Getting “Maui’d” goes way beyond vows taken over the surf. Business travelers can incorporate a delicious Hawaiian vacation as a free stopover offered by Hawaiian Airlines to or from destinations in the Pacific and Asia. And although you will no doubt want to stay forever, Maui is a compact island, so if a full vacation is not in the offing, a few days of “Valley Isle” bliss can add up to some eternal Maui memories.
For starters, Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands at 727 square miles, but getting from place to place in Maui can be handled, at most, in about four hours.
“Maui is particularly well-positioned for business travelers who may be trying to fit some vacation time in Maui into a packed schedule,” says Leanne Pletcher, marketing director for Maui Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a small island and getting from one point to another is quite manageable. The proximity of different types of activities as well as a full range of experiences – luxury, family, off the beaten track – means there are plenty of reasons to stay with more reasons to come back.”
Visitors land in Kahului (OGG), which is a good hour’s drive from the resort beaches of Ka’anapali and about a half hour to the posh backwaters of Wailea and Kihei. The island presents an opportunity to use rental car points and even hotel points as pricey rates can turn into true rewards for business travelers.
Ka’anapali Beach is the tourism zone, stretching from Lahaina toward the scenic arm of Kapalua. Lahaina is where to find the nightlife, the fabulous hole-in-the-wall dining opportunities, even those gotta-do-it-at-least-once-in-your-life luau dinner shows. The pristine beach strand is fronted for miles on end by behemoth island resorts bearing familiar brand logos and offerings of iconic postcard pool settings overlooking the rolling surf.
Ka’anapali is the place to be if you want to be central to what’s happening in Maui or near the jumping off points for island exploration. Take it up Highway 30 and find the most popular spots for wedding ceremonies and sunset cocktails. These include Montage Kapalua Bay and a few miles farther, the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua.
A 45-minute drive south along coastal roads will put you in Wailea. This corner of the island is quiet, private and given to elite resorts, such as the Four Seasons Maui, Fairmont Kea Lani and the Grand Wailea Waldorf Astoria. A fun beach walk connects the resorts and vacation complexes with trails that bring ocean access and a way to explore the various spreads as a matter of casual curiosity.
Those who truly want to get away from it all will want to get on Route 360, aka the Road to Hana. It’s easily a four-hour driving commitment along Maui’s eastern coast through 50 slow miles of rainforest gullies, around remote and hidden beaches, one car bridges, and blink-and-miss-it towns to get to the end of the road and its rewards – a stay in one of the eleven cottages at the Travaasa Hana Resort. The resort is a splendid experiential option where guests unplug, hear nothing but the surf and watch the stars at night.
But the Road to Hana is a fun day trip as well, the very definition of travel when the road is the destination.
Maui has an amazing ability to be all things to all people. The island works magic on romance but also satisfies quests for adventure, thrills, immersion in natural beauty, and time to simply simmer in the sun. Which way do you want to go? What experiences do you want to try? No need to sweat it out. Decide on the fly. The island is small enough to accommodate whimsy and big enough to supply the answers for every appetite.
Maui’s 120-mile coastline offers plenty of remote coves to visitors looking for alone time on sand and surf. Ka’anapali’s 1.7 miles of well-trodded resort beachfront is always available for those seeking simplicity, scene and service. For those looking for quiet, privacy and some of the rare beauty Maui provides, traveling a bit off the track will bring adventure and awe.
Maluaka Beach – Along south Maui’s golden stretch, an idyllic setting of sand and surf can be found near the old Makena Beach & Golf Resort. It’s now closed, the crowds have vanished and the sea turtles have taken over.
Secret Beach – Not far from Maluaka a stone’s throw from Wailea’s luxury hotels is easy-to-miss “Secret Beach,” formally known as Paako Cove. Find it hidden between homes and behind a rock wall. Many a wedding happens here as the white sand, palm trees, waves and black lava rock make it a picture-postcard spot. Nearby Makena Cove is a good place to watch for whales and see the meanderings of green sea turtles in the calm waters.
Po’olenalena Beach – Also along the coast, Po’olenalena is one of Wailea’s biggest and most scenic beaches that remains largely uncrowded and unknown by visitors. It runs around a half-mile in length and is protected by kiawe trees (Hawaiian mesquite). The powdery sand and gentle surf is good for boogie boarding and novice surfing. Beyond the lava outcropping at the northern end, the placid waters are great for snorkeling.
Olowalu Beach – Moving north along the ocean-hugging Honoapiilani Highway, across from mile marker 14 just south of busy Ka’anapali and Lahaina beach walks, is a quiet, hidden half-mile of beach sheltered by verdant kiawe trees. The waters here are cool, shallow and protected, and lead to a reef right off shore that teems with tropical fish. It’s nicknamed Turtle Reef as green Hawaiian sea turtles here well outnumber the humans.
Kapalua – Kapalua along Maui’s northeastern corner just beyond the Ka’anapali strand brings a meandering 1.75-mile-long exquisitely beautiful path offering the most stunning ocean views and photo-op beach moments on the island. It runs from Napili Bay to Namalu Bay (known for cliff diving) and connects to the Mahana Ridge Trail. Easy access is through the Montage Kapalua, a 24-acre intimate resort, with 50 bookable residences ranging from one to four bedrooms.
Maui’s natural wonders provide backdrop for adventures by land, sky and sea. The island offers miles of rough and groomed trails through rainforests and redwood forests, to lava fields and windswept ridges to the slopes of Haleakala volcano at 10,023 feet. Haleakala National Park brings more than 30 miles of trails in its own right but most visitors prefer to take the peak the easy way – driving up and biking down. Opportunities abound for ways to take the sleeping volcano from multiday back country hikes to biking and foodie tours.
Maui by air is best accomplished by one of the several helicopter tours operating one- to two-hour journeys. Save time by flying over Haleakala or flying to Hana rather than riding the legendary road. Add a visit to a chocolate farm, a ranch or local specialty food houses through Platinum Tours Maui.
Whale watching and snorkeling can be wondrous enough and are easily managed for those economizing on time. A number of companies provide whale-watching tours during winter (the season typically lasts from mid-December to mid-May), with the possibility of combining those trips with snorkeling and diving excursions. Pacific Whale Foundation offers such tours, many including a marine biologist who rides along and reveals added secrets of the sea. There are also plenty of places on land where you can photograph whales that are mating, calving and training their newborns. La Perouse Bay in South Maui is an ideal vantage point to see whales.
Snorkelers will want to check out the Keawanaku Beach near Le Parouse Bay as well as the crescent-shaped Molokini crater, which is akin to snorkeling in an aquarium. Another recommended spot is Black Rock by the Sheraton at the north end of Ka’anapali Beach.
Southwest Airlines began service to Hawaii March 17 with its inaugural from Oakland to the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu. Flights to Maui started this month with service from Oakland to Kahului Airport. Southwest begins interisland service with flights between Honolulu and Kahului on April 28.
For more options and information contact the Maui Visitors Bureau, (808) 244-3530; gohawaii.com/islands/maui