The Huffington Post: Hitting Maui's Power Chords

Read more on The Huffington Post about my favorite parts about Maui. 

"Everyone has a story about Hawaii, if you start talking travel. Someone got engaged there, someone went to a wedding there, someone grew up going to their family's condo.

But despite my traveling 200-plus days a year, I had never been until last week, when I explored Maui's greatest hits. Since I was going for the first time, I wanted classic Hawaii: bright leis, ukelele music, fruity cocktails, sunsets, beaches, and luaus. I wanted to know why Maui is continually voted one of the best islands in the world."

Read more here


All Good Things...Paddleboarding, Serenity Pool, Mama's Fish House & Good-bye to Maui

All good things must come to an end, including Hawaiian adventures.  But our flights were booked for 9 p.m., so we still had a full day to soak it in.  What's up with the Kahului airport by the way? One of my least favorites. But when you arrive there, you're in paradise, so I'll give it a pass.

The turtle I saw while PaddleboardingI had a stand-up paddleboarding lesson scheduled with the wonderful Rob (who took us scuba-diving) from Maui Undersea Adventures, on-site at the Four Seasons.  The water was choppy so not ideal for a beginner, but by the end, I totally understood why Giada de Laurentiis, Jennifer Garner and Jennifer Aniston are obsessed.
I *only* fell three times during our lesson, which felt pretty good to me.  When I thought I was going to fall, I would get nervous, lose my balance and fall.  But when I was calm, looked at the horizon and thought "You're not going to fall, just catch your balance," I stayed up. And Rob said he has heard a 1/2 hour of paddleboarding is like doing 1.5 hours of Pilates.  A good workout no matter what!  We saw three turtles along the way.

Brunch BuffetThe DUO brunch buffet is one to be savored-made-to order omelettes, pancakes & waffles, fresh fruit, croissants, muffins, granola, yogurt, eggs, Asian-inspired rice, and even a gluten-free selection.  Like all food at the resort, it spoiled us for what we have to eat when we leave.

Tables at BrunchBrunch MenuI have never been convinced of the value of a cabana until I tried a cabana at The Serenity Pool.  I still miss my cabana boy.  Fresh fruit, champagne, a flat-screen TV, doors to shut the world out and front-row seats to a magazine-cover (Conde Nast Traveler, June 2011) view.  It's adults-only, which is a nice change of pace from the many families at the main pool. 

The Serenity PoolIn the Cabana


The Best View from the Serenity PoolCabana ViewThe worst part for me is always checking out.  You have to prepare yourself to leave what I call the Great Hotel Cocoon.

Mama's Fish House
Our last dinner was at the famous Mama's Fish House just outside of Paia town, worth every bit of praise it's given.  Fish is caught twice a day and that's what's served.  Mine was Ono "caught by Alan Cadiz near the towering cliffs of Molokai," served with caramlized Maui onions, avocado and jasmine rice.  You have to get a table facing the ocean for sunset views.  Please, please don't miss Mama's.

Mama's Fish HouseThe Beach at Mama's Fish House


Fresh Off the BoatViewWe toasted to Maui and headed off to Kahului where we were in chaotic airport reality again.


Unforgettable Haleakala Sunrise & Old Lahaina Luau: Day 5 in Maui

In Maui, I found natural beauty that I've never seen before, that can't be described in pictures or words, in a sunrise and 28-mile bike ride down the Haleakala volcano. That's the good news.

Sunrise at HaleakalaThe bad news: our alarm went off at 1:45 a.m. on Day 5.  Thus ensued puffy eyes, scratchy contacts, grumbling about getting out of bed, and no talking.  Our hotel set up a spread of banana bread and make-your-own coffee, cappuccinos and espressos at 2:00 a.m. so it made it a lot easier!  Mountain Riders picked us up promptly at 2:15 a.m. and we went to their office to pick up the rest of the group and watch Miss Hawaii 1999 talk about best safety practices on a video. We picked out helmets and bright yellow windbreakers and pants and headed to the summit of Haleakala. 

Here's the best tip I can give you: DRESS WARMLY and in LAYERS. I was told these things so I put on three layers.  But I was so cold that I wished I had my winter coat, bomber hat, a sweater, two scarves, and a hot potato for my hands.  Everyone shuffles around on the summit in a variety of colored windbreaking pantsuits and shivering as they wait for the sunrise. 

You're above the cloud line on Haleakala and so the sunrise feels like you are on another planet.  The moon is so close you want to reach out and touch it, which slowly turns to the sun rising.  I became quite philosophical and lines like "darkness always turns to light" ran through my very cold head.

