A Complete Maui Travel Guide
For many years, I had been told that Maui was a favorite of the Hawaiian Islands. Now I can finally see the appeal. Maui is known as the “Valley Isle” and has a little something for everyone: the beach bum, the adventurer, and the ocean enthusiast. You can find tropical rainforests, the most exotic white, red, and black sand beaches, hundreds of waterfalls, and even a bamboo forest on the island of Maui. Below my “Complete Maui Travel Guide” has everything you need to know before this little slice of paradise.
Maui has temperatures that are warm year-round however it is most popular to visit during the dry season April-October. November-March is considered the wet season and you’ll find lower prices if you want to visit during that time frame (aside from Christmas and New Year week). We visited in mid-January and while it wasn’t the best for swimming in the ocean and waterfalls, the island was quiet and peaceful. Finally, the lushness of all the botany during the wet season is insanely beautiful and the most fragrant.
Best Things to Do in Maui
Drive the Road to Hana
Easily the highlight of our trip was driving the Hana highway aka the Road to Hana. This all-encompassing drive takes you through 50 miles of beautiful, barely-touched Hawaiian forests, tropical beaches, and scenic overlooks. This drive is not for the faint of heart. Being that there are 620 hairpin turns on this drive and 59 one-lane bridges – but that’s what makes the Road to Hana ooze with character. I’ve written an entire blog post on it so check out the First Timer’s Guide to The Road to Hana.
Sunrise at Haleakala National Park
When I started my research for the sunrise mission to Haleakala National Park, I kept reading that in order to witness the sunrise you needed to wake up at 3 am. Well, that may be the case during the summer months but since we visited in January, and the sunrise was at 7 am, we couldn’t pass it up.
It’s hard to put into words the feeling that sitting on top of the clouds, 10,000 feet in the air, on a dormant volcano watching the sunrise gives you. Truly, it was a magical experience. Many locals tend to remind everyone that the sunsets are just as magical atop Haleakala so if you’re not a morning person, that’s an option!
You need to book your reservations in advance if you want to catch the sunrise or sunset at Haleakala. When you arrive, it costs $30 to enter but the pass is good for up to 3 days so you can re-use it at the Road to Hana entrance and check out the other side of the park. Additionally, if you have the “America the Beautiful” pass you will not need to pay entry.
Hike the Pipiwai Trail
A bamboo forest in the middle of an island? SIGN ME UP! The Pipiwai trail is also located in Haleakala National Park however, it’s a separate entrance to enter. You have to drive the entire Road to Hana to access this part but let me tell you, it’s most definitely worth the journey.
When we entered the bamboo portion of the Pipiwai Trail it quite literally took my breath away. I’ve never seen so much raw beauty before my own eyes. I could cry just thinking about the feeling that I had when visiting. If you can only take one thing from this post, let it be this. Hike the Pipiwai Trail and go all the way to the waterfall! It’s a daunting task being at the end of the Road to Hana so leave yourself enough time for energy to hike this portion.
Explore Lahaina, Maui
Lahaina is a small historic town on the West Side of Maui rich in Hawaiian history. I have to be honest, at first glance I believed it to be too touristy. But after roaming Front Street for an afternoon I fell in love with the charming coastal town. You can spend an entire afternoon/evening here strolling the streets, walking along the waterfront, and checking out the old Banyan tree park. It’s a great spot for all ages!
Additionally, Mick Fleetwood has a bar/restaurant called “Fleetwoods on Front Street” and is a fun spot to visit. Other popular places are the Lahaina lighthouse and Kimo’s Maui. Finally, we had. one of the best hot dogs at a casual eaterie called the Thirsty Turtle.
Finally, if you’re visiting Lahaina during the months of November – May it is a great spot to embark on a whale watching tour.
Visit Iao Valley State Park
A lush valley located in West Maui is now a national landmark. There are multiple hiking trails and dramatic sceneries at Iao Valley. The main attraction is the Iao Needle, a 1200 feet phallic-shaped stone that is known in Hawaiian culture as the stone of the god of the ocean, Kanaloa. It costs a small fee to park and you could spend anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours here depending on if you’re hiking or not. It’s definitely a must-see when visiting Maui, Hawaii!
