The Best of Hawaii: From Maui & Lana’i to the Big Island & Moloka’i

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I recently attended a Visit Hawaii and Love for all things Maui event at San Francisco’s Clift Hotel. I met a bunch of other travel bloggers and saw a few I knew from previous gatherings, including from the most recent TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) in Vancouver.

It was great that so many Hawaii PR and marketing reps were present, from the various resorts, to the cultural contacts, to the Tourism Board to the Hawaiian Airlines. There was definitely not enough time given how much I wanted to cover, particularly on the food, wine and cultural front, but the overview did give us a great overview of what Hawaii had to offer, from resorts and golf to festivals, food and romance.

So what did I learn? A lot more about Lana’i and Moloka’i than I ever knew before and met a host of fabulous people who worked for various properties and organizations. I learned that the Whaler on Kaanapali Beach will soon be just a memory.

The walls, railings and lanai of the two classic twelve-story towers, one of the first resorts on Kaanapali Beach, will be bathed incontemporary earth tones, including new tile on each lanai. This final phase of a $10-million dollar renovation was preceded by major pool, courtyard and garden planting initiatives. Special low rates, celebrating the completion of the renovation, will be available for November and December 2011.

Other tidbits for those into pampering. The Spa Ocean Hale Experience at Four Seasons Resort Lāna‘i at Mānele Bay offers spoiling treatments including the Lava Shell massage, a custom massage that you tailor or something they call, the Lomi Lomi massage.

They have over 200 scents that are sophisticated, intoxicating and indigenous to Hawaii and the treatment includes a scent analysis and prêt‐à‐porter fragrance consultation performed by their mélanguer, an aromatherapy and blending expert.

Below the magic of Moloka’i.








I learned about the Kokua Project, which is a voluntourism experience.  In partnership with the Lāna‘i Animal Rescue Center, the Four Seasons Resort Lāna‘i offers guests a unique opportunity to experience the island and culture through the Kokua Project. The community‐based voluntourism program allows guests to give back to the community and the island’s precious aina (land) by reducing their environmental footprint. Volunteer activities range from “Pet & Purr” cat socializing to painting and gardening.

Below the magic of Lana’i.








I didn’t know anything about Moloka’i. A bit of culture for those into culture and religion about Saint Damien who became a Saint in the shortest period in history at the time. Father Damien of Moloka‘i shared the last 16 years of his life with people of Kalaupapa prior to his passing on April 15, 1889. 

More than a century later, on October 11, 2009, he was canonized as a Saint. Although Father Damien is primarily known for his work with the Kaluapapa, his mission work also included building churches and serving as pastor for the local Hawaiian population on the island of Moloka’i’s “topside”, where the main population reside today.  In other words, there’s a very cool church you can visit with a whole lotta history — and it’s beautiful.

I get the sense that this is the island you go to TO AVOID tourists and flashy drinks with umbrellas. (note to self: I must do more research before jumping on an airplane). They have a trail to Kalaupapa, which you can either get there via mule and or walking on a hiking trail. It has apparently been renamed “Kalaupapa Rare Adventure” which takes visitors to more remote areas with the help of nine sure‐footed mules.

There’s also a ceremony in Halawa Valley you can check out if into local culture and the Moloka’i Plumeria and Kamu Farms, which tout 30 years of organic farming.

Lana’i is also pretty small and a less frequented destination with only 2,800 people and no street lights. You either get there via air or ferry and there are two main resorts you can stay at: the Four Seasons at Manele Bay or the Lodge at Ko-ele. A smaller budget friendly hotel is also available: the Hotel Lanai, which also touts a City Grill.

I also learned that the Fairmont Kea Lani offers hoolahoop lessons (I had to laugh at this one as someone who prides herself on STILL BEING ABLE to pull this off for longer than 15 minutes a go). AND, that they’re opening a new restaurant named KO in February 2012. (KO means sugarcane btw).

I discovered that the Wailea Resort (which means goddess of the canoe) has a film festival in June (am intrigued) and that I need to keep my eyes and ears open for the annual onion event where chefs go crazy and prepare onions a thousand different ways. As an onion lover, I’ll be sure to find out more.

I also came home with a cookbook by well renowned Maui chef Tylun Pang: What Maui Likes to Eat.   Photographs by Kaz Tanabe accompany recipes like Ginger Hoisin Hibachi Rack of Haleakala Lamb, Poi Waffle Dogs, and Gingered Coconut and Poha Berry Ginger Thumbprint Cookies. From a review, “vignettes sprinkled through the book tell the stories of local food heroes, like fisherman John Keanaaina, “pumpkin ladies” Judy Silva and Marlene Texeira, and the Holy Ghost Church’s team of dedicated bakers.

There are recipes from guest chefs like Hali‘imaile General Store’s Bev Gannon, and recipes for comfort food, like Maui County Fair Pronto Pups. Foodie Gail Ainsworth has collected recipes and stories from some of Maui’s favorite bygone restaurants.”

If that description doesn’t want you to dive into some of the recipes, I don’t know what will. Like a lot of Hawaiian chefs, Pang emphasizes local, sustainably grown ingredients. “Using Maui Cattle Company beef, Kula strawberries and Anuhea Farms asparagus, he said, not only supports the local community, it also ensures superior taste and freshness.”

More after additional research AND of course after getting myself over there to explore the best of what Maui, Lana’i and Moloka’i has to offer. Of course, I’ve been trying to get to the big island of Hawaii for awhile now – want to see so many parts of the island, from the volcanic rock to the hiking trails.

Photos woo me in time and time again and being as much of a nature buff as I am a serious food and wine snob, it seems like a great place to explore. More when a date has been set and I’m on the ground.

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