THIS IS HAWAII - THIS IS MAUI!
Known as a paradise among paradises, Maui has long been a favorite getaway for people from all over the world.
Maui, an in-depth review:
Long ago, there was Pu'u Kukui, the now extinct volcano that created what is today, West Maui. There was also the mighty Haleakala volcano, now dormant, that created East Maui. Then there came an isthmus, created by matter that had eroded from the two volcanos, that connected the two land masses to form what today is Maui.
Maui is the second largest in the Hawaiian chain measuring 728.8 square miles. White sand beaches fringe the west shores, lava cliffs rise up from the north shores. Black and red sand cover some of the beaches in the east. The center valley is filled with sugar cane fields. Also centrally, are the pineapple fields. At the north end of the valley are businesses and the main airport. On the shores farthest west, is historic Laihaina, a whaling port and Kaanapali, the tourism capital.
Okay, we're here!
Let's start our tour with a trip to the Maui Ocean Center. The Ocean Center is a fascinating experience that embraces one of the world's most diverse and unique marine environments. The ocean around the Hawaiian islands contains remnants of ancient lava and volcanic fields, beautiful corals, exotic fish, humpback whales and other mammals making for a spectacular sightseeing extravaganza.You can see, eye-to-eye, garden eels, frogfish, octopus and giant stingrays. The Whale Discovery Center pays homage to the majestic humpback whale-Hawaii's State Marine Mammal.
You can grab a light bite at the Reef Cafe and then commerate your visit with ocean-related jewelry, art, clothing or crafts from the Maui Ocean Center Store.
Maui has a wide selection of parks and beaches that you definitely won't want to miss. From the 10,000-foot level of Haleakala National Park to the variety of county beach parks at sea level, there's a park to satisfy almost everyone.
The parks are divided into three categories; National Parks, State Parks and County Parks. You can explore nearly 30 miles of trails on Haleakala National Park or hike through its forest of Redwood trees. State Parks include everything from wildland areas to historic sites and some allow free tent camping (with permit). County Parks are mainly beach parks for daily use and provide showers, restrooms and fire pits.
And some special activities:
Try out the active volcano air tours in a twin- engined ten seat plane (808) 877-5500, or view a romantic sunset from the Ironwood Ranch, which offers horseback riding on remote trails through tropical valleys (808) 669-4991. You can bike down a volcano (Haleakala), best done at sunrise or clime the Seven Sacred Pools after a 1/2 day trip down the Road to Hana. And, if you take the road less traveled and continue past Hana on your return to "civilization", you will truly see a Maui few others do.
Now are you feeling a sense of adventure? How about a sunset whale watch cruise? Maui is the winter home to over 3,500 Humpback whales. A visit to Maui cannot be complete without cruising up next to one of these gentle giants or experiencing the sight of their massive bodies breaching the water or tails pounding the surf.
I'm hungry! Where do we eat?
The cuisine in Maui is as diversified as its terrain. From local dishes to cheeseburgers to Japanese food to pizza, there's dining for every palate. The seafood is always fresh, wherever you go, and one of the island's favorite fish dishes, mahimahi, often referred to as dolphin, although technically it's not, is one of the least expensive and best tasting fish.
The exotic drinks must be sampled as well! There's the Mai Tai made from rum, orange juice and Curacao, The Blue Hawaii made with vodka, pineapple juice and coconut syrup, and Blue Curacao and the Lava Flow which is a blend of island rum, fresh bananas, cream, pineapple juice and swirled strawberries! Yummy!
You must attend a traditional Hawaiian Luau. There are several Luau locations (see Places to Stay below for two) on the Island where you can enjoy Hawaiian music, dancing, even fire eating - and sample food items such as roast pig which is wrapped in seaweed and placed in hot coals and buried for 6-10 hours before served, local fish, pineapple and poi! Oh boy, poi! Try it - it's a pounded, paste-like food made from boiled Taro ( a plant brought to Hawaii from Polynesia. )
Okay! What about shopping?
Maui offers a plethora of world class shops and galleries. Two of the most popular galleries are the Collector's of Fine Art of Hawaii Gallery and the Guy Buffet Collection.
The COFAOH Gallery is the most exciting and eclectic gallery on Maui. The dedicated artists who display their work here bring joy, healing and understanding to our lives. The gallery can be reached at (808) 661-1032.
The Guy Buffet Collection, although it sounds like a place where single guys abound, it's not. Here you'll find one-of-a-kind original paintings, tableware, clothing and a world of accessories. The gallery can be reached at (808) 661-1119.
Other shops and galleries are everywhere on the island offering clothing, original art and native made souvenirs.
The Kapalua Logo Shops (808) 669-4172 offer a fine array of fashions and accessories for family and home. The distinctive Kapalua butterfly adorns most of the merchandise which includes aloha shirts for men , women's classic ensembles, and beach wear.
The number one resort spa in the U.S., the 50,000 foot Spa Grande, is located on Muai at the Grand Wailea Resort. This spa is like no other in the world, offering an unequaled facility, with a professional staff and a beachfront location. The spa can be contacted at (808) 875-1234.
Great places to stay:
Although many top rated hotels exist on Maui, we'll be featuring the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort as our hotel du jour for this article. Located on Ka’anapali Beach 200 Nohea Kai Drive Lahaina (808) 661-1234 The Hyatt Maui is a 40-acre beach front oasis of endless sun and sea on Ka’anapali Beach with landscaped grounds featuring exotic birds, wildlife and an extensive Asia/Pacific art collection; it's 4 miles to Kapalua-West Maui Airport; and 45 minutes to Kahului Airport. Just a fabulous place to stay that always gets rave reviews. Plenty amenities and activities for the whole family. The *Luau here is exceptional and done in true Hawaiian tradition.
Visit www.maui.hyatt.com for more info.
(*Another great Luau is the Maui Marriott Luau which besides all the exotic food, features Maui's only triple fire knife attraction. For more info, call the Luau Hotline at: (808) 661-5828.)
For more information on other hotels and places to stay, check with your travel agent or call The Hawaii Visitor Center at (888) 403-1475.
The beauty, tranquility and natural attractions of the Valley Isle will make you want to return to Maui and again and again. No wonder this beautiful island has become known as "No Ka Oi" or, simply, "the best."
Until next time, here today, gone to Maui!