Andrew McCarthy, author of the feature story, "Maui: Is There Anything Left to Discover?" in Traveler's March 2010 issue, kept a house on the "Valley Island" for ten years. Here he lists some of his favorite places:
1-3. My top beaches are: Slaughterhouse Beach, a secluded crescent of sand facing Honolua Bay on the island's western edge, just beyond Kapalua. I've had a few close encounters with giant sea turtles here. Hamoa Beach about a mile outside Hana has a wild feel, with soft gray sand surrounded by sea cliffs. The big surf here is very dangerous because the beach is not protected by any reefs. And—my favorite beach on the planet—Keawakapu Beach in Kihei has buttery sand and a killer view of the West Maui Mountains. Lanai and Kahoolawe sit just off shore, giving the view perspective while the sun sets right in front of you. Sprinkle my ashes there.
4. Best local eating is at the Makena Grill. Marisa Samuels makes the best lunch on the island from this roadside cart in Makena. Grab a chicken kebab, take a seat at Marisa's picnic table under the kiawe tree, and watch the rental cars roll by.
5. Alii Kula Lavender Farm does more with lavender then you thought humanly possible. It's located high on the slope of Haleakala in a beautiful setting. Tour the farm, enjoy "Royal Tea" service, or get married! A first-rate operation.
6. As well-thought-out and managed as Alii Kula's Lavender Farm is, that is how laid-back you'll find Grandma's Coffee House. Just down the road from the farm, it makes a great counterpoint. Grab a coffee and take a seat on the deck outside as the locals come and go and "talk story."
7. My favorite surprise hike is in Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area 6,200 feet up on the slope of Haleakala. The trek is a total shocker. Overlooked for the obvious attractions of the crater above, the trail will make you think you're in the Pacific Northwest, until huge views open up to the Pacific far below and remind you you're on Maui. You'll usually find yourself alone in the tall pines, especially when there is a morning chill and mist.
8. The most memorable way to spend a night—and best lunar-like experience—is to reserve one of the three cabins in the crater of Haleakala. No lights, no running water. But they're as close to heaven as many of us will get. I had the experience the first time 20 years ago, and I've never forgotten it. The redwood cabins were built in the 1930s by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). Make reservations through the park service months in advance, or call for a last-minute cancellation—as I did.
9. Rent a kayak and get on the water without a guide (you can see land). I like to go off one of the beaches in Kihei or Makena in South Maui. Bring along a snorkel and fins; there's a good chance you'll see sea turtles bobbing offshore. Slip off the kayak and have a close encounter.
10. A great place to eat is the Saigon Café, 1792 Main Street, in Wailuku (+1 808 243 9560). Vietnamese Maui cuisine. Yum. You don't come for the decor—it's all Formica tabletops and vinyl booths. But it's a true old Hawaii atmosphere—no sign on the door.