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A merry Maui Christmas

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On our way to Maui, we stopped in Oahu to visit Pearl Harbor, as our sons were studying the Second World War. We landed in Honolulu early morning, and drove to the Lotus Hotel, located south of Waikiki Beach near Diamond Head.

Hawaiian breakfast consisted of Kona coffee, fresh papaya and Loco Moco (roasted pig over rice). To ward off jetlag we hiked Diamond Head State Monument trail. This Kiwae and Ilima filled windy trail with steep stairs, tunnels and lookouts, is 171 metres high. At the summit, we enjoyed the panoramic view of the aquamarine white-capped Pacific and Waikiki.

We slept soundly in our Le'ahi and ocean-view room. After another delicious breakfast at Wisp Restaurant, we visited Kaimana Beach only steps from the hotel. A monk seal basking in the sun greeted us. When we approached it, other beachgoers scolded us, as in our excitement we neglected to read the posted signs that warned to stay afar.

Our Pearl Harbor time slot was 2:30 p.m. The holiday season is busy, and we booked 60 days in advance. We toured the battleship USS Missouri, where the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed in 1945, before our scheduled visit to the USS Arizona Memorial, where 1,177 officers and crew died on Dec. 7, 1941. We wished we had more time, as our boys wanted to explore the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum too.

We flew Hawaiian Air to Kahului. Menehune Shores, a beachfront property with stunning views of the West Maui Mountains in South Kihei, is 15 kilometres from the airport, and is where we met our other family members.

Our first Maui morning, we stocked up on food from Kihei's Foodland and Craft Fair, and in the afternoon, we lounged around at the lagoon beach (Kalepolepo Fish Pond built more than 500 years ago) next to Menehune Shores and Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. We had a few hawksbill sea turtle sightings, and my sister and I paddleboarded beyond the rocks of the lagoon area.

Makena Beach is one of the finest beaches on Maui with almost 1.5 kilometres of pristine golden sand and crystal-clear water ideal for snorkelling. We spotted Christmas wrasse, yellow tang and trumpet fish. The surf can get rough and lifeguards are posted along Big Beach. My sons boogieboarded while my cousins climbed the black lava rock hill at the north end of the beach to explore Little Beach, a smaller, more secluded spot. Vendors along Makena Road sold fresh coconuts, and we couldn't resist stopping to quench our thirst after a nui beach day.

Early-morning yoga wasn't far. Maui Yoga Path is located in Mana Kai Resort, North Kihei, overlooking Keawakapu beach. Mats are provided in this welcoming Iyengar studio, and the instructors were knowledgeable and experienced.

In lieu of traditional Christmas turkey dinner we booked a luau at the Grand Wailea Waldorf Astoria Resort. With 16 hectares along the beach and gardens filled with hibiscus, palm trees, bougainvillea and lavish holiday ornamentation, we explored the grounds enthusiastically. Roasted pig from the imu (underground oven), mahi-mahi, green papaya salad, Hawaiian sweet potato, poi, and pineapple desserts were our favourites from a bountiful buffet. We were entertained with a hula lesson, photo-ops with cast members in full costume, and traditional stories of Polynesia and Maui that came to life on the outdoor stage.

On date day my husband and I tried lomi lomi, (Hawaiian massage) at Ho'omana Spa Maui, while my parents took our boys to Lahaina to explore the giant 150-year-old banyan tree. We drove through sugarcane fields upcountry far from the coastline and tourists into Makawao. Ho'omana's grounds are filled with tropical fruit trees and we strolled through the garden sipping soothing lemongrass tea after our treatments.

Mama's Fish House overlooks an u'i stretch of beach and is filled with authentic flavours including décor of local woodwork, wicker and flora. The shrimp wonton with macadamia nut sauce, ahi with baked Hana banana, opahakapaka panang curry, and Mama's cookies with coconut ice cream was ono.

Everyone explored the northwest side of the island, and lunched at the Plantation House Restaurant at Kapalua Golf Resort, the No. 1 golf course in Hawaii, as well as the PGA Sentry Tournament of Champions held in January for the past 65 years. Only four of us continued east on HI-30, and at HI-340 the road became rugged sometimes with only one narrow, unpaved lane. It was the scenic and more adventuresome route to Iao Valley State Park, famous for the 685-metre high lush green pillar of rock named after the Hawaiian Ocean God.

Our final evening we all gathered for a barbecue on the Menehune rooftop lanai overlooking Haleakala and the Pacific. The boys wore their Hawaiian shirts and blew the pu (conch shell) at sunset. Three years of trumpet lessons finally paid off—mahalo, Maui.

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