Our day began with a hotel pickup at the Napili Kai Beach Resort. Fortunately for all in our group, our driver, Alex Buttaro, elected to drive us around the top of West Maui to reach the valley which lies almost all the way to Wailuku. Along the way Alex gave us detailed geological, ecological and cultural background of the areas we passed.
The views mauka (toward the mountains) and makai (toward the ocean) today were especially stunning. We were able to see whale spouts miles and miles in the distance. We stopped briefly in the small isolated village of Kahakuloa which is home to about 100 people, two churches and several roadside stands where friendly locals offer a pleasing stop along the drive. We stopped by the ever popular Julia's Banana Bread stand which is hard to miss with its brightly painted facade.
The drive over to Makamaka'ole Valley took about ninety minutes. What followed was about a two hour hike down through the lower valley. The trail takes you past several waterfalls, including one which involves a steep climb down and back up. I passed on that, but those who did climb down loved the views. The Makamaka'ole Valley is filled with ancient Hawaiian archeology, particularly walls built for numerous purposes and an old portion of the Piilani trail.
The hike takes you past numerous native plants and trees along with the unfortunately more prevalent invasive plant species which continue to crowd out the native plants. Alex was very knowledgeable in pointing out each plant and its uses for the ancient Hawaiians and those keen enough to be able to spot them today.
As I mentioned the hike was not stressful and I understand that another hike offered by Hike Maui to the upper valley involves even less elevation, but longer length. The reward is that are even more archeological sites as well as huge ancient terraces where taro was once grown.
As Hike Maui's boss, MJ Harden, forewarned me, Alex is a great guide but he's not afraid to give his opinion on virtually every issue facing the Hawaiian Islands today. Rather than being something negative, I find the willingness to discuss and even disagree on current issues a pleasant and refreshing surprise.
Too many travel service professionals always try to be diplomatically correct for fear of disagreeing with any customers. I believe that issues such as race relations, Hawaiian sovereignty, resort development, crime and other such issues need to be discussed openly and not buried and hidden from Hawaii's visitors.