Maui is the only Hawaiian island to be named after a demigod, and that comes as to no surprise to fans, as this tropical escape is heavenly. As the Hawaiians say, "Maui no ka oi," or "Maui is the best." Visitors seeking a blend of Hawaiian hospitality and culture in an upscale environment will revel in the many fine points of Wailea. The beach is laid out in golden crescents bordering warm, gentle waters perfect for swimming.
Many resorts in this area are so self-contained in fact that they operate like mini-villages, with a variety of activities, restaurants and shops available just a short walk from your room. Though it is easy to be content simply reclining on the beach all day, nature lovers and thrill seekers can explore the nearby national parks and hike to out-of-the-way waterfalls for the perfect romantic picnic. Even seasoned shoppers will be delighted with the nearby Shops at Wailea.
It's not just humans that find Maui hard to resist - each year pods of Pacific humpback whales travel from Alaska to sun themselves in the warm waters off the coast of Maui. Local companies offer tours, on traditional whale-watching cruises as well as sea kayaks, for those who want to get more close and personal with the colossal sea creatures.
While Wailea may seem, at some turns, like a millionaire's paradise not open to the public, all the beaches are accessible to everyone and offer public restrooms and showers, as well as parking. Beach lovers who would prefer to stay in a more secluded or less developed part of Maui can still enjoy the golden beaches of Wailea and a sunset mai tai at one of its many restaurants, without the hefty price tag.
Most Luxurious Hotel
The Grand Wailea
Web site: www.grandwailea.com
The Grand Wailea offers Hawaiian opulence at its best with something for everyone, from hard-to-please children to the most discerning traveler. The 2,000-foot multilevel canyon river pool has slides galore, waterfalls, a lazy river and the only "water elevator" around, and the more elegant hibiscus pool welcomes weary adults for an undisturbed poolside snooze. The Grande Spa features a variety of spa treatments, including baths and scrubs drawn from local ingredients like Hawaiian macadamia nuts, coconut milk and cream, and pineapple. From the smallest details, like the $50 million worth of art found from the gallery to the gardens, to the collection of gourmet restaurants, the Grand Wailea is a grand utopia.
The Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
Web site: www.fourseasons.com/vacations/maui
Any stay at this Four Seasons is as perfect as true love, and just as exciting for all guests, from newlyweds to married lovebirds. Almost every plush room at the resort offers a partial view of the ocean from the lanai, or private balcony, the perfect setting for a private breakfast or champagne toast at sundown. The hotel also features a "Romance for All Seasons" package. It includes monogrammed bathrobes that are yours to keep, a candlelit dinner for 2, in-spa couples massages, daily buffet breakfast, an air-conditioned convertible car and even more little romantic bonuses. From the first aloha to the last hula dance, the staff at the Four Seasons goes out of their way to provide an enchanting honeymoon or other celebration of love.
Best Family Resort
Wailea Marriott Resort
Web site: www.marriott.com
Kids will be pleased with the five swimming pools, festive luaus and Kid's Activity Club, which entertains children ages 5 to 12. While the kids make new friends and learn about Hawaiian culture, Mom and Dad can enjoy the Mandara Spa and the Wailea Gold Course golf club, or simply relax by the pool. An added bonus - kids and adults alike will want to take a peek through the whale-watching telescope conveniently placed on the coastal walking/running path by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
Food & Drink
Nick's Fishmarket Maui
Web site: www.tristarrestaurants.com/nicks
This island favorite is known not only for its fresh seafood and artful entrees but also for its romantic atmosphere with hushed lighting and outdoor seating that provides an ocean view under vine-covered trellises. The menu includes island specialties like opakapaka (pink snapper) served with parsley potatoes, rock shrimp and a brown butter sauce (market price), as well as non-fish selections, including a Mongolian-style rack of lamb and an 18-ounce Maui Cattle Co. rib-eye steak. A house favorite is the Maui Wowie Salad. A new spin on the classic Greek salad, it features Maui onions, tomato, avocado, shrimp and, of course, salty feta cheese.
Most Romantic Restaurant
Web site: www.grandwailea.com
Don't let the fact that you can't pronounce it stop you from dining at Humuhumunukunukuapua'a; like its unforgettable name, a dinner at this gem is sure to be remembered even after vacation is over. This magical restaurant actually floats on a saltwater lagoon teeming with tropical fish. Lobster lovers can pick out their own spiny crustacean from the lagoon, and landlubbers will be happy to find a nice selection of meat entrees. While the food is perfect, it's the romantic atmosphere that charms diners as the restaurant rocks gently in the water.
Old Lahaina Luau
Web site: www.oldlahainaluau.com
While many of the resorts and hotels at Wailea may offer an evening luau, it's worth the 45-minute drive to Lahaina to experience the authentic cultural experience that is traditionally Hawaiian. This island feast boasts a menu with highlights including kalau roast pork, mahi mahi, teriyaki steak, poke (raw marinated ahi tuna), taro salad and dessert, in addition to tropical drinks, fruit juices and an open bar. The elaborate food is just the beginning - while guests digest, performers demonstrate the traditional hula, explain the history of Hawaii and entertain in this intimate setting.
The Road to Hana
Far from the bustling resorts and ritzy golf courses remains a vestige of rugged Hawaii, with hidden waterfalls, dense tropical rain forest and black-sand beaches. The road to Hana is about 50 miles, but the drive takes close to 3 hours, as this ribbon of road snakes around with 50 one-lane bridges and heart-stopping hairpin curves. Along the way, there are waterfalls for cooling off, bamboo forests to explore and a number of spots ideal for a leisurely picnic lunch or vigorous unguided hike. Like any good road trip, this experience is as much in the journey as it is the final destination, so visitors should set aside a full day for this side trip. For backseat drivers wishing to sit back and enjoy the scenery, local tour outfitters provide one-day bus and minivan trips to Hana that visit all the highlights.
Best Nature Experience
Maui Downhill Super Sunrise Safari Bicycle Tour
Web site: www.mauidownhill.com
You may question your sanity when the wake-up call comes in the dark hours of very early morning, but once you are suited up and on your bicycle your second thoughts should disappear as the sun rises above Haleakala National Park. This bike journey starts at sunrise at the edge of Haleakala volcano's 10,023-foot crater. From there, bikers cruise 38 miles down the mountain back to sea level, through thick clouds, wet rain forests and dry terrain along the way. The tour outfitter provides special waterproof suits and gloves - and you're sure to need them, as the temperatures varies until you're back on flat ground.
Ed Robinson's Diving Adventures
Web site: www.mauiscuba.com
A strong presence in the Maui diving community for more than 20 years, Ed Robinson's offers a variety of excursions sure to appeal to all divers - from first timers to scuba enthusiasts. A tour of Lanai caverns moves through underwater lava formations, while the Backside Wall Dive explores the Molokini Wall, which drops 200 feet under the sea.
Best Day Trip With the Kids
Maui Ocean Center
Web site: www.mauioceancenter.com
The Hawaiian Aquarium focuses on the island's relationship with the sea, offering exhibits that educate guests about the history of Hawaii and her ties to the natural world. Scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts may be drawn to the Living Reef exhibition, which explores the ecosystem of a coral reef and identifies the many life-forms that live in a reef. Computer whiz kids will enjoy the interactive computer displays at the Whale Discovery Center, and little ones can get their hands wet at the Discovery Pool filled with spiny and slippery sea cucumbers, sea stars, mollusks and sea urchins sure to illicit squeals - of terror or delight.