This was by far the best island in terms of sightseeing. There is tons to do here and I can see why someone would spend a whole week here. Given that the ship docked here for only 2 days, we had a lot to do!
The ship docked in Kahului, Maui on Dec 16 at 8am. We had booked a rental car using discounthawaiirental.com and were asked to go to Avis car rental. Our plan for this day was Road to Hana. We got off the ship at 8:30am after breakfast and waited in the line that said Rental car shuttles. After some other company shuttles went by and Avis hadn't arrived, we enquired and found that since all the shuttles go to the airport, you can take any one. So we boarded the Budget shuttle and got to the airport car rental counter. We were given a very comfortable car with leather seats, sun roof, and modern controls for the price of an Economy promptly. Soon we were on the road!
Our phones were working all through the way, so we used the GPS on Google maps the entire time. We also had a Lonely Planet Maui guide with us to decide on where to stop.
The entire Road to Hana is a feast! It really doesn't matter where you stop. We pulled over plenty of stop on the road side that were unmarked just because we saw how beautiful the view was. We went around the entire Road to Hana (including past Hana) back to Kahului. Road seemed fine...there was an unpaved section of ~10 miles, but as long as you go slow, it is not a big deal at all. The entire drive took us 10 hours. We started at the airport at 9am and got back to the ship at 7pm. We had bookmarked on our GPS where the overnight parking was, so it was straightforward for us to go back there.
Here are the stops we made on the Road to Hana
Huelo lookout: A cute fruit stand. We only stopped here because we wanted to drink the fresh coconut. It was pretty good. There is also a lookout if you walk down 5 stairs behind the stand...not as impressive as the ones to come, in my opinion.
Kaene lookout: You have to go on a road towards the Kaene town, which is a left from the main Hana road. Couple of miles in, the road ends at the Kaene lookout. This is worth the stop! Huge waves crashing on black lava rocks...a sight to see.
Kaene peninsula lookout: After coming back from the Kaene turn and back on the Hana highway, you can stop at a lookout where you see the Kaene peninsula with the taro fields.
Three bears falls: Big waterfall split in three...there was even a path that went closer to it, past a stream...nice to explore. Infact, plenty of stops along the highway (some unmarked) have small trails that go in, nice to explore away from the crowds.
Makapu falls: Supposed to be gigantic falls that you stand over and watch as it drops down. But wasn't as impressive.
Wainapanapa state park: This is pretty close to Hana and well worth the stop. We breaked here for lunch and ate the sandwiches we packed. The black sand beach is pretty different. There are also some sea arches and a nice blowhole that you can get very close to. Worth the stop!
Oheo Gulch: A series of waterfalls, very picturesque. The trail was short too (< half a mile). This is the other side of Haelakela national park. After going on the trail, we asked at the visitor center whether people go past this road around the island back to Kahului, and the park ranger said many people do it, that it is very safe, nobody has ever had problems, and since it was only 4pm where we were, we had plenty of sunlight to make it out of the unpaved/unlit sections.
Drive past Haleakela crater: The scenery past Oheo Gulch is just stunning! I was so glad we took this back road instead of driving back the windy Hana highway past the same sights. The view is starkly different from the Hana highway, which was entirely green and lush, while this side is volcanic and dry. It's almost like you are on the moon! The unpaved section was not that bad...as long as we went at a slow-ish pace (which we did anyways so that we could admire the scenery), the road did not seem much worse than a bumpy road in new jersey :) The unpaved stretch is only for about an hour, and then, we were onto newly paved single lane highways. If you're contemplating whether or not to go around...do it!
[TIP: Make it to Oheo Gulch by 4:30pm if you want to drive around the island...it will probably not be best to drive on the back roads when it is dark].
We made it back to the ship around 7pm, parked our car in the second lot that the shuttle driver had pointed out in the morning (and we had bookmarked in our phone GPS).
The next day, our goal was to watch the sunrise from Haleakela mountain. This is where it might have been useful to check up on weather up there (or book a tour). We woke up at 4am, started driving at 5am and were up there at 6:30am expecting a sunrise of 6:48am (according to the ship's news). Unfortunately, as we were driving up, it was raining heavily. The rain did not stop until past 7am. It was really cold up on the mountain, especially with the rain (and ice)...it literally felt like we were on another planet! [TIP: If you plan to do this activity, please check with the weather report in the morning!]
After we drove back down and took a short break in the ship, we went to Iao valley state park. This was a nice visit too, with some short trails and completely rainforest terrain. Since we had a couple more hours before the ship left, we drove a loop around the western side of the island starting at Iao valley state park. We only stopped at a lookout (don't remember its name) where you could spot whales in December. We did spot one, albiet it was bit far away and all we saw was a huge splash. We then drove back around to the airport, returned our car and took the shuttle back to the ship.