With some of the severe offshore weather the Hawaiian Islands experienced while Hurricane Lane was in the vicinity, many beach-goers are reporting frequent encounters with the Portuguese man-o-war (Physalia physalis). Like many exotic sea creatures, the man-o-war isn’t just beautiful, it’s harmful. Its long tentacles dangle down into the water, while its head bobs along the top of the water. The translucent wing on its head acts like a sail. Because it can’t actively swim or direct itself, the sail is the man-o-war’s only means of locomotion.
When the tentacles make contact with whatever is unlucky enough to be near them, they deliver a very painful, venomous sting. How painful and harmful the sting is depends on the size of the man-o-war, how many tentacles made contact, and how sensitive the victim is.
You won’t just see these creatures in the water. The winds will also blow them into the beach break, and eventually they end up littering the sandy beaches, where unsuspecting feet and toes step on them. Even after a man-o-war has died, their tentacles remain venomous, so be wary of these blue devils, especially after off shore storms or strong winds that blow man-o-war toward the beaches.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s impossible to encounter a man-0-war or stinging jellyfish or any meddlesome, venomous sea creature on a Rappel Maui tour. There’s also no need to worry about shark bites, rip currents, wana (sea urchins) quills, or coral scrapes, either. You may see Tahitian prawns, those little crawdad-looking crustaceans in the fresh water ponds, but they move like lightning when threatened by curious hands. Here’s more about what makes a Rappel Maui tour safe. The rainforest also poses no threat from land wildlife such as bears, wildcats, or snakes. But if you’re worried about mosquitoes, please ask your guide for the DEET-free spray they carry. (Please do not apply products containing DEET before your tour, as it damages the gear that we use.) If you notice you’ve been bitten ask for the Afterbite, an anti-itch treatment that can be applied to the skin.
While the ocean waters may be rough, murky or unfriendly after storms, the rainforest streams remain, as always, man-o-war free. We operate rain or shine, and our offices are open 7 am to 7 pm every day of the year. Please call to ask about conditions due to weather any time.
Why Maui is Number One (and a Lot of Other Numbers)
If you read travel-related media, you’ll find that Maui consistently ranks high for “best of” categories. In fact, it spent 20 years at the top of Conde Nast Traveler’s Best Island in the World list. Here are some numbers of all kinds about why Maui is one of the greatest travel destinations in the world.
It’s very common for us to receive a phone call or a chat request from someone who says, “My tour is next week, and the forecast calls for rain.” A shrugging-type response is common. While it may be true that the forecast calls for rain, it doesn’t mean much to locals. That’s because, for the most part, your run of the mill online weather forecast for more than a few days in advance will not be accurate. Most reporting that isn’t island-specific is reporting weather that’s happening in some vague, central location, like an airport that is nowhere near your destination. The truth is, there is no way to make an accurate prediction of island-wide weather on Maui more than a day or two in advance. And even then, there have been lots of times when a “100% chance of rain” brought nothing but sunny skies and vice-versa. Why is the Hawaii weather forecast so tricky to predict? For starters, it’s a tiny spit of land surrounded by surrounded by deep water–big water, ocean water. There are somewhat reliable weather patterns around the island, but large or severe weather systems moving along the Central Pacific are, literally, hit or miss on the huge Pacific canvas.
Weather Trends Based on Micro-Climates
With the exception of periodic unstable weather patterns and cooling or rainy fronts moving past the islands from offshore systems, there’s a different kind of local weather forecast based on the island’s micro-climates. The western shores of Lahaina and Kaanapali are usually sunny, with winds picking up late morning. The southern shores of Kihei and Wailea are usually hot, dry and sunny. The north shore gets the lion’s share of the wind, and Haiku is where most of the north shore rain falls. As you travel the windward (north-northeast) side of the island toward Hana, the weather becomes increasingly wetter. The summit at Mount Haleakala is usually very windy and at least 15-20 degrees cooler than the coasts. In fact, there’s ice or snowfall at the summit each winter. Kula, Makawao and Pukalani are at higher altitudes, and lie within the volcano’s rain shadow, which means they enjoy cooler temperatures and less rain than the north shore towns.
