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Where the West Maui Mountains Come Down to the Sea

West Maui is a most unusual place. The entire range of mountains that form the mass of this end of the island were carved by the forces of wind, rain and time from a single awesome volcano. Hidden in the dramatically sculpted valleys are hundreds of waterfalls, including the second tallest cascade in the United States. The shoreline is scalloped in breathtaking bays with beaches that are sheer poetry and names that ring like an ancient litany -- Honokowai, Honokeana, Honokahua, Honolua, Honokohau and Hononana.

Parts of West Maui are so rugged they have never been explored, yet they are within ten miles of the clusters of hotels and holiday condominiums at Kahana, Honokowai and Napili.

Between Kapalua and Lahaina, which is nine miles away, are the small communities of Kahana and Napili where small hotels, lovely private homes and condominium villages that look like private homes, share the lovely coves and beaches of the district. Kahana and Napili each offer moderately priced vacation accommodations and a world of beauty that has no price.

Many prominent artists have chosen to make their home in this picturesque part of Maui where life itself is art and the scenery is almost too good to be true. Green valleys are streaked with falls, the mountain ramparts crowned with rainbows and the water a hundred hues of blue.

Dominating the West Maui coast is Kahakuloa Head, the "tall lord," sixty stories of wind-sculpted rock that appears to be a stranger to Hawaii. It looks more like the lonely coast of Ireland, wind-scoured, haunted and tufted in grey, mauve and sage green brush. Great seabirds make it their home: koae, shearwater and the prehistoric-looking frigate bird with its huge wingspan.

At Nakalele Point the rocky shoreline is eerie and otherworldly with giant geysers shooting up through old lava tubes and the ocean moaning below. Everyone calls it Hobbitland. It's an easy hike down from the road.

West Maui is surfer's paradise. The best of the bunch test their skills at Mokuleia Beach, popularly called Slaughterhouse.

The colorful tropical reef fish at Honolua Bay are so plentiful the bay has been declared a marine life sanctuary by the state of Hawaii.

The ocean opportunities of West Maui are almost as limitless as the sea itself. There's whale watching, diving, snorkeling, swimming, sailing, parasailing, surfing, windsurfing. Experts will give lessons and reinforce skills. West Maui's crystal waters lap a ruffle of bays, backed by spectacular mountains and valleys -- it's the perfect setting for a full range of resort amenities in a variety of price ranges. And it's one big reason why Maui is such a magic name. Maui conjures visions of paradise -- and delivers.

Just down the road is Honokowai. Never heard of it? That's because those who find it keep it a secret. Honokowai is West Maui's best bargain. There are no hotels -- all condominiums in the low to moderate price range. It's the kind of place where sun-starved visitors from colder climes pick up groceries in the little superette and dine on their condo Lana`i, kissed by ocean breezes, serenaded by the sound of the surf and entertained by a glorious sunset that just might include the elusive green flash, the burst of emerald light that ignites the tropical horizon just as the sun sinks out of view.

RESOURCES

Hike Maui, Ken Schmitt, Box 330969, Kahului, Maui, HI 96733; 808-879-5270.

Nancy Emerson School of Surfing, Nancy Emerson, P.O. Box 463, Lahaina, HI 96761 (808) 874-1183

Article Courtesy of the Maui Visitors Bureau

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