Travel Guide to Maui: Tips to Make Your First Trip Amazing

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Golden tones, screaming zip-liners, the slam of wave on surfer and verdant coast is everything that makes Maui – Maui.

Whether you’re young and energetic or lethargic and desperately in need of rest, the boundless outdoor and natural spaces make it an ideal getaway.

It’s not just untouched sceneries either; road-worn food trucks, historical structures and rich culture keep you engaged.

Before planning your trip, skim through this travel guide to Maui.

Which beach for best sleeps? How many poke bowls are too many? Which spot deserves an Instagram mention?

You can dream big and travel free.

Best Time to Visit Maui

beach in maui, hi

You’re in luck! As in indulging all your outdoor recreation wants, Maui’s climate is fairly consistent and comfortably tropical.

Warm throughout the year, temperatures only dip to 15⁰C / 60⁰F in deep winter.

Like the influx of crowds, rainfall and rainbows visit hand-in-hand from November to March although these showers are typically short. To stay dry (outside the ocean anyway) visit sometime between April and October.

“Best time to visit Maui” is subjective – what experiences would you like to check off your bucket list?

Surfers and challengers of watersports get the best waves during winter; summer waters are the calmest and better suited for families with kids.

Not a fan of crowds? You’ll appreciate the pleasant weather and low-tourist rates from April through May and September through November.

How to Get to Maui

lush landscape in maui

Maui is popular enough of a holiday spot that there are non-stop direct flights to the main airport: Kahului Airport (OGG). Conveniently, there are round-trip transfers you can book that will take you to your home away from home.

If you’re setting up base in West or East Maui, there are two commuter airports: Kapalua Airport (JHM) and Hana Airport (HNM). Alternatively, you can also fly into Oahu’s Honolulu International Airport (HNL) before transferring to a connecting 30-minute flight.

Maybe you’re island hopping, in which case there are ferry services to and from Lanai Island.

Getting Around Maui

road to hana, hawaii, usa

Before you fret about car rentals and public transport (or potential lack of), know that Maui is sparsely populated with only a few major roads to connect every region. There are no complicated train systems or wallet-burning costs.

While hiking is a touted tourist activity, spare yourself the pain of traveling on two feet.

Most places are far apart so stick to wheels when traversing between towns.

Car Rental

Total freedom guaranteed, the most convenient way to get around Maui is by renting a car, simultaneously quenching that wanderlust. Decide where to go when you feel like it, instead of following stuffy tour schedules.

It’s your best bet if you’re traveling with friends since you can split rental and fuel costs.

Shuttle

Starting with your airport-hotel commute, look to shuttle services. While they seem to stop by every other hotel before yours, it’ll save you a great deal over taking a taxi.

Airport to Wailea costs under $25 USD and Ka’anapali under $35 USD.

Taxi

For deluxe service, you can always opt for taxis although they don’t dip into remote places much.

Because you have to phone for one, tourists without US numbers often find it a hassle. You’ll have to pre-arrange it at your hotel unless you get a phone card.

Taxis aren’t cheap either (it costs $80-90 USD from the airport to Ka’anapali), especially if you’re traveling between areas.

CB Maui Taxi Service (Central) – (808) 243-8294

West Maui Taxi (West) – (808) 661-1122

A South Maui Taxi (South) – (808) 874-1866

Things to Do in Maui

Haleakalā Crater, Maui

Next up is the essential feature of any travel guide to Maui – the “best things to do” list.

Only you know the exact persona of Maui you’d like to meet and greet, but everyone could do with some starter suggestions.

Take the Road to Hana

Tourist clichés never run truer with the Road to Hana; it really is a Maui must-do.

The 64-mile stretch may only take 2.5 hours to drive each way but you’ll want to dedicate an entire day to the plethora of pit stops.

Small bridges, gushing waterfalls, hairpin turns, meandering hikes and an unexpected lava tube are only the tip of the iceberg. See:

  • Rainbow Eucalyptus trees
  • Nahiku Marketplace
  • Garden of Eden Arboretum
  • Hana Lava Tube
  • Seven Sacred Pools
  • All the photo ops you never asked for

Check out our Road to Hana itinerary with all the best stops you cannot miss!

Play Beach Bingo

No, this doesn’t mean playing Bingo on beaches. Rather, draw up your own Maui best picks and try to cross off as many of the grids as possible.

Baby Beach – for genteel people hoping to catch up on their To Be Reads in shallow, safe zone with calm waters for the occasional snorkel.

Hamoa Beach – for your wild side, right at home within the palm tree fringed space where untouched nature means adventure and paradise.

Ho’okipa Beach Park – for brilliant windsurfing conditions (and Hawaiian sea turtle sightings).