Will it Rain in the Rain Forest?
In a word, yes. The Rappel Maui activity site receives at least a little rain every day. It’s what keeps the waterfalls flowing and the landscape green. It’s the reason we operate rain or shine. When heavy rains or prolonged rains cause the waterways to flood, we stay out of the direct flow of the stream, and use rappel stations that are a safe distance from high or swift water. The more severe the flooding, the farther away we get from the stream. Unless we’re expecting a tropical depression or storm, we probably won’t be able to tell you exactly how much rain there will be in the rainforest more than 48 hours in advance of your tour. The El Nino and La Nina years can sometimes make weather patterns more predictable. Because of the nature of the Rappel Maui activity, along with the activity location, the activity is very rarely cancelled due to severe or dangerous weather.
Island Topography and Geography
Maui’s land features are the main determinates for most of our weather patterns. What most visitors don’t understand is that, while the island is relatively small, each one of the Hawaiian Islands has a collection of micro-climates. That’s why, if you call us very concerned about the amount of rain your’re watching from your Kaanapali hotel the day before or day of your tour, we will tell you that the weather for one part of an island is usually completely different from another, even if there’s only a few miles (as the crow flies) between them. Maui has more than a dozen micro-climates, for example, and so the weather in Lahaina and Kihei will likely be hot and dry most of the time, while the mountains within eyeshot of these locations are sometimes the wettest place on the earth.
Wind Direction Plays a Part in Weather Approaches
When offshore weather is approaching from the south and blows northward, it’s known as a kona wind. When weather is blown from the north toward the south, its know as a trade wind. Trade winds are the most common wind direction, and are responsible for keeping the island pleasantly temperate and vog-free.
We’re Here to Talk Story
Do you want to talk about the weather? We are ready to take your call and give whatever insights we can about the island and its ever-intimate relationship with nature. Our phone hours are 7 AM to 7 PM, Hawaii time, every day of the year. Or get your fingers tapping and chat with us online.
Are you going to book activities and tours while in Hawaii? Being a good consumer when planning your Hawaii vacation can save you time, money and frustration, and ensure that all your memories of Maui are great. Good consumerism can apply to anything, and making a reservation for doing an activity or taking a tour excursion in Hawaii is no exception. Here are some tips for travelers from the Hawaii State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. You can get this and much more information from DCCA at their web site.
There are a few different ways to book an activity:
Direct with the tour operator–You can usually call the tour company directly to book or make a reservation online.
With an activity desk or hotel concierge–These are the booths or desks you see in the lobby or around town. Activity desks can also sell tours online.
With a travel agent–These are agencies that also sell other kinds of travel services, like cruises or airline fares. They might be location-based or online.
As a discounted or free gift after having attended a sales presentation–These are activity desks that also ask you to attend a time share or other pitch in order to claim your reservation.
Who Can Operate an Activity Desk? The State of Hawaii regulates activity desks, and an activity desk must obtain a registration from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affair’s Professional and Vocational Licensing Division before it can operate. You can find out if a company is properly registered as an activity desk at the CCA web site or by calling (808) 587-4272.
What Information Are You Entitled To?
An activity desk must clearly display the name and telephone number of the activity provider whose activity is being booked or sold. And, an
activity desk provider must disclose to you, in writing, if a discount offered for an activity requires you to first attend a sales presentation.
What Should You Look for Before You Book Directly With an Operator or a Desk?
An activity desk should be able to provide the following information, or get the information if they don’t have it immediately handy:
Where the excursion or activity is located and figure out how you’re going to get there
Where you will need to meet and whether transportation to the site is included
What’s included in the cost, and if there additional fees like equipment rental or meals
If the activity is appropriate for you, and you meet the restrictions or requirements the operator may impose. Assess whether you are able to meet the physical demands of the activity. Some high adventure activities may not be appropriate for pregnant women or individuals with certain health issues.
