Maui Travel Guide: A Guide to Maximize Your Visit

Maui: all I can say is WOW! This is my second time traveling to Maui and I truly am convinced the experience gets better each time! I went with my boyfriend and we spent a total of 11 days in the Aloha state. Maui is such a coveted destination for travelers all over the world. Maui specifically, is known for being the most nature-forward of all the islands on Hawaii! From the fresh seafood, to the stunning hikes, to the incredible beaches, I felt like I was in a dream that I never wanted to wake up from! This was one of my longest trips to date, so there is an extensive amount of content to match! With that being said, I bring you my Maui travel guide with all my recommendations for Maui! NOTE: all places mentioned below are linked for your viewing pleasure and convenience!

When to Travel to Maui, Hawaii

This section of the Maui Travel guide discusses optimal travel times. The best time to travel to Maui is during April and May or September through November, when the weather is least likely to be sporadic. We went early March, and experienced some in-climate weather, but overall in the almost two weeks we were there, the weather was sunny! Also, if you have never experienced island weather, it can be tricky to navigate! Although one side of the island is gloomy or cold, the other side is most likely all sunny and bright! When packing for a place like Maui, consider bringing a little raincoat just in case! For the length of stay, I recommend visiting for at least one week! Hawaii is three hours behind Pacific Standard Time, so if you are flying anywhere farther that the West Coast, you will want to give your body enough time to adjust to the time difference. With that timeframe, you will be able to see multiple areas of Maui (as it is large), and not feel rushed! Get to know the main neighborhoods (i’ve listed them below)! IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure to read and prepare for the Hawaii travel requirements regarding covid! Click here to view the requirements.

What to Consider when Buying your Flight

This section of the Maui Travel guide discusses flight prices. It is widely known that traveling to Hawaii is one of the most expensive flights out there, no matter where you are traveling from! If you are traveling from San Francisco, it is over a 5 hour flight. I would recommend buying your flight 3-4 months ahead of your intended travel. The main airport to fly into is Kahului (OGG), and is located near the middle of the island. We got the most amazing flight deal through Scott’s Cheap Flights for $110 roundtrip on Hawaiian Airlines!!! This is THE cheapest flight to Hawaii I have ever seen, as flights are normally $600 roundtrip. I recommend flying Hawaiian Airlines or United as those airlines always have non-stop flights that are reasonably priced. As always, I recommend searching flights on Skyscanner and Google Flights to monitor flight price fluctuations. For transportation, I would, however, opt for renting a car for the duration of your stay so you can have easier mobility around the island more efficiently. We rented a car through the airport and got a great deal for our time there: $300 for the trip! Check the airport rental car providers to see which one best suit your needs! Recommended vendors to check rates are: Budget, Avis, and Hertz.

Where to Stay in Maui, Hawaii

This section of the Maui Travel guide discusses lodging and accommodations. Maui, like everywhere in Hawaii, is expensive. My best advice is to book an Airbnb or hotel far in advance (at least 1-2 months prior) to secure the best deals. Where to stay in Maui all depends on where you want to prioritize your time. If you want a quick access to lively surroundings, stay in Lahaina or nearby. If you want a more chill atmosphere, stay near Paia. If you want to stay in a fancy resort, go to Wailea. No matter where you stay, a car will be necessary to navigate to each neighboring area. Uber and Lyft are not widely used there and sometimes are unavailable to pick up in certain locations on the island. We spent most of our time in Paia, Lahaina, and Hana, and therefore have more to share about those areas.

The main areas in Maui are as follows:

  • Hana
  • Kihei
  • Paia
  • Kahului/Ma’alaea
  • Lahaina
  • Haiku
  • Wailea

What To Do in Hana

This section of the Maui Travel guide discusses Hana’s beaches, hiking, and food options.

Beaches

Black Sand Beach: An absolutely stunning beach featuring soft black refined sand! The water was the perfect temperature to swim in, and there was a secret cave to roam through! A few things to note here: you need to reserve a parking reservation prior to your visit. There is also no service in this area, so remember to screenshot the QR code and save in on your phone so we can show it when you arrive. See here for the reservation page.

Red Sand Beach: A gorgeous beach! The red sand is such a unique touch to the location. To get down to the beach, there is some climbing required! It is worth the trek!

Hamoa Beach: This is a beautiful beach in Hana that is frequented by the locals! There is a beautiful large palm tree draping on the beach landscape which truly adds to the Hawaiian aesthetic! The water is warm and great for swimming! There is also a swingset along the sand near the large single palm tree that is popular with the visitors!

Hiking

Pīpīwai Trail to Waimoku Falls: This is the most worthwhile hiking trail in Hana! It takes 2 miles to get to the falls from the start of the trail, and there is a lot of uphill trek, but very scenic path along the way! The giant bamboo forest path throughout makes the time fly by! You’ll thank yourself at the end once you’re staring at the breathtaking 400ft tall majestic waterfall! You will see the Seven Sacred Pools at the bottom entrance to the hike. The entrance fee to the park is $30.

