Maui’s Hiking Trails Are the Island’s Best Kept Secret

Maui-Hero

Maui's Hiking Trails Are the Island's Best Kept Secret

December 9, 2019

Towering high above Maui’s famous white sand beaches, above the island’s dense and tangled jungle, deep in the hear of Haleakala National Park, lies a red, cinder-coned crater that is, possibly, the quietest spot on Earth. To reach this crater, runners (and hikers, of which there are arguably more) must first drive through the park’s entrance and navigate a series of switchbacks to the Ke- onehe’ehe’e Trailhead (elevation 9,740 feet). The trail is barely visible on the scoured surface of ancient volcanic lava, long cooled and broken into gravelly cinder. It climbs about 300 feet before descending into the crater. Run it, says Ben Auerbach, a Kaanapali, Maui-based fitness concierge who creates custom training plans for locals and visitors, and the experience will change your life.

“When you look all around, it’s blue skies and sun, and you’re surrounded by brownish-reddish dirt gravel that insulates you from sound, and also by silversword plants, which are unique to Maui. It doesn’t feel like you’re on Earth, really.”

Hiking Hana Maui Hawaii

Otherworldly is a word that comes up often in regards to the trails on Maui, the “Valley Isle” of the Hawaiian chain. Roughly 728 square miles, Maui has Haleakalā on its eastern side; the West Maui Mountains are on its western half. This geographical uplift contributes to an extensive diversity of microclimates and an eclectic combination of beaches and jungles, rainforests, waterfalls and redwoods. And that, according to the island’s runners, is what makes Maui a trail runner’s—and hiker’s—paradise.

“Nothing can compare to Maui,” says native Reid Hunter, 24. “It’s one of the most diverse islands, is beautiful year-round and has amazing views everywhere. You can start at sea level, climb up a mountain, turn around and all you see is crystal blue ocean and red dirt fields.”

Hunter, an elite runner who logs 80 miles a week and dreams of competing in the 2020 Olympic Marathon, briefly left Maui for university in New Zealand, where he ran with some of that country’s top coaches. Upon graduating in 2012, he heeded Maui’s siren song, returned home and began training in ear- nest. Although Maui doesn’t draw a cadre of elite runners in the same way that California’s High Sierra or Colorado’s Rocky Mountains do, Hunter says the island’s got plenty of challenging long-distance trails on which both runners and hikers can strengthen and train.

Chief among them are the West Maui Mountains’ Village Trails, a steep and tangled network that snakes through an abandoned golf course. So rugged are these that, last October, they were home to the 2014 XTerra World Championship 5-kilometer race. Hunter not only won this notorious sufferfest, but also broke the course record by 42 seconds. 

But it’s not all rigorous and rough when it comes to Maui trails, says island native Matt Holton of Mauirunner.com. There are also mellow(ish) trails that seem to lead into magical worlds bursting with color, vegetation and views you never imagined existed (Thompson Road, Waihee Ridge and Sugar Beach on map below).

“There’s a timelessness to the trails here,” says Holton. Other trails are vibrant with color—purples and reds from the minerals and rocks (Skyline Trail). Still others are loaded with guava fruit and wild raspberries. “There is so much diversity,” says Holton. “The running here never gets boring.”

Where to go?

The hardest thing about running or hiking on Maui is deciding where to go. Here are some of the island’s most scenic and superlative trails.

Haleakalā Crater: Located at 10,000 feet within Haleakalā National Park, the crater sits among a network of trails that are mainly “out and backs,” allowing runners and hikers to pick their distance. With no shade, high altitude and variable temperatures, don’t forget sunscreen, layers and water.

Kapalua Maui Woman Waterfall

Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls: A 4-mile round-trip route, the Pipiwai Trail forges through lush bamboo forest, climbs a total of 600 feet and leads to the 400-foot Waimoku Falls, which plunge through verdant cliffs to a pool.

Kahakapao Trail System: This extensive trail system located in the Makawao Forest, a state preserve near the town of Haiku, offers miles of single track through thick evergreen forests. It’s also a popular mountain biking area.

Kapalua Coastal Trail: This northwest Maui beach run offers beautiful, picturesque views of the coastline. “Think Big Sur with warm water,” says Ben Auerbach, who leads guided runs and hikes on the trail. An added bonus: The trail, which is about 3 miles, also leads to a traditional Hawaiian burial ground and labyrinth.

Experience Lake Tahoe Like a Local

Experience-Lake-Tahoe-Like-a-Local

Experience Lake Tahoe Like a Local

August 2, 2019

Look out over the north shore of glistening Lake Tahoe this August and you’ll undoubtedly squint. The vast body of crystal mountain water shines, as do the nearby snow-topped Sierra Mountains. And then there’s the impressive glare generated by sunlight reflecting off the 20 or so coats of varnish applied to many of the dozens of pristine and fabulously expensive, show-ready, wood speedboats. The boats you see are here are at the end of their annual migration to the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance, a highly contested competition, that features some of the world’s finest and most beautifully preserved waterborne craft. While judges begin their duties, the show is open to the public all day. Walking the docks, as well as chatting with these prized boats’ restorers and owners, instantly transports a viewer back to an earlier era where vessels were as prized for their meticulous details and handcrafted workmanship as their size and speed.

San Franciscans reverently speak of the lake and its surroundings simply as Tahoe, and the term has been in the Bay Area vernacular for over a half-century. Lake Tahoe, which lies approximately 200 miles northeast of San Francisco (or about an hour’s drive from the RenoTahoe International Airport), straddles the California-Nevada border and is the second-deepest lake in the United States with an average depth of 1,000 feet. At 22 miles long by 12 miles wide, the lake is also vast, and it sits amid many small towns and communities as well as 72 miles of shoreline.

Native Americans were early Tahoe inhabitants, and by the beginning of the 20th century mining and railway industries brought more attention and people to the pristine, high-elevation (6,200 feet) waters. Many of the first Tahoe enthusiasts to build vacation homes on the lakeshore among the granite boulders and evergreens were the Bay Area’s elite and very wealthy. They also brought boats, including the wood speedboats that enjoyed a heyday from the 1930s to the 1950s. At the time the boats were costly— they could be as expensive as a house—and would ultimately become toys for silver screen celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Brigitte Bardot. Helping fuel the boom; Tahoe’s dry alpine air proved hospitable to the wood boats, which in more humid conditions were susceptible to rotting. Time ticked by, Squaw Valley’s Winter Olympics in 1960 came and went, and fiberglass emerged as a superior material for making speedboat hulls. Then in the summer of 1972, a dozen or so owners of wood boats along the lake brought their old rigs together for drinks and a casual gathering along the shores of Homewood, a west Tahoe community.

Since then, the meeting place, the scope of the meeting and the Tahoe area have all changed. Now called the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance, the three day affair is yet one more compelling attraction in a summer playground that nowadays tempts visitors with world-class mountain biking, lake-view golf courses and spa treatments at the RitzCarlton. The Concours is currently held at Homewood’s Obexer’s Boat Company, which coincidentally became Tahoe’s first wood-boat dealership back in 1928. The Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation, the nonprofit organization that hosts the Concours, saw about 60 boats entered last year and expects roughly 50 entries this year. In 2013, approximately 5,000 people gladly paid $25 to $35 each to enjoy intimate looks at the exotic collection of polished wood and gleaming chrome. “We had entries that came from as far east as Florida and as far north as Seattle,” says Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation president Dave Olson. “The Tahoe show is known as shutterstock one of the most prestigious of all.”

