The Ultimate Guide To Maui
Maui, home to incredible scenic beauty, is a true icon of must-see nature!
Maui, renowned the world over for its idyllic beaches, coastal vistas, & Road to Hana, the most scenic coastal drive on the planet, is a true Eden on earth!
Maui, the second-largest island of the eight Hawaiian islands – The Big Island of Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, & Kahoolawe, is a world of beautiful nature popularly known for its diverse landscape and natural beauty comprised of several golden, white, and back beaches, stunning coastal vistas, Haleakala – world’s largest dormant volcano, raging waterfalls, rainforests, historical landmarks, and of course, The Road to Hana, a 64 miles long scenic drive featuring unmatched coastal views and natural scenery, is undeniably the most popular attraction on the island of Maui!
Geographically, Maui is comprised of two volcanoes – the extinct West Maui Mountains on the west and the dormant Haleakala volcano on the east, and a valley connecting these two volcanos, and hence Maui is also referred to as “The Valley Isle.” Maui, initially inhabited by the Polynesians who migrated from Tahiti, French Polynesia, was also ruled by Kamehameha I, the king of Hawaiian Islands, followed by European explorers, settlers, and missionaries. Whaling was the major industry in Maui until the 19th century, which was then replaced by the tourism industry hosting several million tourists each year!
Maui’s five different regions – South Maui, Upcountry Maui, East Maui, Central Maui, and West Maui, features a diverse landscape and plethora of outdoor activities!
Maui can be logically divided into five different regions, with each area featuring a very unique landscape and experiences – (1) South Maui, featuring some of the finest beaches of Maui, (2) Upcountry Maui, home to Haleakala National Park, (3) East Maui, stunning coastal views, state parks, hiking trails, rainforests, and The Road To Hana, (4) Central Maui, gorgeous beaches and Iao Valley State Park, and (5) West Maui, home to resort towns of Kapalua, Lahaina, and Kaanapali featuring beaches, tours, museums, and several dining and shopping options.
Here is my ultimate guide to Maui, featuring essential trip-planning information, major attractions, Maui attractions map, and recommendations on hotels and restaurants in Maui!
Planning Your Trip To Maui
Flying directly into Maui or taking an inter-island flight from Honolulu, staying in West Maui, renting a car, and using a couple sightseeing tours is the best way to get the most out of your trip to Maui!
Best Time To Visit Maui: Maui, with warm weather throughout the year, is a year-round destination! However, there are two peak seasons in Maui – (1) Summer, especially June through August, when the weather is perfect and dry, and schools are on break (2) Early Winter, particularly December, during the holidays when most of the country is covered in snow, you can still enjoy warm weather, beach, and water sports in Maui. The shoulder seasons, January through May and September through November, have a wet climate but are the best time to beat the crowds in Maui.
Time Required At Maui: With several things to see and do, I recommend spending a minimum of three days in Maui, which should give you enough time to cover all significant attractions in Maui, including Road To Hana, Haleakala National Park, Iao Valley State Park, and some of the gorgeous beaches of Maui. If you have more time, you could spend a couple of weeks in Maui and still not run out of places to see and things to do in Maui.
Getting To Maui: While you could directly fly into Maui’s Kahului Airport (OGG), another popular way to get to Maui is by flying into Honolulu International Airport / Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) and then taking a short 40 minutes inter-island flight to Maui. I also highly recommend Norwegian’s Seven Day Hawaii Roundtrip Cruise to all first-time visitors to Hawaii. This cruise departs from Honolulu, Oahu, travels to all major Hawaiian islands, including Maui, and then brings you back to Honolulu.
Rental Cars, Parking & Public Transportation In Maui: Most hotels and attractions in Maui offer paid parking, and though Maui has bus services to all regions of the island except the east side – Maui Bus Public Transit System, I recommend renting a car when visiting Maui. The east side of Maui is home to the world-famous Road to Hana, one of the best coastal drives on the planet but is also a tricky drive with several hairpin turns and accessible only via drive or private tour busses.
Sightseeing Tours In Maui: While Maui is a small island and you can drive and explore the island yourself, there are a couple of guided sightseeing tours I recommend in Maui – (1) Road to Hana Tours, Road to Hana is a must-see in Maui, but I don’t recommend driving yourself if you aren’t an experienced driver, instead use a guided tour, (2) Whale Watching Tours, another Maui experience that you shouldn’t miss, see and learn about humpback whales along with a certified Marine Naturalists.
Lodging & Dining In Maui: Undeniably, Lahaina, Kaanapali, and Kapalua in West Maui, are the most popular places to stay in Maui famous for its several hotels, resorts, and developed areas, but staying in more secluded and scenic east Maui – Hana / Paia is one of a kind experience! Maui has several decent dining options, including charming local eateries, fine dining restaurants, and seafood shacks, but you shouldn’t miss a few Hawaiian dishes and experiences, including Poke, Lomi Salmon, banana bread, and luau when visiting Maui. I have reviewed Maui’s lodging and dining options in detail in the later section of this post.
Things To Do In Maui
Maui Attractions Map
Maui is a small island measuring approximately 730 square miles but features nearly 130 miles of remarkable coastline with several beaches and can be logically divided into five distinct regions, each featuring a unique landscape, landmarks, and beautiful nature! (1) East Maui, the most popular section of Maui, features stunning coastal views, state parks, hiking trails, rainforests, and The Road To Hana, (2) Upcountry Maui, home to Haleakala National Park, (3) Central Maui, gorgeous beaches and Iao Valley State Park, and (4) West Maui, home to resort towns of Kapalua, Lahaina, and Kaanapali featuring beaches, tours, museums, and several dining and shopping options, and (5) South Maui, less popular but features some of the finest beaches and hiking trails of Maui.
