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Long commutes, stressful deadlines, endless errands, cold weather…it’s tough to relax when the daily grind starts to take a toll. Hawaii has long billed itself as the world’s relaxation mecca, the antidote to the fast-paced craziness of modern life. And no island in the chain epitomizes this more than the second largest: Maui. The diversity of landscapes and activities is stunning and like all true island paradises, Maui forces you to slow down and ease back into the good old slow life. It’s not as difficult as you might think with these five ways to relax on Maui time.
Photo courtesy of peyri/Flickr
1. Big Beach: Located on the southern coast of Maui, Big Beach is a wide expanse of warm, golden sand and is probably the prettiest and most dramatic beach on the island. It’s a bit out of the way and miles from the major hotel developments, but it’s worth the trek: no crowds and no back-to-back beach chairs. This tranquil beach seems to extend infinitely, which makes it easy to find your private patch of sand to curl your toes into. Sunsets are spectacular and the unspoiled, serene beauty of Big Beach inspires instant calm.
2. Hana: “The most beautiful (and curvy) highway in the U.S.” leads to Hana town, an area rich in Hawaiian culture on the lush eastern side of the island. This is the Hawaii of years past. Rent a convertible or join an organized tour, but don’t miss a stop at the Seven Sacred Pools, a series of lovely waterfalls and tranquil pools where you can swim, cliff jump, and hike around. The dense tropical rainforest, sky-kissing waterfalls, countless swimming holes, stunning panoramic vistas, and overall breathtaking beauty make this an essential day trip. Even better, stay the night at the classy Hotel Hana-Maui and Honua Spa at the end of the Hana Highway.
3. The Four Seasons: The ultimate relaxation for many is dabbling in the lap of luxury and Maui has no shortage of posh hotels. One of the nicest is the Four Seasons in Wailea, a high-end resort area in the southern part of the island. Hibernate in a plush ocean-view room and pamper your body with a massage, facial, or body wrap (or all three!) at the opulent spa. The Four Seasons also boasts a championship golf course, two pools, and one of the hottest new restaurants in Maui, DUO. Nearby are other stunning resorts and plenty of pristine, white-sand beaches.
4. Haleakala National Park: Arguably the most scenic (and mind-settling) attraction on Maui, Haleakala National Park encompasses more than 30,000 acres of volcanic moonscape and dense wilderness. The dormant volcano forms more than a mind-boggling 75% of the island itself and at the heart is the dramatic seven-mile-wide crater. A unique and memorable experience is to watch the sunrise at the crater. Get up about three hours before and crawl up the curvy and steep road that leads to the crater. The summit is over 10,000 feet, thus star-gazing is at a premium. It’s extraordinary to witness the sky change colors and gently light up as night fades into day. After the show, you have over 30 miles of hiking trails to wander around, or head down out of the park and fuel up on fluffy macadamia nut pancakes with coconut syrup at the Kula Lodge Restaurant.
5. Okay, now that you’re rejuvenated and refreshed, it’s time to reconnect with your inner adventurer. While not as well-known as Oahu for surfing, Maui has many gentle breaks ideal for beginners on the South and West Shore, while the North Shore has the biggest and most consistent waves, suitable for experts only. Many surf schools on the island offer small group classes perfect for families, and what better way to bond than to experience the euphoric rush of catching your first wave together. The azure water is so clear that it’s easy to spot sea turtles sauntering and tropical fish scuttling beneath your toes. There’s a good chance to spy humpback whales or dolphins breaching the water, all while hanging ten on your board.
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