Family Travel: Maui Magic
Often, the most remarkable travel experiences are realized when the destination of choice offers even more than anticipated. On a recent trip to Maui, my family received this genuine gift of travel, in spades. In fact, this may just be the closest we’ve come (or will ever come) to sheer paradise!
Maui represents a whole world of geographical and cultural history as well as stunningly diverse natural beauty. Soaring volcanic peaks and deep craters, crescent-shaped sandy beaches decorated with swaying palms, temperate turquoise waters, open fields of sweeping sugar cane, an abundance of magical rainbows and spectacular, sherbet-colored sunsets are just some of the attractions that draw diverse visitors here from the world over.
Offering a slice of heaven, it should come as no surprise that this tropical island, the second largest of the eight main Hawaiian Islands, is continually granted the most prestigious travel awards. “For an unprecedented 17th time, “Maui, the Magic Isle” captured “Best Island in the World” honors in the 24th annual CONDE NAST TRAVELER Readers’ Choice Awards.” (as noted on www.gohawaii.com).
I love that, despite the continual growth in tourism, ecological friendliness is prominent and the simplicity of Hawaiian island life is sustained. So, when you immerse yourself, some of this rubs off and you literally feel lighter and freer. Driving from tiny town to tiny town and leapfrogging from beach to beach is an adventurous and relaxing way to explore: stopping to beachcomb or bodysurf, take pictures of the impressive surroundings or to grab a bite at a local eatery for some delectable island food. Even a roadside fish taco stand near Big Beach gets a major thumbs up. We bought coolers at a K-Mart near the airport and loaded them with water and snacks for daytime excursions, adding convenience and an eye toward saving a few bucks to spend in more meaningful ways.
Highlights from our trip include:
Likely, the sweetest memories just might come from close encounters with the majestic humpback whales, which make the warm Maui shores their home from December through early April. This area is known to many as the ”cradle of the humpbacks,” where pods mate and rear newborn calves each year. Apparently, there isn’t a particular time of day for whale watching, yet some claim the up-to-45-foot giant behemoths appear when waters and winds are calm. Vantage points to witness tail slapping, breaching and spouting include the coastal walkway at Wailea Beach, McGregor Point and offshore excursions, which depart from Lahaina and Malaaea Harbors. We took an intimate cruise, combining whale watching with snorkeling along Molokini Crater and our knowledgeable guides did not disappoint. They even taught us to listen carefully to the songs of the humpbacks. We had a soundtrack while underwater, viewing tropical fish as they meandered through the coral rocks and pastel and neon-esque underwater foliage. www.mauiwhalewatchtours.com
Ziplining: The Ultimate Thrill!
To take in spectacular views while testing our limits, ziplining was our ticket. In the safe hands of seasoned guides, we embarked on a rugged trip in an oversized van up the mountainside to then carefully traverse a total of seven zip lines, each with increasing degrees of speed and difficulty. Safely harnessed in, each individual jump off the platform elicited feelings of fear, followed by joy and excitement and then, ultimately, pride and success upon reaching the receiving platform. Throughout the day, adrenaline flowed freely among our group of 10 and laughter and smiles were prevalent. This was a true bonding experience! Several companies offer a variety of tours. We chose Skyline Eco-Adventures, given their ongoing reputation for professionalism and safety. www.zipline.com
Dining: Mama’s Fish House—To Die For!
White-capped waves crashing onto jagged lava rock is part of the soundtrack and the view from notable and highly-rated Mama’s Fish House, located in Paia, along the northern coast. Although pricey, the seafood is succulent, and the atmosphere envelopes you with its high ceiling fans, exposed beams, and local art. To me, this place is quintessential fine Hawaiian dining. www.mamasfishhouse.com
Lodging: Grand Wailea
Situated on the Southwestern corner of the island, this sprawling resort was worth the splurge, for it provided a nice blend of casual sophistication, comfort and space. The perfectly landscaped property includes its own private beach. But it was the nine pools (likely the most elaborate of any I’ve seen outside of The Atlantis in the Bahamas) with plentiful waterslides, ropes and tunnels that made this hotel a real splash for us. Having traveled with two other families, with a group of seven boys altogether, there was enough choice on the premises for all ages. A swim-up grotto for adult cocktailing, snorkel, paddle board and kayak equipment for rent, casual-to-fancy dining choices and sizeable rooms made for a wonderful respite during those few-and-far-between times when we weren’t exploring off-property. www.grandwailea.com
So lush and diverse is Maui that there’s something otherworldly for everyone. A full week is recommended when planning your visit so that you can squeeze in as much as humanly possible. Sleeping late is not recommended because sunrises are stellar – especially from on high.