Maui is one of those strange places that’s both unbelievably beautiful yet feels like a regular town where people live and work. I’d rented a car – a tiny white clown car I’m pretty sure was run on hamster power – and driving from the airport to my hotel I found myself muttering, over and over again, Wow. Wow. Wow.
Almost everywhere you looked was something gorgeous or exotic or inspiring, and apparently it was so inspiring I was unable to lift a camera, since I took next to no photos. (I did post a couple here.)
I grew up in California, and have always felt a sense of great possibility – freedom, even – looking at the ocean from the shore. But seeing it from an island feels a lot more like vulnerability.
I mean, sure, you’re drinking rum cocktails and watching buff guys tote surfboards around, but there’s this underlying sense that the ocean could wake up cranky and decide to swallow you whole. I felt it even more strongly on the smaller island of Maui, but of course had no idea just how vulnerable I’d feel when the tsunami hit Japan on my very first night there. That’s some foreshadowing.
This was my second visit to Maui, and though I haven’t been to Kauai, which I hear is spectacular, Maui is my favorite of all the islands. It’s small but not so much so that there’s nothing to do, and for me – woo-woo alert – the vibe is perfect. Laid back but not obnoxiously so. As in, I wasn’t accosted by any crystal-swinging Reiki shamans.
Don’t miss Paia, a hip, mostly non-touristy neighborhood on the North Shore with fun shops and restaurants and bars. If, you know, you’re into that sort of thing. Which apparently I am, since it took two mail carriers to deliver my credit card bill. It was as if I were some sort of Support-the-Hawaiian-Economy ambassador, without the political immunity or colorful sashes.
I had a delightful margarita at Milagro’s:
Then headed across the street for fabulous, reasonably priced seafood at the Paia Fish Market. You order at the counter, then crowd in to a picnic table for a group meal experience. Yum.
Maui is home to Haleakala National Park, so I got to check another off my list. With its volcano peaking at about 10,000 feet it’s the highest point on the island, and a must see.
The drive up is gorgeous:
And diverse. (Evergreens in Polynesia, who knew?):
The park sits above cloud line and feels like you’re on top of the world:
The landscape is beautifully stark:
As is the plant life:
Hiking it is sort of like what I imagine the moon to be like, but with bonus oxygen:
Next up is the Big Island, which is chock full of cool stuff, including a national historical site with more drama than a Lindsay Lohan/Paris Hilton smackdown. Stay tuned.