Maui is a stunning island in Hawaii! I spent a few weeks in Hawaii and wrote a number of articles about my time, but wanted it to be kind of all together in one article. There are links throughout this guide to Maui so you can read more.
Which Area to Stay in Maui:
I’ll start out with a little map I made to show the areas of Maui. This can help you choose which area to get a hotel.
When you fly in you’ll land in Kahului at the top center. As you can see, Lahaina is a high-end area with great beaches, similar to Kapalua which is a little north. Paia is the hippie town which starts the road to Hana and Makawao in the middle is cowboy land called “upcountry”. Kihei is touristy and has a bar area called The Triangle.
I stayed in four different areas and wrote about that plus reviews of specific hotels:
- Guide to where to stay in Maui (reviews of hotels near airport & staying in a small house/apartment)
- Staying in Ka’anapali Maui at the Sheraton
- Paia Inn | A Hippie Chic Must in Maui
Here are a couple of photos from “upcountry”:
Renting a Car in Maui
Once you figure out where to stay, you have to find out what you want to do with your time! Keep in mind that parking is really expensive, but so are Ubers and random taxis. We rented through Budget and actually didn’t take the car because it was so dirty.
We used Dollar once and Thrifty once and it was fine. For the smallest “compact” car they have either little chevy’s or Mazda’s. Because we came from out of country without insurance, we needed to take out the full insurance. Keep in mind that you don’t have to do this through the company your rent from.
Tip: If you rent from an international website, the name you enter has to be a FOREIGNER of the USA and the main driver. For example, Ben found a website in India, that was Indian. Luckily he is British, or our reservation wouldn’t have worked and we would have lost the money.
If you want to see Maui in-depth, you need to rent a car! Plus, the road to Hana is one of the biggest attractions in Maui and you’ll need a car for that. Update: since writing this post, I have found rentalscars.com and use them since they compare all the other sites.
What to do in Maui
There is so much to get up to and some that is very affordable, so that you’ll never go bored here. First up I’ll talk about adventure since I’ve already written about it. Check out:
- My Top 10 Adventure Activites in Maui (catarmarn sailing, zip-lining, and more!)
- and a detailed post on a helicopter ride over the island: Seeing the Island Differently with Air Maui
There were a few more things I wanted to try but didn’t have time. One was blown art classes at Hui No’eau visual arts in Upcountry and the famous Elvis show. They also put on a show about Hawaii, but we’d already done the Luau so didn’t go. Another option is a day at the aquarium (Ocean Center) which is near Maalaea Port in the South.
Tip: for something different drive NW from the airport- it’s a gorgeous ride but no cars like the road to Hana! On the way is a ranch called Mendes that has horseback riding. I didn’t have time to try! You can also see places they filmed Jurassic Park
Beaches & watersports:
You’ll want to spend a lot of time at the beaches! On the North West you have Ka’anapali where all the fancy resorts are. This has some of the best snorkeling and is called “Black Rock”. We could see the catamarans come in to the rocks to snorkel from our hotel window.
This is Ho’opika where they come to windsurf! The professionals come here and it’s the best in the world. This is the first stop on the Road to Hana, don’t miss it!
you’ll see this view driving the southern route from the airport to Lahaina
Money saving tip: Just hire equipment from a random place and bring it to Ka’anapali. You don’t have to be staying in a hotel to get to the beach, nor do you have to come on a big catamaran. Just walk on in! Makena beach above and below
Down near Kehei, we searched for snorkeling and had no luck. Makena beach in Kehei is a shore break so you can’t even boogie board here without maybe getting an injury. It’s cool to come watch the locals skim board and boogie board here though because it takes so much talent to do. According to the lifeguard, they have neck and spinal injuries more often than you’d think.
Also checked for snorkeling in Wailea, but couldn’t find anything worthwhile. Better to just go for Lahaina.
Up near Paia, the water is rocky and a bit dangerous. You have to make sure to only go in water that has signage saying to do so, and never go in murky water. There was a shark attack one week before we went which was fatal. My surf instructor said he has seen two tigers while surfing.
Spa treatments in Maui:
Maui has amazing spas, most of which are located in fancy hotels. If you have a lower budget you can also get treatments at places which stand alone.
I got my nails done at the Kaahumanu Queen Mall at Le’s Nails for $15 USD and it wasn’t great, ha but was cheaper than buying clippers, a file, and polish myself. I had a few massages (all in the name of research) and a facial which I wrote about here:
Secret local waterfalls:
There are falls on the Road to Hana like Twin Falls which can be crowded. We had a local take us to some secret waterfalls. It was a little pricey, but worth seeing these cool spots that had NO tourists. We had the place to ourselves and could swim up to these waterfalls, swing on vines, and if you’re me- fall down and scrape your leg up. Be sure to wear mosquito spray.
Having the “local secrets of Maui” is worth paying for a tour (if you can find one). You can ask around to surf instructors as they might do tours on the side. Getting off the beaten path in Maui is what we remember the most about our trip!
Check out a luau:
You can’t go to Maui and NOT see a luau. We went to Old Lahaina Luau which is the most famous in Hawaii and known as the best.
There was free parking (rare in Hawaii) and we were greeted with drinks on entry. You’re free to wander and get photos will they prepare the pig, Hawaii style:
The guys were funny and people were all crowded around taking photos with selfie sticks. After the big reveal, everyone chills and drinks until your table is called for food. There is SO much food it’s insane! Here are mine and Ben’s plates.