Floating Artifacts

Spend an afternoon or two at the wood-boat show and your eyes will encounter beauty that’s as seamless as the massive lake. The Tahoe show stands apart from the dozens of other woodboat shows held annually across the country because much of the watercraft you’ll encounter are a step far beyond what are called “user boats,” or boats that may be well-loved but are also regularly used. Many of the Concours boats, courtesy of careful restoration and/or preservation, are really pristine objets d’art and are judged appropriately. Boats don’t necessarily win awards at Tahoe when they’re better than the competition. They win for having been preserved at—or more likely returned to—showroom condition, even if those boats haven’t seen a showroom for a century. Walk down to the dock during the show and the first thing you’ll notice is the deep, rich wood used on the boats’ decks and hulls. You won’t find prettier wood on a Steinway. Whether it’s Spanish cedar, Honduran mahogany or timber from the Philippines, the vessels’ wood skins glisten under layers of marine varnish. The silhouettes are equally diverse and fetching. Some boat transoms are squared off , while others are rounded or shaped like torpedoes. There are many types of boats on display, from lakers, launches and runabouts to commuters. The boats can come with one, two and even three “cockpits,” or compartments with seats. Entries run as small as 16 feet and well over 30. Spotless chrome and brass hardware and trim shine brilliant against the deep blue sky. The engines gleam, as well. In fact, it’s really the unseen and seemingly prosaic mechanicals inside the motors that command the most attention and respect from the Concours connoisseurs and judges. 

“Engines are the biggest challenge to restore. Back when these boats were built there were a wide variety of manufacturers,” says Terry Fiest, who’s been the Concours d’Elegance’s chief judge since 2008. “It’s hardest to come by the old parts.” Between the efforts made to scour docks, marinas and barns for usable parts, and the time and labor involved in custom fabrication of whatever can’t be found, Fiest says that an engine rebuild can cost upwards of $100,000. Complete, Concours-ready boats can take years to prepare and are valued anywhere from $40,000 to more than $700,000. Some boats featured at Tahoe are one-of-a-kind. Others might only have been made for one year as part of a limited edition, 100-unit production run.

Like Tahoe itself, some of the Concours boats seem almost too good to be true, and occasionally, in fact, they are. For all of the owners’ painstaking restoration efforts, their boats may no longer carry the identities they once did. Sometimes engines are “over-restored” according to Fiest, with brass and copper parts that have been polished to look better than the original stock. “We always have to ask, ‘How close is it to how it left the original factory?’” Fiest says, who has competed in the Concours himself, and knows the anxiety of a snooping judge deducting points on a score sheet. “What we’re always looking for is authenticity.” The best in show is therefore the craft that best captures a very special place in time on the lake, back when it was less crowded, slower, and quieter, but no less spectacular. If you’re lucky enough, you will be there when an owner fi res up the engine, and if you close your eyes, listen to the simple, throaty rumble of the engine and breathe in the crisp, clear air, you’ll transport yourself back to a simpler, and dare I say, more elegant time on Lake Tahoe.

Playground for the Fit

BikeRent a mountain bike and ride the spectacular 22-mile Flume Trail high above the east side of the lake. 
Golf: Tee off at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, on Tahoe’s south shore.
Spa: Choose from the skin, water, touch and nail therapies available at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, located at the
Northstar California Ski Resort near Truckee, Calif.
Dine: Make reservations cat Zagat-rated Evan’s American Gourmet Café, in South Lake Tahoe, for excellent seafood entrées and its wine selection.
H
ike: Local favorites include hikes around the lake’s iconic Emerald Bay and up Mt. Tallac in the Desolation Wilderness. GambleThe casino at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, situated along the lake’s gorgeous northeast shore, is a scenic drive from either of Inspirato’s luxury destinations in the area.

Make Yourself at Home

Lake Tahoe Squaw Valley or Northstar at Tahoe? Members can take their pick. The 5,000-square-foot Apex Signature Residence in Squaw Valley hosts 10 guests spread between five bedrooms in a secluded mountain-side setting. At Northstar, three Inspirato Signature Residences with two- or three-bedroom options await members who want to be at the center of the ski area’s summer activities. Both locations are a scenic drive to the crystal blue waters of Lake Tahoe.

Tips from a Vacation Advisor

Where to Eat: Drive a car or rent a boat and cruise to the dock for lunch at Sunnyside Restaurant on the lake and take in one of the best views you can find in Tahoe.
D
ay Trip: The aerial tram at Squaw Valley takes you to 8,200 feet and the High Camp Pool and Spa. Take a dip, soak in the hot tub and breathe in the crisp, cool air.

Experience Aspen Like a Local

Experience Aspen Like a Local

August 1, 2019

During the year-end holidays, Aspen’s busiest week of the winter, “Campo Dave” Ellsweig works round the clock, managing Aspen’s popular Italian eatery Campo de Fiori. Tall, dark and handsome, he choreographs one of the most popular spaces in town with ease, sending plates of crispy frutti di mare to impatient patrons and decadent espresso martinis to the bar’s loyal following. Does he mind working and not skiing? Not at all. Ellsweig knows much of Aspen’s best skiing happens in March. That’s when he hikes up Highlands Bowl in a T-shirt to ski deep north-facing powder and wrap up a morning session on the slopes with a wine-saturated lunch at Aspen Highland’s mid-mountain restaurant, Cloud Nine

Back in town after lunch, he can pull up a chaise lounge at the Sky Hotel on Sunday afternoon when the poolside DJ is in full swing. Or say he decides to ski Aspen Mountain: He’ll take the slow Couch quad, ski down sun-softened bumps before joining the lift operators for a barbecue at the bottom. From there it’s a couple of steps to check out the band outside at Ajax Tavern. For dinner, there’s king crab tempura at Matsuhisa a few blocks away. Every day, Ellsweig can set out to do something different: click into alpine touring skis to skin up Aspen Mountain, Nordic ski around the town golf course or ride a fat-tire’d snow bike up the unplowed road to the Maroon Bells.

It’s springtime in Aspen and anything’s possible. No, Ellsweig doesn’t understand why anyone would go to the beach in March. There are plenty of other months perfect for sun bathing, like December. March boasts the deepest base depths of the winter and more open terrain than at any point in the season. Colorado’s snowiest month of the year intersperses spring storms that bring deep powder days with abundant sunshine that create idyllic spring snow conditions, forgiving moguls and groomed runs made for carving turns. And the atmosphere on the mountain warms with the temperatures. Groups mingle on gondola square or atop their favorite run. And the deck scenes come alive. “In spring, you don’t have to get up early in the morning to get the best tracks—the ski day starts at 10 or 11 a.m.,” says Aspen-based pro skier Chris Davenport. “It’s all about timing in the spring.” 