What the cancellation policy is. Be sure you understand it. Make sure you understand under what conditions a refund may be available.
Be wary of deals that require you to book 60 days in advance. (Most credit card companies will only allow you to dispute a charge within 60 days of purchase.)
Ask if there are any limitations on what you can bring. Plan ahead if purses, handbags,or backpacks are not allowed.
Ask if you can bring your camera and if you can take pictures or video. If not, ask if pictures will be available for purchase.
Many travelers and explorers know that, when visiting a new place, timing is everything. The best time to visit Maui depends on what you’re most interested in experiencing. According to some experts, the best time to visit Maui is NOW.
Here’s a rough guide to what happens on Maui, when.
If You Want to See Whales These big, beautiful creatures begin arriving sometime in October, and wow us with their gigantic displays until April or even May (for those who didn’t get the memo.) You can catch the water aerobics and synchronized swimming from shore, often without using binoculars. If you want to get up close and personal, take a whale watch tour, or paddle out in a kayak or outrigger canoe. You can even spot these big beauties from a helicopter or small airplane.
If You Like Warmer Temperatures–or Not Some like it hot. If that’s you, visit during the months of August or September; those are typically the months with the hottest average temperatures. January and February are usually cooler. Note that, because of Maui’s varied topography and the way that the mountains effect the weather patterns, there are places in Maui that stay warm all year round (Kihei, Wailea and Lahaina), and places where the nighttime temperatures can dip down into the 40s during winter time (Makawao, Kula and the Haleakala summit). There are even times where there’s a fine dusting of snow at the very tip of Mount Haleakala, which is at 10,000 feet above sea level.
If You Want to Catch the Trade Winds If you’ve spent any time at all in the islands, you’ve heard of Maui’s two types of wind, kona winds and tradewinds. The trades are from the northeast, blow during most of the year, and keep things nice and temperate. These winds are more common April through October. The kona winds blow from the south or southwest, and usually bring with them a cloud of vog from Hawaii Island. Vog is the volcano gas from the Kiluea volcano across the channel, and can cause a hazy air quality. These winds are more common during the fall and winter months.
If You Want to Miss the Stormy Season From June to November, there’s an uptick in tropical storm and hurricane activity in the Central and South Pacific. While it’s rare to encounter direct hurricane landfall in the Hawaiian Islands, foul weather bands bringing heavy rains can stretch out, reaching parts or all of Maui as the hurricanes pass by. These rains are usually short-lived, but bring with them the threat of flash flooding. That means that streams, rivers and gulches can swell unexpectedly and surprisingly quickly with dangerously swift and high waters. Don’t go unguided and unaccompanied on hikes along stream beds, even if they’re dry. It’s common for visitors and locals alike to become stranded or much worse by flash flood activity. This video is an accurate example of how easy it is to become a victim of changing conditions. Remember, the weather overhead does not always dictate water levels; it’s often the weather you can’t see, miles away that decides whether you need to be airlifted to safety. When active storms near Hawaii are sending big wave swells our way, be aware of breaking waves and rip tides when swimming in the ocean. Listen to the lifeguards and heed the red flags that may be posted on the beach warning of dangerous shore break–they really mean it.
If You Want to Miss the Crowds There’s a dramatic drop in visitor activity in September, just after the high season finishes reaching its peak in August. This nice, quiet period lasts until the fall holidays. Other relatively low activity periods are January and April, with the busiest season being the summer months. These lull periods are great times to visit the island, as the weather is pleasant, and its easier to make reservations for tours and restaurants. Most tour operators even offer generous discounts during the slower seasons.
If You Want to Experience a Celebrity Sighting During the holiday seasons, it’s common to see one of Maui’s famous residents or homeowners casually enjoying the aloha spirit in towns like Paia or Wailea. Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Steven Tyler, Oprah and many other legends make Maui their home for at least a portion of the year. Sometimes you can catch an impromptu number or two from the likes of Willie Nelson or Mick Fleetwood during a live music set. You can also catch surfing celebs like Kai Lenny, Bethany Hamilton, Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama and a whole cast of surfing royalty doing what they love.
