Sliding the steaming mug across a counter both polished and scarred by years of use, Al Franco smiles and waits for me to sip his coffee. I'd been drawn into the false-fronted old building by the pungent aroma of roasting coffee beans. While waiting for a pot to fill, Franco explained that his organic coffee is all grown on small farms within walking distance of his tiny restaurant - Grandma's Coffee House - high on the slopes of Maui's Haleakala volcano. I take a sip: The rich, black brew is delicious.
With all the vacationers jammed in all the resorts along Maui's fabled beaches - we can see the white sands stretching far below - I'm surprised that there isn't a line lingering out the door. Franco isn't. "A man came in the other day who said he had been staying at the same condo in Kihei for 18 years and that this was his first time up here," Franco recalls. "The poor guy said he was sorry he waited so long."
That experience is typical of most travelers to Maui. The fact is, the vast majority of the island's vacationers head to the beach resort areas of Makena, Wailea, Kihei, and Kaanapali - and stay there the whole time. They have ample reasons. Maui's sunny beaches are some of the best in the state and are fronted with shopping, dining, and lodging options for all budgets.
Of course, the same intensity of development that makes a vacation along Maui's west coast so appealing can also make it confining. The most spectacular and least developed corners of the island are long, exhausting day trips from most resorts.
The secret to exploring these hidden gems is taking the time to do it right. Maui's figure-eight system of roads - portions of which are rough and narrow enough in places to make driving a real adventure - lends itself to leisurely exploration. Each of the following drives can be a destination in itself.
That, I tell Franco - just a bit smugly - as he tops off my mug, is what I've been doing for years. Let's go to Hana>