buy DVD

THE MUSIC IN THIS SHOW The original music in this show is performed by George Kahumoku Jr.. Please visit his website where you'll find recordings on CD as well as his current tour schedule.


Overview top

Aloha! I’m Rudy Maxa. In this series, we’re geared up for new adventures as we take on the Pacific Rim! And the islands of Hawaii, where east and west intersect, are at the center of it all! This time, we’re visiting Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii on Smart Travels.

The moment you set foot on the Hawaiian Islands, you feel as if you’ve stepped into another world. The warm breeze is scented with orchids, and the changing landscape morphs from sun-drenched coastline to misty rainforest to volcanic splendor. As writer Paul Theroux put it, "Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace".

Most of us take one look at Hawaii and it’s love at first sight. Oh yeah, you can find a dream vacation here…endless days of lounging on the beach, discovering great restaurants, or plunging into outdoor activities. But if you dig a little deeper, look below the surface, you'll grow to appreciate these islands even more.

A small archipelago in the vast Pacific, Hawaii has long been a magnet for cultural exchange, drawing influences from Asia, America and other Pacific islands. This trip we’ll begin on Maui, and then hop over to the island of Hawaii or, as locals know it, the 'Big Island'.


Maui top

Each Hawaiian island has a distinct character and personality all its own. I love Maui because it offers so many options – for entertainment, for relaxing and just plain fun.

The island was named for a Hawaiian demi-god - that is, half man, half god. According to legend, Maui gave birth to the Hawaiian Islands when he threw his "magic" fishhook down to the ocean floor and pulled the islands up from the bottom of the sea.


Lahaina top

The resort town of Lahaina harbors historic touches leftover from its colorful past. The town’s name means “cruel sun”, and in ancient times, powerful chiefs ruled this arid village. The great King Kamehameha I made this the seat of his government, after becoming the first chief to rule over all the Hawaiian islands. European missionaries also settled here as they set about converting the islanders to Christianity.

In the 1840s Lahaina saw a boom in the whaling industry when as many as 400 ships a day anchored here. The same streets that once teemed with rowdy, brawling sailors now serve tourists from all around the world.

On the northern tip of the island, pineapple fields surround the Kapalua resort area, rolling gently into shorelines of travel-poster perfection.


For a list of current events in and around town, check out visitlahaina.com.


Beaches top

What’s the number one reason visitors come to Hawaii? …The beaches, of course. And if Maui’s beaches were a class full of over-achievers, then Kapalua would be teacher’s pet.

The Hawaiian Islands are blessed with warm weather all year round; the seasonal highs vary by no more than 15 degrees or so.


Check out current island conditions with these web cams.

Energetic travelers can scuba dive or snorkel to see exotic marine life. Snorkeling in particular can be enjoyed by the whole family, and Kapalua is a good place for beginners.

In case you’re new to the sport, here are a few basics. You’ll need three pieces of equipment: mask, snorkel and fins. If you don’t want to bring your own from home, they’re easy to rent here. And one more thing, waterproof sunscreen is a must.

Mid-morning is prime snorkeling time because the water generally is calm and the sun is bright but not yet strong enough to cause serious burning. Crystal-clear waters await you. For me it’s a kind of meditation just listening to the sound of my own breathing and simply “being” in this underwater world.


For more on some of the best beaches on Oahu and Maui, check out bugbog.com.


Golf top

Hawaii is golfer heaven. Even non-golfers are drawn to the courses here, thanks to these sweeping views of palm trees, volcanic hills and blue ocean waters.

Maui has nearly a dozen courses, some ranking at or near the top world-wide. Kapalua might be the best nationally known golf resort on the islands because of the PGA tournament played here each year. Fortunately tee times aren’t hard to come by. When I vacation somewhere new, I enjoy getting a few tips from one of the local pros.


Slack Key Guitar top

After a rough day of golf and snorkeling, it’s great to unwind with a little local music. We’re taking in a performance of slack key guitar. In this tradition, the guitar strings are loosened or "slacked" to produce unique sounds. Mexican cowboys introduced guitars to the islands, and the Hawaiians quickly adapted them to complement ancient rhythms and chants.


