Oct. 4, 2013 -- The appeal of Maui goes well beyond the world-class beaches. Although those beaches – along with unblemished visuals that span from towering mountains to tropical expanses – are landmarks in their own right: accessible and breathtaking. But Maui is also where culture thrives, where the culinary scene is regionally driven and where activities don't discriminate, wowing kids and their grandparents alike. Let's face it: a lot of us love playing tourist on Maui and we come here to seek out the luau, the mai tai and the laid-back attitude that always makes us consider moving here. But this magical island also has something fresh to offer every time. Here are some ideas to help create a brand new aloha moment.
Skip the Helicopter Ride, Ride the LineThose popular chopper tours offer spectacular bird's-eye views of Maui. But the vistas as you soar down thousands of feet of zip line are tough to beat, too. Kapalua Adventures features one of the country's largest zip line courses – with eight spans and two lines that are more than 20,00 feet long – and their parallel system allows two of you to zip side-by-side. You'll find the state's longest suspension bridge here, too, so let the adrenaline flow!
Eat, Then Visit the FarmUpcountry Maui, located on the slopes of Haleakala Volcano, is fertile ground that produces much of the produce that ends up on the tables of the island's ritziest restaurants and resorts. Several gardens and farms are open to the public here, like Alii Kula, which grows more than 25,000 lavender plants. At the sustainable Oo Farm, which is owned by Chef James McDonald of Pacific'O fame, dozens of vegetables, fruits and herbs thrive; $50 gets you an interactive tour followed by a gourmet lunch. And one of the tours at Surfing Goat Dairy, which produces 25 cheeses, even lets you milk the resident goats.
Skip the Pool Party, MeditateMany Maui visitors will tell you: being here can be a spiritual experience. The new Lumeria Maui takes that concept to heart, offering what it touts as "a sanctuary for authentic transformational travel." This deluxe hotel is charming – just 24 rooms set amidst six acres of tropical, edible gardens – and it makes meditation and yoga the crux of any stay. Guests are treated to outdoor and indoor classes daily, and the organic, farm-to-table dining is remarkably good. Ohm to yum. The resort is 20 minutes from Kahului Airport, just outside Paia on Maui's North Shore, which puts you close to gorgeous beaches, famed surf spots and some of the island's best trails.
Drive to Hana, StayHana, on Maui's eastern coast, is a spectacular natural wonder. No wonder so many of us are willing to make the 50-mile drive from Kahului there; the visuals along the way, like the rainforests and the plunge pools, are breathtaking. But the drive is a commitment, too, with 600-plus curves and dozens of narrow bridges. So why are we always in a hurry to drive back the same day? Next time, stay. The posh Travaasa Maui features plantation-style residences sprinkled along the coastline while the cabins at Wai'anapanapa State Park offer an affordable alternative. And don't stop at Hana; head another 10 miles south to discover the soaring Waimoku Falls and the Pools of Oheo, any water lover's dream.
Skip Ka'anapali, Visit WaileaAs a Southern California native, my initial forays to Maui always landed me in Ka'anapali, on Maui's northwestern shores. Here, you'll find Maui tourism at its best, thanks to quintessential island resorts and activities. But Wailea, a quaint village setting with a country club vibe on Maui's southwestern coast, eventually became one of my favorite discoveries. You'll find some of the state's best properties here, from the Fairmont Kea Lani to the Four Seasons Maui to the newly-opened Andaz Maui; the Japanese-inspired Hotel Wailea, set uphill, is a wonderful cost-friendly alternative. There's great shopping, world-class golf on three lush courses and lots of celeb-spotting opportunities. But there are plenty of small wonders to discover here, too, from tucked-away snorkeling spots to thriving family-run restaurants. And the quaintness of it all – the core of the Wailea experience is connected by a 1.5-mile seaside path lined with natural fauna – is remarkable.
Skip the Poi, Eat the PastaIn Wailea, the local cuisine is awe-inspiring. But would you believe that some of the neatest spots to grab a bite here have an Italian flair? At the Fairmont Kea Lani, Caffé Ciao is a classic trattoria, where breads and desserts are baked onsite, where gelato is scooped all day and where you can order an Italian custom picnic basket for your afternoon at the beach. Capische, at Hotel Wailea, is Italian fine dining at its best, offering an al fresco ocean view setting, a martini bar and ocean-sourced fare – from ahi to ono –treated with classic Mediterranean style. For a more casual Italian meal, check out family-friendly Manoli's Pizza Company, where the homemade meatballs, sauces and breads are always molto benne.
Skip the Restaurant, Get DeliveryIt's tough to leave the beach to go stock up on groceries, right? Then get it delivered. Maui Grocery Service lets you order online from stores like Safeway, Whole Foods and Costco. Deliveries to the main resort areas are made within 24 hours – by 6 p.m. if you order by 8 a.m. – and the $39 fee even covers unpacking and putting your groceries away in your hotel room or condo. Aloha Grocery touts itself as a delivery concierge and delivers pre-set, custom and themed grocery packages to resorts and vacation rentals in Kihei, Wailea and Makena.
Skip the Mai Tai, Sip the WineTedeschi Vineyards is Maui's only commercial winery, dating back to the 1970s and located on the slopes of Haleakala. Several wines are made from pineapple, naturally, and the red blends and sparklers sell well; their Maui Brut was poured during President Reagan's inauguration in 1981. To be fair, this is not where you come to taste the best wine in the country; it is, however, a destination that wows with its natural beauty and a rare spot to try wines grown on volcanic soils.
Skip Maui, Visit Moloka'iMaui County is home to three islands, actually: Maui, Lana'i and Moloka'i. Moloka'i, in particular, though, may be old Hawaii at its purest: unspoiled, breathtaking and uber-relaxed. From Maui, a 90-minute ferry ride out of Lahaina or a 20-minute flight will get you here, even if it's for a day visit. But you'll want to stay longer. You come to Molokai to unplug, slow down and reconnect; beaches here are so remote, odds are that you'll have the stretch of sand you stumble upon all to yourself. You'll find just one hotel here, a pretty seaside property, as well as a bevy of private rentals. Father Damien, the Roman Catholic priest who cared for lepers who'd been quarantined on Molokai, bestows a presence to this day, through his tiny churches that still dot the island and through his still-existent Kalaupapa settlement, which you can visit by taking a mule ride down a 1,600-foot cliff. Sip and shop at the Coffees of Hawaii plantation. And visit Kalele Bookstore & Divine Expressions for tomes and artifacts that touch on the island's purported spiritual properties.
Gabe Saglie is senior editor for Travelzoo, which features a bevy of Maui and Hawaii hotel specials, as well as local deals at http://www.travelzoo.com/local-deals/hawaii/deals?tz_cs=HPV0.