20 Secret Bargains of Maui for Under $20
Equipped with the right addresses, the frugal traveler can both enjoy -- and afford -- the top attractions of this increasingly popular Hawaiian island
As a former resident of Hawaii, I enjoyed my leisure hours on Maui for not a penny more than I spent on Oahu, Kauai, or the Big Island. The hard-won knowledge of those idyllic times is set forth below in 20 bite-size capsules of island advice based on that experience.
1. MAUI'S ART CAPITAL
The old whaling streets of Lahaina are now filled with outstanding art galleries (selling everything from tacky dolphin sculptures to works by Chagall). Head here for Friday Art Nights (808/667-9175), when over a dozen galleries open their doors for artist meet-and-greets, with free pupus (hors d'oeuvres) and wine.
2. WHALE WATCHING ON DRY LAND
Why shell out big bucks for a whale-watching cruise when the huge mammals nearly park themselves right along the island's shallow shores? A good spot to see them is McGregor Point at mile marker 9 on Highway 30, just south of the Lahaina Tunnel. From roughly December to April you'll spot plenty of these migrating creatures along Maui's western coast. Also head to the free Whalers Village Museum in Lahaina to explore the island's whaling past through artifacts made from ivory and bone, nineteenth-century scrimshaw, photo murals, and displays, like the re-creation of part of a whaling ship (2435 Ka'anapali Pkwy., 808/661-5992, whalersvillage.com).
3. SUN YOUR TROPICAL BUNS
One of the most social spots on the island is Little Beach at Makena, just north of the better-known, 3,300-foot-long Big Beach (where there's free parking). The small strip of sand attracts nudists, Boogie boarders, and residents who chat the day away in this lovely, undeveloped, free-of-charge hideaway.
4. DRINK UP
Seems like everyone and their mother has a winery nowadays, but the Tedeschi Vineyards on 20,000 acres of Maui's Upcountry (near Ulupalakua) has been pumping out the hooch since 1974, and its history stretches back to the legendarily wild parties held here by King Kalakaua (aka the Merrie Monarch). Free daily tastings of pineapple, passion fruit, and grape wines happen in the 1874 King's Cottage. Info: 808/878-6058, mauiwine.com.
5. OUTDOOR SHOPPING AND SWAPPING
The Maui Swap Meet blossoms every Saturday from seven in the morning until noon, with island items like aloha shirts, fresh taro, fruit breads, tropical flowers, and more -- all for an entrance fee of only 50 cents. Located on South Pu'unene Avenue, next to the Kahului Post Office. For more fresh Maui produce, check out the free Ohana Farmers Market under the monkeypod trees at the Kahului Shopping Center every Wednesday morning.
6. FREE HULA AND MORE
In the Tiki Courtyard of the spiffy Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, you don't need to be a guest to enjoy the nightly, complimentary Hawaiian music from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and the hula show from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. For the hotel's Aloha Friday, you'll find local crafters making their wares in the lobby and courtyard between 9 a.m. and noon, and at 11 a.m. on Fridays the staff gets into the swing of things by performing songs and hula as well, all open to the public and offered at no charge.
7. THE UNEXPLORED SOUTHERN COAST
Your rental car company will probably kill you, but many travelers take the dirt road along Maui's arid, unpopulated southern coast to complete the island loop from Hana. Along this dramatic, windswept stretch of highway, stop by the Kaupo General Store (808/248-8054) in the tiny village of Kaupo. Built in 1925, the wooden store is full of antiques (including a huge camera collection), and the old refrigerators are help-yourself. Sit on the porch and while away an hour or two in the perfect silence of this quiet coastline.
8. SPIRITUAL HAWAII
Heiau are ancient Hawaiian temples made of stones, and Maui is chock-full of them. Respectful visits can be made to the remains of Pi'ila-nihale Heiau, thought to be one of the largest in the state with 50-foot-tall walls, found at the Kahanu Garden near Hana (808/248-8912, $10 entrance), and near Wailuku you can visit for free the scenic Haleki'i and Pihanakalani Heiau, which offer commanding views of the island.
9. MADE-IN-MAUI MUSEUMS
Most people don't come to the island for museums, and that's a shame, since the 1912 Wo Hing Museum (808/661-3262) on Lahaina's Front Street gives a glimpse of the island's Chinese past and early Thomas Edison films of Hawaii, all for $1. In Wailuku, the 1833 Bailey House Museum (2375-A Main St., 808/244-3326) is a restored missionary family's home with Hawaiian quilts, paintings, and furnishings, as well as a "Hawaiian Room" filled with pre-European contact artifacts ($5 admission).
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