Wailea Beach – for a popular boarding and sun tanning destination.

Black Sand Beach – for a fascinating geological phenomenon that colored the sand black.

Little Beach – for the nudists.

Conquer the Waves

Hawaii is synonymous with surfing and for good reason. The dynamic coastline offers a range of waves for you to challenge, especially the more tubular waves in the winter.

If you’re a first-timer and surfing is on your bucket list, plan to visit in the summer instead for more mellow shreds.

Experience Early Morning Magic at Haleakalā Crater

You can’t escape the super early morning call (some of you might not even have gone to bed yet) so roll with the punches for an otherworldly sight.

Not equipped to drive out at 2AM? You can sign up for a sunrise tour to reach that 10,023-feet elevation freezing summit.

Say what you will about the cloud-breaking streaks of sun; even an active volcano and stunning sunrise won’t keep you warm in the chill.

Bring layers if you’re climbing Haleakalā for the sunrise. It’s cold.

Swim With the Fishes

Literally swim alongside sea creatures! If you prefer to explore downwards instead of up, there are plenty of early morning scuba or snorkeling diving tours that will bring you into sunken depths.

Maybe you’ve heard of the submerged volcanic Molokini Crater. There’s only one word to describe it – fabulous.

Peer down 150 feet of clear water to scope out the coral reef clusters, seat turtles, red pencil urchins and vibrant schools of fish.

Molokini Crater in Maui hawaii SP
Molokini Crater in Maui

Be Entranced by a Luau

Witnessing a Luau is the most culturally immersive experience you can have in Hawaii.

But what’s a Luau?

It’s feasting on Kalua pig, garlic-topped prawns, fresh poke and local gourmet. It’s the chill of your cocktail glass and the heat of story-telling dances. It’s the serenity that comes with lei-making.

You’ll walk away from a Luau dazzled by traditional performances and authentic cuisine. Check out:

The Feast of Mokapu
Old Lahaina Luau
Feast at Lele

Do Yoga With The Goats

Forget about aerial yoga and at-home yoga when you can rejuvenate the mind with encouraging goat buddies.

Maui might not be the only place offering goat yoga, but the fresh hilly scenery of Upcountry Maui turns A into A+.

By far one of the most unique things to do in Maui, indulge in the serenity and silliness as baby goats climb over your forms.

Explore Maui’s Lush Nature

You don’t have to be a natural-born explorer to be awed by Maui’s natural beauty. Just don’t pass up the chance to experience the unspoiled landscapes and wildlife.

Hiking is only a part of what the outdoors has to offer; there are plenty of farms and gardens to roam about as well.

Garden of Eden – exactly what it sounds like; a paradise brimming with plants and vistas.

Waterfalls – come hand-in-hand with water holes and rappelling, also great for meditation and a new social media post.

Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm – the remedy for any stress you brought with you.

Horseback Riding Tour – you can fulfill the romantic trope of horse riding along the coast.

Maui Tropical Plantation – learn more about how sugarcane and pineapples are grown and harvested.

Pipiwai Trail – definitely one for the hikers and anyone who wants to visit a bamboo forest.

Leilani Farm Sanctuary – spend the day outside with animals!

Maui Chocolate Tour – whether you’re interested in cacao beans or just want to eat a lot of chocolate, a farm tour wouldn’t be amiss.

Maui Ziplines – pretty much every corner of the island has a zipline course so you can swing between the trees like Tarzan.

Putter Around the Shops & Markets

Even those who plan to do nothing but relax will eventually make their way to the shops – it’s a 2-in-1 activity that lets you experience local living while grabbing some souvenirs.

Pass up the chain stores and support the local community; Paia is home to a host of local boutiques. Wooden signs and painted murals will lure you in if the farmer’s markets don’t.

Treat Yourself to a Spa Day

The best part of traveling to Maui is the lack of pressure to do everything. You can commit to a full day (or days) of lounging without guilt.

You can also treat yourself extra nice and arrange a spa day:

Lelle Vie Hawaiian Farm to Table Spa & Wellness – from oil distillation to heated massages and apothecary facials, they do it all.

Awili Spa & Salon – mixing Japanese omakase and apothecary products, they customize to your needs.

Ho’omana Spa – you don’t know healing until you’ve tried an herbal bath here.

Serenity Spa – this one is for the couples or those in need of therapeutic cupping.

Spa Grande – known for their Terme Hydrotherapy Circuit, you can expect saunas, jet showers, waterfalls and all sorts of spa baths.

Where to Stay in Maui

Accommodations in Maui range from five-star resorts to cozier spaces, with no shortage of seaside stays. Book early for the suites with best views.

