Magical Maui Rising from the Ashes: Let’s support our Maui Strong! Hawaiian Island friends

By Leslie Westbrook   |   June 18, 2024
Support Maui in its recovery with an enticing stay at Hotel Wailea (courtesy photo)

My cosmic arrival, after a short flight from Honolulu, on the scarred and traumatized island of Maui, began auspiciously with my Uber driver Giuliano and his purple unicorn. A lanky, charming lad, the yoga instructor/wellness coach said he was “into shamanic sounds healings.” Giuliano and his talisman (along with a crystal heart dangling from his rearview mirror) made for the perfect companions on Unicorn Day (who knew?) to whisk me from the tiny airport to my lodging for the next two nights, the highly touted Hotel Wailea. The ride was too short, and conversation condensed, but we covered a lot of ground, physically and metaphysically, on the 25-minute drive to the Hotel Wailea from Kahului airport. I would also unexpectedly encounter a talented clairvoyant, Lisa Huscher and her sweet husband Brien, at the hotel swimming pool the next day.

A warm welcome and purple orchid lei draped over my neck; I was transported by golf cart to my gorgeous suite at the verdant Relais & Châteaux South Maui resort. The second-story, open floor plan living room/kitchen with a spacious bedroom and luxurious bath was accented with native Koa wood doors and tables, framed tapa cloth and super comfortable furnishings. A lovely lanai, with a settee large enough to curl up on, offered views across a gently rolling lawn to the Pacific as well as to the majestic West Maui mountains in the distance. The stocked kitchenette – fridge drawers filled with complimentary cold sodas and mineral waters; a basket of super yummy complimentary, locally made treats included taro chips, Maui potato chips, Ohana Nui Mocha chip macadamia butter cookies and Manoa chocolates, was much appreciated.

The hotel’s 72 suites are scattered in two-story buildings surrounded by 15 lush acres with romantic places to stroll past waterfalls and ponds. I unpacked and plopped onto my comfy bed – the wind rustling through palm tree leaves, as a pair of birds tussled while others sang contentedly. Should I head to the pool for a swim or take a stroll and explore the grounds? I did both. 

Enjoying a shaded pool cabana, I spent a good amount of time in and around the pool – my fingers turning prune-like one long and languishing afternoon. Floating and chatting with Brien and Lisa, an awesome couple from Orange County, I soon discovered that Lisa is a gifted clairvoyant/clairaudient/clairsentient who intuits messages for her clients to interpret and integrate into their lives. I scheduled a reading and Lisa was spot on, especially regarding my family and travel. What she picked up on regarding my love life remains to be seen.

A peek at one of Hotel Wailea’s sweet suites (courtesy photo)

I also spotted and/or chatted with several couples on “babymoons,” lots of NorCal/Marin County visitors, one couple on their 15th visit to the resort and a retired Canadian cellist from the Toronto Symphony, staying for two weeks with her husband. 

A UCSB grad joined me for a complimentary stretch and tone class (I skipped aerial yoga), where our fitness instructor, after class, enlightened me about greedy landlords’ price-gouging and taking advantage of the post-fire situation.

Most come to Hotel Wailea to de-stress, but there’s plenty to do on the island, like shopping and exploring other restaurants and resorts. Historic Lahaina town, which burned to the ground, is off limits. I treaded softly while expressing my condolences to locals and native staff at the hotel, as the wounds from the devasting fires last year were still fresh. 

This is something we Santa Barbarians know all too well, with the ravages of the Thomas Fire and debris flow in our own not-so-distinct rearview mirrors. 

Some locals that I chatted with were understandably “pissed off” that Mayor Bissen was “missing in action” during the largest wildfire in the last century that took 101 souls, as well as thousands of buildings. Others were hopeful for much-needed tourism to return to support the island people.