Snorkel at Molokini Crater
Deemed the best snorkeling site in all of Hawaii (and even North America) is the Molokini Crater. A submerged crater from a volcanic eruption over 230,000 years ago. It doesn’t look like much from above but beneath the surface are droves of tropical fish, over 250 species to be exact!
You can only access this spot by boat tour and there are many options for what type of tour you would like. This boat tour comes highly recommended and is less than $100. Click here to book your tickets before your trip!
Kapalua Coastal Trail
One of Maui’s most popular (and beautiful) hikes is one for all skill levels! The Kapalua Coastal Trail is a 2.5-mile hike/walk that runs along the coast of Kapalua. On this trail, you’ll see dramatic coastlines with lava rock, and pristine beaches, and during the winter you might be able to catch some whale and sea turtle sightings. We loved this part of our trip and found Kapalua Beach to be the most stunning.
Visit the Maui Tropical Plantation
Taken from their website “The Tropical Express offers visitors an overview of Hawaii’s famous fruits and plants. This 40-minute tour is ideal for families or visitors who want to check off their tropical bucket list. Loop around the lagoon and cruise through parts of the Plantation accessible only to passengers aboard the Tropical Express. The tour includes a 15-20 minute coconut husking demonstration. Smell the flowers, see the fresh fruit, hear the stories, and ask questions!” They also have ziplining on the property as well. Book your tickets in advance.
Best Maui Beaches
Located on the Northwest coast of Maui is Kapalua. Notably known for high-end resorts and golf courses, Kapalua is home to the prettiest beach I have ever laid eyes on (yeah I said it)! The views of the distant island, turquoise waters, and lava rock just do it for me. I’ll let the drone shot speak for itself.
Arguably the most famous (and most visited) beach on Maui is Ka’anapali. An old stomping ground for Hawaiian Royalty is now a great place to relax and try out the endless water activities (scuba diving, surfing, parasailing). There is a small pathway that runs adjacent to the stretches of the beach with multiple resorts and restaurants alike.
This stretch of beach is home to the most luxurious resorts on the island so you may be rubbing shoulders with a famous person or two. The golden sand is so soft and you’ll have views of the Molokini Crater in the distance. We visited here during sunset, posted up, and watched a whale frolic in the distance. It was pure magic!
Napali Bay Beach
A great beach for snorkeling in the Northern part of Maui. The waters are calmer her making swimming and spotting sea turtles a breeze! And you can’t beat that crystal blue water.
We just so happened to stumble upon this beach on our first night here. This little cove was so tranquil, and beautiful at sunset, and it was super cool to see the Molokini Crater off in the distance. It’s a hidden gem in Wailea.
Waianapanapa State Park
The famous Black Sand Beach is located in Hana at Waianapanapa State Park. It’s one of the main stops along the Road to Hana, so if you plan on driving it (which you 100% should) make sure to stop here and marvel at the beautiful exotic sand. It was much softer than I thought it was going to be!
Finally, you do need to book a reservation in advance now in order to access this beach. Make sure to book as soon as you know you’re visiting to reserve a spot. Visit their website for more information.
Best Hotels in Maui
While all opinions and recommendations are always my own, my content on this blog post may contain affiliate links for hotels I’ve traveled to, tours I’ve completed, and products I recommend. This means I get a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you book a stay or purchase a product after clicking one of these links. As always, I am so thankful for your support so I can continue to offer free resources.
Once a retreat for Hawaiian Royalty, most people choose to stay in West Maui because of the multiple resorts, endless water activities, shopping, and restaurants. Not to mention the beautiful backdrop of the West Maui Mountains. There are a couple of cities to choose from Ka’anapali, Kapalua, and Lahaina are among the most popular. Here are my top picks for hotels in the area:
Hyatt Regency Maui Resort + Spa ($$$)
Located on Ka’anapali Beach which is known to be one of the best beaches and locations in the US is the Hyatt Regency Resort + Spa. We personally stayed here and couldn’t recommend it more! They have multiple pools, the most beautiful grounds with flamingos, swans, and penguins running about, and the sunsets were stunning. Book your stay here!