What Davenport means is that the snow that freezes overnight is rock hard in the early morning, perfect around midday and slushy and sticky by late afternoon. You’re looking for the daily harvest of “corn,” a granular snow surface that turns mediocre skiers into phenoms, and you’ll find it by following the sun as it warms up the snow from the southeast to southwest, lower mountain to upper mountain. And with four ski mountains—Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk—you can hunt for corn on a different mountain each day or on the same day thanks to complimentary shuttle rides between each area. 

On Aspen Mountain, Davenport recommends skiing the steep, east-facing aspen trees off the top of F.I.S. chair, known collectively as “The Dumps,” as soon as they’re warmed by the morning sunlight. “Ski a groomer like North American to test the snow and see if it’s transforming,” he says. “If your edges grip into the snow and hold a carve, take F.I.S., ski a perfect lap in The Dumps, go up the gondola and do it again.” “If it hasn’t changed,” he says, “swing into Bonnie’s mid-mountain restaurant for an oatmeal pancake.” 

At Aspen Highlands, longer days and warm sunshine motivate skiers to make the 45-minute hike up to the 12,392-foot-high top of Highland Bowl. It’s a long way to shoulder your skis, so bring a backpack or purchase a ski strap at the Aspen Highlands ski patrol shack near the start of the hike. While blustery conditions often limit summit time midwinter, March’s plentiful windless, sunny days allow hikers to linger atop longer and take in the most dramatic alpine views in the area. Depending on your skiing pleasure, you’ll ski down 1,500 vertical feet of wide-open steeps or flow through tree glades. When the sun has overcooked everything on the mountain, the Bowl’s north-facing G-Zones can still harbor good snow.

If it’s your first time skiing the bowl, hire a pro like local ski mountaineer and ski instructor Ted Mahon to find the best stashes. Beginners and kids love Buttermilk’s gentle terrain year round, but in spring, its two terrain parks soften up enough to make jump landings a little more forgiving. At Snowmass, where intermediate groomers reign, it’s hard to beat cruising any of the runs accessed from the Elk Camp chairlift on a perfect spring morning. If you’re looking for something more adventurous, head to the Sheer Bliss run and look for one of the gates leading to Hang On’s or Buckskin. Spring storms blast the high elevation terrain at Snowmass. After a storm, head to the top of the mountain to ski spring powder before the sun’s rays bake the snow. 

By March, conditions in the backcountry also grow safer and Aspen offers plenty of ways to ski beyond the resort boundary, no matter your experience level. Ride a luxury snowcat to the backside of Aspen Mountain with Aspen Mountain Powder Tours, where you’ll score fresh tracks down gentle alpine bowls with expansive views of the picturesque Elk Mountains. Aspen Expeditions’ guides lead clients to lift-accessed backcountry off all four of Aspen’s resorts. Ski wide-open intermediate terrain off Snowmass Mountain or black diamond steeps off Aspen Highlands. Take it even farther off the map and to a higher level of luxury with one of Aspen Expeditions’ Epicurean Hut Trips. Ski on alpine touring equipment to one of Aspen’s many backcountry cabins for a lavish meal prepared by a gourmet chef, sleep to the sound of a crackling fire and enjoy fresh powder the next morning after another over-the-top meal. 

After months of sitting vacant due to the freezing cold, the decks around the mountains and in town defrost and host the liveliest scenes in Aspen and some of the world’s greatest people watching. The famous two-tiered deck at Bonnie’s on Aspen Mountain should be your first stop. Grab a cup of white bean chili, a mug of warm red wine, a slice of authentic apple strudel with hand-whipped cream and take a seat in the sun to experience Aspen’s best patio atmosphere. At Aspen Highlands, Cloud Nine’s deck turns into a Euro disco. At Snowmass Village, Viceroy Snowmass offers ski-in/ ski-out sushi at Nest and a vodka bar steps from the pool. For something more posh and quintessentially Aspen, suss out the orange umbrellas of The Little Nell’s pop-up champagne bar, The Oasis, located mid-slope on Aspen Mountain. Once there, raise a glass of Veuve Clicquot and toast the fact that right here, right now, this is the best that Aspen gets. 

Aspen Year Round

Must-Try Restaurants in Aspen

Spring Café: Start your day out right with a hearty and healthy breakfast, including energy packed smoothies. Warm up with a chai latté made with their homemade nut milk.
Ajax Tavern: An Aspen icon for decades, Ajax Tavern’s open deck at the base of Aspen Mountain is a must. Order the restaurant’s famous double burger served with truffle fries and kick back as local bands offer a live soundtrack to the end of your day on the slopes.
Burlingame Cabin: Once a sheepherder’s cabin, the Burlingame is a short snowcat ride away from Snowmass Village, but thanks to its secluded location tucked among an aspen grove, it seems a world apart. The menu is decidedly cowboy with barbecue pork, fresh chili and mac and cheese served family-style. Local storytellers and musicians entertain guests throughout.
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro: Book an outside table for the last seating of the day at this mid-mountain institution at Aspen Highlands. When you book the reservation, order the raclette, a melted cheese that you can slather over baked potatoes or air-dried beef. That way it’s ready as soon as you sit down. The extensive wine list and unmatched views of the iconic Maroon Bells mountains will keep you occupied until ski patrol signals last call.  
David Burke Kitchen: The celebrity chef opened a spinoff of his eponymous New York City restaurant in downtown Aspen that features locally sourced dry-aged meats (think elk, venison, wild boar) and a seasonal menu.
Richard Brasseries & Liquor Bar/Bia Hoi Southeast Asian Street Food: A Food & Wine “Best New Chef,” Tim Goodell from Los Angeles has partnered with Related Colorado to open two new restaurants in Snowmass Village this winter. Ricard Brasserie serves classic French fare such as prime steak tartare, oysters and house-made charcuterie. Bia Hoi’s draw is an extensive drink menu that puts a Colorado spin on tropical cocktails thanks to AJAX spirits and beers from local distillers and brewers.

Aspen’s Must-Do List from a Vacation Advisor 

Shopping: Downtown Aspen is the Madison Avenue of the Rockies—and arguably the chicest shopping town between Chicago and Las Vegas— due to its cluster of upscale boutiques. Find the latest from Prada, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Ralph Lauren and more among local faves such as Goruch.
Spa: Remède Spa at the St. Regis offers customized treatments.

The Travel Gadgets You Need on Your Next Adventure

The Travel Gadgets You Need on Your Next Adventure

July 30, 2019

Advancements in technology are making travel more enjoyable by the year. Here’s a list of must-have gadgets for your next vacation that you didn’t even know you needed.

Power Ball

Take your party anywhere you go. Harmon Kardon’s Onyx ($499) is a volleyball-sized speaker that delivers a sensory tour de force. Camouflaged under its cloth-covered grill are four drivers pumping out crisp audio, backed by two, 3-inch woofers for deep base and a pair of 3/4-inch tweeters for clear high-frequency sound. Grab its stainless steel handle and move it where you want, then connect it wirelessly to the music on your iPhone or Android phone for eight hours of nonstop beats. Helping matters is the Onyx’s secret sauce, a so leather backside that adds richness to the sound—and produces a speaker that’s as much a high-end showpiece as it is a complete sound system. 

