Host Kelly Regan and Frommer's Maui Day by Day author and Hawaii expert Jeanette Foster sit down to discuss Maui. Jeanette offers her take on the great diversity of accommodations and activities and tips on the island's most beautiful and romantic sights. She also reveals her favorite spot for steak as well as how to find a great deal, as well as three simple words of advice that'll improve any trip (you'll have to listen).

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Top Tips from This Podcast

See transcript below for links to more information.

  • Traveling with children: Find the right accommodation. Don't over-plan.
  • Romantic Maui: Sunrise at the top of Haleakala volcano.
  • Things to Do: Biking Haleakala, drive the Hana Highway, driving tours, beaches.
  • When to go: Avoid Janurary through March.
  • Where to eat: Pineapple Grill in Kapalua, Mama's Fish House in Kuau, Suns in Kanapali.
  • Saving Money: Go in the off season, get package deals, book hotels online.
  • Hawaii Gold Card: For a fee, $35, four people saving up to 40% on activities.
  • Beaches (swimming): Kikai.
  • Beaches (snorkeling): Black Rock Point, Kanapali beach.
  • Beaches (surfing): Hamoa Bay.
  • Beaches (bodysurfing): Baldwin beach.
  • Beaches (windsurfing): Hokokipa.
Announcer: Welcome to the travel podcast, for more information on planning your trip to any one of thousands of destinations, please visit
Kelly Regan: Hi and welcome to the podcast. Latest in our continuing conversations about all things travel. I am Kelly Regan, editorial director of the Frommer's travel guides; I will be your host.

My guest today is Jeanette Foster, a long time author for Frommer's and the author of our new book Frommer's Maui Day by Day which is on sale now. For listener's who might not be familiar with the Day by Day guides, this is a new four color series from Frommer's that offers a series of itineraries, each accompanied by a detailed map that help you see a destination in the smartest, most time efficient way.

So Jeanette is here today to talk about organizing your time on Maui whether you are interested in romance, family travel or outdoor adventures.

Jeanette, Aloha.
Jeanette Foster: Aloha Kelly.
Kelly: Thanks for talking with me today.
Jeanette: Oh my pleasure.
Kelly: So Jeanette, you are someone who has lived in Hawaii for a long time and you cover all of the islands for Frommer's. Tell me how Maui differs from other Hawaiian islands and why you think someone would choose that island to visit over some of the others.
Jeanette: Well, I think Maui's greatest asset is its diversity. If you have a variety of things you want to do, if one of you wants to golf but also wants really good food and the other person wants to go to great spas and maybe get some ocean activities, Maui is your island. You are going to have fabulous beaches and it has lots of activity, it has a range of places to stay from budget accommodations to luxury resorts, if you just want to take a vacation while you vedge out, you can have that too.
Kelly: That's that. So, it sounds like it is kind of a one stop shop for all of your island needs.
Jeanette: I think so, and I think that is why it has become so popular over the years.
Kelly: Yeah. As I mentioned, this book has a lot of itineraries that are designed for people that have particular interests. So, let's go through a couple of them for a minute. Let's start with what to do with your family. What tips do you have for parents that might be going to Maui with the kids in tow?
Jeanette: Well, the first thing that I always tell families is that you need to get the right accommodation and really think about it. Are your kids young enough that you need to prepare food? If they are, do you need just a kitchenette which is usually just a microwave, maybe a one or two burner stove and a small refrigerator, or if you really need a full kitchen, you have to really determine what you want. The second thing that I tell parents is don't over plan. Don't try to do ten things a day. You are just going to end up with cranky kids that will make you cranky.
Kelly: [laughter] Right which is kind of counter to the whole notion of relaxing on an island vacation.
Jeanette: Exactly.
Kelly: Yeah and actually that is a good piece of advice that is for everybody, not just families. Don't try and cramp too much into one day.
Jeanette: So the biggest thing that I say is, people have a list of forty things to do in seven days but where is the list, where is the day you do nothing?
Kelly: [laughter] See that would be every day for me. [laughter]

