With its siren-like resorts, lavish spas, and world-class golf courses, Maui has a way of testing travelers' budgets, but with the right guide, the island can be downright affordable.
Stewart Yerton A roadside fruit stand in Maui
| Credit: Stewart Yerton

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 localartists, 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 Zissou–Jacques 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.

Longs Drug Store

Snorkel Bob's

The mission of this gear store goes beyond selling masks, fins, and suits to ocean explorers; Snorkel Bob also takes an active role in reef conservation, including the nonprofit Snorkel Bob Foundation. The shop sells an array of gear "a la carte", but there is also the ever-popular Complete Reef Package. Branded gear includes the Ultima Bubba™ snorkel and Moflex™ fins, and for before and after dive exploration, sunblock t-shirts provide built-in UV ray protection. Boat trips to Molokini and Lanai can also be arranged.

Aloha Mixed Plate

Back when sugar plantations filled the area, workers would gather at lunch, and the “mixed plate” concept began when the Japanese, Koreans, and Filipinos started passing around their own ethnic group’s food to the other workers. Now all that’s required to taste the eclectic mix is a trip to this small aqua-colored restaurant with umbrella-covered outdoor seating. The Lahaina waterfront hosts this restaurant, which is helmed by chef Norman Williams. Breakfast plates include the “Big Braddah” with eggs, sausage, and SPAM™, while lunch and dinner entrées include baked shoyu chicken, which is marinated in soy sauce.

Tiki Bar

When the Tiki Bar opened in 1980 at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, it was Maui's very first outdoor bar. It's still one of its best. Located between the pool and lobby of the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, the bar is famous for its Tropical Itch Mai Tai—garnished with a 16-inch backscratcher.

Outrigger Aina Nalu

Maui’s Lahaina Town area provides the setting for these house-style rental condos. Offering an alternative to the “big box” hotels, these private locations range from studios to a two-bedroom, two-bath suite. The rooms are decorated in neutral tones with red and green accents, and island touches like wide-bladed ceiling fans. The studios have a queen bed, while the bigger spaces can house up to six. Two pools and a poolside pavilion are available, and the activities desk can assist in booking such adventures as snorkeling or a luau.

Makawao Garden Café

Makawao Garden Cafe is tucked off of Baldwin Avenue in a green board and batten building; the only seating is ten tables located on a shady patio surrounded by bright flowers, lush foliage, and large patio umbrellas. The owner, Kathy Sparks, makes and serves all the food, from fresh foccacia bread to basil balsamic vinaigrette. Try the popular baked baby brie and bacon sandwich, served on a baguette with greens and tomatoes. The cafe also serves smoothies, soups, and salads such as the mahi mahi salad on baby greens with carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, and sprouts.

Hot Island Glass Studio & Gallery

Located on Baldwin Avenue in the art and rodeo town of Makawao in Maui, the Hot Island Glass Studio is owned by artists Chris Richards and Chris Lowry. The tiled floor, white walls, and shadow box shelves offset the glass works of art that range in size from paperweights and jewelry to larger sculptures. The art often reflects the island itself, with pieces curved like waves to jellyfish "captured" in glass and vibrantly colored pineapples and shells. Demonstrations, with four to five artists working at the furnace, begin at opening time.

Viewpoints Gallery

The Viewpoints Gallery, located on Baldwin Avenue in Makawao in Maui, is a cooperative of about twenty artists. The gallery is housed in a green board-and-batten building with white trim that's surrounded by a courtyard with restaurants and other galleries. Media includes everything from photography, jewelry, and fiber art to pottery, stained glass, and oil paintings. Some selections include turned wooden bowls by Al Rabold, paintings of Maui by George Allan, and seascapes by Diana Lehr. The most recent exhibition is titled, "The Art of Hula" and includes photographs of dancers and quilts with geometric Polynesian designs.

Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center

This 25-acre estate, formerly owned by the Baldwin family of Makawao, Maui, is home to the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center (usually just called the Hui.) The main building is a Mediterranean-style mansion designed in 1917 by C.W. Dickey, while the outbuildings house studios, galleries, exhibits, gifts shops, and classrooms. Exhibits include work from local artists such as Sidney Yee and Kevin Omuro's look at the lowly turnip. The Hui also runs classes on a range of topics like ancient Hawaiian art, sculpture, printmaking, clay-throwing, and jewelry-making; there are classes for children as well.

Maui Grown Market

Necessories Boutique

Café des Amis

The bright blue exterior and dangling party lights outside Cafe des Ami set the tone for this casual cafe known for its crepes and curries. Inside, equally cheerful painted walls and mismatched wooden furniture are found in the dining room, while the small enclosed courtyard to the side is outfitted with wooden benches, picnic tables, and outdoor chairs, where diners can relax and listen to live music several nights a week. Crepes range from sweet to savory and curries are severed over white rice, in a crepe, or in a bowl.

Maui Tropical Market