The Travel Gadgets You Need on Your Next Adventure

Immerse Yourself

Thankfully, Aëdle, maker of the premium VK-1 Headphones ($380), opted for understated elegance and luxury, not DJ bling. The on-ear cups are loaded with 40-millimeter drivers and high-end transducers made of a titanium diaphragm and neodymium magnet, wrapped in ultraso, lambskin cushions. The exterior is fashioned from brushed, aircra-grade aluminum, and the headband is formfitting liquid silicon wrapped in supple lambskin. Looks aside, the VK-1’s true beauty shines when the music’s on. Pouring out dark, velvety tones alongside crystal clear mid-range notes, these headphones are designed for music’s most discerning fans. Bonus: The VK-1’s high-quality touch extends to its audio cable; the aramid fiber-wrapped cord houses a microphone for use with a smartphone. 

The Whole Picture 

From the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to the front rows of Fashion Week, there are many places where you’ve wished you could soak in the surroundings and commit the details to memory forever. But photos, regardless of the resolution, rarely cut it—the crop of the image always cuts out the magic. But the slim RICOH Theta ($399) captures every angle by taking spherical 360-degree snaps using a pair of convex lenses on both the front and back of the device. Shoot and store up to 1,200 JPEG images with the camera, then wirelessly download your images to iOS devices via an embedded Wi-Fi transmitter, or upload files to a PC through its microUSB port, which doubles as a charger for the camera’s battery. Once the image is transferred to a Facebook, Tumbler or Twitter feed, viewers anywhere can zoom in and out, look up, down, and all around the image. Your friends and family may not be able to accompany you on your trips, but when they see your photos, they’ll feel like they were there.

Cinema Buff

Super 16 film is the stock of choice for indie and documentary filmmakers, and if you want your memories to look as good as their silver screen features, you should use it too in the form of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera ($995). Call it the digital camera answer to shooting in Super 16, albeit one that tips the scales at less than a pound thanks to a lightweight and durable magnesium alloy frame that’s, yes, small enough to fit in a front pocket. For lenses, the Pocket Cinema accepts the industry’s Micro Four Thirds lenses, allowing cinematographers to use a huge array of existing film hardware on this digital shooter. And by capturing video on SD cards, the camera makes it easy to offload clips to your laptop on the fly. No computer? The Blackmagic’s 3.5-inch screen on the camera’s rear makes it easy to see which clips will make the cut on your highlight reel

Sharp Shooter 

While the Sony DEV50 Digital Recording Binoculars ($1,999) look like something out of Star Wars, there’s no science fiction going on inside. Instead it’s stuffed with some of the most cuttingedge imaging technology on the planet. As a pair of binoculars, these lenses are capable of up to 25x magnification, making them ideal range scanners on safaribeach or mountains. But what makes them truly out of sight are two image sensors that allow these binos to shoot 20 megapixel photos, and a pair of high-speed processors that record 1080p HD video in 2-D and, incredibly, in 3-D as well. Assembling images from both the le and right lenses, the DEV-50’s 3-D movies spring to life when viewed through the lenses. A micro-HDMI output lets you move the show to HDTVs. Sony does all this while also cramming image stabilization and auto-focus into the binoculars’ splash-and-dust-resistant housing to produce a svelte 1.6-pound unit that can admirably replace your digital camera with the bulky zoom lens. 

The Best Golf Courses from Around the World

best-golf-courses-around-the-world

The Best Golf Courses from Around the World

July 30, 2019

Some of the most beautiful places in the world are golf courses. These well-manicured, natural landscapes are destinations in and of themselves. But if golfers are looking for the best places in the world to tee off, these six courses have been designed by professionals to provide the best experience possible.

Master architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. created the concept of a “heroic” hole, differentiated from “strategic” or “penal” design as something between the two. Jones defined such a hole as one that demands a heroic carry or gamble for the better player to get in position for a birdie (or eagle), but one that leaves an option for the lesser player to take the safe route. Jones’ ultimate expression of a heroic hole is his 481-yard, par-54th at Dorado Beach Resort’s East Course.  Recently given a facelift by Jones’ oldest son, Bobby, the 4th has returned to its 50-year-old glory days when Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret helped capture the 1961 Canada (now World) Cup Matches there and when Jack Nicklaus called it, “one of the 10 best holes in the world.” With a drive that flirts with a lake on the left, an approach that tangles with tall coconut palms and another lake on the right, and the Atlantic Ocean beckoning behind the green, the risk/reward 4th lives up to the hype. 

In 1960, the man developing the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Laurance S. Rockefeller (yes, of those Rockefellers) prowled the dark lava landscape he had in mind for his resort’s golf course alongside the dean of modern architecture, Robert Trent Jones Sr. As Rockefeller surveyed the cactus-flecked, desert-like terrain, he asked Jones if a golf course could be built. After some experimenting, Jones answered in the affirmative. The mudrock (volcanic stone) could be crushed and was actually quite porous. It could indeed be used as a soil base. The discovery allowed nearly a dozen courses to be built on the Kohala Coast over the next 40 years. The best of them, however, remains the original at Mauna Kea. Inspirato offers lodging within the Hualalai resort community, which possesses two of the Big Island’s best lava-lined courses and is near more oceanside fairway splendor at Mauna Lani. Still, it’s Mauna Kea, just to the north, that tops them all, partly for its rugged, hilly, 7,370- yard journey; partly for its renovated greens and deepened bunkers, the work performed in 2008 by Trent Jones’ son, Rees; but mostly for its jaw-dropping, gargantuan par-3 3rd hole. Stretching 272 yards from its tiny, isolated back tee set into 5,000-year-old black lava rock, this unparalleled one-shotter demands a career shot over crashing Pacific surf to a huge green ringed with a necklace of bunkers. Nearly 50 years ago, in December 1964, Jack Nicklaus downed top rivals Arnold Palmer and Gary Player over four rounds in the nationally televised Big Three match. Afterwards Nicklaus called Mauna Kea, “the most fun golf course I’ve ever played.” Jack, I can tell you that it’s still really fun.

Hilton Head has beckoned vacationers since 1960 or so, but it wasn’t until 1969 that it took its exalted place among golf destinations. It was all due to Harbour Town, where Jack Nicklaus, serving as co-designer with Pete Dye, made his first foray into big-time course architecture. The PGA Tour staged a November event in 1969 and both tournament and course were judged roaring successes. It didn’t hurt that another future designer, Arnold Palmer, won that first event with a hard fought, 1-under-par total. Situated 15 minutes away from Inspirato’s Hilton Head property, Harbour Town is a bewitching brew of dark lagoons, flat, narrow fairways framed by moss-festooned live oaks, tiny greens and bunkers shored with railroad ties. The emphasis here is on strategy and placement, which explains why brilliant ball strikers such as Johnny Miller, Tom Watson and Payne Stewart won here twice each and why Davis Love III owns five trophies from the Heritage Classic. To win, all of them had to survive the fabled 472-yard, par-4 18th, one of golf ’s “must-play” holes. To the left are the breeze-fueled salt marshes of Calibogue (pronounced “Cali-bogey”) Sound. To the right, trees, condos and out of bounds. In the distance looms Harbour Town’s most enduring symbol, a candy cane-striped lighthouse, along with a luxury boat-filled marina. Spring in the low country is a special time of the year, and a round at Harbour Town is a perfect a way to experience it.

