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Makena: The Spirit of Maui

Space and freedom are the signature of Makena. It is the independence of the independent traveler, the place where the paved road ends, the defiantly wild, rugged and magnificent place where the spirit can run free. Grand, seductive, and utterly irresistible, Makena is Maui untamed.

But there is comfort here, too, in the lone hotel of the 1,800-acre Makena Resort. Located where Haleakala meets the ocean, in a panorama of lava, green and oceanfront, Makena is where many worlds meet.

The hotel is a precious pocket of civilization. Makena’s exceptional dining ranges from Contemporary Island Cuisine to one of the finest Japanese restaurants to serve kaiseki, the court fare of imperial Japan, as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate.

The serenity of the Japanese meditation garden touches all corners of the hotel. In the evening, music rises through the atrium and spreads its beauty throughout the hotel. It might be an aria, a piano concerto, maybe a little Mozart, or Amazing Grace. The sky is cerise. The ocean drinks in the color, and the looming mountain presides over all.

Flowing like an emerald river are the fairways of two 18-hole championship golf courses designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr.

Go north from Makena and find Wailea Resort with its sophisticated hotels, restaurants and shops, and its three championship golf courses. Beyond Wailea is Kihei, offering another 18 holes of golf and many more restaurants, shops and condominiums strung along the shoreline.

Wander south of Makena on a winding dirt road and you’ll discover a world of pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and breezes that soothe the spirit. Oneloa, appropriately called Big Beach, runs more than 3,000 feet long and 100 feet wide. The sands are dazzling white and the water runs turquoise to jade. A volcanic cinder cone separates Oneloa from its smaller counterpart, Pu‘u ölai, or Little Beach.

In the winter months, November through April, humpback whales come close to shore and create immeasurable joy for spectators. Marine researchers gather atop the cinder cone to watch and listen for their song. Legend holds that the mermaid goddess Wewehi, sister of the fire goddess Pele, adorns herself with rare red seaweed, limu loloa, and swims with the gentle giants of the deep. Scientists with their high-powered binoculars have never caught a glimpse of her, but people attuned to the land and waters of Maui claim to have seen a beautiful woman, with hair flowing like the waves, frolicking in the spume of the whales and singing their haunting song with them.

In ancient times, Hawaiians settled in small villages along the Makena shore. They came to fish the large schools of akule that practically swam into their nets. People from the uplands would come for the weekly hukilau, the seafood version of the lu’au.

It was along this shore that French explorer Jean-Francois de Galaup, Compte de La Pérouse, became the first non-Polynesian to set foot on Maui in 1786. The place where he landed is named after him: La Pérouse Bay.

About fifty years after the arrival of La Pérouse, an American sea captain, James Makee, settled on the island and established a sugar plantation. It later became Rose Ranch, internationally famous for its gracious hospitality and swimming pool - the first in Hawai‘i - with its island of palm trees in the middle. The reigning monarch, King David Kalakaua, was a regular visitor at the ranch, and ships from around the world came to call at Makena Landing to visit the successful American rancher who was the trusted friend of royalty.

Until a large pier was built in Kahului in 1949, the cattle of Maui were driven by moonlight down the slopes of Haleakala. In the first light of day, they would be prodded into the surf at Makena Landing, lashed to shore boats, and taken to waiting barges to be shipped to market in Honolulu.

Rose Ranch is now ‘Ulupalakua Ranch, located in the hills above Makena. There is no longer a direct road from the ranch to the coast, but the footsteps of the ancients remain.

Article Courtesy of the Maui Visitors Bureau

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