As we begin decorating for Christmas and are enjoying the lovely seventy degree days Los Angeles offers in December, I know many friends in other parts of the country are getting ready for winter and dreaming of their next beach vacation. Last spring we joined my in-laws, and brother-in-law and his wife in Hawaii for a week on the Ka’anapali Coast on the northeast side of Maui. While they are all very familiar with Hawaii this was my first visit and I was beyond excited for beaches, sunsets and spectacular scenery. Maui did not in any way disappoint!
Courtesy of my generous in-laws we stayed at the Marriott Maui Ocean Club. The beachfront view from our room was all I needed to know the week was going to be a good one. You could easily spend a week at any of the resorts on the coast and leave very happy and refreshed. There are plenty of pools, activities, cabanas and beach to take advantage of, all on the resort property. This being my first visit though, our plan was to relax a little bit and explore a lot!
If you have a week to spend on this side of Maui, here are a few highlights that will leave you loving the island and still feel like you had a enough time to sit by the pool or the ocean and soak it all in.
Sunsets — Okay, so this one isn’t really a place but I feel like a hard rule should be no matter where you are on Maui, you have to stop to enjoy the sunset. The Ka’anapali Resort Area has a nice strand that is perfect for taking a sunset stroll and there are plenty of places to move over onto the sand or head down to the water for that perfect sunset photo. If you’re staying at one of the resorts pop open a bottle of wine and bring your glass down as you sit in a hammock or beach chair and soak in the scenery and the beauty that is Maui.
For another sunset treat make dinner or bar reservations at one of the many spots along the coastline and enjoy your dinner while watching the sun say goodnight on another day in paradise. We enjoy Duke’s, the food is great, the view is spectacular and if you’re there around sunset there is usually live music playing. If you’re staying at one of the resorts, you can walk along the strand to make your way to the restaurant, parking is also available if you’re staying a bit far away for a walk. Do make a reservation as it is a popular spot for sunset drinks and dinner. We did an impromptu sunset dinner date and added our name to a two hour wait list. If you follow our lead and don’t have a reservation, try the bar area. It is first come, first serve so my suggestion is order a drink at the bar and then casually scope out the bar tables to see who might be close to leaving their table. Brett will vouch, this might be one of my top skills, stalking tables without being noticed. I zeroed in on one or two potential tables and positioned myself so I could enjoy my drink, watch the sunset and be within 5 steps of either table. Within 15 minutes we had a lovely table for our impromptu sunset date. Take your time and enjoy your drinks, dinner and the sunset. We even took turns walking down to the water to really take it in and enjoy the view.
Maui Ocean Center — The Maui Ocean Center was one of my favorite stops during our trip. Depending on time and your budget you can spend anywhere from a few hours to a whole day exploring the aquarium. General admission gets you access to all of the exhibits but there is also a film show, a behind the scenes tour and if you are a certified SCUBA diver you can purchase a “Dive with the Sharks” encounter. We are not certified divers so that encounter was off limits but we did get a chance to spend time with a museum naturalist at the Turtle Lagoon. At any given time there are six sea turtles on display. Each turtle is labeled with a letter of the alphabet, so be sure to check out their shells to see who you are watching! Make sure to also leave time to sit in the Open Ocean exhibit. Check the daily schedule to see when the aquarium divers will be doing talks while diving inside the exhibit.
Lahaina — Lahaina is a cute beach side town that is worth an afternoon of exploring. If you spent the morning at The Maui Ocean Center, stop in Lahaina for lunch (try Cheesburger In Paradise for open air dining with reasonably priced burgers and drinks). Spend the afternoon wandering through the shops. There are lots of jewelry shops in town. If you are looking for something sparkly make sure to price compare before buying! Stop by the Banyan Tree to take in a bit of shade and read some of the plaques to learn a bit more about Lahaina and Hawaiian history.
Maui Brewing — As you may have noticed Brett and I enjoy exploring local breweries anytime we travel and Maui was no different. We were already familiar with Maui Brewing as we can pick up some of their wider releases in Los Angeles but we were excited to try some of their more specialized, smaller run beers. Just north of the resort area, Maui Brewing has a large parking lot and is easy to find. We stopped in for lunch and tasters one day and loved it so much we brought my husband’s brother and wife back with us for dinner another night. Along with plenty of beer to choose from, the brewery has an excellent selection of appetizers, lunch and dinner options and desserts.
Maui Pineapple Tours — For me, this was another not to miss place. Make sure to make advance reservations as they are very popular. This tour takes you through a working pineapple farm with stops along the way to see baby pineapples and learn more about how the pineapples are harvested and packaged for sale. At the end of the tour you also receive a free pineapple. Just a warning, this might be the best pineapple you will ever taste! If you visit towards the end of your stay on Maui, you’ll be able to take your pineapple on the plane with you. The boxes they come in are made both for carry-on and checked baggage. (In the Maui airport, there is a place where you can check your pineapple to your final destination!)
You can combine your pineapple farm tour with a visit to Hali’imaile Distilling Company. Located on the same property the distillery uses Maui Gold Pineapples to make their spirits. If you include this add-on tour you’ll get a glimpse at their distilling and bottling process and enjoy a few tasters at the end.
Moana Glass — If you are looking for a unique experience that will leave you with a fantastic souvenir from Maui, this is the place to stop. At Moana Glass you can book a glass blowing lesson! We booked a two person/two piece spot and really enjoyed our private lesson. Over the course of an hour I made a Christmas ornament and Brett made a starfish. It was incredible, this is not one of the places where you “help” but they do most of the work. Our instructor helped us with the hard things but both of us were turning glass in a fire, dipping it in colored glass and I even got to blow the glass to create my ornament. The staff at Moana Glass are fantastic and knowledgeable. After our lesson we spent some time in the gallery and even purchased a glass wave of our own to take home along with our own pieces. If you choose to do a lesson, it’s best to schedule it towards the beginning of your stay, that way you can return to pick up the piece once it cools (about 24 hours later). If a lesson isn’t in your plans or out of your budget make sure to check their websites for demonstrations. We returned later in the week to watch their whole team working on a giant sea turtle sculpture.
After a day of adventures, grab a glass of wine and head out to enjoy the sunset. Once the sun sets enjoy the tropical air as you stroll along the coastline in search of dinner.
One week wasn’t enough to explore all of Maui and I’m looking forward to a return trip that includes another island or two!
If you’re thinking about a trip to Hawaii or anywhere else and would like help planning your adventure please contact me. I love talking about your interests and helping your next adventure.
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