Anyone who has ever visited Maui can vouch that this rare escape delivers everything it promises at every level. In fact, there's a saying, Maui No Ka Oi, which means Maui is the best. And when you experience this island adorned with 81 beaches, it's difficult to disagree.
Neither too small nor too large, the manageable retreat exudes an easy attitude with options that run the gamut from rubber slippers in the sand to five-diamond glitz. For obvious reasons, resorts have emerged along the finest stretches of shoreline, and the beach fronting The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, is among the best. Equally striking, however, are the continuous coves at Wailea and Makena, and the three-mile span of golden sand at Kaanapali.
Always shooting to stay a step ahead, Maui properties constantly upgrade and embellish their offerings. While many have undergone renovations, North Kaanapali Beach will welcome a brand-new option this month with the first phase of the 628-room Honua Kai Resort & Spa. A second phase will open in spring 2010.
If you're into adventure, prepare to run wild. In the same day, you can drive above the clouds for a brilliant sunrise atop the 10,000-foot Haleakala Crater, enjoy a plate lunch in funkyPaia, ooh and aah at topsy-turvy windsurfers off Hookipa Beach, then watch the sun slip below the horizon from Kaanapali. Or venture via ferry, small plane or catamaran to scuba dive in Lanai's Hulopoe Bay, or hike along Molokai's east end with a native Hawaiian guide.
Less traditional but extremely palatable is the Upcountry agritourism focus at Surfing Goat Dairy (www.surfinggoatdairy.com), Tedeschi Vineyards at Ulupalakua Ranch(www.mauiwine.com and Alii Kula Lavender Farm (www.aliikulalavender.com). Sharing Maui's culinary bounty is Tour da Food Maui ( get=_blank>www.tourdafoodmaui.com), a new ethnic cuisine excursion hitting the tastiest local haunts. Or simply stop by Bev Gannon's Haliimaile General Store(www.bevgannonrestaurants.com) to sample island-influenced dishes on your own.
Those who are crazy about whales prefer visiting in the winter. From December to April, as many as 10,000 humpbacks feed in warm Hawaiian waters. And they seem to congregate in greater numbers off Maui, so it's an ideal time to witness these massive mammals from a slew of excursions departing Lahaina and Maalaeaharbors.
Need still more thrills? Cut through the ocean withHawaiian Sailing Canoe Adventures(www.mauisailingcanoe.com), tackle a 125-foot zip-rappel through the canyons with Maui Canyon Adventures (www.mauicanyons.com), snorkel offMolokini or tally switchbacks on the white-knuckle drive to Hana. For a tamer time, take a journey through Hawaiian history at the theatrical Ulalena(www.ulalena.com) or explore marine life without getting wet at Maui Ocean Center(www.mauioceancenter.com).