Haleakala Crater: One of the coolest experiences of my life! The elevation at the top is 12,000ft! There are multiple trails you can take, and we chose to do Sliding Sands which routes inside the volcano crater! It is widely known as one of the most quiet places on earth! If you’re up for it, the longest hiking trail is 13 miles and is usually started early in the morning before sunrise. A very popular activity to partake in is to watch the sunrise from the peak. People venture to the park at 3am, and this is a reservation only experience. See here for reservation details. The entrance fee to the crater is $30 and is valid for 3 days from purchase so you can come back within that time frame with your receipt!

Fagan’s Cross Hike: This is a short hike in Hana we stumbled upon on our drive into town. It is an easy .75 mile incline to the top where the cross is located! Once at the top, there is a gorgeous expansive view of the town!

Food

Thai by Pranee: The most popular Thai food restaurant in all of Hana. It is a food truck tucked away on the side of the road, with some outdoor seating. We ordered three dishes that were all very good! The coconut shrimp rice, the drunken noodles, and the chicken pad thai were all awesome entrees!

Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread in Ke’anae: first off WOW! THE best banana bread i’ve ever had! I feel like I crave it often, and I wish this place was in California! They bake it fresh every single morning, and it is served warm to customers. It’s $7 a loaf but the loaf is huge and very worth the price! This is on the road to Hana and is a MUST go!

What to Do in Kihei

This section of the Maui Travel guide discusses Kihei’s highlighted spots.

Maui Brewing Company: This is Hawaii’s largest craft brewery and one of the coolest breweries I’ve ever seen! It is the sight of the breweries headquarters and offers an expansive 4-tier outdoor patio, whimsical string lights, lounge chairs, live music, 36 craft beers on tap, and gorgeous sunset views! No reservations required, but I recommend going at 5pm to watch the stunning sunset while you enjoy your beer!

Isana Sushi: We came here after the the brewery and absolutely loved it! We were greeted by a beautiful sunset view of the water before entering the restaurant. We got a few rolls to share and sake bombs!

What to Do in Paia

This section of the Maui Travel guide discusses Paia’s shopping, beaches, hiking, and food options.

Shopping & Exploring

Makawao: This is a small historic town next to Paia! We drove through it multiple times to get to Haiku, but did not have enough time to walk around. There were many shops and restaurants we saw via car, and its a place you can explore if you have time!

Mahina: This clothing store is one of the many shops in Paia, but has the exact style preferences I love! I browsed the shop while I was there and picked up a pair of earrings.

Restaurants

Paia Fish Market restaurant: There are multiple locations of this restaurant, but this is the original one! We ordered fish & chips and shrimp pasta on the first outing. Then we were told that the best item to order is the Obama burger, part of their secret menu! We went back to try it and loved it– highly recommend! This is a walk-in only restaurant.

Paia Bowls: A cute little acai bowl joint on the outskirts of the main street in Paia. The lush decor was so stunning! Since we saw that the bowls were pretty large, we ordered one to share. They have 3-4 rotating staple mixes. The one we got was tasty and refreshing, especially in the heat that day!

Flatbread Company: an all-american restaurant that serves up great pizza and flatbread! We ordered a pizza to share and some cocktails! Reservations are not required here.

Hana Bay Picnic Co: This is a sandwich shop that serves up hearty and tasty sandwiches! It was highly rated and we got some here to take to our picnic!

Mama’s Fish House: A phenomenal restaurant! Situated on the Paia waterfront, this establishment is known for their beautiful ocean views and delicious food. They served up the best Mai Tai I’ve ever had! They also have a celebrity’s wall dedicated to the notable patrons who’ve dined there! Reservations are required and they book up one month in advance! Book through opentable here.

Beaches

Ho’okipa Beach: This beach is known for frequent turtle sightings! It is a quiet and calm beach and we had a picnic here one day!

Slaughterhouse Beach: We did not get to go here but heard great things about this beach!

Baldwin Beach Park: We did not get to go to this beach, but it is a popular place to play volleyball!

Happy Hour/Drinks

Cafe Mambo: A small cafe that had a fun happy hour on the day we were rained in! They also sell artwork and jewelry and I picked up a pair of earrings!

Milagro’s: We came here for drinks after dinner! It is a small, cozy interior with a dedicated and friendly staff that took care of us! They had a great drink selection!

Paia Bay Coffee Bar: This place is both a cafe and a bar! We went during their happy hour and had some drinks and listened to the open mic performances! They have the cutest patio!

What to Do in Kahului/Ma’alaea

This section of the Maui Travel guide discusses Kahului/Ma’alaea’s highlighted spots.

Cafe O’Lei at the Mill House: The property is gorgeous! I spent alot of time walking through to see everything on the grounds. They also offer zip-lining adjacent to the restaurant, how cool is that? For appetizers we got the calamari steak. For entrees, we got the blackened shrimp, the braised short ribs, and the coq au vin which were all fantastic! Call the restaurant directly to book a reservation.

Thai Mee Up: My absolute favorite food truck in all of Maui! When I first came to Maui in 2018, this was the food truck I went to multiple times during my visit! Everything on the menu is made to order fresh, and I am a sucker for pad thai and their chicken pad thai is the BEST i’ve ever had and I sincerely mean that! The other items on the list I loved were the shrimp fried rice, the pork ribs, and the drunken noodles with pork.