Promotional hyperbole may have influenced Cabo del Sol’s designer, Jack Nicklaus, to trumpet its closing trio as “the three finest finishing holes in golf,” but after you’ve played them, it’s hard to argue with the Golden Bear. The Scottsdale-by-the-sea setting at the southern tip of Baja, within 10 miles of more than a dozen Inspirato residences, combines cactus, mountain and ocean in a delightful—and slightly surreal—package. This 1994 seaside/desert design features newly redone back-to-back par-3s along the Sea of Cortez on the front nine and the aforementioned finish that sandwiches two demanding, dramatic par-4s around the unforgettable 178-yard, par3 17th. From a clifftop tee, the 17th calls for an all-or-nothing shot over a wave-splashed sandy cove and rugged rock outcroppings, with cactus-covered hills and the turquoise-blue sea forming a compelling backdrop. A fistful of the world’s elite golfers have trod the fairways, including Hall-of-Famer Raymond Floyd, who won the PGA Tour’s Senior Slam here in 1995. Dr. Gil Morgan broke Floyd’s course record when he captured the Senior Slam in 1998, on rounds of 66-68, beating Hale Irwin by six shots. However, locals still talk about April 12, 1996, when Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino dueled in a televised Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match. With highs in March averaging 75 degrees and lows only in the 60s, frost is the last thing you’ll encounter this spring. An icy margarita might be the first though—ordered on the Courtyard Bar at the Clubhouse’s terrace overlooking the sea.

An explosion of heralded golf courses has turned the Dominican Republic from a one-trick golf pony (Casa de Campo’s wonderful Teeth of the Dog course) into a paradise of seaside links. Among the most remarkable of the recent designs is Tom Fazio’s Corales Golf Course at Punta Cana Resort & Club. The mostly private Corales course is accessible to guests of the Punta Cana Resort (including Inspirato members) and community residents, who include designers Oscar de la Renta and Bunny Williams and singer Julio Iglesias. Stylish bunkers, mature palms, scattered lakes and a closing trio of jaw-dropping holes along the sea are highlights. As superb as Corales is, the nearby Punta Espada Golf Club at Cap Cana is even more spectacular. This 2006 Jack Nicklaus design incorporates oceanfront bluffs, beaches and jungle in its memorable 7,400-yard journey through a slice of Domincan Republic teeming with wildlife, from an iguana-filled cave to the left of the first fairway to native roosters that strut around like they own the place. What most crow about, however, is Punta Espada’s 13th hole, a beautiful brute of 250 yards that plays directly over the Caribbean Sea. Mortals can utilize a short-right bailout area—but you didn’t fly this far to lay up—and neither did Fred Couples who not only conquered the 13th, but the other 17 holes as well, when he beat out Corey Pavin to win a Champions Tour event at Cap Cana in 2010. See if you can do the same.  

As iconic images in golf go, none so perfectly captures the agony of defeat as Bernhard Langer’s anguished grimace at the 1991 Ryder Cup. Amid suffocating pressure, the German star had just missed a 6-foot putt on the final green at Kiawah’s Ocean Course to hand the U.S. team victory in the fabled “War by the Shore” match. Not so glum was Rory McIlroy, who manhandled this notoriously difficult Pete Dye design at the 2012 PGA Championship, romping to an eight-shot win over the best in the world. Whether you match Rory’s final-round score of 66, or shoot 106, your emotions will likely run more to Rory-like glee, rather than Langer-like misery—purely for the setting alone. Filled with tranquil low country charm amid live oaks, wavy golden grasses and strong sea breezes, Kiawah’s Ocean course is lovely, but lethal. A blend of tidal marsh carries, scrub-topped dunes and undulating greens pair with 7,356 muscular yards to form a relentless mix of beauty and brawn. Dye’s masterpiece was the fourth course at Kiawah and was finished specifically to host the Ryder Cup. While Dye has softened the greens and their surrounds over the years, the Ocean Course remains among the toughest tests in the country. If you find yourself overwhelmed, you can always retreat to the Ryder Cup Bar at the clubhouse, overlooking the Atlantic and regroup. 

7 Things You Have to Do in Jackson Hole

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7 Things You Have to Do in Jackson Hole

July 29, 2019

Jackson Hole is a small mountain town in Wyoming that’s grown in popularity over the years. If you plan on paying this gem a visit anytime soon, here are seven recommendations from local experts for what you have to do when you’re there.

The Skier, Kit Deslauriers

When it comes to skiing firsts, DesLauriers is quite simply the best. In 2006, the two-time free-skiing champion was the first person to ski off the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on each continent, as well as dozens of other first descents around the world, including runs down the Polish Glacier on Aconcagua in South America and Mount Isto, the tallest peak in Alaska’s Brooks Range. In 2011, her big mountain exploits earned her a spot in the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame. And in between these high-altitude accomplishments she’s mom to two daughters, a lifestyle that she attributes entirely to Jackson. “Nowhere else in the Lower 48 can you challenge yourself like you can here and expose your children to the best of the outdoors at the same time.” 

Local Escape: “Ice skating over Jenny Lake or skate skiing trail creek.”

The Photographer, Jimmy Chin 

Mountain climbers who need a shooter to document their jaw-dropping ascents inevitably call Chin. The 40-year-old climber and skier originally turned to photography to pay for his global adventures that include skiing off Mount Everest, climbing the sheer wall of Pakistan’s imposing Tahir Tower, and scrambling up Yosemite’s El Capitan 15 times. As his skills improved so did his ability to capture the extreme. His breathtaking images have graced the covers of Outside, Men’s Journal, and National Geographic magazines. In 2010, he expanded to video and produced the award-winning documentary, Samsara, about his failed attempt to climb the 20,700- foot Meru Peak in India. 

Local Escape: “I love hiking up and skiing down Taylor Mountain. It’s a 3,000-vertical-foot descent in a big bowl that gets loaded with powder.”

The Snowboarder, Travis Rice  

Rice cemented his reputation as the most daring snowboarder in history thanks to a 2011 Red Bull commercial where he dropped into a steep chute, flew off a jump, and executed a triple backflip while covering half a football field in the air. “That’s what I do,” says Rice, 31. “I find geographical oddities and figure out how to ride them.” Since Rice started riding in 1995, he’s always taunted gravity. By 2002 he was an X Games gold medalist and in 2008, he co-produced and starred in the snowboarding film That’s It, That’s All, regarded by critics of the genre as the greatest action sports movie of all time. 

Local Escape: “There are amazing hot springs just outside Jackson Hole. I won’t say where but spend time searching on the computer and you’ll find them.” 

