If you’ve spent time on any of the Hawaiian Islands, then you know that they each have a distinct character—and that they’re all special in their own way.
Maui probably comes closest to combining a little bit of all of the other islands into one place— you’ve got the volcanoes, the rainforest, legendary surf spots, history and culture and beaches. And with so much variety, there are also plenty of tours available—the bike or helicopter tours, snorkeling cruises, ATV rides. And there’s nothing wrong with those. But if you’re looking for something a little more unusual, there are plenty of opportunities to see—and learn–some really cool things while you’re experiencing Hawaii’s second largest island.
You probably wouldn’t expect to find a distillery on the slopes of Haleakala Crater, but that’s just where you’ll find Hawaii Sea Spirits in the upcountry town of Kula. Founded in 2005 on a former cattle ranch, the company makes organic rum and, their signature product, Ocean Vodka using water from 3,000 feet below the Pacific Ocean, and you can tour the 80-acre farm, seven days a week.
Once you’ve finished your samples, be sure to visit the neighboring Surfing Goat Dairy. It’s a state-of-the-art working dairy where you’ll start your tour with a meet and greet with the farm’s star attractions. If you can manage to tear yourself away from the baby goats, you’ll continue on to the milking machines and learn about the cheese-making process. And finally, there’s a tasting, where you’ll sample a few of the more than 30 varieties of goat cheese produced by the dairy.
About half an hour from Kula is the town of Kahului, the home of Maui Flight Academy. Sure, you can do a flightseeing tour if you want, but how about something even better than that? How about doing your own flightseeing tour where you take off, fly and then land the plane yourself? The best part is, as long as you’ve got the desire to do it, there’s no prior experience necessary. You’ll just read a little booklet and watch a few videos and then you’re ready for your introductory flight lesson with a professional flight instructor.
And if you’re afraid of flying, this Cirrus SR22 is the plane you want to be in. It takes safety to a whole new level because it has its own parachute. You can fly to any of its destinations– including the active volcano on the big island where you’ll fly right over the volcano and do your first landing in Hilo. Or, you can fly along the tallest sea cliffs on earth and the largest coral reef in the U.S.
My flight lesson was with Chief Flight Instructor and the owner of Maui Flight Academy, Laurence Balter. And after a brief orientation and introduction to the cockpit controls, it was time to take off. Lessons can take anywhere from an hour to an entire day–depending upon the course you choose. And during your flight, you’ll learn basic flight maneuvers while you also get a bird’s-eye view of Hawaii.
And, when you’re done, you’ll get a completion certificate that actually counts toward the pursuit of a pilot’s license!
By Peter Greenberg for PeterGreenberg.com