The experience is something I'd fly to Maui for a day to do again.  It is just that beautiful.  And there is no ride like the Haleakala bike ride in the world.  You are cruising down, barely exerting any effort so I felt like I was a kid again, gulping in the air, the smells and the views.  We stopped in Kula (famous for Maui onions) for a snack.

Biking Down HaleakalaStopping in Kula for a snackI loved the experience and would do it again in a heartbeat.  However, next time I will do it without a group.  I found myself wanting to just cruise down the mountain but as a group, you cater to the lowest common denominator, or the slowest one.  As we continued down, I felt the anger grow in our group of just wanting to go down without constantly braking. Despite this, I will never forget the sunrise and the bike ride and plan on doing both again at least once in my lifetime.

Mountain Riders is the only company that ends the tour at Paia Beach, which was a great way to end it.

With my sister Maggie on the beachWe got back to the hotel at noon and took a nap before we had to leave for the Old Lahaina Luau at 5:00 p.m.  I ordered room service and sat out on the balcony, soaking in the view.  Hurricane Irene news was swirling back home in NYC so I caught up on the evacuations and rushes to buy canned goods as I ate my lobster salad.  Yes, I knew how lucky I was in that moment!

Old Lahaina LuauI am so glad we went to the Old Lahaina Luau.  It was 45 minutes from the Four Seasons, on a highway that has better views than Highway 1 in California, and Lahaina itself has great shops and restaurants.  The luau brings everyone together who came to Hawaii for different reasons.  We met tons of honeymooners, families that return to Hawaii every year and couples celebrating big anniversaries (25, 40 and 50 years together).

SunsetI loved closing the day with a Lahaina sunset when we started it with a Haleakala sunrise. As the sun begins to set, you're greeting with an "Aloha" and an explanation by your server, followed by wandering around and discovering traditional crafts and history.

Don't miss the unveiling of the KALUA PIG, as it's unearthed from the Imu, or Hawaiian underground oven.  Get there 20 minutes before they unveil for a good view.

The hula show starts with a little Polynesian flair, moving on to the ancient Hawaiian hula and ending with more modern hula dances. 

The luau runs from 5:45-8:45 in the summer, perfect for us to get back to the Four Seasons and enjoy our last night in the lobby bar (with more than a few celebs enjoying it with us!).

In Love With The Road to Hana & The Black Sand Beach: Day 4 in Maui

Leading up to my trip, it was funny how divided people were on the Road to Hana. It ranged from "It was my favorite thing ever!" to "I liked it...I just wish I had a helicopter to take me back after I got to Hana" to "Ummm....yeah I'd skip that." No matter what, it was something I was really looking forward to so we chatted with the concierge at the Four Seasons, got a map, and hit the road with a full tank of gas at 8 a.m.

The Road to HanaI absolutely loved it.  There are over 600 hairpin turns on the Road to Hana, and it's about 50 miles from Paia to Hana, though we went beyond Hana.  We decided to stop at a few sights on our way there and a few on the way back, so it took us 2 1/2 hours to get to Hana.  If you're a hiker, bring your gear and bug spray.  I wish we had brought bug spray even for getting in and out of the car.  We weren't going to be doing any of the hiking due to time constraints but still loved stopping for heart-stopping views at the Keanae Peninsula and Wailua Overlook.  It was fun to browse the Nahiki roadside boutiques (get the coconut candy!). 

Looking Down at the Black Sand BeachThe unforgettable moment for me was stopping at the black sand beach at Wainapanapa State Park.  I will dream of this beach.  It was absolutely perfect. It is actually mostly smooth, small lava pebbles so bring a good pair of beach sandals.  I felt so at peace and in the moment on this small beach.

Black Sand BeachI didn't see the danger factor that is often written about.  If you are a relatively safe driver, you will be fine. As in, you aren't into going 75 mph around hard turns.  I drove leisurely, made great time and was aware of my surroundings.  Easy!  Bring good music for the road and someone you like traveling with.  I can't count how many times we played Beyonce's "Best Thing I Never Had."  We cranked it up and gave it our best American Idol shot.

Travaasa HanaWe stopped in Hana at Oprah fave Travaasa Hana (formerly Hotel Hana Maui) to take a look. I'll be doing a separate post on it at some point but I loved it.  Lunch was at Hana Ranch Restaurant which was a huge mistake. One of the worst lunches ever!  Maggie got a pulled pork sandwich and more than half of it was pure fat.  So we shouldered on and ended up biking for smoothies at Laulima Farms, about 12 miles past Hana. 

