Our first hotel on Maui was the Hotel Wailea in the recently developed town of Wailea. Redundant statements aside, Wailea is home to the largest resorts on the island. The Hotel Wailea being the notable exception. It sits on a hill high above the ocean and the other hotels, providing shuttle service to the water and just enough tiki torches to provide atmosphere without competing with the big resorts.
Wailea was our home base for sea kayaking and shopping for tiki in Lahaina. The shopping was more fruitful than the kayaking in that we came home with an authentic koa wood tiki, but kayaked forever only to see whales that we could have seen from shore. We also took a drive to Haleakala National Park to view the extinct volcano from above the cloud line. Truly spectacular.
It’s worth noting that Maui has much better beaches than on Hawaii. The Big Island suffers from all-to-recent volcanic activity and does not benefit from Maui’s life experience in being pummeled by the waves long enough to soften its sand into a soft bed. We took advantage of Hotel Wailea’s allotment of chairs and umbrellas near the big resorts, but later opted for roughing it on towels to enjoy the scenic state park beaches.
It was at Makena State Park that we were asked by a group of locals to take their picture in a moment of reverse tourism. They were enjoying a beach picnic held monthly to celebrate their common roots: They were transplants from Massachusetts.
We also stayed at the Inn at Mama’s Fish House, just outside the hippie-centric town of Paia. The Inn provides very nice bungalows next to the ocean and right next door to one of the best restaurants on the island. Paia is the last point of civilization before starting down the Road to Hana, an all day trip driving through rainforest, past waterfalls, and over one lane bridges. The Road to Hana is also a plentiful source for banana bread (with roadside signs every couple of miles) and medicinal marijuana.
Maui had some fantastic places to eat including Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the only restaurant or tiki bar on the island that had an authentic Polynesian feel – which is to say that it met our tourist expectations for a restaurant in Hawaii. Plus, you have to love the name.