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November 28, 2003 -- Maui is alive with two burgeoning, and often complementary movements -- the modern wellness travel movement and the resurgence of interest in ancient Hawaiian culture. Signs of both are everywhere, from workshops on fitness, rejuvenation and healing to the recent repositioning of a construction site for deluxe condos in order to avoid disturbing important artifacts.

This is but an example of the mélange that is Maui; the blending of the old and the new on a playground for the wealthy and budget-minded alike. After a recent, and altogether pleasant, fact finding mission, we've got the luau lowdown on what's happening over the next few months.

Mark Your Calendars

  • On Friday, December 5, the annual Na Mele O Maui festival to perpetuate Hawaiian culture will take place at Ka'anapali Resort (808/661-3271), including a children's song contest and an arts crafts fair.
  • December 6th welcomes the Holiday Lighting of the Banyan Tree on Front Street (808/667-9194) in Lahaina.
  • At the Diamond Head Resort just before the New Year, traditional Mochi pounding takes place, turning cooked rice into tough New Year cakes. It's an ancient Japanese tradition adopted by indigenous Hawaiians.
  • From December 27 through February 1, Crossings 2003 celebrates the 100th anniversary of Korean immigration to the US, with works by more than 50 contemporary Korean artists. Visit www.hawaii.edu/artgallery/crossings for more details.

Activities Galore

If you like shows, you may want to support the Maui Theatre's presentation of Ulalena, a "mythical journey through time," involving the legends, songs and dances of Maui and its people. It takes to the stage Tuesdays through Saturdays at 6. Adult tickets range from $48 to $68, kids ten and under $28 to $48. Contact them at 877/688-4800 or 808/ 661-9913, website www.ulalena.com.

Another way to partake of the unique Maui experience is to ride up Haleakala mountain on horseback, a rare opportunity to venture into a dormant volcano. You meet your guide about halfway up at 9:15 in the morning, getting back about 2:30 PM. The tour costs $155 plus tax, with a maximum of eight persons per group. Shorter rides, from one to two hours, start at $55 and stay within the confines of the Haleakala Ranch. Phone Pony Express Tours at 808/667-2200 or visit www.ponyexpresstours.com.

One of those trendy movements we're keeping our eye on can be as much fun as it is informative. There will be an Integrated Golf & Wellness Retreat at the Maui Prince Hotel, Makena, from May 3 to 10, 2004, taught by Margaret McIntyre, a Feldenkrais practitioner. For more details, go to www.integratedmovementmaui.com/programs/golfretreat.html. Trendy, yes; simple, no.

You can stop by the mall at Wailea to purchase unusual stuffed animals at The Endangered Species Store (808/891-9260), help save the Royal Hawaiian Fishpond of South Maui (808/879-7926 or www.formaui.org), or drop in on a yoga class at Dolphin Plaza in Kihei (808/874-1160, e-mail tracyoga@earthlink.net).

Many of the following are listed in the discount coupon magazines noted below:

  • Lahaina-Ka'anapli & Pacific Railroad has day trains ($15.95 for adults, $9.95 for kids 3-12 $9.95) and dinner trains ($65 for adults, $39 for kids) for touring the sugar cane plantations and Maui's countryside. Call 800/499-2307 or go online to www.sugarcanetrain.com.
  • Visit the Maui Ocean Center Aquarium for $19 for adults and $13 for children ages 3-12. Senior and military discounts are available, so be sure to ask. More information is available at 808/270-7000 or www.mauioceancenter.com.
  • You can see the island from above on a half-hour helicopter for $125; call 800/745 BLUE or 808/871-8844, online at www.bluehawaiian.com.
  • You can take sunrise tour up to Haleakala's summit with Polynesian Adventure Tours for $60 for adults and those under 12 for $35. Phone 808/877-4242 or visit www.polyad.com.

Water activities are everywhere, with dozens of firms ready to escort you over, on and under the waters of the Pacific. A visit to Molokini, La Perouse Bay and the Kanaio Coast is always a highlight, costing $89 for adults (with lunch) or a shorter trip for $39 (with breakfast). Kids pay half. These prices from Beach Activities of Maui, located at the Maui Prince Hotel, phone 808/891-2201. You can learn to surf at Duke's (808/661-1970, www.surflessonsmaui.com), paying $110 for private sessions, less for semi-private or group lessons or kite surfing at $240 for 3.5 hours from Action Sports, offers windsurfing courses starting from $79 for a beginner's 2.5 hour lesson. Contact them at 871-5857 or at www.actionsportsmaui.com.