I think those are really good tips and I think my recollection with Maui is that there are a lot of places like condos or apartments that have kitchens and kitchenettes. So, it would enable you to be able to prepare food and also saves a little bit on your costs because if you are making breakfast in your apartment and your condo, maybe making sandwiches for lunch for the kids, you are not spending as much as for eating out every meal.
Jeanette: No, that is true. There is nothing worse than paying sixteen dollars for your junior's breakfast of cereal and milk, and he doesn't want it.
Kelly: [laughter] Right.
Jeanette: It is the wrong kind.
Kelly: Right, right.
Jeanette: You are like OK.
Kelly: Exactly, exactly. Moving from folks with kids to couples coming to Maui, Maui is clearly one of the world's most popular honeymoon destinations and there is a tour in Maui Day by Day called Romantic Maui. I am wondering, what is your favorite romantic thing to do on Maui? When I think of Maui, I have been there before and I feel that the whole island is pretty much one big opportunity for romance, so I am curious to hear what is your...
Jeanette: I totally agree and usually what I tell people is, if you are coming from your east-up Hawaii, mostly east-up Hawaii, so when you get there, you have got this jetlag so the first night you are in bed at eight'o clock. So the next morning you are up at three or four, wide awake.
Kelly: [laughter]
Jeanette: So, what I tell people is, try and go up to the top of Haleakala - which is a 10, 000 foot dormant volcano - to watch the sunrise. It's fabulous.
Kelly: It is fabulous.
Jeanette: Slowly cruise up there. It is chilly up there so take some blankets, maybe some hot coffee and you and your honey sit there and you watch the sky go from inky black with beautiful stars, crystal clear to suddenly there is a little thin line on the horizon and the whole sky lights up. It is just delicious.
Kelly: Yeah, I have done it before. I did it once many years ago and it really was, I think, my greatest memory of the trip was going up to the top. For people who might not have been there, the landscape up there is very eerie. I mean, there is no vegetation. I think people most often compare it to the surface of the moon.
Jeanette: It is interesting you mentioned that Kelly because the astronauts have trained in front of the Haleakala crater.
Kelly: Yeah, yeah and to see the sunrise over that kind of a landscape, it is pretty incredible and not what people would associate with being on Maui.
Jeanette: Or in Hawaii.
Kelly: Or in Hawaii, exactly, exactly. Well, speaking of Haleakala, I wanted touch a little on outdoor activities because of course you can do pretty much everything on Maui, both on the water and on the land. But of all the things to do on the island, I think one of the most fun is this opportunity to take a bike trip down the road that goes up to the top of Haleakala. So can you talk a little about what this is, these bike tours are and what it is like to do it?
Jeanette: Sure. I lived on Maui for years and as local residents, we used to do this all the time. We took a bunch of bikes in back of pickup trucks and then some poor guy had to drive back down and the rest of us got in our bikes. The road is perfectly banked so that you can cruise all the way down, without having to use your breaks. From the top of the 10, 000 foot volcano to the ocean. So then one day somebody got smart and thought, "Wait a minute, I am going to take from the people along with this."
Kelly: [laughter]
Jeanette: So what happens is, you start from the top and it is cold up there, especially for people who are up for the sunrise, I mean really cold. 10, 000 feet. That is cold.
Kelly: Yeah it's pretty cold.
Jeanette: And after you see the sunrise, you get on these bikes. They give you all the equipments. They give you helmets that actually have a little intercom in them and your guide is in the front, he is talking to you and tells you when to stop. And then there is a guide at the back in case you get tired, you can get in the sag wagon. But you roll down the hills and you go through incredibly different terrain. You start above the trees, you go through the forest, you go through rolling pastures, you go by flower farms and you slowly make your way down the mountain to sea level.

