Maui’s Blooming Economy

Maui luau | BCBusiness
The kinetic luau at the Wailea Beach Marriott.

One of the top destinations for sun-starved British Columbians is creating a local economy that would make East Van blush

Laid-back Maui has always had an entrepreneurial streak. Isolation—4,000 kilometres from the closest mainland port—breeds a certain level of self-sufficient paranoia. But the recent velocity and obsession with creating from local resources has hit a fever pitch.

Day trips throughout the Valley Isle these days are sure to include farmers markets of all sizes, selling gargantuan versions of familiar and foreign fruit and veg to the Pacific Northwest eye. Evenings still offer the usual host of requisite hula shows (although the food, especially at the Old Lahaina Luau, has certainly improved), but are increasingly more hopping at town squares and streets the island over with Maui Friday Town Parties, created specifically to show visitors a Hawaiian’s Maui.

Made-on-Maui innovation is driving manufacturing of all kinds. Take the Andaz Maui, the new, buzzed-about Wailea beachfront resort that’s started making facial lotion from local ingredients. Chances are, the hotel bar pours Ocean Vodka, distilled from sugarcane grown an hour away and powered by desalinated ocean water coursing through the Hawaiian Islands (which, it could be argued, is also locally made).

Maui’s Fresh Picks

This is old Hawaii at its finest, restored lovingly and preserved as a circa-1800s walkable seaside fishing village. But it’s not all museums and artisans. Unforgettable day trips (like the Atlantis Submarine tours) leave the dock all day, while bars on Front Street hop late into the night. To stay festive and Hawaiian, hit the best luau on Maui: The Old Lahaina Luau, where the storytelling is engaging and the food is locally sourced. These are the same people, after all, who run the hot, new Star Noodle just up the road.

Stretching for more than five kilometres along white-sand beaches and preserved coral reef, Ka’anapali’s natural splendour often surprises visitors, given the luxury properties abutting turtle habitat. To really lose yourself in natural Maui, drive north for 20 minutes to the Marine Life Conservation District and its crown jewel, Honolua Bay.

STAY Honua Kai This recently opened, sustainability-minded property’s network of Ka’anapali beachfront pools, hot tubs and barbecues keeps the entire family on-site, while the variety of residential-style units (most have full kitchens) ensures all the comforts of home.

3. PA’IA This hippy-infused paradise is, for many, the best thing about Maui. Hollywood celebs agree. Willie Nelson is a regular at Charley’s on the main drag, where everyone from Steven Tyler to Owen Wilson strolls in flip-flops looking for a good lunch spot. (The answer, by the way, is Café Mambo, whose Kalua Pork Burger and local beer will have you looking for real estate, which, incidentally, is cheaper than most in the Lower Mainland.)

STAY The Inn at Mama’s Fish House The freshly expanded inn complements a meal at the famous restaurant better than any aperitif. Traditional Hawaiian furniture and decor, combined with fresh flowers everywhere, are rivalled only by the sunsets from your hammock.

Maui’s remote eastern jewel takes 600 turns and 54 one-way bridge crossings to get to. But the trip is a must, especially in a convertible. Upon arrival, explore the archeological and natural history of the area, ranging from massive ceremonial platforms to a lava-tube tunnel that was used as a nuclear fallout shelter in more paranoid times.

STAY Traavasa Hana The hotel to base yourself. The adults-only area is pure, infinity-pool bliss, while the family-friendly wing has myriad free activities, including biking and golf.

Maui’s home of glitz and luxury, Wailea is peppered with high-end boutiques and absurdly luxe hotels (many full apartments). The recently updated Wailea Coastal Walk accesses many of the top-tier properties. For some of the best waterfront dining in the area, hit the luau at the Wailea Beach Marriott. Snorkelling is just outside your hotel, as are quick-drive beach escapes away from the hotel towers in Makena Beach.

STAY The Andaz Maui’s newest hotel is 15 acres of subdued beachfront luxury highlighted by the boutique chain’s signature personalized service.