While I was growing up, my family and I traveled a lot. All the new, exciting places there were to see usually took priority over places we had already been, so there were very few locations I got to visit more than once. However, the one place that always seemed to defy this pattern was the Hawaiian island of Maui. In total, I have probably been to Maui eight or nine times, and I'm still not tired of it. At this point, it is like a second home to me. I know all my favorite activities to do there (though there are still plenty I haven't tried yet) and all my favorite places to eat. Maui is my escape from reality, and no new vacation spot could ever take its place in my heart.
The main attraction on the island is, of course, the beach, where sunbathing, surfing, and snorkeling are all popular pastimes. The ocean itself is home to many other entertainment opportunities, including scuba diving, submarining, and sailing. However, the most important ocean activity to experience while you're there is whale watching. The way the three Hawaiian islands of Maui, Lanai, and Molokai formed left the ocean somewhat blocked among them, which means the water on the west side of Maui remains relatively calm and shallow for an island in the middle of the ocean. It is for this very reason that Maui is such an excellent and well-known place for whale watching. Every winter, humpback whales travel from Alaska to the warm waters of Hawaii to give birth in the calm, shallow water among the islands. These gentle giants are beautiful creatures that are incredible to watch. You can often see them from the beach, but taking a whale watching tour is the best way to see them up close.
The ocean is not Maui's only attraction, however. The island also has an enormous, non-active volcano called Haleakala (pronounced hah-lee-ah-kah-lah, for all the haoles out there). This volcano and its mountains provide many of the entertainment opportunities on the island. You can bike down the steep sides of the mountain, go zip lining through the valleys, drive to the top of the volcano, or visit some of the quaint shops and gardens up in the mountains. In my opinion, Maui's best kept secret is all the interesting places you can find by just driving around up there. My family and I have stumbled upon a beautiful botanical garden, a cute country store with interesting knickknacks and good food, and even a scenic winery all just by wondering around on Haleakala's winding roads. I highly recommend taking a trip up there to explore. Keep in mind, however, that the mountains are higher than you might think, so if you're planning to visit them, be sure to bring a jacket.
As you readers may know by now, one of my favorite parts of any trip is the good food, and I can assure you that Maui has no shortage of that. To simply list all of the best restaurants on the island would take ages, so to spare you all, I'm just going to give a few of my absolute favorites. The Pineapple Grill is a steak restaurant that sits right on a beautiful, sloping golf course. If you go, you need to sit outside to properly enjoy the astounding view. They have the best pineapple salad dressing I've ever tasted as well as tender steaks and other great food. Duke's Beach House is another one of my favorites. It is an open air restaurant right on the beach. They have a variety of menu choices, all with a little island flair, and there is a huge, coffee flavored ice cream cake slice as one of several delicious options for desert. For breakfast, you can't beat Java Jazz. This spunky, little restaurant is within walking distance from the Papakea, where I usually stay. They have huge, scrumptious pancakes and French toast and are open for lunch and dinner as well.
Although not specific to any restaurant, Maui visitors need to try some of Hawaii's pineapple, macadamia nuts, and shave ice (and no, I don't mean shaved ice). Hawaiian pineapple is as sweet as it gets. It's always ripe and fresh because it doesn't have to make it through the long shipping trip from Hawaii to the mainland. You can buy it fresh in the grocery store or even at a little roadside fruit stand or farmers market. Another fun way to pick some up is to tour a pineapple plantation and see the pineapple production process firsthand. Other tropical fruits, such as dragon fruit, mango, and coconut are also delicious and easy to find. Macadamia nuts are another produce item Hawaii is known for. Although macadamia nuts are great plain, the best way to enjoy them is in any of the many different chocolate candies available there. Finally, Hawaiian shave ice is a must try for any visitor. It is essentially the Hawaiian version of a snow cone, just with many more exotic flavors, like guava, lychee, tamarind, and lilikoi. You can find it just about anywhere on the island, but my favorite is Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice on Front Street in Lahaina.
In terms of places to stay, Maui has plenty of options. There are resorts with grand pools and water parks, simple hotels, or independent condos. Personally, condos are my favorite simply because they offer more freedom. At resorts, I tend to feel a little trapped, like I should be doing all the activities there instead of exploring the town or island outside of the resort. Staying in a condo, however, leaves the entertainment up to you. Additionally, in my experience, condos tend to be quieter and less crowded than resorts, making the experience there a far more relaxing one.
If any of you readers are interested, Bayless Travel manages two beautiful, oceanfront condos at the Papakea on Maui's Kaanapali Coast. The view from these condos can be seen in the picture above. The two condos are on the same floor, very close to each other, so they are perfect for a big family or group of friends to rent together. Whenever I go to Hawaii, I stay in one of those two condos every chance I get, so I would highly recommend them to anyone else. You can check out the properties online at http://www.vrbo.com/36070 and http://www.vrbo.com/624479.
Whether you choose to stay in a condo, resort, or hotel, Bayless Travel would love to help you book a trip to Maui. Call us at 405-842-4464 to start planning, and in the meantime, happy travels!