I tell people it's a great experience, yes you have to get up early, but do it early in your trip, because you're up early anyway.
Kelly: Yeah. Well how long does the whole trip take?
Jeanette: Well it depends on what time you get going on the top, but it's like two hours down the mountain.
Kelly: Wow.
Jeanette: Some trips will stop halfway for breakfast; some trips will go all the way down and then have kind of a brunch, lunch later on.
Kelly: OK.
Jeanette: But I do want to warn the readers that the only time I would not recommend it is during the winter, which is January, February, March when it's raining. Not a fun trip in the rain, it's cold, it's windy and all there is is wet in your face. And it can really rain in the high elevations, and then it's not as much fun.
Kelly: OK.
Jeanette: But at other times during the year, especially during the summer, spring and fall it's incredibly beautiful.

Kelly OK, that's good to know. As I said there are a lot of different types of tours in this book and one of the great things is that you recommend a number of driving tours that bring people to different parts of the island. And I think probably the most famous of these trips - that people might know about - is taking the road to Hana, which follows along the north-east coast of the island. So can you talk a little about what makes this particular trip so special? And another question I had was: Do you recommend taking the trip in one direction or the other? Starting at the one end as opposed to the other?
Jeanette: First of all, the Hana Highway is probably the most scenic highway in Hawaii. When people get on it, practically no one lives along the highway, there's very few little isolated communities, people get on it and go "Oh, this is the Hawaii I was looking for"

So I generally recommend to people that you start Kahnalui and you take the Hana Highway, after the Hana Highway go through Hana Town and then it becomes a different road. But start go through Paiella, you follow the coastline, you go by beaches, the vegetation is incredible, scenic waterfalls, places to get off and swim. And I tell people, plan to spend the day.
Kelly: The whole day? Because it's not a very long trip mileage wise but one of the things that you talk about in the book is take your time, it's not a race. And make sure even though the trip is about, I think you say fifty miles, it's going to take you quite a long time to do those fifty miles, even if you were doing it non-stop, but the whole point is not doing it non-stop.
Jeanette: Yes, people think "Oh, fifty miles I can do that in an hour". Well, first of all the road is one and a half length, I'm not kidding about the half length. And there are a zillion cars, all people excited about going, and you just miss the point.

The point is the drive, not the destination. So we've got a lot of stuff in the book that we tell you, pack a lunch, plan to pull over safely, there's a lot of little wayside park along the way that you can pull over and take lots of photos. And as you drive, especially in the wet season, there will be a lot of ginger on the side of the road, either white ginger or yellow ginger, and it smells wonderful. Stop and pick a couple of blossoms, put them in the car they'll smell divine.
Kelly: Oh that's fantastic.
Jeanette: You have to have that happy attitude, that I'm going to go slow, I'm going to see everything and I'm going to let people pass me if they seem to be in a rush. Because don't forget local residents that live in Hana go back and forth on this road a lot.
Kelly: Sure.
Jeanette: And they are in a hurry. So just pull over and let them go by and have a great time.

I just want to mention right now that we had an earthquake in Hawaii in October.
Kelly: That's right.
Jeanette: And most of the damage was on the big island, but the road to Hana is temporarily closed after people who were right before Kalpoa but past the national park. So right now you can only drive out and you have to turn around and drive back, and I'm sure they'll have that road up and running in a little while.
Kelly: OK. So that's good to know. Another tip that you have in the book for this particular trip was to maybe not get started first thing in the morning, I think you were saying maybe wait a little bit, maybe start around ten or a little bit later because then you miss this morning traffic, that you were talking about. And it gives you a little bit of time to...

