Why the Eastside Is Best
Because you expect an island paradise to look like one: green, remote, pulsing with life. The drive along the Hana Highway—52 miles of narrow bridges and curves that snake through mist-shrouded forest and past plunging waterfalls—will give you that by the kilo. Pull off the road at mile marker 9 for an easy three-quarter-mile tropical quest along the Waikamoi Nature Trail. Farther up the highway is Coconut Glen’s, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of shack that serves coconut ice cream right in the shell. Pi’ilanihale, an ancient Polynesian place of worship, hides in Kahanu Gardens. At mile marker 32, closer to the tiny town of Hana, you’ll find Wai’anapanapa State Park, known for its black-sand beach and sea caves. From there it’s a quick jaunt to Travaasa Hana, a historic hotel dating to the ’40s that was rebranded two years ago and has sprawling, high-ceilinged cottages to rest in and a slew of activities on tap, from ukulele classes to horseback riding. Up the road Charles Lindbergh’s grave shares a bluff with Palapala Ho’omau Church. With the sea below, it’s almost as though the site itself is airborne.
Why West Is Best
Because Maui’s western side offers family-friendly convenience along with its powdery beaches and cushy resorts. Wailea is home to several high-end properties, including the all-suite Fairmont Kea Lani, where each of the rooms comes with a lanai. (The hotel’s restaurant Kō is worth a stop, with dishes like spicy soba noodles; seafood and chicken paella; and veggie tempura with Moloka’i sweet potato, kabocha pumpkin, and Maui onion.) Between beach bouts tour the island’s farms. O’o Farms grows the gamut, from asparagus to coffee to nasturtiums; after a stroll of the grounds, it’s time for a stunning luncheon featuring locally caught fish and the farm’s finest greens. In the up-country town of Kula, the 13-acre hillside Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm offers tours of its fragrant purple fields as well as a garden overflowing with olive trees, hydrangea, and giant protea. Grab the lavender lemonade and a jar of body scrub on your way out. In the former whaling village of Lahaina, the Maui Brewing Company serves pints of Coconut Porter, which is true to its name.