Day 1. Aloha from Maui!
Cliff Notes Version
Where we stayed: Lahaina Inn (Lahaina)
Where we ate: Airport food and Carl's Jr. (Ok- we were starving and it was the first thing we saw after we landed at OGG.)
What we saw: Rainbows, our first Hawaiian sunset, tourists.
Where we shopped: Local market for some basic supplies (i.e. sunscreen, water, and local Hawaiian granola and nuts).
We arrived in Maui around 3:30 PM after a ~6 hour flight from SFO and headed over to pick up our rental car. There were several tour groups wearing fresh flower leis (I was totally jealous). I always imagined arriving in Hawaii and being greeted with a fresh flower lei. I was surprised at how the Kahului airport was so "open" -- it felt like an outdoor airport. Super laid back atmosphere with a few rainy sprinkles.
Note on Rental Cars: Definitely a "must" if you plan to explore the island, although there are bus tours that can help you navigate. Flexibility is what we wanted. We toyed around with the idea of renting a 4x4 Jeep Wrangler, but after chatting with several of my coworkers we opted out of a "convertible" due to the fact that it was Maui's rainy season. Our Ford Focus hatchback did a little "off-roading" due to some of the unpaved roads and falling rock -- but at the end of the day the Wrangler wasn't a necessity.
Accommodations: We arrived at our first night's lodging in Lahaina at a quaint place called the Lahaina Inn. This was the one hotel we had booked ahead of the trip. Some quick history: The inn was built in 1938 and housed The Maui Trading Company which was a popular gathering place for soldiers stationed in Maui during WWII. Our room had a nice balcony/lanai with two rocking chairs. I felt like I was staying in an old western saloon with modern amenities (i.e. WIFI, AC, private bathroom, etc.). Recommend to others: YES.
The Vibe: The town is full of touristy shops and restaurants. At first glance it reminded me of some parts of Florida, but after a two day stay I came to really like the place. There are a ton of activities -- whale watching, snorkeling, boat rides and excursions, not to mention a Luau. We opted to skip the activities in Lahaina and instead venture to the northern coastline of Maui.