Escapes

Q:

What adventure activities can I enjoy while in Maui?

I'm headed to Maui in December and would like to do more than just sit on the beach. What are some things a serious athlete could do on the island over a week's time? Mark R. Madison, WI

Maui’s North Shore     Photo: Photodisc/Corbis

Maui’s North Shore

Maui’s North Shore

A:Voted Best Island in the World in 2008 by Conde Nast Traveler, Maui has become a destination for those looking for sun, sand, and a little adventure. And with a dormant volcano, 68-mile scenic highway through a tropical rainforest, and a world-renowned surfing beach all located within 727 square miles, it's obvious why. For an athlete like yourself, there's no reason to sit back and let the wheels of your rental car do the work—here's our top picks for ways to get off the beach towel.

Finding good running routes while on vacation can be a challenge, but not here. Like the island's beaches, Maui has too many running routes to name. If you're not up for fighting for shoulder space to run on the narrow Hana Highway around the east end of the island, Haiku Road might satisfy your desire. A winding, hilly out-and-back course takes runners up to Peahi—a spot on the north central shore where they filmed Jaws, now a big-wave tow-in surfing spot where you're likely to spot pros such as Laird Hamilton. Once you pass the Peahi Bridge to Five Corners, you'll turn around at 4.4 miles and head back the direction you came. Post-run, fuel up at Colleen's (at the Haiku Cannery) with fresh espresso or breakfast, lunch, and dinner. To get there, head east from Kahului on the Hana Highway through Paia. At mile marker 11, turn right onto Haiku Road and follow approximately two miles to Haiku Cannery. If you're dying for some serious altitude, make your way up 10,023-foot Haleakala, Maui's own dormant volcano that makes up 75 percent of the island. Drive up Crater Road and begin your run from anywhere along the volcano's ancient panoramas. Miles are marked along the road, but come prepared to run multiple switchbacks. Take a water break at Haleakala National Park just beyond the ten-mile marker for breathtaking views from the summit and the seven-mile-wide, 800-foot-deep crater at the top.

If you'd rather spend your share of vacation time in the water, conquer the waves on the North Shore. Not every spot is designated for locals or those riding the professional circuit. At Honolua Bay you'll find a crowd, but for good reason. Considered the location of one of the world's most majestic waves, it begins as a seamless right point that stretches forever. Catching this hollow wave during the winter months will make fighting for a spot on the lineup all worth while. To find Honolua Bay, follow Honoapiilani Highway (HI-30) from Lahaina north past Kapalua, then just follow the signs. Park on the bluff above and let a fellow surfer help you find your way (in and out). For more of a sure shot at catching a wave, head over to the Hana Highway between Haiku and Paia. Hookipa is steady and dependable—just like your trusty longboard—with numerous peaks. Try Pavillions and Middles. Both break left for surfers and can be located off the lookout and main parking areas. Hookipa is extremely windy during the day, one of the reasons the area is also known as the world's best windsurfing spot, so arrive early and then plan to visit again in the late afternoon. As with Honolua, follow a fellow surfer on their way in. And, as you would with all major surfing areas, keep tabs on weather conditions before you go.

If you're like me and want to plan your vacation around a race, try the Mana O Ka Moana—Ocean Challenge Quad on Saturday, December 5. A one-mile ocean swim, two-mile surfboard paddle, three-mile kayak/canoe, and one-mile beach run offers competitors a unique seaside challenge. Located at Kama'ole Beach Park I in Kihei, this annual event is a lifeguard-style race open to any individual or pair, male and/or female and costs just $30 per person. But if you're up for it, try and plan your visit for September, bring a few endurance-heavy friends along, and sign up for the 52-mile Hana Relay on the 12th. This is the one time each year where runners rule the Hana Highway, along with the disturbance of slow-moving sight-seers in their rental cars—unfortunately this screechingly narrow road is not closed to traffic. You'll need a total of six team members to negotiate 617 curves and 56 bridges in all, beginning at the Kahului Airport and finishing at the Hana Ball Park. Be prepared for steep sections of climbing between legs 8 and 13, as well as all weather conditions. A few of the highlights include a sensory overload with the smell of ripe, fallen (and squashed) guava along the highway, as well as scantily clad teams dressed for the tropics—not to mention the stellar views. Be prepared by renting your support van and entering early. Entry fee is $30 per person and teams of less than six still must pay the entire $180.

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