Maui, road to Hana

Maui, The Valley Isle – rainbows, surfing goats and mosquito bites

Going to Maui with Getaway Girl Bekah Wright

Come to ParadiseMaui’s own special magic, or “aloha beckons.” Heed its call and you’ll soon discover just how unique this island is with its natural wonders and diverse terrain. To truly experience all Maui has to offer, I spent time on various parts of this island dubbed “The Valley Isle.”

West Maui

First stop, Kapalua and the Ritz-Carlton. Situated on a 23,000-acre pineapple plantation, the resort is on a bluff overlooking an expanse of sacred land that leads to D.T. Fleming Beach and Honokahua Bay. Though the plantation-style hotel has 548 rooms and suites, the resort feels crowd-free. I plunked down at the three-tiered swimming pool that lures with ocean views. Next, I succumbed to pure relaxation at the Boutique Spa with the “Hawaiian Healing Experience,” a massage coupled with aromatherapy from flowers found in Hawaii.

Not into kicking back? Golf lovers can take lessons at the Kapalua Golf Academy, then get in some practice at the nine-hole putting green before perfecting their swing on one of three 18-hole golf courses, including the Plantation Course where the Mercedes Championships are held each year. For those who still have energy to burn, The Ritz-Carlton accommodates with snorkeling (check out Honolua Bay), SCUBA, surfing, boogie boarding, sailing, tennis, basketball, bocce ball, croquet, shuffleboard, cycling, jogging and walking trails. The resort’s concierge can also arrange a whale watching expedition, helicopter tour of the island or make reservations for an authentic luau.

There are six dining venues on the property – The Banyan Tree, The Terrace, The Beach House Bar & Grill, Kai, The Lobby Lounge and The Pool Bar & Café. For fine dining, make reservations at The Banyan Tree, where tiki lights cast golden shadows and the Asian-influenced American eclectic dishes are sublime. I was lucky enough to hit on a night when Ranga Pae, a world-fusion duo who play Pacific Island instruments, performed beautiful, melodic tunes that I’m pretty sure were techno hits back in the 80’s.

LahinaWhile on the island’s western shore, I visited the historic whaling town of Lahaina with its charming shop-lined Front Street to check out the historic banyan tree that spreads over two acres. Allot time on your itinerary to see ‘Ulalena, a musical performance from the creators of Cirque du Soleil that tells the mythical story of Maui’s creation, at the Maui Theatre.

When leaving this side of the island, drive through Kahakuloa and on to Wailuku Town for visiting the ‘Iao Valley State Park, Kapaniwai Park and Bailey House Museum. From here, continue to…

South Maui & Upcountry

To get an education about the creatures you’ll be snorkeling with during your stay, spend time at the Maui Ocean Center, the nation’s largest tropical reef aquarium. From here, grab your snorkel equipment (Snorkel Bob’s will equip you) and take in some of Maui’s best beaches. Check out Mai Poina ‘Oe La’u State Beach, Maui’s second most popular windsurfing beach. Don’t miss Makena’s Red Sand Beach and Big Beach, a white sand beach. Snorkelers will want to visit Malu’aka Beach or take a snorkeling trip to neighboring Molokini Crater.

Grand Wailea MauiIf you’ve fallen in love with the beaches and want to savor sand and surf time, stay at the Grand Wailea Resort & Hotel. Not only will you have beachfront accommodations on Wailea Beach (perfect for snorkeling with sea turtles;) the resort has swimming pools ranked amongst the Top 10 in the world as well as golf and tennis. Plan time to visit The Spa Grande and its Terme Hydrotherapy circuit with Roman tubs, cold plunge pools, a eucalyptus steam room, redwood sauna, Japanese Furo Bath, five aromatic baths and cascading showers that allow guests to enjoy water’s recuperative and healing elements. Later, settle in for dinner at one of the hotel’s six restaurants, then trip the light fantastic at the Tsunami nightclub or one of the resort’s six lounges.