Let’s Eat! The Birdcage and The Restaurant 

Fresh fish and so much more are on the menu at the hotel (courtesy photo)

True to its name, “The Birdcage” is the hotel’s open-air pavilion restaurant and bar where birds nest in the eaves. The menu spotlights sushi/Asian style flavors. I enjoyed a hamachi handroll, Farms of Maui salad, Kauai shrimp and pork bao buns and a glass of wine from the excellent wine list. I didn’t much care for the pounding music, and I was not alone in this sentiment. Those who follow my musings know this is a lightning rod for me. I felt the same disappointment about the “music” pumped around the pool—and the Canadian cellist agreed. 

Fortunately, my dinner the next night, at the resort’s upscaled dining venue, “The Restaurant” was both excellent and slightly quieter.Thethree-course, prix fixe menu was a “winner-winner, Maui chicken dinner.” I don’t usually order chicken, but this was great comfort food: crispy well-seasoned skin with mashed potatoes. The starter, tortellini stuffed with lobster and three cheeses was tasty, albeit a tad al dente. The terrific pastry chef also deserves kudos for his creamy chocolate concoction.Still, this self-proclaimed sound police had to laugh and give in a bit when I heard “Werewolves of London,” co-written by my old pal Roy Marinelli (RIP) with former Montecito resident/crooner Warren Zevon along with other 1970s tunes played over the sound system as I consumed my fabulous meal.

Breakfast the next morning was a delicious eggs benedict with mushrooms and homemade croissants and the livin’ was easy— and ever so sweetly filled with much appreciated birdsong.

Nearby Explorations

Complimentary trips to nearby shopping and dining are available and I told my charming shuttle driver, Gustavo, a married father of three, that I really wanted to support the locals, especially small businesses. We set out for a new place in nearby Kihei called 808 Sugar Hi. I savored a coconut-lilikoi popsicle ($7) made by 808 Pops.Hawaii Gelatois also sold here, sourced from Roxy Brandel, who lost her Lahaina Front Street business, but not her commercial kitchen, in the fire. Mission accomplished.

Rest assured, sweet Maui, that little by little, the wounds will heal and Lahaina, in some form, will rise from the ashes. Lahaina’s historic Banyan tree, the oldest in Hawaii, survived and has been a talisman of hope to the community and the world.

What would a trip to Maui be without plenty of sun and time by the water (courtesy photo)

Besides the resounding chorus that Maui needs tourism dollars, my new friend Gustavo’s parting words of wisdom to visitors were these: “Be sensitive and compassionate.” 

And the message from my swimming pool buddy/clairvoyant? Lisa sent me a sweet message/reminder:

“The Hawaiian people are deeply connected to one other in a deep, positive way. They consider everyone family and when united the strength is tenfold. Things will grow more quickly because of this. We could learn from them. Love is the highest vibration.”  

How to Support Maui and Its Residents

 Here & There

Maui Strong– check out the website for volunteer opportunities and more.


Support Maui hotels, resorts and buy local.Visit open air markets to buy artisan crafts and food products.

Tip Generously – The minimum hourly wage in Maui is $14 ($1 less for tipped employees); living wage is $29.29. A single working parent with two children needs $65.51 an hour to make it here. You do the math.

Shopping + Sweet Treats

The Shops at Wailea – High-end, open air shopping mall has comfy places to chill. Check out gorgeous Niihau shell necklaces (from the forbidden island) and fine wood carving (bowls, oars, etc.) at Maui Hands, which only sells pieces made by Maui artisans and artists.

805 Sugar Hi – 2511 South Kihei Road, Kihei

Peace Love Shave Ice:Azeka Shopping Center, 1280 South Kihei Road, Kihei

Where to Stay 

Hotel Wailea – Voted top romantic getaway resort on Maui. Seemingly the only solo traveler during my stay, the staff and other guests were warm and welcoming.

The “Other World” – Clairvoyant Lisa Huscher. Thirty-minute readings start at $35.00.

Getting There

International tourism from Japan remains low due to the yen, but not from the mainland. Fortunately for us, great deals abound on flights out of LAX on Hawaiian Airlines, United, Southwest and other carriers. I arrived on the island via a short Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu – I departed on an early morning ferry to my next stop: Lanai. 


You might also be interested in...