Costco: This Costco is in a perfect location for anyone who needs to pick up essential items for a long stay in Maui. When I came here in 2018, I ventured here almost every day to get lunch at the food stand! As always, you need to be a Costco card member to be able to enter the store and take advantage of all the discounts and deals.

Molokini Crater: The full name of this is called Molokini & Turtle Arches Snorkel. This is a five hour reservation-only experience that takes you on a boat adventure to two different sections of the island to snorkel! Along the way, you will get the pleasure of humpback whale sightings! I got to immerse myself in coral reefs, school of fish, and multiple turtles!!! The tour, transportation, breakfast and lunch, all snorkeling gear is included for $125 per person. Book here!

What to Do in Lahaina

This section of the Maui Travel guide discusses Lahaina’s shopping, beaches, hiking, and food options.

Shopping & Exploring

Lahaina’s Front Street: Reminiscent of North Bay’s Sausalito, Front street brings vibrancy and liveliness to Maui. We visited multiple times during our stay and loved experiencing something new each visit!

Visit a Luau: Definitely one of the most traditional excursions to do while in Hawaii! There are many Luau options to choose from, and we booked tickets for Royal Lahaina Luau and found it was the cheapest of the bunch and also highly rated amongst the rest! See the main website here. The ticket includes a complimentary lei, all-you-can-eat assisted buffet, open bar, and a 90 minute live Luau performance & fire show! 

Sargent’s Fine Art: A gorgeous art gallery in the heart of Front Street. We had so much fun walking through and reading about all the pieces of work and artists who are housed in there!

Beaches

Ironwoods Beach: We drove by this beach which looked so stunning! We did not get to swim here but the views were incredible!

Restaurants

Belle Surf Cafe: The cutest cafe in Maui! We ordered their bagels, coffee, and smoothie! Everything tasted so fresh! The cafe’s interior and the exterior were stunning!

Honolulu Cookies: The famous cookie shop sits on Front street and always has a long line to enter! I went for the first time back in 2018 and highly recommend it! We ordered some home this time around!

Ululani’s Shave Ice: This is a popular shave ice spot with a long list of fun flavors and combinations to try! The line is always long so give yourself time to get there and expect at least a 20 minute wait.

Star Noodle: My favorite restaurant in Lahaina, hands down! It is asian fusion cuisine, and they do it so well! We got broccolini, pad thai, chicken wings, and more smaller appetizers, and wanted to (and could have) eaten a whole lot more! Reservations are required here and I recommend booking at least a week in advance!

Cool Cats Cafe: This restaurant sits right above Down The Hatch. It is an American style diner that emphasizes burgers and milkshakes. There is an option to add liquor to the milkshakes for more adult fun! We put our names down and grabbed a drink downstairs before our buzzer was called to sit.

Happy Hour/Drinks

Merriman’s: Come here for the most beautiful view of the water and oceanside! We also got a bonus viewing of whales right from our table! In addition to the beautiful views, they are also known for their Mai Tai’s! This place is very popular, and reservations are highly recommended. Note that reservations are required for inside seating and not required for outdoors. We walked in and sat outside.

Down The Hatch: This was my by far my favorite bar in all of Maui! This place was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives! It is a large open-air space, full service bar, restaurant, and has live music performances, nightly! There is also a beautiful coy-fish pond in the middle of the bar! Their cocktails are super good and they always have a rotating special going on!

Waikiki Brewing Company: We stumbled upon this brewery while walking towards the edge of Front street. They had a wide selection of beers and we tried a flight and a few pints! The atmosphere was welcoming and chill and its definitely a nice hangout spot! I suggest calling to ask for day-of availability and I would also suggest going for happy hour!

What to Do in Haiku

This section of the Maui Travel guide discusses Haiku’s highlighted spots.

Colleen’s: We came here for a late breakfast on a day where the weather wasn’t great. It is a classic diner style vibe which felt very cozy. The food was classic American style. No reservations required!

Nuka: This is a sushi restaurant in the area that is known for their creative rolls! We did not get to dine here, but we heard amazing things about the menu selection!

What to Do in Wailea

This section of the Maui Travel guide discusses Wailea’s highlighted spots.

Makena Beach: This was my favorite beach we went to during our stay! The waves, water temperature, and sand were all perfect and I wanted to swim for hours! There is plenty of parking along the street and there is a dedicated parking lot as well!

Monkey Pod: This is a great place for happy hour! The signature Mai Tai’s are the most popular item on the menu, and they have great appetizers as well! I suggest arriving right at 3pm as there is a line that forms to get in once happy hour starts!

Maui Winery: Maui’s one and only winery! The grounds are gorgeous and the wines were unique and refreshing! They offer standard flights and stand-alone pours! Reservations are required, and taken through Resy. Book here.

I hope you enjoyed this Maui travel guide and found it helpful for your upcoming trip! Please comment thoughts and questions below, and share with your friends and family! Thank you for your continued support!

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