Hawaii may cater to family-centric, weeklong holidays spent relaxing by a resort’s many pools after the requisite helicopter tour, but Hawaii doesn't have to equal an all-inclusive stay spent exploring the hotel grounds, and it doesn’t have to mean taking more than one day off from work. Anyone sick of wintry mixes and wind chills can take advantage of Maui’s cool scene and year-round sunshine for a long weekend — just enough to get us all through the rest of winter. Whether it’s three lazy and leisurely days sunbathing, or a weekend of snorkeling, whale watching, and hiking Haleakala, Maui offers something for everyone and for every kind of getaway, even one that goes off the beaten path a little.
Maui is filled with high-end resorts and familiar food chains, of course, but the secret is to find where the locals eat (generally locally owned, family-operated joints). Luckily, the trial and error’s been done, and here are the choicest eats, drinks, and activities around town:
One of the coolest things to do on Maui that many tourists skip (in the interest of sleeping in) is making it up to the Haleakala volcano very early in the morning to watch the sunrise. Once you’ve stared out at the spectacular views, drive back down toward Keokea for organic local coffee and freshly baked pastries at Grandma’s Coffee. Days spent sleeping in can get their start at Komoda Bakery in the little town of Makawao. It’s family-owned and it’s renowned for fresh baked goods like cream puffs, doughnuts, and pies.
A pre-lunch adrenaline rush can be found on the zip lines at Piiholo Ranch, while the region’s native animals, some of which are endangered, can be seen at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, which hosts one of Hawaii’s largest native insects (the Blackburn Sphinx Moth), marine turtles, and black-crowned night herons. Horseback riding couldn’t feel farther from the day-to-day reality of public transportation and TPS reports, and Maui Stables will take riders of all levels on tours past waterfalls and lush greenery.
But of course, no trip to Hawaii would be complete without spending ample time lying on a beach, and Maui has plenty of options — try the quiet and hidden Keawakapu in Wailea, Big Beach in Makena, and Ka'anapali Beach. If sunbathing gets old quick, take an adventurous and historical tour of the “lava tubes” at Ka'elaku Caves. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/peyri)
Find lunch on the cheap at Sam Sato’s in Wailuku where the dry mein, flaky manju with lima beans, and yakitori are worth lunch-hour waits, even for locals. Fresh and delicious tacos are best from Ohana Tacos, where locals and in-the-know visitors rave about carne asada, freshly caught fish, and carnitas tacos regularly. And lunch with a view of pineapple fields in Upcountry Maui is best at Hali’imaile General Store, where their “infamous” baby back ribs compete with fish curry, Hawaiian-style Po’ Boys, and crab pizza for attention.
The drink most commonly associated with Hawaii is most certainly not wine, but a visit to the Tedeschi Vineyards in Maui proves otherwise, with a rosé, red, and “gold” (a chardonnay blend) wine on offer. They also make three sparkling pineapple wines worth a taste.
Dinners in Maui range from hotel-arranged luaus and fine dining restaurants in tourist areas to casual pizzerias and down-to-earth Japanese joints. The great thing is that delicious food can be found at all of the above. Try high-end regional cuisine at Merriman’s (pictured) on Maui, go all out with a fantastic ocean-front meal at the Four Season’s Duo, or find mouthwatering and authentic noodles at the hidden gem, Star Noodle. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Rick Derevan)