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As we sailed across the Auau Channel, we waved goodbye to secluded Lanai and set our sights on her sister island Maui. Along the way we again spotted humpback whales and dolphins and the rugged outlines of Molokai, Kahoolawe, and the Big Island.
When the Expeditions (www.go-lanai.com) ferry docked in Lahaina Harbor, we disembarked and walked beneath a forest of banyan trees to our rental car. We then drove down the southwest Maui Coast to Hotel Wailea, where we checked into a beautiful suite overlooking the ocean and hills of lush vegetation.
Nestled on 15 acres, Hotel Wailea is an authentic tropical paradise, surrounded by palm and avocado trees, rolling hills, thick gardens, waterfalls and streams, and lots of Hawaiian charm. Because the property is a few blocks above the beach, it offers an intimate, romantic atmosphere not found at larger, busier resorts. This is a place to enjoy the island and forget about life for awhile.
The hotel also boasts a full service spa and fitness center, a sparkling pool, an award-winning restaurant, complimentary breakfast, and an efficient shuttle service to and from the beaches and shopping areas a couple minutes drive away.
All 72 suites at Hotel Wailea feature 900 sq-ft, separate bedrooms and living areas, deep soaking tubs, kitchens, free wireless internet, TVs, plush bathrobes, and private lanais with chaise lounges and chairs. Ours overlooked the water, white sandy beaches and the island of Molokai a few miles offshore.
When we weren’t lounging poolside at the hotel, we were exploring the rest of the island. One of my favorite spots was Iao Valley State Park, located in the center of Maui. This magical, 4,000-acre reserve is carpeted with thick, tropical vegetation and guarded by towering mountain peaks. It is home to one of Maui’s most popular landmarks, the 1,200-ft Iao Needle, a giant jagged rock shooting above the Iao stream.
A sacred, historical place in Hawaiian history, the Iao Valley is a great place for a nature hike, as there are well-maintained trails leading to the needle above and to an old village below.
From the valley we drove to gorgeous Makena Beach. Also known as Big Beach, this beach is Maui’s largest and also one of its best, which to me means it’s one of the best in the world. With white sand stretching nearly a mile-long and 100 yards wide, this ocean-front playground offers great swimming, snorkeling, picnicking and sunbathing.
After a day at the beach we drove back to Hotel Wailea for dinner at the property’s signature Capische? restaurant and bar. Serving creative Southern Italian cuisine, the restaurant is delicately woven into the hotel garden setting, so guests can dine in various romantic outdoor nooks, with memorable views of the ocean and rolling grounds.
Our meal began with mushroom truffle risotto; and a Kona Maine lobster, with garden vegetable, preserved lemon and herb crème. We followed scrumptious appetizers with Caesar and arugula salads and white wine.
For the main course I devoured a tasty Capische Cioppino, with Kona Maine lobster tail, Kauai shrimp, clams, local fish and house-made saffron orrecchiette. My friend went with a divine Porcini Crusted Ahi, with mushrooms, roasted root veggies, polenta and pumpkin seed vanilla vinaigrette.
After dinner we relaxed on our suite’s private lanai and watched the sun fall into the ocean behind Molokai, while sipping mai tais, breathing in the warm fragrance of plumeria, and feeding breadcrumbs to wild chickens.
For more information on staying at Hotel Wailea and current specials, visit: www.hotelwailea.com. For more information on visiting Maui, taking the Maui/Lanai ferry and other activities, visit www.gohawaii.com/lanai.
-Story and photo by Greg Aragon