Helicopter & Buggy Tour

When it comes to exploring Maui, the sky’s the limit.

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Kipahulu Maui Buggy
Past Kīpahulu, the Hāna Highway (seen here and in the middle photo) gets narrow, rough, and—some say—dangerously close to the shore.

My sentiments were confirmed when we landed at the tiny local airport. No pretense here. Just a low lava-rock wall separating the runway from the old airport building, a vestige of simpler times before the hassles of modern air travel. I was sad to see the flight end, but eager to start a closer exploration of Maui’s wilder region. As if on cue, Kamie, from Barefoot Buggy, drove up as we touched ground. We bid farewell to Pete and our tour mates, and headed to the parking lot to greet her.

“What made you decide to write about the buggy?” Kamie asked. I started to explain how the pricey package tour fits into the luxury theme of the issue, when she stopped me short. “Oh, well, this isn’t luxury. This is redneck all the way!”

I chuckled at her frankness, but she was right. It took all of one minute for her to walk us through the no-frills features of the buggy, which is based on VW Beetles, with air-cooled engines and four-speed manual transmissions. Barefoot Buggy’s vehicles come with a roll cage for safety, “bikini tops” in case of rain, and a small, lockable trunk. So with a sense of occasion, I changed into a tank top and baseball cap and embraced the low-tech challenge. Kamie made sure we were good to go before hitching a ride back to Kahului in the helicopter.

Hana bay
This drone shot of Hāna Bay yields a different perspective of peaks we had just floated above.

I may have neglected to tell her that my shifting skills were rusty. In fact, I hadn’t driven a manual transmission since high school. Eager to get a shot of me driving, Ryan patiently waited as I fumbled with clutch and gears. Talk about performance anxiety—I managed to move only a few feet before the inevitable stall. I had a flashback of being behind the wheel of my brother Angelo’s 1986 Toyota pickup truck, suffering endless starts and jerky stops as he tried to teach me the delicate balance between the clutch and the gas pedal.

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