Hana Bay, Maui

Hana Bay, Maui; credit Maui CVB

The Spirituality of Maui

Jeanette Valentine, Soul Of America

I came to Maui envisioning brilliant days at the beach interspersed with traditional tropical recreation – from moving my hips in a seductive hula dance to flying through the heavens on a zipline. Seven days in paradise surpassed my expectations. What I didn’t expect, and what surprised me again and again, was the island’s spirituality, its ability to calm your soul and put you at peace with the universe.

Moments of grace abound on the island, like those discovered while hiking a Maui Rain Forest.

I arrive at the headquarters of tour company Hike Maui as a hiking novice and board a van 15 minutes later as a Boy Scout – prepared for anything. The organization gives each of the eight members in my group a JanSport backpack stuffed with essentials: four bottles of drinking water, a rain poncho, insect repellent and energy snacks. The kids squeal when they pull out Snickers bars.

Underneath a Maui Waterfall

Underneath a Maui Waterfall; (c) Soul Of America

Our guide, Chris, has a wealth of knowledge complemented by quick wit and abundant patience. Within minutes of getting underway, one of the young ones pipes up, “I’m hungry.” Several “Me, too’s” echo. “No problem,” says Chris. Rather than directing them to the chocolate in their backpacks, he pulls to the curb, jumps out, opens a cooler in the back and begins passing out huge blueberry muffins. The kids tear into their breakfast, and we head off toward Hana Highway, 52 miles of narrow, winding road edging a rain forest.

“Listen up,” Chris says. “Today, you’re going to be cold, wet, miserable, hot, happy and relieved. It’s just like a relationship.” He got it almost right; I was never close to miserable, and I would have added the adjective “amazed.”

After more than an hour of driving through some of the driest landscape on the island, we reach Haleakala National Park, the location of our expedition. We don rain gear, spritz on bug spray and hit the trail to Waimoku Falls.

Hiking in a rain forest is an other worldly experience. The path we follow cuts through a fortress of trees that soar skyward and block out the sun. The cool air smells earthy, like freshly tilled soil. I step gingerly over slick wet leaves and take care not to slip on rocks blanketed by velvety moss. Our group maneuvers around downed branches and through tangled vines to a soundtrack of chirping birds (a pair of Melodious Thrush flirting with one another, according to Chris.)

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