5 Things That Surprised Me About Maui

BY Megan Eileen McDonough TIMEDecember 11, 2014 PRINT

In many ways I got Maui right. It’s beautiful, the landscape is unreal, the people are happy and the lifestyle is laid-back. But I also got some things wrong and that’s exactly what I’ll be addressing in this post.

Culture Is Everywhere

Fire Dancers via Shutterstock*
Fire Dancers via Shutterstock*

Hawaii is part of the U.S although many people think you need a passport to get there. I’ve never made that mistake but I can understand the confusion, as it does feel like you are in a totally different place here. I wasn’t planning to get a Hawaiian language lesson during my surf class nor was I expecting to learn about endangered plant life from helicopter pilot but I did. It’s amazing how well traditions have been passed on from generation to generation and how despite modernity, culture is incorporated into everything. For example, the outrigger canoe, or the wa’a as it’s called locally is a popular water sport rooted in history. This is how Hawaiians used to travel between islands and even from one side of the island to the other.

Shave Ice Really Is All it’s Cracked up to Be

On my last day in Maui I nearly panicked when I realized I hadn’t tried shave ice yet. I’ve read about it from countless other writers but hadn’t managed any free time to test out this refreshing snack myself. I envisioned something like the snow cones I used to buy at Little League games. The ice was always so hard and the flavors tasted artificial even to my amateur palate. Thankfully, shave ice is nothing like that. The ice is literally shaved, which is why it has a snow-like texture that absorbs the syrups so you can actually taste the fruity flavorings. It felt refreshing on a hot September day so I can only assume that it’s even more coveted during the summer months. I especially appreciate the hefty portions and the functional serving dish!

Hotels and Condominiums Feel Unique

I’ve stayed at all-inclusive resorts and swanky hotels before (solely when on an assignment) but after awhile they all look and feel the same. When I checked out the websites of the two properties where I’d be staying during my time in Maui, I assumed they would be glamorous but ultimately, just one of many. Both the Kā’anapali Ali’i Resort and the Fairmont Kea Lani felt so different not only from each other but from any beach resort I had visited. Both valued culture and community, which was made crystal clear through the services and activities they offer their guests. The Fairmont even has a full-time cultural coach on staff and she was a huge resource for me as I navigated the local culture.

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Copyright © 2014 by Bohemian Trails. This article was written by Megan Eileen McDonough and originally published on

Megan Eileen McDonough
Megan Eileen McDonough is a New York City-based freelance writer the founder of Bohemian Trails, a blog covering global lifestyle trends for the savvy and stylish traveler. Her cultural escapades have taken her to Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and across the United States. Megan’s work has appeared on Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, US Airways and USA Today among others.

*Image of Halawa Bay, Maui via Shutterstock

*Image of Fire Dancers via Shutterstock

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