Travel Maui: How to Fit Hawaiian Culture, Adventure & Beauty into One Morning

For those of you enjoying my Oahu Travel Series, I promise I will be back soon with more of my trip, highlighting some of the lesser-traveled areas, like Northshore & the Windward side. However, today I’m writing about my home island: Maui.

Jennifer Poppy - Hawaiian Paddle Sports

The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.

-Joseph Campbell

You’re only on Maui for a week and you really want to experience all that the island has to offer. One way to fulfill that desire is to go on a Hawaiian Paddle Sports tour. Recently my fellow adventure-loving amiga, Bridgett, and I had the opportunity to go on one of their outrigger canoe tours. (It was such a treat to get to “play tourist” on our own island, and we loved every minute of it!)

Jen & Bridgett

Jennifer & Bridgett

While I was impressed with the leadership of our guide, Hawaiian Paddle Sports‘ Tim Lara, I was equally impressed by his understanding of Hawaiian culture and the importance of caring for the land. Whether you’re simply visiting Hawaii or live on one of the islands, it is essential to make an effort to learn about Hawaiian history so that you may honor the culture.


Bridgett and I met up at the Ma’alae’a Harbor then headed over to the Westside, driving through a cold wintry rain. I was worried it would still be raining once we arrived, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was dry and the sun was shining!

Island Gypsy Hawaii - Jennifer Poppy

We arrived at Olowalu Reserve, with friendly faces there to greet us, which was nice since we had no idea about what we were doing. The kind tour guides pointed us in the direction of Tim Lara, our guide for the day, and after signing a waiver, our group of eleven “adventurers” circled up to hear Tim share a glimpse into Hawaiian culture. He began by explaining the value of privilege and responsibility. We share the privilege of enjoying the outdoors, and with that comes the responsibility of cleaning up after ourselves and caring for the people and world around us.

Tim Lara - HPS

Tim Lara – Hawaiian Paddle Sports

I appreciated the fact that Hawaiian Paddle Sports uses reusable water bottles, rather than plastic water bottles for its guests, and offer non-toxic sunscreen as a safer alternative than sunscreens that may harm you and the environment. (I personally use organic coconut oil, as it contains a natural SPF, protecting you and the environment without harmful ingredients.)


After our circle up time, we headed down the beach to our outrigger canoe. We worked as a team to prepare the canoes for our adventure. It was inspirational to hear how the ancient Hawaiians would make canoes from tall, wide koa trees, floating the wood in the ocean for about thirty days to cure it, then preparing the vessel for the sea. Our canoe was made of fiberglass (read about its blessing here), but it was fun imagining how exciting it must have been to finally set off in a handmade koa canoe back in the day!

Before we hopped aboard our outrigger canoe, Tim had us watch for whales as he sang out a Hawaiian chant – “E Ho Mai”.

Jennifer Poppy - Hawaiian Paddle Sports

I found some whales!

With a blow of the conch shell, we were ready to enter the Hawaiian waters on our outrigger canoes. Working as a team, we all made it into our canoes and into the water. I was worried about having to use my arms paddling all morning, and was relieved to find out during our training time that you actually use your entire body to paddle, with power coming up through your legs into your upper-body. Whew! Such a relief because I’m all about that bass (no treble) and knew I could handle paddling that way!

Jennifer Poppy - Hawaiian Paddle Sports

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your element in each moment.

-Henry David Thoreau

As we made our way across the water, Tim reminded us that it’s not just one person propelling the canoes, but all twelve of us working together, just as in ancient Hawaiian days when they would travel, paddling in synch with one another. Amazingly, all of us were able to do our part, despite being all different shapes and sizes! I was told that nearly anyone could paddle, and I have to say, it’s true.


We saw several whales breech and fluke, but one of my favorite parts of the whale tour was the ability to actually hear them singing through the hull of the canoe. It’s one thing to hear a recording of a whale or hear one over a ship’s loudspeaker, but it takes the experience to a richer level when you can listen to the whale sing just as they did in days of old, through the canoe’s natural amplification. Add in the fact that you are actually in the water with the singing whale – whoa – mind blowing!



In addition to seeing humpback whales, we also saw honu (sea turtles) and baby reef sharks. I felt 100% safe, even though I’d never been on a canoe in the ocean before. Between our guide’s expertise and my bright red life jacket, I rested easy. (Side note: Bridgett and I were stoked to wear life jackets, as neither one of us had worn one in 20+ years. We were hoping to get a “life jacket selfie” but maybe next time!)


On top of the awesomesauce life jackets, we got to enjoy our most favorite thing: rainbows! Two separate times there were these full rainbows gracing the sky onto the land. Imagine yourself paddling in an outrigger canoe, seeing Hawaiian islands surrounding you, listening to whales singing and enjoying huge rainbows in the sky. That’s a “Maui Moment” right there, and I soaked it all in that morning!


After an amazing couple of hours on the water, we headed back to land. What a wonderful escape from the winter rain! I will cherish my time on that outrigger canoe for years to come…and now the only problem is I want to go again! The ocean is calling my name…and I cannot wait to explore!

Jennifer Poppy - Hawaiian Paddle Sports

Have you ever gone on a whale watching tour or been on an outrigger canoe in the ocean? If you’re looking for a way to enjoy Hawaiian culture, adventure and beauty, this activity is a must!

Livin’ la vida aloha,

*Mahalo Hawaiian Paddle Sports for supplying the beautiful photos for this article. You guys rock! For those interested in an adventure, check out their Maui Kayak Tours, Outrigger Canoe Tours, etc.

If you enjoyed this travel post, then subscribe to Island Gypsy Hawaii for more fun on the islands!


5 thoughts on “Travel Maui: How to Fit Hawaiian Culture, Adventure & Beauty into One Morning

  1. Pingback: #PeaceLoveHaiku - One Day Instagram Contest on Apri 25, 2015 - 22nd Annual Ha‘ikū Ho‘olaule‘a and Flower Festival

Happy thoughts anyone? xoxo Island Gypsy

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s