Maui — Half-Year Update

Trey Whitaker
5 min readJan 11, 2023


View of Molokai from Kaanapali

A half-year has now passed since we established our new home near the south shore of Maui. We’re currently experiencing our first ‘winter’ as the summertime temps of the low 90s have dipped into the high 70s. The lowlands and the mountainsides have turned a deep green from occasional rain. Huge ocean swells have arrived for the competitive surfing season. Abbey’s morning walk now starts in the dark as sun doesn’t rise until after 7 AM. During our morning stroll, we often see folks walking while talking on their phone. Given the time difference, it makes sense as it’s already about noon on the East coast.

With their mother nearby, a whale calf breaches off Maui shoreline

From Caroling to Breaching Whales: During my childhood, we would go caroling around the neighborhood on Christmas Eve. One mom would organize us and bring us from doorstep-to-doorstep to belt out a couple songs. Most of us were only willing to participate because it earned us access to the party that followed. We had our eyes set on the eventual prize of Christmas cookies and hot chocolate topped with Marshmallow Fluff. It’s hard to imagined that, a few decades later, the off-key caroling would be replaced with whale watching. On this year’s Christmas Eve, we stepped onto a Pac-Whale Eco-Adventures tour boat and were lucky enough to see several whales. The star attraction was a calf and its mother. With the mother staying very close by, the calf showed off their ability to breach.

Hiking along the Kapalua Coastal Trail

Christmas in Kapalua: After a lazy morning of eating too much and sharing gifts, we took advantage of the perfect weather by driving to the westside of the island. Once there, we strolled along the Kapalua Coastal Trail and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the waves, birds and surfers. While Jack Frost was not nipping at our noses, the sun and the ocean were completely viable replacements. As an extra bonus, on the drive home along the coastal highway, we could see whale spouts as the sunset glittered the ocean.

Inside the crater at Haleakala

Sliding Sands to Halemau’u: The day after Christmas, I decided to attempt a long hike down into, across and back up out of the crater at Haleakala. The weather was ideal and I felt ready after enjoying a restful holiday. Walking across the middle of the crater’s wilderness was like traversing a moonscape. With tired legs and sore feet, the final ascent was a real trudge. In total, the hike is about 11 1/4 miles. With 63-year old legs and a backpack full of trail steward gear (e.g., first aid kit, rain jacket, walkie talkie, water), I was really feeling it by the end of the 5+ hour effort. The muscles in my legs were spasming throughout the night. If you’re up for the adventure, it’s definitely worth the trek to experience the views from inside a volcano’s crater.

New Year’s firework in Maui

New Year’s Eve: We started our New Year’s Eve in Wailea with a dinner at Morimoto (of ‘Iron Chef’ fame). From our table, we had a view of the ocean and, to our delight, were able to view whales swimming by as we gnoshed our dessert.

As for the fireworks on Maui, well, I don’t think I can describe it. It’s pure insanity. We’re talking seven straight hours of constant booms ending with absolute mayhem at midnight. The majority of the fireworks aren’t sanctioned. Fireworks may not come to mind when people think about Hawai’i, but New Year’s Eve on the islands is definitely a bucket list item.

Adopt-A-Beach in Kihei

Adopt-A-Beach and The Great Whale Count: I recently saw an appeal for volunteers to ‘adopt’ a beach and decided to give it a try. Essentially, the Pacific Whale Foundation is concerned about pollutants that might harm sea life. The role as a member of their conservation team is to gather and report on what is found along the beach. The foundation hopes to identify the origin of the items found along the shore and attempt to stop them at their source. Last week, I cleaned up two of the four beaches assigned to me. What did I find? Well, a lot of things including flip-flops, a life preserver and lots of plastic and styrofoam. The ‘Great Whale Count’ kicks off later this month and I’ve signed up to assist in taking a census of the whales. The counting continues until the last week of March.

Whale diving off the Maui shore

Next up: In February’s update, I’m hoping to fill folks in on the whale counting project, check-in on my progress (or not) in writing a book and see how I’m doing in my attempt to slow down my speech. On the last one, I have found that I still have an East Coast tendency to respond too quickly and speak too fast. It’s very out of sync with the local culture. I need to chill out.

Aloha, mahalo and be well.



Trey Whitaker

Former CrossFit gym owner, corporate manager, paratrooper, youth sports coach and jujitsu black belt. Now a trail steward at Haleakala National Park on Maui.