BATHE IN THE NATURAL WONDER OF MAUI, FROM THE HISTORIC FORMER ROYAL CAPITAL LAHAINA TO POSH SEASIDE RESORTS IN WAILEA AND KĀ’ANAPAL
BY AMBER GIBSON
Whether it’s whale watching, snorkeling at Pu‘u Keka‘a, hiking in Maui’s upcountry jungles, or simply relaxing on the beach while sipping a mai tai and enjoying the brilliant sunsets, Maui has all the trappings of a storybook beach vacation.
Like Hawaii’s other islands, Maui’s human history began with Polynesian ancestors paddling outrigger canoes across the Pacific to find a new home. After Europeans made contact and colonized the islands, whaling, then sugarcane and pineapple plantations, were Maui’s economic engines in the 19th and early 20th centuries, leading to dramatic deforestation and environmental damage.
Today, Maui’s economy has shifted to tourism, and the island has become a favorite destination for honeymooners and families. Service here is laid back and friendly, and locals are eager to share their culture and heritage with visitors. All they ask is that you cherish the culture and nature you came to see. Consider participating in the Malama Hawaii program and include an element of voluntourism on your trip. Many Maui hotels are offering incentives, like free nights and discounted rates, to visitors who engage with the local community and pay it forward with beach clean-ups, native tree planting, and other volunteer activities.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Hawaii has been the strictest of any U.S. state during the COVID19 pandemic in an e ort to protect its residents. The good news is, if you’re vaccinated, it’s now easy to travel to Hawaii from within the United States, and flights are becoming more frequent again. All visitors will be required to create an account at Safe Travels Hawaii (travel.hawaii.gov) to log their trip information and receive an exemption from quarantine. After you’ve booked your flight and hotel, it only takes a few minutes to fill out your information and upload proof of vaccination. Remember to log back in the day before you leave to complete a health questionnaire, which will generate a QR code you’ll need to show at the airport. Many airports offer pre-clearance prior to departure, which will save you time upon arrival.
Keep a screenshot of your quarantine exemption easily accessible, as you’ll need this upon checking into your hotel. Travelers who are not fully vaccinated can still receive quarantine exemption, but will need to upload a negative COVID test result taken within one day of boarding their flight to Hawaii to bypass quarantine. Same day Health is a trusted and reliable testing partner with testing locations and house calls available in more than a dozen states, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and California. Those who do not qualify for quarantine exemption must self quarantine for ten days at designated hotels. Vacation rentals are not permitted for self-quarantine and violators will be fined and prosecuted.
HAWAI’I WILDLIFE DISCOVERY CENTER
This new interactive museum celebrates Hawaii’s cultural values and native wildlife rehabilitation, while confronting its whaling past, with immersive exhibits for all ages. Spectacular murals by local artist Patrick Ching bring Hawaii’s underwater natural beauty to life, alongside innovative sculptural art made with marine debris. Learn about the different sea creatures you might be lucky enough to spot, along with the best way to be a respectful visitor. You’re sure to leave with a greater reverence for wildlife and appreciation for the friendly volunteers eager to share their knowledge and passion for Hawaii’s ocean animals. Locally and sustainably made gifts in the museum shop help support the Discovey Center’s conservation and education programs. 2435 Kā’anapali Parkway Suite H-14, Whalers Village, hawaiiwildlifediscoverycenter.org
MAUI KU’IA ESTATE CHOCOLATE
Maui’s new solar-powered, farm-to-bar chocolate maker infuses flavors like lemongrass, mango, calamansi, and peppermint into silky smooth dark and dark milk chocolate squares. Visit the factory to sip lilikoi chocolate milkshakes and nibble warm chocolate brownies while learning about the chocolate-making process. Guided tastings are available and you can even visit the 20-acre cacao farm in the foothills of the West Maui Mountains to see cacao trees up close and taste juicy cacao pulp fresh from the pod. Many hotels and restaurants in Maui serve their chocolate, including Mama’s Fish House and Grand Wailea. 78 Ulupono Street Suite 1, Lahaina, mauichocolate.com
WHERE TO STAY
THE WESTIN MAUI RESORT & SPA, KA’ANAPALI
There are more than 700 rooms at this recently renovated resort, along with six pools, several restaurants, and daily cultural programming teaching guests how to weave coconut palm fronds or strum ukulele while observing flamingos playing in the cascading waterfalls. Choose one of the 217 rooms in the newer and more exclusive Hokupa‘a Tower for a fresh, contemporary coastal design and access to a mezzanine lanai, where light bites are served at breakfast and happy hour. Chef Chris Kajioka is one of Hawaii’s best-known chefs, and he’s leading the kitchen at the Westin’s chic new restaurant, Waicoco, with plenty more food, drink, and shopping right next door at Whalers Village. 2365 Kā’anapali Parkway, Lahaina, westinmaui.com
