Maui | A day at Maui beach is a day well-spent

Maui is not nearly as large as the Big Island, nor is it as small as Lanai, as bustling as Oahu or as quiet as Kauai. For many Hawaii vacationers, Maui is just right – offering a taste of just about everything the Aloha State has to offer, from impressive wildlife to intriguing history and culture. While on a visit here, you can shimmy alongside professional hula dancers, golf along coastal fairways, sail down a zip line, snorkel alongside five different types of sea turtles or simply lounge along some of Hawaii’s most notable beaches.

One of the archipelago’s most popular tourism spots, Maui can be found sandwiched between the Big Island and the much tinier Molokai (which you can explore by signing up for one of the best Maui tours). Maui is divided into five distinct regions: Many travelers base themselves along the coasts of South Maui (home to the famous Wailea Beach) or West Maui, where the sands of Kaanapali Beach and the music from the Old Lahaina Luau are located. But the rest of the island should not be missed. Travel along the Road to Hana to experience East Maui’s scenic coastline, explore Haleakala – the world’s largest dormant volcano – in the Upcountry and discover the former tribal battlegrounds of Central Maui’s Iao Valley State Park. And for a bird’s-eye view of it all, reserve a spot on one of Maui’s best helicopter tours.

Best of Maui

Best Hotels in Maui

  • Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
  • Montage Kapalua Bay
  • Hotel Wailea

Best Things to Do in Maui

  • Haleakala National Park
  • Road to Hana
  • Ka’anapali Beach
  • Pipiwai Trail
  • Napili Bay Beach

Maui Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best times to visit Maui are April through May and September through November. The spring and fall shoulder seasons provide the pleasant weather Hawaii vacationers seek without the high rates and heavy crowds that accompany the summer and winter. However, if you’re into surfing, you’ll want to travel in the winter for the best conditions – just book as early as possible to get a discounted rate. Meanwhile, if you’re traveling with kids, you may want to splurge for a summer trip as that’s when the waters are calmest. If you plan to set out on one of Maui’s adrenanline rush-inducing tours and adventures, consider a travel insurance policy with medical coverage just in case.


Maui sees large numbers of snowbirds flying the chilly coop during the winter months. Those who visit Maui in the winter are willing to shell out the high airfare costs and room rates for a taste of the island’s pristine wheather, which hovers in the high 70s. At this time of year, the waters around popular sites like Hookipa Beach are too rough for swimming, but just right for catching a wave. This is also a prime time for whale watching, which you can do on one of the best Maui tours.


Average springtime temperatures remain in the high 70s to 80s, but at this time, Maui has long said goodbye to the winter tourists. And because the summer crowds have yet to arrive, finding deals on airfare and lodging can be relatively easy. The island also puts on several notable festivals in March and April, making this a good time to learn more about Maui’s culture.


Temperatures may be warm on the mainland, but travelers can’t resist Maui in the summer. This is when the island sees a large influx of families – the arrival of summertime brings with it less forceful currents, making swimming conditions better for younger beach bums. The island also boasts a full social calendar with summer events celebrating everything from food to movies to music.


Trips along the Road to Hana are especially nice this year since there are fewer tourists than there are in summer and winter, traffic might not be as much of an issue along the route. During the fall, temperatures remain in the 80s, though challenging currents make their way back to shore. Like in the spring, flight and hotel deals abound; book several weeks in advance for the lowest rates.

What to Eat in Maui

This is the kind of destination where you really should soak up as much of the local cuisine as possible, regardless if other options are available. Like the rest of America, Maui is on board with the local food movement – here, you’ll find plates piled high with freshly caught fish and regional produce. To find these ingredients prepared the island way, you’ll want to stray from resort-heavy areas and head to towns like Lahaina, Kihei and Paia, which are home to popular restaurants like Paia Fish Market, Mama’s Fish House, Merriman’s, Star Noodle, Lahaina Grill and Nalu’s. The farther you get from Maui’s resorts, the more local mom and pop joints you’ll find. These local outposts serve such specialties as pork roasted in banana leaves, poi (ground taro root) and haupia, a creamy coconut custard. If you’re not quite sure where to start your culinary tour, ask some local residents for recommendations or sign up for one of the best Maui tours.

