At this point, you might think all I did at The Banana Bungalow was hike up enough muscle soreness to justify an entire evening spent in the jacuzzi. But far from it — a vast majority of every Bungalow week is spent beach bumming. Monday is hiking in the ‘Iao Valley, Tuesday is surviving the twisting Road to Hana, and Saturday is the brutal twelve-mile trek across Haleakala crater, but the rest of the time is pure sand and sun.
Wednesday in West Maui
On Wednesdays, the Bungalow crew heads west. After a quick stop to rent snorkel gear, we parked it on the beach in Kaanapali for a leisurely afternoon of turtle-spotting and cliff-jumping. Most of the major hotels and resorts in West Maui line this beach, and its easy to see why — it’s a million dollar stretch of sand with waters thick with turtles and a cloudless sky.
In Hawaii, I became hopelessly turtle spoiled. From diving to surfing to snorkeling, my big-shelled friends seemed to make an appearance any time I was remotely near the water.
After a decent fill of sunshine, the tour stops at the Lahaina Jodo Mission before winding down with happy hour in Lahaina Town. This is one of the biggest concentrations of shops, galleries and restaurants in Maui but still maintains its old whaling town charm.
Thursdays in South Maui
Because you can never have too much beach time, on Thursdays the free Bungalow tour takes off for South Maui. Here, we spread out on towels and spend the day doing intervals of extreme tanning and group snorkeling.
And what did we find? More turtles, of course!
I may or may not have also snuck into the fancy pants resort next door for a little pool swim. It was nice to experience a hint of Maui luxury, but you know what? I wouldn’t have traded it for my room at the Bungalow.
After sunset drinks at Life’s a Beach bar in Kihei (are you sensing a theme to these tours?!) we headed back for a night of fun at The Banana Bungalow.
Fridays in Paia
From December to April, when whale watching season is in full swing, The Bungalow brings its guests on a whale watching tour. Sadly, I wasn’t there in whale season — but the consolation prize was pretty great. The rest of the year, the Friday free tour goes to Paia town and then to Baldwin Beach. Paia was actually my favorite spot in all of Maui, and I was so enamored with this bohemian hippie town that I didn’t think to take even one picture. At least I have a reason to go back!
After some time in town, the tour stops at Baldwin Beach. I found myself at this beach on more than one occasion during my time in Maui, hanging out with the Bungalow staff. Believe it or not, this group of international world travelers were usually found building sand cities.
One of my favorite memories from Baldwin Beach was when two little blonde girls, maybe six or seven years old, came right up to the boys building their sand city and demanded to assist. With names like Lilikoi and Lilly I knew immediately they were local island girls and I marveled at their bravery, approaching a group of twenty-something strangers and insisting on joining in on a project! I think it’s a good example of how people live in Hawaii — without paranoia and fear of strangers, and with a lot of aloha.
Sundays at Little Beach
All of the beach days I’ve mentioned so far were wonderful — but none of them compare to Sundays at Little Beach. The day starts out innocently enough, with a few hours spent lazing on nearby Makena’s Big Beach. But as the sun begins to fall, we climb over the large rock wall that partitions off the secluded and private Little Beach.
Here, I found Maui’s secret hippie haven. Clothing optional, fire dancing and drum circling encouraged — welcome to the sunset Sundays at Little Beach. “Well, I know where everyone at Burning Man is going to be in a few decades,” I said to my friend Paula as a nude man in his 70’s spun in circles to the beat of a bongo drum while sniffing a flower plucked from a nearby tree.
This was some of the best people watching I found not only in Hawaii — but in the world! There was a true community vibe here, as smiles and conversation flowed among new friends and handmade bracelets, musical instruments and special brownies were passed around freely. This wasn’t a scene I was expecting to find in Hawaii — but I’m so glad I did.
I was so sad when my time at the Banana Bungalow was up — I will always look back on this little hostel as a dear place in my heart. But luckily I wasn’t going far! I was headed just across the island to Lahaina, where I would stay for a blissful and relaxing week with my aunt and uncle. Stay tuned!
How do you like to spend your vacation days? Packed with activities or relaxing at the beach?