As the world re-opens after the pandemic, a trip to Hawaii is a particularly rewarding destination, promising natural wonders that almost seem out of this world. Within the planet’s most isolated archipelago, the island of Maui offers the most exemplary of climates.
At dawn, when the Pacific is still warm from its Hawaiian night and the sand is almost cold underfoot, you dive, plunging into the welcoming waves at the foot of the Hotel Wailea. With your head underwater, you are suddenly surrounded by ancient sounds rising from the depths: the unmistakable song of whales. Here, in Makena, they’re so very close, just a few hundred yards from the coast.
You can’t quite believe your ears and flip on to your back, head half-submerged, to let yourself float, lulled by this oceanic melody: a powerful sound bath that all the world’s retreats and infinite meditations will never equal. This miracle returns every year as the whales come to Maui, with its hospitable sea, to deliver their young. They spend all winter in this vast playground, swimming with their calves by their sides before returning to Alaska in the spring. What surfer has not gazed behind the wave crests and seen the silhouette of a whale leaping majestically into the air, or glimpsed the jet from its blowhole? As for the Hawaiian monk seal, native to Maui, it is not uncommon to come across one dozing on the beaches.
Maui is an immense nature reserve. Halfway between California and Japan, far out in the Pacific, the island is home to ten of the fourteen climates found on our planet. In this captivating world, you can go from one of the driest places on the planet to one of the wettest; from lush jungle to Haleakalā, the gigantic dormant volcano responsible for the island’s creation (with a width of more than two miles, its crater could hold Manhattan); across pastures worthy of Switzerland or vast expanses of silver tundra. Nearly half the species are endemic. On its own, Maui is a biodiversity bonanza.
What this means is that travel takes on another dimension: visitors reflect on their connection to nature. When you visit Maui, you become an honored witness to a hundred different ecosystems, at once powerful yet fragile. It holds a sense of mystery, too: large sections of the island – deep-set valleys, waterlogged mountains, thundering waterfalls – remain inaccessible to humans and fascinating to scientists. With contemplation comes the desire to protect this nourishing land, whose balance is threatened in the same way as other places on the planet. But you can take action. Four local figures invite the traveler to become an agent of change and sustainability.
Starting with Eddy Garcia, a charismatic, uncategorizable character. He is the trailblazing surfer of Jaws (Maui’s surf break with the world’s biggest waves alongside Nazaré, Portugal). He is part mad scientist (creator of a solution to transform surfboards – and polystyrene in general – into compost using worms that feed on them), part friend and advisor to Yvon Chouinard, founder of the Patagonia brand.
Eddy has restored to its former glory a place known as Maliko Gulch (maliko means “to bloom” in Hawaiian), a fertile valley sacred to the Ancients that had deteriorated into a landfill. A fervent practitioner of agroforestry and regenerative agriculture, he cleaned up this land and cleared the waste-clogged river of abandoned cars and wrecked planes to let it flow naturally once again. Today, Maliko is a valley of wonders. Eddy hosts farm-to-table dinners there under the stars, along with workshops on recycling, compost, agriculture, and more, in a galaxy of educational and inspiring initiatives.
Another man with a mission: Campbell Farrell and his Love the Sea foundation. His goal is to rid the coast of the plastic (from commercial fishing) that ends up there. Supported by an army of volunteers, he organizes clean-up days. Fishing nets, buoys, and other flotsam and jetsam are collected on the beaches or pulled off stretches of coastline accessible only by sea. Local community members and tourists join forces in these commando operations.
Then there’s Beth Elliott, who collects hundreds of pounds of flowers from weddings for Petals with a Purpose. For Maui is one of the world’s leading wedding destinations and therefore home to tremendous plant waste. Beth converts the fleeting life expectancy of these live products into a more lasting future through upcycling: she dismantles oversized decorations, encourages florists to use biodegradable, reusable, and/or non-toxic materials, and redistributes the flowers to places like hospitals and senior living facilities, or turns them into compost.
At the Hotel Wailea, the talented Krista Garcia is the creative force behind extraordinary dinners, superb cuisine to enjoy in a treehouse, with a view of the Pacific as your tableside entertainment. The Californian culinary creator gives free rein to her talent and intuition and is a true connoisseur when it comes to working with the island’s ingredients, growing her own vegetables at home in Haiku, on the northern coast. A tailor-made, tête-à-tête meal prepared before guests’ very eyes, like a chef’s table, sees her julienne banana flowers, finely chop ginger blossoms, sprinkle her dish with limu (seaweed) and finger lime pearls, or whip up a lilikoi (passion fruit) sauce. Her cooking is a declaration of love to the land of Hawaii.