Every region in Maui is equally impressive and unique, and it’s challenging to pick one over the other, so I recommend spending a minimum of three days in Maui, which will give you enough time to explore the most popular regions in Maui. However, if you’re pressed for time and have to pick one over the other, this is what I suggest – (1) One day trip to Maui – stick to Road To Hana, (2) Two-day trip to Oahu – Spend Day 1 driving Road To Hana, and Day 2 exploring Haleakala National Park in Upcountry Maui and Iao Valley State Park and beaches in Central Maui.
Here’re the must-see places on a trip to Maui, starting with the island’s most popular regions and attractions!
East Maui, unquestionably, the most scenic region on the island of Maui, is home to an unfathomably beautiful landscape comprised of beaches, several waterfalls, remarkable coastal views, hiking trails, rainforests, and The Road To Hana – the most scenic coastal drive on this planet! If you were to visit only one thing in Maui, it must be The Road To Hana, East Maui!
Upcountry Maui / Haleakala National Park
Upcountry Maui, unlike the other regions of Maui, is an inland region with no beaches, but it’s home to Haleakala National Park, the world’s largest dormant volcano! Haleakala National Park has two regions (1) The Summit District in Upcountry Maui, home to the volcano’s summit & crater (2) The Kipahulu District, 12-miles past Hana, featuring waterfalls & coastal vistas.
Central Maui is home to several gorgeous beaches, including Kanaha Beach Park, Baldwin Beach Park, and Hookipa Beach Park, Maui Ocean Center, and the Iao Valley State Park – a lush valley that is home to the iconic Iao Needle, a 1200 feet tall needle-shaped natural rock formation and the site of the historic battle between King Kamehameha I and Maui’s Army.
West Maui, the more developed side of Maui, is home to the resort towns of Kapalua, Lahaina, and Kaanapali, features several gorgeous beaches – Kaanapali Beach, D.T. Fleming Beach, Hanakao’o Beach, Kapalua Beach, Launiupoko Beach, Nakalele Blowhole, many hiking trails, including Acid War Zone Trail, Waihee Ridge Trail, Mahana Ridge Trail, and whale watching tours.
South Maui, though not as popular as the other regions of Maui, features pristine beaches & hiking trails – Makena State Park & Beach, Kamaole Beach, Polo Beach, Wailea Beach, & Hoapili Trail. South Maui also serves as a gateway to Molokini Island, a crescent-shaped volcanic caldera, home to colorful fishes, coral reefs, & turtles, and a popular snorkeling destination.
Lodging & Dining In Maui
Stay in one of the oceanfront resorts and enjoy a traditional Hawaiian Luau for an authentic Maui experience!
Hotels In Maui: Maui being a popular tourist destination and a port of call for many cruise ships, features several seaside resorts, luxury hotels, and locally owned charming bread and breakfasts. While West Maui, the more developed side of the island, featuring three resort towns – Lahaina, Kaanapali, and Kapalua, is the most popular place to stay in Maui but staying in more secluded and scenic east Maui – Hana / Paia is one of a kind experience! Also, given the island’s small size, you can stay anywhere on the island and still easily access all attractions in Maui. Here’re my top picks for hotels and resorts in Maui –
- The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua, West Maui: Located on the west side of the island in Kapalua, the Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua is a sprawling resort featuring luxurious suites and rooms overlooking the coast, several pools, a golf course, spa services, and the Waikiki Starlight Luau.
- The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka’anapali, West Maui: Located in Kaanapali in West Maui, the Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka’anapali is an oceanfront hotel offering contemporary decor, spa services, modern amenities, and easy access to several attractions in the area.
- Hyatt Regency Maui Resort And Spa, West Maui: Located in Lahaina, west region of Maui, the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort And Spa is a sprawling oceanfront resort featuring oceanfront spa & golf, and an onsite luau.
- Wailea Beach Resort – Marriott, South Maui: The Wailea Beach Resort – Marriott, Maui, located right next to Wailea Beach in South Maui, is a luxury seaside retreat with great views, pools, excellent amenities, and great dining options, including fine dining and Te Au Moana Luau, a seaside traditional Hawaiian buffet.
- Courtyard by Marriott Maui Kahului, Central Maui: Located in Central Maui, the Courtyard by Marriott Maui Kahului is a modern hotel featuring contemporary decor, state-of-the-art amenities, easy access to Kahului airport, and several attractions.
Restaurants In Maui: While you will find several restaurants in Maui, especially in West Maui, ranging from fine dining to seafood shacks, there’re a few Hawaiian delicacies that you must not miss on a trip to Maui or any island in Hawaii – (1) Luau, a traditional Hawaiian buffet with music and dance, at Old Lahaina Luau, (2) Poke, seasoned cubed fish, available in most restaurants and grocery stores, (3) Loco Moco, a plate of rice topped with a hamburger patty, egg, gravy, available in restaurants serving Hawaiin food, (4) Fresh seafood at Kimo’s Maui or Duke’s Beach House Maui, (5) Mixed Plate, basically a lunch plate comprised of rice with some protein, and salad, at Da Kitchen (6) Shaved Ice at Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice, (7) Malasadas, deep-fried, soft, yummy donut balls dusted with sugar, at The Bakery Lāhainā, and (8) Monkeypods in South Maui, if you’re craving American comfort food!
Other Hawaii Attractions & Related Posts
I hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate Guide To Maui, and I hope this will help you plan your trip to Maui. You can find other Hawaii attractions in my Hawaii Travel Guide.
Happy feeding your soul!
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