New Adventures in Maui
Check out all the fun things to do and places to stay in paradise.
Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Adventure/Bob Raimo
As soon as you gun your rental out of Kahului Airport, you’ll notice lots of new strip malls and big-box stores. But don’t worry, you’ll still find plenty of paradise on Maui. Hawaii’s second-largest island even offers several new ways to ride its turquoise waves, explore its lush ravines, and lounge beneath a palm tree swaying in a Polynesian breeze.
Hawaiian Sailing Canoe
Canoe sailboats used to be the way Hawaiians traveled from island to island. The roughly 40 existing vessels are mostly used for long-distance racing, except for one operated by Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Adventures.
Leaving from the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea, our adventure began with Vene Chun, better known as “the Hawaiian,” blowing into a conch shell and singing in Hawaiian to ask the gods for permission to enter the sea. Then, we helped push the man-made Hina into the Pacific and jumped aboard.
The owner, Sage Spalding, paddled while the Hawaiian hoisted the sail and regaled us with Maui’s history and folklore. We watched the beach disappear as we headed to Wailea Point, a snorkelers’ haven.
About 100 yards offshore, we splashed overboard. The Hawaiian quickly found an octopus, which squirted its black ink as he lifted it off its home on a rock. (“Would you like to hold it?” Um, no thanks.) A few minutes later, Spalding pointed out a spotted eel, and two sea turtles swam by. In all the years I’ve snorkeled off Maui, I have seen plenty of turtles but never an eel or an octopus. All too soon, we were back onboard, sailing and paddling to the Kea Lani.
I thought paddle boarding might be dull, but it’s both invigorating and relaxing. It’s invigorating because you have to keep your balance while you paddle, or—whoops— you’ll splash into the ocean. Although the water is lovely, you won’t fall gracefully, and you’ll be giggling with embarrassment as you scramble back on your board.
To keep your balance, focus on the blue horizon. Eventually, this view plus the gentle swells of the Pacific and your rhythmic paddling combine to create a nearly hypnotic experience. I would have stayed out on the board all day, except that my 10-year-old son wanted the board. And he loved paddle boarding, too.
Maui now has five places where you can slip into a harness and fly through treetops, down mountains, and over ravines. We tried Skyline Eco Adventures on the road going to Haleakala because afterward, we wanted to drive up through the clouds into the national park to see the volcano and its crater.
The Haleakala zip line runs across a not terribly steep ravine. It was tame enough for a sissy like me. I loved sailing through the air, looking down into the ravine, but someone more daring might want to nose around for a zippier zip line.
I had hoped that being brave enough to try zip lining would cure me of my fear of heights, but no such luck. After we reached the top of Haleakala, with its moonscape and rainbows, and looked down into the crater, I couldn’t help but yell frantically at my son to “back away from the edge!”
Ho’olei at Grand Wailea
The Grand Wailea is a family favorite: We love its big beach and pool, with its fun waterslides, a water elevator that takes you up to the slides, and a Tarzan rope swing to launch you into deep water. It also has a $99 deal for unlimited use of paddleboards, kayaks, and boogie boards for a week.
The Grand Wailea’s best new features are the luxury three-bedroom Ho’olei villas in a private compound across the street. This will be a good option for us on our next trip. We like to spend a few nights living it up at a hotel, and then we like to chill with the space and convenience of a condo. While the Ho’olei has its own pools and lush grounds, it also offers full access to all the Grand Wailea’s amenities.
Another option for this side of the island is the Hotel Wailea, perched on the hill above the Four Seasons and Fairmont Kea Lani. Built in 1989 as a private club for Japanese executives, the hotel was unknown to other travelers until it was purchased recently by an American company. Each of the property’s 72 rooms is 900 square feet—and room rates are reasonable for chic Wailea, ranging from $169 to $395.
Honua Kai Resort and Spa
Kaanapali, on the island’s western shore, is home to the first new resort to open on Maui in 20 years. Honua Kai offers luxury condos in a resort setting. So, you can enjoy the space and convenience of a private home—kitchen, washer, and dryer—with poolside mai tai service. (For Thanksgiving dinner, we grilled fresh mahimahi by the pool, then slurped rum drinks in the privacy of our lanai, looking out at the ocean.)
Honua Kai is off the beaten path, so our morning beach walks were nearly deserted. The beach is right along a reef, which boasts great snorkeling and sea turtles every 10 feet, though it is a bit rocky for swimming. (Check out snorkel gear at the beach activities shack.) Duke’s restaurant opened in December, and sometime this year, the resort’s spa will open, too. I expect that before long, the beach walk won’t be quite so deserted.Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Adventures, (808) 281-9301, mauisailingcanoe.com; Skyline Eco Adventures, (808) 878-8400, zipline.com; Ho’olei at Grand Wailea, (877) 346-6534, hooleiatgrandwailea.com; Hotel Wailea, (808) 874-0500, hotelwailea.com; Honua Kai, (888) 718-5789, honuakaimaui.com.