HYATT REGENCY MAUI RESORT AND SPA
From sunrise beach bootcamps to wildlife tours and world-class rooftop stargazing, this resort has it all. Friendly cockatoos dot the open-air lobby, and a half dozen endangered African black footed penguins call the hotel home, too. They like to eat, swim, and relax just like human guests. All 810 rooms just underwent a multi-million dollar renovation, for a more modern and understated ambiance. The Kamaha’o Marilyn Monroe Spa includes an excellent salon for hair and nail services, and an Asian fusion restaurant is a favorite for sushi, udon noodles, and line-caught local fish. End the night with world-class stargazing on the rooftop with three massive telescopes, led by a NASA ambassador director of astronomy. 200 Nohea Kai Dr, Lahaina, hyattregencymaui.com
This chic, sexy resort is the best place to stay in Wailea, with 31 two to four bedroom villas in addition to traditional hotel rooms that are a favorite among celebrities. ‘Awili Spa is a highlight, featuring a steam room, sauna, and hot tub, plus deluxe treatments that call upon the powers of local botanicals. There’s great shopping too, including resort wear by local designers Jaxsea and Billy Aloha along with a gallery of cheerful surf art by Welzie. You can even take a private art class and make your own masterpiece to take home. When it’s time for dinner, choose between homegrown Hawaiian cuisine at Ka’ana Kitchen or sushi and sake at Morimoto. 3550 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea, andazmaui.com
DAY TRIPS AND TOURS
Zip across remote coastal landscapes and rugged mountains that tower over the Kā’anapali Resort area or soar over canyons up to 45 mph on Hawaii’s only pendulum line on the slopes of Haleakalā after traversing an Indiana Jones-style swinging bridge. Conservation is at the heart of Skyline’s missionm and the carbon-neutral company has planted more than 8,000 native trees on Maui. They also offer full day tours to the summit of Haleakalā National Park, for unforgettable 360-degree sunrise views at 9,740 feet above sea level. 2580 Kekaa Drive #115, Lahaina, skylinehawaii.com
AQUALANI BEACH & OCEAN RECREATION
With locations in Kihei, Lahaina, and Wailea, Aqualani is the gold standard for water sport rentals and tours in Maui. A kayak tour along the Wailea coastline where you can snorkel with sea turtles is most popular, and suitable for all ages. You can also cruise around on a Hobie Aqua Glider, a thrilling new contraption that’s similar to a paddleboard but propelled by a stepping motion with your feet instead of a paddle. This is a great and exhilarating way to explore the coastline and coral reefs and glimpse local wildlife, especially for those who don’t want to swim. 3850 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea-Makena, aqualanibeach.com
DINE AND DRINK
The menu at this new beachfront restaurant incorporates traditional Hawaiian ingredients in inventive new ways, like ‘ulu (breadfruit) croutons in salads and poi (mashed taro) malasadas for dessert. Lobster dumplings are the best-selling appetizer and great to share while perusing the menu. Every ingredient is as locally sourced as can be, from ginger turmeric kombucha in refreshing cocktails to invasive Axis deer from nearby Moloka’i, where there are ten times as many deer as people. Plant-based eating may be the sustainable culinary future moving forward, but you can feel virtuous while chowing down on delicious smoked venison poke, too. 2525 Kā’anapali Parkway, Lahaina, huihuirestaurant.com
This lively oceanfront restaurant at Whalers Village is a local favorite for consistently good, fresh food paired with friendly service. Steaks, local line-caught fish, and lobster tails are grilled with Kiawe wood, and the crab-topped macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi with coconut sesame rice and Maui gold pineapple beurre blanc is a signature dish. Between the spicy coconut calamari and ahi poke tacos, it can be hard to save room for dessert – but dare try, wanderlusters! You’d be remiss not to taste a towering slice of the original hula pie, made with a chocolate cookie crust and decadent macadamia nut ice cream. 2435 Kā’anapali Parkway, Lahaina, hulagrillkaanapali.com
Executive chef Tylun Pang has been leading the restaurants at Fairmont Kea Lani for 25 years now, and Kō is his pride and joy, a showcase of Hawaiian flavors with 80% of the produce sourced from Maui farmers. Crispy shrimp with lavender honey sauce and fresh tuna cooked tableside are fun finger foods to start, followed by Hawaii raised grass-fed steak and a medley of seafood steamed in ti leaves with coconut milk, served with a hearty side of Moloka’i purple sweet potato mash. Pair your meal with a glass of Lokelani brut rosé, a Maui sparkling wine you might easily mistake for true French Champagne. 4100 Wailea Alanui, Kiehi, korestaurant.com