Here Today, Gone To Maui
Maui consistently lands atop travel-magazine reader polls as one of the world’s best, most romantic islands. Why? Most start with its wealth of glorious beaches and go from there: awesome resorts, friendly people, gourmet cuisine, fantastic seafood, and world-class windsurfing, whale watching, snorkeling, diving and hiking. Need adventure? Drive the famous road to Hana or traverse the moonlike volcanic crater of Haleakala. Need more? Maui is the gateway to its sister islands of Moloka’i and Lana’i, which are conveniently reached by ferry. But is Maui really all that? Well, it does weave a spell that leaves most visitors more in love than when they arrived.
Maui is a collection of mostly small towns, plus natural wonders that introduce visitors to a slower way of life. It’s famous for its extensive beaches, tumbling waterfalls, romantic sunsets, and a variety of adventures — from golf to snorkeling to scuba diving. The island’s as lush as an equatorial rainforest in Hana, as hot and dry as Mexico in Lahaina, and as cool and misty as Oregon in Kula. Maui is an assault on the senses and we cannot wait to go back.
A trip to Maui is not complete without experiencing Hawaii’s culinary specialties. Maui’s has many star chefs at restaurants featuring fresh and locally grown specialties. Some of our favorites include:
The darling of gourmet magazines, this sophisticated restaurant in historic Lahaina Inn superbly blends local ingredients with tastes from Europe and the Pacific Rim. Standouts include Kona coffee-roasted rack of lamb and Filet Mignon and buttered crab “Oscar”.
One of Hawaii’s top chefs, David Paul, opened yet another restaurant in Lahaina in 2008 introducing his “new island cooking,” a combination of his latest American cuisine and island. Although his menu changes weekly, my picks are the Fried Goat Cheese Salad and the Big Eye Tuna Carpaccio. Ask to sit on the Lanai and you get as close to the water as possible. This is a top choice for dinner if you are anywhere near Lahaina. It is located at 900 Front Street and it is best to call for reservations at this popular restaurant. Call 808.662.3000.
Here’s the place to bring your sweetie to enjoy the moon rise and the sweet smell of the stephanotis growing on the terrace. Fans love this classic seafood restaurant that sticks to the tried and true. Most agree that there is a high degree of professionalism in both service and preparation, and it’s hard to beat the fantasy setting on the south Maui shoreline. The Greek Maui Wowie salad gets my vote as one of the top salads in Hawaii. The Signature salad is made with chopped maui onions, tomatoes, avocado, romaine, feta and bay shrimp. The rest of the menu features great fresh fish like opakapaka (one of the signature dishes), and Ahi au Poivre. There are ample choices for those who don’t eat fish as well, including rack of lamb, roasted chicken, and dry-aged New York steak. While there are many top choices to eat in Wailea, Nick’s Fishmarket is a must! They are located at the Fairmont Kealani Maui. Reservations suggested by calling 808.879.7224
It’s more “Island-style” than Hawaii, and yes, it’s a chain, but the food is consistently great, the service is filled with aloha, and the ambience is just so Island refined. This was our top choice and favorite for casual dining. Try the Chicken Lollipops. We could have made a meal of this appetizer! It takes them all day to make these. They are dusted with macadamia nut and jerk remoulade. The Hawaiian Walu was perfectly cooked. It came with grilled pineapple and mango salsa with some shitakes, baby bok choy and lemon buerre blanc. The Pineapple Crème Brulee is worthy of a cross-island drive! Basically, everything our team ordered was to rave about. You can find Tommy Bahamas at The Shops at Wailea, 3750 Wailea Alanui Drive, Kihei. Reservations are not required but it is very popular and fills up fast.
With its teak tables, fireplace, and open sides, Plantation House gets stellar marks for atmosphere. Maui News has deemed it as having the island’s “Best Ambience” — a big honor on an island of wonderful views. It’s the best place for breakfast in west Maui, hands down, and one of our top choices for dinner. When the sun sets, the menu expands to marvelous starters, such as Kula and Mediterranean salads. However, they serve an organically farmed beet salad that cannot be beat. Do not let the name fool you this salad features roasted beets, kapalua heirloom tomatoes, lemon goat cheese drizzled with basil-balsamic vinaigrette. The menu changes constantly but may include fresh fish prepared several ways — among them, Mediterranean (on roasted Maui onions with couscous), Venice (pressed in panko, with a golden-raisin/pine-nut butter), Maui (pistachio crusted), and Italy (pepper dusted with olives and caper-berry salsa). Don’t forget the numerous vegetarian entrees and wonderful Australian lamb, New Zealand lobster, and a roast pork tenderloin you’ll long remember. Save room for dessert as they make some wonderful finishes. The Plantation House Restaurant is located at 2000 Plantation Club Dr in Kapalua. Reservations suggested by calling 808.669.6299
Located in Hana overlooking Hamoa Beach, the Travaasa Hana prizes its deep insight on Hawaiian culture. Case in point: Guests are invited to explore local traditions like hula though classes taught on-site by staff members that have been with the hotel for generations. There’s also the fact that the hotel doesn’t just have a whirlpool, but a lava rock whirlpool.
We enjoyed lunch at the Paniolo Lounge which is open all day. The views are spectacular from every seat with doors that open to make you feel you are seated outdoors. They serve great gourmet, free range burgers, a fresh catch sandwich and a wonderfully messy cheese steak sandwich. Our favorite however, was the pupus (appetizer). We ordered a House guacamole that was so good we had them bring a second order. It is made with local avocado and is chunky and tasty but what sets it apart are the red sweet potato chips. This is a great place for lunch when you are exploring the road to Hana. To get there take the Road to Hana and once you enter Hana you cannot miss this iconic resort. Reservations can be made by calling 855.868.7282.
Adventure abounds on Maui and one is never lacking for things to do. For an awe-inspiring experience, drive to the highest point on Maui, the 10,000 foot volcano Haleakala, just before dawn, and watch the sunrise. Or take an entire day to drive along the Hana Highway, a barely-two lane road with the tropical jungle on one side and the churning ocean on the other. Get close to marine life at the Maui Aquarium.
But our top choice for activities are:
Maui is the place to whale watch to see humpback whales in their natural breeding area. Every year from mid-December through early-May, the humpback whales make their home in the waters surrounding Maui. The whales migrate close to 3,500 miles (5635 km) from their Alaskan summer feeding waters, to the warm waters of Hawaii where they mate and have their calves.
Experience the thrill of Maui whale- watching on a two-hour whale-watching cruise. This educational and informative adventure is great fun for the entire family and offers spectacular sightseeing and photo opportunities. Our favorite is the Ultimate Whale Watch. It allows you to view the whales in a 30’ inflatable rigid hulled raft that holds only 18 passengers. We were able to get up close to the whales and experience them on their level. Our guides were very well informed and taught us while we gazed, open-mouth at the spectacular sight of whales breeching. They were able to answer any question posed to them.
Departing from Lahaina, this Maui whale- watching cruise promises to be an experience you’ll always remember.
There a several Zipline tours in Maui. Our favorite was Northshore Zipline. Trained guides lead you high through the trees along a network of multiple zip lines and Indiana Jones style bridges, offering a bird’s eye view of the Pacific Ocean. This is a fast, fun and awesome Maui adventure for the entire family. Zip from tree to tree—this tour is designed to thrill the first time zipper as well as the most experienced adventure enthusiast as you reach heights of 70’ and speeds up to 40 miles per hour, with ziplines 900’ long. The tour includes two guides and they are very friendly, informed and encouraging.
Northshore Zipline is 25 minutes from the Kahului airport in Haiku. Make a reservation by calling 808.269. 0671.