2011 Shaka List

“Maui.” Those two languorous syllables roll off the tongue like a promise fulfilled. This place is deep medicine. Maui’s natural wonders command one superlative after another: sunniest, prettiest, most inviting. But often it’s the loose hem that wins our loyalty, the quirks and human touches that tell us we’re home: the bank teller’s friendly hint of pidgin . . . the feral roosters pecking in the traffic median. Our annual Shaka List includes a bit of both—the magnificent and humble reasons we declare, once again, Maui no ka ‘oi—Maui is the best!


Story by Shannon Wianecki  |  Photography by Bob Bangerter  |  Nina Lee

Hana Hwy1. Hana Highway.

How do Maui residents relax? We head to Hana. The rainbow-kissed rural town is around fifty miles and as many years away from the island’s business center. Infamous Hana Highway, with its hairpin turns and cliff-hugging blind curves, is a lushly forested trip back in time. Surrender your smartphone; you can’t get reception anyway. Count the bridges as you cross them. Get your feet muddy finding waterfalls. Suck wild guavas. Deeply compute that life is a journey, not a destination. “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”—Jack Kerouac, On the Road

2. Hale Pa‘i.

From this one-room stone building on the Lahainaluna High School campus, literacy spread throughout the Islands. The first newspapers west of the Rocky Mountains were published here in 1834, along with books and scripture. The “house of print” is a  museum now, but olelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language) experts are translating its stacks of newspapers into English, giving new life to ideas inked long ago. Open weekdays, 10 a.m.– 4 p.m. 980 Lahainaluna Rd., Lahaina, (808) 667-7040.

3. Ulua.

When the demigod Maui snared Pimoe with his magic fishhook, the mighty, shape-shifting fish transformed itself into land: the Hawaiian Islands were born. Of course, not every ulua, or giant trevally, has the power of its mythological counterpart. But Hawaiian sportfishers revere this fierce and clever fish above all others.

Olivines-and-sandalwood4. Year-round sunshine.

Increased happiness and health.

5. Twenty-handed massage at the Spa Grande.

In celebration of its twentieth birthday, Spa Grande is offering a twenty-handed massage: ten therapists to simultaneously erase your every care. It’s the world’s most exclusive—and expensive—treatment. Or, soak like a billionaire on a pauper’s budget. Purchase an $80 day pass for access to the spa’s East to West wonderland, a two-story marble bathhouse befitting Caesar and Cleopatra. At the Grand Wailea, 3850 Wailea Alanui, Wailea, (800) 888-6100.

6. Pop-up concerts.

George and Ringo at the old Wunderbar. Hendrix in the pasture above Seabury Hall. Prince with Willie K at Hapa’s. Over the years, lucky Maui music fans have caught impromptu, intimate performances by visiting—and resident—superstars. As I write, Willie Nelson’s son Lukas is jamming down the street at Charley’s. Keep your ears open.

7. Poi.

Sweet or sour? One finger or two?


Photo: Shannon Wianecki

ginger-flowers8. Masako Cordray’s floral arrangements.

Decorating the island’s finest resorts and restaurants, Cordray’s petaled pieces are pure art. Look for telltale concentrations of color: pink anthuriums fringed with blushing gingers, or black taro leaves  punctuating
a nest of emerald ferns.

nene9. Apple bananas.

Stubby and sweetly tart, these backyard fruits are homegrown gold.

10. Nene.

In 1951, the wild population of endemic geese was estimated at thirty individuals; thanks to devoted efforts, our state bird can now be heard honking over island rooftops.

11. Pa‘u riders.

The expert Hawaiian horsewomen of the nineteenth century scoffed at prim suggestions to ride sidesaddle. Instead, free-spirited wahine wore long, flamboyant skirts, or pa‘u, and galloped across town with flowers woven into their horses’ manes. The tradition continues. Each year on King Kamehameha Day, equestrians parade down Lahaina’s Front Street, representing each Hawaiian Island with appropriately colored satin pa‘u and flower or shell lei.

Artwork © 2011 Herb Kawainae Kane.
Artwork © 2011 Herb Kawainae Kane.

12. Ching Store.

Next door to Grandma’s Coffee House, Mrs. Florence Ching has supplied pocket-sized Keokea with gasoline, candy, fresh flowers, and smiles for forty-plus years.

13. Sundays at Grandma’s Coffee House.

Minnie Franco, a.k.a. “Grandma,” roasted her first coffee beans in 1918. Four generations later, the family-run business is still buzzin’. Sundays at grandson Al Franco’s Keokea outpost are lively. Line up behind the paniolo (cowboys) and cyclists to claim one of the coffee mugs hanging above the packed pastry case. Enjoy eggs Benedict and live Hawaiian music on the sunny lanai, shaded by a few coffee trees poking through the decking. 9232 Kula Hwy, Keokea (808) 878-2140.

14. Princess Keopuolani.

Shakespeare should have scripted this life. In 1790, eleven-year-old Princess Keopuolani fled with her grandmother over the West Maui Mountains, pursued by her uncle, Kamehameha the Great, who’d just trounced Maui forces during the terrible battle of Kepaniwai. The rapacious warrior chased the girl all the way to Moloka‘i, where he demanded her hand in marriage. Born to high-ranking parents, Keopuolani was considered divine. Commoners fell prostrate in her presence; touching her shadow was punishable by death. Even her mighty husband was compelled to remove his malo (loincloth) in deference to her superior lineage. She bore him eleven children; three survived, including two who ruled as Kamehameha II and III. Among the first Christian converts, she helped overthrow the ancient kapu system that had simultaneously granted her divinity and dictated every aspect of daily life. Visit her grave at Waiola Church, 535 Waine‘e St., Lahaina.

