DESTINATION Maui HIGH SEASON Mid-December through early April, July through August AVERAGE 5-STAR ROOM RATE $415 (high), $385 (low) AVERAGE COST OF A ROUND OF GOLF $150 BARGAIN A bag of the Original Maui Kitch'n Cook'd Potato Chips ($.80) WORTH A SPLURGE The Ka Maukele treatment (exfoliation, wrap, and massage) at the Four Seasons Resort at Wailea ($350)
9:00 A.M. I step off the plane and the spending begins. First stop: the Maui Tropical Market (Kahului Airport; 808/877-7923) gift shop for a tiki key chain ($3) in the shape of Kala, the Hawaiian god of money. I need all the financial help I can get.
9:30 A.M. On an island where roads cling to cliffs, twist up volcanoes, and wind past waterfalls, you definitely want a car. My silver 1999 Toyota Corolla ($30 a day) from Word of Mouth Rent-a-Used Car (150 A Hana Hwy., Kahului; 808/877-2436) has little sex appeal but does have air-conditioning. I put its key on my tiki chain and head to Paia, an artsy hamlet on the fabled road to Hana.
10:00 A.M. A stroll past Paia's surf shops, galleries, and boutiques selling sarongs and sandals takes me to Café des Amis (42 Baldwin Ave.; 808/579-6323), where tanned, twentysomething locals brunch. I order a latte and a crêpe ($12) stuffed with mozzarella, tomato, and basil, served with fresh mixed greens and sour cream.
11:00 A.M. After brunch I go on a souvenir safari. At Necessories Boutique (21 Baldwin Ave.; 808/578-9805), I buy a retro postcard ($3) emblazoned with vintage sheet-music cover art for Queen Liliuokulani's classic "Aloha Oe." Later, at Maui Grown Market (93 Hana Hwy.; 808/579-9345), I buy a deck of hula-girl playing cards ($2).
12:30 A.M. Although money doesn't grow on trees, on Maui, food does. So it's not surprising to see young girls selling citrus as well as flowers by the side of Baldwin Avenue leading into the high-country town of Makawao. I purchase four tangerines and two grapefruits ($1), and they throw in a free protea bloom.
12:40 P.M. On the outskirts of Makawao is Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center (2841 Baldwin Ave.; 808/572-6560). Although the center, which has free admission, is between exhibitions, the museum shop has works from an earlier show of tattoo art. Outside the main building, I wander through groves of flowers and cool my feet in a reflecting pool. As I leave, a woman asks if I'd like some avocados and nods toward a heaping bowl.
1:30 P.M. Makawao is a classic paniolo town, a remnant of the days when cowboys worked the land. Shops and galleries are tucked into the hillside—among them, the Viewpoints Gallery (3620 Baldwin Ave.; 808/572-5979), a cooperative of local artists, and Hot Island Glass Studio & Gallery (3620 Baldwin Ave., #101A; 808/572-4527), where I buy a glass bowl ($15) shaped like a plumeria blossom. For lunch, I swing by Makawao Garden Café (3669 Baldwin Ave.; 808/573-9065) for a small mahimahi-and-greens salad and lemonade ($8.25).
3:00 P.M. I steer my Corolla toward Kaanapali, a beach resort area on the western edge of the island. At Longs Drug Store (Lahaina Cannery Mall, 1221 Honoapiilani Hwy.; 808/667-4384) outside Lahaina, I pick up a pair of flip-flops ($5) decorated with turtles and canoes. I also stop at Snorkel Bob's (1217 Front St.; 808/661-4421) to rent a mask-snorkel-fin set ($5.50 for 24 hours).
4:00 P.M. Perhaps the best part about Hawaii: there's no such thing as a private beach. Several resorts, like the Sheraton Maui Resort on Kaanapali Beach (2605 Kaanapali Pkwy.; 808/661-0031), even set aside a few free parking spaces for beachgoers. I manage to get one and proceed to play out my Steve ZissouJacques Cousteau fantasies, swimming with parrot fish, Moorish idols, and Hawaii's state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapuaa.
6:00 P.M. As sun sets, I head to Aloha Mixed Plate (1285 Front St.; 808/661-3322), a waterfront café with an outdoor patio. I order an iced tea and coconut-crusted shrimp ($18.50) served on a bed of chopped cabbage with rice and macaroni salad—the most expensive thing on the menu.
8:30 P.M. Alongside leis, aloha shirts, and outrigger canoes stands Hawaii's ultimate iconic art form: the hula. Cheesy?Perhaps. Fun?Almost always. So after dinner it's off to the Kaanapali Beach Hotel's Tiki Bar (2525 Kaanapali Pkwy.; 808/661-0011) for the free hula show. I consider an $8.25 Tiki Tai, a mai tai in a souvenir Polynesian mug, but opt for the more budget-friendly locally brewed Fire Rock Kona Pale Ale ($6).
11:00 P.M. Exhausted, I check into my quiet room ($140 a night, including tax) at the newly renovated Aina Nalu Resort (660 Wainee St.; 808/667-9766) in Lahaina. The room is full of dark, polished woods, tapa-cloth fabrics, woven-grass ceiling fans, and vintage Hawaiian surfer photographs. I turn on the flat-screen TV and give my tiki key chain a stroke of thanks before drifting off to dreams of tropical fish and hula dancers.
TOTAL SPENT: $249.25
The Lahaina Restoration Foundation (808/661-3262; www.lahainarestoration.org) has produced a free walking guide of historic houses, museums, and a lighthouse. It's definitely worth picking up. ?; Be prepared to ask more than once to find the lowest rate for accommodations. You'll get the best prices in the fall, excluding Halloween and Thanksgiving. ?; Although the going rate for a group surfing lesson on Maui is $60, you might get a $10 break during low season if you call in the morning to book a lesson that day.