Lately, I've been looking at Maui through different eyes. I have a friend coming to visit soon, a world traveler who somehow never made it to Maui. Usually when I greet guests from the Mainland, they're family or former residents who have their own agenda of must-do activities. Now I'm finding that planning the perfect Maui week is an extremely enjoyable exercise. As I try to put myself in the shoes of a first-time visitor, I am reminded of how much there is to love about this island.
A proper introduction to Maui must begin with a lei greeting at the airport. Gotta call Native Intelligence for one of their specialty lei. Pikake has always been my favorite, puakenikeni a close second. But I think I'll order pakalana this time. The sweet, yet slightly tangy, scent will keep well in my friend's memory banks. Wouldn't you love to have the aroma of pakalana fill your head every time you thought about your first visit to Maui? Maybe I should ask about allergies.
I should probably ask about motion sickness too, because my perfect Maui week includes a lot of scenic drives. If I had to limit my plans to just one major road trip, it would be a tough call, but I think I'd forego the 54 bridges to Hana town in favor of Lahaina via Kahakuloa. Of course, the drive to the top of Haleakala isn't in the running; it's a requirement.
More so than the sandy beaches of Makena and the waterfalls of East Maui rain forests, Haleakala is the definitive icon of Maui.
Everyone's first visit should include a moment of reverence there. Haleakala's ancient name, Ala Hea Ka La ("the path to calling the sun"), implies even more spirituality and power. Hawaiians believe it to be not just the House of the Sun, but the home of gods as well. Regardless of whether you give credit for the majestic crater to Pele or to another supreme being, it is impossible to venture into it without feeling awed and humbled. I haven't decided whether we should go for the sunrise or the sunset. Perhaps we'll do a day hike and see both.
I also have some less strenuous hikes on our to-do list. I'll conduct personal walking tours of Wailuku and Lahaina towns, and we'll stroll Baldwin Avenue at both the Paia and Makawao ends. It's no coincidence that those are the four towns chosen by the county's Office of Economic Development for the soon-to-be-launched Maui Friday Town Parties, inspired by the success of Wailuku's First Friday celebrations. Each of the communities has a rich history and unique character, and I look forward to getting reacquainted with them, window shopping and wandering into casual conversations with neighborhood folks.
And we'll be eating out often. Coconut-ginger soup at Thailand Cuisine, Teishoku "B" at Tokyo Tei, pizza at Casanova. And Hawaiian food anywhere and everywhere we can - Sunday brunch at Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, squid luau at Hana Hou, laulau at Da Kitchen. But our dining won't be limited to ethnic restaurants, or even to restaurants, period. We'll make a pit stop at Uptown Chevron for baked opakapaka. That's right, gourmet grinds and motor oil, all in the same place. Fukushima Store hot dogs, Pukalani Superette's sweet chili chicken, Ichiban's tofu balls, Takamiya's kim chee fried rice, Rodeo General's steak poke . . . takeout snacks to sustain us on the road between restaurants. Of course, we have to have Tasty Crust hotcakes and Sam Sato noodles, Komoda creampuffs and Home Maid malasadas, Ululani's shave ice and Maui Specialty Chocolates' peanut butter and chocolate mochi.
And I would be remiss in my obligations as a local girl if I didn't introduce my friend to Spam musubi. We'll go to Port Town Chevron for that (should I be embarrassed that two of my favorite dining establishments are gas stations?) because they have an impressive and appetizing variety of musubi stuffings, just in case Spam is too much of a shock. I have to keep reminding myself that the rest of America doesn't appreciate Spam and Vienna sausage the way we do. And red hot dogs and canned corned beef.
In any case, we'll be dining out a lot. That's because I think the wide array of local cuisine is a big part of what makes Maui so special. Our eclectic community is not so much a melting pot as it is a tasty stir-fry, each ingredient retaining its distinctive flavor and texture. What better way to illustrate this concept than with a culinary tour of the island? Besides, I'm a lousy cook.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.