“Maui no ka oi”…is what locals say – it’s the top, the ultimate, and the “mana” (spiritual power) of scenic natural wonders, sizzling hospitality and living in the moment will make a stay in Hawaii’s second largest island a kiss from paradise. The consistent trade winds keep the temperature at a comfortable 70-80 degrees year-round. Down-home casualness merges with sufficient sophistication for the most discerning sojourner, where the air is scented with exotic plumeria and hibiscus. Beguiling, verdant nature weaves a rich tapestry, living hand in hand with a proud aloha spirit of Maui. For the adrenaline adventure seekers, sunrise atop Haleakala (a dormant 10,000 foot volcano with a moon-shaped crater) is not to be missed. A week in this tiny Pacific paradise reveals mysteries of the universe and it’s no wonder thousands of humpback whales migrate nearby annually (December to March). Here is just part of my Travel Diary:
DAY ONE – PASSIONATE STORY TELLING BALANCE: After a brunch of Maui Mokka coffee and ahi poke with limu (seaweed, chili peppers and raw yellowfin tuna), connect your heartstrings to the local culture. It’s time for hula lessons! It has been called the “heartbeat of the Hawaiian people” and a piece of poetry in storytelling. It integrates all aspects of Hawaiian culture…history, protocol, agriculture, religion and martial arts. The cultural revival known by some as the Hawaiian Renaissance means there’s abundant opportunities for lessons or authentic shows, as well as a new generation of proficient and eloquent chanters, sojourners and translators. In Lahaina town, (a charming old fishing village), you'll find abundant galleries, museums and quaint deja-vu glimpses to the past.
DAY TWO – SIZZLING SCENERY AND SPECTACULAR RURAL ADVENTURES: Two agrarian tours “upcountry” are well worth your time and offer abundant panoramic vistas. Upcountry Maui is the rich fertile “bread basket” responsible for a cornucopia of produce. The Alii Kula Lavender Farm presents relaxing and soothing tours complete with stunning views of the Valley Isle and bountiful lavender products and food. The plunging valley is sometimes draped in an ethereal mist. Just down the road is another agricultural tour not to be overlooked. The Maui Pineapple Tour at a nearby plantation gives a complete lesson in the islands’ history and this fascinating industry. Not far away is the charming and quaint country village of Makawao, magnet for artists and cowboys (“paniolos”). Be sure to watch plein air painters at work at the Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center. My Up Country Farm Tour (with Maui Country Farm Tours) also included a visit to the last working sugar plantation, a trip to Ho’okipa Beach Park with stunning waves, sizzling surfers and a glimpse of Hawaiian sea turtles (honu). Lunch was a feast at Ulupalakua Ranch Store of the Maui cattle burgers.
DAY THREE – PRISTINE BEACHES BECKON: Part of your Travel Diary has to include some soft adventure in this exotic, enchanting ecotourism oasis. Don’t miss azure, pristine waters and opportunities for canoeing, diving, snorkeling, fishing or outrigger touring. The Neptune’s treasure of flora and fauna capture your heart and soul for years to come. Jam-packed with healthy coral, giant manta rays, parrot fish, butterfly fish, sea turtles (Honu) and humpback whales mean this rainbow parfait of marine life is some of the most versatile and vibrant on the planet.
DAY FOUR – MEA AI ONO (“something good to eat”): Of course you’ll want to try a luau and many resorts offer their own. Poi (a paste made with taro root), lomi, lomi salmon and steamed meats, and fish in ti-leaf bundles are the standard fare. Locals favor tropical ice creams and shave ices to cool off.
WHERE TO STAY AND DINE: If you are seeking something very old-fashioned and economical, look no further. One of the finest resorts with over a 50 year track record of excellence and service is the Kaanapali Beach Hotel. It has been recognized by the Waiaha Foundation as “One of Hawaii’s most Hawaiian hotels” for honoring and preserving the culture. I was delighted with complimentary activities and classes such as outrigger canoe paddling. Championship links attract duffers and pros from around the globe. The traditional attention to every detail and desire to please, make this a return visit favorite. Repeat guests who prefer space and privacy return year after year. The Kaanapali is marvelous for family reunions, girlfriend vacations or weddings.
You will also cherish the super amenities and regal service at the Napili Kai Resort in Lahaina. Exquisitely landscaped with exotic flora and fauna, the Napili Kai Resort showcases old world charm with the finest in Maui hospitality. The elegant pool terrace is a welcoming venue for their complimentary Mai Tai party on arrival. They also feature a Horticultural Tour, a robust, rich tapestry of tropical jewels.
If you’re seeking a little luxury and elegance, head to the Ko Restaurant at the Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel. With a rainbow parfait ambience, the dining is a sizzling adventure you’ll long treasure.
Jody Reed is formerly a writer at the White House and TV Consumer Reporter. A 17-year veteran travel writer, she is published regionally and nationally and is a member of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writer’s Association.