Story by Shannon Wianecki
Maui inhabits the sweet spot: that magical fulcrum where everything is just right. On this medium-sized island in the center of the Pacific, life is not too busy, not too quiet. The air is the perfect temperature. The ocean beckons year-round. Even the spiders wear happy faces. What keeps inhabitants of this idyll from sliding into ennui? A soul-expanding mixture of nature and culture, antique and newly minted, well heeled and barefoot. Dig into our seventh annual litany of the things we love best about Maui.
1. Surfboard Fences
2. Keawakapu Beach
Follow South Kīhei Road to its end and find a mile-long stretch of flawless, golden sand. When the sea foam kisses your feet, how can you resist?
3. “Barges” Macklemore thrift-shop parody
Maui’s future is bright if this viral video is any indication. Riffing off of pop star Macklemore’s recent hit, local keiki (children) wrote and produced a brilliant anthem for island sustainability. It’s just one of several youth films promoting eco-awareness, sponsored by the Maui Huliau Foundation. Watch them all at www.youtube.com/user/mauihuliau
We love everything about this made-on-Maui hot sauce, from the adorable name and logo (the family’s pet rooster) to the immaculately simple recipes, each showcasing a different pepper. Our favorite: Hamajang (Hawaiian pidgin for “messed up”), an addictive and fiery blend of fresh jalapeño and roasted ghost peppers. www.adoboloco.com
5. Nesting ‘ua‘u above Kapalaoa cabin
Kapalaoa, the wilderness cabin in the center of Haleakalā National Park, offers sweet refuge to campers. It’s also home to ‘ua‘u, Hawaiian petrels, who nest in the surrounding cliffs. During spring and summer, hear the birds’ wild yips and the whirr of their wings as they zoom in from sojourns at sea to disappear into hidden burrows.
6. New guard in the kitchen
Hold onto your forks, folks. A new cohort of daring local chefs is rising from the coals of the Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine movement. Bent on reinventing every culinary convention, these hungry phoenixes collaborate in each other’s kitchens and volunteer on farms. Prepare to be dazzled by Sheldon Simeon (formerly of Star Noodle, Top Chef finalist), Isaac Bancaco (Andaz), Jojo Vasquez (Plantation House), Chris Kulis (Capische?), James Simpliciano (Kupu Maui), Lyndon Honda (Hapa Events & Catering), Anton Haines (Pacific’O), and Jeff Scheer (Maui Executive Catering).
7. Dark skies
Light pollution has effectively erased the night sky over much of the United States. Not so on Maui. Tilt your head towards the Milky Way. Drink in the stars, the yet unexplored galaxies, and ponder your small spot in this infinite universe.
8. Holy Ghost Church Portuguese sweet bread
Portuguese immigrants first arrived in Hawai‘i in 1878. Shortly after, they began baking delicious pao doce, sweet bread, in backyard stone ovens. On the second Sunday of each month, the ladies of Holy Ghost Church still do.
9. Stella Blues Supper Club
John Cruz serenades the crowd at this swanky dinner theater one night, Paula Fuga or Hapa the next. When these island crooners let their magic loose, you might just forget to eat your Maui-grown prime rib. www.stellablues.com
10. Kapalua Cliff House
11. Rainbow eucalyptus trees
12. Fernand Leger sculptures
Fernand Leger escaped Nazi Germany to arrive penniless in New York. There, the Cubist pioneer and contemporary of Picasso created a series of bronze sculptures, including one dedicated to his new patron, Abby Rockefeller. A complete set of Leger sculptures is worth millions—but only two such sets exist. One hides in plain sight at the Grand Wailea Resort & Spa. 3850 Wailea Alanui, Wailea.
Fourteen years ago, leeward Haleakalā’s once-magnificent forest was little more than a memory. Buried beneath invasive species, nibbled to death by grazing cattle, the ancient plants had vanished, taking the rainclouds with them. But biologist Art Medeiros believed the damage could be reversed. He convinced ‘Ulupalakua Ranch owners to embark on a reforestation experiment. So far, it’s worked. With each hōlei and hala pepe seedling volunteers settle into the soil, the ecosystem revives. Native birds and spiders have already returned. One day, perhaps the famed nāulu cloud—which formerly traveled between Auwahi and Kahoʻolawe—will reappear. Grab your gloves and help make it happen. www.auwahi.org
14. Camp Keʻanae
15. Maui Invitational
College basketball giants descend on Maui each Thanksgiving, when Chaminade University hosts the sport’s top preseason tournament at the Lahaina Civic Center. Two-thousand-plus fans pile into the intimate gym to catch the action at eye level, while six million more watch on ESPN. Since the sporting event launched thirty years ago, it’s contributed $1.6 million to the island’s economy and afforded local rookies the chance to rub shoulders with their idols.
Sea turtles, dolphins, and whales may get all the attention, but Maui’s sea slugs are just as worthy of wonder! Thumb-sized nudibranchs creep through the corals in costumes as flamboyant as Brazilian carnival dancers. Learn to identify these marvels at www.seaslugsofhawaii.com.
17. Keawalaʻi Church
Devout Hawaiians built this seaside sanctuary 181 years ago, first out of pili grass, then stone and coral mortar. From the altar made of ‘iliahi (sandalwood) and koa wood, pastors expound on God’s love in English and Hawaiian. Classical concerts here draw crowds that spill out the doors. 190 Mākena Road, Mākena www.keawalai.org
18. Diving with Dad
Each Father’s Day, pint-sized divers follow their dads out to the reef fronting Baldwin Beach. Keiki win prizes for the fish and tako (octopus) they spear, and for collecting rubbish. Maui Sporting Goods owner Brian Yoshikawa sponsors the junior tournament, which promotes ocean safety and environmental awareness—all while raising substantial funds for local children’s cancer treatments.
19. Lahaina Restoration Foundation
Lahaina has been home to Hawaiian royalty, ribald whalers, and aspiring plantation workers. To keep the town’s colorful history fresh, Lahaina Restoration Foundation hosts concerts, candlelit tours, and kite festivals at its many storied sites—original buildings that the fifty-one-year-old foundation has carefully preserved. www.lahainarestoration.org
20. Alelele waterfall
Take the mauka (mountainside) trail from Alelele Bridge in Kīpahulu, east of mile marker 39 on Hāna Highway. Step through the kukui and hala trees to find a fifty-foot-tall waterfall pouring into a rock-lined pool. Does a mo‘o (lizard goddess) guard these waters? You tell us.