?People talk about the "magic of Hawaii,? and there really is something instantly calming, excitingly euphoric, and undeniably romantic about the islands. It?s a feeling that transcends ordinary senses, and no island embodies that more than Maui. Sure, you can surf in Oahu, road trip on the Big Island, and be ensconced in nature and living history on Kauai, Maui is made for romance. The moment you step off the plane you?re greeted by soft ocean breezes, the scent of Plumeria coming off the hills, and warm sun that feels like a welcoming embrace.
Between that sensibility and fantastic weather year round, Maui is one of the top destination wedding locations worldwide. Now, with same-sex civil unions finally legalized on the stroke of January 1, Maui?s own incredibly gay-friendly environment -- bolstered by the state?s own polysexual past -- it?s quickly becoming a prime spot for LGBT couples looking to tie the knot or enjoy a great escape. No surprise the entire state made it to No. 18 on our Gayest Destinations in America.
Here?s your ultimate romantic week in civilized paradise. From fantastic pampering at luxury resorts to hiking through breathtaking bamboo forests and discovering magnificent water falls , this will become your trip to remember.
STAY: Fairmont Kea LaniOur top resort pick for Maui proper is the Fairmont Kea Lani, with its magnificent marble lobby featuring giant columns and gorgeous trees that open out to a stunning ocean view. While it?s certainly a family-friendly property, there were only a few children mucking about at the lower pool and none by the swim-up bar; travel during off-season, just after most schools resume, for a more adult experience. Upon arrival, sign up with the concierge for a morning canoe ride and swim with the sea turtles.
STAY: Fairmont Kea LaniSuites at the Kea Lani nod to Hawaiian style while never forgetting that the real design is right outside. While the hillside is gorgeous, book an ocean-view suite. Whether sitting on the living room couch, relaxing on the pillow-topped California king bed, or relaxing on the balcony, your eyes and spirits will be drawn toward the beauty outside.
EAT: Ōʻō FarmDining options are plentiful, but foodies will love the unique jaunt to Ōʻō Farm. Tour the property that supplies fresh vegetables, coffee and other fare for the famous Feast at Lele luau, Pacificʻo and iʻo restaurants, pick your own veg, and enjoy a magnificent feast prepared by one of the island?s top chefs.
GAY BEACH: Little BeachWhile there isn?t a central gay part of town on Maui, the gayest of all beaches is Little Beach, famous for its bohemian vibe, nude sunbathing, and Sunday drum circle, a hugely popular event every week for all islanders. A must-experience, think of it like a tropical Burning Man. Travel south on Wailea Alani Road until you hit Big Beach. Park in the lot or on the main road, walk to Big Beach, then turn to the right (north) toward the giant rock wall. There you'll see a lava-flow trail that you walk up, and from the top you'll see Little Beach on the other side. Here you'll find nudists and surfers, a 50/50 gay/straight mix. It?ll be easy to see why it was named one of the Five Best Nude Beaches in North America.
OFF THE BEATEN TRACK: La Pérouse BeachLa Pérouse isn?t great for swimming, but it?s away from tourists, stunningly beautiful, and a secret hotspot for surfers. Drive south on Wailea Alani Road past Big Beach until all you see are lava rocks flanking the road. The ancient village of Keone'o'io was here until a volcanic eruption in 1790 wiped it out. Drive until the road ends, park there or at a second weather-worn parking lot closer to the water. Walk to the left toward the giant lava flow that juts out into the ocean and you'll discover quiet paradise.
EXPERIENCE: The Road to HanaMany people consider the Road to Hana both mandatory and a chore. Yes, you should drive the winding road that runs high above the magnificent Maui coastline, and take in the lush landscape and dynamic ocean views, but it doesn?t have to be stressful. Here?s the secret: take it slow, stop whenever you like to enjoy the sights, and stay the night in heavenly Hana.
Start with buying or borrowing a Road to Hana CD, which narrates your trip and lets you spot some of the most amazing sights along the way. Make sure to have a full tank of gas before starting your trip. Allot yourself at least 5 hours.
PIT STOP: Café a la PlageBefore starting your drive, grab some breakfast and a to-go lunch at gay-owned Café a la Plage. But don?t go crazy on food; you'll want to stop by some roadside stands for fresh fruit smoothies, banana bread, and other tasty treats. As a reminder, the quaint town of Paia is your last gas stop before hitting the Road to Hana.
