When I reminisce about Maui, the first word that comes to mind is serenity. Not only the ever-present serenity of the beautiful land and seascapes, but a serenity of mind that is only possible on this lush isle. A slowing of thought, a special smoothing of cognition into a blissfully tranquil state that exists continuously… as long as your travels allow you to remain.
Wandering is effortless on Maui. Access to a rental car ensures your access to countless hidden gems up and down the hillsides and coastlines. Beach hopping is an activity that can take up an entire trip, with newly found favorites at every turn. For this trip, we chose to spend half of our time in West Maui in Kapalua, and half of our time in South Maui in Wailea. As two main areas of tourism on the island, both regions have excellent accommodations and enough beauty to satisfy any nature-lover. However, each is different.
The West side of Maui, in my opinion, is more built up than the South side. Here, you’ll find more densely spaced hotels, and more high-rise condo buildings. Gorgeous beaches are a given, and as you head north, they become more tranquil, and more isolated. Kapalua fits the bill perfectly in this regard, with countless beautiful beaches. My favorites include D.T. Fleming Beach Park, Kapalua Bay, and Slaughterhouse Beach. West Maui takes the cake, in my opinion, for dining options. My favorite breakfast option, without a doubt is Gazebo’s in Napili Bay. Gazebo’s is a tiny haven for mac nut pancakes, and a breakfast fried rice plate that will blow your mind. For lunch, Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina delivers Hawaiian classics in a seaside setting that makes you utterly forget the crowds of Lahaina-town. Sansei Sushi in Kapalua was an absolute treat, as well.
In West Maui, we attended The Royal Lahaina Luau. This was an experience that I was questionable about, as I felt like luau’s produced for tourists are everything I seek to avoid about travel. But, I will say that we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly! Talented dancers abound, an open bar flowing, and good food led to an enjoyable evening.
South Maui, in contrast to West Maui has a more laid-back atmosphere. Although home to a few large luxury hotels, you’ll find more condos, independently owned hotels, and less crowds. Needless to say, less people, and equally beautiful beaches made South Maui my favorite. This area is my favorite for beach-hopping. We’d just park the car whenever we saw a beach access sign, and venture forth towards tropical beauty. My favorite beaches are Makena Beach, Keawakupu Beach, and Big Beach. The weather of South Maui tends to be drier than on the West side, so we saw more sunshine here as well, which may have contributed to our overwhelming love for this area. If nothing else, I am a sun goddess. We spent our time in a condo, and cooked the majority of our meals, enjoying them overlooking Keawakupu Beach at the Mana Kai Maui, a stunning setting. Our favorite restaurant, though was Three’s Bar & Grill for happy hour, which we frequented 4 (perhaps 5) times!
Although most of my yearning for adventure was completely satisfied by independent wanderings around the island, taking a guided snorkeling trip was a must-do for me while in Maui. We immediately gravitated towards Alii Nui, a luxury catamaran that offers not only access to stunning reefs for snorkeling, but impeccable service, and a mouthwatering lunch to boot. A brand new catamaran, with only about 40 people aboard, and we felt like we were royalty. A truly decadent experience.
To make a vain attempt to summarize this beautiful trip feels rushed, which is the opposite of the relaxation I felt while in Maui. When traveling, I prefer to spend as much time as possible in one place. For me, soaking in the essential vibe of a place happens when I find stillness amidst my explorations. Perhaps this is why Maui resonated so deeply with me. It is a place that accepts this as both a cultural norm, and a daily mantra.
Mahalo Maui, for revealing to me serenity I thought only possible in a dream.