Early Hawaiians called it Makahiki—a four-month-long celebration marking the end of harvest and work, and the start of play and friendly competition. This was a time of rejuvenation that erupted in feasting, dancing and sports. There were boxing matches, sledding competitions, spear-throwing contests, canoe races, relay runs and, of course, surfing. These days, that same spirit of celebration lasts all year on Maui. You can see it at the rodeos and polo matches held in the cowboy town of Makawao and the ranching communities of “Upcountry.” You can taste it at Maui’s homegrown winery, a cornucopia of food festivals and an unbridled collection of restaurants dedicated to making your taste buds swoon. You can feel it in the air as you fly along a steel-cable zipline through a rainforest, hover over verdant and endless valleys in a helicopter, catch a wave at Ho`okipa Beach, soar in a paraglider above the historic whaling town of Lahaina, or trek across the floor of Haleakala’s dormant volcanic crater. Makahiki was also known as a time of rest and renewal. Maui can handle that, too. Those stories of the island’s glorious, soft-sand beaches where cares float away on gentle trade winds—they’re all true. Rejuvenate at one of Maui’s world-class spas or opt for retail therapy in shops that showcase upscale finery and unique boutiques filled with exquisite crafts made by local artisans. Everything about Maui puts you in touch with the spirit of Makahiki. What games to try first? Well, that’s up to you. You’ll never run out of things to do and places to see on Maui, no matter how many times you come here. Explore the island’s history in the old whaling capital of Lahaina, take a dip in a waterfall-fed lagoon on the Road to Hana, shop till you drop at ever-changing malls, plazas and shopping villages, or discover the wonders of the sea at a world-class aquarium. Attractions Whalers Village. Just steps from the resort’s oceanfront promenade is Ka`anapali’s lively hub. Here you’ll find shops offering everything from practical sundries to luxury goods, along with a wealth of tempting restaurants. Haleakala Summit, in Haleakala National Park, 90 miles from Ka`anapali on Crater Road (Highway 378) in East Maui. 808-572-4400. Drive up the corkscrew road to the 10,000-foot level and gaze down into the mouth of the world’s largest dormant volcano. You may see a nene, the endangered Hawaiian goose, and a species of the silversword plant, which grows nowhere else on earth. Hana. The remote little town of Hana, where time seems to stand still, is on the east end of the island on the twisting Hana Highway (Highway 360), about a three-hour drive from Ka`anapali Beach. When you finally pull into town, visit the Hana Cultural Center and Museum, and the quaint old Hasegawa General Store. Be sure to see the red-sand beach at Kaihalulu Bay. Ho`okipa Beach Park, off Highway 36, near the beginning of the road to Hana, two miles east of Pa`ia. Bring a picnic and watch champions tempting fate year-round on Hawaii’s world-famous windsurfing beach. `Iao Needle, at `Iao Valley State Park, end of `Iao Valley Road (Highway 32) in the highlands of West Maui Forest Reserve. 808-984-8109. This impressive landmark, an eroded volcanic-rock needle, stands 1,200 feet above the valley floor at an elevation of 2,250 feet. There’s good hiking in the park, including tropical forests laced with streams and an interesting botanical garden. Lahaina. It’s about a 10-minute drive from Ka`anapali to the famous old whaling town of Lahaina. Though it’s a tourist town jammed with shops and restaurants, and its docks are crowded with small fishing boats, Lahaina still retains relics and reminders of its 19th-century past as a major whaling port. Maui Ocean Center, 192 Maalaea Road, Wailuku. 808-270-7000. This is the biggest tropical aquarium in the Western Hemisphere. Stroll along the exhibit path: it’s an acrylic tunnel that takes you through the 750,000-gallon tank. You’ll be surrounded by sharks and other Pacific fish, mostly native to Hawaiian waters, but you won’t get wet. Then visit the whale discovery center and the kids’ touch pool. Sugar Cane Train, Limahana Place off Honoapi`ilani Highway, Lahaina. 