Travel: Finding Magic on Maui

Unplug and then reconnect with local history and culture in Hawaii.

Writing about why you should visit Maui is completely obvious. If it’s not for the beaches and palm trees then surely it’s for a quintessential Hawaiian adventure packed with whale watching and scenic hiking. For beachcombers, Maui is the gold standard, but there is also powerful spirituality underlying the island. As Hawaiian people believe, there is magic in the impossibly blue Pacific waters that have both physically and spiritually sustained their population for thousands of years. It’s the island’s rich culture and history that have inspired hotel properties to engage visitors with the local traditions that make Maui special. Depending on your budget and travel companions, there are two hotels that do a magnificent job of teaching cultural reverence
for nature that is at the crux of Hawaiian identity.

Photo by Catherine Trifiletti.

For Couples: With only 50 guest rooms, the 24-acre resort Montage Kapalua Bay (starting at $955) is intimate, romantic and best of all its three-tiered sunset pool and world-class spa never feel overcrowded. One of the hotel’s best amenities is access to Sila, a Maui native who serves as a cultural conduit to guests, teaching hula and ukulele lessons along with lei and flower crown making classes. For lei-making, she walks guests around the property sourcing resident ferns, teaches braiding techniques and explains the historical significance behind the wares. A lei, which is often offered as a welcome gesture, means life; wearing one indicates a profound respect for mother nature as you are giving the flowers new life and purpose.

Photo by Catherine Trifiletti.

For Families: At the recently-opened Westin Nanea Ocean Villas (starting at $949) on North Ka’anapali Beach, one, two and three-bedroom villas, lagoon-style pools and deckside grills and cabanas are a draw for groups looking to feel right at home. As its name promises, the property exudes nanea, a Hawaiian word for relaxation and serenity. Many elements of the hotel were designed with local tradition in mind, including the landscaping where each native plant variety has cultural significance. Guests can deep dive into Maui’s history at the Pu‘uhonua o Nanea Cultural Center, which offers a variety of activities for both children and adults, including an introduction to the Hawaiian language and adventures on outrigger canoes – vessels used by Polynesians who first settled on the islands.

So to Maui we say: “a hui hou,” a phrase traditionally used in place of goodbye. It means “until we meet again.”

This article appeared in the February 2018 issue of Washington Life Magazine. 

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