The Designer, Stephan Sullivan 

If you’ve bought a soft-shell jacket in the last 15 years, thank Sullivan. As founder of the activewear brand Cloudveil, he introduced the world to comfort and mountain-tough performance. After leaving Cloudveil, Sullivan, 48, launched Stio in 2012, which marries outdoor-sports fabrics with mountain-town style. The results are clothes with go-anywhere versatility such as weatherproof men’s blazers that stretch and a woman’s cocktail-party skirt that doubles as a running skirt. “It’s clothing you can wear climbing or skiing but also looks good at dinner that night,” he says. Reshaping people’s ideas of what their clothes can do is no easy task, which is why Sullivan retains tight control on where Stio clothes are sold: only through the company store in Jackson’s Town Square, the website, or the catalog. “We want to make sure people know that this emanates from the Jackson Hole lifestyle.” 

Local Escape: “The Wilson Ice Rink is a gem. They light it three nights a week.”

The Curator, Carrier Geraci  

In 2010, when Geraci became the town’s art coordinator, she “felt like it was our responsibility to share with the 3.5 million visitors to Jackson Hole each year, our deep appreciation for the natural world.” Since then the 45-year-old has curated projects such as “Sky Play,” a flock of steel ravens on a concrete wall along Highway 89, and “Strands,” a stained-glass installation at the Home Ranch Welcome Center that depicts the DNA fingerprints of bison and grizzly bear, indigenous animals to the area. “My goal,” she says, “is that the art not only tells a story about the area’s past, but also about today and the future so that we have responsible stewards protecting one of the last great natural ecosystems.”

Local Escape: “Hiking to the top of glory bowl and skiing down. Then going into town for margaritas at Picas or a glass of wine at bin 22.” 

The Architect, Stephen Dynia, 

When New York City Architect Stephen Dynia arrived in 1993, local style could best be described as log-cabin chic. Fast forward 20 years, and Dynia, 57, has reshaped mountain architecture, introducing flat roofs, exposed steel, and “lots and lots” of glass. His hallmark building, the Center for the Arts’ performance hall, features a 500-seat theater with a wall of glass that looks out on Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, a detail that Dynia calls a “storefront to the community.” His work has also attracted national acclaim: This year the American Institute of Architects awarded him a fellowship, their highest honor, in recognition of his signature aesthetic. “My objective,” he says, “is to make sure people are able to experience the light and nature of their surroundings.” 

Local Escape: “The heated out – door pool at the Amangani Resort is fabulous.”

The Writer, Alexandra Fuller

Fuller moved to Jackson from Central Africa in her mid-20s always knowing she wanted to be a writer. To make that dream a reality, she would roll out of bed at 4 a.m., before work as a river guide or waitress, or waking up her children, and write about the things she knew: growing up during civil war in Central Africa, learning to load an Uzi machine gun as a child, and losing three siblings. Those experiences turned into 2001’s “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight,” a New York Times Notable Book for 2002. Three more books followed including The Legend of Colton H. Bryant, about the hardscrabble life of a boy growing up in Wyoming’s oil fields. The 44-year-old continues to write almost every day. 

Local Escape: “I love the cross country skiing up and down cache creek. You can hear the snow settle, it’s so quiet.”

Why Heli-Skiing in Telluride Should Be Your Next Adventure​

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Why Heli-Skiing in Telluride Should Be Your Next Adventure

July 29, 2019

While dining on breakfast in your sprawling mountain lodge or spacious suite in Telluride’s mountain village, you hear the telltale whup-whup-whup of a copter’s rotor blades throbbing through the mountain air. Seconds later, the graceful Bell 407 alights right outside the mountain village, a short drive or walk from your breakfast table.

Telluride Helitrax, founded in 1982, was the only heli-ski operation in the state till 2008, and remains one of the only spots in the continental U.S. where a helicopter picks up guests right outside the town’s luxury resorts and homes. Savor it. This doesn’t happen in Vail or Aspen. When you climb into that Bell 407, prepare to kiss your sense of detachment good-bye. The second your Plexiglas bubble lifts off the deck, you’ll love heli-skiing. And you’ll love it even more once the turns begin.

Telluride Helitrax not only accesses fresh, untracked mountainsides; it reaches some of the highest ski terrain on the continent, 10,000 to 13,500 feet above sea level. Its permit area encompasses more than 200 square miles of high alpine basins, cirques, and summits surrounding Telluride to the north, south and east. Almost all the terrain is above tree line, allowing effortless, wide open turns down unobstructed slopes.

Because contemporary powder skis turn intermediates into experts and experts into skiing gods, you don’t need elite skills to enjoy Helitrax. You simply need to be, as the company puts it, “an advanced intermediate or above, with a sense of adventure and in reasonable physical condition.” While the slopes are ungroomed, they fall at moderate angles, resembling a double blue or single black run at Telluride Ski Resort. So relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the San Juan Mountains, Colorado’s closest resemblance to the Swiss Alps, including views of iconic Wilson Peak, which might seem familiar: It’s the perfect pyramid one sees on the label of Coors beer.

The view from the copter is fantastic, but once you touch down on a remote ridgeline with thousands of untracked powder below you, the real fun begins. Leading the way is a high-altitude, all-star roster of guides. There’s Joe Shults, who’s spent 30 years in the Telluride area working as a professional ski patroller, snow safety director, and heli-ski guide. There’s Matt Steen, who recently worked as an avalanche forecaster for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. And let’s not forget Angela Hawse, one of only eight women in America to attain the prestigious certification from the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association. Rounding out the crew is Brian “Speed” Miller, who co-founded Helitrax back in ’82 and is renowned as the area’s consummate avalanche forecaster. As Hawse says, “Most heli-ski guides are the best in the industry because it’s such a sought after job.”

At the landing zone, you step out onto what feels like the top of the world, the guide grabs your skis and waves off the helicopter. Once it’s gone, the peak becomes startlingly quiet and pristine. You click into your bindings, then shoot down virgin fluff to the lower landing zone where the copter will meet your group. The guide will normally go first, asking you to stay either left or right of his track, yet the snow you ski will be fresh, unmarred by other human beings. You’ll make as many turns as you like, but feel free to fly straight down. The sensation of high speed without friction is mind-altering, bucket-list stuff. When you reach the bottom, you’ll be grinning madly and fired up to do it all over again. Helitrax normally provides skiers with six runs a day, which usually translates into 10,000 to 14,000 vertical feet of descent. In contrast to the massive helicopters of British Columbia operations, Helitrax’s Bell 407 limits the experience to a small, agile group of four close friends or family plus the guide. Translation: no waiting for strangers. You’ll spend the non-skiing time shooting photos, eating snacks and lunch (included), and raving about the turns and scenery.

Expert skiers can choose to take it up a notch. If enough talented people can form a suitable group, Helitrax will fly them to test pieces such as Upper Waterfall, a wide-open, undulating roller coaster of a run that funnels into five little couloirs known as the Waterfall Chutes. Or, better yet, Sheep Chute. Lacing its way between imposing walls of rock, Sheep Chute pinches down to a width of 30 feet before opening to a more manageable, less claustrophobic 70 feet. The entire chute falls steeply (40 degrees) for 1,500 exhilarating vertical feet. Ski that, and no one will doubt your abilities anywhere.