EXPERIENCE: Road to HanaThere?s the secret beach at Honomanu Bay after mile 13, the "painted" eucalyptus trees Ke'anae Arboretum at mile 16, and the village at Ke'anae Peninsula Lookout with its numerous taro fields. Toward the end of your trip you'll hit the popular Wai'anapanapa black sand beach. Surf at the beach is a bit sketchy, but a swimming hole inside the lava tubes is worth a visit.
OVERNIGHT INDULGENCE: Travaasa HanaWhile most people turn around and race against the setting sun back to Maui, you?re better off checking into the Travaasa Hāna, an all-inclusive resort on the grounds of an old sugar plantation. The sea ranch cottages are tops -- just a short distance from the ocean -- with beautiful open floor plans, rustic wood furnishings, hot tubs, and large screened doors so you can hear the ocean waves and feel the soft sea breeze throughout the night.
OVERNIGHT INDULGENCE: Travaasa HanaYes, it?s reminiscent of "The Others" compound from LOST, but only on the surface; you won?t find any smoke monsters, creepy children, or stressful situations. There?s limited tech at Travaasa Hana -- no TVs or iPod docking stations -- and that?s the point. You?re here to relax in nature, disconnect from the world, and enjoy Heavenly Hana?s beauty. Prices include fantastic cuisine, fitness classes, tours, horseback rides, one spa treatment per day, and much more.
BEACH BUMMING: HamoaHamoa Beach is gorgeous, and it?s kept that way by Travaasa Hana; they maintain the restrooms, have towels and chairs for hotel guests, and offer a shuttle to and from the hotel property. It?s often listed in travel magazines as one of the most romantic beaches in the world, and it?s easy to see why: The water is stunningly beautiful and shallow, the sand is soft like smooth satin, and there are few crowds to interrupt the peaceful surroundings.
HIKE: Haleakala National ParkBring water, good hiking shoes (not flip flops), a snack, bug repellant, and pay the $10 entrance fee into Haleakala National Park. Start with hiking the 2-mile Pipiwai Trail, where you'll see many amazing sites like wild fruit trees, small waterfalls and pools, and the magnificent bamboo forest.
PHOTO OP: Waimoku Falls on the Pipiwai TrailAt the end of the Pipiwai Trail is Waimoku Falls, which is so magnificent and awe-inspiring that everyone who hikes there simply sits in silence, watching the white water crest over the mountain and into the lake below. Swimming here is dangerous because of falling rocks, but getting your feet wet isn?t the worst thing you could do.
HANA MUST: Seven Sacred Pools (Oheo Gulch)Before leaving Haleakala National Park visit Oheo Gulch, more commonly known as the Seven Sacred Pools. Visitors enjoy swimming in the pools, and the higher up you hike the more likely you?ll be hanging with the locals. Enjoy the beauty, swim around if you?d like (diving could be dangerous though some do it), but if it rains head on out; you don?t want to get caught in a sudden flood.
SPA PAMPERING: Maui Massages for Menrelaxation is indulging in a therapeutic, non-sexual massage from Maui Massages for Men. Treatments include LomiLomi, Deep Tissue, Swedish, and Hot Stones, and while licensed therapist Marty Guerriero can come to your hotel, his tree-top massage studio above Wailea on Maui's south shore is gorgeous, serene, and feels incredibly connected with the island.
GAY STAY: Maui SunseekerNeed a gay fix on an island with no gay neighborhood? Maui Sunseeker is the island's LGBT resort and ground zero for gay happenings in Maui. If something is happening on Maui, Michael, Chuck and the boys at Sunseeker will not only know about it, chances are they'll also be involved in some capacity. MauiGayInfo.com is a great resource as well. The resort also offers Sunseeker Activities, a concierge service that connects you with gay or gay-friendly companies on the island. Even if you?re not staying at the resort, it?s a great resource for finding businesses that support you.
Sunset from the Fairmont
A misty waterfall in the bamboo forest
Hidden Honomanu Bay on the Road to Hana
Ultimate throuple: the author, his husband, Waimoku Falls
Village at Ke'anae Peninsula Lookout with its numerous taro fields
Seven Sacred Pools a.k.a. Oheo Gulch
Seven Sacred Pools, meet Pacific
Pipiwai Trail?s bamboo forest
Travaasa Hana cottage
Travaasa Hana, made for lovin'
Haleakala National Park
The majesty of Waimoku Falls
GAY STAY: Maui Sunseeker
GAY STAY: Maui Sunseeker
GAY STAY: Maui Sunseeker
Sunset from Travaasa Hana