Nathan Blecharczyk’s TRAVEL BLACK BOOK

Maui has great beaches and beers

The Hawaiian island is filled with adventure for the active traveller too

Who: Nathan Blecharczyk, chief technology officer and co-founder of online accommodation rental service Airbnb, which has 550,000 properties in 192 countries around the world. The 30-year-old American is married to a paediatrician and they do not have any children.

Favourite place: Maui, Hawaii

Why: I've been to Hawaii about eight times. It's easy to get to from San Francisco, where I live. It's tropical and it involves adventure, both of which I love. There's a lot of hiking, snorkelling, surfing and body boarding you can do there, and it's still in the United States, so the infrastructure I'm used to is all there. There are also a lot of secluded beaches in Maui that you can stumble upon. You can be the only person on the beach.

Favourite place to stay

It is a little surfer town called Paia, which is right on the beach. It is not at all touristy but has a few really good restaurants. I always stay in Airbnb properties when I travel, and in Paia, I stayed in a colourful two-bedroom Hawaiian house with my wife. It cost about US$150 (S$191) a night. It had a big lanai, which is a kind of Hawaiian porch or veranda that is a common feature in houses there.

Favourite restaurant

Mama's Fish House Restaurant (799 Poho Place, Paia, tel: +1-808-579-8488, open daily for lunch from 11am to 2.30pm and for dinner from 4.15 to 9pm) is the best restaurant on the island.

Whatever the catch of the day is, the name of the guy who caught it will appear on the menu too. I went there two days in a row and both days, the food was completely different. I was equally impressed on both days.

The fish is amazing, they have a lot of good drinks and the restaurant is right on the beach.

Must-do activity

Get surf lessons in Kihei, which is in the south of the island of Maui, and about a 30-minute drive from the airport. There are lots of local shops there where you can rent surf boards, or bodyboards and fins if you want to go bodyboarding.

After a one-hour surf lesson, the instructors promise you can get up on the board, which is true - with their assistance. So within an hour, you'll have the thrill of standing up and riding a wave.

Best way to get around

You'll need a car in Maui, so rent one at the airport. It would probably cost about US$70 a day. There is not much public transport and it is slow, so I don't think it's a good use of your time to depend on it. There's not much traffic, so it's easy to drive around on your own.

Favourite bar

Flatbread Company (89 Hana Highway, Paia, tel: +1-808-579-8989, open daily from 11am to 10pm) is a restaurant and a bar. They have a lot of great local beers from the Maui Brewing Company. They don't export much, so definitely try the beers if you're there.

Maui Brewing Company makes only four beers - the Bikini Blonde Lager, the Big Swell IPA, the Coconut Porter and the Mana Wheat - and Flatbread Company carries all of them. At US$6 each, the beer is pretty affordable too.

Event to bookmark

Go to Maui during whale season, which is around December to March, although it could go on longer. This is when humpback whales migrate from Alaska to Hawaii to escape the cold weather, and if you go at the right time, you can see many whales around the island.

While you can see them from the shore, you can also go whale-watching on a boat to get closer to the whales. A number of companies organise the whale watches.

Must-do for adventure-seekers

Go on a two-hour drive down the road from Paia to Hana. Paia is right by the start of the road, which is one of the reasons it's a great place to stay on the island.

The road winds along the coast of Maui, and every five to 10 minutes, you'll spot something that will give you an excuse to pull over and have an adventure, such as a trail that leads to a waterfall.

A hole in a thick wall of bamboo along the road, for instance, opened up to a two-hour trail that we went on, leaving our car behind. There were four lakes that we had to swim across, so if you're following this trail, bring only waterproof things with you. I swam with my camera in my mouth at one point.

I'd read about this trail in a book called Maui Revealed, which is why I was keen to find it. But there are very specific instructions on how to find it, involving stopping between specific mile markers.

The first time I looked for it, I ended up on someone's personal property and they were not happy - probably because that happens to them quite often.

This story was originally published in The Straits Times on March 2, 2014.

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