To see a completely different side of Maui I headed to Upcountry. My first adventure – a flat tire. A couple of hours on the side of the road went by in a flash as I breathed in the sweet Hawaiian air and stared at the brilliant blue sky. Back on the road, I reached my destination — the homey Hale Ho’okipa Inn Bed & Breakfast in Makawao. In this casual 1924 Craftsman style home, the door is always open and the resident dog, Honey Bear greets with a tail thumping on the front porch. If the plethora of books about Maui in the parlor whets your appetite for more information, owner Cherie Attix will dole out further directions and sightseeing suggestions over breakfast.

Later, I strolled through the quaint town of Makawao, home to the Makawao Rodeo Grounds, to check out fine shops, art galleries and the Hui Visual Arts Center. I stopped in the local feed store to procure a dog biscuit for Honey Bear and soon had a trail of town dogs following in my wake. This called for a return trip to the store to give my newfound throng treats. Though they were closed when I was there, don’t miss taste-testing treats favored by locals with stops at Komoda’s Bakery for cream puffs and doughnuts on a stick, or Kitadas for saimin and burgers. My dinner picks — Casanova’s for Italian cuisine or upscale American cuisine at the Hali’imaile General Store a mile or so out of town.

Other not to miss food-related activities — visiting the Surfing Goat Dairy to sample cheese to die for, the Ali’I Kula Lavender Farm for a tour and tea that include mouthwatering lemon/lavender scones, the ranch store at Ulupalakua Ranch for kicking back on the porch of the ranch store with a burger made from local beef and the Tedeschi Winery tasting room to sample pineapple wines.

Topping your day trip list should be Haleakala National Park to see the larger of Maui’s two dormant volcanoes known as the House of the Sun. Night owls can arrive at 2:00 a.m. to view sunrise at the summit, then cycle down the 10,023-foot summit through tours offered by companies such as Maui Downhill Bicycle Safaris. The company offers several different cycling tours throughout the day, during which bikers make their way along the 38-mile descent with time slated for taking in views and learning more about the park at the House of the Sun and Park Headquarters Visitors Centers. Visitors can also hike the park’s 30,183 acres to marvel over areas such as a cinder desert or cloud forest. True adventurers can spend the night, camping at Hosmer Grove or in the crater under a star-studded sky.

I decided to drive to the top for sunset. The curves hugging the sheer mountainside made me nervous as hell. The resident cows gave me looks that said I was a wuss. Upon reaching the summit, I was above the clouds, looking down into a crater large enough to hold Manhattan. As the sun set, I thought about those treacherous curves (I’m told there’s never been an accident) and hot-tailed it out of there. The drive back down was more fun as I counted up the number of rainbows I passed. Attix reports that it’s not unusual to catch sight of moonbeams as well.

North Shore & Hana

Maui, road to HanaPeople advised I stock up on mosquito repellant before heading to Hana. As I hadn’t received one single bite while in other areas of Maui, I promptly forgot this directive. Don’t. I was eaten alive in the lushly tropical Hana. Of course, it was all worth it to be in this dazzling Mecca.

Hana is magnificent and getting there is half the fun. Start your trip on Maui’s north shore with a stop in Pa’ia, an historic sugar plantation town. While checking out the shops, make a pit stop at the legendary Mana Foods, a healthy grocery store where you can stock up on provisions and the makings of a picnic before heading to Hana. On your way out of town, visit Ho’okipa Beach Park, where you’ll see windsurfing and surfing at its finest.

From here, hit Route 360, better known as the Road to Hana. The 37-mile drive takes two and a half hours to accomplish, due to its numerous twists, turns and one-lane bridges. Along the way, park your car on the side of the road and take in the area’s highly varied terrain at stops such as Twin Falls, Kailua and the bamboo forest at Waikamoi Ridge. Tour the 26-acre Garden of Eden, a private arboretum and botanical garden where you’ll see Keopuka Rock featured in “Jurassic Park.” Farther down the road is the Keanae Arboretum.

