In Maui, Luxe Without the Bucks

Sunday, November 12, 2006

WORTH A TRIP: "In Maui, a simple sunset is often all that's needed to invoke a party." In the fall edition of Sherman's Travel, guidebook author Matthew Link returns to Hawaii to assess the level of development on the island of Maui since he last saw it six years ago. He finds it still relatively uncomplicated and uncrowded, due in part to its spectacular mountain: "By its very size, Haleakala helps keep Maui pristine by making access around the island difficult -- you can't cut across it." He goes to Hana, the little town Charles Lindbergh chose as his burial place, at the end of a 52-mile highway rich with rain forest and ocean views. He watches sea turtles from the window of a cliff-side cottage. And he drinks some native kava, which "mellowed me out more than I thought possible." A mellow place, indeed.

This is the premier issue of Sherman's, a magazine positioning itself somewhere between Arthur Frommer and Robin Leach. Luxury, yes, but budget luxury. For example, Sherman's "where to stay" blurbs rationalize Maui's $350-per-night Grand Wailea Resort as a "Smart Splurge" but team it with the Inn at Mama's Fish House, where rooms start at $175 (a "Great Value"). Destination pieces are accompanied by "Cost Calendars" highlighting the most affordable months.

Sherman's will be fun to watch as it strives to find Armani at Sears prices. Meanwhile, we hope future articles will give us more of a vicarious ride, the better to share the pleasures of low-cost luxe.

WORTH A FLIP: Any article featuring a town named Scrooby is going to catch our attention. (Rut-ro!) Scrooby, England, as November's Smithsonian discusses, is the birthplace of William Brewster, spiritual leader of the group that would become the Pilgrims of the Plymouth Colony. Smithsonian takes us to Scrooby Manor and follows the religious rebels to Amsterdam and Leiden, where they stayed until Dutch permissiveness threatened the morals of their young. But had they liked the Netherlands, we might never have had Thanksgiving. . . . In Laredo, Tex. -- where the poverty level is 31 percent, the average per capita income is $11,000 and everyone speaks English and Spanish (often in the same sentence) -- the social happening of the year is the annual debutante presentation by the Society of Martha Washington. National Geographic whipsaws us between Mexican and Anglo, aristocratic and poor, 21st-century border town and colonial Mount Vernon. The cultures clash, blend and clash again. . . . Sunset escapes to Utah's Zion National Park -- "Quiet Zion" -- in November. Summer's crowds are gone, and when it rains, Zion is transformed "into a giant grotto, sending fog between the towers and seeps, and waterfalls down through every notch and crevice in the canyon walls." Getting caught in the rain sounds like fun.

WORTH A CLIP: Budget Travel explains what to look for when buying a guidebook. If you already know about some feature at your destination, does the guidebook accurately discuss it? Check the author's bio: Is this person qualified to make recommendations? A recent copyright date is good, but go to the library and compare the book with earlier editions of itself. Hey, slacker -- vacationing is serious business. . . . How would you like your African safari? Men's Journal has seven suggested packages, some putting you right in the jungle, one in a kayak on Botswana's Okavango Delta and one serenely above it all in small Cessnas over Namibia's Skeleton Coast (but you spend your nights in tent camps in the midst of wildlife). . . . In its annual "Responsible Travel Issue," Transitions Abroad formulates a list of "ethical" travel destinations, places where you can travel well and feel good about it. Typical conscience-soothing treks include volunteer restoration of a Provencal village, horseback travel through Kyrgyzstan (mmm, fermented mare's milk!) and teaching orphans in Guatemala.

WORTH A NOSH: In that part of our country where a 63-year-old named Lawrence Constant Levert III can be known as "Boo," the brunch menu will include eggs Hussarde (like eggs Benedict but with tasso ham), "pig's ear" pastries, and sausages with gravy and grits. Thank Saveur for arousing your appetite with its gustatory visit to the Louisiana bayou country. An illustrated sidebar explains the local "art [and science] of making sugar": boiling it down from cane juice and letting the crystals "grow" in vacuum pans. . . . "Soursop." It sounds like a Victorian-era insult. According to Caribbean Travel & Life , however, it's a fruit that "tops the taste charts." CT&L also tastes sapodilla, guinep and ortanique in its review of island fruit exotica. We'd be wary of ackee, though -- "a fruit that's poisonous until it's fully ripe." (We suspect it was named by someone who didn't know that.)

-- Jerry V. Haines

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