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
10. C'MON, SUGAR!
Due to high labor costs and the worldwide market, Hawaii's days as a major sugar player are long over, but you can relive the glory days at the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum (3957 Hansen Rd., at Pu'unene Ave., 808/871-8058, sugarmuseum.com). Five dollars gets you into the museum (which is the century-old house of the former superintendent of the state's largest sugar factory) to learn how sugar is grown and how the founders acquired land from the Kingdom of Hawaii.
11. VIETNAM MEETS MAUI
When asked for a good place to eat, nearly every resident of Maui will automatically point you to A Saigon Cafe in Wailuku. Deliciously absent of tourists (and even lacking a sign), this no-frills diner is always packed to the gills with hungry islanders scarfing down beef noodle soup (for $6.95), chicken and vegetable clay pots (for $7.95), and other low-cost Asian yummies in Jennifer Nguyen's family-style eatery (1792 Main St., Wailuku, 808/243-9560).
12. SET THE NIGHT TO MUSIC
Think there's nothing to do in Maui after the sun goes down and your tanning is done? Think again: Maui Brews in Lahaina is a boisterous bistro and nightclub with resident DJs, live bands, lanai, pool tables, video games, 16 beers on tap, and $1.50 non-premium drinks and brews daily from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. (900 Front St., Lahaina, 808/667-7794).
13. YOU'RE AN ANIMAL
Located in Kula, in the island's Upcountry, Zoo Maui (formerly the Keiki Petting Zoo) is a nonprofit "interactive zoo for all ages" and home to over 150 critters including a giraffe, Hawaiian hawks, Hawaiian owls, island feral pigs and goats, and giant tortoises. For $5 you can commune with this host of animals (808/878-2189, zoomaui.com; by appointment only on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday; general admission Saturday). (Editor's note: Zoo Maui has closed.)
14. 'IAO VALLEY HIGHLIGHTS
The sacred 'Iao Valley -- its sheer green walls decorated with long, thin waterfalls -- is one of the most awe-inspiring sights on Maui. On the road up to it from Wailuku, be sure to stop at the Tropical Gardens of Maui (200 'Iao Valley Rd., 808/244-3085, tropicalgardensofmaui.com; open weekdays), where for $3 you can explore four acres of tropical plants, koi ponds, streams, and taro patches. Further into the valley, check out the nonprofit Hawaii Nature Center (875 'Iao Valley Rd., 808/244-6500, hawaiinaturecenter.org). A $6 admission fee lets you delve into their interactive science museum, which explains how Hawaii's plants, animals, and birds made it to the islands.
15. CHOO-CHOO IN PARADISE
Although admittedly touristy, the Sugar Cane Train from Lahaina to Ka'anapali is a pretty fun outing, along six miles of incredible scenery at the foot of the West Maui Mountains. The conductor even sings! A round trip costs $15.95. Information: 800/499-2307, sugarcanetrain.com
16. THE ISLAND IS A STAGE
The historic 'Iao Theater (circa 1928), in the old section of Wailuku, hosts fun theater events for enthusiastic local crowds, like splashy Broadway-style revues and musicals. Best of all are the non-Broadway prices: Tickets for most shows start at only $18 (68 N. Market St., Wailuku, 808/242-6969, mauionstage.com).
17. DELVE INTO THE DEPTHS
More than just an aquarium, the three-acre Maui Ocean Center at Ma'alaea Harbor is also a cultural experience, with an exhibit called "Hawaiians & the Sea," which details the interwoven bonds the Polynesians have with the Pacific-authentic hooks, traps, and nets are on display. Tour guides even refer to the sea creatures by their Hawaiian names. There are also shark, stingray, and turtle tanks for your perusal. Tickets are $19 (808/270-7000, mauioceancenter.com).
18. COOPERATING ARTISTS
Maui has attracted artists for generations, and a celebration of local works is found at Maui Crafts Guild in the surfer town of Paia. Glass beads, kimonos, baskets, jewelry, pottery, ceramics, wall hangings, handmade paper, and more overflow from this artists cooperative (housed in a plantation-style building), with many items going for less than $20 (43 Hana Hwy., 808/579-9697, mauicraftsguild.com).