Two-way bet on Maui

A pair of re­sorts of­fer dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences on this popular Hawai­ian isle

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - JIM BY­ERS

ONE prop­erty fea­tures a sim­ple, rec­tan­gu­lar pool lined with craggy, deep black lava rock and an Ir­ish green, notso-well-mowed three-hole golf course. The other has a mar­bled en­try, and mul­ti­ple swim­ming pools with gush­ing foun­tains and sits amid the most ex­pen­sive prop­erty on Maui.

Ho­tels on this lovely Hawai­ian is­land come in a va­ri­ety of styles and colours and tastes. But few ex­em­plify the dif­fer­ent ways one can in­ter­pret the word luxury more than Travaasa Hana, an old-school spot that de­lights in the slow re­veal of lush, trop­i­cal de­tails, and Four Sea­sons Maui, which screams new-world money and doesn’t mind flash­ing off its curves.

Even the geog­ra­phy and cli­mate and the way you get to the two re­sorts are op­po­sites. Un­less you spring for a short flight from Kahului on Maui to Hana’s postages­tamp air­port, you’ll prob­a­bly take the famed (and now much im­proved) road to Hana. You’ll go around dozens of curves and tra­verse 54 bridges, many of them one-way, pass­ing few build­ings but many kilo­me­tres of deep green trees, with wa­ter­falls of­ten sparkling in par­tially hid­den val­leys and dra­matic views of deep blue ocean wa­ter crash­ing into an­cient lava rock. This is Maui’s rain­for­est, and the weather is un­pre­dictable, al­ter­nat­ing life-giv­ing rains with glo­ri­ous sun­shine that should give your con­vert­ible car’s open­ing-and-closing de­vice a work­out.

Sev­eral hours’ drive away, and on the op­po­site side of the is­land, Four Sea­sons Maui sits on the shoul­der of mighty Haleakala, the tow­er­ing in­ac­tive vol­cano that throws a mighty rain shadow over the Wailea side of the is­land, where you’ll find cac­tus sprout­ing out of brown grass and per­haps the more de­pend­able, dri­est weather plus smooth, straight high­ways lead­ing to per­fectly man­i­cured re­sorts.

There are tons of similarities be­tween th­ese two ho­tels, such as renowned spas, lovely fur­nish­ings and great food. Travaasa Hana has won­der­ful ameni­ties, and the Four Sea­sons is in a lovely spot. But I think of the for­mer as a re­sort of­fer­ing the luxury of place, and the lat­ter as one of­fer­ing the luxury of things. Depend­ing on your mood and what you want in a trop­i­cal get­away, ei­ther one might be the per­fect Hawai­ian hol­i­day spot.

FROM the open-air, low-key check-in area and ca­sual lobby to the main restau­rant, ev­ery­thing about Travaasa Hana (for­merly Ho­tel Hana Maui) is el­e­gant but sim­ple, which is why it’s some­times called the most Hawai­ian re­sort in the state. Units are spread around spa­cious grounds with min­i­mal to mod­er­ate land­scap­ing and well-placed palm trees and bougainvil­lea. Sea Ranch Cot­tages fea­ture a pair of well-ap­pointed gue­strooms that can be con­nected into a huge suite, with a hot tub on one side. Th­ese tim­ber build­ings have been painted green and al­lowed to weather just enough to look rustic.

Decor is sim­ple, with lots of nat­u­ral wood and earthy colours, and very lit­tle sparkle or shiny sur­faces. Walk down to the wa­ter­front and watch the waves crash to shore or wan­der to a sim­ple wire fence and ad­mire the horses (which I’m told be­long to Oprah Win­frey).

On a clear day, you can see Hawaii, the so-called Big Is­land, ris­ing off to the south. Sun­sets are nice but this is the eastern side of the is­land, so you’ll be bet­ter re­warded with an early sun­rise cast­ing gold across the bay and wash­ing the cot­tages in deep, cot­ton candy pinks and pur­ples. The spa is lovely but also un­der­stated and the main pool is a sim­ple af­fair lined with lava rock. There’s an­other pool next to the ac­tiv­ity cen­tre, where you can pick up snorkels or banged-up golf clubs to play the three-hole di­ver­sion that’s adapt­able to nine with dif­fer­ent tee boxes. It’s fun, and great for fam­i­lies and ca­sual golfers. There’s also an area for cro­quet.

The restau­rant menu fea­tures ex­cel­lent lo­cal seafood and great smooth­ies at break­fast, and there are lovely views to­wards the wa­ter. There’s no at­tempt at any­thing re­sem­bling molec­u­lar gas­tron­omy or trendy bits of foam on the plate — just sim­ple, lov­ingly pre­pared and tasty Hawai­ian cui­sine. More: travaasa.com.

TO the other side of the is­land and a dif­fer­ent kind of luxury. Wailea isn’t a sub­tle kind of place, and nei­ther is Four Sea­sons Maui. The lobby is open-air but the ceil­ings are mas­sive and the floors cov­ered with fine Ital­ian mar­ble. There are lots of fan­tas­tic touches, and gue­stroom en­suites are even larger than those at Travaasa Hana, and that’s say­ing some­thing. There is a spa in the main build­ing, but ro­man­tics might pre­fer a cou­ples mas­sage in a thatched-roof build­ing over­look­ing the golden sands of Wailea Beach. A ther­a­pist even fixed my wife’s wonky knee with some ex­tra treat­ment for no charge.

Din­ners are out­landishly good, with fan­tas­tic Hawai­ian-Ital­ian-Asian takes on clas­sic dishes. At Duo, the steak­house, we have an amaz­ing hamachi (yel­low­tail) tartare with Fuji ap­ple, fen­nel and sweet shoyu, as well as snap­per with pep­pers, nine-grain gar­lic rice and pineap­ple dashed with Korean spices. At Fer­raro’s, we dine un­der the stars af­ter a pic­ture-per­fect sun­set on ten­der mahi mahi fish and lus­cious short ribs.

The re­sort of­fers packages with ex­tras, such as learn­ing to pad­dle an old-fash­ioned Hawai­ian out­rig­ger ca­noe in the calm wa­ters off Wailea Beach. Our guide tells me that hump­back whales come ev­ery win­ter to frolic in the wa­ters and mate. “Just like the tourists,” I re­ply. Many guests emerge early to stake out the best cov­ered ca­banas, or head to the adults-only (no mu­sic or mo­bile phones) Seren­ity Pool, with its swim-up bar. Pam­per­ing is the word here, with plenty of staff to ar­range your beach towel just so on your lounger and bring you chilled wa­ter. More: foursea­sons.com.

Jim By­ers was a guest of Travaasa Hana and Four Sea­sons Maui. • go­hawaii.com/au

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