I don’t think a human being could possibly have a better start to a new year than I had to 2018. To make a long story short: my ridiculous luck and I somehow managed to win another grand prize sweepstakes vacation for me and a guest. While my first trip took me to Miami with Urban Outfitters, this contest, run by Halo Top Creamery, took me off the mainland USA and landed me in Hawaii just a few days after sailing into January 2k18.
With my upcoming spring semester abroad in England—and the European adventures that are sure to ensue—I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect way to kick off what is beginning to look like the most travel-heavy year of my life so far. And even better, the trip gave me what most people work for their entire lives: the opportunity to take my mom on a well-deserved, all-expenses-paid vacation.
Neither of us had ever been to Hawaii, and to be honest, I don’t think we knew what to expect. It’s no secret that photos shared on social media are easily manipulated and not always based in truth. With the overuse of filters and other popular forms of photo alteration, it often feels impossible to know if what you see is actually what you get—especially when it comes to travel. With the right editing, any destination can appear glamorous in a photograph even if the view isn’t so great in person, and travelers may find that places receiving thousands of likes online are also receiving thousands of disappointed tourists every year.
Luckily, this was not at all the case with Maui.
At no point did I feel underwhelmed. At no point did I think, “Hmm, it’s okay, but it could be better.” Everything was a view.
Halo Top reserved us a gorgeous room at the Hyatt Regency Maui in Lahaina, which I cannot recommend enough. The lobby is open air, bathing the hotel in sunlight and giving guests an incredible ocean view as soon as they walk through the door. They are also home to three delicious restaurants, as well as to the Drums of the Pacific Luau, which provided an incredible night of food, dance and fun. All of that, in addition to the view from our room, made the Hyatt the perfect place to stay.
The smartest move we made for the weekend was reserving a rental car. Although we didn’t end up making the 3 AM drive to Haleakala like we originally planned (with the swerving and curving roads, can you blame us for being hesitant?), having a rental still allowed us to explore more freely than if we’d tried to get around with rideshare apps. I’ve met some pretty kind drivers in the past, but I’m not sure we could have reached spots like this in an Uber or Lyft:
During our trip, we ziplined across valleys, took an evening whale-watching cruise, did our fair share of shopping on Front Street in Lahaina Town, visited a fresh goat cheese farm in the mountains, and enjoyed the best local fruit we’ve ever had, all of which was amazing. But the best part, undoubtedly, was enjoying the simple moments spent with my mom.
Each morning, my mother and I, both naturally early risers, would wake up, grab some coffee, and take a long walk down the beach as the sun slowly rose over the mountains and painted the clouds a million shades of rosy pink and purple, rows of palm trees and an expanse of white sand the only interruptions between sea and sky. As we walked together one morning, looking out at the lush, green islands lining the horizon, I turned to my mom and said, “Human beings aren’t good enough to see something like this. We just don’t deserve it.” And it really wasn’t an exaggeration.
Maui is unquestionably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. With the island’s unbelievable natural beauty, laid-back vibe and friendly smiles everywhere, our trip was perfect from beginning to end, and I can say without a doubt in my mind that I will someday return for more.