We were staying in Kihei, so the drive was 1.5 hours to get to the top. It looks like most people tend to stay in Lahaina, which means it would be about 2.5 hours of driving to get to the top.
It is fiercely cold on top of the crater as you’re 10,000 feet up. There’s a small shop known as Crater Coffee that I would advise anyone to visit to grab a quick cup of hot coffee, cocoa or tea to help keep warm. He’s at about the halfway point from the bottom to the top of the crater. Incredibly cheerful guy for being up so early on a daily basis! Such a nice pick-me-up to bump into morning people. Keep in mind, this is the first and last chance to grab snacks and a hot drink during the drive up.
Once you get to the top, you’ll have to convince yourself you’re still on a tropical island as it looks almost other-worldly. The grounds are still a rich brownish-red making you wonder if you are on the planet Mars. You’re up as high as if you had just reached a safe elevation in an airplane to turn on your portable electronics… except, you’re actually standing outside on a dormant volcano. It’s all surreal yet so beautiful.
Although everyone is shivering and trying to keep warm, once the sun begins to peek above the clouds, you’ll hear excited calls of “There it is!” “The sun is rising!” “It’s so pretty!” You’ll feel like you’re in a group of children excited to meet your childhood hero for the first time. The feeling surrounding us was intense as the shivering stopped, and the cameras starting snapping.
As the sun begins sharing just a few more stray rays with us, there is someone who sings a chant, and from what I understand it is to welcome the sun. It really is beautiful as the sky just begins to change colors and the clouds begin to show every fluff and curve in an array of blues, pinks, and oranges.
At some point, we couldn’t feel our fingers anymore but remained in awe of the view. I could no longer snap a photo as my fingers were completely numb, and Tristan’s cell phone no longer registered his fingers on the touch screen. Perhaps it was nature’s way of telling us to simply soak in this show of natural beauty.
After the sun rises, most of the crowds leave as a good chunk of them are with tour companies. As we waited for them to leave, we sat in our car to warm up then drove up to the summit. Once you reach the summit, make note to yourself that you’ve driven to the highest elevation in the shortest distance. It’s amazing.
After this spectacular, beautiful, and enlightening event, we headed back down the winding road while taking in the phenomenal daytime views of the island.
By this point we were starving, so we headed to Kihei Caffe which easily became our favorite spot to grab breakfast in town. We split the banana macadamia nut pancakes with a side of perfectly crisp spam which was more than enough to satisfy our hunger. Phenomenal food and excellent customer service. Loved the fun and happy vibes we got from the workers.
Kihei Caffe | 1945 South Kihei Road, Kihei, HI 96753
As tiredness began to settle in, we took a long nap at our hotel, then headed out to the beach to soak up some sun. This time, the sun experience was in 80 degree weather which called for a taste of Hawaiian shaved ice at Ululani’s.
Ululani’s Shaved Ice | 61 S Kihei Rd, Kihei, HI 96753
I have no idea how people can go to Hawaiian shaved ice places and get flavors like blueberry and strawberry. That’s no fun! Here I got tamarind, lychee and li hing mui. My husband got calamansi and lilikoi. All delicious and exotic flavors. On the bottom of our shaved ice was Roselani ice cream in their macadamia nut flavor which was sweet, smooth and perfectly nutty. I would like some to be in my freezer 365 days out of the year if possible!
If you’re wondering what li hing mui is, it’s a salty dried plum that several Asian countries eat as a snack. I grew up eating it, but it’s particularly popular on the Hawaiian islands. You can eat the dried plum as is or find it as a powder which is sprinkled on candy, fruit, and well, shaved ice. Here’s a few li hing mui snacks I grabbed for the road…