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My buddy just got back from his maiden voyage to Hawaii, and his family spent significant amount of time in Lahaina, Maui. Since the last time I went to Maui was almost ten years ago, I checked back in with him to see if some of my local favorites were still around, and even got some new insight on new eats I need to try. Each island in Hawaii has something special to offer, and Maui has the quality surf for the beginner and even the advanced. It's time to get laid back, grab a few beers and longboards, cause you're on island time now.
Lahaina is about a 45 minute drive from Lahului Airport on the Westside of Maui, but once you’re in the Lahaina area, you pretty have everything you need at relative distance, so ditch the car unless you plan to travel north or south to other beaches. Main Street has the shops and restaurants you could ever need, and the waves are relatively calm in Lahaina, on average providing peeler’s from the outer reef, meaning this is the spot to rent or bring your longboard. It may not be the surf destination if you’re looking for barrels, but more of a family oriented surf trip where everyone can get stoked.
There is a TON of history packed in Lahaina. One of the more natural historic things to check out is the Banyan Tree in central Lahaina. Planted back in 1873 by William Owen Smith to commemorate the arrival of the Christian missionaries, It’s this HUGE sprawling, gorgeous tree, it almost seems almost impossible to be one tree, but this is definitely worth a stop to see. Another worthy sight is Hale Pa’ahao Prison. Built originally in 1852, the Coral-rock built fort still stands, with a few modern touch ups, but it’s super rad to read about the different uses for the prison as well as prisoners that were housed. Hawaiian History is often overlooked. A lot has happened in a short amount of time.
Hawaii is a great place to try surfing out for the first time, since you don’t ever need a wetsuit, and the instructors are highly experienced. If you’re a true beginner, I would scope around the sandy beaches and look for a Surf School. Royal Hawaiian Surf School is located in Lahaina on Prison Street, and can handle group lessons or privates. They will take you to spots away from some of the more crowded, and have you up and riding if you are a true beginner. One of my earliest memories of catching a wave in Hawaii was actually at a spot in Lahaina. It’s easy to catch the surfing bug when you stand up in warm water.
If you’re beyond taking lessons, a lot of spots peel on a very small swell for the better part of the year. You’re going to want a bigger board with a lot of float and planing ability, so stick with a board like the Ultimate or Ladle, and stay away from the true shortboards (Maybe the boss will send me to Lahaina to test our fun shorter models like the Codfather, Poacher, and Cloud to get some field test results ;) )
If you’re looking to explore away from the Lahaina scene, a hair south of Lahaina is a nice sandy beach park that is perfect to take out a longboard and hang out for the day. Another great place to drive to is the next city north, Kaanapali. The coast is peppered with large hotels, but if you explore north, you can find some quality surf for yourself. Again, you’re friend of the trip is going to be a longer board.
As far as Hawaiian food goes, I even eat Hawaiian food on the regular when I’m in California. It would be impossible to not recommend getting some authentic grindz while on a trip out there. All I can personally recommend is Kalua Pig, Kalua Pig, and more Kalua Pig (Short Ribs too!!!), but Aloha Mixed Plate can fufill whatever Hawaiian craving you may have. All the classics, with a plate of sticky rice and mac salad, and you’ve got yourself a great refuel meal before the next paddle out.
No matter what island you find yourself on, you need to get yourself a shave ice while in Hawaii. Its Shave Ice, not SHAVED ice, and no its not the same as a snow cone. Ululani’s is, hands-down, the best in town, even considered best on the island. The way they shave their ice is unlike any other, as it is almost like a creamy ice cream texture. Their syrups are all made in-house, and one of the more popular flavor combinations is the Pe’ahi (Mango, Coconut, Passion fruit). Another trick is that you need to get ice cream on the bottom of your snow cap…I’d say go with Coconut ice cream. Go light on lunch or dinner and save your stomach for Ululani’s. The portions are out of control. But in a good way.
Maui may not be the ideal high performance surf destination, but if you’re into longboarding all day, beach siestas and good food, Lahaina is your spot. This is also a great place to go if you want to introduce surfing to your significant other, or family, as the water is always warm, the waves are relatively calm, and the surf schools are top notch.