Traveling to Maui, Hawaii, but not hitting the road to Hana in your motorcoach? Here are two tropical attractions you won’t want to miss on the Valley Isle, Hawaii’s second-largest island. Although the difference between the two is night (Cirque Polynesia) and day (Maui Ocean Center), they share a common bond in their love of Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures.
RVer Cornell “Tuffy” Nicholas grew up in a circus family in Sarasota, Fla. His father, Count, was a world-renowned ringmaster with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus and his mother, also with Ringling Bros., was a bear trainer.
Nicholas – who has more than three decades of experience as a promoter and producer of live entertainment productions including circuses, concerts and sporting events – brought a unique show to Maui in 2009.
Cirque Polynesia blends elements of the circus, Vegas, Cirque du Soleil and luau into one fast-paced, death-defying, humorous and highly entertaining production.
Nicholas, who has been the producer and show manager for the Moscow State Circus and the Moscow International Circus, previously produced Cirque Hawaii on Oahu. When that production closed, he looked to bring a new and different show to Maui. Luaus are plentiful on all the Hawaiian islands, but this show offers an alternative, Nicholas said, particularly for repeat Hawaii visitors.
Hyatt Regency Maui principals were receptive to the idea, and in June 2009, the show opened there in the hotel’s ballroom. In November 2009, the production moved to a new, permanent outdoor venue built on the hotel’s property called Maui Moon Theatre.
About half the cast members are from Polynesian islands such as Fiji and Tonga, Nicholas, who owns a 40-foot 2005 American Eagle motorhome, told MotorHome magazine. In addition to local artists and dancers from Hawaii, other cast members come from such countries as Germany, Russia, Kazakhstan and Moldova.
The show starts with a humorous bit by Vili the Warrior (Vili Fehoko), who gets a couple of good-natured men out of the audience, has them don warrior garb and then perform some comical stunts.
Breathtaking acts follow – quick-change artists, acrobats, jump ropers, contortionists, jugglers and high-wire artists. They perform to an energetic musical score featuring Diane Salonga Rubio, a cellist, flute, ukulele and strings musician; and Dan Cruces, who plays keyboards, drums, electric percussion and trumpet.
The high-wire performers are a mother and daughter team (Lyric and Rietta) from the famous “Flying Wallenda” circus family. You may find yourself holding your breath as you watch the sixth- and seventh-generation Wallenda women perform death-defying feats without a net.
As Cirque Polynesia puts it, the production is “people performing for people” – there are no animal acts here.
Prices start at $58 for adults and a dinner package is offered. For more information, call 808-667-4540 or visit www.cirquepolynesia.com.
On Maui, the beaches are popular spots and snorkeling is a popular activity. But “it’s not likely you’ll encounter as much of the ocean as you will here,” Kelsey Daimon, marketing and public relations coordinator at Maui Ocean Center, tells MotorHome magazine. The three-acre marine park – voted Hawaii’s top family attraction in Zagat Survey’s U.S. Family Travel Guide – is the largest tropical reef aquarium in the Western Hemisphere.
Guests can explore Hawaii’s unique underwater world, meeting and interacting with its inhabitants as they travel from zone to zone – shallow reefs to deep waters.
“People love to see, touch and feel,” says Daimon. With its 60 self-paced exhibits, there are many opportunities to do just that.
Major exhibits range from a surge zone with pounding waves and a turtle lagoon with green sea turtles to a living reef and Hammerhead Harbor, where you can come eye to eye with the island’s sharks.
The aquarium is most proud of its “Hawaiians and the Sea” exhibit, Daimon says. “A lot of work went into it,” she says. The exhibit features renderings of an ancient aquaculture system and fishing implements. It tells the story of the Hawaiians’ special connection to the sea. Daimon says the ocean center utilizes the expertise of “Hawaiian practitioners” who are “keepers of the culture.” Says Daimon: “They make sure everything is represented correctly.”
One of the aquarium’s most popular exhibits is Open Ocean, a 750,000-gallon saltwater aquarium. Here visitors can see nearly 2,000 fishes, sharks and other underwater creatures while safely inside an acrylic tunnel that offers a 240-degree view.
Here are a few fun facts you’ll learn at Maui Ocean Center:
- About a fourth of Hawaii’s reef fishes and corals are found nowhere else on Earth.
- Hawaii’s coral reefs comprise more than 80 percent of the reefs in the entire United States.
- In old Hawaii, the skeleton of a black coral was ground into a fine powder and used medicinally to treat lung problems and sores around the mouths of children.
- Male seahorses carry and give birth to their young, sometimes as many as 200 offspring at a time.
- The ancient Hawaiians used the slate-pencil urchin as pencils when dried and lipstick when wet, because of its long-lasting red pigment.
- Sea Jellies have no eyes, no respiratory system and no brain.
Guests tell Daimon that Maui Ocean Center is very comparable to major aquariums. “We hold our own with the ‘big boys,'” she said.
Maui Ocean Center has two restaurants and a gift shop. Digital audio guides are available for rent and complimentary wheelchairs are available. Admission is $25 for adults, $22 for seniors and $18 for children. For more information, call 808-270-7000 or visit www.mauioceancenter.com.
Want to go RVing on the island and feel nostalgic for the simpler time of the 1960s? Aloha Campers has the answer. The company rents VW Vanagon Westfalia campers.
“It’s like the hippy buses of the 1960s, but with a modern design and the amenities you would expect in a full-sized recreational vehicle,” Aloha Campers says on its website.
The size of a small van, the campers sleep four, with two double beds, and include a kitchenette. The Westfalia Vanagons are small enough to easily navigate the numerous single-lane roads you’ll find on the island. Rates are $115 per day including unlimited mileage. There is a three-day minimum rental.
As residents say on the Valley Isle: “Maui No Ka Oi” (“Maui is the best”). Cirque Polynesia and Maui Ocean Center are among the best attractions on the island.