 Such options argue favorably for heli-skiing the Lower 48. Sure, British Columbia is where the sport was invented, and its mammoth operations are ever impressive. But their heli-ski lodges are incredibly isolated, with no charming Victorian town like Telluride to see or visit. They may serve incredible food, and offer downtime yoga, but you always know the nightlife highlight will be more cribbage games with the boys. Alaska can be even more trying. The finest Alaskan skiing happens out of Valdez, a dreary sea-level oil town. Because Valdez receives maritime weather (as opposed to Telluride’s continental systems), gray clouds can cancel flying for days, even weeks, at a time. As such, there’s a name for the misery that envelops a soul when dreams of the perfect ski trip wither away under day after day of low ceilings: Valdisease

 But at Telluride, there is no chance of Valdisease; your flight home ends right at the mountain village, where you can walk back to your room (or drive back to your house), freshen up, and then meet your family for dinner, maybe pointing out the window at the remote high alpine mountains that you skied today, carving lines no one else at the table—or the restaurant for that matter—could.

The Intersection of Nature and Luxury in the Galapagos

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The Intersection of Nature and Luxury in the Galapagos

July 25, 2019

The sleeping baby sea lion doesn’t budge as I take its picture, although its mother raises a wary eye. A pair of blue-footed boobies shelter their newborn as I pass and, farther down the path, I give a wide berth to bull sea lions fighting for dominance. Welcome to the Galapagos Islands—where up-close encounters with an amazing array of wildlife are a daily occurrence.  

Undersea volcanoes formed this isolated string of islands some 600 miles west of Ecuador. Temperatures rarely vary, given that the Galapagos are situated on the equator. The nutrient-rich Humboldt current that flows north from Antarctica during the summer and fall and the warmer Panama current that dominates the climate through May converge here, creating the conditions that support one of the world’s most diverse and unique ecosystems.

The Galapagos are a photographer’s paradise. Made up of 13 major islands, 17 smaller ones and some 40 massive rocks that jut out like garden sculptures from the water, these islands and the surrounding sea are home to some 9,000 animal species. Birds, lizards and sea lions display no fear as humans walk among them. You might see pink flamingos and penguins in the same day, spot fleet-footed Sally Lightfoot crabs scurrying across the sand and male frigate birds that puff up their red breasts to attract females. And of course there are the islands’ famous giant tortoises, the world’s largest. It’s no wonder the Galapagos are a UNESCO World Heritage Site designated as a unique “living museum and showcase of evolution.” 

Visiting the Galapagos, you’ll wonder why no country claimed them for centuries. In 1535, the Bishop of Panama described the landscape as “worthless, because it has not the power of raising a little grass, but only some thistles.” Spain later claimed the islands that, over time, were home to privateers and whalers. Finally, no one raised any real objections when Ecuador laid claim to the archipelago in 1832. 

Not long after that, in 1835, Charles Darwin famously visited here and, though he only went ashore four islands for a total of 19 days, the rich samples he collected formed the heart of his theory of evolution. Most visitors today still visit the Galapagos by boat, albeit with far more conveniences and amenities than Darwin ever imagined. The Ecuadorian government created the Galapagos National Park in 1959, and later added the Galapagos Marine Reserve, to avoid overcrowding and overuse. Cruise ships are given permits to visit specific islands and limit the number of people who can go ashore to 11 guests and one naturalist guide. Every ship’s itinerary is designed to reveal a mix of islands, animals and marine life, but larger islands such as Santa Cruz are on almost every ship’s itinerary. 

While sailing between islands, you’ll pass smoking volcanoes and watch frigatebirds—sailors call them “pirates” of the sea—dive-bomb to steal fish plucked from the sea by other birds. After a day visiting the islands, you can relax on the deck and watch dolphins and whales cruise by the ship. For adults and children who love animals or just have a zest for learning, the Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s best open-air classrooms. After returning home, many visitors describe their Galapagos cruise as one of the top trips of their lifetime. 

Santa Cruz 

The fishing boats are in on Santa Cruz. A knife slashes through a freshly caught fish, cutting off a fillet for the evening meal while a pelican waddles down the gangplank and tumbles into a fishing boat in search of fish scraps. You wander through the fish market on Puerto Ayora’s waterfront, dine in local restaurants, and shop in stalls filled with souvenirs, clothing and swim gear. The village is also home to the Darwin Research Center, where scientists and volunteers conduct research and offer environmental education that encourages conservation. Santa Cruz is a must-stop on the cruise circuit; travelers come to learn about the islands, Darwin’s research and to see Diego, a centenarian giant tortoise from Española who has sired dozens of offspring. An island tour also may include a trip into the island’s interior, where giant tortoises wander freely in the native grasses and lumber past the guayabillo and pega pega trees. So few giant tortoises and turtles are left because their meat was a major part of the diet for pirates, whalers and early residents.

Bartolomé

On a Barren Spit of Land Called Bartolomé, you can hike to the tip of a volcanic cone that offers a panoramic view that includes Pinnacle Rock, which U.S. airmen used for target practice during WWII, as well as nearby Santiago and other islands in the distance. Walking up, you pass lava rocks in red, orange and green hues. The black lava is so slick you can almost see your face in it. If you sunbathe on the crescent beaches near Pinnacle Rock, you may share the sand with sea lions. Bartolomé is the mating and nesting site for the green sea turtles between November and January.

Española

Step on Española’s shore and look around the black lava rocks for Christmas iguanas, so nicknamed because their skin takes on a blotchy, reddish tint during mating season. As you walk toward the island’s steep cliffs, don’t be surprised if a brazen hood mockingbird lands on your shoulders in search of food. The blue-footed boobies, with their black faces rimmed in white feathers, might remind you of a mime. When the waved albatross run toward the cliff and leap off, don’t hold your breath wondering if the birds are going to fall into the ocean. It’s just the way these large birds start their flights. Native to Española, the waved albatross abandon the island from January to March, returning in April for the nesting season. 

Rabida Island

The pink flamingos feeding in the saltwater lagoon on Rabida Island ignore you as they feed on the tiny shrimp larvae that give these birds their color. Rabida is a multicolored island, with a maroon-tinted beach and scarlet cliffs courtesy of the lava that once spewed from a volcano’s spatter cones. High on the cliff, blue-footed and Nazca boobies nest in the cracks in the rocks. While snorkeling, you might see a baby sea lion toss a sea cucumber around just like a youngster throwing a rubber ball up then catching it. You might even see manta rays and sharks.

Isabela Island

Seahorse-shaped Isabela Island was formed by the merging of six volcanoes, some of which are still active. When cruising past, watch for fumaroles, or steam vents, rising from the Volcan Chico area on the Sierra Negra volcano. Although there are four permanent settlements on Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago, cruises often stop at one of the secluded coves and beaches. Isabela is a birder’s paradise: Keep an eye out for flightless cormorants, mangrove finches, Galapagos hawks and blue herons, and look for Galapagos penguins bobbing in the water as you kayak through a quiet cove.

