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The spirit of aloha

Setting: Maui is second-largest of the six settled Hawaiian islands, and its county boundary embraces two neighboring islands, Lanai and Molokai. Maui itself covers 728 square miles, displaying volcanic mountains, cascading waterfalls, verdant valleys, tropical rain forests, pastures and ranches, consistently top-ranked beaches, pristine bays, and otherworldly lava rock. Only six main roads, mostly two-lane, cross and encircle the island.

Attractions: People are drawn to the aloha spirit, ethnic diversity, and a live-and-let-live attitude that tolerates wide-ranging lifestyles. The art scene is vibrant, and the island boasts Seabury Hall, one of the top college-prep schools in the United States. Entrepreneurialism is encouraged.

Drawbacks: Conflict among development, environmental, and indigenous Hawaiian interests affects housing options, local politics, and, sometimes, friendships. Maui's few roads mean traffic tie-ups are common. With the decline of once-thriving sugar and pineapple industries, job-changers will find little outside of service work that supports tourism. Starry-eyed vacationers often move here without enough research; 79 percent leave within 16 months, according to the chamber of commerce.

Housing Options: Five regions dominate, with contrasting climates and ways of life: West Maui, South Maui, Central Maui, Upcountry, and East Maui. Newcomers may want to rent in two or three locations to check out the best fit.

Your Next-door Neighbors: In the traditional Hawaiian way, three generations of family may occupy a single house. Living side by side may be a retired heart surgeon from the mainland, a deli shop owner, a travel guide, a waiter, and a windsurfing-equipment heir. Many artists, designers, writers, and, increasingly, technology wizards work from their homes.

What It Costs: There's a "paradise tax" when enjoying life thousands of miles from industrial manufacturing. According to the chamber of commerce, it takes 30 percent more income on Maui to duplicate a mainland lifestyle. A two-bedroom Kihei Village condo might run $124,900, while a six-bedroom Lahaina beachfront can tally $4.5million. In between, $200,000 can buy a Makawao fixer-upper.

Where You'd Spend Free Time: Kitesurfing; snorkeling in La Perouse Bay; hiking on magnificent trails winding through the island, especially in Haleakala Crater and the Iao Valley; mountain biking or horseback riding through lava tubes.

(published 2002)

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