One very popular – and economical – way to get your fill of Hawaiian cuisine is to eat big around noon. Many local eateries served what’s called a “plate lunch,” which comes piled high with some sort of protein (usually beef, pork or fish), rice and macaroni salad. This tradition formed on the fruit and sugar plantations, where workers would gather for lunch with with bento-like boxes piled with rice and leftover meat from the previous night’s dinner. Today, it’s common to see residents and visitors alike chowing down on the mountainous servings dished out by plate lunch restaurants and stands.

If you are staying in accommodations with a kitchen, make sure to schedule a trip to a farmer’s market. In addition to the freshest produce, you’ll also find fresh fish and some readymade items, such as banana bread and passion fruit butter. Go Hawaii offers a guide to all of Maui’s farmers markets on its website. Fruit stands selling smoothies and juices are also a common sight, especially on the Road to Hana.

Getting Around Maui

The best way to get around Maui is by car, particularly if you’re planning on exploring large swaths of the island. Maui features a fairly comprehensive set of roadways, so finding your way around shouldn’t be too difficult. There is also a bus system and hotel shuttles depending on where you stay – but these won’t always be a dependable option for wide exploration.

You can easily rent a set of wheels upon arriving at Maui’s main flight terminal, Kahului Airport (OGG), located on the island’s northern coast. You’ll find two other airports on Maui: The Kapalua Airport (JHM) is located on the north coast of West Maui, while Hana Airport (HNM) sits in East Maui. Kahului services several major airlines, including United, Alaska and Delta, but both Kapalua and Hana are usually only used for inter-island transfers. If you aren’t renting a car, know you can also get a taxi from these airports as well as a Lyft or Uber.


Renting a car is the best option if you’re looking to see more of Maui than your hotel and the beach. You can rent a car in Maui if you are under the age of 25 so long as you pay an additional young driver fee. Also, since Hawaii is a no-fault state, you’ll want to spring for collision insurance (if your personal car insurance doesn’t cover you). Also, drivers visiting from busier parts of the country should be prepared to tone down the road rage: Hawaiians do not use their horns unless they are in imminent danger. You will find a variety of rental agencies at the Kahului and Kapalua airports.


There are 13 public bus routes in Maui. The Nos. 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 10, 20, 35, 39 and 40 all originate in Kahului, servicing all directions in the surrounding areas. These routes primarily run north, south and east, with the west being the area serviced the least. (You will need a car to reach western points of interest, such as Hana.) A single, one-way ride will cost $2, and day passes are available for $4. Buses run seven days a week starting as early as 5:30 a.m. and ending as late as 11 p.m., depending on the route.


You’ll see more taxis at the airport than you will around the island, but should you need a cab, your hotel can call one to take you to a restaurant, attraction or shopping area. However, you should do your best to avoid relying on cabs for long-distance travel: The standard rate on the island is $3 per mile, so the meter will add up quickly. Ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft also operate in Maui.


Many hotels and resorts – especially those in popular tourist areas like Wailea and West Maui — offer complimentary shuttle services to and from the airport as well as to nearby attractions and shopping areas. If you don’t feel like exploring Maui on your own, this is a very economical way to get around. Check with your hotel when booking to see what type of shuttle service it provides.


Inter-island ferry services operate out of the Lahaina Harbor. From here, you can catch a ferry to the Manele Small Boat Harbor on nearby Lanai several times a day with Expeditions Lanai – the first ferry departs Lahaina at 6:45 a.m., while the final return boat leaves Lanai at 5:30 p.m. Round-trip fares cost $60 for adults and $40 for children (one-way trips cost $30 and $20, respectfully).

How to Save Money in Maui

  • Consider the bus Driving is by far the easiest way to get around Maui, but if you plan on spending most of your time in one single area, you may be able to save on rental fees by relying on the bus. However, if you do decide to rent a car…
  • Know your insurance policy Some car rental agencies will try to convince you that you’ll need collision insurance. (This is a no-fault state where you’ll have to pay any damages before leaving.) But your personal insurance or your credit card might already cover this.
  • Forgo the ocean view It’s nice to look out at the water, but if you can wait to do so at the beach rather than from your room, you can save a considerable chunk of change of your nightly hotel rate.

Culture & Customs

Maui is a great place to go if you’re looking to learn more about Hawaii history and culture. In fact, legend has it that it was the demigod, Maui, who pulled the islands from the sea and lassoed the sun from the top of Haleakala. Travelers who are interested in learning more about island lore will have plenty of opportunities to do so: A visit to the scenic Iao Valley will offer a glimpse into the tumultuous era of tribal warfare, while a stroll through the small town of Lahaina will yield a better understanding of Hawaii’s whaling, plantation and trade history.

