People talk about the “magic of Hawaii,” and there really is something instantly calming, excitingly euphoric, and undeniably special about the islands.
The feeling transcends the ordinary senses, and no island embodies this more than Maui. Sure, you can surf in Oahu, feel the fury of the goddess Pele on The Big Island, and be ensconced in nature and living history on Kauai, but Maui is truly special. The moment you exit 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, fantastic weather year round, and the perfect balance of nature and civilization, Maui is one of the top destination wedding locations worldwide. It also inspires the top Google search term “Maui romantic ideas.” So we spent a glorious week exploring this civilized paradise. From magnificent waterfalls to hiking through breathtaking bamboo forests and indulging in a fantastic pampering at luxury resorts, this will become your next romantic escape, too.
LUXURY REST: Fairmont Kea Lani
The Fairmont Kea Lani is our top resort pick for Maui. From the magnificent marble lobby featuring giant columns and gorgeous trees that open out to a stunning ocean view, to the nonstop excellent service, it’s like staying in your own exotic mansion. Upon arrival, sign up with the concierge for a morning canoe ride and swim with the sea turtles.
Suites at the Kea Lani nod to Hawaiian style while never forgetting that the most beautiful view is right outside your window. Whether resting on the pillow-topped California king bed or sipping a Mai Tai on the balcony, your eyes and spirit will be drawn toward the beauty outside.
GOOD TIP: The hillside may be gorgeous, but book an ocean-view suite for the ultimate view.
MUST EAT: O’o Farm
From A-list resorts to mom & pop shops, the dining options are plentiful in Maui. But for foodies, a really unique experience includes a trip to O’o Farm. Tour the property that supplies fresh vegetables, coffee and other fare for the famous Feast at Lele luau or the Pacific’o restaurants. While there you and your special someone can pick your own veg, then enjoy a magnificent meal prepared by one of the island’s top chefs.
UNIQUE BEACH: La Perouse
La Perouse isn’t great for swimming, but if you’re an experienced surfer the waves are wonderful. Plus, if you just want to relax by the waves and be away from tourists, this secret spot is a must-hit. 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 past wild goats (not kidding) 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.
FOOD TIP: Cafe a la Plage is a small, unassuming eatery in a small strip mall that makes brilliant coffee, breakfasts and sandwiches that start you off right– whether you’re hitting the beach or taking on The Road to Hana.
MAJESTIC DRIVE: The Road to Hana
Many people consider the Road to Hana both mandatory and a chore — but for the wondrous sights and unique experiences you’ll enjoy along the way, we say it’s worth it.
The winding ride runs high above the magnificent Maui coastline, where you can take in the lush landscape and dynamic ocean views. 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, and allot yourself at least 5 hours. Then take it slow, stop whenever you like to enjoy the sights, and stay the night in heavenly Hana.
TRAVEL TIP: The quaint town of Paia is your last gas stop before hitting the Road to Hana. Don’t go crazy on buying food here; you’ll want to stop by some roadside stands for banana bread, fresh fruit smoothies, and other tasty treats. Do fuel up here and leave your worries behind.
MUST STOP SPOTS: Road to Hana
*The secret beach at Honomanu Bay after mile 13
*The “painted” eucalyptus trees Ke’anae Arboretum at mile 16
*The village at Ke’anae Peninsula Lookout with its numerous taro fields
*The popular Wai’anapanapa black sand beach, pictured here with its own set of “painted” eucalyptus, features beautiful views and a swimming hole inside the lava tubes
Most people on The Road to Hana turn around by Wai’anapanapa black sand beach and race against the setting sun back to Maui. Forget that! Check into Travaasa Hana, an all-inclusive resort on the grounds of an old sugar plantation. The sea ranch cottages, just a short distance from the ocean, feature 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.
There’s limited tech here — no TVs or iPod docking stations — and that’s the point. You’re here to relax in nature, disconnect from the world, and enjoy all of beautiful Hana. Prices include fantastic cuisine, fitness classes, tours, horseback rides, one spa treatment per day, and much more.
There is no place more rustically elegant or quietly sexy than Travaasa Hana.
BEACH BUMMING: Hamoa
Hamoa Beach is gorgeous, and the staff at Travaasa Hana keep it that way. They maintain the restrooms, have towels and chairs for hotel guests, and offer a shuttle to and from the hotel property; however, it is open to the public so even if you’re not staying at Travaasa you can come here.
Hamoa is 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.
Bring good hiking shoes (not flip flops), bug repellent, water, a snack, 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, towering bamboo forest.
PHOTO OP: Waimoku Falls on the Pipiwai Trail
At 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. Enjoy swimming in the beautiful pools along with many tourists. Hike slightly higher up and you’ll likely be hanging with the locals, where you can quietly enjoy the beauty, swim around if you’d like, and understand the real meaning of paradise.
TRAVEL TIP: Don’t just start diving off a cliff into the pool until you know the area. That could be dangerous, so check the area first. Also, if it starts raining, head on out because you don’t want to get caught in a sudden flood. Your trip to Maui should be peaceful, romantic, fun and safe, so use your smarts when exploring the area.