13 Things to Do in Maui: A Week in Paradise

Maui Weather

Maui is paradise on earth. Never too hot and never too cold, it's a peaceful rock in the middle of the powerful Pacific Ocean that houses beautiful jungle hikes, warm seas, and enough activities for a lifetime. But, you may find yourself parked on the beach sipping testing organic vodkas and pineapple wine until you can't see straight.

Maui Airport

With almost 2.5 million visitors a year, Maui is the second most visited Hawaiian island, and it's easy to understand why.  It has an easily accessible airport, which opens the gateway to luxurious resorts, the famous Road to Hana, Ocean Organic Vodka's plantation, cliff jumping at Black Rock Beach, quaint towns like Paia, and Haleakala National Park - overlooking dormant volcanoes and rainbow bamboo forests.

Want to learn how to maximize a week in Maui then keep reading and see all that the Valley Isle has to offer.

Maui Hotels

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Ka'anapali. It's situated where most of the other resorts are on the western side of the Island. But, if you want something a little more "authentic" check out Airbnb's near Paia. Here there are tiny villages and bed n' breakfasts that have a distinctly calmer vibe. If you're new to the island though, I can't recommend the Hyatt enough as the employees and location give you excellent access to all that Maui has to offer, without having to look too hard.

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Local Booze

If you trust this blog for only one thing, it should be this. Breweries, distilleries, and vineyards run aplenty here, so you have the whole gamut to choose from.

  • Maui Brewing Company

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This award-winning beer can be found all over the island, but you can take a tour of the brewery in Kihei. If you just want a taste, head over to the brewpub in Kahana and get some food with it too. Personally, I recommend the Pineapple Wheat, but the Coconut Porter is great too if you like dark beers.

  • Ocean Organic Vodka & Rum

I didn't know vodka tastings were a thing, but the views from the farm are worth the trip alone. I've found the vodka at Bevmos in California, but the rum can only be found on site. It's a pretty informative tour with an immaculate backdrop.

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  • Maui Wine

Famous for its pineapple wine, I'll admit, at first, I was skeptical, but Maui Wine's Maui Blanc is actually a dry wine and doesn't have the sweet taste that you'd imagine given the fruit. It's a unique take as it's certainly different from your typical white, but not so much that your standard pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc fans won't love it.

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Maui Beaches

  • Ka'anapali Beach

Sunset from here was like no other (featured image). With unobstructed views of the neighboring islands and a warm, calm sea. It's a great place to pop in or take a stroll.

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  • Black Rock Beach

Located by the Sheraton (north end of Ka'anapali Beach), this beach has a stronger surf and is built more for the adventurous in the bunch. Hawaiians believe this was where their spirits leaped to join their ancestors, leading some to believe that the tradition of taking Hawaiian volcanic rock as bad luck started here. Now, it's a cliff jumping and snorkeling paradise. Make sure you wear your water shoes when climbing up the rock as I stepped on a sea urchin, making for a very uncomfortable next few days.

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  • Keawakapu Beach

Translated as "forbidden cove", this beach is near Kihei, and while it is pretty developed, the condos and hotels are a bit off the beach, keeping all that dreaded commercialization at bay.

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Maui Cities

  • Paia

A multicultural mill and fishing village. Paia is perfect for a stroll along the main drag where you can buy products from local artisans and grab a bite that has influence from Chinese, Portuguese, and native cuisines.

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  • Lahaina

The largest "city" on the island is home to much of the island's museums and is a jumping off point for most of the whale watching tours. It's also the only real place for nightlife that you will find nearby.

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  • Kahakuloa

Maui's "most isolated village" is located on the tip of the island's north shore. Famous for it's Congregational Church (built 1892) where you get the best of both worlds with its ocean and mountain backdrop. The town is also home to Julia's Banana Bread, touted by many as the best in the world!

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Maui Activities

  • The Road to Hana

The most famous activity on the island is well worth the 4-hour drive with hairpin turns on the cliffside road. It is a major commuter road, so take your time and make plenty of stops to not only let the locals pass but also so you can take in all the sites. Some of the must-see natural beauties include Twin Falls, the Painted Forest, and the Seven Sacred Pools at Ohe'o; just to name a few.

