The most exciting time to live (and likely, visit) Maui is in the throes of winter when reports come streaming in from East Coast friends of Arctic winds and gray, icy streets. This is when I take a moment to stop and smell the roses, or in this case, the plumeria, the sea air, and the warm earth baking in the sun. So how to best enjoy a deep-blue-sky-windless winter day? Grab a stand-up paddleboard (super fun for newbies like me and water athletes alike) and head to the south side. I like to launch from Makena Landing, though there are tons of options all along the coast. Makena Landing has shaded parking spots that are only a short walk to the water, and offers a calm, sandy-bottom cove. Paddle along the coastline or out to sea, watch for whale spouts and green turtles swimming gracefully by, and take in the view of Haleakala from a new perspective. Take a dip in the water beside your paddleboard to cool off in the splendid ocean, and dunk your head underwater listening for the whales’ song.
When sufficiently sunned and salty, head off to Makena Grill, further along the road and just past Ahihi Kina’u Natural Area Reserve. Makena Grill is an outdoor grill just off the side of the road with a scattering of chairs. For about $10 you can get a plate of ribs, chicken kebob or tacos (my sister’s boyfriend, a bonafide New Yorker and gourmand, hummed his way through the ribs and kabob), along with grilled mango and yummy coconut rice. You’ll find owner and cook, Marisa, grilling away each day from 11ish to 4ish. She’s not necessarily effusive in her friendliness, but I don’t need her to be. After being out in the fresh air and sun all day, her plate lunch hits the spot. Make room for the Banana Makena, fire-roasted bananas with caramelized sugar and topped with cream;
to me it tastes like a banana crème brulee. It’s not the cheapest curbside lunch, but it’s a local business, it’s good and Secret Beach is just across the way (look for a path between two walls) so you can take a post-meal nap on the beach. Or continue on to La Perouse at the end of the road, where you walk on the rough, black lava that envelopes the area and makes the ocean look that much more blue. Days like this remind me of why I fell in love with Maui in the first place.
Makena Grill: open most days from 11ish to 4ish, really.
SUP boards can be rented all over the island. At the Naish Pro Shop in Kahului, board rentals cost $40 for 24 hrs.