If You Want to Witness the Beauty of one of the Most Remote Places on Earth Come anytime! There is no bad time to take in the natural wonder that is The Valley Isle. From rainforest to desert, and from hanging ten to beachcombing with an umbrella drink, there is ample opportunity to experience island time. Safe travels!
You’ve probably noticed that, even though it’s a smallish island, getting directions around Maui can be somewhat confusing if you’re a first-timer who’s unfamiliar with the towns and unique directional cues you’ll get from locals. Don’t worry, it doesn’t take long to catch on to what’s where and how to get there.
First off, north/south/east/west are infrequently used, unless someone is referring to the sides of the island. You’re more likely to hear island directional cues like mauka, makai and upcountry. To go in the “mauka” direction means to go away from the ocean; going “makai” means to go toward the ocean. “Upcountry” is the area at higher elevations up Mount Haleakala.
There are also leeward and windward mentions, but this is usually in relation to weather patterns. When Maui’s tradewinds are blowing, Hana, Kahului, Makawao, Wailuku, Kapalua, and Napili are on the island’s windward side; Wailea, Kihei, Maalaea, Lahaina, and Ka’anapali are located on the island’s leeward side.
Where You’ll Find What
Kahului is in Central Maui, at the isthmus of the island between East and West Maui; it’s where the Kahului (OGG) airport is.
Maalaea is where one of Maui’s harbors and the aquarium are located. It’s also near the park & ride lot where we meet you before your tour.
Lahaina is on the west side, along with Kaanapali–a long stretch of resorts, beaches and shops.
Kihei, Wailea and Makena are on the south side.
Makawao, Pukalani, Kula and part of Haiku are all upcountry towns.
Paia, Sprecklesville and part of Haiku are on what’s referred to as the North Shore.
Because of its remote perch at the very end of the eastern coast, Hana is…Hana.
One thing that first-time visitors to Hawaii mention are the seemingly complicated Hawaiian names found on street signs and maps. Be assured: there’s a way to get through words that look like vowel soup.
Look for the‘okina or break up long words with lots of vowels.
An ‘okina is a character that resembles an apostrophe or a tiny, upside down, superscript 6. It marks a very brief pause between the syllables of a word, a sound you can hear in the word “uh-oh,” for example. (This is also called, for you grammar nerds out there, a glottal stop.) Pronouncing the vowel and consonant sounds separated by the ‘okina allows you to break down the word into shorter, simpler parts, but you can also do this with longer words in which there is no ‘okina. This is also useful for when the ‘okina is absent from traffic and street signs.
Look for vowel pairs and syllable couples
Note that some vowel pairs are not pronounced separately, but together as one sound, unless they are separated by an okina. “Au,” (pronounced like “ow”) “ei” (pronounced “ay”) and “ae” (usually pronounced “eye”) are such pairs (called a diphthong).
Practice with common names
Try this method with some of these street names and cities:
Mokulele–broken up into 4 parts is easy to pronounce phonetically: Moe-koo-LAY-lay Honoapiilani–broken up into 7 parts is pronounced: Ho-no-ah-pee-ee-LA-knee Kaahumanu–is another 5 part word: Ka-ah-hu-MAH-noo Hookele–broken into 4 parts, with the stop happening between the two Os: Ho-oh-KAY-lay Haleakala–broken into 5 parts: Ha-lay-ah-kah-LA
Kihei–very simply, in 2 parts: KEY-hay Kaanapali–properly pronounced in five parts, with the stop between the As, but commonly pronounced in four parts, without the stop between the two As: KA-nah-PAW-lee (or ka-AH-nah-PAW-lee if you honor the okina)
Note that the emphasis on some words will vary from person to person, just as with words in other languages. Often the authentic pronunciation differs from the casual dialect that has evolved over time. You’ll also hear some widely accepted pronunciations of Hawaiian words that are incorrect, but most locals use them. One such example is Hali’imaile. The way that you’ll most likely hear it pronounced is “HIGH-lee-MY-lee.”
