Romantic Maui

Outdoor adventure and luxe accommodations await honeymooners on this Hawaiian island

Maui is an exceptional place, a land of intriguing contrasts all conveniently packed into 727 square miles. No passport is needed and there are no language barriers, but the musical lilt of the islanders' speech and the magical place names hint at an ancient tongue very different from American English. At sea level, you'll find some of the best beaches in the world. But go a few miles inland and you're on the top of a volcano, at 10,000 feet, with your head literally in the clouds. The west coast has sunny shorelines; the east coast, verdant rain forest. Native cuisine is a unique and tasty mix of Pacific Rim influences, yet a cheeseburger is never far from reach. If you cannot make up your mind between luxe and rustic, rugged or refined, Maui is the perfect honeymoon destination, because you can have it all—often within mere miles.

In keeping with this spirit of contrast, my husband, Garrett, and I split our time between a six-day splurge at a luxury resort in Napili and four days at a rustic bungalow near Hamoa Bay, on the less-developed east coast.

We arrived at Kahului Airport in the evening after a long flight from New York City and picked up our Mustang convertible for the trip to Napili Kai Beach Resort (rates start at $210, 808-669-6271, napilikai.com). Just steps off the plane we noticed the quality of the air in Maui. It feels and smells different; it's so lush and almost tangible. We put the top down, and the velvety darkness made the island seem even more mysterious. When we got to Napili Kai, we found the sidewalks rolled up, so we went to bed before midnight—well before midnight.

We were rewarded the next morning by a bizarre sensation, a beatific feeling of being well-rested—and at an unheard-of 7 a.m. Outside, we could finally see our surroundings: a living postcard of a golden, sandy beach and swaying palm trees. The ocean water was teal blue and so clear and temperate it could have been a pool. We wasted no time nurturing our inner tourists, swathing our bodies in Coppertone and sticking our noses in books. We spoke little except to order another daiquiri—served with a hunk of fresh pineapple and a cymbidium-orchid blossom—and sigh contentedly. We discovered we were within walking distance of the restaurant Sensei, where the creative take on sushi brought us back several times.

After a few days of blissful slothdom, we decided we should actually explore some of the island we had come so far to see. The resort had an activities desk, which smacked suspiciously of summer camp, but we were game. The offerings were nearly endless: many incarnations of the de rigueur luau, surfing lessons, scuba diving. Bicycling down the volcano or flying over it in a helicopter. Horseback riding and sailing through a eucalyptus forest on cables connecting treetop platforms. Parasailing over the ocean or regular sailing to Molokini's coral reef. And golf. Maui boasts several championship links, so Garrett booked a round at the elite Plantation Course. We also decided to take a surfing lesson and try the cable zip-lines, even though we both have height issues. And, last but not least, we had to attend a luau.

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