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
Shopping: When Argentinean designer and Haiku resident Tamara Catz was asked if an awareness of fashion was growing on Maui, she replied, "Yes--people are starting to wear shoes." The dresses at her boutique average around $180, but there are worthwhile seasonal sales in the store and on her website.
Nightlife: Charley's is a honky-tonk joint dedicated to patron saint and local resident Willie Nelson. On occasion, Big Willie does sing here, though it's generally only announced the day before--and tickets go in an hour.
Huelo and Hana
The pretty and difficult two-hour drive that separates lush Hana from the rest of the island has protected it from rapid development. Hana is also where you'll find the largest population of blood Hawaiians outside the island of Molokai. Almost all are employed by some branch of the Hana Ranch, next door to the four-star Hotel Hana-Maui. Forty miles away, Hana's closest neighboring town, Huelo, is the new frontier for travelers who don't mind unpaved roads and a little rain.
Lodging: On cliffs overlooking the ocean, Hale Akua Shangri-La is an intimate New Age-y retreat. Some rooms have shared baths, and the grounds (including a saltwater pool and two Jacuzzis) are clothing-optional. If you can bear that, it's quite a deal. Also worth a look is the Hana Hale Malamalama Inn, where the coolest room is the Treehouse Cottage. For romance, it's tough to top the private cliff-top yurt at the Luana Spa Retreat. Massages start at $75.
Food: Prepare for the long drive on the road to Hana (the Hana Highway) by stopping at Maui Grown Market. Pick up a picnic lunch and you'll have the option of borrowing a sweet dog for the day. (Dogs have right of refusal.) Once in Hana, your dining options are limited. Go to Tutu's snack bar for the tasty breakfast sandwich or the taro burger, and the Hana Ranch Restaurant's take-out window for hot plates, including a filling one of shoyu chicken with macaroni salad and rice.
Activities: Hamoa Beach has something for everyone--a wide black-sand beach for sunning, two breaks for surfing (experienced riders only), and maybe the best break for body boarding and bodysurfing on the entire island. More enriching is a visit to Kahanu Garden, site of the massive and well-preserved ancient Hawaiian temple known as Piilanihale Heiau.
Shopping: Hasegawa General Store, one of the island's oldest plantation stores, stocks dusty, offbeat souvenirs, such as an Instant Immersion Hawaiian language CD ($10); Noni tea, a Hawaiian cure-all ($6.50); and coconut candy made in Hana ($3).
Nightlife: There's free Hawaiian music from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Thursdays through Sundays, inside the Paniolo Lounge at the Hotel Hana-Maui. Keeping it real is important. But there's nothing wrong with an occasional taste of the luxe life--or a really good mai tai.