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MAUI, HAWAII

The island of Maui, Hawaii, deserves its reputation as a top vacation destination: It's covered with pristine white-sand beaches, calm ocean bays and thrilling surf, stunning mountain and volcano vistas, sugarcane fields, highland ranches, waterfall-fed pools and twisting mountain roads.

But Maui is no hidden gem—it's the second most-visited Hawaiian island, and you'll have to do some work to find tropical solitude. Still, Maui's beauty and the mix of different areas make it a good choice. Regardless of where you're staying, the entire island can be seen in a series of day trips.

Most Maui hotels and resorts line the leeward, dry western shores of the island in West Maui and South Maui. The majority of the island's visitors stay there. Beyond the perimeters of the beautiful resort areas, however, the rest of Maui is open for exploration.

Geography

Maui's shape resembles a lopsided figure-eight, composed of two volcanoes. The dormant volcano Haleakala (10,000 ft tall) and the rolling hills of Upcountry Maui are to the east. On the opposite side are the dramatic mountains of the West Maui Range (with peaks rising more than 5,000 ft).

In between, a central valley cleaves the island, giving Maui its nickname, the Valley Isle. The island's major roads and towns follow the coastline and run along the central valley.

HISTORY

Polynesian navigators from the Marquesas Islands and Tahiti journeyed thousands of miles to first settle the chain of Hawaiian Islands beginning around AD 500. Maui's Chief Kahekili was the first to nearly unite the islands under one command, but it wasn't until 1810 that King Kamehameha of the Big Island accomplished the feat. Lahaina, Maui, served as the Kingdom of Hawaii's capital from 1820 to 1845.

British Capt. James Cook made the first recorded Western contact in 1778. International trade in sandalwood, whaling, sugar and pineapple developed in the 1800s. The islands became known for their sugarcane plantations, and immigrant workers arrived from around the world. At the same time, Christian missionaries arrived on the islands from the U.S.

The Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893 and six years later, the U.S. annexed the islands. Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959.

The mainstay of the economy, the sugarcane industry, began to falter in the 1990s. The state has since diversified to other industries, including tourism, agriculture and construction.

WEATHER

Maui has four seasons, though summer and winter are more distinct. Climatic conditions generally vary more between different parts of the island than between the seasons. Summer temperatures range in the mid- to high 80s F in the daytime and dip to the 70s F at night. Winter (November-April) is slightly cooler and wetter. Water temperatures range 70-80 F year-round.

The northeastern portion of the island and the West Maui Mountains are wetter, giving rise to lush, and often inaccessible, foliage. The mountainous regions are colder—expect a drop of 3 degrees per 1,000 ft in elevation. The temperature at Haleakala can dip to 18 F in December. If you're visiting Maui's Upcountry, take a sweater or jacket.

 
 

SIGHTSEEING

Spend an afternoon or evening exploring Lahaina Town. Get up before dawn for the drive up the Haleakala volcano to see the sunrise at the crater. Allow a day to drive the Hana Highway; it is a road that is meant to be savored.

Make sure you also take time to learn some of the island's history at one of the museums and to learn about some of the island's flora at one of the nurseries or botanical gardens.

Maui's steady stream of visitors supports a thriving and diverse restaurant scene. You can enjoy the best of Asian, American, French, Italian and Polynesian cuisines, and often a blend of the styles and flavors are featured on the menus. Fresh seafood, herbs and vegetables from Upcountry farms combine for some memorable meals.

Maui has a couple of its own specialties. Be sure to sample the Maui onion. Similar to Georgia's Vidalia onion, it's so sweet it can be eaten almost like an apple. (Try the creamy Maui onion soup.) The purple Molokai sweet potato makes for a visual treat. Maui Potato Chips, a local brand made from Maui potatoes, go well with any sandwich. It's also easy to find Taro Chips, which are purple or brown and have a hearty flavor. The ubiquitous plate lunch typically provides an inexpensive and generously portioned two scoops of rice, macaroni salad, and beef, fish, pork or chicken with gravy.

