Hawaii’s second-biggest island is hardly second-best with plenty to see, do and eat on its varied terrain.
By Linda Domingo
There’s nary a cloud in the impossibly blue sky, and the even bluer ocean lies calmly beyond the soft, sandy beach and lush palm trees as we wake ourselves up with sandwiches, fresh fruit and coffee. “Cue the dolphins,” one of us jokes. We laugh, but glare at the view as if we actually expect marine life to come springing out of the ocean.
This is just the start to a typical morning while on holiday in Maui. The second-largest Hawaiian island, Maui boasts green terrain, temperate weather and luxury real estate development. All of these have made Maui a top destination choice for travelers, even those from the sun-soaked California coast.
Set on prime Kaanapali North Beach property in the resort town of Lahaina, Honua Kai Resort & Spa is made up of an all-suite hotel and collection of residences for those who wish to own their own beach getaway (honuakai.com). Contemporary while maintaining an island feel, the resort’s rooms effortlessly blend the luxurious and casual, with expansive patios and awe-inspiring mountain, resort or ocean views. Taking the aloha lifestyle to another level, the friendly and personal customer service throughout the property makes every guest’s stay hassle-free. For those new to Maui, the staff is happy to suggest and/or arrange activities that would enhance any vacation.
Dining is casual at Honua Kai, with Duke’s Beach House serving locally sourced ingredients in Hawaiian dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Also centered around local flavors and ingredients, ’Aina Gourmet Market sells a range of groceries, pastries, salads, sandwiches and to-go meals.
But the main focus of the resort may be outside—there’s a pool for every member of the family, including the Wailele “Waterfall” pool for children and their parents and the Maile “Calm/Quiet” pool for adults seeking rest and relaxation. The pool staff also rents and sells gear like boogie boards and snorkel equipment. Just past the aquatic playground lies a boardwalk and Kaanapali North Beach, a three-mile expanse ideal for sunbathing, paddleboarding and people-watching.
Another of Maui’s world-class properties, The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua (ritzcarlton.com), is set on 54 acres in Kapalua and features luxurious beach-inspired accommodations, six restaurants and the Ritz-Carlton Spa, which features uniquely Hawaiian treatments such as the organic papaya pineapple manicure and pedicure.
For those in need of a private retreat, Wailea Beach Villas are flanked by five gorgeous beaches and located a short walk from a plethora of spas, restaurants and shopping (drhmaui.com). For the ultimate in unwinding, massages and spa treatments are offered in rooms or oceanfront cabanas.
Relaxation can be overwhelming. Fortunately, adventures on Maui’s landscapes offer respite from a schedule chock-full of lounging. Mountains, volcanoes, beaches and rainforests all populate the island, offering something for every traveler.
For the adventurous, Kapalua is a tropical paradise of lush greenery. Kapalua Resort offers miles of hiking trails for all levels, a year-round tennis facility, and two world-class golf courses in addition to the Kapalua Golf Academy (kapalua.com).
The island’s beaches play host to surfers, divers, snorkelers and more. For a leisurely yet exciting way to take in Maui’s aquatic beauty, Teralani’s fleet of catamarans takes passengers out to sea from Kaanapali Beach for a refreshing sunset cruise, complete with appetizers and adult beverages (teralani.net). For those who prefer to stay on dry land, the nearby Whalers Village features top beach clothing brands, jewelry and specialty boutiques, and eateries (whalersvillage.com).
A coveted local favorite conveniently set in Lahaina’s shopping district, Mala Ocean Tavern is located on the water, and diners can choose to eat inside the quaint cottage of a restaurant, or out on the covered patio, feet from waves lapping against rocks and sea turtles looking for algae (malaoceantavern.com). Diners rarely choose unwisely on a menu of fresh seafood, but the Kama’aina mai tai should be in everyone’s hand—the cocktail won first place in Bacardi’s Best Mai Tai on Maui contest. Just outside, Lahaina’s multitude of colorful boutiques surrounding the enormous, century-old banyan tree present the perfect place to peruse and burn off calories.
The Star Noodle staff serves up some of the best of the East on the island (starnoodle.com). Instead of following the overplayed Asian “fusion” trend, the restaurant’s dishes offer classic Asian flavors presented in innovative ways. The chef’s garlic noodles have earned him local fame, so order abundantly and without regard. Pair with a beer from Maui Brewing Co. or a signature cocktail and leave room for malasadas—a Hawaiian dessert made of deep-fried dough covered in sugar, served with chocolate, butterscotch and caramel sauces.With a menu that spans close to 30 entrees and a bar stocked with sake and specialty cocktails, everyone is sure to find something pleasing to the palate.
Elegant dining experiences are plentiful, one such being Humuhumunukunukuapuaa restaurant, named for the state fish (grandwailea.com). Set on a saltwater lagoon filled with tropical fish, the restaurant is a romantic choice for sunset dinners.
Another upscale option is The Plantation House on Kapalua Resort, which showcases Hawaiian fare through signature items such as kampachi tartare, seared ahi and Maui pineapple cake (theplantationhouse.com). For a seafood-centric meal any time of day with amazing views, head south for Gannon’s restaurant, created by Bev Gannon, The Maui News’ and Maui No Ka ‘Oi Magazine’s “Best Chef on Maui” winner (gannonsrestaurant.com).
Travelers to Maui may be surprised by the diversity of the island’s landscape and the abundant activities it offers visitors and residents alike. Even OC natives, who are accustomed to living and working in a vacation spot, will be impressed by Maui’s paradisiacal display. LBM