Seen from above, the two shield volcanoes that make up the island of Maui look like the head and torso of the well-loved demigod for whom the island is named.
Maui was a tricky fellow who is said to have stolen fire from its supernatural keepers, gifting to the mortals. He also captured the sun with a rope woven from his wifes tresses and slowed its path so that we could enjoy more hours of daylight on his beautiful island.
Modern visitors to this most magical of islands still reap the fruits of his labors by making the most of sunny tropical weather, where the temperature rarely dips below 65 degrees and the lush vegetation and colorful animal life just add to the feeling that they've just arrived in paradise.
This second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands is host to Haleakala, the largest dormant volcano in the world, at 10,023 feet tall. The summit of Haleakala National Park provides awe-inspiring views of five of the eight major islands. Watching the sunrise on the summit of Haleakala is an experience that visitors carry with them the rest of their lives.
Wainapanapa State Park is another wondrous natural adventure. Discover the black sand beaches, sea arch and caves for yourself. Every year from mid-December through mid-May pods of humpback whales make their way back to the waters surrounding Maui. The Kai Kanani will take you out to Molokini Island as you marvel at the grace of these peaceful giants.
The Whale Discovery Center at the Maui Ocean Center helps visitors understand the humpbacks strange and beautiful life cycle as it takes them from the frigid waters of the Artic to the warm and soothing seas around Maui and back again each year.
The natural beauty of Maui will surround and envelope you as you explore its endless beaches. Swim the calmer waters of the west shore, including Maalaea and Kaanapali.
Or head up to North Maui Ho'okipa for some of the best surfing, boogie boarding and windsurfing in the world. If youre looking for a little privacy, try Oneloa Beach, the last undeveloped beach on Maui s leeward side.
During a daily sun shower, duck into the Hana Cultural Center, a traditional Hawaiian village showcasing hundreds of artifacts and books and thousands of historical photographs.
The Maui Arts and Cultural Center is a 12-acre visual arts center and the Tedeschi Vineyards in the Upcountry offers tours of a unique pineapple wine vineyard. Dont forget to try a sample!
Dining is another fabulous adventure in Maui. It won't take long before you run into the ever-popular plate lunch. Hawaii's version of fast food, a plate lunch is inexpensive and perfect to take to one of the island's breathtaking parks. Each shop's plate lunch is unique, so stop in at a few shops during your explorations.
For something a little more upscale, try the Tropica Restaurant and Bar at the Westin Maui or Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar in Kapalua. Mango Cafe Grill & Bar offers a fabulous buffet on Sundays that includes both traditional Hawaiian fare and mainland comfort foods.
Maui isn't just a visual and culinary delight, it's also a shopper's dream come true. Spend a few hours browsing for interesting island gifts at the Kapalua Shops, enjoy free Hawaiian entertainment while you shop at Queen Kaahumanu Center or do some power shopping in air-conditioned comfort at the Lahaina Cannery Mall.
Maui accommodations are just as diverse as its natural beauty and entertaining activities. Opt for an intimate and cost-conscious stay at one of the island's lovely bed-and-breakfasts, choose from an array of luxurious condominiums or find relaxation or lots of opportunities to play whatever your pleasure at one of Maui's golf resort hotels, spa resorts, beachfront hotels, family-friendly hotels or romantic accommodations perfect for honeymooners.
Another great option is to try a privately owned rental. There are a number of private owners who are willing to rent their home or condo. Many rental by owner websites are available to help you locate the perfect place to settle in for your stay in this little slice of heaven.
Like its mythological namesake, Maui Island is powerfully memorable and perfectly magical. Make it a part of your memories forever.
Dave Huffman is a travel writer and property manager for vacation rentals at the Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach, Missouri. For great lodging on Maui go to http://www.mauirentalbyowner.com