Here are some recommendations for the island of Maui. I’ve been there twice, and both times were amazing. I’m not sure what kind of trip you’re looking for, but our goal last time was just R&R. We wanted to park ourselves and just relax without jumping from city-to-city, country-to-country like our last few vacations. Maui is perfect for that.
OK, below are my tips/recommendations I can pass on for Maui. Hope this helps in your planning.
Where to stay?
We stayed in Wailea. This is the nicest part of the island with the best weather. The beaches are beautiful here, you see the other islands and the water is warm. This part of the island also sees the most sunlight. Other bonus, the sun sets on this side of the island, so if there isn’t too many clouds, you’ll get the beautiful sunsets.
Wailea is also newer than the other towns on Maui so there aren’t as many hotels and resorts built up. There is a stretch of resorts, which is where we stayed, and then its residential. So its not over crowded. One drawback to this, if you want to go to bars and restaurants “in town”, you will have to drive or uber to Kihai (10mins). However, there is a little shopping mall that has a bunch of restaurants and shops next to the Marriott. Wailea is also not very far from everything. Its about 25-30 mins drive to Paia, which is a central part of the island and sort of the gateway to all the sites on Maui.
I also stayed in Kaanapali the last time I went. This is an older more mature area of Maui. Tons of resorts and lots of people. Mostly families. We went there for a day and weren’t impressed. Got out of there real quick. Also, this is a long drive from everything. You have to drive around a volcano so it takes a while to leave that area and get to the rest of the island. The beaches aren’t as good either. We found the beaches on Wailea much better and longer. The Kaanapali beach is a short steep beach, like stadium seating in a way.
Kapalua is beautiful, but its far away from everything.
We stayed at the Wailea Beach Club by Marriott. Honestly, this was the best hotel in Wailea for the money. It’s not cheap, but it had the best setup. We walked to all the hotels on this strip of beach to check them out and we were very happy we picked that one. The only other hotel we would consider next time is the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. The adult pool there looked amazing and had an unreal view. But its much more expensive.
The Marriott doesn’t have its own dedicated beach like the others. But all this means is that there is no beach right in front of the hotel. Since all the beaches in Maui are public, no hotel owns its own beach and they are open to all. Instead, the Marriott is situated between 2 amazing beaches, and it’s less than a 5 mins walk to either. What is cool is that instead of a beach, they have these rocky cliffs that allow for amazing photos. Also, they have an adult only infinity pool which makes it look like the pool goes right into the ocean (but in actuality its about 150 yards away). But, this also allows the hotel to be closer to the ocean rather than set way back because of a beach. This is also where all the coral is and all the turtles.
Marriott is also great because they take the kids and stick them in a corner. The kids pool is around the corner and away from everything, so you don’t hear the kids all day when at the adult pool. We didn’t even know it was there for almost 2 days. The other hotels have kids all over them. Especially the Grand Wailea. If you want to be inundated with screaming kids then that’s your spot. They do have an amazing pool though with a super cool lazy river. I was jealous of that only.
One hotel I would avoid, even though it has amazing reviews, is the Fairmont Wailea. It’s far away from everything. Although it looks close, its secluded a bit and a bit of a walk back to the other hotels if you take the beach path. It’s not that far, but enough to be a pain in the ass. Also, its old, and looks like it was amazing in the 70’s or 80’s. It shows its age from a styling perspective, but the amenities are all modern.
What to do?
Here is a list of the things we did and what we found fun.
- Road to Hana
This is the world famous iconic drive. I did it before but was super hung over. This time was a little better. It rained a ton, but it let up in the afternoon so it worked out. This is the part of Maui where you get all the tropical rain forests and beautiful waterfalls, etc… So expect a little rain and cloud in parts. We got a jeep for our trip and it definitely made the ride a little easier, but you don’t NEED it. But it was much more fun. If you decide to do this, I’ve provide some more details further down.
We didn’t pay for any snorkeling tours. We watched every morning and the tours parked themselves in front of our hotel room so we just rented gear form our hotel ($25) and went to the same spot on our own. We saw some turtles, including a huge one! Fish too.
Lahaina is a cute town and one of the bigger towns in Maui. You could spend a whole afternoon there. We went after Kaanapali because I got lost and went there instead of Lahaina. Lots of restaurants, shops, beach, etc… Lovely place.
The Hawaiian Luau is a must if you go to Maui. It’s a pretty fun experience and nice show. It usually starts just before sunset as people come to check in and get their seats. From there you’ll get to see them lift the roasted pig out of the ground which is pretty cool. It also tastes amazing! The pork is so delicious. Then they put on a big show with singing and dancing. Very entertaining. We went to the Te Au Moana show in Wailea. It’s on the Marriott resort’s grounds. From what I read it’s the best one in Wailea, and top 3 on Maui. It was included in our package, that’s really why we chose it. However, throughout the week, every hotel has their own and we saw some of those shows. Ours looked better.