It's a slightly more leisurely trip.
Jeanette: Yes you can do one or the other. Either get up early and start out on the trip, in which case you'll be ahead of the traffic. Or wait a little bit until the majority of the day, start mid-day. It's going to be a little less traffic but just expect traffic.
Kelly: Right.
Jeanette: The other thing Kelly that I want to emphasize is do not do the Hana Highway in one day. Plan to stay at Hana at least one night; otherwise it just won't be fun. So if you plan to take the whole day either picnic on the way out, you have a great time, you get to Hana late, you stay overnight in your accommodation. The next day you can leisurely do things in Hana and then drive back, and then it's a fun trip.
Kelly: Right. You don't feel like you are rushing to get there because you have to rush to get back.
Jeanette: There's nothing worse, and believe me I have relatives that live out in the Hana-Kipahoo area; the people will pull over and say "I've got reservations in Kanapali, how far am I?" Oh, about five hours.
Kelly: [laughter] Yeah, you don't want to do that. That's not part of your whole vacationing experience.
Jeanette: Exactly.
Kelly: Of course, people are going to Maui and I defy someone to go to Maui and not spend some time at the beach. So as someone who is a longtime Hawaii resident, tell me do you have a favorite beach on Maui and if so why is it your favorite?
Jeanette: Well, in Hawaii we look at beaches quite differently than people from the mainland. We have specific things that we do at specific beaches, so when people always say to me "What your favorite beach?" I say "What for?" and "What time of year?" because we have weather patterns when the surf is big in the wintertime on the north shore and in the summertime it's on the south shore. So but generally if you want to go swimming, one of the best swimming beaches which is really good for kids too is Comma only three in Kikai. If you're more of a snorkeler, the black rock point, which is at the base of the Sheraton Maui on Kanapali beach is excellent.
Kelly: OK.
Jeanette: If you like to surf or if you're learning how to surf then Hamoa Bay which is out by Hana is a great place for boards and some body surfing.

But a really good body surfing place is Baldwin beach which is just outside of Paiella.

And if you want to watch surfing, the two best places to watch surfing are the wind surfers at Hokokipa which is just outside of Paiella. And the wind surfers have it in the afternoon, the board surfers have Hokokipa in the morning and then the wind usually comes up in the afternoon and then the windsurfers are there.
Kelly: OK.
Jeanette: And during the winter - the big waves - we have tow-in surfing at a beach called "Jaws" which is off Ke'ahi.
Kelly: Oh my god, that sounds a little dangerous.
Jeanette: Oh no, you don't want to do it. You want to be out at the pineapple field watching. And we explain all this in the book, where to turn off the road, how to park, blah blah blah, and watch these guys that really, the waves are so huge that they actually have to have a jet ski to get them to the waves so that they can surf in.
Kelly: Right. Hence the name "tow-in surfing." It's like the jet ski is towing them up to the waves.
Jeanette: Right.
Kelly: Wow. That sounds pretty extreme.
Jeanette: And Kelly, just for you, the best veg-out place is D.T. Fleming's beach park, which is on the other side of Kapalua resort. And few people know about it, and it's shaded, there's palm trees, there's all the facilities. I always like facilities. I like bathrooms, showers.
Kelly: Of course.
Jeanette: And it's just a wonderful place, and not too many people go there.

Kelly. OK. Well, I'm going to keep that in mind for the next time I go. [laughter] Since we're still with Maui, do you have a favorite restaurant in Maui now? And if so, what is it?
Jeanette: Just like beaches, it depends on what you want.
Kelly: Sure.
Jeanette: But in my top five for Hawaiian regional cuisine, I would say the Pineapple Grill in Kapalua. It's so wonderful. I tell people to go up there at the beginning of the trip because you will go back. For a splurge for fresh fish, there's nothing like Mama's Fish House, which is in Kuau, right by Hookipa Park. It's incredible, and it is a little pricey.

For romantic, Suns, which is at the Hyatt Regency Maui in Kanapali. It is the most wonderful, with swans swimming in front of you.
Kelly: Oh my gosh!
Jeanette: Waterfalls. You know, it's an open restaurant. It's incredible. And finally, the best luau in the state, not just in Maui but in the state is Old Lahaina Luau. So before you go to Maui, book the Old Lahaina Luau. It's that popular, and it is an incredible, authentic luau experience.
Kelly: OK, and where is it?
Jeanette: It's in Lahaina. It's called the Old Lahaina Luau, right on the ocean, in Lahaina behind the old cannery. It's incredible.
Kelly: OK. That's a good tip. That's a really good tip. Even though the book is called "Maui Day by Day" you know the book also includes two recommended itineraries for visiting Lanai, which is one of the neighboring islands. Can you talk briefly about what makes Lanai worth a visit?
Jeanette: Sure. Lanai is only nine miles from Maui, and it's the only island right now that has an inter-island ferry. You can leave Lahaina, Maui and 45 minutes later, you're in Lanai.
Kelly: Wow.
Jeanette: It is a very incredible island because for years it was a pineapple plantation.
Kelly: That's how I kind of associate it, with the old pineapple plantations.
Jeanette: The pineapple is gone, but it's very rural. There's just one major town. It's a little tiny village called Lanai City. It sits up at about a couple thousand feet, so it's kind of cool there. It looks like a town from the 1930s. The commercial area is built around a square. All the little houses are old plantation houses. It's very sweet.

