My memories of Maui are with my grandparents, on our annual end of year trip. I would spend a solid eight hours in the pool, then get tucked away early so my grandparents could go out and probably drink Mai Tais and look for cute island cats to snuggle (or they went on benders at local bars, I'll never know!). The only thing even resembling a challenge each day was finding vegetarian food at the massive, decadent Wailea breakfast buffets. I vaguely remember eating some combination of pancakes, fruit rollups and lots of pineapple. Which is why I hadn't revisted the island until a friend's wedding sent me out there.
What I learned was that a slew of Wailea's best-and-brightest resorts and even more the up-country boutiques had added plant-based options to their menus. And also that Maui is magical and that I am a fool to have ever thought they would still be serving fruit roll-ups for breakfast after 1996.
Home to all of the major Maui hotels, Wailea beckons mainlanders seeking oceanfront luxury with any and every resort amenity. The family friendly, 787-room Grand Wailea offers no shortage of activities and dining options. Breakfast includes an array of local produce, including a regular fruit of the month. Beachside Whale’s Tale is a short walk down the beach for a more casual juice and coffee. Lunch options are also what I like to call beach-hearty with a Life Veggie Burger topped with mango barbecue sauce, roasted red pepper, grilled pineapple and sprouts on a gluten-free bun; or the lighter Edamame Hummus. Dinner at onsite Humuhumunukunukuapua’s might very well be seafood focused, but secret, off-menu vegan entrées include a Tofu Stir-Fry and Tofu with Baby Bok Choy and Orange Lychee Sauce. Meanwhile, nearby LEED® Silver-certified Andaz Maui is a slightly smaller, newer property featuring 300 rooms, fifteen acres of paradise, the chicest pool scene in Wailea, a 14,000 square foot spa and a well-considered vegan tasting menu at onsite Ka’ana Kitchen. The farm-to-table, six-course vegan tasting includes savory dishes such as a Waipoli greens with Poha mustard, cucumber and local radish, and a brownie served with coconut sorbet and macadamia nuts for dessert. Dinner is $150 per person for dinner, and $250 per person including wine pairings.
If Wailea is polished and visitor-focused, Paia is island-casual and a more diverse local favorite. Home to a number of vegan and vegan-friendly eateries and grocery shops (Maka by Mana Foods, The Flatbread Company, and Mana Foods), Paia is accessible to visitors on a budget and those wanting a rustic-luxe, up-country wellness retreat. The boutique Lumeria resort regularly hosts visiting superstar yoga and meditation instructors visiting from the mainland. The manicured grounds don’t feel overly so, with a calm swimming pool, meditation labyrinth, and a culinary garden growing more than 200 species of plants. Rooms are Hawaiian luxury with a side of crystal-chic with fine linens and Aveda products. Breakfast, daily yoga, meditation, and wellness classes are all included in the daily resort fee of $50, while holistic spa treatments are provided for an additional charge in cabanas overlooking the island and surrounding water. Vegan items are offered at each meal, but the set dinner menu at onside Wooden Crate is served at just one seating per evening. Budget accommodations in Paia are also easy to find, from the charming Aloha Surf Hostel that offers complimentary tours daily, to the romantic Paia Inn located in town (and within easy walking distance both to the beach and to the glorious Mana Foods grocery).
At the end of the infamous, 52-mile “Road to,” Hana (the island’s eastern-most destination) is the Maui of your Lost fantasies. The one hotel on this part of the island, plantation-style Travaasa Hana, has just 70 rooms and is pure far-flung luxury. Opened originally in 1946 as the Ka-‘uiki Inn, and just renovated in its newest incarnation as the Traavasa Hana, the property’s isolated beauty has attracted historic figures (from Charles Lindburgh to Ernest Hemingway) looking for solitude with a view. Current offerings begin at $400 per night, and include access to daily experiences including stand-up paddleboarding, guided meditation, and ukulele lessons. Vegan dining includes a variety of local fruits and fruit smoothies at breakfast, a tofu tempura for lunch, and Macadamia Nut Roasted Hana Root Vegetables and Lentil Eggplant Bolognese for dinner. For those interested in learning more about Hana’s native fruits, an ONO Organic Farms Fruit Tasting Tour includes a guided forest stroll through papaya, passion fruit, and others trees with nibbling encouraged along the way.