Leah Travels: Five Favorite Maui Indulgences

Leah Travels heads to Hawaii
Visiting Maui can seem like an indulgence in itself.

The trip to Maui alone is an indulgence with its dream-like beaches, countless waterfalls, lush mountain landscapes, and picturesque small towns. Over two million visitors per year can testify to the beauty of the Magic Isle. But once on the island, what are the best ways for tourists to treat themselves? Here are my favorite Maui indulgences.

1. Exercise your credit cards at the Shops of Wailea.

Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a big shopper when traveling. Unless it’s an awesome market or something unusual, I normally pass. But when I saw the shops of Wailea just a stone’s throw from my hotel, the Wailea Beach Marriott, I knew I had to take a look.

What I discovered is that with over 70 stores, galleries, and restaurants, the Shops of Wailea is the premier shopping destination on Maui. Oh-la-la! Luxury designers such as Bottega Veneta, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton are standouts, as are perennial favorites, Baron & Leeds and Tiffany & Co, for jewelry. For something unique, check out everything from jeweled flip-flops to wedding gowns, at Enchantress Boutique. Finding a swimsuit is a breeze at places like Maui WaterWear or Canyon Beachwear. In the market for art? The Shops have galleries such as Eclectic Image Gallery and The Art of Peter Max Gallery.  Basically, if you need it then it can probably be found at the Shops of Wailea.

And in addition to an arm full of bags, you might just have a Steven Tyler sighting. I hear he’s a regular at there.

2. Get your hands sticky with Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice in Lahaina.

I’m not a huge fan of standing in line (Hello, Doughnut Vault) and I almost didn’t when I saw one about 15 deep at Ululani’s. But thanks to a Twitter tip, I sucked it up and stood my ground. It wasn’t ten minutes before I was ordering my very first Hawaiian shave ice.

The first thing to keep in mind when visiting Ululani’s is that the small is really large and the large is really giant. Had I spotted the micro size in time I would have ordered it. C’est la vie, y’all. At $4.25 for a small and $5.25 for a large, it’s still a bargain at twice the price.  Step up to the counter and choose your size. Up to three flavors are included with add-ons such as ice cream, sweet cream, coconut, and azuki beans (!) costing extra. Choose from some of the suggested combinations or go with your own.

I picked pineapple, coconut, and lychee. It was pretty darn tasty. Not only was this sweet treat refreshing, but it gave me sticky fingers and turned my tongue a neon shade of yellow. Unnatural colors blended with ice and pure cane sugar… What’s not to like about that? Nothing, I tell you.

3. Zone out with a massage at the Four Seasons Maui at Wailea.

Simply walking into the changing room of the Four Seasons Maui at Wailea Spa will do wonders for those looking to relax. The dim lighting, deafening silence, and soothing surroundings prepare guests for the ultimate in pampering. The plush robe and squishy sandals continue to set the tone. Make sure to get a cup of the warm ginger drink available. It’s divine. Nibble on dried tropical fruit in the waiting room until your name is called. Whether having a skin treatment or a massage, guests are sure to feel revitalized and restored.

For me, after flying over 10,000 miles in less than two weeks, a massage was as essential as air. The spa’s signature Lomi Mohala massage combined the magical hands of Jennifer and an exclusive herbal oil blend. My back, once shaped like a question mark from too many cramped airline seats, was better than normal after the 50-minute treatment. Typical of Four Seasons, the experience, service, and facilities were worth their weight in gold.

4. Sip on a Nick's Sunset at Nick's Fish Market in the Fairmont Kea Lani.

There’s a plethora of brightly-colored drinks filled with vodka, rum, and various flavors of fruit juice found throughout Maui. Pick your poison: Mai tai, blue Hawaiian, piña colada, or lava flow. I sampled my fare share of these drinks on Maui, but none held a candle to Nick’s Sunset at Nick’s Fish Market. A version of the lava flow, Nick’s Sunset is made with Meyer’s Platinum Rum, DeKuyper Peachtree Schnapps, and juices blended with a sweet mango puree.

I promise that this calorie bomb is worth the extra exercise. It’s like dessert in a glass and gives a little buzz as an added bonus. Drink one (or three) on the patio during sunset for an awesome Maui evening.

5. Dive into Molokai Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Pulehu in the Westin Ka'anapali.

I made gnocchi once. What a disaster! It was an inordinate amount of work for pitiful results. I was so traumatized by the incident that I haven’t been able to even order gnocchi since. Then I walked into Pulehu and met executive sous chef, Wesley Holder. One of his specialties is gnocchi made from purple sweet potatoes grown on Molokai.

Purple sweet potatoes? That’s what I thought, too. Created by L & R Farms in 1978, these special spuds are only grown on Molokai and it’s rich volcanic soil.

I couldn’t resist the novelty of ordering this dish, and I’m so happy I did. Despite my recent aversion to gnocchi, I was pleasantly pleased by Pulehu’s purple dish. Tossed with sautéed Kula onion and bacon and garnished with pine nuts, currants, and micro basil, the Molokai sweet potato gnocchi was everything I hoped it would be. That’s good news for my taste buds and bad news for my waistline.

Of course, a Maui sunset could be one of the best indulgences and it doesn’t cost a thing. They do say that the best things in life are free.

Indeed.

I was a guest of the Maui Tourism Board. In no way was I prompted to write a positive review based on their righteous rainbows, spectacular seafood, or brilliant blue water. As always, opinions are my own.

This post originally appeared on Leah Travels.

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