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Wowie Maui: Hip + Haute Hawaii

Words by Carolyn Gerin

We travel writers are spoiled: our assignments take us to the ends of the earth to cover majestic vistas, epic cuisine and luxe venues. That being said, sometimes we forget that paradise – aka Hawaii – is in our own backyard (with a far easier commute).

“Aloha!” – says Maui, with its dramatic purple-orange skies, tropical breezes, secluded beaches, lush terrain and chill, island vibe. Maui has soul: it’s hip and haute, sans hassle.

"Holoholo" is Hawaiian for “fun adventure.” Escape the crowds at the Paia Inn. One part hippy and one part hipster, it hits all the right notes: a huge veranda with daybeds for a noontime nap overlooking lazy palm trees, vibrant tropical flowers and best of all: a private access beach. With ten comfortable rooms, you’re assured a peaceful existence in a fun-meets-functional boutique, away from the maddening crowds. If you want to feel like a local, Paia Inn’s the place for you: it’s lo-fi but luxe with friendly, attentive staff who make you feel at home and anticipate every need without hovering. There’s no shortage of gorgeous beaches in Maui, but why leave your own private paradise? Sit back in your deck chair with a compelling novel and a cold beer and spy on a surfer’s sunset session. After a sun-soaked day, recline on your spacious, fluffy bed under a lazy ceiling fan, watch the palm fronds bend in the breeze and dream about what’s for dinner.

Paia is a groovy little town on Maui’s North Shore with its fair share of tie-dyed denizens, yoga aficionados and spiritual healers. The Inn overlooks a small-town street dotted with casual dining cafés, beer halls with live music, health food stores and boutiques. If you’re looking for cabanas, fancy cocktails and a bevy of fawning attendants, you’ll need to move on. Paia is perfect for fashionable, fuss-free travelers.

Dine at Mama’s Fish House – their fishermen bring the ocean’s bounty direct to the kitchen. Enjoy a handcrafted Mai Tai and catch-of-the-day teamed with wild boar overlooking a stunning sunset beach and attentive wait staff in gorgeous, traditional Hawaiian couture. 

Passport to paradise is here: Hotel Wailea – located 300-feet above sea level and spanning 15-acres – this “romantic sanctuary” is a stunner. A study in relaxed luxury, its got all of the amenities of a classic 5-star with none of the pretentiousness – with “beach house design” one-bedroom suites, views of three islands, tropical greenery, cascading waterfalls, and all infused with a modern, clean and Zen sensibility. Your wedding and honeymoon can happen right here, with an on-staff event planner and world-class chefs. Enjoy an “orchard-to-glass” apothecary cocktail from former raw food chef, now “mix-mistress” Kerry Mekeel, in a poolside cabana and watch a fire pit-lit sunset.

Daybreak canoeing with Hawaiian Outrigger Experience is epic: dolphins, sea turtles and ancient Hawaiian storytelling compels you to paddle hard. Enjoy a day at the private beach club or canoodling under the cabana. Need more adrenaline? Take kiteboarding lessons (or grab a surfboard) and head to the North Shore.

The verdict: paradise and proximity – together at last. Easy for you or your guests to get to and much to love when you land – Maui is magic. A hui hou kākou – until we meet again.

Photos courtesy of (in order of appearance): Travis Rowan with Living Maui Media (1st & 3rd), Hotel Wailea (2nd & 4th).

This article first appeared in Destination I Do's Fall/Winter 2015 issue. You can order a copy here.

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