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Annie Fitzsimmons

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Hitting Maui's Power Chords (PHOTOS)

Posted: 09/09/11 10:25 AM ET

Everyone has a story about Hawaii, if you start talking travel. Someone got engaged there, someone went to a wedding there, someone grew up going to their family's condo.

But despite my traveling 200-plus days a year, I had never been until last week, when I explored Maui's greatest hits. Since I was going for the first time, I wanted classic Hawaii: bright leis, ukelele music, fruity cocktails, sunsets, beaches, and luaus. I wanted to know why Maui is continually voted one of the best islands in the world.

My college-aged sister, exactly ten years younger than me, joined me for a sister trip. And we both found out why people love Maui. I found the sunsets I will dream about when New York City is covered in snow. If you are what you eat, I became an ahi tuna by the end of the week with the abundance of fresh seafood I ate.

We stayed at the grande dame of Maui's luxury hotels, the Four Seasons Resort Maui on Wailea. Maui has 10+ micro-climates but Wailea's year-round cheery sunshine is the Hawaii weather I wanted. There's an understated sophistication at the hotel with zero hints of Hawaiiana cheesiness that I saw at other properties. There are plush amenities, a great beach, spa treatments in huts overlooking the ocean, and some of the best food on Maui. I left my sister on the beach one day and explored the Serenity Pool, an adults-only escape that was recently photographed for Conde Nast Traveler's June cover. At the breakfast buffet, we overhead guests gushing about impeccable service and plans to return. In short, it has everything to be one of Maui's greatest hits.

Haleakala Sunrise
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The 10,000-ft high Haleakala volcano makes up 3/4 of the island, encompassing Haleakala National Park. Sunset on Haleakala is popular, but I recommend setting your alarm for 1:45 a.m. and joining a tour group or driving up yourself to watch a cinematic sunrise above the cloud line. There is no bike ride on Earth like the one down Haleakala, where you just cruise 28 miles down and feel the cool air and smell the flowers of Maui.
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