Fernandina

At 700,000 years old, Fernandina is the youngest island in the archipelago. One of the calderas on an active volcano blew in 2009 and created pyrotechnic images for people cruising by the island. When you get off the zodiac that ferries you from the cruise ship to shore, step onto the rocks carefully so you don’t hurt those scarlet and yellow Sally Lightfoot crabs scurrying by your feet. Look at the tiny lizard sunbathing as it sleeps on the head of a motionless iguana. In the water, hungry iguanas are swimming, heads bobbing underneath as they find food in the water. With bodies that don’t hold heat well, these marine animals huddle together on the rocks to soak up sun. As you follow a path going higher on the island, your naturalist guide points out the cactus growing in cracks between the pile of lava rocks. Look at the flightless cormorants, birds endemic to Fernandina and Isabela. These birds with scruffy-looking tiny wings can no longer fly, but they’re stellar at swimming and diving for prey.

The Three Best Golf Courses in Hawaii

The Three Best Golf Courses in Hawaii

July 19, 2019

It’s not an overstatement to claim that playing Wailea’s golf courses, all clustered within a 2-mile stretch on Maui’s southwestern shore, is a benchmark experience for mainland golfers. Few places boast as many sweeping ocean vistas from nearly every hole, well-conditioned courses, challenging layouts from highly acclaimed course architects and top-notch service. Not to mention the perfect year-round weather that graces this southwest region of the island. These three standouts exemplify Wailea’s best. 

Old Blue Course

Wailea Golf Club’s Old Blue course is perpetually rated among the most enjoyable on all of Maui, and packs as much vivid scenery and as many wide-open fairways as anyplace you’ll play golf. From its relatively easy, straightaway par-4 first hole traversing toward the ocean to its expansive back nine fairways, Old Blue is an ideal first course to play during your vacation, especially if you’re still in a travel fog or your game is rusty. This 40-year-old gem was designed by Arthur Jack Snyder, who has a reputation for maximizing fun without taking away the challenge of a good design. Holes are forgiving, and you’ll often find your ball rolling back toward the fairway—whether your shots veer right or left. The large greens roll true and are perpetually in terrific condition.

That said, Old Blue is no cakewalk. The afternoon breezes can be brisk, making the open fairways seem like wind tunnels. There are also plenty of bunkers—many of them greenside—but the fluffy sand makes for relatively easy bunker shots. Greens hold the ball well, but beware of the optical illusions: Locals say that all putts break toward the ocean and move faster in that direction, despite how they might appear. You’ll swear that some putts break uphill. 

The front nine feature continual rolling undulations along the fairways and greens, with some uphill tee shots and downhill approaches—many with mesmerizing ocean views. Holes six and seven each have a fairway tree that challenges your drives, particularly if you draw the ball on the tee shot. Speaking of trees, the back nine fairways are nearly all tree-lined. And because this side can be more susceptible to wind, the trees become much more reachable. In fact, the wind can stump even the most-seasoned golfers who may often think that every hole plays into the breeze. No doubt, if you want to play a gorgeous, well-rounded course on Maui with magnificent views from most holes, Old Blue is a must.  

Many of Wailea’s courses offer stunning ocean views, and while the scenery is a major bonus when playing here, the steady offshore breezes—particularly in the afternoons—can pose a challenge to golfers unaccustomed to playing in the wind. Rather than adjust your swing, however, the trick is to “treat the wind as a friend, not as a foe,” says Eddie Lee, a PGA Teaching Professional with the David Leadbetter Academy at Wailea and two-time Aloha Section Teacher of the Year. Lee offers these tips for making the most of Wailea’s breeze. 

Makena Beach & Golf Resort 

The south course at Makena Beach & Golf Resort is among the most challenging on Maui, with narrow fairways and plenty of hazards. It’s a well-rounded course, however, and offers plenty of rewards for golfers who take the risk. 

Another unique jewel designed by Jones, this is a phenomenal 6,914-yard test that can be difficult. There are hills, hazards, tough hole designs and less-than-forgiving terrain that force you to think through every shot before you swing, or you’ll suffer the consequences. Fairways are relatively narrow and are bordered by mature trees—which means they can snag inaccurate shots— and regardless of which tee box you drive from, you will hit traps if you’re not careful with direction and distance. with direction and distance. Aside from the varied distances from one set of tees to the next, you’ll also find the angles of your tee shots, the elevations and the direction to the hole to be completely different, offering a unique playing experience from each tee. Course highlights include the 12th hole, a 185-yarder over a canyon and toward the deep blue Pacific that is, perhaps, the prettiest par-3 in the state. Then there’s the 620-yard, par-5 14th hole that descends 200-plus feet and also plays toward the ocean. The generous greens are not as enormous as those at Old Blue or the Emerald, but they roll perfectly true, smooth and fair. Beyond all the challenges this course presents, you’ll walk away feeling sufficiently tested and with lingering impressions of the dramatic ocean views.

Wind In a cross-breeze situation where the wind is blowing from left to right, open up your shoulder slightly and position your toe-line, in relation to your hips and shoulders, slightly left of the intended target line. Take dead aim at the target with your club face, and your body will naturally align in that direction. “That’s the key,” Lee says. “Aim with the club face, not your body.”

The opposite is true in this case. Keep your toe-line aligned slightly right of the intended target, aiming your club face directly at the target.

Downwind shots offer a tempting situation—when else can you hit a Tourworthy drive? But beware of overpowering your swing. A general tip: “When it’s breezy, swing easy,” says Lee. The wind will flatten the launch angle and your ball will go out, not up. It’s also a good idea to select one club down from what you’d normally use at the given distance. In Hawaii, says Lee, every 10 mph of wind generally equates to a one-club adjustment.

Headwind shots generate drag, which sends the ball upward. To avoid losing yardage, play your ball position from your normal setup, widen your stance and focus on maintaining rhythm and balance on your backswing. Your downswing is the key. Slightly arch and raise your left wrist bone so that your hands lead the clubhead, and keep the clubhead low to the ground through the hitting zone (approximately 10 inches before and 10 inches after you hit the ball), which will send the ball on a lower trajectory with less curve.

Emerald Course

Your next stop should be one of Old Blue’s two sibling layouts. The nearby 6,825-yard Emerald Course is an outstanding Robert Trent Jones Jr. design and plays in the same fun spirit as Old Blue— but with a bit more of a bite. Jones’s self-described mission at the Emerald, which opened in 1994, was to make it up to “24-karat gold” standard. Mission accomplished! The fairways are narrower than Old Blue’s, the greens are large and the pace of play is nice and breezy. There are ocean views from every hole, which often compete for your attention when you’re trying to make quality swings at the ball. In fact, many shots seem to play longer than they appear on the Emerald because of these expansive views. But fear not, the fairways slope toward the middle, coercing mishits safely into the short grass. Texas Wedgers will rejoice in the well-manicured fairways that practically goad them to putt from far off the green, as the aprons roll just as smoothly.

As an added touch of generosity by Jones, many of the tee boxes are elevated so that drives travel downhill and pick up some added distance. Bunker sand is even softer than Old Blue’s, making for fairly predictable play. Greens hold well, too, so you needn’t worry about shots bouncing and rolling well beyond their landing points. Emerald also boasts Maui’s only double green, which serves holes 10 and 17. A greenside lake can also come into play on both holes. As is the case at many resort courses, Jones made the 18th hole relatively easy—in this case a par-5—to allow golfers to end their round on a high note. 

There are ocean views from every hole, which often compete for your attention…. In fact, many shots seem to play longer than they appear on the Emerald because of these expansive views.