I was surprised when I first arrived in Hana. The celebrated town has a population of 2,000 and few of the usual trappings found in most tourist hot spots. What I did find – two general stores (including The Hasegawa General Store,) an art gallery, the Hana Ranch Restaurant and a post office open for an hour and a half a day. I grabbed some grub in Hana Bay at a burger shack called Tutu’s. Don’t leave without indulging in a cone of Roselani Tropical Ice Cream. While there, check out a spot just around the pier that’s perfect for snorkeling.

I spent my first night in Hana atop Ka’uiki Hill at the Luana Spa Retreat. My accommodations – a yurt with fantastic views of Hana Bay. The yurt is more than a mere tent, coming equipped with electricity, Internet access and a kitchen. A grill is also available for guest use. Steps away is a bathroom facility. Just down the hill is an outdoor shower that feels decadent. Indeed, Luana Spa Retreat gives guests the sense they’re staying on their own private estate. Coma inducing was the massage I received from co-owner Nancy Plenty in the outdoor hale overlooking Hana Bay. Plenty, who partnered with Barry Chang to bring the Luana Spa Retreat to fruition, has worked as a spa therapist for years, including an ongoing stint at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. Go for a Lomi Luana treatment that pairs massage with hot stones and signature essential oils.

Next, take in some of Hana’s attractions with a visit to Old Hawaii via the Hana Cultural Center, then check out the largest heiau (temple of worship) in all of Polynesia at the Kahanu Garden. Explore the other side of Haleakala National Park at Kipahulu, where you’ll locate the O’heo Gulch, home of the Seven Sacred Pools. Another adventure – locating the Blue Pool. Later, hike to Fagan’s Cross that stands above Hana on a hillside. Then relax and catch some rays on the black sand beach at Wainapanapa State Park.

A visit to Hana would not be complete without staying at the Hotel Hana-Maui. In this 1946 institution I found luxe accommodations with no phone, no TV, no Internet and no clocks. Without these distractions, I soon find myself adapting to Hana’s laidback lifestyle. Guests have their choice of the bungalow-style Bay Cottages or the Sea Ranch Cottages. For a slice of heaven, stay in the plantation-style Sea Ranch Cottages at Travaasa Hana. You’ll want to spend the rest of your trip in the hot tub on the lanai that overlooks the ocean. If you feel you’re overdosing on relaxation, however, the hotel offers horseback riding, snorkeling, swimming, tennis, ukulele lessons, croquet, 3-hole pitch and putt course, bicycling, hiking, lei making, hula lessons, spa treatments at the Honua Spa (try the Ali’i Hot Stone Massage,) private Jeep tours and daily yoga classes.

Don’t miss the Thursday night cocktail party where guests meet General Manager Doug Chang and other staff members at the Hotel Hana-Maui’s historic Plantation House. Later, dine at Hotel Hana-Maui’s Ka’uiki restaurant for spectacular gourmet fare prepared by Chef David Patterson. Close out the evening with a performance of live Hawaiian music at the Paniolo Lounge before strolling hand in hand back to your cottage.

As my trip drew to an end, I grew nostalgic, yearning for more time in Maui. Nevertheless, I bid the island aloha, knowing I would always be welcome on this beautiful paradise, and – I would return.


Maui’s Visitors Bureau –
Hawaii’s Official Tourism Site –
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua – or call 808/669-6200 or 800/262-8440.
The Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa –
Hale Ho’okipa Inn Bed & Breakfast –
Haleakala National Park – or call 808 572-4400.
Maui Downhill – or call 808/871-2155 or toll free 800/535-BIKE.
Luana Spa Retreat – or call 808/248-8855.
Hotel Hana Maui – or call 808/248-8211, or toll free at 800/321-4262.


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