February 20 2002 1:00 AM ET
Native ginger blossom
The editorial director leaves it all behind in the spectacular settings of Maui
Click on the images below to see a full version of each photo.
All year long I think and dream about them. Working most of my time in Los Angeles, you would think I'd have my share of sunshine and beach days. Not so. It's foggy and cold and when you're producing magazines, Web sites, and books--who has time for the beach anyway? That's why I dream about them…
The Hawaiian Islands. Halfway between the United States and Japan, nestled in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there they are: Kauai, Niihau, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and Hawaii (better known as the Big Island). They're all different except for one indescribable element--the whip-cream air. Balmy and warm like your own natural body temperature, the "breath of the island" fills your own lungs with pure peace while wrapping your body in an aromatic blanket. Give yourself a day, and all that you've been carrying around will fall away.
A really fine place to drop this load is the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. First of all, if you are going to throw your money at a top hotel or resort, any AAA Five Diamond Award Four Seasons hotel is where your cash will stand right up and salute you. To be pampered and indulged can actually be a transforming experience if it is done right. They do it right.
There are two Four Seasons on the Hawaiian Islands--one in Hualalai on the Big Island of Hawaii and one in Wailea on Maui. Personally, I think my girlfriend and I are more the Hualalai type. There, the first-class spa provided by the Four Seasons and raw beauty provided by the island become a fusion fantasy beyond anything I can describe. On Maui I missed the outdoor showers and the isolation provided by the miles of black lava that separates the resort from other areas on the Big Island.
And yet, having said all that, we managed to indulge ourselves shamelessly in the romantic marble halls and bougainvillea-covered arches of Wailea. On those warm, romantic nights, I left the doors open so that the waves could splash their way into my sleep cycle. Boy, did I have some wild dreams. Our ocean-view room allowed the sunrise to be our alarm clock. When it rose I stumbled downstairs in the white robe provided by the hotel and threw some towels on a cabana overlooking the sea to have dibs on a lavish place in the sun later on. Delicious breakfasts of all kinds were available at the resort's outdoor Pacific Grill. (Their dinners beat anything I've eaten in years. But if you don't agree, Spago has opened a restaurant in the hotel as well.)
Invigorating oceanfront walks followed breakfast, and then the real spa-ing began! State of the art weight training equipment, Lifecycles, Stairmasters, and an aerobic area with bikes and rowing equipment lined up outside in the fresh air and flowers kick-started our hearts. While my girlfriend kept at it, I moved around just long enough to "deserve" some of the spa's other services. I collapsed in the steam room, drank serious green teas, and made late afternoon appointments for soothing massages in little grass huts near the shore. I lived the "died and went to heaven" cliché lying under one of those Hawaiian thatched roofs while someone who understood bodies pressed what was left of my tension out of me. Yet the biggest treat of all was their couples massage. And I must say, for hetero heaven, the resort took our side-by-side massage in stride.
Wondering what you'll do all day? Well, there's tennis and croquet and golf and snorkeling and boogie boarding and swimming and underwater cameras and deep-sea diving and billiards and shuffle boarding and sailing and whirlpool spas and ping pong and air-hockey and pools with slides and waterfalls--or just lying around all day in your private cabana while the attentive staff caters to your every whim, including Evian water spritzes and chilled towels.
Wondering what you'll do at night? Your rooms have CD players, VCRs, and big televisions. And the beds are world famous and deserve to be.
Occasionally--because otherwise you feel stupid for renting a terrific red convertible at the airport--you have to leave Four Seasons heaven and try some other Maui flavors. Forget that old Maui-wowie fantasy of the '60s, you can get high enough on a knock-out dinner in Maui's high country (no pun intended) in a town called Haliimaile at a wonderful restaurant called the General Store. Beverly Gannon is the chef, and watch out, because this woman really knows her Thai mango dips and green papaya salads! Seriously, the food is home-cooking from paradise. Beverly and her husband Joe have a second restaurant as well, Joe's Bar & Grill, in Wailea, close to the hotel.
The second reason to leave the hotel is to drive to a town called Lahaina where--with a little effort--you can discover Temple Joda. A winter storm (the air was still 79 degrees) literally parted the gray clouds when we arrived at Joda. With the sky clearing and the sun coming out behind the large stone Buddha that sits at one corner of the outdoor yard, we thought we had found the emotional centerpiece of Hawaii's East-West blend. There, finally, I sat quietly and felt a part of a legend that says, "If you wish to nurture the body, relax your mind, and rejuvenate your spirit, go to Hawaii."
Contact Information you must have:
Four Seasons Resort
3900 Wailea Alanui
Wailea, Maui, Hawaii
Haliimaile General Store
900 Haliimaile Road
Haliimaile, Maui, Hawaii
Joe's Bar & Grill
131 Wailea Ike Place
Wailea, Maui, Hawaii 96753