The tropical paradise that is Hawaii’s island of Maui is a well-known golfer’s dream destination. And make no mistake about it, this golfgal and guy have had our share of “Sweet Swinging'” amongst the palms and coconuts.
Where does one begin?
There are so many gorgeous ones that it is often hard to decide where to plant your umbrella. We tended towards beaches that have great facilities, calm waters and fun things to do nearby, like, eating, drinking and shopping. Luckily there are some great beaches near your resort, no matter where you happen to be.
If you’re near Papakea, there is a walking path right across from Times Market. We drove it because we had a ton of stuff (cooler, beach umbrellas, beach chairs, etc (all in the condo ready for your use) – it took exactly two minutes.
For better swimming (i.e. no rocks) walk down the concrete path towards Black Rock. When the path ends, so do the rocks.
|Ka’anapali Beach Offers Many Wonderful Options For Travelers To Explore|
Good snorkeling is only steps away from the Sheraton Maui Resort at a massive lava outcropping called Black Rock (Puu Kekaa).
You can just walk into the ocean with your fins, snorkel and waterproof camera and enjoy all that the coral reef there has to offer, including friendly sea turtles that frequent the area.
Black Rock is also the site of a nightly re-enactment of a piece of Maui history.
Legend has it that warriors’ spirits used to leap off the rock to meet their ancestors.
So, around sunset, we sat at one of the Sheraton’s beach bars to watch a young Hawaiian jog through the resort lighting torches along the way until he reached the top of Black Rock.
Then, as the drums were rolling, and cameras flashing, he took a swan dive off the rock — for me it was definitely a “spectator-only sport”, but our teenagers couldn’t wait to take the leap and did so again and again and again the next day the moment they hit the beach.
Another wonderful beach just 10 or so minutes north of Ka’anapali is Napili. It’s normally calm but even when the waves come up, it’s just more fun for those boogie boarders. The beach has the facilities you could want (showers, washrooms, etc) with a wonderful restaurant called the Sea House to serve you breakfast and lunch.
I decided to take a video of this beach from the restaurant which has stunning views. A great place to spend the day!
Head just 5 minutes north of Napili and you’ll end up at one of the best swimming beaches on Maui – Kapalua Beach. It’s well protected and has calm waters. Bring your snorkel gear and water shoes because you’ll want to explore the reefs you can walk to from the shore.
If you are looking for a beach that is a little more secluded and private, without giving up Maui luxury, you should check out Makena.
The locals consider the area “a long drive down south”, but it’s really only 5 minutes from Wailea and 40 minutes from Ka’anapali. That’s a daily commute for many Vancouverites. So if you are touring the island, drop in and take a dip in ocean at Makena.
Although you can often walk in off the beach with your snorkel gear, there’s nothing like a guided tour. One of the best dive and snorkel spots in the world is just down the southwest coast of the island – Molokini – a crescent-shaped crater that is home of a myriad of marine life, including reef sharks, eels and the famous Humuhumunukunukuapuaa – a little fish with a very big name!
I highly recommend the tour hosted by the Pacific Whale Foundation. Not only will their experts take you on a cool, high-tech, smooth-riding catamaran (complete with slides) to see tons of fish and live coral in every color of the rainbow at Molokini, they drop by Turtle Arches, where you can swim with the turtles. I highly recommend you rent one of their underwater cameras for less than $40. We have a ton of pictures of the kids with the fish we will treasure forever.
And you might be lucky like us and have the captain turn the boat around to head closer to shore to give us a glimpse of some spinner dolphins playing with the paddlers.
And if you travel between December and April, you should really sign up for their whale watching tours. Yes, it’s true you can see them from land, but nothing beats getting up close and personal!
Surfing and Paddling Lessons
If you love the water and a little adventure, try taking a surf or paddle boarding lesson at Maui Surf Clinics in Lahaina. Our teenagers had never try surfing before, but they were up and hanging ten in no time.
The next day they rented boards at the same place and spent the day riding the waves.
After hearing that their teacher has been successfully getting students from ages 3-82 “up” on their boards, I’m thinking I may give it a try next time we are there. Wish me luck! I couldn’t stay up on my paddle board for longer than 20 seconds.
