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Maui's Natural Side

At 31, vegan chef and environmentalist Renee Loux has already crafted an enviable resume. She owned her own raw foods restaurant, prepared meals for numerous celebrity friends such as Woody Harrelson and the Dalai Lama, created a TV pilot (It's Easy Being Green), and is currently penning the eco-interior design guide "Green Home Basics," due out in 2008. A dozen years ago, this powerhouse asked herself: If I could live anywhere, where would it be? Somehow, she knew Maui was home. And why not? With just over 100,000 residents, Maui possesses miles of deserted beaches and mountains carpeted with a thousand shades of green.

"You could never discover everything about this island even if you spent your life trying," she says. To give you a head start, Loux shares her insider secrets to the healthy, holistic side of the Valley Isle.

Stay
Situated at the end of the verdant Hana Highway, the Hotel HaNa Maui is perhaps the most isolated and elegant property in the state. The spa has bamboo floors and uses chemical- and preservative-free products, while the main restaurant prepares Pacific Rim cuisine with locally grown produce and freshly caught fish. hotelhanamaui.com

The cottages at the Inn at Mama's Fish House, located on Maui's laid-back North Shore, come complete with hammock, barbecue, rattan furniture, and pictures of old Hawaii. Leave your windows open and bask in two distinctly sensual pleasures: the sounds of the sea and the smell of the salty air. mamasfishhouse.com

Eat
Loux swears by Mana Foods, a market and bakery in Paia. Pack a picnic of freshly prepared coconut shrimp, Thai chili tofu, or vegan pumpkin pie before heading out to nearby Ho'okipa beach for a day of windsurfing. manafoodsmaui.com

"I'd drive halfway around the island for Mala Ocean Tavern's Ali'i Mushrooms, which they grill with a little olive oil and Hawaiian salt," Loux says. She recommends grabbing a seat on the covered lanai overlooking Mala Bay at sunset to watch the endangered Green Sea turtles at play. malaoceantavern.com

Play
One of Loux's favorite island activities? Taking the easy mile hike to the spring-fed Twin Falls off Route 36 in Huelo. On the way in, she stops at Twin Falls Fruit Stand to pick up a glass of freshly squeezed cane juice with a touch of ginger. "It's delicious and you can't find it anywhere else on the island," she says.

"The water is a shade of blue that's impossible to explain," says Loux about La Perouse Bay, just south of Makena State Park. Despite its abundance of coral heads, tropical fish, and pods of spinner dolphins, La Perouse remains off the tourist radar, especially in the mornings, when the water is also at its clearest. Rent gear at Snorkel Bob's in nearby South Kihei. snorkelbob.com

In their off-the-grid, cedar-planked Maya Yoga studio in Huelo, Eddie Modestini and Nicki Doane offer a blend of Iyengar and Ashtanga that's "the finest I've experienced in my 14 years of practicing," says Loux. yogaonmaui.com

At the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului, Loux enjoys listening to raging ukulele or slack key guitar on a palm-tree-studded outdoor stage. mauiarts.org

Countless people make the drive up 10,000 feet to Mount Haleakala, considered a place with intense mana, or spiritual power. What many miss on the way down is Ali'i Kula Lavender, a farm that grows more than 45 varieties of the aromatic herb. Be sure to swing by the gift shop, where you can buy all things lavender from herb-infused coffee and vinegar to hand sanitizer. aliikulalavender.com

Shop
In the old cowboy town Makawao, Holiday & Co. displays a vast selection of organic cotton and bamboo. Owner Isabelle Buell scouts locally made products like silk sarongs, buys mostly from fair trade companies, and packages all her goods in recyclable bags.

Drive
With the tagline "Give the planet a vacation the next time you take one," Bio-Beetle rents cars powered solely by biodiesel. bio-beetle.com

Text by Malia Boyd

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