Maui is more than just a tropical tourist vacation destination, but first you have to step outside of the resort you’re staying in. The restaurants, beaches and activities stretch far beyond those mentioned in the guidebooks. Yes, the Road to Hana is a must while you’re on the island, and if you don’t go to Willie Nelson’s favorite restaurant, Charley’s, you’re truly missing out. But that’s just the beginning.
If you’re craving French pastries and a solid brunch to end your morning up at the Haleakala Crater, look no further than La Provence in Kula. I would not have known this place existed, since it’s tucked behind the main highway. Riding my bike to work every morning, however, I could smell the sweet scent wafting through the air, calling my name. Sure enough, the almond croissant is almost to die for. And the many varieties of eggs Benedict are sure to hit the spot.
3158 Lower Kula Rd., Kula. +1 808-878-1313; laprovencekula.com
A little further down the mountain, in the old-school cowboy town of Makawao, exists a coffee shop for people who come from a place where coffee rules life. Sip Me is an original coffee shop on Maui that serves a brew meeting the highest standards (plus smoothies and juices). Once you’ve tried it, you won’t be able to resist its wonderful charms.
3617 Baldwin Ave., Makawao. +1 808-573-2340; facebook.com
Located in the famed hippie town of Paia, this beach has all the good vibes you could possibly want without being overrun by surfers and tourists. Other beaches in the area tend to be packed, and often the waves are so big that you can even enjoy the water. Baby Beach, however, is the exact opposite. Since it’s hidden behind a small neighborhood, you would never know it was there unless someone pointed it out. Thanks to a little coral reef, the waves stay relatively small. Sometimes you even get the chance to swim with sea turtles, as they love to hang out on the reef.
East End of Baldwin Beach, Mile Marker 5, Hana Hwy., Paia
Though Little Beach is located in Wailea near all the main resorts, it definitely provides a different vibe compared to the more high-end beaches in the area. To get to it you have to walk across a giant parking lot, past the fish-taco truck, through Big Beach and over a mini cliff. As soon as you look down on the beach you’ll see a wide variety of characters, from the tourists who brave the trek to locals who don’t want to miss a Sunday afternoon. Sundays at Little Beach are known around Maui: They’ll give you an inside look at the welcoming culture you can find on the island.
Wailea Alanui Rd., Makena State Park, Wailea, Maui
The Back Road to Lahaina
On the opposite side of Hana there is another mountain drive. Whether you start in Lahaina or in Kahului it provides some amazing sights. From the blowhole to Julia’s banana bread stand, this trip is dotted with must-see attractions I’ve done the drive twice, and each experience was completely different. The first time we drove it quickly, getting out only at the main stops. The second time, however, we decided to take our time. We hiked in uncharted territory. We went to all the secret beaches and walked along the cliffs. Be warned: This drive is not for the faint of heart or for people who are scared of heights. You will be driving along the edge of a cliff and potentially have to pass other cars even if there is no room. If you can handle it, though, it’s worth every nail-biting moment.
Polli’s Mexican Restaurant
This Makawao restaurant delivers divine Mexican cuisine on a budget. Swing by for happy hour to sample fresh fish tacos, nachos that melt in your mouth and margaritas that remind you why vacation is so good.
1202 Makawao Ave., Makawao. +1 808-572-7808; pollismexicanrestaurant.com
This Paia bar is beloved by locals and tourists alike. Here you will find an eclectic crowd and a high-vibe atmosphere. Expect great drink deals, TVs showing all major sporting events and some unreal live music. From Grateful Dead cover bands to Willie Nelson himself, there’s always something to keep you occupied in the evening.
142 Hana Hwy., Paia. +1 808-579-8085; charleysmaui.com
Alice in Hulaland
Though this shop is located in one of the tourist towns on Maui, it contains some fantastic items to pick up for yourself and friends back home. Find locally mad tanks and T-shirts to show off your Hawaii pride or vintage rock ‘n’ roll style.
19 Baldwin Ave., Paia. aliceinhulaland.com
This article was originally published by Savoteur under the headline The Other Side of Maui. It is reprinted here with permission.