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Take a guided tour around Maui with our handy island map
Stretching for more than five kilometres along white-sand beaches and some of the best-preserved coral reef in the state, Ka’anapali’s natural splendour often surprises visitors, given the luxury properties just a conch shell’s throw from turtle habitat. To really lose yourself in natural Maui, drive north for 20 minutes to the Marine Life Conservation District of Maui and its crown jewel – Honolua Bay. One dip on of your diving mask under the water and you’ll see why snorkeling operators from all over the island bring customers here.
This is old Hawaii at its finest, restored lovingly and preserved as a circa-1800s walkable seaside fishing village. But it’s not all museums and artisans. Unforgettable day trips (like the Atlantis Submarine tours) leave the dock throughout the day, while bars on Front Street hop late into the night. To stay festive and Hawaiian, don’t miss the best luau on Maui: The Old Lahaina Luau, where the storytelling is engaging and the food is considered and locally sourced. These are the same people, after all, who run legendary Star Noodle, just up the road.
The glitz turns to time rentals and local spots north of Wailea in the town of Kihei. And where there’s local knowledge and lower rents, great restaurants are sure to follow. Take Sansei Sushi, for more than a decade lauded as one of best sushi restaurants in the U.S. The city’s beachfront is also understated but well worth checking out, especially when the waves picks up and surfers of all abilities paddle out.
Maui’s home of glitz and luxury, Wailea is peppered with high-end boutiques and absurdly high-end hotels (many full apartments where, for a glorious few days, make you feel like a resident). The recently updated Wailea Coastal Walk accesses many of the top-tier properties, including the recently opened Andaz Maui at Wailea and the penthouse properties at Wailea Beach Villas Resort. For some of the best waterfront dining in the area, hit the luau at the Wailea Beach Marriott. Wailea also lets you work off all that dining with snorkeling just outside your hotel, plus quick-drive beach escapes away from the hotel towers in Makena Beach.
5. HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK
The highest point of Maui offers a side of the Valley Isle rarely experienced by most visitors. Various daytrip operators pick up sleepy tourists at 3 a.m. from all over the island, get them outfitted for bike helmets and gear (if you choose to come back by bike), then ascend almost 10,000 feet above sea level. The experienced is known locally as the Maui light show, but that’s an understatement. The sky turns from indigo to violet to red to pink over the course of an hour as the crater desert reveals itself for the shivering hordes.
The road beyond Hana gets downright Jurassic. The plants, fruit and cliffs are all bigger. Test your driving skills as far as the Seven Sacred Pools in the Haleakala National Park, worth a hike down to see the revered waterfalls cascading towards sea level, then push on for another five minutes and get lunch at ONO Organic Farms, which has been blowing the minds of local foodie aficionados for three decades.
First of all, Hana is not a daytrip. Maui’s remote eastern jewel takes 600 turns and 54 one-way bridge crossings to get to. But the trip is a must, especially in a convertible. Base yourself at the Travaasa Hana and, after exhausting the bounty of on-property activities (including free bike rentals, body boards, fishing and music lessons for guests of all ages), set out to explore the archeological and natural history of the area, ranging from one of the largest ancient Hawiian ceremonial platforms in the state, to a lava tube tunnel that was used as a nuclear fallout shelter in more paranoid times.
This hippy-infused paradise is, for many, the best thing about Maui. Hollywood celebs certainly think so. Willie Nelson has a restaurant right on the main drag and everyone from Steven Tyler to Owen Wilson can be seen strolling in flip-flops looking for a good lunch spot. (The answer, by the way, is Café Mambo, whose Kalua Pork Burger and icy local beer selection will have you looking for real estate, which, incidentally, is cheaper than most stuff in Vancouver). Don’t miss a quick grocery shop at Mana Foods and dinner at the famous Mama’s Fish House.
Another overlooked heart of Maui, is Kahului, home of the international airport. Even though many people fly in and drive out, the city boasts some of the best farmers’ markets in the state. Don’t miss the Aloha Friday Farmers Market every Friday from noon to 6 p.m. at the Paina Building of the Maui. There are also many stores that supply the tourist shops in Lahaina and Wailea, so the smart money buys souvenirs here.
Although many visitors don’t spend much time in Wailuku, it is a vibrant, working-class immersion in Hawaiian life. As the commercial and government centre of the state, Wailuku is full of mom-and-pop shops that are windows into the real Hawaii. The “Rediscover Wailuku” walking tours (created by the Wailuku Main Street Association) get you even closer. The area is also the jumping-off point to often-overlooked, free outdoor adventure. Take the Wahee Ridge Trail, just northwest of Wailuku. The family-friendly three-hour round trip ascends to a lookout that serves up panoramic views of the West Maui Mountains and the sightseeing helicopters flying below.