When it comes to warm getaways, I tend to be very picky. It might be due to the fact that I spent most of my life growing up on a tropical island (the Dominican Republic). It also could just be that I like a good palm tree.
Among my favorite warm island getaway destinations is the island of Maui.
Though the island is a bit farther than other warm destinations from my current hometown of New York City, it’s one of my faves because both the scenery and the culture are beautiful.
On Maui, I have seen something different every single time I have visited. Though it’s a challenge to narrow down the reasons why I love the island so much, here are my top reasons for why Maui makes for a fun escape from the cold.
Even if you don’t think of yourself as much of an adventure traveler, you will discover that Maui inspires you to go beyond your comfort zone and explore what the surroundings have to offer.
During my last visit to Maui, I paddled an outrigger canoe with a local outfitter called Hawaiian Paddle Sports. This activity was a group effort, so even if you are traveling alone or as a couple, expect to make new friends. What I especially enjoyed about my experience was that our guide took the time to share some history about the canoe and how this form of travel facilitated the population of the islands. In addition to this, I got to jump off the canoe and into the water to snorkel past a coral reef. That moment when I found myself face-to-face with a green sea turtle is a highlight of my travels to Maui.
Also on that most recent visit, a helicopter ride with Air Maui made it possible for me to get closer to some waterfalls than I ever would have gotten on foot. The aerial views of the ocean, cliffs, and countryside were breathtaking.
Plan to rent a car in Maui, as you’ll need to drive to get around during your stay. Navigating the island is easy, and what they call “traffic” here barely seems like something to stress about (especially if you’re coming from a larger city, like I do). The views of the beaches and volcano will inspire a stop or two for photos, and the sunsets will make you want to pause as well. Plan on traveling slowly during your stay.
Some of the drives on Maui are better than others. The Road to Hana is always a fun drive, though traveling during the rainy season makes it far more enjoyable because there are fewer crowds and the waterfalls are full.
Other drives take you past vendors selling seasonal fruits, views of the lush greenery, and beaches that often are less crowded than the ones closest to the larger resorts. Embrace any opportunity to drive, as it’s the best way to experience the island.
Viewfinder tip: You can island-hop from Maui to nearby Lanai, with ferries leaving regularly from Lahaina Harbor.
There are a lot of events on Maui that celebrate Hawaiian culture throughout the year, but my favorites are the events that revolve around food. I can’t say that Hawaiian food is the prettiest cuisine (taro, for example, is not much to look at), but man, it is delicious. Over the years there has been a a growing movement from farmers, chefs, and purveyors to bring back traditions and culture through food. We diners are the beneficiaries of this trend.
The list of where to eat in Maui is long, but some of my favorites are Tommy Bahama Restaurant and Bar for its chili-crusted Kauai shrimp, Star Noodle for its steamed pork buns, Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop for every kind of pie from sweet to savory, and Market Fresh Bistro for organic, farm-to-table dishes. Oh, and don’t forget the malasadas!
You don’t have to stay in a luxurious resort when you visit Maui. But while there are wonderful Bed & Breakfasts and vacation home rentals from which to choose, in my opinion it’s worth saving up for the resort experience (even if it is a short one during a longer stay).
Escape for the people, culture, and warmth
Maui resorts are some of the best in the world, with wonderful amenities including golf, spas, cultural activities such as lei-making, pools, beaches, and top-notch restaurants.
During my most recent visit, both the Grand Wailea and Fairmont Kea Lani offered comfortable, luxurious stays. There are many other hotels adjacent to these resorts along Wailea Alanui Drive, and everything (including restaurants and a shopping mall) is walkable. Trying out the resorts until you find your favorite might be another reason to keep coming back.
More than anything, the people you meet on Maui are wonderful advocates of the island and can share reasons to love it. Some of these people might be natives. Others might be one-time visitors who fell in love (with the island) and stayed. The people will tell you of the laid-back lifestyle, the beauty of the land, and the richness of the culture. They likely also will sprinkle their insight with folk tales, and maybe even song.
There are many islands to visit in Hawaii, but Maui always will have a special place in my heart. It’s a great place to warm up and enjoy the sun. Who knows? You might even find your very own “Spirit of Aloha” along the way.
What are your favorite warm-weather escapes and why?