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Discovering New and Old Maui in One Unforgettable Trip

Discovering New and Old Maui in One Unforgettable Trip

Discovering New and Old Maui in One Unforgettable Trip

Half a week among fancy globetrotters at the Ritz + four days in one of the island's most remote resort = perfect Maui sojourn.

There’s something eerie and ethereal and disorienting and invigorating about waking up at dawn and standing alone at the edge of the world. There are no sounds but birds wailing and waves pounding rocks. There are no people in your line of sight. You’re standing at the most secluded area of a secluded resort in a very secluded corner of a Pacific island.

That otherworldly experience is one of the reasons, maybe the most compelling, for staying in the tiny Maui town of Hana — specifically the Travaasa Hana hotel and its cottages that sit on a verdant bluff overlooking the ocean. My time at Travaasa was a 180˚ turn from the first half of my Maui trip, where I lodged at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, a mammoth resort that sits on a former pineapple plantation at Hana’s northwestern tip.

The Ritz was hosting the 22nd annual Celebration of the Arts, with crafts-people, filmmakers, and, of course, artists displaying their wares. Guests from around the world flitted about, sprawling across beach chairs that lined the half-dozen pools (see below) that led to the ocean. Hula dancers and ukulele players delighted crowds in the lobby, which seemed more like a town square in paradise. Dozens of us gathered at the beach to watch the sun rise and recite ancient island prayers. I learned Hawaiian martial arts as beach-goers paraded by me, staring curiously. I attended a luau with endless performances and limitless coconut shrimp. The Ritz encapsulates everything a Hawaiian vacation is supposed to be. Travaasa, on Maui’s absolute opposite side, offers the Hawaii that’s almost no longer available — peaceful, contemplative, and almost completely devoid of televisions and cell phone service.

Traveling with fellow journalists, mostly New Yorkers enthralled at Maui’s fresh air and friendly faces, we all had the option of reaching Travaasa via the famous (infamous?) road to Hana or taking a short flight across Maui. Most of the New Yorkers opted for the drive, but this Angeleno had already experienced the winding, somewhat treacherous journey and chose a short flight on Mokulele airlines. Sure, the flight served a practical purpose, but I would have paid to just go up in the air and feast my eyes on the overhead views of Maui’s endless green lands, jagged edges, and tiny towns that the flight afforded. I was almost sad to land at Hana’s miniscule airport, with its one bench and soda machine.

It started pouring on the drive to Travaasa; big, wet, almost-warm drops. We checked in, received elixir-like guava juice, and hopped on golf cars that took us to our private cottages. We had to cross a street, basically Hana’s only conduit, to reach our new homes. Our driver swiped a card to open a set of thatched doors and we soon rolled through a tiny village of cottages, perched on stilts and only broken up by a pool and exercise studio.

My cottage was one of the closest to the ocean, but there was still 500 feet to the cliff’s edge. I quickly ran beyond my cottage’s small porch and darted inside to escape the rain. The cottage was a big room with a large grand bed surrounded by expansive windows. The bathroom wrapped around the side, with a big tub and plenty of fragrant lotions and soaps. I half-unpacked and then walked out to the covered balcony facing the ocean. I put my feet up on a table and stared at the rain, which was beginning to subside. To my right was a long fence and beyond that, horses grazing contently. After 10 minutes, I tried to get online, but the Wifi (free, thankfully) was intermittent. I stared again at the wet, green scene.

Eventually, it was time for dinner. Travaasa has an excellent restaurant; one of maybe three places to get a prepared meal in Hana (pop. 1,235). If you have the money, eat every breakfast and dinner at Travaasa’s Ka’uiki Restaurant, with a seasonal menu that changes daily (charred wild New Zealand salmon with micro-greens and a glass of Pinot grigio is sweet heaven). Have lunch at the casual and luscious Thai restaurant that’s a quick walk from Travaasa.

For much of our four days in Hana, it rained. Throw net fishing at the local beach was a bit of a wash, but a hike through the Kipahulu area of Haleakala National Park was worth the dampness. We ascended the lush hills to a taro farm that appeared out of nowhere, talking with the farmers about life in remote Maui as we munched on plantains and taro root before sinking our feet in the warm mud surrounding the farm. Back at Travaasa, we chopped coconuts and drank the nourishing milk. We walked to an art gallery and perused the paintings of Maui’s beauty. We tinkled ukuleles and went for walks, sometimes with umbrellas, sometimes letting ourselves get drenched in the rain.

Our last day, I had an early morning organic coco-mint signature body treatment and massage. I felt a little embarrassed having a young Hawaiian man paint me in cacao and cocoa butter, but after the treatment, I wobbled out happily. As I headed to Ka’uiki for another one of their tropical fruit salads, the sun peeked out. Soon it was blazing. Before I had to catch a flight back to Maui’s main airport and another to the mainland, a fellow journalist and I had time to stop for ice cream at one of the nearby stands and then dive into the crystalline waters of a local black-sand beach. Shortly after, one of the hotel workers gave me a ride to the tiny Hana airport. “I’m so sad to leave,” I said. “You’re so lucky to live here.” She smiled a small, knowing smile that said, I know.

See more pics of Maui on the following page:

Balcony view at Travaasa

Dinner at Ka'uiki

Waterfall at Haleakala National Park

Wearing our Hawaiian kiheis

Travaasa cottages

Travaasa pool

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