Today, Maui is one of America’s most popular vacation destinations – probably because it’s so drastically different from any place on the mainland. Vacationers will find all the makings of contemporary luxury at the island’s resorts, but outside the hotel areas, the relaxed “Aloha spirit” permeates. If you’re looking to blend in with the locals, you simply need to loosen up: Pack T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops (as well as some light layers) for everyday wear, and tone down the road rage (no honking here).

Other cultural traditions continue to influence everyday life in Maui, one of the most noticeable being language. Unlike many other states, Hawaii has two official languages: English and Hawaiian, which is a member of the Polynesian language family. Though you won’t have any trouble finding English-speakers, you’ll benefit from learning a few basic Hawaiian phrases; “aloha” means both “hello” and “goodbye,” and “mahalo” means “thank you.”

The arts are a mainstay on the island, with numerous festivals – like the one held twice a month in Lahaina’s Banyan Tree Park – showcasing works by regional craftspeople. And throughout the year, Maui honors its vibrant culture through events like the Maui Steel Guitar Festival and the East Maui Taro Festival.

If you’re more interested in discovering Maui’s natural wonders than its heritage, you’ll find plenty of places to do so – from flower-filled jungles to underwater reefs teeming with aquatic life. However, it’s important that you leave the island as you found it. Resist the urge to collect living souvenirs or to have a one-on-one encounter with local wildlife, as these could result in hefty fines.


Maui is a very safe place with little crime. Your main concern should be staying safe in parks and on hiking trails and, most importantly, in the water. Never hike or swim alone, and be sure to consult weather and tide conditions before entering the water.

Maui Neighborhoods

Maui can be divided into five distinct areas, each of them geographically and culturally unique. For an interesting perspective of the island’s various regions, sign up for one of Maui’s best helicopter tours.

South Maui

South Maui is one of the island’s sunniest, driest regions, which makes it one of the most popular home bases for visitors. Although much of South Maui consists of condos and strip malls, you’ll also find a variety of luxury resorts and stunning beaches here, not to mention the Maui Ocean Center. This area is also convenient for travelers looking to explore the island as it offers easy access to major highways and some public bus routes.


Wailea is perhaps the best-known area of South Maui, boasting several golf courses, a number of luxury lodging options and five spectacular beaches. This resort community occupies 1,500 acres of Maui’s southern coast, offering those who choose to stay here access to such notable shores as Wailea Beach.


Wailea Beach may get all the attention, but sun-seekers may want to spend some time at Makena, too. Stretching out across more than half a mile just south of Wailea, Makena Beach (also known as “Big Beach”) is one of the largest beaches in Maui. From here, sunbathers will have views of the tiny neighboring islands of Molokini and Kahoolawe.


Located a few miles off the southwest coast of Maui, Molokini is a popular snorkeling and scuba diving spot (and is a featured stop on many of the best Maui tours). This 18-acre island is surrounded by coral reefs that house more than 250 species of fish. Tours are available from nearby Maalaea and from Lahaina in West Maui.


Located at the northern end of South Maui, this 6-mile stretch of coastline was once a popular vacation spot for Hawaiian royalty. Today, it draws sun-seekers with its expansive sands and views of Lanai. Meanwhile, the Kealia Pond, a National Wildlife Conservation District, is a popular spot for nature lovers as it houses endangered bird species.

Rivaling South Maui in terms of popularity, West Maui is known for its beautiful coastline, its variety of activities such as zip lines, its upscale resorts and its stunning sunsets. This is the place to go for the quintessential Hawaiian vacation.

West Maui

Rivaling South Maui in terms of popularity, West Maui is known for its beautiful coastline, its variety of activities such as zip lines, its upscale resorts and its stunning sunsets. This is the place to go for the quintessential Hawaiian vacation.


This historic town, once the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom, can be found along the Honoapiilani Highway. Stroll down the Lahaina Historic Trail and you’ll stop at a variety of sights that are part of the town’s history, including Banyan Tree Park. You’ll also find several restaurants, shops and art galleries along the town’s main thoroughfare, Front Street. This is also a primary departure point for guided island tours and whale-watching excursions.


