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How to Taste Island Life on Maui

The Four Seasons’ Maui adventure is an experience of a lifetime.

The Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea doesn’t rest on its laurels. Given its dramatic coastal setting, heavenly weather, critically acclaimed chefs, and caliber of service, you’d think they could just kick up their feet and let aloha happen. But that’s not the case, as I learned during a recent visit. Originally designed as a resort where vacationers go to retreat, relax, and recharge, the Four Seasons Resort Maui understands that today’s traveler is looking for a collection of moments that create deeper, richer, and more fulfilling holidays.

My girlfriend Alex and I visited in July. We spent a couple days drinking rum cocktails by the pool (yes, this is paradise) and then signed up for the “Taste of Island Life” experience, which the resorts offers in partnership with Adventure Quinn, Hawaii’s leading experiential luxury operator. The excursion brought us way beyond the walls of the resort for a day of adventure, learning, and connecting. Here are my favorite takeaways.

It’s All About the Journey
I’m an aviation nerd, so when I found out that we were being picked up on the golf course in a Paradise Helicopters Bell 407, I was over the moon. Our pilot for the day, Daniel Malakie, happened to be director of safety and standardization for the family-owned and operated Paradise Helicopters. He also flew Blackhawk rescue missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. We were in good hands.

Departing Wailea, we climbed and cruised toward Maui’s western range. We peered down at Oprah Winfrey’s house, her private miles-long road, and many of the island’s former sugar cane fields, whose future development plans are a hot topic. Then we started ducking into the narrow valleys that make Maui’s western mountains so spectacular. Tall, jagged peaks lush with green jutted into the air while narrow waterfalls fell thousands of feet to the valley floor below.

We spent an hour in the chopper covering most of the island. We circled around the famous Haleakala volcano, peered down into the 7 Sisters—a series of popular pools closer to Hana, and finally set down on Hana Ranch, where a head of 50 cattle stampeded to the sound of the arriving helicopter.

Learn, Connect, Do
When we landed at Hana Ranch we were greeted by Adam Quinn, the owner of Adventure Quinn, and Kui Gapero, a native of Hawaii who works for the company. Kui started chanting a native Hawaiian song. Consider us properly welcomed to this spectacular place, a 3,600-acre working cattle ranch, organic farm, and private farmhouse equipped with two master bedrooms, bathrooms, and lanais with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.

After a short drive to the Hana Ranch farmhouse, we met the rest of the day’s team including Four Seasons executive chef Craig Dryhurst (who had already spoken with us back at the hotel about our food and wine preferences), Jon Watson (executive chef of Hana Ranch), and Donnie McGean, an avid bicyclist who took us on a tour of the ranch and Hana. By flying in via chopper, we had avoided the three-hour car journey on winding single-lane roads. Chefs Dryhurst and Watson walked us through the organic farm, telling us about it and pointing out and letting us pick the butter lettuces, figs, and beets that would make up our salad. Over the next several hours, we walked around the organic farm picking produce, learned about its history—the ranch started in 1944 after a 14,000- acre purchase by a San Franciscan named Fagan—and rode bikes around the ranch. We climbed to Fagan’s Cross and worked up enough of a sweat to go swimming at the sublime Kaihalulu beach.

Fit for a king

We returned to the ranch, showered, changed, and sat on the back lanai staring at the ocean and drinking a Spanish red named Petalos. The chefs were busy in the kitchen putting the last touches on a meal fit for kings. During our late lunch we feasted on a rainbow-colored salad of butter lettuce, radishes, beets, and manchego cheese, and a bone-in rib eye from Hana Ranch. In addition, a local singer and ukulele player serenaded us, and from time to time, a pair of beautiful dancers rhythmically swayed their arms and hips to the melodies.

Shared Experiences are the Best Experiences
Four Seasons Maui’s “Taste of Island Life” isn’t inexpensive. The price as we experienced it was $16,500 for up to six people. Granted, we yanked the executive chef away from his hotel for the entire day and arrived and departed Hana Ranch via helicopter. Depending on your needs and budget, the price could start around $8,000.

With that said, the trip was designed to create spectacular memories with people close to you. On the 20-minute flight back to the hotel, I thought about the cost of a day like this. Sure, you could rent a car, drive to Hana, eat at a local restaurant or roadside stand, swim its beaches, talk to locals, and take the three-hour drive back for a fraction of the price. But then again, you wouldn’t experience Maui as we had.

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