808- 667-6851. Take a narrated tour through the former sugarcane fields between Lahaina and Ka`anapali on an early 20th-century locomotive. Whalers Village Museum, Whalers Village Shopping Center, Ka`anapali Beach. 808-661-5992. Inside this museum, you’ll see an impressive model of a whaling ship, hundreds of artifacts from whaling days and a fascinating collection of scrimshaw art. Tedeschi Vineyards, Ulupalakua Ranch, on the slope of Haleakala (Highway 37) . 808-878-6058. A drive Upcountry into hilly ranchlands rewards you with a visit to a charming winery, specializing in sparkling wines from the hybrid carnelian grapes. SPORTS SCUBA DIVING. In 2005, the Carthaginian II, a two-masted brigantine that had graced Lahaina’s harbor for almost 25 years as a whaling museum, was scuttled offshore to create a living reef. Exploring the sunken ship is the latest addition to an exciting Maui diving experience. Dive charters offer beach as well as boat dives, and some teach PADI certification courses. Or try SNUBA, a no-diving-experience-necessary option that connects you to a boat via an air hose. BOATING. Boating options are plentiful on Maui, especially on the southern and western coasts. Catamaran and Zodiac captains will whisk you over to the island of Lana`i for a day of snorkeling and exploring. Sailboats and double-hull catamarans can be chartered, with sailing lessons included. Or rent a kayak from one of many beach concessions and paddle out to see the coastline from a new perspective. FISHING. Sport-fishing charter boats out of Lahaina and Ma`alaea harbors offer opportunities to reel in yellowfin tuna, mahi mahi, ono, and record-setting blue and striped marlin. Your chances of landing the big one are best from July through September and January through March, with August being the most promising month. GOLF. It’s hard to keep your eye on the ball when sweeping ocean vistas are squarely in your sightline on both public and resortconnected links. Tee off on the Valley Isle and you’ll be following in the cleat steps of Tiger Woods and other pros who compete at yearly tournaments here. CAVING. Would-be spelunkers can take a walk through the world’s 18th-largest lava-cave system, Ka`eleku Caverns, near Hana. Or get down and dirty with a guided tour that will have you crawling, squeezing through crevices and climbing ladders to discover “secret” chambers. HIKING. From meandering walks at `Iao Valley State Park and waterfall-surrounded climbs at Hana to guided treks into the rainforests of the West Maui Mountains and endurance-testing adventures along Haleakala Crater’s 30 miles of trails, there’s a scenic hiking getaway for every fitness level on Maui. The state’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Na Ala Hele Trails and Access Program in Wailuku, can steer you in the right direction. HORSEBACK RIDING. Gone are the days when Hawaiian cowboys herded cattle into the sea to be hauled up by a waiting transport ship. Tales of historical lore combined with breathtaking views and a picnic mark a typical trail ride on Maui. The horse knows the way, whether clip-clopping along the slopes of Haleakala or past a working ranch on Maui’s west side. AERIAL ADVENTURES. Feel the wind beneath your wings as you soar from the upper slopes of Haleakala in a paraglider or hang glider. First-timers can fly with an instructor or just slide along a gently inclining grass slope, and there’s even a motorized version that takes off from an airport runway. If floating over the ocean like a seagull is more your style, try parasailing. Or skydiving, if you’re truly adventurous. BIKING. Where else but Maui can you watch the sunrise from the 10,000-foot summit of an extinct volcano (Haleakala), then mount a bicycle and follow your guide 38 miles downhill, past pineapple fields and pastures, to sea level. The panoramic island views can only be described as spectacular. Bicycle touring companies also offer excursions to many other scenic destinations on the Valley Isle. BEACHES Red sand, black sand, golden sand—Maui’s beaches are awash in a rainbow of colors and endless possibilities for swimmers, surfers, snorkelers, beachgoers and fishing enthusiasts. Just remember to keep the seasons in mind when beach-tripping. Winter equals big waves on north and west-facing shores, while summer can see a smaller rise in swells down south. Beach and swimming conditions change