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On the Road with Nancy Brown: Non-stop Maui

Hit the beach—but also hit upcountry Maui to visit farms, taste homegrown beef, and ride with Paniolos.

Having been featured again and again on “best beaches” lists, it’s a well documented fact that Maui reigns supreme when it comes to surf and sand. But there’s more to this paradisiacal island than bikinis and boards. Venture to upcountry Maui to visit farms, taste homegrown beef, ride with Paniolos, and zip through forests. Then, head to the coast for a Hawaiian seafaring experience, like canoeing or swimming with a green sea turtle.


Farm Fresh
For beautiful views and an in-depth look at the fabulous bounty of Maui cuisine, make an advanced reservation for the farm to garden tour at O’o Farm. Located 3,500 feet high in the Waipoli (misting forest) district of Kula, O’o Farms has 8.5 acres of organically and biodynamically cultivated land. Owned and operated by the Pacific’o and I’o restaurants at 505 Front Street, O’o offers a tour of its ecologically sound garden with panoramic views and gourmet food prepared by Garden Chef Caroline Schaub, formerly of Napa Valley’s Culinary Institute of America. Schaub’s menu includes fresh ono, garden picked vegetables, oven baked herb focaccia bread and fresh-brewed Maui coffee. Come for the garden, stay for the lunch!
Oo Farms, Waipoli Road, Kula, Hawaii (808) 667-4341, oofarm.com  twitter.com/#!/oofarm

Paniolos at Piiholo
The winding, narrow road to Piiholo Ranch, an 800-acre working cattle ranch reminded me that I was, indeed, in upcountry Maui. My anticipation built as I passed in front of a wild ring-necked pheasant and under majestic Koa acacia trees, ‘Ohi’a lehua trees with crimson pin-cushion-like flowers, and towering Eucalyptus trees.

Once I reached the ranch, I was paired to a horse and began a two-hour guided ride. We didn’t see Hawaii’s state bird, the endangered Nene goose, but we did manage to stir up a herd of wild pigs and ride by adorable week old Corriente calves in the rolling pasture.

And, for those who prefer flying through the trees to riding under them, the property also boasts Maui’s newest zipline experience, with side-by-side zip opportunities.
Piiholo Ranch, Waiahiwi Road, Malawao, Hawaii (808) 357-1755, piiholo.com/horseback  twitter.com/#!/PiiholoRanch


Paddle Time
Guests of The Fairmont Kea Lani may try an authentic Hawaiian canoe experience during their vacation. Sign up for the one-hour complimentary canoe ride in a six-man outrigger canoe. (Book online before your arrival, as this activity fills up quickly.)
You’ll learn the basics of paddling, the history of the canoe and its importance to Hawaiian heritage. Go in the morning when the waves are calm, and bring an underwater camera if you have one. Keep your eyes peeled for sea turtles swimming along the volcanic shoreline while you get a free upper body work out
The Fairmont Kea Lani, 4100 Wailea Alanui Drive, Maui, Hawaii (808) 875-4100, fairmont.com/kealani, twitter.com/#!/FairmontKeaLani

Cities under the Sea
No trip to Hawaii is complete without an encounter with the Pacific Ocean’s wondrous marine life. I joined Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment “Cities under the Sea,” a snorkeling and underwater photography experience offered in conjunction with the Ritz-Carlton Resort. Like shooting gold fish in a bowl, I trained my underwater camera lens on a 40-year old mama sea turtle swimming alongside me in Napili Bay. I know the age and sex of the turtle because we were accompanied by a well-trained naturalist who also pointed out the different fish we passed. The two-and-a-half hour program ($89 per adult, $69 per child under 15) included the use of an underwater digital camera, transportation to our snorkel spot, snorkel, mask and fins and light refreshments.
Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment, The Ritz-Carlton, One Ritz-Carlton Drive, Kapalua, Hawaii (808) 665-7292, ritzcarlton.com/kapalua


Fairmont Fine Dining
Inspired by the melting pot of cultures on the Hawaiian Islands, Executive Chef Tylun Pang brings plantation era cuisine to a new level at The Fairmont Kea Lani’s signature restaurant, Ko. Inspired by his mother’s and grandmother’s cooking, as well as the melting pot of cultures on the Hawaiian Islands, Pang offers magical dishes with innovative twists. Think Portuguese stew, Chinese long noodles, Korean chicken and Filipino adobo, as well as Maui Cattle ribeye and fresh fish available only on the islands. However, my personal favorite was the banana lumpia, a tasty combination of pastry and fruit, served hot with a trio of other desserts.
To go with the amazing cuisine, Ko is currently undergoing a more than $5 million renovation. It reopens to the public in February 2012.
Ko Restaurant, The Fairmont Kea Lani, 4100 Wailea Alanui Drive, Maui, Hawaii (808) 875-4100, fairmont.com/kealani twitter.com/#!/FairmontKeaLani

Polynesian Luau
For a more traditional, and beautiful, dining service, check out the Wailele Polynesian Luau at The Westin Maui. We took our tables in the resort’s Aloha Pavilion as the sun set into the ocean, with tiki torches flickering to life, and Hawaiian drummers and guitarists clad in bright Aloha shirts and kukui nut leis entertaining us. Soon, Hawaiian dancers with long, flowing dark hair and beautiful costumes were swaying their hips and talking story with their hands to the rhythm of the drums.
While I’m not a fan of the Hawaiian staple poi, I did enjoy Kalua pig, served at the table, family-style, along with a Mai Tai or two during the two-and-a-half hour feast. I also enjoyed the scorching hot (pun intended) five-member fire knife dancers, along with Maori and Fiji dancers and interactive artisans displaying their crafts before and after the show. If you’re going to spend $105 per person (for dinner, drinks, gratuities, and show), it’s worth the extra $20 to splurge for premier seating in the first three rows.
The Westin Maui, 2365 Ka’anapali Parkway, Lahaina, Hawaii, (808) 667-2525, westinmaui.com twitter.com/#!/TheWestinmaui

If You Go:

I flew Hawaiian Airlines from San Francisco International Airport to Honolulu International Airport and then Honolulu to Maui’s Kahului Airport. But, in January, Hawaiian will begin flying direct from Oakland to Kahului. Hawaiian Flight 23 will depart Oakland on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 8:10 a.m. and arrive at Maui at 11:40 a.m. Flight 24 will depart Kahului on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays at 1:25 p.m. and arrive at Oakland at 8:25 p.m.
Hawaiian Airlines, (800) 367-5320 .hawaiianair.com twitter.com/#!/HawaiianAir

For things to see and do in Maui, Hawaii, check out the video below:

A lifelong resident of Contra Costa County, Nancy D. Brown grew up in Moraga. When she’s not traveling, she lives in Lafayette with her husband and teens. Nancy is the Uptake.com Travel Editor, writes the What a Trip blog and is a Contra Costa Times Lamorinda Sun columnist. Horse lovers will find her at writinghorseback.com. Follow Nancy on Twitter at twitter.com/Nancydbrown