Most Important: It’s OK to slow down
Remember, while you’re driving around Maui, that slowing down to read those long street names is OK. Speed limits are low, and if you’re on vacation, a change of pace is probably why you’re here. Take your time, both driving, and “talking story.” Discover the island with aloha and be safe. Welcome!
It’s easy to call a place like Maui paradise. It’s a warm, sunny climate with stunning scenery everywhere, and blue waters teeming with sea life. Even so, Maui is home to populations of people, animals, plants and places that need help. If you’ve ever wanted to make your vacation about something more than recreation and relaxation, there are lots of activities that are interesting, stimulating, rewarding, fun AND give back to the communities that are often underserved or land in the shadows of big tourism. Because #themoreyouknow…
IF YOU’RE AN ANIMAL LOVER
You can take a shelter dog to the beach for a day of out-of-the-kennel-and-into-the-sunshine fun by way of the Beach Buddies program at Maui Humane Society. Because Maui has a limited adoption pool and pet overpopulation problem in an isolated and remote place on the globe, animals can wait a long time to find their forever homes. Not only can you have a Maui dog for a day, you can also visit Maui’s cutest critters at the shelter, volunteer your time at one of MHS’s free spay/neuter clinics or stop by to take a tour and make a donation. Everything helps. Learn more.
IF YOU WANT TO END HUNGER
Maui’s COSTCO is one of the busiest locations in the United States. When doors open at 10 AM, there’s often a line of people waiting that stretches out into the parking lot. Because many COSTCO purchases are big purchases at a great value, many visitors end up with more food than they can consume during their time on Maui. There are multiple food drop off locations for you to donate unopened, non-perishable foods to Maui Food Bank. Learn more.
IF YOU WANT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE THROUGHOUT THE ISLANDS
Charity Walk happens every May, and raises millions of dollars for charitable organizations all around Hawaii.
IF YOU LOVE READING OR MOVIES
Did you know that Maui has only one major book retailer on the island? You can make media and materials more accessible for all by donating any books, magazines, DVDs and other media that you’re not taking home with you to one of the three used bookstores operated by Maui Friends of the Library. There’s even a super convenient location where you can donate and shop at the Queen Kaahumanu Center in Kahului. Learn more.
IF YOU LOVE THE OCEAN
Visit the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in Kihei on your way to South Maui’s beautiful beaches. Not only will you learn more about the weather, the ocean and undersea life, you’ll have a beautiful view of the water and Haleakala. Learn more.
On the third Saturday of each month, you can join the Surfrider Foundation and a collection of Maui’s community groups to conduct Beach Cleanups. Learn more.
IF YOU WERE ON VACATION WITH CHILDREN
Did you buy toys, beach toys and larger or bulky baby/child supplies that you know you’re not able to pack? Donate these items to a Goodwill donation drop. There are four donation center collection centers to serve Maui. Learn more.
If you’re not able to give your time, talent or treasure to the places you visit, you can always do your part by limiting your environmental impact on the places you do visit.
Reduce, reuse, recycle.
Follow signs and instructions when visiting natural preserves.
Don’t walk or step on reefs.
Don’t bother or touch wildlife/sea life. Leave turtles and seals on the beaches alone. (There is a fine waiting for you if you don’t.)
Dispose of your garbage responsibly.
Respect the culture.
Bring or buy reusable shopping bags.
Respect park and private property boundaries.
Instead of using chemical blocks like sunscreen that bleaches and kills the coral reefs, use clothing and swimwear to protect your skin from the sun.
And, best of all, educate yourself on the challenges that face the places you love, even if you don’t live there. The problems that Hawaii faces are just like the ones you might know from your mainland hometown, but are often exacerbated by occurring in one of the most remote places in the world.
The Hawaiian Island chain contains some of the most extensive coral reefs found in the world. They are home to over 7,000 marine species, one quarter of which are found only in the Hawaiian Archipelago. Let’s keep Hawaii beautiful so that you and many future generations will be able to appreciate it again and again.