Get concert schedules at slackkey.com.

For a short history of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, visit www.kahumoku.com. You'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this document.


Kapalua Resort / Ritz-Carlton top

The Kapalua resort area features several hotels, as well as condominium-style accommodations.

If you like a little more independence or are traveling with a family, a condo can be a good alternative to a traditional hotel room. Here, guests get the touches of a top hotel combined with the convenience of a full kitchen.

For a luxury hotel, the nearby Ritz-Carlton has a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere, and the staff here tries to maintain the spirit of island culture.


Burial Ground top

When digging began for hotel construction, workers uncovered an ancient Hawaiian burial ground. Because natives considered the site sacred, the builders agreed to move the hotel further inland.

Hawaiians believe that from such places ancestor spirits continue to watch lovingly over the land and its people.

These burial sites remind us of how European diseases devastated early islanders. A huge percentage of the native population was wiped out because Hawaiians lacked immunity to diseases carried here by Westerners.


Entrance to the burial site requires special permission from the Maui Burial Council.


The Road to Hana top

To see more of the island, we’re taking on Maui’s most famous drive: 52 twisty-turning miles to the little town of Hana. Get ready for adventure!

Begin with a full tank of gas. There are no gas stations along the highway and the stations in Hana close by early evening. It also helps to bring along a guide book or map to identify some of the interesting sites along the way.

The winding, white-knuckle ride features more than 600 curves and some of the most gorgeous scenery on earth. The road started life as a footpath, pounded out by the feet of early islanders. It wasn’t paved until 1962 and even then was a difficult drive until it was improved 20 years later. The road to Hana isn’t so much about the “destination” as it is about the “journey”.

Along the highway, stop at a fruit stand and treat yourself to some fresh produce.

Much of the drive takes us through tropical rainforest, passing by dozens of plummeting waterfalls.

Farther along, the road opens into fertile valleys that shelter remnants of old Hawaiian villages. Here we get a peek at pre-resort Hawaii, when life had a quieter pace.

We’ve finally arrived in the modest town of Hana. At one time, sugar paid the bills around here, but the last plantation shut down in the 1940s. In 1946, when a rancher stocked the surrounding pastureland with cattle and opened a hotel, a new economy was born.

That’s it! We’ve done the road to Hana. Now, we just have to do the drive back...


Allow a full day for a round trip to Hana.


Hula top

If you think a visit to Hawaii isn’t complete without a luau, never fear. Maui offers plenty of these traditional Hawaiian feasts, usually accompanied some lively entertainment. “Hula” is a form of chant and dance that was originally tied closely with religious practices. Mortified Protestant missionaries denounced the hula and banned it as a heathen dance. But it found new life in the late 1800’s when Hawaii’s king encouraged a renewal of traditional arts.

The dances performed at luaus often originate in different parts of Polynesia. Fire dancing, for example, has roots in Samoa and was traditionally performed by warriors returning victorious from battle. Twirling knives of fire were thought to intimidate the enemy in a display of strength and power. For me, it’s dazzling fun.


Hawaii's Big Island top

Maui’s charms are limitless, but we’re ready to check out one more island. A word of advice here: don’t try to see too many islands on one trip. Depending on your schedule, one or two are usually enough. Just assume that you’ll be coming back another time to see more!

We’re taking a short plane ride over to the largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago: the Big Island of Hawaii.

Mother nature really outdid herself on the Big Island. It’s a masterwork of tropical rainforests, peaceful meadows and fiery volcanoes.

This island definitely lives up to its name. By Hawaiian standards, it’s big. Driving distances can be considerable and it’s impossible to see everything here in a few days. So if you have particular sites you’re interested in, you may want to choose accommodations that are conveniently located.


For a list of scenic drives on the Big Island, visit www.instanthawaii.com.


Fairmont Orchid top

The Fairmont Orchid, on the northwest part of the island, has lots of romantic touches as well as some great programs on Hawaiian traditions.