  • Iao Valley

The old burial place of Hawaii's chiefs. It is also the site of an old battlefield from 1790. Not to be outdone by its history, the valley and state monument's Needle Lookout Trail is also home to some of Hawaii's most beautiful fauna with placards explaining what the Hawaiians brought with them.

  • Wainapanapa State Park

Towards the end of the Road to Hana, you'll find a volcanic black sand beach and surrounding tide pools that turn bright red at different times of the year. Local legend believes this is the blood of a murdered princess, but scientists say it's the arrival of small shrimp. You decide.

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  • Haleakala National Forest

The crown jewel of Maui. Haleakala possesses the most endangered species of any park in the National Park System. Home of Maui's highest peak at 10,023 feet, it does snow, so bring your jacket, but highs also get up into the 80s. Home to volcanic ash, cinder cones, and numerous types of flora and fauna. You need to make sure to book your reservation before you come (because it sells out fast and they cap the number of visitors), but watching the sunrise from here is the most magical offering Maui will provide you on your trip.

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Büyülü Fener: A Magic Lantern to Istanbul’s Past

A middle-aged man passes under a vivid yet rustic sign that reads BÜYÜLÜ FENER, which fits like a puzzle piece among the colors of cafes and apartments that flood this block in Balat. He pushes open a glass door that rests under a row of rainbow stained glass. Once inside he’s greeted with a welcome from the owner, Gediz, as he scans the walls and shelves. This isn’t your typical antique shop, which pop up all over the neighborhood.

A Unique Antique

Not just because Gediz is the only female owner in the area, but because instead of the other shops where you feel like you’re walking into an old Ottoman tea house, here it’s like you’ve entered the Art Director from Turkish Mad Men’s supply warehouse. On the walls are rows of small tube TVs, record players, and typewriters flashing with vibrant colors. One of the record players spins a song from the 1960s that only the Turks seem to recognize.

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A Piece of our Past

The man’s eyes stop on an unassuming collection of retro cigarette packages. “Can I buy just this one?” he asks. Gediz tells him of course, but that it’s not worth much without the rest of the collection. “That’s fine. They used to sell this box in Cyprus when I was a kid there. So, when I saw it it immediately brought me back to my time there as a child.”

And that’s why people come to Büyülü Fener (magic lantern in Turkish), not necessarily to find the next rare find of the antiquing world, but to bring back a fond memory or experience. Gediz told me that what really separates Büyülü Fener from the other antique stores is that hers isn’t one; it’s a nostalgia shop.

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Balat a Microcosm of Praxis

In a city that is rapidly modernizing, the gentrification can be dispiriting. And, when your commute consists of passing block after block of Soviet-style apartment buildings, you want to find the colors, diversity, and romance of the storied Istanbul. That’s what propelled Fener-Balat to become such a hotspot for tourists, expats, and locals alike. Büyülü Fener fits this neighborhood aesthetic perfectly. It’s what drew Gediz here in the first place. Cihangir had become flooded with overpriced housing and Karaköy had been overrun with chain stores, making a small business nearly impossible. But here, every business is personally owned and new people are moving in droves, but they haven’t destroyed the neighborhood’s character. In fact, as long as they adapt to their surrounding culture they can help enhance it. The neighbors across the street are Bulgarian immigrants on the first floor, Syrians on the 2nd, and from eastern Anatolia on the 3rd. Imams walk the street and wave at the employees from the nearby Ecumenical Patriarchate. Women with head scarves will chat with their neighbors in mini-skirts. Gediz says there’s a weird balance where if you don’t judge, no one will judge you. This is why Fener-Balat is where the city on the cusp of two worlds analogy comes alive. When you live in a sterile apartment and work a sterile job, it feels like the old Istanbul is dead, but you can still find it here.

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I always assumed that antique shops were a staple of the neighborhood, but apparently, I was wrong. Büyülü Fener was only the 5th and opened a little over 2 years ago. Now there are 19, with that number changing every day. While the store may be new, Gediz tells me that opening it has been her dream since she was a teenager. After daring the corporate world for many years, while simultaneously filling her apartment to the brim, she decided to pursue her dream to open her own place and live the laid-back lifestyle of Balat.