Tip: Get there early. The gate opens at 4:30, but show doesn’t start until 6 (I think). but its first come first served seat wise. There’s about 100 people or so in line at 4:30 to get in, so if you want a good seat you have to go early. Bonus is that it’s an all inclusive bar, so you just drink more.
- Volcano Bike Ride
We did a tour from a company called Maui Bombers. They drive you almost all the way to the top of the volcano, and then you ride bikes down the road back to the town of Paia. This was one of the best things we did. They tour guides are amazing and tell you lots. They blare some music, take photos and videos for you. I highly, highly recommend this. You get amazing views from the top too. No peddling either, you basically just cruise down the volcano. They also have a car that trains behind you so no cars can creep up on you. They make a stop in a town halfway down, it’s pretty cool, and they feed you lunch. Maui Bombers is the tour to go with. There is a ton of them, but these guys are the best.
Where to eat?
There’s so many places and it all depends on where you stay. Below is a list of places in Wailea and Kihei (which were closest to us). However, if there is one place you need to go to, its Mama’s Fish House. It’s in Paia and totally worth it. It’s a little more expensive but you do it once. Make sure to book a reservation, usually you’ll need to do it like 3 months in advance. It’s not too far from the airport, so we went straight there after our flight, had a great meal, then headed to the hotel to check in. Easier to get a lunch reservation too!
Sansei Sushi – in a strip mall, but fucking amazing. Their other location is at the Ritz in Kapalua. This one was way cheaper.
Foodland Farms – the best poke on the island. In a grocery store. hands down.
Paia Fish Market – casual spot, but very good food. Especially the fish tacos.
Road to Hana
The Road to Hana is a must do if you’ve never done it before. It’s the number one tourist activity on the island filled with so much beautiful beaches and scenery. You’ll regret if you don’t do it.
There are two ways to explore this drive. You can get guided tours that will pick you up in a van and do the driving for you, or you can rent a car and do it yourself. Both times I’ve done this we did the driving ourselves. Both times we did it, we had a Jeep or SUV. It helps as some part of the roads aren’t paved (mostly towards the end) and have huge potholes. Also, if it rains, the 4 wheel drive helps. But, you can definitely do it any type of vehicle.
We drove, so I can only speak to that experience. If you do drive, below are some tips on taking the trip:
We started the drive early, like 6:30 am early from Wailea. You beat so much of the traffic on the way there that it makes the drive a little more enjoyable. It’s a 1 lane road the whole way, so if you get stuck in a procession of tourist drivers it can get a little annoying. When you get to the stops, they aren’t as crowded yet either. So that helps. Only drawback to this strategy is that some stops have cool food vendors and shops, and some of them aren’t open yet. However, you can hit them up on the way back since you double back after reaching the end.
Cell signal is very poor on the road since you’re practically on the edge of the island. So we downloaded the GyPSy Guide Road to Hana, Maui Driving Tour app and it provides a detailed map and directions for you as well as acts as your tour guide along the way. We learned lots of cool tidbits and fun facts along the way, all triggered by GPS. The best part is it will tell you where to pull off for beautiful beaches and sights. Takes all the guess work out of your drive. Best investment we made on that drive.
Garden of Eden Arboretum
Garden of Eden Arboretum is a private garden/sanctuary along the road. It’s one of the first stops on your way. Definitely worth stopping in. You have to pay admission ($15), but its worth it. You get to see many exotic plants and trees, as well as some beautiful views of the coast and waterfalls. Some of our most epic photos came from there. You park your car and walk around, takes no more than 45mins.
Hana Lava Tube
This is another private destination along the Road to Hana. The Hana Lava Tube is a giant cave that stretches for miles. It’s where the lava flowed from the top of the volcano to the ocean. Everything around the lava cooled and formed this super cool cave. They give you flashlights and send you down into the cave. Easy to walk through, just very dark, but we really enjoyed it. A whole new world down there.
The Pools at ‘Ohe’o
The Pools at ‘Ohe’o are definitely worth the extra drive past Hana. What you’ll realize when you get to Hana is that it sucks. It’s a small little town with not much to it. The road goes there, so it’s famous for that. However, if you keep going a little bit further, you end up at the The Pools at ‘Ohe’o (7 Sacred Pools). They’re beautiful, you can swim in them, and the beaches are nice. Worth making the trek further. Unfortunately for us it was a downpour when we went, so they close the pools to swimming. But you can still hike down to see them. I got to them my first time in Hana, it was great.
Charles Lindbergh’s Grave
Don’t waste your time. It’s a slab in the ground with his name on it. Nothing else there. Do you even know who Charles Lindbergh is?
Hope this helps. I’m sure I missed lots of stuff, but I can send over more info once you know where/what you’ll be doing. We can chat more if you have further questions about logistics, etc.. Just let me know. If you have other questions, send them over.