20 Things We Love About Maui: The Shaka List

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Story by Shannon Wianecki

Shaka [shah-kah] noun 1. Extension of thumb and pinkie to form a “Y”; 2. A hand gesture conveying a quintessentially Hawaiian greeting, a sign of friendly intent. (See also: “Hang loose.”)

Maybe it’s the air that makes Maui so magical. Slightly humid and eighty-five degrees year-round, it carries the scent of plumeria, sea salt, and red dirt. It embraces you the moment you step off the plane or out of the sea. Maybe it’s the people, who remember how to smile, share, and slow down — most of the time. Whatever it is, we cherish it. And every year, we publish the Shaka List: a serenade to some of what makes Maui nō ka ‘oi — number one, the best, the Goldilocks island.

This year we’ve reprised several of our longstanding favorites, from enduring landmarks to local institutions (1–10). We’ve also turned the spotlight on nascent things (11–20): emerging tastes, places, and projects that suggest the future is every bit as superlative as the past.

1 Chasing waterfalls

After a good rain, East Maui overflows with waterfalls. Some plummet 400 feet over fern-filled ledges, sending a halo of mist rising from wet rocks. Others trickle softly into deep jadeite pools. Hawaiian mo‘o (lizard deities) are said to protect these freshwater tributaries, which can swell to raging rivers during flash floods. If you choose to enter the mo‘o’s domain, do so with respect and common sense. Photo by R. J. Bridges

Drop in and you might witness pyramid butterflyfish getting cleaned by a wrasse off Molokini Islet’s back wall.

2 Molokini’s back wall

Take a giant stride off a dive boat bobbing alongside Molokini to descend into another world; the crater’s sheer back wall plummets 300-plus feet. Ogle sea urchins waving spiny fingers, shy sharks turning circles in caves, spotted boxfish, and marvelous nudibranchs — tiny sea slugs outfitted in fluorescent patterns bolder than Jimi Hendrix’s bellbottoms. Whale song serves as a soundtrack during the winter months. Megafauna fans, take note: Monk seals, manta rays, and whale sharks occasionally rise from the deep to say hello. Photo by James Petruzzi

3 Year-round sunshine

= increased happiness and health. Illustration by Matt Foster

Haleakala National Park

4 Haleakalā National Park

Haleakalā became a national park 100 years ago, when Hawai‘i was still a U.S. territory. Over the past century, park rangers fenced the summit, removed feral goats and invasive pines, and helped revive the populations of native silverswords and nēnē (Hawaiian geese). Haleakalā has it all: charismatic birds, Martian landscape pocked with lava bombs, and rain forest spilling with waterfalls. Drive up the side of this sleeping volcano, hike down into the House of the Sun, and discover for yourself why Edward Abbey once said: “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” Photo by Conn Brattain


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