There was the typical kalua pork, sweet bread, mahi-mahi Maui style, salad, Pulehu steak, rice, island style chicken, sweet potato, taro salad, more pork wrapped in banana leaf (laulau), veggies, ahi poke, and this yummy guava butter (so good). After dinner was served the Luau started. I was surprised it wasn’t just dancing and singing it was a story: the whole story of Hawaii and it was very cool. It was one of our favorite things looking back on the trip, that we did in Hawaii. With India being so conservative it was just refreshing to see another culture that is so open – didn’t hurt to look at all the eye candy either!
Details: Old Lahaina Luau, 1251 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761, United States. Phone:+1 808-667-1998. You MUST make reservations in advance. Tickets are $109 USD.
Food & Shopping in Maui (By Area)
- There’s an outlet mall here. It was great but had Coach, Michael Kors, Gap, Tommy, Calvin Klein, and more.
- The main strip has lots of shops! My favorite was LUSH where I got solid shampoo and facial masks which are all natural. You can buy local art here. It’s quite pricey. Also at Island Sole you can get all brands of flip-flops. I got new reefs! Also famous: Lahaina Tub and Scrub.
- The main gelato shop wasn’t impressive, but the Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice was so good and worth the wait. It’s the #1 place to eat in Lahaina and it’s just ice!! lol I got lemonade, fruit punch, and blue raspberry.
- Check out the Honolulu Cookie Company there are delicious samples so you can decide what to buy.
- To eat: Longhi’s, Spanky’s for live music and booze, Hard Rock Cafe, Cheeseburger in Paradise, Bubba Gump, Ruth Chris, and Lahaina Grill (famous & pricey) which is right next to the Lahain Inn. Round Table Pizza delivers and was very good!
cheeseburger in paradise
- Some hotels in Ka’anapali have shuttles to here.
- The luau I went to was here (information above).
- There is a HUGE Banyan tree, one of the biggest in the world in Lahaina. Don’t miss checking it out- but then it’s pretty hard to miss!
- Check out the shrimp truck pictured below! The tacos were the bomb!
- The triangle is here. It’s called that I guess based on the Bermuda triangle, you drink and get lost in all these bars!
- Tiki’s Bar had really good live music and happy hour deals:
- Great spot to chill out and watch surfers and drink!
- There is shopping in the main area. It’s mostly self run shops like a market and I found a couple I loved. One was Re-Psyched “sea the beauty” where this girl was making designs from beachy stuff like shells and sea glass. I got a hook for keys made from driftwood and a seaglass magnet as my only souvenirs in Maui!
that girls cute shop!
I have a whole guide on Paia which includes best food and shopping. Make sure to check it out because some of our BEST MEALS were in Paia!!
- Guide to Paia Food and Shopping
- Market Fresh Bistro was all I had time to try. If you’re going to Makawao for zip-lining which is why many go, head there early to explore the town.
- There are many cute shops in Makawao. I got a very cute druzy stone bracelet by Rue Belle at the shop Mercantile, which was a lot at $50 USD but it’s the only big purchase I made in Maui. There are about 10 shops all together. Give yourself about 1-2 hours here.
- I won’t lie we spent a lot of time eating fast food while staying here! This is the airport area and it was kind of our relax and not play tourist place.
sorry!!! but yes that’s me eating pizza hut, taco bell, and McDonalds. we had just landed from India!
- check out famous Da Kitchen for local favorites. There is a famous ice cream place called Guri Guri, which only has two flavors.
- The mall here is Queen Kaahumanu Mall and it isn’t bad. There’s also a Target and Walmart if you need to stock up on things for say, a camping trip!
Pin these adventures in Maui off the beaten path for later:
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WOW looks amazing! I would especially love the waterfalls and the whole experience of the luau! I really must get to Hawaii soon! :)
the luau was the best part :)
Great travel guide! I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Maui a few times and every time I’m blown away. You’ve definitely captured all of my favourite activities and sights, and introduced me to a few more!
Great Kate!! I hope you go back and try some out
This is a great resource for planning trips to Maui. I love the sound of doing a helicopter ride, definitely noted some things down for future trips.
Just got back from the big island about two weeks ago; Interesting to read/compare your experience with mine. Our week didn’t begin to scratch the surface. Stayed on the Kona side, in a beach resort, in the middle of a lava field. Highlights include Hapuna Beach, snorkeling at Captain Cook, sightings of turtles snorkeling and from the shore, Botanical Garden on the east side and Hilo farmers market. Learned that strawberry papaya is delicious – green papaya, not so much. Also that passion fruit kind of grows on you, even though it is kind of slimey. Love the Lilikoi flavor and all things plumeria. Saw the local Nene, black & brown lava goats and anoles (lanai.) Also seeing a lava tube/watering hole near the beach was cool too.
wow that sounds incredible! I am not crazy about passionfruit myself but loved plumeria!! it’s sooo nice!
What a lovely post on Maui! I’ve gone a few times with my family, and I remember the Old Lahaina Luau being a highlight! If I remember correctly, there was a cool place we enjoyed going to for lunch in the same area near where that luau was, called Aloha Mixed Plate. They do the typical Hawaiian lunch plate of a main accompanied by scoops of white rice and macaroni salad.
Your sunset photos are gorgeous!! I hope to go back soon – it’s been too long! :-)
Bonnie and I really liked talking to you and Ben this past weekend. I had a chance to read some of your comments on travels to Hawaii and I’m sure we’ll be following up on some of the ideas and places you have in your blog. Thanks again for the travel thoughts.
Hi Steve! Glad you found my website! It was great to see you and Bonnie. Hope these Maui tips will help, the Ali Nui (can’t remember how to spell it now) catamaran was definitely one we loved! See you in August.
I thought Lahaina didn’t have great beaches, it was more known for being the biggest “city” on Maui. Confused by your first paragraph :/