Fall Maui Vacation is Trending – Are You Going?
This isn’t a typical fall post. A tropical vacation at this time of year is probably not a traditional vacation time for most. But . . . it’s a great time to visit Hawaii. Maui is a busy island, especially along Kaanapali Beach. My husband and I love taking our Maui vacations in November because crowds are lighter and the weather is pleasant. And if you’re not vacationing with children, it’s a time of year that isn’t impacted with young families. However, this year it seems different, a bit busier – maybe more travelers are opting for a fall Hawaii vacation. This is likely attributable to the pandemic and all the travel that has been postponed for the past 18 months. We are definitely noticing more density at the resort where we vacation.
That’s a long intro to this post topic: Fall Vacation on Maui! We are here and our activities are fresh in my mind, so I figured why not share them with you – especially with those in mind who are planning to travel to Maui in the near future.
Everything I’m sharing in this post is IRL – in real time. I’m writing either on the lanai/balcony of our resort condo at the Westin Nanea Ocean Villas watching pool activity or sitting poolside.
This post doesn’t cover packing – I’ve done several packing posts in the past. You can find a Hawaii packing post here and a post following our 2019 trip to Maui that shares some favorite actvities and my Logan + Lenora tote (still love it and using it every day here). However, one thing I’ll say about packing is that I swear I will pack less on our next trip. I always bring more than I need because, well, just in case (I know some of you get this). Hawaii is so casual and there’s a lot of pool and beach time = swimsuits. No place we’ve been is dressy, even the expensive restaurants. So dress-up outfits are NOT needed (that emphasis is for me). I can probably cut back 30% of what I bring and be perfectly happy. That’s my commitment for next time.
Swimsuit Shopping Off Season
Shopping for swimsuits during a season other than spring or summer can be challenging. The stores may have a clearance section if you’re shopping in early fall, but the selection will not be robust. The best way I’ve found to shop for off-season swimsuits and beach wear is by hitting the web.
I recently discovered Andie Swim, an online retailer of swimsuits that are simply designed and easy to order, try, and return. I bought three swimsuits and really like them: The Amalfi in both black and red and The Malibu Ribbed in black. The choices followed my placing three different orders, trying on about 10 swimsuits, and returning those that didn’t work. It was easy and really nice to be able to try on swimsuits in the comfort of my own home and not in the horrible glare of store dressing room lighting. Side note: I love that Andie Swim uses models of all shapes and ages.
Other ideas for off-season swimsuit shopping is to look at sites from countries that have opposite seasons, like Australia. Many retail sites in other countries do ship internationally.
Activities We’ve Enjoyed
Hula Girl Sailing Catamaran – We love the sunset sail on the Hula Girl and have also done the all-day snorkel cruise. What’s different about the Hula Girl compared to other catamarans? For one, the senior crew has been there 4+ years. They are professional. And two, all food offerings – appetizers and dinner – are cooked on board by their own chef in the below-deck kitchen. And everything is delicious! We highly recommend an outing on the Hula Girl and suggest booking direct for best pricing rather than through your hotel/resort concierge.
Pa’ia Town – This town reminds me of Santa Cruz, California. Very laid back beach town with lots of boutiques and eateries. Although we didn’t visit nyloS restaurant, it was highly recommended to us by a local. It’s on our list for our next visit.
Outrigger Canoe – The last time we were on Maui we went out on an outrigger canoe (with a guide). It was fun and came with a lot of history.
Jet Ski – Again, this is an activity that we embarked on the last time we were here in 2019. It’s right off Kaanapali Beach and could have been a ton of fun if we hadn’t gone out on the windiest day of our vacation! The most vivid memory is the constant in-the-face seawater due to the windy conditions that day!
Stand Up Paddle Board – There are a number of places to rent a paddle board, instruction included. It’s recommended to go out early before the ocean gets choppy.
Beach Walk Each Morning – Most mornings we begin our day with a walk along the beach path. It’s a combination of boardwalk and navigating through a few resorts. It’s a great way to start the day, but keep in mind that if you start out much later than 8:00 am, it’s pretty warm. It’s also a great walk in the evening with the plus of fewer people on the beach path.
Things We Didn’t Do But Lots of People Love:
- Snorkeling – We aren’t big snorkelers, but most of the world loves this activity. You can purchase your own snorkel gear at Costco (a typical stopover after arriving at the airport) or rent gear.
- Helicopter tour – A great way to tour the island.
- Zip lining – Nope
- Road to Hana – We did this years ago and definitely want to do it again. We were thinking of joining a tour that includes transportation by van for about 8 people but decided that Covid time wasn’t the best time to be in an enclosed van with strangers. If you drive, be ready to commit to a full day between the roundtrip and some stops. It’s a beautiful drive and you will be rewarded with gorgeous water falls.
Morning Beach Walks Along Kaanapali Beach
Cliff Diving Ceremony
Each night The Sheraton Maui Resort in Kaanapali shares Hawaiian history with the historic cliff diving ceremony. This cliff dive commemorates the tradition of cliff diving, a ritual of Hawaiian warriors. The location of the cliff dive at The Sheraton is significant because the location is the lava flow just outside of the resort, called Black Rock. Black Rock is one of three “portals” to the ancestral realm – after death people jump into the afterworld at that location. It’s a special ceremony to witness, and it happens every evening at sunset. I filmed it (I used a portrait format, so the video doesn’t present well, but it does capture the ceremony).