A Bit of Nostalgia

She began collecting when she was 16. At first, it was anything that interested her, but then it slowly morphed into attaining collections as well. The evidence is on display everywhere. There’s an eclectic record collection with many hailing from Turkey’s rock heyday in the 1970s summed up with a Barış Manço print in the front row.

Turkish and international records. Photo by: Talha Ayar

Apparently records are making a comeback and many people who buy them don’t even own the players. However, she still sells them, and they all work because Gediz and different specialists team up to restore all the gadgets and electronics in the store. She will buy paintings and photos that barely get settled on the wall before they’re sold. Retro gas lamps are probably the highest selling item for locals, but tourists love trinkets because they can fit them in their suitcase. There are collections of old soda bottles, miniature alcohol bottles (still full), postcards, and a slew of things that you didn’t even know would make you feel nostalgic.

Mementos

The nostalgia bug hits me hard when I see an old tin toy car that looks like a larger version of a Hot Wheels toy. Across from the entrance, you’ll notice a giant one, like a Cadillac version of all those Fisher-Price commercials I saw as a kid where you actually can ride in the car. Not one to show bias, a miniature burgundy stroller, perfect for a toddler to play house in, rests opposite the car and in front of the original signage for Balat Hastanesi.

The Cadillac (or Ferrari) of toy cars. Photo by: Colin Craig

I bee-line my way towards the sign and begin sweeping through the box of Swiss and Turkish postcards underneath it, I can’t help but read all the messages people wrote their loved ones that now live on through the curious eyes that pry into them. It seems every item in the store has a story. A special one sits in the corner of the store on a 1950s era stove top. An old cast iron sauce pan lacquered in floral patterned paint looks banal at first. But, Gediz tells me these were exclusively made in Western Europe and discontinued there about 40 years ago with the development of lightweight cooking materials.

The rare saucepan (bottom-left). Photo by: Colin Craig

She lifts up the top to an engraved “Made in Turkey”. “It’s the only one I’ve ever seen in all my years of collecting that was made here,” she says. So, maybe the rare finds are here as well.

The Business of Antiquing

I finally ask her how she knows what to buy and that it will sell? She says it’s impossible to predict what items people will buy, so she gave up trying. Instead, she buys things that she’d want to decorate her home with and that sometimes that’s beyond just an eye for commerce. “It’s hard for me to sell some of this stuff because I like it and I become sort of attached to it,” Gediz tells me. She then shows me her favorite item, a toy robot resembling R2D2 and when you open its head there’s a cassette player inside. I ask her how much she would charge for something like that. “It’s not for sale. This is still part of my personal collection.”

Robot cassette player. Photo by: Sveta Nekrasova

If you think you can pry it from her, come to Büyülü Fener in Balat from 10-7 any day but Monday and try.

This article was originally printed here on yabangee.com. All photos are the property of the photographers.

Wadi Rum: The Perfect Escape to Simplicity

If you've seen The Martian and thought you too would like to colonize Mars, you actually don't need to go as far you'd think. Matt Damon flew out to Wadi Rum, Jordan, which is also the home of the famous Lawrence of Arabia during WWI. There are numerous sites, both historical and geological, but the real jewel is the insight that you gain into the Bedouin culture and lifestyle. We signed up with Wadi Rum Nomads who are one of the top rated companies because the tours are informative, comfortable, reliable, but mostly because the people who organize it are friendly and open about their lives in the desert. Our guide, Atillah, told us about chasing his pet camels into Saudi Arabia, growing up as one of 30 kids, and hunting. My favorite was about the tiger that once got loose in the desert.

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There's different trips and varying lengths you can do from riding a camel or jeep for a morning or up to nine days of walking. We opted for a day of visiting all the major sites followed by a night camping under the stars. The walking treks can be intense as it's hot and climbing sand dunes are much harder then they appear. But, if you still want some of that, you'll get it. Jeep tours are 95JOD for 1 person or 55JOD if you're 2-4 people.

Below, are some of the awe inspiring spots that the Nomads team will show you along the way.