quickly. Before you leave the resort, check for current conditions and heed the advice. WEST MAUI BEACHES HONOLUA BAY. Summer snorkeling and winter surfing are big draws at this protected marine area, which offers a rocky shoreline, a sliver of sand for sunbathing and no facilities. Be prepared To park on Highway 30 above and climb down a steep trail. MOKULE`IA. Located just south of Honolua Bay and in the same marine sanctuary. Sun worshiping and boogie boarding are popular here, and there’s also a climb down a dirt trail from Highway 30. D. T. FLEMING. This is one of Maui’s nicest beach parks. A spacious white-sand beach, palm-studded lawn, full facilities and easy access next to Kapalua’s high-end resorts make this a popular gathering place. Good swimming, but be alert for dangerous currents and occasional blow-your-beach-mataway winds. KAPALUA BAY BEACH. A very fine beach bookmarked on each end by rocky points and connected by a half-moon ring of palm trees. Don a mask and snorkel to follow the fish, or just relax in Maui’s version of a blue lagoon. NAPILI BAY. Next to Kapalua, this bay is idyllic but hard to get to since access is through a maze of condominiums. Snorkeling and swimming are excellent, though, and worth the aggravation of trying to find a parking space. KAHEKILI BEACH PARK. Protected by a natural windbreak and with the coral reef close to shore, Kahekili is a good spot for snorkeling. The expansive beach coupled with picnic facilities and plenty of parking make this place a gem. Don’t be misdirected by its two other names: Airport Beach and North Beach. KA`ANAPALI BEACH. Known locally as Dig Me Beach, this is an unbroken threemile stretch of pristine sand and a shallow watery playground. And just a few feet away, you’ll find shops, restaurants and even a whaling museum. LAUNIUPOKO STATE PARK. High tide creates a child-safe tidepool of sorts beside a rock seawall, but otherwise, swimming opportunities are limited. Between Ka`anapali and Olowalu, this area is considered more of a picnic park. OLOWALU SHORE. Located near Hekili Point, this beach has no facilities, but is popular with snorkelers, swimmers and surfers. Good fishing at Olowalu landing. CENTRAL MAUI BEACHES BALDWIN BEACH. There’s plenty of room at this half-mile-long, family-friendly beach park with convenient picnic tables and grills. Kids can splash around safely in a shallow but spacious tide pool at the west end. KANAHA. A great place for kids and picnics, Kanaha also draws windsurfers when conditions are right. HO`OKIPA. Swimming is not the main attraction here. Go when the surf is up to watch daredevil surfers and windsurfers tame the big waves or wipe out trying. SOUTH MAUI BEACHES SUGAR BEACH. A delightful North Kihei beach perfect for long morning strolls and some private time. KAMA`OLE BEACH PARKS I, II AND III. These three well-used, attractive and lifeguard-protected beaches line much Of Kihei’s main road and are great for swimming, snorkeling, beach lounging, picnics, and even some fishing. WAILEA. Home to several luxury hotels, the perfectly pretty Wailea beaches are linked by a manicured walkway. Good views of Molokini islet and the island of Kaho`olawe. MAKENA BEACH. This is actually two beaches, aptly named Big and Little. Big Beach is a glorious 100-feet wide and twothirds- of-a-mile long, with limited facilities and a parking lot that’s too small for the local weekend crowd. Little Beach can be reached by crossing a small bluff at Big’s western end. Clothing optional sunbathing flourishes at Little, although the police bust beachgoers now and then. HANA BEACHES WAIANAPANAPA (BLACK SAND) BEACH. A scenic treat with its black sand, sea arches, a blowhole and two caves, this popular beach allows overnight camping. Swimming and snorkeling are possible when the weather is calm, but watch out for unruly waves and a sudden drop in the ocean’s floor. HANA BEACH. You can swim and snorkel in safety here since the plain-not-pretty beach is tucked into a protected corner of Hana Bay. KAIHALULU (RED SAND) BEACH. Prepare for a challenging hike if you’re thinking of heading to this stunning beach, which was once a volcanic cinder cone before the ocean destroyed its seaward wall. Because of the beach’s isolation, most of the folks sunning on the red sand feel free to