Motoring Around Maui Part 1: Honoapiilani Highway

Series by staff writer Betsy Villanella. Photos Copyright © Betsy Villanella.

Ten days, a rental, and a chance to explore paradise! This is my idea of a great vacation.

As soon as we decided to vacation on Maui, I knew I didn’t want to just stay within a resort area and do what everyone else does. We did do some of the normal touristy things, but we spent most of our time on the island driving around and seeing all there is to see.

Maui is not a huge island. It’s about 48 miles long and 26 miles wide, and can be explored easily. Maui is made up of the West Maui Mountains and the volcano, Haleakala, to the east. With the two together, the island is an odd hourglass-like shape lying on its side.

The west coast is on the end of the left (much smaller) bulb, and the east coast (Hana) on the end of the right bulb. The north coast is the skinny section in the middle, and that’s where the airport is, in Kahului. On the south coast is Kihei, the only place we didn’t get to.

We had two home bases from which to explore. Our first five days we stayed on the west coast because of the calm clear waters to snorkel and the last five days, the east coast because of the rainforest, waterfalls, and great hiking.

After our flight, we picked up a rental car and made our way around the West Maui Mountains to our first home away from home. From the very beginning of our drive I was struck by how green everything was, and there was a constant sweet smell in the air. It reminded me of when someone wearing a great perfume walks by, only it seemed to be everywhere. I later found out it was the Plumeria, and other flowers and fruits that are forever growing in this fertile climate.

The 'Ioa Needle

The 'Iao Needle in the 'Iao Valley This site had a famous battle that changed Hawaiian history. In 1790 King Kamehameha I destroyed the army of Maui
trying to bring the Hawaiian Islands together.

Maui road trip

Beautiful green mountains inland. I bet they have happy cows here.

Our base on the west coast was in the Kaanapali Beach area, at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel (KBH). We decided to stay at KBH because of the good snorkeling off Pu’u Keka’a (commonly known as Black Rock), which is at the end of Kaanapali Beach in front of the hotel.

The other base we had on the east coast was my favorite. It was a small, but very cool, tropical bungalow on the edge of a rainforest overlooking the ocean, in Hana. We explored all over Maui in our ten days (and I also wrote about it here as my dream vacation), but in this three-part series I plan to share a photo tour of the three day trips we took.

The first tour we took was around the northwest point of Maui. This road is not even marked on some maps. It is considered hazardous, and I can see why, as this road makes the famously hair-raising road to Hana seem like a walk in the park. BUT it has some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen.

Honoapiilani Highway

Our drive on the Honoapiilani Highway (more like a small country road) around the west point of Maui had open ocean and shorelines views looking left, and the beautiful emerald-colored mountains to your right.

Maui road trip

I want the house on the top of the hill. Can you imagine the view they have!

Honolua Bay

Another great snorkeling spot we found was Honolua Bay

Maui headland

There were many headlands with inlets, and secluded little strips of beaches

Maui village

I loved this little village. It had a wonderful quiet beach all to itself.
The road winds around, down into the village and then back up the other side.

Maui road trip

The top of the road at the other side of the village had fenced pastures,
but I couldn't imagine a cow being by that drop off. . .

Maui village with beach

Looking back at the same village. You can see the little beach on the
bottom right, and the road winding down from the cliff above it.

I remember the awe I felt at the sight of the jewel-colored, jagged peaks of the mountains, and the vivid blue ocean, with its frothy waves rolling onto white sandy beaches that go on and on. I can see why artists come here to paint, and it has to be a photographer’s dream. I know I wanted to take a picture at every new turn. With the number of photos I brought home I probably did.

Join me in Part Two for The Road to Hana.



Motoring Around Maui Part 2: The Road to Hana

Motoring Around Maui Part 3: The Dry Side


Betsy Villanella

Our Disney specialist Elizabeth Villanella has lived in the Montrose, Pennsylvania area most of her life. Betsy married her high school boyfriend in 1973. As an Air Force wife, she has lived in Texas, Italy, and Virginia. Between the two of them, her sons have given her fourteen grandchildren and counting. Betsy and her husband currently live with Albert K. Ninestein, a mini Schnauzer who’s as smart as his namesake. She loves to travel and wants to experience (and share) as many places in this world as she can! Betsy tweets as @betsy_v.

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  1. Love this place. Aside from the photos with roads and village this looks like a scene from “Lost” (which is my favorite series) – awesome!

    • Hi Estrella,
      It is a beautiful place! I think I heard they used Kauai and Parts of Honolulu to tape “Lost” from, But Its close enough they may have used it for some shots. I loved Lost until the end…Hated the end.
      Maui is a lot more diverse in its landscapes then I ever thought. You will see quite a difference in part three of this series.
      Thanks for reading!

  2. I always love reading about your travels. I love Hawaii and have been to the Big Island but I crave to go back. This article only enhances that desire. Thank you for sharing!!

    • Renee,
      I have that same craving…BIG TIME! As I wrote this article I was thinking of all the things we missed doing. I would love to go back, or better yet go to one of the other islands. I have always wanted to see Kauai. Then there is also the new Disney resort!.. Maybe someday.

      Thank you for reading my articles! I so glad you enjoy them.

  3. Charlene says:

    We are going to Hawaii to visit our Marine son and new daughter in law. We plan to visit several islands (time and $$) permiting. Thanks for lis preview of what to see!

    • Hello Charlene,
      How wonderful for you!
      I have only been to Maui. I have the others on my bucket list. I have a couple more articles about Maui to be published soon. I hope you like them also.
      Have a safe and enjoyable trip.
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. Betsy – this is just lovely! Your travels to Hawaii are so exciting and I can’t wait to see part 2!

    • Ann, Thank you!
      It has been my favorite vacation so far, but I’m trying to change that. I may have to go to many places before I find something better then Maui…Its a hard job, but I will sacrifice myself in the effort and plow ahead! 😉

      • Just to clarify the above, Favorite vacation not on the mainland. Here,I will always love Walt Disney World the most.

  5. Marcia Martin says:

    Love your article on Maui. The island is so beautiful. Your photos are wonderful. So glad you could go and then share it with us.
    Thank you!

    • Hi Marcia!
      I think its one of the most beautiful places I have been, and the people were all so nice and really loved to share their Island with us tourists.
      It would be really hard to take a bad picture on Maui, everywhere you look is a picture postcard!
      Thank you for your nice comments, they made me smile.

  6. Betsy,

    Wonderful article, thanks for sharing.

  7. Sounds blissful Betsy, and such gorgeous photos.
    Looking forward to reading the other installments.

    • Jo,
      Blissful, is the perfect word for Maui! The photos don’t do it Justice.
      Thank you so much for reading, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I hope you also enjoy the others.

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