Biking for SmoothiesI'm a history nut & loved stopping at Charles Lindbergh's grave, which is before Laulima Farms, about 11 miles from Hana. Turn at the Maui Stables sign--there is no other sign for it. He is buried in the graveyard of the Palapala Ho'omau church.  Lindbergh spent a lot of time at his home in Maui with his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  At the end of his life, he knew he only had days to live and so he left New York and returned to his home on the island.

Charles Lindbergh's GraveWhen I go back, I'll spend a night in Hana after driving the road.  Hana just feels different.  It's quiet and isolated in a wonderful way. I will also pick up a picnic lunch and eat it on the black sand beach.

After a long day of sightseeing, we had a comforting and delicious dinner at DUO restaurant back at the Four Seasons. DUO is where we had been eating the divine breakfast buffet each morning, but it transforms into a fabulous steak and seafood house at night.  There is a raw bar, with the freshest seafood you can imagine.  The crab cake appetizer was almost all fresh crab, the ahi tuna melted in my mouth and the skillet-roasted vegetables were crisp with a touch of salt and pepper.  We both loved the strawberry crumble and the pink cotton candy that comes with your check.  It was one of my favorite nights.  Thank you to Cecil for a wonderful chat about New York, Maui, food and for being so kind to us.

Crab CakeOne more photo from The Road to Hana-kisses with a new friend! Near the start of the road is a guy with a bunch of parrots on the side-you won't be able to miss him.  $20 buys you as many photo opps as you want for you and your traveling buddies.


Outrigger Canoeing & the Concept of Dirt to Mouth: Day 3 in Maui


Four Seasons MauiToday was a slower day exploring the resort and beauty of Wailea.  When I was figuring out what I wanted to do on Maui, I had grand plans.  I'm still doing some of those things-the Road to Hana and sunrise at Haleakala-but the beauty of Wailea and its beaches have made me reluctant to leave.  Plus, there really isn't anywhere more perfect to stay than the Four Seasons.  This isn't PR spin, it's just fact.  This is a resort of celebrations-honeymoons, anniversaries, birthdays, family reunions, or simply families returning year after year.  I always strike up conversations with other hotel guests and ask how they're liking their stay.  Not only have the responses been enthusiastic here, they have been positively bubbly and overflowing. 

The resort offers a complimentary outrigger canoe program and Maggie and I woke up early for some paddling.  I thought it would be boring.  Far from it.  We paddled out to coral reefs, where we could see everything 30 feet under in perfect detail.  The best part was cooing at the eight turtles we saw along the way.  Turtles know when cameras come out (or so it seemed) and I couldn't ever get a photo.  They disappeared when I pointed the camera their direction.  But what a treat to see them.  If you don't want to dive or snorkel, an easy paddle on the outrigger canoe takes you to all the action.

View of the resort from the canoeAfter our dinner at Spago last night, neither of us were very hungry, so we skipped a sit-down lunch & laid on the beach.  I had the chance to interview the charming Swiss Executive Chef Roger Stettler and talk more with Spago's Executive Chef Cameron Lewark.  Both are passionate supporters of local products, and have networks of 80-100 Maui farmers they utilize on the island.  Chef Lewark even hosts Spago Team Field Trips, where they visit these purveyors.  Today's field trip was to Michael McCoy's Fresh Island Herbs farm in Makawao.  Everyone's invited if they want to go, from the dishwashers on up.

For spa treatments!Have you ever had four hands digging out the knots in your body? Today, that's what I experienced in a open-air, ocean-view hale hau, or traditional Hawaiian hut.  I got the amazing 50-minute Lomi aumoa massage, with two therapists running the show.  What an incredibly relaxing time to hear the waves crashing with a breeze coming in. Tales of Hurricane Irene approaching NYC and home seemed very far away.

Main PoolCapische for dinnerDinner was at Capsiche, at the nearby Hotel Wailea. The hotel is on a hill, with a view of the beach and twinkling lights of the resorts in Wailea.  We loved chatting with the chef, Christopher Kulis, who started an organic vegetable and herb garden right at the hotel.  Everything on our plate that could come from the thriving garden did that day.  His concept is seed-to-sautee but as he said "We want our food to be straight from the dirt to your mouth." DIRT TO MOUTH. It doesn't have the chic sound of "farm-to-table" but I like it better. Straight up.