Travel: Maui Your Way

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There’s a place to stay for every traveler on the magnificent island of Maui.

Let’s get one thing straight: A trip to Maui always spells a good time. But you have options when it comes to where to stay. Want to sit in the lap of luxury and never leave the resort? Want a place that provides a more traditional Hawaiian experience? Want to steer clear of the touristy traffic, yet have easy access to all the island’s attractions? We check out three different accommodations, each appealing to a different type of vacationer. Plus, from bike riding down a volcano to snorkeling and spa treatments, we suggest a number of activities to keep you busy when you’re not at the beach.

Escape From It All: The Plantation Inn

This Southern-style bed-and-breakfast in the town of Lahaina houses 19 uniquely styled rooms, including suites. Our Deluxe room featured Victorian-era style décor with antique-looking furniture, stained-glass accents, old-fashioned bathroom fixtures and a queen-size bed framed in mahogany. The lanai (that’s balcony in Hawaiispeak)—furnished with a loveseat, chair and table, and overlooking the inn’s tranquil pool and spa—invites you to grab a book or journal, or just sit and reflect. But what if you’re itching for the beach? Guests of The Plantation Inn enjoy full privileges at its sister property, the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel. Take a three-mile walk or drive north, and you’ll be enjoying the warm, sandy shores of Maui’s famous Ka’anapali Beach.

Pro:
Once inside the gates, you feel like you’ve entered the grounds of your own private antebellum mansion in the American South, perfect for those seeking a serene and quiet environment.

Con: Once inside the gates, you feel like you’ve entered the grounds of your own private antebellum mansion in the American South, not so hot for people who’d rather surround themselves with tropical island ambiance.

Consider staying here if: You want to be close to the heart of Maui activity, yet at a comfortable distance from the hustle and bustle. The inn’s a short jaunt from Front Street in an old whaling village, now a touristy mecca of shops and restaurants and—with a waterfront walkway—a virtual portal to island sightseeing and snorkel trips.

Cost: Rooms range from $166 to $290 (for a suite) per night; breakfast includes your choice of french toast; poached eggs with tomato sauce and veggies; granola with housemade yogurt; or bagel with smoked salmon, along with a beverage and fresh tropical fruit topped with toasted shredded coconut.

174 Lahainaluna Road, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii; (800) 433-6815; theplantationinn.com

Gerard’s Restaurant—The Plantation Inn’s French restaurant has received numerous accolades, including a Fodor’s Choice 2006 award and, for the third year in a row, the Four-Star Award for 2007 from Mobil Travel Guide.

The Big Kahuna: Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa

There isn’t a bad room in this four-star, award-winning resort. Italian marble bathrooms with oversized spa tubs and separate showers, queen- or king-size beds with fine linens, cable TV and high-speed Internet, in-room refreshments, twice-daily housecleaning and private lanais offering breathtaking views are just a few of the amenities you’ll enjoy.

Pro:
Once you check in, you don’t need to leave the premises to enjoy your vacation. With numerous swimming pools—including one for adults only—a plethora of activities, six restaurants (including one with Maui’s longest restaurant name, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, named after the unofficial state fish), a full-service spa, fitness center, kids’ camp, golf course and shopping, you get what you’re paying for at the aptly named Grand Wailea.

Con:
The price. With rooms starting at $575 per night, it’s steep for those on a budget—or for those who plan to use the hotel simply as a place to lay their heads at night. The GW is a destination in itself.

Consider staying here if: You’re planning your honeymoon. The Grand Wailea is worth the splurge: It’s luxurious, tasteful and romantic, extravagant yet
comfortable.

Cost: Rooms range from $575 to $1,080 per night; suites and rooms in the exclusive Napua Tower run much higher.

3850 Alanui Drive, Wailea, Maui, Hawaii; (800) 888-6100; grandwailea.com


Make a Splash—
At the Grand Wailea, you can while away the afternoon never leaving the water. Lounge in the adults-only “hibiscus” pool. (More than 630,000 Mexican glass mosaic tiles create a beautiful hibiscus pattern on the bottom of the pool.) Or, if you’re seeking more of a rush, barrel down one of the numerous water slides at a family-friendly pool. We favored the Lava Slide: Offering a three-story drop, it provides you a great workout walking up to it and addictive thrills going down it. So addictive, in fact, we went down 10 times in a row (and garnered quizzical looks from GW staff, who are more used to seeing kids make so many repeat visits). Thirsty (and older than 21)? Swim up to the Grotto Bar—sit on a barstool or at one of the nearby tables. Finally, don’t miss a trip in the “world’s only” water elevator; while sitting on an inner tube, you are taken—via pulleys—from the pool area up 10 feet to the top of two of the water slides. It’s a novelty, for certain—something to try out at least once.

Pampering to the Nines—It isn’t your spa treatment at Grand Wailea’s Spa Grande—named among the top 10 spas in the United States by Conde Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure magazines—that makes your experience so special. Don’t get us wrong; the treatments are great. But it’s the treatment before your treatment—Termé Wailea HydroTherapy—that makes it stand out. Think of it as a one-hour smorgasbord of spa indulgences: aromatic baths, Jacuzzi tub, sauna and steam room, and more; spend all your time in one or experience a few. Try the Cascading Waterfall Massage: While you’re sitting down, water comes at you from all directions, literally in your face at times. It’s equal parts thrilling and therapeutic, but perhaps not ideal for those who only tolerate the idea of being in the water. Worried about burning off all those umbrella drinks? Consider alternating between the Cold Plunge Pool and the Japanese Furo Bath; doing so three to four times is reputed to burn about 300 calories.  We were congratulated by spa staff for taking the plunge; apparently not everyone partakes in this ritual. Finally, you can luxuriate in an exfoliating body scrub. What better way to prepare yourself for the bliss that awaits you?

