to bring a jacket! I'd been there before on a previous trip and knew how chilly it would be, so we actually swung by Old Navy so I could pick up a cheap fleece pullover. It was necessary! We even saw a bunch of ill-prepared folks wrapped in hotel towels trying to see the sights before they froze.
Panorama of the crater - Click to enlarge
The Haleakala Silver Sword
If the crater itself is an amazing, colorful site, the observatory perched on the very top is of equal, albeit man-made, fascination. The domes stand out stark white against the blue sky, looking like they're on the edge of the world. You can see all of Maui from the top, offering some stellar photo ops.
We made it!
Nate overlooking Kihei and beyond.
We also booked a morning snorkeling trip through the afore-mentioned Boss Frog's. They offered us a discount since we rented our gear for a week, and we hopped aboard a catamaran early Friday morning to be taken out to some areas in deeper water with amazing amounts of colorful coral and tropical fish. Both breakfast and lunch were provided, and although a little too crowded in the water for our taste, it was a blast.
Early morning palms
Apropos of nothing: Nate boogie boarding.
Last but not least, we hit the Maui Ocean Center and were so happy we did. The aquarium is lovely, with both outdoor and indoor exhibits to visit, but best is the clear tube you can walk through to be surrounded by various sharks and rays and gigantic fish. I'm a bit clausterphobic, but found it to be almost like a room, and it didn't cause me any anxiety at all. We basically had to tear ourselves away - So peaceful and amazing. Well worth the semi-steep price of $25/person.
Nate's new friend Ray in the clear mid-tank tube.
As I'm sure you can tell if you're still reading this deluge of info, we had an incredible trip. If you can get to Hawaii - any island - GO. You'll never regret the adventure!
Sunset Love
 P.S. It was SO hard to choose photos from the hundreds we took - Hopefully what I've posted the past week or so gives you a good taste!

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