I’m settled in the plush interior of a black Cadillac Escalade, heading to the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. I should be elated at the thought of being pampered and luxuriating under blue skies and palm trees for the next few days.

But I’m not. I’m grumpy because my luggage is still in Honolulu, thanks to an airline snafu. My driver, J.R., tries to cheer me up by offering to stop so I can buy something else to wear. I don’t think so.

My eyes light up, though, when I see a stand selling shave ice, the Hawaiian snow cones. J.R. hits the brakes, drives around the block and pulls into the parking lot of the tiny Ululani Shave Ice (333 Dairy Road, Kahului, 360-606-2745).

The mountain of snowy shave ice tastes of melon, passionfruit and mango. I reach the gooey haupia ice cream below as we’re passing through a stretch of open terrain filled with views of mountains and impossibly blue sky. By the time we pull into the expansive porte-cochère of the Four Seasons, I’m happy again.

Huge ceramic heads — one with bright golden spirals, the other with blue stripes — repose like sentries beside the main entry. A staffer greets me with a smile and a lei of pale green orchids. You hear a lot about the "aloha spirit," and it’s more than a cliché here. The people who work at the resort really seem to enjoy making guests happy.

Lots of travelers visit Lahaina and its popular Ka’anapali beach with touristy shops and burger joints —  the Seaport Village of Maui. Wailea, on the south end of the island, is a resort community with long stretches of beach and golf courses that feels like Rancho Santa Fe on the water. It’s an ideal base for exploring the quieter side of Maui, especially following the $50 million renovation in 2007 that brought all-new room furnishings and a striking collection of art.

Women at the hotel are atwitter that actor Zach Efron is on the property for the Maui Film Festival. But I’m tired from the trip, so I don the plush robe and spend the first evening quietly in my room. I order champagne, tuna poke and Hawaiian-style potato chips from room service and watch from the patio while the sun leaves a gold and coral trail as it slips behind the ocean.

It’s not a bad place to be holed up. The room’s furnishings by Vaughan Benz of Los Angeles evoke that plantation-style tropical island. The bathroom is bigger than some living rooms.

The next day I wake up and resolve to spend my time in Maui doing as little as possible. But total relaxation isn’t as easy as it sounds, with the lure of activities like snorkeling, Pilates, golfing and shopping.

I head to the central pool, with its impressive urn-like fountain in the middle, to get started on a trashy mystery novel I’ve been saving. If you want a primo chaise longue, you have to get up early; type-A vacationers reserve poolside perches for the entire family before 10 a.m. If you like catching rays on real sand, attendants will set up a chair and umbrella for guests on the public beach below the resort.

But the zenith of quiet relaxation is in the cabañas at the new adult serenity pool. Each is a miniature living room, with a flat-screen television used with headphones so the sound doesn’t disturb others. The mini fridge is stocked with water, cool towels and chilled bottles of Piper-Heidsieck champagne. It’s a perfect place to borrow a Kindle from the resort or simply people-watch.

Every so often, a pool attendant comes by to offer chilled fruit, Otter Pops or a spritz of mineral water. A woman from the spa does mini neck and foot massages from the spa tapas menu. The oil she uses is perfumed like the yellow and pink plumeria trees that dot the property.

Relaxing this hard makes one hungry. The pool menu runs from burgers to sushi rolls to cobb and Caesar salads. Ferraro’s Bar e Ristorante, a rustic Italian restaurant on the edge of the beach, serves crab panini and wood-oven pizzas at lunch and moves on to lobster risotto at dinner. The main restaurant, Duo, is home to a massive breakfast buffet and also offers inventive surf and turf like the beef carpaccio with molecular black-olive sphere at dinner. My favorite eatery turns out to be Spago, where sous chef Joss Sabo creates California-Hawaiian fare such as scallops in a lychee-coconut sauce, addictive buttery sesame cones filled with tuna, and mahi lettuce wraps that are light and full of flavor. It’s also apparently a favorite of former NBA great David Robinson, whom I spotted dining with his family.

The spa is an integral part of any renewal strategy. Here, it offers a range of Hawaiian lomi lomi, Swedish and stone massages, either inside or in a hale — a thatched-roof hut overlooking the ocean.

But the most profound aid to relaxation is a spa acupuncture session that includes nutrition analysis, meditation and life coaching. After studying in Asia and India, therapist T.J. Frank has created a hybrid style of acupuncture that includes massage and deep breathing. Frank explains, "I use everything I have to give you the most bang for your buck."

During a 90-minute acupuncture and massage session, Frank helps me release the knots in my shoulders that come from carrying a heavy purse and hunching over the computer. I am so relaxed I could fall asleep.

All too soon, it’s time to check out. I’m satisfied, though, because I had a successful week of serious relaxation. Maybe next time I’ll stay for two weeks and get really good at it. 

5 Island Activities

Lavender Farm: If you haven’t had a chance to walk by a field of aromatic lavender in full bloom, you’re missing out. Alii Kula Lavender produces a range of aromatherapy products from the lavender grown at the base of Mount Haleakala and offers $12 tours, lunches and a variety of activities. 1100 Waipoli Road, Kula, 808-878-3004, aliikulalavender.com.

Sunrise at Haleakala: The moment when the sun breaks over the dark, craggy form of the 10,000-foot-plus volcano in Haleakala National Park is pretty stunning, in a "Hallelujah Chorus" kind of way. Some ambitious people rent bikes and pedal up to the summit and back; I opted for a Ford Mustang convertible. Take snacks along; this is a several-hour adventure. 808-572-4400, nps.gov/hale.

Shopping: The Shops at Wailea are filled with boutiques from every purveyor of luxury goods imaginable: Bottega Veneta, Gucci and Black Pear Gallery share space with shops offering casual island wear such as Tommy Bahama and The Walking Company. They’re all hoping that the effect of the sun, waves and mai tais will be temporary budget am­nesia. 3750 Wailea Alanui Drive, Kihei, 808-891-6770, shopsatwailea.com.

Water Sports: Ever wanted to slice through the water in a traditional outrigger canoe? Find out how four times daily during the complimentary Hawaiian-style paddling lessons and cultural tales from the Four Seasons Resort Maui’s rowing team. The hotel also offers free snorkeling lessons. Kayaks, boogie boards, surfing lessons and snorkeling adventures are available for a fee.

Golfing: Wailea is home to five championship golf courses that offer rolling green hills surrounded by stunning views of the ocean and towering Mount Haleakala, the dormant volcano. The popular Wailea Golf Club offers three courses, its own local art program and Gannon’s, where celebrity chef Bev Gannon creates vibrant cuisine that embraces Hawaiian ingredients and European techniques. 100 Wailea Golf Club Drive, Kihei, 808-875-7450, waileagolf.com.

If You Go

The only way to fly to Maui — or any of the Hawaiian islands — is on Hawaiian Airlines (800-367-5320, ­hawaiianair.com. Besides the aloha spirit, free food and mai tais, the carrier offers direct flights from San Diego to Kahului some months. Rates at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea (3900 Wailea Alanui, Wailea, 808-874-8000, ­fourseasons.com/maui) start at $475 a night.

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