Even though I advocate seeing more of the world than just a beach or ski slope, I have to admit some beaches and ski slopes are must-see travel destinations. For the beach part, Maui is one such place. Open the Map! Find a cluster of 137 islands dotting the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean and you will discover the second largest island of Maui. Maui boasts so much to see and experience than just sand and surf.
Maui is the second largest of the Hawaii Islands that received statehood in 1959. These volcanic islands are about a 9 hour flight from Texas, daylight all the way there. Though part of the USA, Maui retains a unique culture, thanks to their Polynesian ancestors. Most think of Maui as the place pineapple, macadamia nuts, hula, surf and Tiki huts were introduced to the world. They would be correct. These fun images are known throughout the world and make Maui an international vacation destination.
Our family flew to Maui the beginning of June, though we could have chosen any month to go and experienced the same temperatures varying between 75-85 degrees. However, the dry season is April to October and the rainy season is November through March. We stayed at the beautiful Grand Wailea Resort set on Maui’s south shore. It is a huge 40 acre resort with impressive art including sculptures by Botero featured around the property. Beautiful ladies in grass skirts welcomed us and donned the traditional orchid lei around our necks. Our room was beautiful and large but it was the balcony with incredible views of the Pacific that became our favorite place to curl up and watch the sunset and enjoy the island breeze. The property has a world class spa, beautiful wedding chapel and many pools. The pools are famous at Grand Wailea. There are several and are interconnected with waterslides, though camouflaged by sculptures, bridges and foliage to keep it tasteful. If you prefer to have a more quiet pool experience, there is an adult-only pool nearby. The Grand Wailea boasts the only water elevator in the world. It was built for the physically challenged son of the owner so he could go up to the higher pool areas. It is a large capsule in a glass tube with a round bench inside. The attendant closes the door and floods the capsule from below which propels the dozen or so passengers upwards as the water raises the capsule.
There is more to Maui than just idyllic beaches. But the beaches cannot be dismissed-they are beautiful. The beaches in Wailea are ideal for swimming because Wailea is set on the south shore where the surf is mild. The calmer waters make for great snorkeling and scuba diving. My sister saw a huge sea turtle on her first dive. To go surfing, we went northwest up the coast to Kapalua to take lessons and practice in stronger surf. Bring your sturdy water shoes because the ocean floor is made of sharp lava rock. Professional surfers will be found on the north shore where the colossal waves can be found. We passed the north shore waves as we drove along the coast to eventually drive the Road to Hana. The Road to Hana is driven clockwise and is a two lane windy road through some very untamed and lush jungles. It takes all day to drive the entire road and we only made it as far as Twins Falls before throwing in the towel and succumbing to car-sickness. On the way back we stopped at the famous Mama’s Fish House, a decades-old restaurant with the best fresh fish and the entry walls are lined with photos of the famous who dined here, like Frank Sinatra.
When you want a break from the coast, get a rental car and go into the Up Country. The best and most frequented tourist spot is Haleakula National Park to see the volcanic crater. Check the weather before you go because it is typically rainy, windy and 30 degrees cooler than the beach. The sunrises here are popular as well as the star gazing and tours of the Observatory. While in Up Country, stop in the Ali’I Kula Lavender Farm for tea and meander along the winding paths through the lavender fields.
Whale watching is another activity tourists love, though the Humpbacks are done wintering in Hawaii by May. So we were unable to book a boat to see (and hear) these beautiful creatures. But if you travel to Maui from November to mid-May, you will see the whales and the boats are allowed to get as close as 100 yards.
No trip to Maui or any Hawaiian Island would be complete without a real luau. The last night of our stay, we attended a luau, a traditional Hawaiian feast used to celebrate weddings, births and other special occasions. The menu always consists of an underground roast pig, fish, fruit and poi (taro-root pudding). During dinner the entertainment starts. The talented hula dancers perform to the beat of bongo drums while men spin flaming torches like batons on fire. It is quite a production and mesmerizing. It is worth buying a more expensive reservation so you can sit close to the stage.
The time to leave is always hard, but planes returning to the US mainland leave at night so the last day in Maui we were able to sleep in and enjoy a leisurely last breakfast in the beautiful outdoor dining terrace where tiny colorful birds await a crumb to fall from your plate. We stowed our bags and did some shopping at the Shops at Wailea before heading to the airport. Maui is one beach destination I would return to again and again!
So Open the Map! Find the tiny island in the Pacific and experience beautiful beaches, surfing, volcanoes, hula dancers and luaus. It won’t be just another beach. It is Magical Maui.