Best Resort for Luxury & Pampering

Four Seasons Resort Maui

four seasons maui sm
Source: TripAdvisor

As far as five-star resorts go, this Four Seasons branch strikes the right balance between luxury and cozy neutrals.

From the wood and marble accents in each room (and its stunning balcony views) to the three reputable on-site restaurants, everything is designed with “restful holiday” in mind.

You can even pamper yourself at the spa and wellness center or head straight for Wailea Beach beyond the manicured lounge space.

Best Resort Close to the Beach

Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort

andaz maui sm
Source: TripAdvisor

Clean and modern furnishings make Andaz Maui a 4-star stay, alongside friendly staff and much-welcomed beach access.

If you don’t like sand between your toes, enjoy 4 outdoor infinity pools and a full-service spa. Villas come with a private hot tub too.

It even features Morimoto Maui, a Japanese fusion restaurant run by Iron Chef’s Masaharu Morimoto.

Best Resort Close to the Beach

Kaanapali Alii by Hyatt Residence

Kaanapali Alii maui sm
Source: TripAdvisor

The resort estate might look like an intentionally designed jungle, but the condominium-style rooms are all about space.

The highlight, however, isn’t the living-dining-kitchen set nor the tennis courts and Gold Course – it is the convenient location.

Perched right on Ka’anapali Beach and just minutes from Lahaina’s shops and art galleries, you’ll never be bored along this strip of Maui.

Best Budget-Friendly Resort

Aston Maui Hill

aston maui hill sm
Source: TripAdvisor

Just minutes from Kamaole Beach Park III, Aston Maui Hill is a comfortable distance from Wailea.

It offers spacious suites with fully-equipped kitchens and easy access to on-site pools, tennis court, barbecue facilities and a putting green.

If you’re the type to hop between the beach and swimming pool, this palm tree-studded resort is a relaxing fit.

Best Hotel for Couples

The Hula Hideaway

Or, you could trade in a luxurious hotel for a world-class stay right by the water’s edge.

Nestled between Ka’anapali and Kapalua, this getaway is close to both beaches and Lahaina Town.

Wide balcony doors welcome the sea breeze into the modern but cozy studio space, which is outfitted with a king-sized bed, soft rug and even a dangling ceiling chair.

Where to Eat in Maui

ahi tuna poke bowl

Sampling local cuisine deserves its own section in this travel guide to Maui because food maketh the mood.

Fresh seafood is a given but bet you didn’t think of fluffy macadamia nut pancakes! Then there’s the Loco Moco (which is as loco as it sounds), the classic poke and budget-favorite Spam Musubi.

You could dedicate the entire trip to visiting these eateries:

Mama’s Fish House – Highly rated and extremely popular, this family-owned restaurant is all about fish of the day. You do have to pay for the quality but it’s worth it.

Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie House – Pie. That’s all you need to know.

808 Grindz – You’ll have to fight the locals for seats because this café is a double-kill of cheap prices and delicious food. Think pancakes and all the variety of egg benedicts and you’ll come here for breakfast, brunch and all-day carbs.

Geste Shrimp Truck – Juicy shrimps are the norm and Geste Shrimp Truck is the best of them. Fall in with the picnicking crowds on surrounding grasslands and mow down your flavor of the day: Spicy Pineapple or Lemon Pepper or Hawaiian Scampi or other 12-piece combos.

Paia Fish Market – More seafood waits at this order-at-the-counter restaurant, which allows you to customize everything from fish to preparation style to toppings and presentation.

Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice – Truly a Hawaiian specialty, drop by for a mouthwatering dose of shaved ice and classic toppings.

Maui Coffee Roasters – Yes, coffee is the main serve alongside artistic aesthetics but there are plenty of bites to go with it. Order a 100% Kona drink or drop by Cappuccino Happy Hour to gorge on donuts, sandwiches and lox-topped bagels.

Travel Tips for Maui

Hoʻokipa beach, north shore

You’re not traveling to some unexplored alien world but it’s always good to smooth the journey with some handy knowledge.

  • Hawaii is part of the US – US citizens don’t require a passport to travel there.
  • Depending on where you’re coming from, Maui may seem expensive or cheap. Because gas and certain supplies are shipped into this remote island, expect to cash out in some places.
  • Resort areas are priced up (logical). Expect Ka’anapali, Kapalua and Wailea to drain your wallet faster than other towns.
  • Dress code is casual for everything, even fine dining.
  • Remember to check bus times if you’re running around car-less; they’re not very frequent.
  • If you want to go whale watching in Maui, official season begins in December through May.
  • Don’t skip out on Maui’s upcountry because there’s plenty to see.
  • Phone service can be spotty in several areas so plan well if you’re venturing out.
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