Destination Hawai’i with Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess: Maui Hoops & Beaches

LAHAINA, Maui – Many basketball fans were in town today for the second round of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational tournament being held at the Lahaina Civic Center. Scheduled from November 25th through the 27th, the 2019 teams included BYU, Chaminade, Dayton, Georgia, Kansas, UCLA, Virginia Tech, and Michigan State – a collection of programs that boasts a combined 198 NCAA Tournament appearances, 44 Final Four berths and 16 national championships. (Michigan State lost yesterday to Virginia Tech and plays UCLA today for fifth place.)

As my son and daughter are Michigan State grads, and I’m a Hoosier-born basketball fan, I wore a MSU T-shirt around town to mingle. I was also curious about the seemingly redundant name for the tournament, “Maui Jim Maui Invitational.”

Originating in 1984 as the Maui Invitational, I learned that the name was changed in 2015 when the Peoria, Illinois-based sunglasses manufacturer Maui Jim became the tournament sponsor. So who was “Maui Jim?” was my next question. Of course Wikipedia had the answer: The sunglasses company, founded in Lahaina in 1980, was named after a fisherman who sold sunglasses on the beach called “Maui Jim.”

Maui Jim Sign, Lahaina’s Front Street ©Dennis Cox/WorldViews

Apparently Maui Jim has now moved up from the beach to a superstore on Lahaina’s Front Street.

“I went to Maui to stay a week and remained five. I never spent so pleasant a month before, or bade any place goodbye so regretfully. I have not once thought of business, or care or human toil or trouble or sorrow or weariness, and the memory of it will remain with me always.” –Mark Twain

A former royal capital of Hawaii, the port of Lahaina attracts shoppers and strollers to its quaint streets lined with traditional Hawaiian architecture, such as the historic Pioneer Inn pictured here.

Historic Pioneer Inn, Maui Lahaina ©Dennis Cox/WorldViews

But to appreciate the grandeur of the scenic attractions of Maui, it’s necessary to escape the town to explore. With eighty-one white sand beaches surrounding two volcanic peaks, and treasures of the deep offshore, there is much to see and do.
Here are two of the most popular:

The Road to Hana — a winding drive around the northern and western coasts — passes numerous secluded palm-fringed coves of sandy beaches and rolling surf. Taking a minimum of three hours of difficult driving to get there, as well as to return on the same narrow lanes, it is not recommended to try in one day in a rental car. I survived it thirty years ago, but I was so much younger then. However, Princess offers an all-day excursion to Hana and back, without the strain.

Another Maui attraction is watching the spectacular sunrise from the 10,000-foot summit of Mount Haleakala. It requires a pre-dawn drive to the top that is unfortunately not possible during a limited cruise stopover. Nor is taking a cruise to witness a brilliant Maui sunset while dining, offered by several sightseeing boats operating from the Lahaina wharf.

Nonetheless, there are daytime cruises from the waterfront to snorkel, whale watch when in season, or glimpse undersea life in a spacious air-conditioned Atlantis Submarine, or in a semisubmersible glass bottom boat, Reefdancer –The Yellow Semi Sub. Diving cruises usually go to the underwater Molokini Crater where 250 species of fish and marine life can be seen with visibility up to 150 feet. Snorkeling, scuba and snuba diving are all possible in the calm waters to be found in the crater.

The highest concentration of humpback whales on earth – four to five thousand, two-thirds of the North American stock — can be found in the waters off Maui. They breed in the warm waters of Hawai’i in winter before migrating three thousand miles to Alaskan waters during the summer months. Watching the mothers teach their calves to breach would be awesome to photograph. Frequently dolphins and turtles can be spotted on whale watching cruises as well.

Dennis Cox is All Things Cruise Writer and Official Photographer (©Dennis Cox/WorldViews)

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