I’M ON A DOT in the middle of the Pacific – specifically, the island of Maui in America’s most exotic state, where bananas grow on street trees, children dance the hula, and people greet you with a singsong ‘aloha’ instead of a ‘hey.’
I’m here to visit my daughter Zoë, who works as a scuba dive guide for Extended Horizons, a highly eco-conscious and professional outfit based in Lahaina (that’s their dive boat, above). The town, on Maui’s northwest coast, was the seat of Hawaii’s ancient kings, then a rowdy 19th century whaling port. A mile-long string of old wooden storefronts convincingly evokes Lahaina’s whaling heyday, with dozens of bars, restaurants, and shops selling souvenirs and art of a mostly kitschy kind.
I happen to enjoy that sort of thing, in moderation, and spent part of yesterday doing a little shopping, for flip-flops (‘slippas’ in Hawaiian parlance) made out of recycled yoga mats and hair ornaments that emulate tropical flowers. I popped into the Old Lahaina Book Emporium, a jam-packed old-school shop off the main drag, and checked out the crafts fair, below, set up under the fabled banyan tree, planted in 1873, whose branches now spread over nearly an acre.
I watched a group of seniors, below, making leis on the lawn in front of the 1834 Baldwin House, originally the home and clinic of a missionary doctor from Connecticut.
But as always, my favorite thing to do is stroll the backstreets looking at indigenous cottages and the lush landscaping around them.
On Maui, many of these take the form of tiny tin-roofed workers’ cottages that date back 60 years or more to a time when the hills around Lahaina were planted with sugar cane. Some are spiffily restored, like the one below.
Others are ramshackle, but don’t be fooled. They’re highly desirable and cost a fortune to buy or rent (a 2BR cottage fetches around $1,750/month).
For the past two nights, Zoë and I have been living in luxury at the tranquil Plantation Inn, below. Ideally located near but not too near the action, our suite has a balcony (lanai) overlooking a pool that has been the scene of pleasant morning workouts, followed by leisurely breakfasts in the palm-planted courtyard.
I found a vegan lunch of buckwheat soba noodles with veggies at Lahaina Coolers, a relaxed, non-touristy spot with local beers on tap and an inviting outdoor patio. Dinner at Longhi’s on Front Street, with French doors opening onto the street and a black-and-white checkerboard floor, was more than fine (ahi au poivre, a huge slate of pasta choices).
Today we’re heading across the valley that divides the island, which was formed by two separate volcanoes, to the area known as ‘upcountry.’ Come on along.