Daytime on Maui, the beaches, palm trees and clear blue skies stun, their beauty reflected in the turquoise waters.
But the nighttime is perhaps when the Hawaiian island really struts its stuff.
What gives? Well, for the past 20 years, the Hyatt Regency Maui resort has offered a special rooftop “Tour of the Stars” to hotel guests and the public, and it’s a stellar experience.
In the evening, you walk outside to the upper reaches of the hotel, where you will glean fascinating insights into the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross, while seeing a wealth of stars, planets and nebulae with a handful of people and astronomy director Eddie Mahoney as your guide.
He’s assisted by two Celestron telescopes, 11- and 14-inch models, and a pair of binoculars. The 11-inch reflector can gather as much as 1,000 times the light your naked eye can, while the 14-inch can gather 2,000 times the light. “You can see things that could never see with your unaided eye,” he says of the telescopic aids for the 45-minute show.
“I’ve often heard that it was the high point of their trip to Hawaii,” adds Mahoney, who has master’s degrees in science and education. “A lot of people say they haven’t seen stars like this since their childhood.”
Mahoney’s presentation is also a delight. My husband, Bill, and I have taken this tour numerous times, and it’s never been the same sky twice. Every time we go, we “ooh” and “aah.”
“Because of our location in Hawaii, we are 20 degrees north of the equator, so we see 80 of the 88 constellations — a lot you would not see on the mainland, like the Southern Cross and the Alpha Centuri that is the closest star system to us from the planet Earth,” Mahoney says. “We have clear, dark skies — and so many people come from cities where they don’t have dark skies anymore. A lot of Americans even don’t get to see the Milky Way anymore, because of light pollution in the big cities.
“We talk about how the Polynesians used the stars to navigate, because different stars go to very different places on the earth. The Seven Sisters (a star cluster in Taurus the Bull) — goes right over the Hawaiian Islands as the earth passes underneath the stars.
“This is my 17th year here at this Hyatt, and I started with the Hyatt on the Big Island (Hawaii) 20 years ago. I started stargazing back in 1957 when I was 7 years old, when Sputnik was launched. That’s when my treehouse became an observatory.
“We have a portable telescope if someone can’t make it to the rooftop, or if there’s a party on the lawn, so we are ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act)-compliant.”
On Jan. 31 most the of the Western Hemisphere will experience a total lunar eclipse, so the resort will host an all-night Blood Moon party — when the moon will turn red.
“I have seen four since I’ve been here in Hawaii,” Mahoney says. The hotel will serve complimentary hot cocoa and cookies until dawn. And don’t forget about the “constellation prizes” — special maps of the stars handed out to everyone.
The eclipse itself will last about four hours. “It’s a free party for all guests,” he says.