Having experienced the awesome natural wonders of the Big Island yesterday, the extremely touristy atmosphere of Maui comes as a big contrast. From the hordes of tourists thronging Lahaina, to the many T-shirt and souvenir shops on offer, to the gridlock out on the over-crowded road system, you can tell that you're well and truly on the tourist trail here.
But, even a small amount of time on the island lets you see why so many people are attracted to Maui – gorgeous beaches, amazing surfing, whales spouting constantly in its bays (we must have seen 10, just as we were driving back to Lahaina), and some spectacular scenery in its mountainous interior. Plus, there's an extremely well developed and efficient tourist industry set up to operate a myriad of trips to part us tourists from our money.
I did a "Rainforest Hike" Tour that really highlighted the differences between the Big Island and Maui. On the Big Island, there was a real sense of going back to nature, where you were in awe of the raw landscapes on offer; while, here on Maui, we were taken to a private "rainforest", with trails taking you to its well marked attractions. To be fair, the waterfalls, the running streams and the dense foliage we were trekking through were all impressive, but the volume of other pleasure-seeking tourists that we were sharing them with somehow made it seem less inspiring.
Nevertheless, it was a good workout and we all had a fun time. Sadly, the drive back to Lahaina (part of it on the famous Hana Highway), showed us one of the downsides of Maui's ever-increasing popularity – the sheer volume of traffic on the road. As we crawled along the coast road, a 30-minute journey turned into a 70-minute stop-start trip, with only the whales jumping about in the bay for entertainment.
When you've been stuck in a traffic jam, there's only one way of getting the journey out of your system, so we headed to Kimo's Bar, overlooking the water for a sundowner. The sun went down on cue but the clouds rolled in, so sadly we didn't have one of those spectacular orange sunsets that Lahaina is famous for. However, the good company, the laid-back atmosphere, and the cold beer more than made up for the lack of orange glow.
I guess that it's difficult to complain about other tourists when you're a tourist yourself; but for this tourist, Maui's at its best when it concentrates on the simple things in life – its views, its nature, and its chilled out Hawaiian ambience.