Maui: Boasting the Attractions

Maui's ever-expanding roster of activities and attractions will get a boost next month with the much-anticipated debut of the $20 million Maui Ocean Center. Located in the center of the island, at Maalaea Harbor Village, the new attraction will boast 40 exhibit tanks and an enormous 750,000-gallon open ocean tank, the largest aquarium in Hawaii.

Visitors will be able to walk through a transparent acrylic tunnel in the center of the huge tank, enjoying a 240-degree closer look at Hawaii's spectacular marine creatures.

Other highlights include the Whale Discovery Center, with lifesize models of a humpback whale calf as well as interactive displays of special interest to children, and four outdoor pools, including a turtle pool filled with indigenous sea turtles; a surge pool with waves crashing against a reef; the touch pool, housing a variety of marine life, and the ray pool, containing a raised platform from which visitors can enjoy the antics of spotted eagle rays.

Maui Ocean Center Visitor Information:
Admission: $17 for adults; $12 for children three to fourteen (free for children under three). Special group rates available on request.

Hours: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., including holidays. Hours may be extended in the summer.

Travel Times to Key Locations: Airport, 20 minutes; Kihei, 20 minutes; Wailea, 30 minutes; Lahaina, 20 minutes; Kaanapali, 30 minutes.

Transportation: Shuttle transportation from south and west Maui resort areas will be available for an additional charge.

Food and Beverages: The Seascape Cafe and Bar will serve Pacific Rim/California cuisine in three oceanview pavilions, while the Reef Cafe on the upper plaza will provide light lunches.

Special Events: Private functions for up to 1,200 people can be arranged during the sunset and evening hours.

For more information contact the Maui Ocean Center, 2439 S. Kihei Road, Suite 206A, Kihei, Hawaii 96753; (808) 875-1962; fax (808) 874-5963; Web site www.coralworld.com/moc.

Another new attraction recently made its debut at one of Maui's popular existing attractions, the Hawaii Nature Center at Iao Valley. The center unveiled an Interactive Science Arcade featuring more than 30 exhibits dedicated to teaching adults and children about Hawaii's natural history.

While here, visitors should also be sure to take some time to soak up the glorious landscapes and lush greenery of Iao Valley State Park and to stop at the area's most famous sight, the 1,200-foot high "needle," actually a towering stone structure that soars high above its picturesque surroundings. For more information, call the Hawaii Nature Center at (808) 244-6500.

There's good news for Maui-bound shoppers. The Whalers Village in Kaanapali recently unveiled new Versace, Prada and Loewe boutiques and expanded the Louis Vuitton and Gucci shops. To make shopping more convenient for visitors, the Maui Shopping Express recently launched a new service, offering free transportation between Whalers Village and the resort areas of south Maui.

In other news, the Wailea Shopping Village recently launched one-hour hula shows at 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and the Wailea Golf Club's Blue Course added a warm-up and teaching area and expanded its putting greens.

On the island of Molokai, the Molokai Ranch, one of the state's most popular attractions, recently opened its third campsite, the oceanside Kaupoa Camp. The new camp's 40 two-unit "tenatalows" are similar to the comfortable bungalow-type overnight accommodations at the facility's Paniolo Camp.

Another existing campsite, the Kolo Camp, offers accommodations in yurts -- circular tents on wooden platforms with canvas siding and roof, French doors and skylight.

The Molokai Ranch is also maintaining its all-inclusive 1997 rates for 1998.

Nightly camping rates are from $185 per person at Paniolo Camp, $215 at Kolo Camp and $245 at Kaupoa Camp. For children from four to 12, rates are $75 per day.

Rates include three meals; a stocked snack cooler; transportation on the ranch and airport-ranch transfers; all tips and taxes and a choice of daily activities.

There is an additional charge for horseback riding, except when guests book three nights at the regular rate. In this case, a day of horseback riding, valued at $125 per person, is included (when five nights are booked, two days of horseback riding are included).

In related news, the Molokai Ranch closed its Wildlife Conservation Park. For information and reservations, call the Molokai Ranch at (800) 254-8871.

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