do it in the buff. SHOPPING Shopping in Maui is a pleasure by anyone’s standards. Historic Lahaina’s Front Street unfolds each morning into a shopper’s promenade. You’ll practically trip over racks of T-shirts lining the sidewalks outside a plethora of eclectic souvenir shops selling everything from postcards, key rings, plastic leis and carved-lava tikis, to the all-time favorite—chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. In addition to the multihued bikinis, hand-painted pareo (Polynesian wraparound skirts), rubber “slippahs” (local-style thong sandals), surfer jams and straw bags, you can find precious shell, jade, pearl and coral jewelry, hand-etched glass and crystal, tinkling wind chimes and even Asian antiques. It also pays to stray onto the many side streets for more hidden treasures like ancient Polynesian maps and engravings. Don’t miss Friday Night Is Art Night in Lahaina, when all the art galleries (and there are many) stay open late for an evening of fun, food and entertainment. Just a few steps from the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, Ka`anapali’s Whalers Village is also a fascinating place to while away the shopping hours. Upscale fashion boutiques mingle with shops offering silkscreened fabrics, books, sunglasses, beach toys, koa furniture and picture frames, camera supplies and scrimshaw. On Maui’s southern flank, what used to be a scattering of small homey shops anchored by a charming general store is now a stunning modern complex known as the Shops at Wailea. Here, international designers show off their leathers, jewelry and fine fashions. The art galleries are not to be missed, and fortunately, the general store is still there. Over in bustling and businesslike Kahului, everyone flocks to the sprawling Queen Ka`ahumanu Center’s shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Department stores Sears and Macy’s anchor the complex, and in between you can browse at brand-name fashion boutiques and specialty stores. Finding that perfect gift or souvenir is easy on Maui. Local artisans craft luminous koa, Mango and other indigenous woods into bowls and handsome bookends, boxes and art pieces. Jewelry is made from deep-water pink and black coral, and glass and ceramic become dolphins and other ocean creatures. Paintings of tropical scenes will transport you back to Maui with one glance, and monarchy-era gold bracelets with your Hawaiian name engraved will delight all ages. NIGHTLIFE Maui may not rock the house, Waikiki style, but when the sun goes down, the Valley Isle’s rhythms turn to music, theater and dance. Consider, for example, September- June offerings at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Kahului. They include concerts, ballet, art exhibitions, modern hula performances and storytelling festivals. The Center’s Castle Theater, with 1,200 seats and a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system, welcomes big-budget musicals to its expansive stage. And the Maui Film Festival in mid-June shows top-notch independent and international screenings direct from Sundance, Cannes and other star-studded festivals. Over in Wailuku’s historic district, the Spanish mission-style `Iao Theater once hosted USO shows starring Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra. Now it presents Hawaiianthemed stage plays and musicals by talented local playwrights. For an amazing and enchanting exploration into the Polynesian psyche, don’t miss Ualena at Lahaina’s Maui Myth and Magic Theater. The stunning performance—in a theater built specifically for this production— will transport you into the world of the Kumulipo, the ancient Hawaiian creation chant, while blending acrobatic feats with traditional Butoh theater, Hawaii’s history and mythology, hula, modern dance and spectacular costuming. Prepare to be awed, and to reenter the present with a deeper understanding of the aloha spirit. Maui’s hot spots are happening after dark. The town of Lahaina, especially, caters to the fun-loving young and young-atheart, with rock, salsa, blues, jazz, Top-40 and a Jamaican/Hawaiian blend known as Jawaiian music pumping the beat through club doorways up and down Front Street. In the Upcountry cowboy town of Makawao, the local nightspot features reggae, hiphop, guest bands or a DJ’s