For more suggested activities, please visit our in-depth coverage at www.frommers.com/destinations/maui/0015010020.html.

Deals

If you travel by December 18, 2003, Pleasant Holidays is offering a fourth-night free at the Outrigger Palms in Wailea. Four-night, land-only holidays start at $559 per person based on double occupancy.

Also from Pleasant Holidays is a special reduced rate for January at the Royal Lahaina Resort, on Ka'anapli Beach, between January 2 and February 4, 2004. Staying in partial oceanview rooms, this four-night, land-only holiday starts at $308 per person, which the firm says is a savings of $296 per couple over the regular rate. The deal includes the room, daily rental car, all hotels and car rental taxes, a fresh flower lei greeting, and more. The resort has three swimming pools, a beach, tennis, scuba diving and snorkeling, plus a nightly luau and evening entertainment.

Contact Pleasant Holidays at 800/448-3333, through your local travel agent or online at www.pleasantholidays.com.

Coupons

One way to save money on Maui is to check out one of the many and various free publications that carry discount coupons. These booklets are ubiquitous, appearing at hotel concierge desks, at attractions, at restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores and the like. A few examples from my visit in mid-November 2003: The quarterly Drive Guide had a back-page ad from Activity World (www.activityworld.com), offering 25% to 50% off last minute activity tickets, including helicopter rides, luaus, dinner or cocktail cruises, and a wild dolphin search (the latter was $69, with discount $49.95). Their ad says "No timeshare presentation is required -- no gimmicks."

A second quarterly publication, 101 Things to Do in Maui, carried an ad from Boss Frog saying if you rent snorkel gear by the week, you get a free Molokini or Coral Gardens Snorkel Cruise, with a ticketing fee of $7. The cost per week for a snorkel set is $9, or $1.50 per day. You can bring in the ad and get two snorkel sets for the price of one weekly rental. Again, they write "No timeshare required" in the ad. Phone 808/661-3333 to reach one of their five locations.

Lodging

There are several good, moderately priced places to stay in Maui, listed in our Frommer's Hawaii From $80 a Day. It's time to mention some of the deluxe resorts as well, since we're always looking for value as well as budget-priced rooms. The most expensive places to stay, such as the marvelous Maui Prince Resort, have their specials, too. There's nothing better for a holiday in paradise than to be pampered by an always-attentive staff, and to indulge yourself with the plethora of services and amenities. At the Prince, you'll be nearly at the end of the road, beyond the chain of other resorts lining the Makena shore, and on a beach that's a perfect crescent, with few visitors. Every window and lanai looks out on the Pacific, perfect for relaxing and enjoying the views. Elsewhere on the grounds, you can visit an Asian meditation garden, feed the schools of brightly-colored koi, or espy an egret perched on the back of the chair opposite, daring it to grab part of your breakfast. There are two Robert Trent Jones golf courses, tennis courts, croquet, volleyball, ping pong, shuffleboard, and badminton, as well as snorkeling, scuba instruction, whale-watching, windsurfing, kayaking and a massage center.

Specials at the Maui Prince Resort include:

  • Late Getaways starting at $189 per night per room valid to January 31, 2004, with blackout dates of December 22, 2003 through January 3, 2004 inclusive
  • Room & Car starting at $209 per night per room, with your room and a Hertz compact car daily (same dates and blackout as above)
  • Room & Breakfast from $209 per night per room, meaning a full American buffet breakfast for two, same dates and blackouts

The rooms in each case have a partial ocean view. Contact them at 866/PRINCE 6 or 808/874-1111, or visit www.princeresortshawaii.com.

A bit less expensive is the Diamond Resort, on the same road in the Waialea area. Catering to many Japanese visitors as well as to Americans, the Diamond is proud of its Kurhaus health system, giving every guest use of a foam bath, sauna, waterfall bath and reclining bath. Other services in its spa such as facials, massages and body wraps are available at an extra charge. The resort sits on 15 acres near the base of Haleakala abutting a golf course. Each of the 72 one-bedroom suites has its own lanai, as well as kitchenette, living room and bath. Amenities include outdoor pool on site and 11 tennis courts next door. Garden Room rates are $240 per night (for one or two persons). Contact Diamond Resort at 800/800-0720 or 808/ 874-0500; website www.diamondresort.com.

