A Mazda MX-5 in Maui
Part 1 | A Better Driving Experience
When you think of Maui what comes to mind? Beautiful sandy beaches, snorkelling near Sea Turtles, lush jungle, the sunburnt dude in a cheesy Hawaiian shirt who should probably put the top up on his yellow convertible Camaro? What does not come to mind for a lot of people is the few incredible driving roads that exist on the island. Some smooth, some more...hmm, adventurous. For me, I knew I wanted a better driving experience my second time around in Maui, sadly, an experience not offered by the larger rental companies. Your choices for anything more exciting are Jeeps, Mustangs, and Camaros. Too big, no thank you, not for me. But what did I expect, most people just want to go between the beach and the shaved ice stand, which those are great for, and they'll have fun on the way stopped dead in traffic for an hour between Kihei and Lahaina surrounded by every other rental Jeep, Mustang, and Camaro on the island. Ok, I might be slightly bitter because I got stuck in said traffic jam once, forgetting to plan the days travels off peak time. So what do you do if you want something a little different, or desire a car with performance and handling to thouroughly enjoy the more technical Hawaiian roads?
Fore those willing to spend a lot more, there is one place that rents out Porsche 356 reproductions, but as desirable as it is to cruise around Maui in one of these, the price and incompatible insurance for British Columbians puts up a wall to this experience for many. Instead, I went to a small shop and got snorkels, flippers, a dive chart... Oh! And a Mazda MX-5!
Now before I get into it, I will admit that the shop experience wasn't overall great. The waiver process was a bit dodgy, and I was promised a manual transmission model, which didn't happen. I do believe this less than satisfactory experience was the result of the employee I dealt with having a bad week or something, as I've used the shop many times for snorkel equipment before and everything was great! Regardless of the ordeal, the MX-5 had paddle shifting, the sun was shining, and after only a few minutes of driving, the complications with the shop were behind me and it was almost like I was back in the seat of my own 1990 MX-5 Miata, with the open road ahead.
Two seats, top down, in Maui. What could be better?
Part 2 | Piilani Hwy
It was early in March, the Miata back at home had been tucked into the garage since November. I was looking forward to being back in a 2 seater roadster in the warm Hawaii weather. Once I got the car, I knew exactly where I wanted to take it first. I drove the main highway through Maui's center, on some lesser known backroads to the upcountry, then, Hwy 31 the Piilani Highway.
The highway is a narrow, basically single lane, twisty road that runs through though lava fields and jungle, rising and falling from the Pacific to the south and Haleakala to the north. At the time of our trip, much of the road seemed freshly paved, and in the Mx-5, it was a rollercoaster. It is the closest experience to driving my own Miata on the island, and my wife, Kristen, was loving it. After all, the Miata back at home is hers too. The size, weight, balance, and power were matched perfectly to the road. This MX-5 drove much like my '90, and the familiarity was nice, especially when many of the bends give little forgiveness if you don't respect them.
I just finished the book "Never Stop Driving" recently released by Hagerty. In the last few pages, automotive writer, Brett Berk asks a few famous car people, "If we could plot our "Last Drive," our perfect time behind the wheel, where would we go? And in what? And with whom?"
I think you might know my answer to that now, only the Miata would be a bit older and a bit more red.
Part 3 | A Little Different
The west side of Maui didn't have the same exciting roads that we found in the south east, but being around more traffic was interesting as the MX-5 turned out to be quite the head turner. Driving it made us realize just how few Miata's are on the island, we barely saw any. With it's pearl white colour, and small, edgy shape, it really stood out. More of an attention getter than we expected and it was kind of fun.
We stopped at a few familiar places on the west side up to Kapalua and then had a sunset dinner at Aloha Mixed Plate overlooking the shoreline of old Lahaina. We ordered the Ali'i plate of kalua pig, pork lau lau, mac salad, poke, lomi lomi salmon and poi followed by flourless pineapple upside down cake. The meal, followed by a warm, top down, under-the-night-sky drive back to our place in Kihei was the best way to end off our time in Maui.