- North America,
- United States
Before my husband and I went to Maui, I admit we were actually a little snobby about Hawaii--we thought it was just for honeymooners. (We were crazy, I know.) Maui turned out to be one of our best trips ever. Be sure to set aside one evening for a casual barbecue at one of the many roadside beach parks along the western shore: Pick up some burgers and beer and charcoal and cook out while watching the sea turtles and the sunset.
How to navigate Hawaii's changing vacation-rental landscape
See + Do
Hiking on Maui
Maui's network of hiking trails, beaten paths and otherwise, suit trekkers at all fitness levels: Our favorites include the six-mile Lahaina Pali Trail (near touristy Lahaina), which ends at Papalua Beach, and the strenuous nine-mile Kaupo Trail, which leads up Haleakala to Kaupo Gap (the site of free raves when the moon is full). The centrally located Iao Valley State Park has some easy paved trails that will barely make you break a sweat—except from mosquito-swatting (apply repellent liberally). Most people come to gawk at the Iao Needle, a phallic stone of Kanaloa, Hawaiian god of the ocean, and take a dip in the natural pools. See www.hawaiitrails.org for more hiking information.
See + Do
Snorkeling in Maui
Snorkeling is the most democratic of all water activities—you don't need expensive equipment or certification, to be in good shape, or even to be able to swim (although it sure helps). Most resort beaches have a spot where you can spy on colorful coral, fish, and turtles. But the really special underwater life can be seen at Molokini Crater, located between the islands of Maui and Kahoolawe. Kai Kanani, which leaves from the Maui Prince Hotel in Makena, stands out from the crowd of outfitters because of its location. Makena is much closer to Molokini than Maalaea—where most other boat tours launch—so you can get to the crater in just 20 minutes.
See + Do
Beaches on Maui
Makena State Park: Big Beach, a ten-minute drive from the resorts at Wailea, is an uncrowded, undeveloped half-mile-long sugar-sand expanse. It's popular with families, despite a monster shore break (getting in the water can be dangerous) and a dearth of public facilities (just portable toilets for the desperate). If you're not toting tykes, hike over the cliff on the west end to clothing-optional Little Beach. Upwards of 500 revelers take part in a free rave there every Sunday at sunset, complete with drum circles, jam sessions, and wild dancing.
Kamaole Parks I, II, + III: Million-dollar homes, condo complexes, parking lots, and public facilities cheapen the natural splendor of these golden beaches, but sandy bottoms, gentle waves, and lifeguards still draw in the swimmers. This trifecta is also conveniently located directly off the highway. Should you get stuck in the South Kihei Road rush-hour crawl (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) don't fight it—just turn off, park, and watch the sunset.
Kaanapali Beach: Maui's signature beach, this three-mile stretch of clean white sand provides ample room for sunbathers from the nearby megaresorts and locals who triumphed over the severely limited public parking situation. Dig Me Beach, in front of the Whalers Village mini mall, is the place to show off your Gucci bikini or ripped bod. Pu'u Keka'a (Black Rock), in front of the Sheraton Maui, is the safest swimming spot and is also good for snorkeling.
Kanaha Beach Park: You can be in the ocean within minutes of arriving on the island (Kanaha is located behind the rental car pickup lots at the Kahului airport). There's a narrow stretch for sunning, a sectioned-off area for swimming, and for entertainment watch the windsurfers and kite boarders in action. Kanaha has a decent surf break, but it's about 150 yards from shore, so don't attempt it unless you're a very confident swimmer.
Hamoa Beach: About three miles southwest of Hana, there's a respectable surf break, snorkeling, and plenty of room to lay out or get a game of beach volleyball going. There's swimming as well, but there are no lifeguards and you'll find wicked currents outside of the bay. The lounge chairs and waitstaff are exclusively for guests of the nearby Hotel Hana-Maui, so bring your own drinks and snacks. As with all Maui beaches, do your very best to leave no trace of your stay behind.
Jawz Tacos, Hawaii
Kihei, Hawaii 96753
Tel: 808 874 8226
Jawz started as a roadside taco truck outside Makena State Park. You can still get killer fish tacos there (in fact, there are two trucks now—one inside the parking lot, and one along the road), but we recommend this air-conditioned sit-down version inside one of Kihei's mini-malls. It's a booming business that serves up fresh-catch tacos, salads, and burritos (especially good when smothered in sauces from the salsa bar) that you'll dream about when you get back home. The restaurant itself is bare-bones—a typical cheap and cheerful joint with surf movies playing in the background. But you get heaps of food for under $10, which is a real deal for Maui.
Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.
Pacific'o on the Beach, Hawaii
Lahaina, Hawaii 96761
Tel: 808 667 4341
This oceanfront restaurant is a far cry from the rowdy, tacky venues farther down on Front Street advertising a sunset view with dinner. Exclusive but relaxed, Pacific'o and its sister restaurant next door, I'o (home of the best luau on the island, the Feast at Lele), offer Pacific Rim cuisine: fresh fish, local meats, and produce whipped into flavorful Asian-influenced dishes (sisho spicy tuna or sesame-crusted lamb). Start with something from the special cocktail menu, and dine open-air on the lanai a few feet from the beach.