While everyone speaks english in Maui, all the streets and towns have Hawaiian names.
The Hawaiian language was not a written language until about 200 years ago when American missionaries arrived and soon formulated a written Hawaiian language based on the sounds they heard. And based on these sounds, the Hawaiian language only uses 12 letters of the alphabet: the 5 vowels a,e,i,o,u and 7 consonants h,k,l,m,n,p,w.
The rules are basic and consistent in the Hawaiian language, so if you take the time to sound out and think through each name, it should be fairly easy to come up with the correct pronunciation. And names like Haleakala, Paia, Waianapanapa and Kahului should sound just like they are written.
However, as tourists, we usually screw this up and Haleakala ends up sounding like hell e-yeah kella (emphasis on 'hell') instead of holly awe caw law (emphasis on 'awe') I must admit I knew absolutely nothing about Hawaiian language, history or pronunciations before we landed, with the exception of the word aloha and the name Kihei, where we were staying.
We rented a Jeep because we knew we would do the infamous Road to Hana. (And incidentally it rhymes with sauna, it's not Hannah as most tourists want to say.) Kore and Brandi had already done this drive, and the 6-hour carseat adventure is not really appealing for toddlers and newborns so we knew we would not have them as tour guides along the 65 mile road with over 600 curves and 54 bridges, most of which are single lane.
Literally minutes before we left the condo I was flipping through a tourist brochure to ensure we had a printed map in case Google failed us, and I noticed an ad for the GyPSy Guide phone app.
Oh.my.gosh! This was the best discovery.
Since returning home, just about everyone who has previously been to Hawaii has asked me, "What was your favourite part?" I didn't really have answer for them because we just generally had a great relaxing, warm sunny family time with some fabulous activities thrown in now and then. The sunsets were amazing. Our condo was perfectly located. And buying wine at Costco -that was a highlight as well.
But I think I have an answer for the best thing about our trip. And is it sad to say that we went to Maui for 12 days and my favourite thing was a phone app? But truly I think it was. And there are GyPSy Guides for lots of locations, including Vancouver, which I will be downloading next time I go. I bought the 'full Maui' version. You download the app while you are on wifi and it uses GPS (that's where the word "GyPSy" comes from) to track where you are and guide you with tips and tricks. It's like having a tour guide in the vehicle with you. AND it doesn't use data once you get it loaded. However, it does use a fair bit of phone battery life, so I suggest you have it plugged into your car charger, especially if you will be also using the same phone for taking photos and videos.
The narrator's voice was pleasant and while he doesn't talk incessantly, he gives lots of information and history of the area as well as points of interest that we most certainly would have had no idea about without his input. He gives you plenty of warning when you are going to take exits and gives clear instruction and points out the best parking areas. As an added bonus, you get to hear the accurate pronunciation of towns and streets. Paia is Paw ee awe, not Pie aye uh. And apparently there's a fabulous ice-cream shop there. We didn't stop.
And the app is spiced with a bit of humour.
At the beginning of the Road to Hana, he says, "We are just passing the Zero Mile Marker. You may not see it, as it often gets stolen."
As we approached The Garden of Eden, the app told us about it and reminded us it was a paid entry site, and while it was beautiful and worth the price of admission, there was a free Arboretum just up the road. He really recommended we stop on the way up, as it would more than likely late in the day and we'd be tired on the way back and we would find it easy to talk ourselves out of stopping. And he was right. We somehow missed the turn on the way up and said, "We'll stop on the way back." On the way back, it was late in the day. We were tired. There was no arboretum for us that day.
Another time he said, "We are coming up to a bridge on a sharp turn. You will likely see a lot of vehicles stopped there. But honestly, there's not really much to look at. Let's just keep going." Now that's the kind of information newbies need to hear.
On the return trip, the app doesn't just go over the same points of interest, rather he goes through a lot of history of Hawaii while pointing out sights we didn't notice while going the other way.
I really cannot recommend the app enough. Even if you are a seasoned Maui traveller and have done the Road to Hana many times, I am certain you will be amazed by what you learn - and much of the info will affect how you view the rest of the island as well - even the areas that aren't part of the guided tours.
|People recommend you have a convertible for the drive. However, stats will tell you there is a 90% chance you will encounter rain somewhere along the Road to Hana.|
|Our first stop was at the painted eucalyptus trees. No, they aren't painted, they grow like that.|
|Without the GyPSy Guide we never would have taken the detour to Ke'anae|
|This church build with lava was only building in Ke'anae to survive the 1948 tsunami. Many lives were lost.|
|There are many waterfalls along the way. The size of them can vary day-to-day depending on the rainfall.|
|Jime took a dip at the black sand beach|
|These red cliffs and sea caves reminded me of St Martins in New Brunswick.|
|View from above the Seven Sacred Pools, which aren't really sacred at all. Get the GyPSy Guide and you can learn all about it. :)|
The blowhole at Waianapanapa Park