Sandwiched between Lahaina and Kapalua on Maui’s northeast coast, Kaanapali is a resort-laden area filled with shopping and dining opportunities. The expansive Kaanapali Beach is a hit with many travelers for its views, but this isn’t always a great place for swimming: Rip tides here can be deceptively strong.


Kapalua, a resort community on the island’s northwestern coast, has three beaches and two championship golf courses, not to mention a variety of boutique shops and worthwhile restaurants. A number of high-end hotels also occupy acreage in Kapalua, offering their guests prime access to some of Maui’s most scenic sands. This is the place to go for the ultimate luxury getaway, but you’ll find that staying here will cost a pretty penny.

Central Maui

Home to Kahului Airport, Central Maui is usually the first part of the island visitors see. Central Maui not only encompasses the island’s busiest city, Kahului (on the northern coast), it also acts as a gateway to Iao Valley State Park, one of the island’s most popular hiking spots. Central Maui is also a great place to set up camp if you’re looking for a more authentic Hawaiian experience.


Just south of Kahului Airport is Wailuku, a charming town defined by its mom and pop restaurants, various historic sites and laid-back atmosphere. This is an excellent home base for travelers looking to avoid the typical resort-based vacation: From here, the beaches of South Maui are less than 20 minutes by car, while Kapalua is roughly an hour’s drive. Wailuku also acts as the gateway to Iao Valley State Park, with the park’s entrance sitting less than 4 miles east of town.

Iao Valley State Park

Iao Valley State Park encompasses 4,000 acres of land in Central Maui and contains one of the island’s most recognizable landmarks: the Iao Needle. The park played a significant role in Maui’s tribal history, acting as the backdrop to the Battle of Kepaniwai in 1790, during which King Kamehameha I battled Maui’s forces in an effort to unite the Hawaiian islands under his rule. Kamehameha’s victory forever changed the course of Hawaii’s history.

Upcountry Maui

Maui’s Upcountry region – spanning the island top to bottom to the east of Central Maui – is more popular with adventurous travelers. The star of this region is Haleakala National Park, home to Maui’s highest peak (and some of the island’s most beloved hiking trails). The scenery in this area is possibly some of the most dramatic: Upcountry Maui boasts both scenic coastline and towering mountains.

Haleakala National Park

Occupying more than 30,000 acres of land, Haleakala National Park is a haven for hikers. The centerpiece of the park is Haleakala mountain, a massive dormant volcano that rises more than 10,000 feet above sea level. The park is home to miles of trails, as well as three visitor centers.


This small inland town on the northwest edge of Upcountry Maui is best known for its thriving arts scene. A stroll through this town will lead you past woodworkers, glass-blowers, painters and sculptors. Makawao is also famous for its cowboy culture. Known as paniolo, Hawaiian cowboys used the Upcountry’s verdant landscape for grazing cattle. Travelers can see paniolo in action every Fourth of July when the annual paniolo competition takes place; events include barrel racing, bronco riding and calf roping.


Located on the northern fringe of the Upcountry, the coastal town of Paia was once a booming plantation settlement during the heyday of Maui’s sugar cane industry. Remnant’s of this bygone era are still apparant, making Paia feel almost as rustic as Makawao with colorful art galleries and boutique shops. But today, Paia’s better known as the home of Hookipa Beach, the windsurfing capital of the world.


Sitting on the slopes of Haleakala along the southwest edge of the Upcountry, Kula is one of the island’s agricultural hubs. The area’s fertile volcanic soil yields everything from lavender to coffee. You are welcome to tour Kula’s farms; or, you can learn more about the region’s flora at the Kula Botanical Gardens. While here, you also won’t want to miss the octagonal Holy Ghost Church, which was gifted to the island’s Portuguese plantation worker by the king and queen of Portugal in 1894.

East Maui

East Maui is not nearly as populated as other parts of the island. In fact, this entire half of the island remains relatively untouched by humans, affording spectacular views to those who venture out here. The best way to experience East Maui is to follow the Road to Hana, a scenic highway that meanders along Maui’s northeast coast from Kahului to Hana.


This tiny town on Maui’s northeast coast is the only primary settlement along the island’s rugged east coast. Hana offers intrepid travelers easy access to the black-sand beaches of Waianapanapa State Park. There are a few places to hang your hat out here, including the luxurious Travaasa Hana. But given its remoteness, you may want to think of Hana as a daytrip rather than a home base.