A great place to watch the nightly ceremony is from the Sheraton Cliff Dive Grill which has a perfect view of the dive off Black Rock. It’s fine just to have a cocktail while watching the cliff dive. You can also watch the ceremony from the beach.
A Dolphin Treat
On our last day we were treated to an exciting “show” by a pod of dolphins off the beach. For about an hour, they entertained us with their jumping and spinning and traveling back and forth in the water off the beach. It seems simple, but it was exciting! Our friend swam out and got pretty close to the pod. He dove below water’s surface and could hear their high-pitched sounds. A beautiful farewell.
“Don’t Miss This” – Places to Eat
As of this writing – November 2021 – most restaurants will ask for proof of vaccination along with your ID. If there is outdoor seating available, those without a vaccination card will be seated outdoors. Restaurants are also at reduced capacity, and reservations may be hard to get if they’re not made well in advance.
(Our favorites are listed alphabetically – no favoritism!)
Fond Chef’s Counter – We were recommended to the Chef’s Counter experience by a good friend who lives part-time on Maui. Wow! This experience is hard to describe, and for sure words will not do it justice. All I can say is if you are in West Maui, treat yourself to this Sunday night (the only night the Chef’s Counter dining experience is offered) off-the-charts meal. You’ll spend $120 per person plus wine, but I’ll say it again, it’s worth it. The restaurant is a casual neighborhood vibe, but the restaurant is closed during the Chef’s Counter experience and your attention will be focused on the amazing courses (appetizer, three courses, entree, dessert) and detailed descriptions that Chef Jojo Vasquez (check out his credentials) shares for each course.
Hali’imaile General Store – Billed as Maui’s original Farm-to-Table restaurant, this is one of our favorites. It’s a bit of a drive from West Maui – about 50 minutes – but worth it. It’s near the airport and a perfect last meal before you fly out if your flight is early evening. We love it so much we just made the roundtrip for the restaurant and experience. We chose to visit for lunch so we wouldn’t have to make the drive at night. The casual vibe and delicious food is the attraction. We had the same waiter, Dale, this time as we had two years ago! Their award-winning twist on the mai tai cocktail, the Tai Mai, is delicious! Hali’imaile General Store is just a few miles from Pa’ia Town, a casual beachy town on the North Shore to check out before or after your visit.
Hula Grill – This casual, perfectly situated restaurant with outdoor beachfront seating is a great midday stop along Kaanapali Beach. We love going for cocktails and apps and watching the waves and sailing vessels. If you can catch the sunset, even better.
Mama’s Fish House – An iconic Maui restaurant specializing in fresh, local fish, Mama’s Fish House is a restaurant we’d long had on our list and finally got there this trip. And I can confidently say it’s a MUST DO if you can. It’s definitely not a budget restaurant, but the amazing food, beautiful Polynesian decor, and stunning beachfront location is well worth the cost. At this time, the restaurant is booked several months out, but Open Table will send alerts if you set them up to let you know when a table is open. According to the Mama’s staff, they release tables each morning AND take walk-ins beginning at 11:00 am. We didn’t have a reservation, but registered for the Open Table alerts and were able to reserve a same day table a few days ago. Since it’s located a 50 minute drive from the Kaanapali area, we opted for a lunch so we wouldn’t be driving back at night after enjoying a libation or two with our meal.
Monkey Pod Kitchen – This casual eatery on the central part of Kaanapali Beach is festive and popular. It’s also famous for its mai tais with its signature yummy foam topping. Make it at home with the Monkeypod mai tai recipe.
Plantation House – Located in Kapalua, just north of Kaanapali, the Plantation House offers panoramic views and a beautiful setting on the Kapalua Plantation Golf Course. We haven’t been there since our honeymoon 35 years ago and were planning to have an early dinner so we could enjoy the view, but plans changed and we didn’t get there this trip. If you go to West Maui, check it out. It’s a splurge restaurant but gets great reviews for breakfast and dinner. Opt for breakfast if you want to save some dollars and still have a wonderful experience.
Sea House – The Sea House is located at the Napili Kai Beach Resort overlooking a gorgeous beach cove. We’ve been there for breakfast and for cocktails. Make sure to go when you can still see the view. The food is okay (our experience) but a visit is worth it for the view.
Easy to Pack Exercise Accessories
At home, I’ve developed an evening stretching routine. It’s a relaxing before bedtime ritual and helps keep my muscles and joints limber. I love doing it. Since this Maui trip is just about two weeks’ duration, I didn’t want to shelve my evening routine. And although I don’t keep up with my regular exercise habits while on vacation, I have a few small pieces of equipment that can support some exercising: a resistance exercise band, yoga strap, and one slider. These are all very easy to pack – except the yoga mat. This trip I made a quick stop at Ross when we arrived to pick up a very inexpensive mat. (The one pictured below is a budget friendly option – it’s not as thick as one you might want to keep at home.) If you are new to using a this equipment, check out the short videos below.