Totally Hawaii: Ka’anapali Beach Hotel

Offering daily Hawaiian activities (including hula lessons and poi-making demonstrations), nightly Hawaiian music and hula shows, and a serenade by staff upon arrival (at the welcome breakfast) and departure, the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel exudes everything Hawaii. That’s because hotel staff members learn about authentic Hawaiian culture through the Ke Kula O Ka Pookela, or School of Excellence. Comfortable rooms also reflect the island ambiance, with tropical plants, wicker furniture and Hawaiian artwork, and provide views of the ocean or the hotel’s lush gardens. Easy access to the water and a beachfront walking/running trail add to the amenities.

Pro:
The Ka’anapali Beach Hotel was named “Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel” by the Waiaha Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the perpetuation of Hawaiian culture. KBH has held that title for 12 years.

Con: If you’re looking for a place that doesn’t scream Hawaii everywhere you turn, this ain’t it.

Consider staying here if:
You’re seeking island food, décor, music and activities, all at a reasonable price.

Cost: Rooms start at $195 and go up to $640 per night for a suite; special packages are available nearly year-round.

2525 Kaanapali Parkway, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii; (800) 262-8450; kbhmaui.com

The Road Down Haleakala Is Paved With Good Intentions—

Sunrise bike rides down Maui’s famous Haleakala volcano are a popular tourist activity, so long as you’re able to handle a middle-of-the-night wake-up call.

The journey starts with a pre-dawn van ride up to the 10,000-foot summit, where the temperature can be a very nontropical 40 degrees or colder. Although it becomes much less treacherous the farther down you go, the 38-mile ride downhill is full of hairpin turns during the first 10 miles on a two-lane highway, some of it with little or no shoulder. Parts of the road can be rough and strewn with rocks and mud. Weather may include fog, wind and rain. Riders have fallen over the sides; some have even died.

Ready to sign up?

In all fairness, despite the dangers involved, approximately 100,000 people successfully complete this adrenaline-producing ride every year.

I was not one of them.

Several egregious errors in the eyes of my bike company tour guide Jon led to my being politely plucked from my bike soon after our 12-person group commenced our ride. Among them: my unsteadiness, my employment of the Fred Flintstone method of stopping the bike (i.e., using my feet) and, at one point, my separation from the group. (Yep, blinded by the rising sun and going so slow, I lost them.) The clincher, however, came when I did the unthinkable, the one thing we were warned would get us removed from the bike: I crossed over the double yellow lines.

Sweet Jon, who I swear felt worse about this debacle than I did, broke the news. “I have to pull you in the van,” he said apologetically. “You went over the yellow lines. It’s the rules.” I had agreed to those rules when I decided to ride with Cruiser Phil’s Volcano Riders.

My fractured ego pleaded silently for mercy: “I’m a distance runner. I can do this. You can’t take me off this bike in front of 11 people I’ve never met before and likely will never see again!”

The rest of me, however, was quite happy to get the hell off that wretched bike. And once I could scrape the remains of my bruised ego off the mountain, the van ride down was a much more enjoyable way to tour Haleakala. Jon, doing everything and anything he could to make up for being the “big meanie” who rained on my bicycle parade, proceeded to give me the finest blow-by-blow account of the volcano in the history of Maui and assured me that at least one person ends up in the van per trip, “sometimes as many as five or six.” By 6 a.m., my head was swimming with facts about Haleakala: its climate, its trees, its legends, its lore. When Jon offered a one-on-one tour of the volcano at my own pace and bought me breakfast when the group stopped in the town of Paia, I realized there was no way I could consider the day a wash. I was in the presence of good people. Or at least one very nice tour guide.

If you’re interested in attempting this feat—keep in mind the other 11 riders in my group did so with no problem—consider calling on Cruiser Phil’s. I can’t guarantee you’ll get Jon as your guide or receive a personal tour of the volcano, but you can be confident the guides have got your back. Or will at least stop you from breaking it.

(877) 764-2453; cruiserphil.com

Discover Lanai Sunset Sail—

Water and sun lovers will want to add Trilogy’s Discover Lanai Sunset Sail to their Maui itineraries. The trip offers the perfect combination of sightseeing, snorkeling, sailing and sun. Our captain, Owen, and crew—Patrick, Kate and Tommy D—offered a wealth of Maui-related information, fun facts and a few tall tales. Several dozen of us spent the afternoon snorkeling, swimming, playing volleyball and lounging in the sun on the somewhat-secluded white-sand beach of Hulopoe Bay on the island of Lanai. If you’re a speed junky, snag a spot on the Blue Water Adventure Rafting tour—an optional tour that takes you on a high-speed ride along Lanai’s dramatic coastline. Want something more relaxed? Take a guided tour of the island. To fuel all this fun, Trilogy treats you to fabulous food, including Mom’s Famous Cinnamon Buns in the morning and to-die-for Stir Fry Hawker’s Noodles (recipes available on trilogy’s website) in the evening. The trip concludes with a sunset sail back to Lahaina.

(888) 225-6284; sailtrilogy.com (book online and receive a 10 percent discount) 

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