  • Lawrence Spring

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The first stop on the tour ties is connected to Wadi Rum's most famous story, that of T.E. Lawrence or more famously known as Lawrence of Arabia. The Brit who helped lead the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans in WWI. For the Bedouins, the spring has been a major life force for centuries. Now, the water flows through piping, but you can climb the rocky hillside and simulate what the Bedouins used to have to go through to get a drink. With gorgeous views of the Red Desert ahead of you it's a great introduction to the beauty and strain of the valley.

  • Khazali Canyon

  • This quick jaunt is a break from the sun, but also protects ancient Arabic inscriptions and ancient Nabatean hieroglyphics. The mountain appears daunting; however up close it's a quick walk to see the inscriptions that put into perspective the history and alien nature that desert holds in all its nooks and crannies.

  • Abu Khashaba Canyon

  • The hardest walk of the day tour, but still a moderate hike. Words don't really do justice to the experience - walking through the middle of sandstorm, the only respite being a lush oasis encapsulated by a silver haze. The thing I least expected about Wadi Rum (and Jordan, in general) was its palatial size. Unlike pink sand beaches in the Bahamas that are beautiful but manipulated on Instagram, out here everything was bigger and more striking than I'd seen before.

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    • Um Fruth Rock Bridge

    The most visited locale in the preserve, this bridge is worth the vertigo-inducing climb. It's also much easier going up then down. However, the view is worth it. A 30 meter climb with nice panoramas, make sure you arrive early as it can be difficult to get a shot of you on your own.

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    • Um Sabatah

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    This dune is the perfect spot to watch the sunset. Some days there will be those elusive watercolor-like skies. However, ours was almost like a negative photograph. There were all the colors of the desert streaming across the ground with white and silver streaking through the sky. A truly unique view, that taught me those cotton candy skies online aren't the only immaculate sunsets. Weather permitting around here is where you'll sleep.

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    The full day trip will also bring to a massive red sand dune, which is a bit arduous, but worth it to sand board down; Lawrence of Arabia's house, where he stayed to endure the tough desert winter, but more interestingly, the home was supposedly built by Nabateans; and also the Little Bridge, which is smaller than Um Froth, but fun to climb around nonetheless.

    The most beautiful bit of the evening came after an unexpected disappointment. Weather prevented us from sleeping out under the stars in a bivouac tent, instead we were brought to one of the guide's uncle's camp where we were treated to Bedouin music and home cooked food, as we fell asleep beneath the stars or in a makeshift cabin. A magical way to end the night.

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    Another attack in Turkey :(

    News has reached American soil, but many details are still unclear here in the city about a car bomb in Istanbul that has killed 11 so far and injured 36. An English language Turkish source has this to say about today's terrorist attack. This is the 3rd attack in Istanbul this year. The first coming on January 12th in the historic Sultanahmet district, killing 10--all German and Peruvian tourists. The next on March 19th, killied 3 Israelis and 1 Iranian on Istiklal, the main shopping street. Not to mention, attempted attacks on police stations in poorer suburbs of the city that sporadically occur. In Ankara, the capital, there have been almost 60 killed this year. And, in the southeast there have been countless attacks, shootings and bombings between the military and Kurdish rebel groups. Car Bomb

    Generally attacks have come from two groups this year, Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) and Kurdish Separatist groups (mainly, PKK or TAK). Both groups have had a particular M.O., at least in their Western Turkish attacks. Daesh has targeted civilians and popular tourist destinations, while the PKK and TAK attacks have mostly targeted police and military positions.

    Today, a remotely detonated car bomb was triggered, seemingly to take out a police bus passing at that moment--where 7 seven officers have died as of publication. 4 civilian casualties and countless injuries blur the intentions of this attack, which took place on the outskirts of the old city and mere blocks from one the city's largest and oldest universities, which so happened to have final exams starting today on the 2nd day of Ramadan.

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    Thankfully all my friends and family are safe and our lives continue to be as unaffected as they can given these almost desensitizing attacks. But, not everyone else is so lucky has been. The past few months have been relatively quiet compared to the end of 2015 and start of 2016. Let's hope it stays that way.