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Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
When Maui's cash crop declined in importance, a group of visionaries opened an agricultural theme park on the site of this former sugarcane field. The 60-acre preserve offers a 30-minute tram ride with an informative narration covering the growing process and plant types. Children will enjoy such hands-on activities as coconut husking. Also here are an art gallery, a restaurant, and a store specializing in "Made in Maui" products. www.mauitropicalplantation.com. COST: Free; $15 for tram ride. OPEN: Daily 9--5.
You'll feel as though you're walking from the seashore down to the bottom of the reef at this aquarium, which focuses on creatures of the Pacific. Vibrant exhibits let you get close to turtles, rays, sharks, and the unusual creatures of the tide pools; allow two hours or so to explore it all. It's not an enormous facility, but it does provide an excellent (though pricey) introduction to the sea life that makes Hawaii special. The center is part of a complex of retail shops and restaurants overlooking the harbor. Enter from Honoapiilani Highway as it curves past Maalaea Harbor. www.mauioceancenter.com. COST: $25.50. OPEN: Sept.--June, daily 9--5; July and Aug., daily 9--6.
Hawaiian and Polynesian species are cultivated at this fascinating 7-acre garden, including Hawaiian bananas, local varieties of sweet potatoes and sugarcane, native poppies, hibiscus, and anapanapa, a plant that makes a natural shampoo when rubbed between your hands. Reserve ahead for the ethnobotany tours that are offered four times a week. Self-guided tour booklets cost $4. www.mnbg.org. COST: Free. OPEN: Mon.--Sat. 8--4.
Although it's commonly known as Big Beach, this part of the shoreline is correctly called Oneloa, meaning "long sand." That's exactly what it is—a huge stretch of heavenly golden powder without a house or hotel in sight. More than a decade ago, Maui citizens campaigned successfully to preserve this beloved beach from development. It's still wild, lacking in modern amenities (such as plumbing) but frequented by dolphins and turtles; sunsets are glorious. At the end of the beach farthest from Wailea, skim boarders catch air. On the opposite end rises the beautiful hill called Puu Olai, a perfect cinder cone. A climb over the steep rocks at this end leads to Little Beach, which, although technically illegal, is clothing-optional. On Sunday, it's a mecca for drummers and island gypsies. On any day of the week watch out for the mean shore break—those crisp, aquamarine waves are responsible for more than one broken arm. www.hawaiistateparks.org. COST: Free. OPEN: Weekdays 6--6.
This well-kept garden has assimilated itself naturally into its craggy 8-acre habitat. There are 2,500 species of plants and trees here including native koa (prized by woodworkers) and kukui (the state tree, a symbol of enlightenment). There is also a good selection of proteas, the flowering shrubs that have become a signature flower crop of Upcountry Maui. A flowing stream feeds into a koi pond; nene and ducks roam; and a paved pathway dotted with benches meanders throughout the grounds. www.kulabotanicalgarden.com. COST: $10. OPEN: Daily 9--4.
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