Lucy Pemoni  /  Reuters file
Olivia Baker, 8, of Portland, Oregon, watches a shark along with large reef fish in the 750,000 gallon tank in the open ocean exhibit at the Maui Ocean Center, home of the largest tropical reef aquarium in the United States.
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Special to msnbc.com
updated 3/5/2007 12:33:13 PM ET 2007-03-05T17:33:13

When he was a young man of 31, the then-reporter Mark Twain was sent on assignment to Hawaii. Maui, in particular, captured his fancy. “I went to Maui to stay a week and remained five,” Twain wrote, “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.” Funny, how little things change. Today, Maui still has the power to powerfully distract the visitor. You’ll see what we mean on the following itinerary.

7 a.m. - 8 a.m.: When you’re on the highway looking for grub, follow the truckers. At the beach, you should go where the surfers go, and when on Maui that will lead you to the Maui Sunrise Café . A simple little place with an inviting deck, it serves up humongous, satisfying breakfasts. If you want to indulge, order up a stack of chocolate buttermilk brownies (topped with chocolate mint sauce!) or a sunrise platter heaped high with eggs and Portuguese sausage.

8 a.m. - noon: Sail to Molokini Island , arguably Hawaii’s finest snorkeling/scuba diving spot. An extinct volcano, its crescent-moon-shaped off-shore crater creates a barrier for waves and powerful currents and thus a haven for reef-dwelling fish. In fact, you’ll see up to 250 species here, in all the colors of the rainbow, some of which can be seen nowhere else in the world.

Morning Alternative
Stop by the Baldwin Home Museum and pick up a copy of the “Lahaina O Moolelo”, a free walking tour that will guide you through the section of Lahaina once inhabited by missionaries and whalers. After touring the Baldwin Home Museum (which boasts the oldest western-style structure on the island), hop from place to place. There are 30 stops on this tour, but we’d say concentrate on the Wo Hing Temple built by the once-abundant Chinese population on the island (most moved to Oahu), the Seamen’s Cemetery , the couch-like Hauola Stone (which was used as a birthing place for native Hawaiians) and the sprawling Old Prison .

Noon - 1 p.m.: Grab a quick bite at Maui Tacos , Hawaiian super-chef Mark Ellman’s foray into Mexican food. Using only organic, locally grown ingredients. Ellman serves up the freshest, tastiest fish taco you’ve ever munched.

1:30 p.m. - 7:30: Hop in your car and take a leisurely drive to the House of the Sun, better known now as Haleakala . Some visitors wake up before the roosters and rush up to the summit to see the sunrise, but with 100-mile panoramic views, sunsets are just as sublime. Along the way, be sure to get out at Hosmer Grove and do the nature walk through the forest there, and Leleiwi Overlook, where you’ll get your first glimpse of this volcanic mountain’s giant crater (3300 feet deep and 22 miles around). Sometimes at the overlook an odd optical illusion occurs called the “Brocken Specter”. As you gaze down, you see a reflection of yourself in the clouds of the crater, surrounded by rainbows. If you get to the top early enough, you could even take a bit of a hike down into the crater. But come prepared with proper walking shoes, plenty of water, and a jacket, as it can get chilly up here.

Afternoon/early evening alternative
Hit the beach. Maui has some of the most spectacular ones in the world, including Napili Beach, a perfect crescent of talcum-powder white sand, protected by reefs. After you’ve had enough of the sun, head back into town for Ulalena , a dazzling, lavish stage show that sweeps through 1500 years of Hawaiian history. Not a word is spoken during the show; instead the story is told with a Cirque du Soleil-like mélange of acrobats, dancers, musicians and jaw-dropping theatrical effects (the director used to be part of the Cirque organization).

8:30-10:30: Somehow, seafood tastes even fresher when you’re eating it right on the beach. That’s certainly the case at Pacific’O , where the gourmet Pacific Rim food—which primarily uses fish caught locally the day it hits your plate-- is as spectacular as the setting.

10:30 p.m. - on … Bar hop on Front Street in Lahaina, which is lined with happening dance clubs, live music venues and saloons.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommerguides in bookstores now. Her book, Pauline Frommer's New York, was named Best Guidebook of the Year by the North American Travel Journalists Association.

Maui Sunrise Café, 693A Front Street, Lahaina, phone 808/661-8558.

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There are a number of companies that run scuba and snorkeling tours to Molokini. Look at the offerings of the following: Aloha Blue Charters (www.alohabluecharters.com/), Friendly Charters (www.mauisnorkeling.com/) or Trilogy (www.sailtrilogy.com/)

Baldwin Home Museum, 120 Dickenson St at Front St, phone 808/661-3262; www.lahainarestoration.org. Open daily 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Admission $3 adults, $2 seniors, $5 family.

Wo Hing Temple, on Front Street between Wahie Lane and Papalaua St., phone 808/661-3262. Open daily 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Donations requested

Seaman’s Cemeteryis located on Wainee Street

The Hauola Stone can be hard to find, so follow the map carefully. You’ll see it when you look over the sea wall.

The Old Prisontakes up an entire block on, you guessed it, Prison Street.

Maui Tacos in Lahaina Square, phone 808/661-8883.

To get to Haleakala National Parktake Highway 37 to Highway 377 to Highway 378. Before you head their, it’s a good idea to call 808/572-4400 to get the weather conditions at the summit (sometimes it can be cloudy and rainy). For more information, go to www.nps.gov/hale

Ulalena plays Tuesday through Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Prices range from $29.50 to $69.50. Go to www.ulalena.com/ for more information or call 877/688-4800 or 808/ 661-9913.

Pacific’O Restaurant, 505 Front Street in Lahaina, phone 808/667-4341; www.pacificomaui.com

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommerguides in bookstores now. Her book, Pauline Frommer's New York, was named Best Guidebook of the Year by the North American Travel Journalists Association.

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