In the Hawai’ian language “Aloha” implies deep respect as well as “Greetings.” If you’re open to it, Maui is a Magic Isle with a welcoming spirit. It’s the second largest of the 8 beautiful shards of surf and turf known collectively as the state of Hawai’i.
An attitudinal adjustment by visitors immediately upon landing will do wonders. I saw a bumper sticker that said it all: ‘Slow down. This ain’t the Mainland.’ There’s a culture and natural beauty to be enjoyed. Smaller communities especially are in a hippie-like time warp.
People have been coming here since about 800 B.C. when Polynesians navigated the Pacific in outrigger canoes, followed centuries later by other Pacific islanders, Asians, Americans and a sprinkling of Europeans.
I was late to the party. I can accept that. It’s a matter of time, with the island
pegged at .8 million years old. In the 1800's Mark Twain recorded his visitor impressions, describing the archipelago as “the loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean.”
It doesn’t hurt that Hawai’i revels in a near perfect environment, although Maui's Mount Haleakalāone will take you through 7 climate zones from rain forest to desert to snow.
With the majority of Hawai'ians living in and around Honolulu on Oahu, Maui and the other islands remain blissfully uncrowded.
My writing colleague Jo and I book in to the Grand Wailea Waldorf Astoria Resort. As the biggest resort on the island and with the largest art collection, it reflects the modern face of Maui. Guests enjoy buffet breakfasts with balcony views of the manicured grounds stretching down to the beach, making jetlag seem so yesterday.
Hana Highway on the opposite (east) coast is our first exploration. If money is no object, the Porsche parked at the resort entrance is the way to go. I have a way to go before money is no object. Seriously, you can rent one.
We strike up a conversation with artist and surfer Parker Detchon
at Ho’okipa Lookout, a popular surfing spot. Originally a mainlander, Parker is living the life in Maui.
At the same stop, Kapono Tumale, owner of 'Rustbuckets' is preparing what he describes as "contemporary local BBQ." Aromas of caramelized meats merge with salty ocean headwinds and the sound of crashing surf from an ocean vista. C'mon, can it get any better?
Without doubt, a rental car is essential to see island elements such as winding roads, fruit stands, flora and fauna plus quirky vegan ice cream served in a coconut shell.
The summit road to Haleakalā National Park provides spectacular views culminating in a moonscape and cluster of observatories known as Science City. Across Alenuihaha Channel, Mauna Kea on the Big Island 97 miles away appears to float on clouds.
We admire the cyclists who pump their way up Haleakalā Crater and freewheel down from the nearly 2-mile high summit. Watching the sunrise from here is an unforgettable experience, although we arrive too late in the day for that. No worries. The view is terrific at any time of day. But it can be cool.
Tour guide Steve treats everyone to a slice of pineapple fresh off his machete at the Maui Gold Pineapple Company, the only one in the USA. The rich volcanic soil yields juicy sweet pineapples that drip messy and delicious from your hands and face.
Following the sale of a successful high-tech firm in Germany, Thomas and Eva-Maria Kafsack created the award-winning Surfing Goat Dairy. (I'm not making this up.) Their transition from software to goat fare has brought a new category of top quality cheeses to Maui. We arrive to see a newborn goat being cleaned of its placenta by the dairy’s pet dog. Instead of a GPS or compass to find the place, just look for surfboards in the trees.
As an example of regional cuisine, at Grand Wailea that evening executive chef Mike Lofaro prepares a Ka Malama dinner with food centered around the Hawai'ian moon calendar. Lit by candlelight, he creates a joy to eat and a challenge to photograph.
The fragrance of English, French & Spanish lavender is a soothing balm to the senses at Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm. Sitting at 4,000 feet (1,220 m) up the slopes of Haleakalā in the center of the island, it can be cloaked in mist — a dramatic contrast to sea level sunshine. So bring a sweater for tea garden tastings, just in case,
Seen from above, the island resembles a head and shoulder bust thrusting leftward. The northwest coastal face has a secondary 2-lane to half-lane road known as the Hono-a-Pi‘ilani Highway. It's a delightfully scary drive. “There’s nothing to see along the coast road except rocks and a few golf courses,” we're told. Yeah, right.
Winnipeg newlyweds Julie and Vladimir Marincic whiz past, day-tripping on a pair of Vespas. I notice Julie’s toenails and scooter are an appropriate matching green. Women always know how to accessorize.
At a bend in the road in the village of Kahakuloa, owner/artist Karen Lei Noland runs the Kaukini Gallery which she inherited from her grandfather. The gallery represents over 150 island artists with beautiful items galore. We stop for a break to view the coast and lush Kahakuloa Valley after carefully selecting a few Christmas gifts.
Life is unhurried in the historic village of Makawao. As on other islands, free ranging chickens cross the roads without having their motives questioned. Sometimes they just watch the tourists go by.
Little Tibet shop owner Jacques Perreault left snowy Montréal long ago to gather a collection of beautiful Asian art and jewelry for sale. Smart move, Jacques.
Arriving at Makena State Park for sunset we are lucky to find a parking space. Kicking off our sandals, we follow the crowd along Big Beach, over a rocky outcrop and onto a smaller secluded stretch of sand where an impromptu gathering of a few hundred party-goers are dancing to the steady beat of drums while watching the sun go down.
Over the course of 2 evenings we’re treated to a day’s end conch blowing at Wailea and commemorative sunset torch lighting and dive ceremony at Black Rock (Pu'u Keka'a) on Kā‘anapali Beach.
A good way to end an island stay is attending a nightly lū'au (traditional Hawaiian feast and entertainment) at the family-friendly Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel.
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This is a resort hotel with a return clientele and an emphasis on authenticity. There's even a daily departure ceremony in which guests receive a kukui bead lei. And sometimes it gets emotional.
As Mark Twain wrote:
"I went to Maui to stay a week and remained five. I never spent so pleasant a month before or bade any place goodbye so regretfully."