Into the Great Wide Open

Sun. Water. Sand. These three international trips—to Australia, Aruba, and Hawaii—are perfect antidotes to the winter blahs.

Maui

By Andrew Weaver

Kapalua Bay
Courtesy Montage Kapalua Bay

“Slow down, sir. You’re in paradise now.”

The concierge, dressed in a tropical shirt and sunglasses, seems to sense a mainland haste in the way I take my first steps down the colonnade into Montage Kapalua Bay, a five-star resort on the northwestern coast of Maui. As he places a string of kukui nuts around my neck—a traditional Hawaiian greeting— he grins. “It’s OK,” he says, putting a hand on my shoulder. “Most people are pretty eager to get inside.”

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The Montage, one of Maui’s premier resorts, boasting three restaurants, two golf courses, and a full-service spa, is a place of stress-abolishing beauty, sprawling across 24 acres of Hawaiian beach that feel untouched by time. I’m here, in midautumn, for a trip scheduled to last just two days, and the concierge is right: I’m eager to get inside, swap my travel clothes for a bathing suit, and get down to some serious relaxing. After accepting a bowl of fresh pineapple from the front desk staff, I bid my welcome party “aloha” and follow a bellhop to my suite, where I find a bottle of champagne waiting. My residence for the weekend is large and comfortable— with a full kitchen, king bed, and multiple washrooms—and after a glass of bubbly on the balcony, I head out for a stroll around the grounds.

Though the Montage is architected, at every turn, to encourage a sense of timelessness, of hours that feel like unhurried days, there’s no shortage of activity to keep a go-getter happy. At the resort’s edge, a walking trail hugs the coastline for the better part of a mile, and I spend the morning hiking it, winding past cliffs, a jagged rock formation called the “dragon’s teeth,” and an old prayer labyrinth laid in stones. The trail ends at a rocky outcrop hanging 30 feet above the ocean—a favorite diving spot for locals. After watching a group of boys plunge into the Pacific chop, I take off my shoes to do the same.

Beach club at Montage
Courtesy Montage Kapalua Bay

Trotting back to the resort happily soaked in saltwater, I decide to spend the afternoon at the opposite end of the Montage property, at a public beach (private ownership of the shoreline is illegal in Hawaii) where the resort offers snorkel and paddleboard rentals for guests. The glittering architecture of the Montage is best appreciated from the water, and with the help of a paddleboard, I’m able to soak it in for a while, bobbing on the waves, while myna birds—vocal songsters common to the island—wheel overhead.

A few hours of swimming and mingling with the locals is enough to work up an appetite for a feast at Cane & Canoe, the resort’s main restaurant, designed like a traditional Hawaiian canoe house. That evening, I order the Wagyu ribeye with oysters and salmon sashimi, and wash them down with a glass of Napa red before indulging in my nightcap of choice: a dip in the Montage’s warm infinity pool, under the flickering light of Tiki torches.

The next morning, after a breakfast of local ahi tuna and papaya, I start the day with a visit to the Montage’s spa, a world unto itself, separated from the main resort and secluded in a private grove. Looking through the menu of body therapies—from seaweed cocoons to Hawaiian-style lomi lomi massage, meant to mimic the rhythm of the ocean—I decide to try one of the mindfulness meditation classes, conducted in a large-windowed studio overlooking the water. The session is perfectly intimate, just three of us and an instructor, and I leave in a state of airy bliss, floating down to the spa’s lower level, where the saunas, steam rooms, saline hot tubs, and cold rain baths shock me back to full consciousness.

Awake again, I decide to devote a few hours to the resort’s massive, three-tiered pool and lagoon, where cheery attendants offer to bring me drinks and appetizers from the bar, fetch fresh towels, and adjust the umbrella over my chaise lounge as the sun crawls across the sky. Occasionally, I leave my perch to swim through the maze-like pool’s various private coves, sit under its miniature waterfalls, and soak up the silence of the infinity pool, a designated quiet zone for peaceful reflection.

Dinner is preceded by a meeting with the resort’s cultural ambassador, a Hawaiian woman named Silla, who “talks story” with me—a favorite Hawaiian pastime—about her childhood on Maui, when the land now occupied by the resort was a pineapple plantation. She teaches me an old Hawaiian saying, “I ka wa ma mua, ka wa ma hope,” which means “The time in front is the time in back.” “To know the future, look to the past,” she tells me. It’s the essence of her work at the resort—preserving the traditions of the people who occupied the island first and know its history.

After another extravagant meal at Cane & Canoe—the Ora King salmon with tarragon crème and a healthy pour of Yamazaki Japanese whisky—I return to my room to find a final bottle of champagne waiting, a parting gift from the resort staff. Rather than open it alone, I wander back down to the pool in search of some chance companions to help me toast my last hours in Maui. A group of 30-somethings, gathered for a birthday party, are laughing together in one of the hot tubs, watching the sun set, and they are only too happy to oblige when I pop the bottle and pass it around. In the morning, I’ll have to leave this little paradise, but for now—my new companions assure me—the night is young. With the bottle finished, we stroll down to the ocean to gaze at the lighted Montage from the beach. The concierge’s advice rings in my mind. “Slow down, sir.” No time for that now. Throwing off our sandals, we run into the bay, splashing under a full Hawaiian moon, for one last swim in the warm Pacific water.

Plan Your Adventure
Montage Kapalua Bay