Eating And Drinking Your Way Around Paradise
We have eaten in many wonderful restaurants on Maui; here are just a few of our favorites…
Hula Grill Ka’anapali
A great après-Ka’anapali golf restaurant in Whaler’s Village, Hula Grill, has never failed to impress us. We have eaten there many times in the lively and sandy “Barefoot Bar”, and evenings in the main open-air dining room.
|Comfortable seating a few steps from Ka’anapali Beach|
Hula Grill offers fantastic views of the beach and ocean from every table, friendly servers, tasty cocktails and the best Ahi Sashimi we could find on the island (and we did our research!).
And a real bonus is the live entertainment in the evening.
If you ever get a chance, check out the Hula Grill when Derick Sebastian takes the stage with his ukulele.
You won’t believe it – he plays Santana better than Carlos, who, BTW, lives in Kapalua and comes in to the Hula Grill just to listen to Derick play. Yup, he’s that good!
Leilani’s on the Beach
Right next door to Hula Grill is Leilani’s – winner of Best Fish Tacos on Maui.
We did a bit of a “taco challenge” on the island, comparing 5 or 6 restaurants who professed to have the best, but Leilani’s tacos were definitely a step above the rest.
We took the best ideas of all of the ones we tried and created our own recipe. And I say this with all honesty and humility…my golfguy’s fish tacos are truly the best on earth!
Mala Ocean Tavern
There are two Mala restaurants on Maui – one at the north end of Lahaina on Front Street and one at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort and Spa.
We ate at them both and shared a number of dishes that were all delicious.
I can still taste the Lamb Pita appetizer, the Salmon Terrine and the Adult Mac and Cheese – decadent! Lahaina’s Mala is a bit of a hole in the wall, but the patio sits right on the ocean with a gorgeous view of Lana’i, especially at sunset.
It’s a very busy, “happening place”so I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy sitting so close to strangers at the tightly packed tables. But we ended up chatting with tourists on both sides of us, turning the evening into a party. Mala’s tag line on all its merchandise is “Practice Aloha” and it fits.
Right next door to Mala in Lahaina is its sister restaurant, Honu. Newer and roomier, the food is also wonderful and literally steps from the ocean.
|Lunch for 2 at Honu|
And in 2015 the owners opened right next door to Honu,
Frida’s – a terrific Mexican restaurant done “Aloha Style” right on the ocean. We love it!
Now if you are a foodie, you won’t want to miss this restaurant. It’s owned by Top Chef Sheldon Simeon and offers a delicious Asian-Fusion menu. It’s out of the way (up behind Walgreens in Lahaina) in an industrial area, with absolutely NO VIEW, but the food makes up for that.
But, beware…it is so popular that you can expect to wait up to 2 hours for a table if you arrive during normal dinner hours. Either drop in for a late lunch or a very late dinner to avoid the crowds.
Here’s a trick that sometimes works. Call ahead and ask what the wait is; put yourself on the waiting list and show up a bit before. It’s worked for us on more than one occasion 🙂
Right next to the Kapalua Beach, this wonderful restaurant has terrific food and one of the best terraces to watch breathtaking sunsets or whales frolic, while enjoying incredibly delicious Pupus (AKA appetizers).
Although we’ve never eaten here (it’s on our bucket list), we’ve heard great things about it from friends and the reviews are very positive. Check out this review from Frolic Hawaii.
If this doesn’t get your mouth watering, I’m not sure what will.
Some memorable 19th holes
If you love golf and love to eat (who doesn’t), check out these golf course restaurants. Here are my favorites:
Gannon’s at Wailea Golf Club
Gannon’s offers a delicious and visually-stunning dining experience to golfers and non-golfers alike. Without a doubt, this restaurant serves the best Crab Cakes Benedict on Maui
Owned by renowned chef, Bev Gannon, this 19th hole is not only a treat for your palate, it offers spectacular views of the golf course, gardens and ocean. It can be a bit pricy at night, but they have a great happy hour menu which very tasty and affordable.
The Plantation House at Kapalua
The Plantation House at Kapalua is very popular with not only club members and their guests, but also the residents of Kapalua and tourists who don’t even golf.
And although I didn’t get to try too many dishes on their menu due to timing constraints.
If their Crispy Crab-stuffed Ahi Roll with Soy-wasabi Mustard Vinaigrette is any indication of the rest of the food, then I’ll be back!