To find out what's close by the Fairmont Orchid, visit this handy virtual concierge.

After you’ve had your fill of spa treatments and lounging in the botanical gardens, take advantage of a few island thrills you won’t find anywhere else.


Hahalua Lele top

We’re hopping aboard the Hahalua Lele or "Flying Manta Ray." This is an authentic Polynesian double-hulled sailing canoe.

Archaeologists believe that two waves of Polynesian immigrants voyaged thousands of miles over open sea in canoes similar to this and settled in Hawaii. The first group came from the Marquesas Islands more than 1600 years ago, and the second group came from Tahiti about 800 years ago.


You can arrange rides on the Hahalua Lele through the Fairmont Orchid.


Puako Petroglyph Park top

Back on land, cultural expert Gary Medina gives us more insight into early island life. We’re trekking a short ways from our hotel along a winding, vine covered trail in search of the Puako Petroglyph Park. Prior to Western contact, the ancient Hawaiians had no written language. They made etchings in hardened black lava to convey important events and images.

Many visitors want to take rubbings of the petroglyphs, but that’s bad idea because it destroys them over time.

Photographs are fine, though, and they turn out best if taken early or late in the day when the sun’s rays are slanted. Another word of advice: wear sturdy shoes for walking on rugged lava fields, but be careful not to step on the carvings!

Traditional Hawaiian society had laws that regulated activities such as fishing and planting. This helped to conserve island resources and maintain a balance with nature.


Capt. James Cook top

But when British Captain James Cook landed on neighboring Kauai in 1778, life on the islands would never be the same.

At first, the Hawaiians thought Cook was a god and celebrated his arrival. But, here on the Big Island, friendly relations broke down after British demands for supplies strained the hospitality of the islanders. When one islander stole a longboat from the Brits, Capt. Cook retaliated by taking a Hawaiian chief hostage. The chief’s protectors attacked the British and killed the captain.

But word was out about the beautiful islands in the Pacific, and soon other European vessels were making this a regular port of call.


The Captain Cook Society keeps a log of Capt. Cook's travels at www.captaincooksociety.com.


Hawaii Volcanoes National Park top

For many, the most exciting part of the Big Island isn’t what’s in its past, but what’s in its future. Thanks to nearly continuous volcanic activity, you have the opportunity to watch the island grow right before your very eyes.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, is home to Mauna Loa, and to Kilauea – the world’s most active volcano. The spectacular volcanic activity offers scientists insights on the birth of the Hawaiian Islands, and visitors dramatic views.

You can actually hike to the edge of the lava flow. Or you can take a helicopter ride for stunning aerial views. There have been 35 eruptions since 1952, and regular lava flow since 1983.

According to Hawaiian tradition, this is the home of Pele, the volcano goddess. Ancient stories make references to the many eruptions set off by the angry deity. She is considered both a creator and a destroyer. Pele hurls fountains of molten rock into the air, masters great flows of lava, and occasionally reveals herself in the fires of Kilauea.


Get lava flow updates at hvo.wr.usgs.gov.

Aloha top

There are many man-made wonders in the world, but few of them can compete with the staggering natural beauty of Hawaii. Add in the rich cultural heritage, and this might just be the perfect getaway. The tropical splendor will relax your mind, and the island traditions will feed your soul.

The more time I spend in the Hawaiian islands, the more I come to appreciate these jewels of the Pacific. If you approach Hawaii, not as a place to be consumed, but as a world to be discovered, I promise you won’t leave disappointed. In fact, you may never leave at all! I’m Rudy Maxa. Until next time, Aloha!


Interested in planning your vacation to Hawaii?
Start your trip at
Expedia.com/Maui or Big Island.



For a list of current events in and around town, check out visitlahaina.com.

Check out current island conditions with these web cams.

For more on some of the best beaches on Oahu and Maui, check out bugbog.com.

For a list of current events in and around town, check out visitlahaina.com.

For a list of scenic drives on the Big Island, visit www.instanthawaii.com.