By Greg Aragon
Hawaii is a great place to visit no matter the season. The islands are always warm and inviting, like a swaying palm tree. But one of my favorite times to go is spring, just before the big summer rush. With this in mind, I would like to talk a little about the islands of Maui, Lanai and Kauai.
To me, Maui is one of the most beautiful places on earth. One of my favorite spots is Iao Valley State Park, located in the center of Maui. This magical, 4,000-acre reserve is carpeted with thick, tropical vegetation and guarded by towering mountain peaks. It is home to one of Maui’s most popular landmarks, the 1,200-ft Iao Needle, a giant jagged rock shooting above the Iao stream.
A sacred, historical place in Hawaiian history, the Iao Valley is a great place for a nature hike, as there are well-maintained trails leading to the needle above and to an old village below. Near Iao Valley is Makena Beach, Maui’s largest beach and one of its best spots for swimming, snorkeling, picnicking, sunbathing and strolling along white sand stretching nearly a mile-long and 100 yards wide.
One of my favorite spots to stay on Maui is Hotel Wailea, an authentic tropical paradise, surrounded by palm and avocado trees, rolling hills, thick gardens, waterfalls and streams, and lots of Hawaiian charm. Nestled on 15 acres, Hotel Wailea (www.hotelwailea.com) is located a few blocks above the beach and offers an intimate, romantic atmosphere not found at larger, busier resorts. The hotel also boasts a full service spa and fitness center, a sparkling pool, an award-winning restaurant, complimentary breakfast, and an efficient shuttle service to and from the beaches and shopping areas.
Across the Auau Channel from Maui is the remote island of Lanai. On my last visit here, I stayed at enchanting Lanai Hotel (www.hotellanai.com). Built as a retreat in 1923 by pineapple pioneer James Dole, the inn sits on the edge of town in a lush garden setting, beneath tall Norfolk pine trees. It features 11 charming guestrooms, a gourmet restaurant, and lots of Hawaiian atmosphere and a romantic plantation feel.
While on the island I rented a Jeep and explored mysterious Shipwreck Beach. To get there I drove up a mountainous road lined with volcanic rock and red clay. In a few miles, I came to a narrow turnout, where the road became a tunnel of trees, paved with deep sand and bumpy rock, requiring a four-wheel drive.
For the next 1.6 miles I bounced along the northeast coast with intermittent views of the ocean and an outline of Maui. The road ended at Big Rock, where I parked and continued on foot over black volcanic rock and sand, and then through warm tropical water until I discovered a an old sunken ship about 100 yards off the shore. Leaning in a reef, the rusting vessel, built in the 1940s, was once an oil tanker that the navy unsuccessfully tried to sink after WWII. Today, it provides a hauntingly beautiful backdrop to Lanai.
Kauai is another tiny island full of incredible beauty. While here, I stayed at the Kauai Beach Resort (www.kauaibeachresorthawaii.com). Set on 25 acres of lush Hawaiian gardens, the hotel is surrounded by palm trees, pools and the Pacific Ocean.
A highlight of my Kauai getaway was a Sunset Dinner Sail catamaran ride along the legendary Napali Coast. Led by Holo Holo Charters (www.holoholokauaiboattours.com), this memorable journey cruised past legendary Hawaiian landscapes made famous in movies such as Jurassic Park, King Kong, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
With its jagged peaks, secluded beaches, lost sea caves and sapphire waters, it’s easy to see why Hollywood directors regularly pay $10,000 per day to film along the Napali Coast. During my sail I saw wild goats, sea turtles, dolphins and lots of colorful fish. The voyage was topped off by a great lasagna dinner while watching the sun set into the sea.
For more information on visiting Maui, Lanai, Kauai, or any of the Hawaiian Islands, visit www.gohawaii.com/lanai.