Maui See And Do
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.
Diving wannabes take note: Maui's waters are warm, clear, teeming with sea life, and calm (at least on the island's south side). In other words, this an ideal place to get certified (it takes less than one week). Better yet, the abundance of dive shops has driven the price of certification down to about $300. Maui Dreams Dive Co. has a solid reputation for safety and environmental awareness. For the certified, it's hard to argue with 25 years of experience diving on Maui—not that Mike Severns likes to brag. He and his team lead dives to all of the main areas of interest: Molokini, Makena, La Perouse Bay, the Kanaio coast, and the St. Anthony wreck.
505 Front Street
Lahaina , Hawaii
Tel: 866 244 5353 (toll free)
Tel: 808 667 5353
Maui's most upscale luau unfolds on the beachfront at Lahaina (Lele is the historical name). No stale buffet food here; couples and groups sit at individual tables with their own waiter who serves four courses from the Polynesian diaspora prepared by chef James McDonald (executive chef at Pacifico'o). The food corresponds with four dance performances from Hawaii, Tahiti, Aotearoa (New Zealand), and Samoa. It's a lovely evening, with the waves lapping gently at the sand, the Hollywood lighting, the authentic flavors of the food, and performances with short breaks in between so you can stroll the beach. However, the set menu can't be altered and younger kids might get a little restless, so should probably be left with a sitter back at the hotel. Endless cocktails on the luau menu are included in the ticket price ($110 per person), but top shelf liquor, wines or other cocktails are extra.
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.
Tel: 808 572 3456
Maui is crawling with boldfaced names, but during the week of the annual Maui Film Festival in mid-June, it's just ridiculous. The festival shows a good number of quality indie films (though a few mediocre big-budget films have been known to slip in as well), and it's a good time for anyone with $10 to buy a ticket (tickets to private parties and events are extra). Best of all, some screenings are held under the stars on the green of the Wailea Golf Club. The MFF also runs a popular weekly series of movies at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, along with a series of academy screenings the public can attend during the holiday season (www.mauiarts.org).
Haleakala National Park , Hawaii
Imagine riding 30 miles from the 10,000-foot summit of a dormant volcano. Steeply downhill. On a bike. Sounds awesome—and it is—but this excursion isn't for everyone. To catch the sunrise at the top of Haleakala, you need to leave your resort as early as 2 am. Temperatures at the top dip below freezing, and it very well might rain on the way down, so riders must wear a helmet with a face shield and full rain gear—typically, a bright yellow slicker and pants. It's not much of a workout (except for the hand you use to squeeze the brake), but you share a road with vehicles, so there are some risks. Maui Downhill takes safety seriously and has an excellent track record (808-871-2155; www.mauidownhill.com). Afterwards, even the heavily bandaged say it's one of the best things they've ever done: Magnificent 360-degree views of Maui and beyond, a crash course in volcanic geology, and the opportunity to pass through multiple climatic zones, all before breakfast.
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.
810 Haiku Road
Haiku , Hawaii
Tel: 808 575 9390
Eighteen-dollar yoga classes have come to Maui, and you'll have to fight for yoga mat space with at least 20 other detoxifying souls for the privilege. Still, there's something about the island that makes you want to be healthier, and the people here (a beautiful toned crowd of windsurfers, Internet millionaires, and organic farmers) will inspire you. Studio Maui also offers an impressive menu of other classes—from Pilates to tribal belly dancing—in its beautiful, modern warehouse space.
Maui has several forgiving breaks that are visible from Route 30 (around Lahaina), including those at Launiupoko Beach Park and Puamana Beach Park. Beginners on the south side should tackle the gentle baby break at Sugar Cove on South Kihei Road. Both novices and advanced riders can enhance their performance and ocean safety by investing in at least one day of surf lessons. Hunky twins Tide and Kiva Rivers, known as surf instructors to the stars (Adrien Brody, Zach Braff, Jake Gyllenhaal), have been riding Maui's waves since they were toddlers and can introduce experienced surfers to Maui's less obvious spots (Rivers to the Sea; 808-280-8795; www.riverstothesea.com). Goofy Foot Surf School is one of the best outfits on the island for group lessons. Owner Tim Sherer and his instructors are ambassadors for the sport, and their enthusiasm is contagious (505 Front St.; 808-244-9283; www.goofyfootsurfschool.com).
The north shore's unifying event is Jaws, a 60- to 100-foot monster swell that only breaks about six times per year, between November and January. Hundreds of spectators crowd the cliffs of a remote pineapple field to watch daring experts, such as Maui resident Laird Hamilton, ride the waves. The bellmen at your resort will know if the surf's up and can tell you where to go: The viewing spot is off an unmarked road in Haiku, so you'll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle and very specific directions to find it. Otherwise, head to Hookipa Beach Park or Honolua Bay, where there's usually a show.
If surfing seems intimidating, you may want to try your foot at stand-up paddling—a.k.a. paddle surfing—which involves balancing on an oversize surfboard and propelling yourself with a single paddle. It's all the rage on Maui because it has a much quicker learning curve, which makes it a lot more fun, too: You will not only stand up on your first day, but if you're in reasonable shape, you can expect to master it within an hour. It's easiest if the ocean is flat, and gets more challenging when you attempt to catch waves. To get started, take a lesson with Maria Souza, Laird Hamilton's ex-wife (808-579-9231; www.standuppaddlesurfschool.com).
The surf on Maui is good, but the wind is better and more consistent—making the island one of the world's premier windsurfing spots. Windsurfing does require a lot of upper-body strength, but it's more accessible to the average person than surfing and you'll certainly spend less time waiting and more time standing up. Instruction from Alan Cadiz's HST Windsurfing and Kitesurfing School, the most established on the island, will get you started. Kanaha Beach Park, where HST conducts lessons, is good for beginners, while Hookipa Beach Park is good for advanced wave riders. Novices can go out as early as 9 a.m., but more experienced windsurfers have to wait till 11 a.m. because they share the breaks with paddle (regular) surfers—lifeguards can tell the difference and enforce this rule.