Maui Travel Guide
People say that Disney is the happiest place on earth... but I beg to differ. I believe Hawaii is the most joy-filled place on earth. The locals love their culture and seem to be happy ALL the time, and everyone who visits gets the luxury of experiencing it. My husband and I took a week trip to Maui for an early anniversary celebration. We both have visited other islands, but Maui exceeded our expectations and is our favorite Hawaiian island so far. There's such a wide variety of sights to see, climates, food, and beaches like I've never seen before. Because Maui is so big, being the second largest Hawaiian island, there's a lot to cover. I knew this coming in, so we decided to stay in three separate areas so we could experience it all. You definitely do not have to do this, but I've provided the best adventures, beaches, restaurants, and lodging in all three areas. I did a lot of research before our trip and made our perfect vacation itinerary, and I'm here to share it with you so you don't have to put in all the planning work!
This is the most popular area on the island. A lot of the top resorts are located here, as well as the popular town, Lahaina. The West side offers some amazing beaches and some of the best food on the island. It is quite touristy, but we avoided the crowds by staying in a quiet area and going on some hikes in central Maui. I highly recommend walking around Lahaina to do some shopping, eating, and seeing the famous Banyan tree.
Where to stay:
There's a plethora of resorts in this area including Andaz Maui, Montage Kapalua Bay, and Hyatt Maui. However, my husband and I love finding quaint Airbnbs or Bed & Breakfasts to stay at. I did some digging and found a quiet, beautiful vacation home rental just a few blocks from the beach that doesn't break the bank. It is a hidden gem called Maui Garden Oasis. The property truly is an oasis, with amazing views and a friendly and calm atmosphere. We booked the ocean view suite and loved it! There's an outdoor kitchen below, and a storage room full of beach necessities like chairs, coolers, and snorkel gear. I highly recommend booking this unique spot if you want a peaceful spot that is still central to everything in West Maui.
Maui has the most beaches of any Hawaiian Island. You can't go wrong with any of them, but be prepared for wind. Be sure to keep the waters safe and pack coral-safe sunscreen, as you'll receive a hefty fine if you use a kind that's not. Maui only sells clean sunscreen, so you can buy some there too. The amazing thing about Maui is parking. You can find free parking anywhere, and all beaches are public on Maui!
Kaanapali Beach is the primary beach in West Maui. It's about a mile long, and you can access a lot of the restaurants off of this beach.
This beach park has a big grass area right by the beach, which was very useful when the wind picked up. There's public restrooms and picnic spots here as well. It's also good to note that this beach had the best snorkeling we experienced on Maui!
We didn't get the chance to go to Honolua Bay, but we here it is one of the most beautiful spots on the island. A lot of people go to snorkel or surf, and there's also amazing scenery to take photos at. This is at the top of our list for next time.
Leilani's on the Beach
The infamous restaurant Leilani's on the Beach is a great option for dinner and cocktails while you watch the sunset. The sunset views were out of this world. If you go, I recommend the fish tacos or fish special for dinner. Make sure to grab yourself a yummy cocktail, I loved the Mai Tai.
Dukes Beach House
This restaurant was one of our favorites in West Maui, and is actually right across from Leilani's. There are incredible views here too. The seafood risotto is a must!
Hula Grill is a great lunch or happy hour spot on the beach. We went for appetizers and drinks. I highly recommend getting the seafood wontons. The fish and chips and fish tacos were amazing too. The bar overlooks the water, and would be a great place to grab drinks and something to eat after a long beach day.
The Fish Market
This seafood spot was just divine. It's not on the beach, but is a perfect lunch spot if you're looking for quality seafood. It's very quick, so you could even take it to go if you're in a rush. Order the fish tacos (some of our favorite on the island) or the seared ahi. We had one of our top meals here!
Leodas Pie Shop
This pie shop is right off the highway in West Maui. There's a wide variety of sweet or savory pies, as well as sandwiches and other food options. This is a great stop for a bite to eat if you were out exploring and coming back into town. A great farmer's market is next to it with produce, candy, and banana bread.
If you are wanting to go on some epic hikes and adventures, this part of the island is easy to access at its the central mountain reservoir.
'Iao Valley State Park
This is a popular hike in central Maui that is more like a walk, and only 30-minutes to the overlook to see "The Needle". There's a several mile trail beyond it that leads to more amazing views, but the short hike up to the viewpoint is something easy to do, and is very family friendly. You do have to pay to park and enter.
