Only 75 miles from urban Honolulu on Oahu, Maui is a totally different island -- a collection of mostly small towns, plus natural wonders like Haleakala National Park, that introduce visitors to a slower way of life. It's famous for its extensive beaches, such as Kapalua, tumbling waterfalls, romantic sunsets, and a variety of adventures -- from golf to snorkeling to scuba diving. The island's as lush as an equatorial rainforest in Hana, as hot and dry as Mexico in Lahaina, and as cool and misty as Oregon in Kula.
If you're a hedonist looking for a day of lying on the soft sand and feeling the trade winds caress your body, head to D. T. Fleming Beach Park. Jacques Cousteau types can don a mask, fins, and snorkel to float weightlessly through rainbows of tropical fish at Wailea Beach or the islet of Molokini, one of Hawaii's most popular dive spots. When the big waves are up, surfers and surfer-wannabes make way to Hookipa Beach Park.
Things to Do
For an awe-inspiring experience, drive to the highest point on Maui, the 10,000 foot volcano Haleakala, just before dawn, and watch the sunrise. Or take an entire day to drive along the Hana Highway, a barely-two lane road with the tropical jungle on one side and the churning ocean on the other. Get close to marine life at the Maui Ocean Center, a 5-acre facility housing sharks, reefs, and touch pools.
Eating and Drinking
A trip to Maui is not complete without experiencing Hawaii's culinary specialty, the luau. At the oceanfront Old Lahaina Luau, you're treated to a traditional feast of kalua pig cooked in an imu (an underground pit lined with hot rocks). If you want a more formal dining experience, Maui's star chefs at restaurants like Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar create menus with local ingredients and fresh fish like ahi and Kona lobster. Upcountry, look for low-key ethnic spots that serve manapua, a bready, doughy sphere filled with sweetened pork or sweet beans.
On the outskirts of Hana, visit the shiny black-sand Waianapanapa Beach, or venture to the Seven Sacred Pools of Oheo Gulch. The pools are fern-shrouded, dazzlingly beautiful, and swimmable (mostly). If you're going to Molokai, don't miss the Molokai Mule Rides. Well-trained mules take you from the top of the nearly-perpendicular ridge down a rocky switchback trail to Kalaupapa, a national park that was historically home to those who suffered from leprosy.
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