Maui: Friendly, Quirky, and Full of Soul
A market where you can borrow a dog for the day. The clothing-discouraged drum circle every Sunday at sunset. A honky-tonk bar that's dedicated to Willie Nelson. Yes, we're talking about Maui
Food: Komoda Store & Bakery sells fresh pastries, like chocolate cream puffs sprinkled with white sugar. While dinner is a splurge, lunch at the Haliimaile General Store doesn't have to be. With some restraint, you can enjoy outstanding regional cuisine, such as a sashimi napoleon, for around $15 per person.
Activities: The winding road to Haleakala National Park is legendary, but it's the summit's Mars-like crater that will amaze you. Dress warmly if you plan to be there for sunrise or sunset--temperatures drop into the low 30s. The high elevation means that the free tasting at Tedeschi Vineyards can go to your head; be sure to designate a driver.
Shopping: Ching Store, founded in 1939, is one of Maui's last family-owned plantation general stores--meaning it was open when plantations were the mainstay of the economy. It has a full shelf of cans of Spam (Hawaii consumes an extraordinary amount of the pork product). Rodeo General Store is a good place to overhear gossip and pick up local produce, including strong Kula-grown coffee.
Nightlife: Casanova, a modest Italian restaurant, morphs into Maui's most happening nightspot, jammed with sun-kissed surfers and nubile hippie chicks. Ladies' Night is the hot ticket (guys pay a $10 cover).
Paia and Haiku
Since the '80s, athletes from South America and Europe have flocked to Maui's north shore, so don't be surprised if you overhear conversations in Portuguese, Spanish, and French. Both Paia and Haiku have hippie roots tempered by an influx of new money; the result is a global village with hearty, healthy restaurants and everything from tattoo parlors to boutiques selling $200 bikinis.
Lodging: Haiku Plantation Inn is a historic home turned B&B five minutes from the best north shore beaches. It offers lomi lomi massages and other healing remedies, including a ceremony in which you drink a tea infused with kava, a mildly stimulating root Hawaiians call awa. While Mama's Fish House is famous for serving the best food on Maui in a Polynesian-style tiki mansion right on the beach (entrées start at $32), most folks don't know that Mama's also rents stylish beach cottages, including five one-bedrooms with kitchens and patios. Alas, staying there gets you no discount on dinner.
Food: Hawaiians favor fatty, salty foods, which makes a health-food store like Mana Foods so welcome. The Paia Fish Market, a casual place to see and be seen, offers a tasty, satisfying mahi taco plate with home fries, coleslaw, or Cajun rice for $11. Colleen's is a cavernous café in the same complex as Studio Maui (see below), popular for post-yoga chat-and-chai.
Activities: The galvanizing event of the winter, drawing hundreds of spectators into the pineapple fields to watch with binoculars, is tow-in surfing at Jaws--a 40-foot-plus wave made famous by extreme surfer Laird Hamilton and movies like Riding Giants and Step Into Liquid. Beginners and experienced surfers alike rave about feeling safe with lessons from identical twins Tide and Kiva Rivers, who own Rivers to the Sea. The waves at Hookipa Beach Park are a bit more manageable (at least from April to October), and those who simply hope to take a dip should head for Baldwin Beach Park, adjacent to Paia's skateboard park, or Baby Beach, a mellow bay. Yoga aficionados will want to pose with former Hewlett-Packard executive Jennifer Lynn at Studio Maui, a state-of-the-art yoga studio that can accommodate up to 110 participants. Locals (ahem) can buy two classes and get one free--otherwise, it's $12 a pop.