Top-40 mix. In Kihei, local Hawaiian entertainers light up the night and salsa draws the crowds, with some clubs offering lessons. DINING By now the world knows that Hawaii’s dining scene is not just poi and coconuts. Some years ago, a group of forward-thinking chefs got together and created what’s now known as Hawaii Regional Cuisine. They took the best fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats and fish from the islands, then added ingredients and spices from Pacific Rim cuisines and masterful techniques from European and Mediterranean cultures to create a fusion of flavors that are distinctly island grown. The result is pure perfection for food aficionados. From the fresh island fish menu alone, consider pepper-grilled ahi with Chanterelle mushroom bordelaise sauce; or mahi mahi stuffed with lobster, crab and Maui onion, then baked in a macadamia nut crust; or a medley of island fish sautéed in coconut milk and Panang curry alongside Kula vegetables and jasmine rice. And don’t forget the pineapple salsa. Other fish on the culinary horizon include ono (wahoo), opah (moonfish), monchong (pomfret) and moi (Pacific threadfin), which is now farmed in underwater nets off Hawaiian shores. Some island chefs, intent on bringing only the freshest produce to their tables, grow their own herbs, vegetables, fruits (such as papaya and passionfruit), and even edible flowers. Dozens of food festivals nourish a spirit of friendly competition, and the result for diners is a bonanza of new taste temptations and a dizzying array of choices. Edible delights abound on Maui, where nature makes her own sugary smorgasbord. Think papayas, mangoes, passionfruit, coconuts, macadamia nuts, and sweet Maui onions. In remote and verdant Hana, bananas hang in bunches from ropey stalks along the highway, breadfruit trees are as plentiful as waterfalls, and on the western slopes of Haleakala—known as Upcountry—an army of succulent pineapples marches relentlessly toward the sea. In addition, locally made desserts are as alluring as a languid hula. Coconut-laced haupia ice cream and pineapple-flavored “shave ice” just seem to go with sunshine and trade winds. And fresh-baked banana bread at mom-and-pop roadside stands is to die for. Before you dismiss Hawaii’s purple-paste food staple, do yourself a favor and try it. You’ll have an opportunity at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa’s “Drums of the Pacific” luau, considered the best on the island. Sit down to an impressive feast that includes a sampling of poi, as well as such Hawaiian treats as lomi lomi salmon (raw, seasoned salmon marinated with diced tomatoes and white-and-green onions), poke (raw-tuna relish), haupia (jello- like squares of creamy coconut pudding) and, of course, kalua pig that has been wrapped in banana leaves and steamed for hours in an underground oven called an imu. But don’t fill up on food yet, because the menu also includes Maui-raised beef, barbecued chicken, freshly caught mahi mahi, Pacific ahi (yellowfin tuna), and for dessert, island fruits, pineapple cake, bread pudding and macadamia nut cream pie. Maui’s multicultural heritage and proximity to Asia translate into a rainbow of ethnic food choices. Spicy Thai food is popular, as are Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese dishes, the last further localized as Mandarin, Cantonese and Szechwan specialties. The descendants of Japanese immigrants prepare wonderful sushi and sashimi, comforting miso soup and teri-burgers. Arriving from Europe in the mid-1800s to work as sugar-plantation foremen, immigrants from Portugal introduced red-bean soup, Portuguese sausage and the most eagerly sought item at any local fair—malasadas (warm, sugar-crusted, chewy doughnuts sans the hole). Or, if you have a hankerin’ for unadorned steak and fries, or Mexican, Italian, German, Greek, Middle Eastern or vegetarian fare, you won’t be left out. Maui has it all. Hawaii resident Jennifer Crites is a writer and photographer who documents lifestyles and destinations around the globe. Her articles and photographs have appeared in numerous books, travel guides and magazines, including Travel+Leisure, Islands and The New Yorker. Her website is www.jennifercritesphotography.com.
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