What I wanted: Sunny days, balmy breezes, umbrella drinks and pupu (appetizer) platters. What I got: an oncoming hurricane, a hotel pool closed because of rain and lightning, and patio dining out of the question. After a few days in Kaanapali on the western side of Maui, I was ready for a break. Tough life, huh? My husband, young adult son and I splurged and moved to Wailea for the weekend, hoping the rain gods would not follow us to south Maui. We got lucky: The hurricane petered out, leaving us mostly sunny days in this resort community of swanky hotels. The tab for this weekend: three nights in an ocean-view room plus parking and resort fees totaled $1,220; food was about $400.
In contrast to its more luxurious neighbors, the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa (3700 Wailea Alanui Drive;  879-1922, http://www.lat.ms/1CQLbAD) has a more casual vibe. It's upscale, but the rooms are usually more affordable and it's closer to the surf than the other hotels, which are set back from the ocean. The mostly low-rise buildings are spread out on nicely landscaped grounds. I was happy with our room in a high-rise tower, which had a balcony with a panoramic ocean view. The room was large, but the bathroom was surprisingly small. The highlight was the Zen-like infinity pool featuring cabanas sitting over the water. The guys couldn't tear me away from my peaceful perch, so they went snorkeling on their own.
Even though we were at ground zero for expensive hotel restaurants, we found some great reasonably priced eateries. We had lunch at Pita Paradise (34 Wailea Ike Drive;  879-7177, http://www.pitaparadisehawaii.com), a cute Mediterranean bistro in a nearby small strip mall on the Wailea-Kihei border. A trio of terrific pita sandwiches for the three of us: kalua pork, lamb gyro and chicken. Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman (10 Wailea Gateway Place;  891-2322, http://www.monkeypodkitchen.com) was fun, lively and packed for dinner. Grab a craft beer or a frothy mai tai until your table's ready. It was well worth the wait for the fish and chips, a pepperoni and sausage pizza and saimin noodles with kalua pork, bean sprouts and peanuts. Our best find was the Red Bar at Gannon's (100 Wailea Golf Club Drive;  875-8080, http://www.gannonsrestaurant.com), where happy hour prices lasted until 8:30 p.m. I finally got my balmy breezes as we sat on the softly lighted patio and shared a slew of appetizers and drinks.
You do not have to rent ocean gear at the hotel or beach-side kiosks. Head up the road to one of the scuba-surf shops in Kihei, a less-touristy area; we paid $9 a week each for mask, snorkel and fins. There's fine snorkeling at a lovely public beach there; grab a picnic lunch from one of the takeout places and enjoy the day. In the evening, hang out with the locals in Kihei's many bars and laid-back eateries.
The lesson learned
My husband and son surprised me by returning to the infinity pool shortly after they left to snorkel. "The water was muddy," my son said. "We couldn't see much." Why did that matter? The day before, a man surfing with his sons fended off a shark attack at a nearby beach. A safety official noted that murky water (a result of the hurricane and runoff) attracted sharks.
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