Another deluxe property, the Kapalua Bay Hotel & Ocean Villas, has deals lasting from January 1 through December 19, 2004. Their Bed & Breakfast Package rates start at $390 per night per room (single or double occupancy) for a Garden View spot. The deal includes daily buffet breakfast for two, and unlimited free beach activity rentals, such as snorkel gear, beach chairs, umbrellas, cabanas and kayaks. There's a five-night minimum, with the fifth night offered free. Contact them at via Starwood at 800/325-3535 or visit www.starwood.com/Hawaii.

For more moderate and budget priced properties, visit our accommodations listing for Maui at www.frommers.com/destinations/maui/15_indacc.html. Just click "Price" at the top of the second column to sort them by rate ranges.

Eating Out

Choosing from the many restaurants listed in Frommer's Hawaii from $80 a Day, I was especially fond of the General Store in the town of Hali'Imaile, a great place to stop for a meal while in transit to or from Haleakala's peak. The food is Hawaiian-based, and very creative, like its featured macadamia nut-encrusted fish of the day, with mango butter and steamed jasmine rice. At lunchtime, I had a tasty three-cheese small pizza for just $8. The owner and her husband also own Joe's, in Wailea. Contact the General Store at 808/572-2666, www.haliimailegeneralstore.com.

If you want to celebrate by dining out at more expensive spots, such as the outstanding Japanese Hakone in the Maui Prince resort, grab a copy of the free Wailea Dining Guide (available almost anywhere) or just mention the hotel's ad, in order to get 15% off your final bill, excluding drinks. A complete dinner of tonkatsu (pork cutlet) with green salad, small appetizer, miso soup, rice, pickles and ice cream, runs $26 before the discount. The offer, which is good for the hotels' other first-class restaurant, the Prince Court, is good through April 2004. The restaurants are at the Maui Prince Resort, www.princeresortshawaii.com, phone 808/874-1111.

Also good for Japanese food is the Taiko at the Diamond Resort, where its complete tonkatsu meal (with sashimi, rice, soup, pickles) costs $21, sandwiches at lunch from $8. Contact them at 808/874-0500, www.diamondresort.com.

If you want to attend a luau, you should know the items on the menu can vary wildly, from grilled barbecued steaks at the Marriott Ka'anapli to banana cream pie at the Marriott Wailea. All luaus have kalua pig roasted in a pit and the ever-present poi, cooked mashed taro root. There is no apparent written record of an outsider liking the stuff enough to ask for seconds, and with good reason -- it tastes like school paste. Occasionally, the poi is disguised in "taro rolls." Most programs involve a torch lighting ceremony, the opening of the imu (pig roasting pit), and some entertainment as well as presentation of leis (often of shells). Most resorts charge about $75 per adult for a luau, and some offer discounts or bonuses, such as a free sarong if you buy two tickets. Our Dollars-a-Day guide praises the Old Lahina Luau as the best of Maui at $79 for adults, $49 for children, plus tax. Prices will rise on January 1, 2004 to $82 and $52, respectively. Phone 808/667-1998.

For Kids

Kids under 7 can sail free on the Pacific Whale Foundation's year-round cruises to see whales and dolphins. You're guaranteed a sighting or you go again, free, adult or child. Calling themselves the island's "Number One Eco-Tour," the PWF has been operating since 1980, pioneering efforts on behalf of these mammals. They follow a strict Wildlife Watching Code, and all profits go to support research, education and conservation efforts on behalf of the ocean, they say. Children ages 7-12 pay $15. Prices to Molokini, a favorite diving and snorkeling spot, run $69.50 for adults, but one kid aged six and under goes free with each adult. Additional children cost $15 each, aged seven to 15. All cruises include continental breakfast, all snorkel gear, flotation devises, buffet barbecue or deli lunch, guide chart and poster, narration and reef tour. Contact them at 808/249-8811 or www.pacificwhale.org.

Maui Play Care is a state-regulated drop-in babysitting center for children located in Kihei. Phone 808/891-CARE or see www.mauiplaycare.com.

The Aston hotel chain says its "ASTONishing Kids Stay, Play & Eat Free" program, entitles children to free activities, meals and merchandise when staying at any Aston property. In addition, children ages 17 and younger stay free when using existing bedding in the room. You can also pay $25 a session at the Maui Aston property in Ka'anapali to join Camp Ka'anapili, including snacks and lunch. For more information, contact Aston at 800/92-ASTON or visit www.aston-hotels.com.

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