But, it has the wonderful added opportunities of it has two luxury resorts, both Four Seasons. One is in the town of Lanai City, and one down on the ocean. So you have all the amenities that go with luxury resorts - wonderful restaurants, shops, activities, things to do. So literally, Kelly, you can get on the ferry in the morning, go over to Lanai, spend some time at the beach, take a little tour of the island, have lunch up in Lanai City, get back on the ferry and have dinner in Lahaina.
Kelly: That's fantastic. And that doesn't sound like something that would be too rushed.
Jeanette: No. No, I really recommend to people that if they're going to be in Maui that they take at least one day. What I really tell people to do, what I like to do, is I would get on the Trilogy sailing trips. They take you at six in the morning. It's a beautiful catamaran boat, that you sail over there. They take total care of you. They take you to the beach, they give you snorkeling lessons if you want. They'll take you up to Lanai City. They'll do a big barbecue lunch for you and take you back. It's a little pricey, but it's worth every penny.
Kelly: Worth it.
Jeanette: It'll be the highlight of your trip.
Kelly: OK. OK, that's good to know. So we're about out of time but before you go, I just wanted to ask you to give us a few of your favorite money-saving tips for visiting Maui, and to just mention a couple ways that people can save on the airfare or the hotels or the sightseeing.
Jeanette: OK, here are my three best tips. Number one, go in the off season. You will save money on everything, hotel, car, and accommodations.
Kelly: And the off season is when?
Jeanette: The off season is not when it's off in Hawaii, but when the tourists start coming. Our biggest tourist season is Christmas, followed by winter, which is January, February, half of March. And then in the summer. But the best times of year to come are during the off season, which is the end of March, April, May, and then mid-September, October, and then November and mid-December. Those are the best times to come. You'll save a lot of money.

Secondly, package deals are always good if you know the accommodations that you want. You can save a tremendous amount of money by getting a package deal for air, car, hotel. Thirdly, the Internet will save you a lot on hotels. I mean, you can save up to 50% off hotels if you go on their website and see what package deals they have.
Kelly: And you mean going to the individual hotel web sites?
Jeanette: Yes, I mean going to "www dot name of your hotel dot com." They'll say, "Right now we're having a deal that rooms are this much." Frequently, I see this: Rack rates start at $400.00, you go on the Internet and they're having a special deal for $250.
Kelly: Wow.
Jeanette: And then the last thing I just want to mention is for activities. There's a thing called The Hawaii Gold Card which we talk about in the book, which for a fee, which is like $30 to $35, four people can save up to 40% off on activities. It's an incredible deal.
Kelly: That's great. Where do you get the Gold Card?
Jeanette: You just go online, through PayPal or a credit card or however you want to pay. They'll send you one and then you have that during your trip.
Kelly: So you can get it before you go.
Jeanette: Before you go, and they'll give you a complete booklet with every single activity, some meals, that accept this Gold Card.
Kelly: That's great. That sounds like a really....especially as you're saying four people can save 40%, it sounds like a great thing for families to do.
Jeanette: All you have to do is use the card once and you get your money back.
Kelly: That's great. OK well that's probably all the time we have for today. I've been talking with Jeanette Foster who is the author of our new book Frommer's Maui Day by Day, which is on sale now. Jeanette writes many other Hawaii guides for us and you can find them all in bookstores or online. Jeanette, it's always good to talk to you. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed this conversation.
Jeanette: Aloha and ahuliho.
Kelly: [laughter] Thank you! So join us next week for another conversation about all things travel. I am Kelly Regan and we will talk again soon.
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