This bed-and-breakfast in Wailuku is located in the Lufkin Residence, which is listed on the Hawaii Register of Historic Places. The cost of your room (rates start at $165 per night) includes a gourmet breakfast worthy of any first-class restaurant. During the day, the parking lot empties, and that's a good thing - the inn is conveniently located, so it's a quick drive to hiking, sunning, swimming, shopping, and whatever else is on your agenda. Rooms are immaculate, with amenities such as ironing boards, coffeemakers, and bedding from Hawaii's premier fabric designer, Sig Zane.
For dinner one night, we went to A.K.'s Cafe in Wailuku, home of the "Recession Is Not an Option" menu. There are many stars in the show here, including the $10.75 coconut shrimp, $15.25 pot roast with gravy, and $4 sweet potato fries. Many of the dishes are butter- and salt-free, such as the garlic-crusted ono with ginger cucumber salad. During happy hour, Monday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m., mixed drinks are $5 and pupus are 20 percent off.
Next stop: the Outrigger Aina Nalu, a condo complex in the heart of Lahaina, on the west side of Maui, known for restaurants and stylish shopping. Unbelievably, a modern studio at the Aina Nalu starts at just $129 per night. Condo units include plasma TV, washer/dryer and full kitchen, and discounts at local restaurants. On a budget? Just follow our example and walk two minutes to Foodland to buy groceries for dinner. (Bring coupons from your hometown newspaper and you'll save even more.) The nonsmoking property has free wireless Internet and two pools. However, we can't visit Maui without going to the beach - so we drove five minutes to sunny Kaanapali, parked at the Sheraton Maui for $15 per day, and hit the award-winning Black Rock beach. Snorkel, stay for sunset and happy hour, and don't miss the Sheraton Maui's nightly cliff-diver ceremony.
While you're at it, why not say "I do" to a second honeymoon? The Outrigger Aina Nalu offers complimentary wedding vow-renewal ceremonies every Wednesday at 2 p.m. led by a nondenominational officiant; they include lei exchange, ukulele serenade, and Hawaiian chant.
While in Lahaina, we took in one of the best values on the island - a night at Warren and Annabelle's Magic Nightclub. Owner Warren Gibson is a hilarious magician offering exceptional sleight-of-hand in a small theater. (On nights when he is off, Gibson is replaced by not one but two comedy magicians, who, like Gibson, offer good, clean fun without any off-color jokes.) The show costs $59 per person, with food and drinks a la carte. We each got the $99.50 Royal Flush package, which includes a meal of heavy pupus (the coconut shrimp are crave-worthy), two cocktails, dessert, plus the show and all gratuities. It was definitely a bargain.
We had heard so much about Alexander's that we just had to try it. It's in Kihei, and it's the fins-down, number-one choice for fish and chips ($9.95) on Maui for six years straight. Alexander's owner Ken Randolph offers value-packed meals in a Zagat-favored restaurant that in 2011 was rated excellent. We started with seafood wontons filled with fish and cream cheese, with mango-chili sauce, which won the award for best appetizer in the local Whale Day festival. Then we moved on to the "Taste of Lahaina" award-winning Cajun fish tacos with fresh mango salsa that are also a great deal at $8.95. We also recommend the $8.95 teriyaki chicken sandwich with teriyaki sauce served on a fresh bun. The high-quality food comes in good portions and is a great choice when you want something simple, gentle on your wallet, yet terrific in taste. Alexander's is quite the catch.
We also checked out the Papakea in Lahaina, an Aston no-smoking condo resort where room rates in low season start at $139 per night; all units face the ocean and have daily housekeeping. This family-friendly, plantation-style property has 11 four-story buildings and two pools, on 13 acres. Here, we looked for love in all the right places, and found it - a 21/2-mile beach, great snorkeling, free parking, free tennis and swimmercize classes, even free DVD rental. An Expedia travel expert is on-site, making it easy to book activities. When you check in, you also get an Aston booklet with hundreds of discount coupons for restaurants, activities, spas, and clothing stores - a bargain-lover's dream.
At this point, we had saved so much money that we decided to splurge and spend some time at the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea. Kea Lani means "heavenly white," and this romantic resort is as good as it gets. All guest rooms here are 840-square-foot suites with a wet bar/kitchen area with coffee station, refrigerator, and microwave; a living room and desk; and a private lanai - they are anything but your average hotel room. (Rates start at $499.) Join the Fairmont President's Club before you book, as we did, and you'll get numerous perks including free Internet access. All the resort amenities here are worth writing home about - a spa featuring Kerstin Florian products; Polo Beach, easily accessible; and Ko Restaurant.
Ko's fare comes from recipes handed down from generations of plantation workers of different ethnicities. Start with the Filipino chicken-and-mushroom spring rolls and don't miss the grilled shrimp served with a lavender-honey sauce that is sourced locally. It's one of the most exceptional restaurants on the island. Families and friends should also consider a splurge worth sharing: the Kea Lani villas starting at $1,750 that include plunge pool, barbecue grills, daily breakfast buffet, and luxury car rental.
All of these experiences were wonderful, and we were filled with the aloha spirit. But we wondered - is that all there is? Was there somewhere else on Maui where the aloha spirit is even more remarkable?
Indeed there was. We took the road to Hana - a journey to the east side of the island that includes 56 hairpin turns and vistas and waterfalls. At the other end, we discovered the Travaasa resort in Hana, whose townspeople express rapture about living there. One executive at the Travaasa Hana relinquished a high-profile, high-paying job with a national restaurant chain and moved to Hana. Hana, he told us, is the kind of place where everyone shares what they have, and everyone there is ohana (family). When he makes the monthly trek to Costco for supplies, he buys in bulk, takes what he needs, and gives the rest to neighbors.
Travaasa Hana is an all-inclusive, no-tipping resort. Book a Sea Ranch cottage for $898 per night, double occupancy, and you will enjoy a wide range of benefits. Ordinarily, $898 a night doesn't exactly say "value." But here, for that price, you receive spacious Sea Ranch cottage accommodations, plus two spa treatments per day per room; three meals a day; all snacks; and all your activities, which include horseback riding, lei-making, Pilates, ukulele lessons, and a lot more. The destination hotel was voted No. 1 in the 2011 Condé Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Hawaii Resorts awards (and is just down the road from where Oprah Winfrey bought some property).
This is the place to visit when you want to "check in and check out." None of the rooms has a clock, television, or radio, so you are forced to unwind and unplug. One intriguing thing we did here was to spend an hour with Andrew, who, on the lawn by a monkeypod tree, taught us how to cast a fish net, just as his ancestors did, and just as he does daily when he fishes. It is an intricate process, and in doing so, he entertained us with his extensive knowledge of local flora and fauna.
As resort general manager Mark Stebbings told us, Hana still exemplifies old Hawaii. We didn't need to be convinced. But we certainly were made even more aware of it one Sunday morning when we were awakened to the sounds of the locals at the Pentecostal church, praising the Lord for two hours for all that they had been given. We agreed.
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