Wild yet sophisticated, Maui is an island of paradoxes. The rugged upcountry is home to paniolo — Hawaiian cowboys — and to five-star dining. During the day, go refined — golf, yoga, spas — or turn up the adrenaline with surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, kite surfing, paragliding, zip-lining or mountain biking.
Divers face an equal number of choices. These waters are home to spinner dolphins, reef sharks, hammerhead sharks and monk seals. Boats often encounter dolphins between dive sites, and in the evenings when pods gather to hunt, especially at La Perouse Bay and Kanaio.
Molokini Crater Marine Preserve, off the southwest shore, is the premier underwater attraction, where divers witness manta ray and green sea turtle cleaning stations. This area also offers an abundance of biodiversity — 20 percent of Hawaii’s fish population is endemic, including Hawaiian garden eels, masked angelfish and longnose hawkfish. Caverns and ledges also shelter whitetip reef sharks, dwarf moray eels and amberjacks.
Many of Hawaii’s fish are bizarrely colorful and otherworldly: The flame-colored dragon moray has hornlike nasal tubes; the psychedelic wrasse’s neon-orange face is dotted with iridescent blues; and a rainbow of frogfish grow to the size of volleyballs. Maui-based operators also journey to neighboring Lanai, where lava has created a labyrinth of cathedrals and caves, home to flame angelfish, reticulated butterflyfish and mantas.
December through April, humpback whales migrate here to birth their young. The islands’ shallow-bottom topography and year-round water temps averaging 75 degrees create ideal conditions for whales off the leeward areas of Maui and neighboring Lanai — most charter companies guarantee sightings.
Maui also has a thriving night-life scene. In Kaanapali, sip martinis while people-watching along the beach. In Lahaina, live music and stiff cocktails ensure a crowd. Those looking to simply relax will find excitement enough in the stargazing.
- AVERA GE WATER TEM P: Mid-70s in winter, low 80s in summer
- WHAT TO WEAR : 3 to 5 mm fullsuit
- AVERA GE VIZ: 100-plus feet
- WHEN TO GO: Year-round
- LAN GUAGE: English
- CURREN CY: U.S. dollar
- AIR PORT /EXIT FEES : None
- ELECTRI CIT Y: 110V, 60 cycle
- TIME ZONE : GMT minus 10
Main Attractions Try a local handcrafted beer at the Maui Brewing Company; specialties include Coconut Porter, Smoked Hemp Ale and wheat wine. Cruise the Hana Highway, and enjoy views of waterfalls and the coast from the comfort of a rental car. Horseback tours visit lagoons, tide pools, waterfalls and beaches.