Uncover these hidden gems on your next visit to the “Magic Isle” of Maui.
Story and photos by Susan E. Frost
What could possibly be hidden about Maui, one of the world’s best-known vacation destinations? Certainly, many tourists come here for the island’s beaches, authentic cultural attractions and whale-watching opportunities (see sidebar). However, we recently spent two weeks on Hawaii’s “Magic Isle” and managed to uncover a surprising number of marvelous spots you may never have experienced.
Above: The black rock cliff diving ceremony at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa in Ka’anapali honors Maui’s last chief.
Below: The Buddha statue at Lahaina Jodo Mission is one of the largest outside of Asia and was installed in 1968 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Japanese immigrants in Hawaii.
Blue skies, tropical breezes and seductive plumeria fragrance greeted us at Kahului airport, a great start to our vacation. After a 45-minute drive of Maui, our fifth-floor condo at Lahaina Roads (1403 Front St.) greeted us with a spectacular ocean panorama dotted with anchored sailboats and the island of Lana‘i in the distance. Each morning, we awoke to gently pounding surf and the chatter of Minah birds and roosters crowing. After a leisurely swim in the pool, we’d peek over the seawall to watch black crabs skitter along the black lava rocks. One day, we spotted giant green sea turtles.
Very close to our condo, we discovered Maui Mokka at Maui Grown Coffee (277 Lahainaluna Road). To see where this champagne of coffee is grown, we later visited their 300-acre coffee plantation (www.mauigrown coffee.com). Located just four miles from the shore, above Ka‘anapali resort, the plantation had rows of coffee plants reaching almost to the ocean.
While driving through Lahaina, we kept noticing bronze plaques depicting various historical sites, more than 50 in all. Taking the self-guided tour, we visited Hale Pa‘ahao (“stuck-in-irons house”), an 1850s-era jail for rowdy sailors. It was especially fun to read a sailor’s story of his incarceration. We also were impressed by the Lahaina Jodo Mission (12 Ala Moana St.), which has a replica of an authentic Japanese Buddhist temple and towering pagoda. It also has the largest statue of Buddha (12 feet tall) outside Japan.
Each Friday from 7 to 10 p.m., Lahaina’s art walk gives visitors a chance to explore more than 40 wonderful art galleries, meeting the artists while sipping wine or champagne. Take your time. Be open to the unexpected treasures. One of our favorites was the gallery of Thomas Barbey at 710 Front St. We found his surreal photographic montages were simply incredible.
We began our art walk early and stopped at Lahaina Fish Company (831 Front St.) for a late dinner of the best fish and chips on the island–fresh and crisp. The entrée and salad were ours for less than $15. Nice atmosphere, great service.
Just north of Lahaina in Kahalui, the Saturday Swap Meet (www.mauiexposition.com) at Maui Community College (310 Kaahumanu Ave.) is a must for the Maui first-timer, but with more than 200 vendors showcasing local produce, jewelry, crafts and flowers at reasonable prices, frequent visitors also will find something new. It opens at 7 a.m. but get there early, before it gets too hot and the best items are gone.
Explore the upcountry
Allow plenty of time to visit Maui’s upcountry on the slopes of Mount Haleakala.
Approximately a 45-minute drive from Lahaina, Makawao is south of Kahului off state Route 37. Home to paniolos (cowboys) and sprawling cattle ranches where Maui beef is grown, Makawao also has a thriving art community. The town’s main street, Baldwin Avenue, is lined with clothing boutiques and art galleries, but one of the biggest draws is Kimoda Bakery (3674 Baldwin Ave.), a favorite of locals for its incredible pastries.
Arrive early before the best treats are gone. We selected malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts), a square and totally mouth-watering confection without a hole. You can buy them plain and rolled in sugar or with the filling of the day (on our visit, it was guava). We also loved the twisted malasadas on sticks. Buy enough goodies to take with you.
Continuing south on Route 37 took us uphill to All’i Kula Lavender Farm (1100 Waipoli Road, www.aklmaui.com) near Kula. The turnoff just past Rice Park then left on Kekaulike Road is easy to miss. The farm's 4,000-foot elevation provides phenomenal views of central Maui and its western mountains. Add the dizzyingly wonderful aromas of lavender, eucalyptus and jacaranda and you're in for quite a treat. With more than 10 acres and 45 varieties of lavender, it's the only one of its kind in Maui.
Just five miles south of the lavender farm, we found Maui’s only winery, Tedeschi Vineyards (www.mauiwine.com). The tasting room is located in a cottage originally built for a visit by Hawaii's King Kalakaua in 1874. We toured the grounds and sampled their sparkling and still fruit wines and especially loved Hula O Maui, its pineapple sparkling wine. The winery is just across the street from the very quaint Ulupalakua Ranch store.
The resort area of Ka’anapali, a 10-minute drive from Lahaina, is well known, but visitors sometimes miss a spectacle at one of the large hotels. As the sun begins to set head up to the Lagoon Bar at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa (2605 Ka‘anapali Parkway) to catch the Pu‘u Keka‘a (black rock) cliff diving ceremony. Clad in a malo (loincloth) and flower lei, a warrior lights tiki torches and climbs up the steep rock, from which he plunges 30 feet into the ocean, continuing the diving tradition that the last chief of Maui, Kahekilli, began in the late 1700s.
We had always wanted to see surfers riding the big waves and had heard that Honolua Bay was recently the site of the Triple Crown Surfing championships. Located just beyond Kapalua we weren’t disappointed; the waves were more than 15 feet high and surfers were trying out their latest moves.
A very relaxing way to see some of the beaches from a distance is to take a sunset dinner cruise. We found the Teralani 2, (www.teralani.net), a 65-foot catamaran, the perfect way to end our vacation. The two-hour cruise allowed us to enjoy dinner while viewing the rainbow-crowned West Maui mountains. The yacht boards at Whaler’s Village in Ka‘anapali.
What an amazing, rejuvenating experience. Maui had definitely worked its magic on us. It was easy to see why so many haole (non-Hawaiians) come to visit, and never leave.
Susan E. Frost is a new contributor from Portland, Ore.