Right up the road from 'Iao is Kepaniwai Park. We didn't do any hiking here but we pulled into the parking lot and the views were beautiful. This trail would be great to do after 'Iao and there's plenty of picnic areas to bring a lunch. I also saw many photos of this spot online before our trip and it looks stunning. So if you are deciding between the two, I'd choose this one as its free to park and less crowded.
Waihe'e Ridge Trail
This hike is an absolute must when you visit Maui, and was our favorite hike of the trip! This hike is a 4 mile hike through the forest and up a mountain. I did a lot of research about this hike and the tips I have for you are ones worth reading. The mountains in central Maui stay foggy most of the time and rains on and off every day. I read that this trail fogs over in the morning so you want to get there and begin the hike as early as possible. We started the hike at 7:30am when the trail apparently opens and it was perfect timing (try going even earlier!). We witnessed the most beautiful ocean, mountain, waterfall, and ridge views we've ever seen! It was spectacular. Most of the way up the weather was clear, but around 9am the fog completely covered the mountains and we couldn't see anything but the trail the rest of our hike. It was still so much fun to hike in the fog and rain though. Make sure to bring a rain jacket and wear shoes with grip as it gets super muddy when it rains. This isn't totally necessary but I suggest bringing or finding a walking stick to use, we were slipping quite a bit on the way down.
Road to Hana and Haleakala National Park
Road to Hana is the main attraction on Maui. It is a windy 60-mile road with something fun to do at every mile marker. We planned ahead the stops we wanted to make so we didn't waste any time. There's no service on this road, so I suggest downloading the Shaka Guide from the Apple Store. It's $15 but worth the purchase as it guides you from start to finish, and even tells you interesting facts about Maui with lots of Maui history. Important things to pack for Road to Hana include a swimsuit, towels, hiking and/or water shoes, a rain jacket, snacks and plenty of water. I recommend starting very early as it gets crowded quick. We began our journey at around 7am and didn't run into crazy crowds until around lunch time.
Road to Hana Itinerary:
Ho'oklpa Beach Park. This is the very first stop on your Road to Hana trip. There's a beautiful lookout and you'll see a lot of surfers here in the morning. But the main thing to do here is park down below and right on the beach are dozens of sea turtles! You can only view them from afar, but it was so incredible to see.
Twin Falls. Right down the road will be your next stop, Twin Falls. This is a popular spot to see some waterfalls! The second waterfall is the farthest walk, but it's less than 1 mile to get to. You can swim in this spot, which was so much fun, and made for beautiful photos.
Huelo Lookout. This is a fruit stand a few more miles down the road where you can grab a quick morning snack like smoothies, fresh fruit, and banana bread.
Painted Forest. This is a quick stop off the side of the road where you can see the rainbow eucalyptus trees! They smell amazing and appear to be painted with tons of colors. Such a unique part of nature on Maui.
Halfway to Hana. This is a famous snack shack off the road you can't miss. Their famous banana bread is some of the very best we've ever had! Halfway to Hana has plenty of other food too and would make for the perfect quick early lunch spot.
Nahiku Marketplace. This is also a great lunch spot, with a cafe and several food trucks. We ate at the BBQ and the Huli Huli Chicken was incredible.
Wailua Falls. This is a stop near Hana on the side of the road with a beautiful waterfall. You can take a trail to get close to it, and is a great quick stop for photos.
Koki Beach & Hamoa Beach. These two beaches were the most stunning beaches we saw on the island. You can't swim at Koki Beach due to its rough waters, but it is definitely worth the stop for some photos or beach lounging. Hamoa Beach is a few miles past where you can relax on the beach, swim, or snorkel with amazing views as well.
Haleakala National Park:
Road to Hana is an all day excursion, and Haleakala National Park is the last stop and probably the top thing to do on Road to Hana. To get the most out of the trip, I recommend staying in Hana for a night and exploring the national park the following day as you'll have more time and driving Road to Hana at night is not ideal. You can use your national park pass here, or pay $30 per vehicle.
Seven Sacred Pools. The pools have been closed for swimming for quite a few years, but going to see them is a must. This spot is so dreamy, as they are by the cliffs and mountains overlooking the ocean. And they are right by the parking lot, so access is very easy.
Pipiwai Trail. This trail is the most popular hiking adventure on Maui. It is a 4-mile out-and-back trail with tons to see. There's a couple waterfalls, a massive Banyan tree, a mile-long bamboo forrest, and another 400-foot waterfall at the end. This isn't a difficult hike and is family friendly, but can get slippery if it rains. The bamboo forrest is about a mile in and is worth the trek if you can't hike the whole trail (even though you definitely should if you can).