Roy’s Restaurant at Ka’anapali
Roy’s is a very popular chain throughout the US, but prepared. It’s expensive. Since it opened up at the Ka’anapali Golf Resort clubhouse a year or so ago, it has become a favorite for both golfers and non-golfers alike.
I love sitting by the window watching the players struggle in on the challenging 18th hole of the Royal Course, sipping cocktails and enjoying tasty pupus from their Aloha Hour menu. Yum!
Café O’Lei at the Dunes of Maui Lani
This 19th hole was a very pleasant surprise. Our expectations weren’t high, given the Dunes isn’t really on the “resort circuit” but we quickly became fans. The restaurant is very popular with the local business professionals for good reason.
The Tempura Mahi Mahi was delicious and I can’t remember ever tasting a better sirloin burger. We had drinks after our round at the bar and enjoyed chitchatting with the bartender, Barbara. Not only was she attentive, she entertained us with stories that left us laughing all the way home.
According to the Café’s Hawaiian Sous Chef – “Never drive through the Olowalu Tunnel on the Honoapiilani Highway with pork in your car after 10 PM, or the Night Marchers will stall your car so they can steal it from you.”
Okay! No pork in the car after 10! Got it! The Dunes at Maui Lani offers a unique golfing experience, great food, friendly staff and an up-beat atmosphere – what more could you ask for?
Oh…for those of you who have a red-eye flight home…this is a great place to eat dinner before you head to the airport, which is only 7 minutes away.
No trip to Maui is complete without experiencing an authentic Hawiian Luau. The one you’ll hear about the most is the Old Lahaina Luau – a traditional Luau that is very popular.
We wanted something a little more “exciting” so we chose The Drums of the Pacific at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
It was a fun evening with tons of costume changes and very talented performers. The kids could join in on stage and the drinks were flowing (take a cab! :)). I can’t say the food was spectacular, but it must be hard to serve hundreds of people at one time, but it was certainly edible and we had a great time.
Warren and Annabelle’s Magic Show
I lost count the number of times I heard from locals that Warren and Annabelle’s is the best show on the island. Now, we aren’t into magic shows normally, but the hype was so great, we had to try it.
When you enter the $1.2M “stage”, you’re faced with having to solve an unusual riddle before you can make your way into a charming lounge that looks like a library in an old mansion.
You’re served tapas and drinks by singing waiters while you listen to Annabelle (the resident ghost) play the piano and take requests. It’s a lot of fun.
After dinner, you move into an intimate, but comfortable theatre, which holds about 80 people.
Given Warren was on vacation, we were expecting to be under-wowed by his substitute. However, we were very pleasantly surprised to discover fill-in John Shryock from Vegas was not only a talented magician, he was hilarious.
My face hurt from laughing so hard. I’m not surprised that it’s been a sell out almost every night for years.
So much more…
Maui is chocked full of fun excursions and although we haven’t done them all (been too busy golfing), our guests have recommended the following:
The Road to Hana
It’s a long drive (5 hrs+) with 67 curves, and you gotta go slow. But you’ll want to make lots of stops along the way to enjoy the waterfalls, bamboo jungles and black sand beaches. Often people drive down one day, stay over and drive back. But many do it one day. Just stick to the north road as the south route can put a few extra grey hairs on your head – been there and got the worry lines to prove it 😉
Sunrise Tour at Haleakala
If you don’t mind getting up at 3 AM to catch this tour, I hear it’s breathtaking. You’ll enjoy the dawn of the day and majesty of Maui’s 10,023 foot volcano. But remember to bring your woolies – it’s very cold up there!
There are also ziplines, treacherous bike tours down the volcano (be very very careful!), parasailing (during non-whale season), an aquarium, winery and coffee plantation tours.
And of course, there are over a dozen golf courses and I can describe almost every inch of them if you have a few hours 🙂
“So much to do…so little time!” will fall off your tongue as it drops from your mouth when you experience this island paradise.
But don’t worry…when you leave Maui someone is bound to say to you…”A hui hou kakou” which means “Until we meet again”. Maui is addictive and those who call it home know that the chances of you returning are pretty darn high. So just smile and say, “Mahalo!” (thank you) as you board your plane home, because I know you’ll be thinking of coming back at least…”Hana hou!” (One more time).