Aston Ka’anapali Shores ($$)
Located on the beachfront in Ka’anapali this resort offers condo living-style rooms with the amenities of a hotel. Each room comes equipped with a full kitchen and it’s super affordable. Book your stay here!
Wailea South Maui
South Maui is home to the prettiest tropical beaches, the most luxurious resorts, and 13 world-renowned golf courses. You can choose to stay in the luxury of Wailea or rent an AIRBNB in Kihei for a more local vibe. Below are my top picks for hotels in the area:
Fairmont Kea Lani, Wailea ($$$)
Nestled on the white sand beaches of Wailea, this resort offers an oceanfront luxury experience with three pools, a state-of-the-art spa, and incredible customer service. Book your stay here!
Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort ($$$$)
If you’re looking to go all out in Maui, then this resort is the one for you! This stunning resort is definitely a splurge but it’s an experience you’ll never forget. Situated on 15 acres of beautiful beachfront property you can immerse yourself in the Aloha spirit while taking in the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Book your stay here!
Four Seasons Resort Maui ($$$)
You may recognize The Four Seasons Resort in Maui from the show White Lotus. Well way before that show the FS Maui has been a luxury travel favorite on the south side of this island. Book your stay here!
Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort ($$$$)
Wailea is home to many luxury resorts, however, the Waldorf Astoria name oozes luxury. Discover a retreat shaped by nature and inspired by culture. An intriguing blend of restful escapism and unbridled joy, Grand Wailea embodies balance at every turn. Book your stay here!
Best Maui Restaurants/Eateries
Mama’s Fish House ($$$$) Fine dining island style. This restaurant is notably the most famous in Maui and is always highly recommended. You’ll need reservations to secure a seat at this spot!
Merriman’s Maui ($$) With its panoramic ocean views and candlelit tables Merriman’s is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner for two.
Hali’imaile General Store ($$) Housed in a historic 1920s house, this spot is now a general store/restaurant and it’s been serving farm-to-table food before it was even popular.
Leoda’s Kitchen + Pie Shop ($) Don’t let the line sway you, this spot has great food and is quite famous for its pies (and all of its ingredients come from local farms).
Kihei Food Trucks ($) Located in Kihei is a courtyard with multiple food truck vendors. Special shoutout to the truck Da Nani Pirates their food was incredible and much needed after a day of exploring Maui.
What to Pack for Maui, Hawaii
Maui is warm year-round and can be very wet during some months. so make sure to have these on hand for your trip:
- Bathing suits! If you overpack anything in your suitcase let it be this. Being that Hawaii is full of beautiful beaches, ocean activities, and multiple waterfalls you’ll always want to have them handy. I always find great fitting suits at Summersalt, Cupshe, and Revolve.
- Water Shoes are super helpful especially when visiting waterfalls and on muddy hikes. These ones from COLUMBIA are a favorite!
- A sturdy pair of flip-flops that you can wear on a quick hike. These Olukai Sandals are my go-to and have lasted me years.
- A chic pair of slide sandals for dinner
- This GOOP FACE SUNSCREEN BRUSH is perfect for traveling. Since it adds SPF to your face all while not messing up your makeup. It’s my new holy grail product and so definitely add this to your packing list!
- A chic sun hat for the beach and pool.
- Basics: I always find the best basics at Abercrombie. It’s nice to have some neutral tees and tanks handy during your stay.
- Flowy Dresses: These really come in handy when the temperatures are high in the spring/summer. My favorite white dress for photos is linked here, + here.
- Workout sets: I love my Lululemon gear because they last forever. If you’re on a budget, Amazon has some amazing Lululemon dupes that you can shop here.
Thank you for reading my “Complete Maui Travel Guide”. Have you ever been? If not enjoy paradise! Don’t forget to head here for more of my Hawaii Guides. Finally, check out my Ultimate Hawaii Packing List to help you pack for your trip!
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