Food trucks for lunch. After your early morning exploring in Haleakala National Park, stop at the food trucks in Hana on your way back to civilization.
Halfway to Hana. Make sure to stop at Halfway to Hana one last time for some more banana bread or snacks. They have amazing vanilla macadamia nut ice cream and brownies that we shared and recommend trying too. This marks the end of your Road to Hana journey! We were so pleased with how much we did, but never felt rushed or out of time. We saw everything we wanted to within these two days, and were back in civilized Maui by 2pm the second day.
Where to stay:
While there's plenty of lodging options in Hana, there aren't nearly as many as the other parts of the island. Hana is a very small town. There's only one resort in Hana called Hana-Maui Resort that has great reviews. We chose to stay at an affordable Airbnb as we were only there for one night, but the one we booked was much better than we though it would be. It had a full kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. The location was perfect - just right down the road from the main town and all the food trucks. We recommend staying in Hana after your long day exploring Road to Hana so you have more time to explore the national park the next day. If you are big on hiking and adventuring, this is your best bet! We didn't feel rushed at all and got to see and do everything we wanted by splitting it up between two days.
There are two food truck spots near each other that I recommend eating at. There's several per location with amazing fish tacos, fish and chips, poke, coffee, smoothies, and more. They operate on a relaxed schedule, so don't be discouraged if some are closed.
The south shore was our favorite area on the island. South Maui had that small beach town feel with less crowds than the west side. We also loved the beaches more in this area than the west, as they were smaller, less touristy, and so beautiful!
Where to stay:
After completing some necessary Hawaiian exploration and hiking, it was time for relaxation at our final stay of the trip - Sandra's Victorian Villa. The absolutely stunning property was located between Wailea and Kihei with private parking, pool, and beach equipment free to use! Just minutes to all of the great South Maui restaurants and beaches, it was so nice to enjoy the beach all morning and relax by the pool in the afternoon. I also want to add that it is so spacious and can easily accommodate a family trip as well and it is perfect for that. Make sure you book this early on Airbnb, because it is one of the most popular South Maui places to stay that isn't a resort!
One of the largest and most popular beaches on the south shore is Makena Beach. This is a great beach to relax on all day.
This beach is also called "Secret Beach" because it's a little cove hidden behind a wall in Maui's south shore. We absolutely loved this beach! Swimming is dangerous here most of the time, but it made for a relaxing afternoon. We brought lunch and drinks, it was perfect. This is also a very popular spot for sunset photos, so if you are wanting to take photos here, I recommend going for sunrise.
Charly Young Beach
This is another big beach, great for snorkeling and lounging. It was the least windy of any of the beaches, you can't go wrong here!
South Maui Fish Company
The freshest fish around comes from this food truck in south Maui. They catch all their fish the morning before they open! They have incredible fish tacos, Poke, and fish plates.
This is one of Maui's most popular restaurants, and they have several locations. Monkeypod was easily one of our favorite meals! I ordered the macadamia nut crusted fish, which was so tasty. I also recommend getting the famous Lilikoi Foam Mai Tai!
In the town of Kikei is the amazing Kihei Caffe. Definitely make this breakfast spot a priority on your trip. We got the traditional Hawaiian breakfast, which included pork, fried rice, gravy, and eggs. SO delicious. Beware, their portions are huge!
Akamai Coffee is 100% Maui grown coffee and it is some of the best I've ever tasted. There are two locations in South Maui, and the one in Wailea has a bunch of breakfast options like avocado toast and pastries. A perfect coffee and/or breakfast spot.
Coconut's Fish Cafe
This is your traditional seafood spot with incredible tasting food. The service was great, very quick, and was pretty affordable too. Make sure to order a variety of things like the fish tacos and the Mahi sandwhich.
Poke from Foodlands
I read on multiple blogs before our trip that getting Poke from the grocery store Foodlands is a must. If you are looking for a quick and affordable meal, this is a great option. We loved their Poke and sushi, and took it to go several nights for dinner and ate at our Airbnb while we watched the sunset.
Maui far exceeded my expectations. The variety of things to do on this island is my favorite aspect, and because of this, you'll never run out of things to do. It is truly beautiful everywhere you turn, and I found that the crowds weren't as crazy as I thought they would be. If you are wanting a relaxing, yet adventurous vacation to Hawaii with amazing food, views, and little crowds... Maui is your best bet. Aloha!