15. Maui Nui Botanical Gardens.

Hawaiian turtle-fisherman-turned-botanist Rene Sylva transformed a mediocre zoo into a living museum flush with rare and endangered plants—the first botanical garden devoted to native Hawaiian flora. Sylva’s legacy lives on. Meander through its gardens and groves, swing by on Arbor Day for a free sapling, and catch a workshop on weaving, dying, or making kapa (barkcloth) with native plants. Follow Maui Nui’s Facebook page for “native plant of the day” updates. 150 Kanaloa Ave., Kahului, (808) 249-2798.

16. No Mo’ Plastic Bags.

Maui County joined forward-thinking cities around the globe by banning plastic shopping bags this January. Hawaiian sea turtles, monk seals, and picnickers alike can now enjoy bag-free beaches.

mamas dessert17. Mama’s Polynesian Black Pearl.

Elegant and delectable, this come-hither Venus flytrap of chocolate mousse and passion-fruit cream is as marvelous to look at as to eat. At Mama’s Fish House, 799 Poho Pl., Pa‘ia, (808) 579-8488.

18. Baby Beach.

A red-dirt parking lot in Spreckelsville empties onto sugary sand, the west end of Baldwin Beach. The exposed reef creates a near perfect lap pool, occasionally flushed with a current so strong you can kick hard and stay in the same place. Joy abounds here: keiki splash in the shallow water, dogs fetch tossed coconut husks, athletes scale the sand dunes, and, during low tide, limu pickers harvest edible sea vegetables. (From Hana Highway, take Nonohe Place, and turn left on Kealakai Place.)

19. Barrio Fiesta.

Kids congregate around the greased pole, some stuffing hand towels in their pockets, others patting their hands in the dirt. Whoever shimmies to the pole’s top walks away with six crisp hundred-dollar bills. Got a strategy? Give it shot at the nation’s longest-running celebration of all things Filipino. The Barrio Fiesta is held in Wailuku every Memorial Day weekend. Immerse yourself in the colorful culture of one of Hawai‘i’s largest ethnic groups. Follow the Flores de Mayo procession, gape at skilled martial artists clanging knives, collect hidden cowrie shells, snack on pancit (fried noodles) and cascaron (coconut donuts), and root for your favorite Miss Barrio Fiesta contestant.

20. Dinner at Il Teatro.

Not really a restaurant, Il Teatro is a command performance for ten lucky guests. In the intimate dining room beneath Capische at the Hotel Wailea, Chefs Brian Etheredge and Chris Kulis regale their audience with course after course—house-cured ono gravlox, shaved fennel salad, squid-ink ravioli, duck confit, sous vide filet—each lovingly prepared, in full view, on shiny copper cookware. Encouraged by exquisite wines, the evening builds to a crescendo, then relaxes in a sweet finale. It’s a gourmet feast, cooking lesson, and show, all in one. 555 Kaukahi St., Wailea, (808) 879-2224.

21. Full-moon hike in Haleakala.

Magic happens when the House of the Sun goes dark. Pull on warm clothes and investigate. Carefully descend Sliding Sands trail to see ‘ahinahina (silversword) leaves glowing in the light of their namesake, Hina, the moon goddess. Pocket your flashlight. Listen for the fantastic trills of the ‘ua‘u (Hawaiian petrel) soaring home after weeks at sea. Feel how vast and wondrous Earth is, how small its role in the sky’s thrilling drama.


Schaefer Gallery22. Schaefer International Gallery.

Since opening its doors in 1994, the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s visual-arts venue has lived up to its name, exhibiting the replica of a sixteenth-century golden tearoom on its first journey outside of Japan . . . ceramics by Eastern European artists enjoying their first taste of post-Cold War freedom . . . an international  collection of sculptures, each no bigger than a shoebox. As importantly, the Schaefer has provided a museum-quality setting for island artists, from established masters, to youngsters in the annual exhibit “Celebrating the Artist in Us.”

23. Dawn patrol.

“Hanging ten” as prayer. 
Wake before the sun. 
Pull on surf trunks. 
Wax board. 
Tiptoe across wet rocks. 
Meditate between dark swells. 
Observe the first light spilling through stained-glass waves. 
Get barreled.

24. Whale song.

During winter months on Maui, duck under water. Hold your breath and listen. Could it be? No. . . . Yes! Humpback whales, those mysterious giants of the deep, are singing to one another. Whoa. Eavesdrop on their live conversation at www.whalesong.net.

25. Turtle Town.

Close encounters with green sea turtles are nearly guaranteed anywhere along Maui’s sunny south shore.

26. The Shaka.

Whoever originated the “hang loose” hand signal remains a mystery, but its meaning is as clear as ever. A nonverbal version of “aloha,” shaking your thumb and pinky says: “Hello,” “Take it easy,” “Goodbye,” and “Thanks.” Just ask President Obama.


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