Maui — Plant Yourself, Then Go Play

Forget meditation — just spend an afternoon at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. Photo by Kara Mayer Robinson

If you’re Maui-bound, try these two must-dos.

#1 Pick your resort wisely.

Most hotels on Maui are stocked with pitch-perfect pools, sandy beaches and luxe amenities. But some are better than others.

Many visitors flock to Wailea, with its stretch of calm beaches peppered with rock formations. It has a coastline walking path that’s perfect for early morning runs and sunset strolls. It’s also nice and close to restaurants and Haleakala Crater, the volcano most visitors trek up to at sunrise.

One of the anchors of Wailea is the enormous, fully-loaded Grand Wailea Resort, a lushly landscaped property relatively close to the airport. At this megaresort, water is king. You’ve got nine pools on six levels, a free SCUBA lesson and ample paddleboarding. If you’re active and energetic, this is the resort for you.

There’s another strip of hotels (and golf courses) in Kaanapali, which is well-situated near Lahaina, where you’ll find the crazy-popular Old Lahaina Luau (details below), restaurants and stores.

Up a few miles is Kapalua, a divine area set apart from the pack with an expansive landscape, stunning vistas, snorkel-perfect bays and an escape from crowds.

The crown jewel is the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, an upscale resort with A+ service and an instant relax-and-rejuvenate vibe. It has a three-tiered pool with killer views of the Pacific and a mellow beach front.

If you want to explore local sites like snorkeling beaches — hello, sea turtles! — and visit a pineapple plantation, Kapalua is a prime location. If you love nature and want to feel like you’re truly on vacation, the Ritz is for you.

#2 Get Out There!

We love resorts, but it’s impossible to experience Maui’s beauty and culture without venturing off road.

Road to Hana

This two-and-a-half-hour, twisty route with 600 curves and 54 bridges hugs the mountains far up from the sea and may cause a lump in your throat. But it’s worth it for the lush, tropical landscape you enter into. Pull off at any number of stops to walk hiking trails, swim in waterfall pools, and play on black sand beaches. -Gohawaii.com

Snorkel Near Sea Turtles

Snorkel opportunities abound all over Maui. We like Kapalua Bay and Honolua Bay, where locals say seeing sea turtles is a sure thing. Or ask your hotel for recommendations.

Sunrise Atop a Volcano

Prepare to wake up early — and dress warmly — to see the always-popular sunrise from the top of Haleakala Crater, 9,740 feet up. Drive there yourself or sign up for an excursion. -Akinatours.com

Whale Watching

From January through April, so many humpback whales gather in the channel between Maui and Moloka’i that locals call it “whale soup.” You can see, and sometimes hear, whales from land — but why not take a boat and get up close? -Pacificwhale.org

Do a Luau

It’s admittedly touristy, but oozes the flavor of the 50th Lahaina Luau, which brings in hundreds of tourists every night to enjoy a pig roast, buffet feast, hula dancing and a show with Hawaiian dancers and music. Reserve online early, as it sells out, in spite of its hefty price tag. -Oldlahainaluau.com

Discover Hawaiian Culture

Many Hawaiians have a deep spirituality and connection to ancient traditions. There are legends explaining everything from why Hawaiians named the points that jut out into the sea to why it’s bad luck to take hardened lava rock off the island. For Brady Bunch fans, it conjures images of the idol taboo; and that’s a good thing.

Mahalo!