The ambience of most establishments reflects the indoor-outdoor and casual spirit of Hawaii. The majority of restaurants, not surprisingly, are located where the tourists are in West and South Maui. Versions of the luau are offered at many hotels and other venues. They usually include Hawaiian music and dance as well as food (kalua pig, poi and other dishes).

POTPOURRI

Removing stones or sand from Hawaii is not only archaeologically and environmentally frowned upon, but locals believe all rocks belong to volcano goddess Pele and doing so will invite her wrath. Each year visitors mail back stones and sand to visitor bureaus and other offices, citing bad luck.

There are no billboards on Maui to mar the views.

Every winter some of the world's best surfers compete on waves towering more than 40 ft at Maui's famed Jaws surf break. Spectators can watch safely from the cliffs above as Jet Skis tow the surfers into the waves.

The oldest school west of the Mississippi is the Lahainaluna School in Lahaina, established in 1831 by U.S. missionaries.

Hawaiian written language, devised by missionaries, uses only seven consonants: h, k, l, m, n, p and w along with the vowels a, e, i, o and u.

DOS AND DON'TS

Do make an attempt to pronounce Hawaiian words correctly (sounding out all of the vowels) when dealing with locals.

Don't attempt to be friendly by speaking bad pidgin to local residents.

Do make arrangements to watch the whales when the season arrives, but don't stop in the middle of the road to gawk at them offshore.

Do enjoy and respect the tropical ocean. Don't step or stand on coral, which can kill it (and besides, coral is very sharp and can cut you), and don't turn your back on the waves (the currents can be strong).

Do relax and ease into "Hawaiian time." Don't be impatient on the highways.

Do enjoy the breathtaking views on the Hana Highway. Pull over and let faster cars behind you pass.

Do stay on trails when hiking to avoid inadvertently damaging endemic or endangered plants, such as the silversword.

Do make an effort to learn about Hawaiian culture and history while visiting. Maui is more than just a pretty resort destination; cultural exhibits and classes proliferate.

Do wear "slippers" (rubber sandals, or flip-flops), even out to dinner. Do take your shoes off before entering anyone's home.

Do buy "Made in Maui" products whenever possible and support Maui self-sustainability by shopping at local farmers markets.

Do use public transportation instead of driving whenever possible. Be careful on bicycles or scooters or when walking, as shoulders are narrow and streets are not typically pedestrian- or bike-friendly.

Do accept a lei greeting (unless you are allergic). Both men and women wear flower leis, which are often presented with a kiss on the cheek. And ladies, feel free to tuck a flower behind your ear.

Highlights

Sights—Whale-watching December-April in the shallow ocean channels or by boat; lounging on any of the island's fantastic beaches; Art Night Fridays in Lahaina.

Museums—Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum; Bailey House Museum; Hana Cultural Center.

Memorable Meals—An appetizer and a drink at the secluded Mama's Fish House outside Pa'ia; sushi at Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar; dinner and a show at the Old Lahaina Luau.

Late Night—Local entertainers at Charley's Restaurant & Saloon in Pa'ia; Ulalena at the Maui Theatre, the live show of Hawaii's history; bar crawling along Lahaina's strip of historic whaling-era bars.

Especially for Kids—The walk-through aquarium tunnel of Maui Ocean Center; the Maui Golf & Sports Park for miniature golf, bumper boats and the X-treme trampoline; the ziplines at Maui Tropical Plantation.

GEOSTATS

Population: 152,062.

Languages: Primarily English, though Hawaiian and other languages are also spoken. The local dialect is known as pidgin, a language derived from English, Hawaiian, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese and other influences.

Predominant Religions: Christian (Roman Catholic, Protestant). Buddhism and other religions are also well-represented.

Time Zone: 10 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-10 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is not observed.

Voltage Requirements: 110 volts.

Telephone Codes: 808, area code;

Travel 42

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Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon

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