- Hana — the town at the end of the Highway to Hana. An isolated community on Maui's eastern tip surrounded by dense rain forests.
- Haiku — an old plantation town, located on the north slope of east Maui.
- Kahului — the commercial and transportation center, with Maui's two largest malls, the main airport and a deep-water port.
- Kaanapali — a small town located on Maui's Western shore, close to Lahaina.
- Kapalua — in the northwest corner of Maui, showcasing championship golf courses, ten miles of pristine shoreline and luxury accommodations.
- Kihei features condos and beaches on the southwest coast, but cheaper and less luxurious than Kaanapali.
- Lahaina — an old whaling port and now the main tourist center.
- Napili — a beach town on northwest shore near Kapalua which offers calm waters protected by an offshore reef.
- Paia — a small town with interesting shopping and world renowned beaches for windsurfing and surfing.
- Wailea and Makena are master-planned resort areas located just south of Kihei.
- Wailuku — the seat of the county government, home to several historic buildings listed on both state and gateway to the Iao Needle.
Maui nō ka 'oi. "Maui is the best." Many visitors have heard this Hawaiian phrase said about the island, and many of those same visitors, having visited, say it to others. It's no wonder that the readers of Conde Nast Traveler have voted Maui the best island in the U.S. for 22 years, and have given it top honors in the world in many of those polls.
Maui was formed from the merger of two volcanoes, Haleakala to the east and the West Maui volcano to the west. Between the two volcanoes is a narrow isthmus of land on which the major population centers of Wailuku and Kahului lie; this feature gives Maui its nickname, "the Valley Island."
Kahului Airport (IATA: OGG) is the main airport for the island of Maui, and the second largest commercial airport in the state. It is a secondary hub for Hawaiian Airlines, which provides interisland service to Kahului from the other major airports in the state. Several major U.S. airlines also provide non-stop service to Maui from the West Coast and beyond. Kahului airport can be reached non-stop from Anchorage, Calgary, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Edmonton, Hana, Hilo, Honolulu, Hoolehua, Kamuela, Kapalua, Lanai City, Lihue, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver.
To get to Lahaina and Kaanapali, where most major hotels are located, exit the airport and follow Dairy Road and Kuihelani Highway (route 380) to its junction with Honoapiilani Highway (route 30), and turn left on route 30 toward Lahaina. For Kihei and Wailea, turn left on Puunene Avenue, which becomes Mokulele Highway (state route 311) and eventually turns into Piilani Highway (state route 31) when you reach Kihei. Continue on route 31 for Wailea.
When departing from Kahului Airport for the U.S. Mainland, all baggage must be inspected by Hawaii State Department of Agriculture inspectors at the airport. Be advised that fresh fruits (with the exception of pineapples and treated papayas) are prohibited from leaving the islands to prevent the spread of fruit flies. Remember that this inspection occurs before you get to your gate, so you won't be able to enjoy your last fruit while waiting for your departing flight.
While Maui has a basic public transportation system, many places are not accessible by bus, and most visitors rent a car. Fortunately, renting a car in Hawaii is relatively inexpensive. The resort areas around Kihei, Wailea and Lahaina also have a trolley that connects the towns with nearby shopping and attractions.
There are several public bus routes that operate seven days a week including all holidays. More information can be found at the Maui County's bus service webpage. Not that buses do not allow suitcases, so plan ahead while riding.
- Honoapiilani Highway (Route 30) is the road to Lahaina, Kaanapali, and Kapalua; it runs between West Maui and Wailuku around majestic cliffs and along white sand beaches.
- Hana Highway (Routes 36 and 360), the "road to Hana," traces Maui's north coast from Kahului to the village of Hana on the eastern shore. Winding along steep, forested mountainsides, in many places the road narrows to only a single lane. Although the road to Hana is only 56 miles (90 km) long, it turns and winds so continuously that the whole journey can take up to three hours one-way, especially if there is traffic. However, if you leave early in the morning, the trip can take as little as 90 minutes.
- Haleakala Highway (Routes 37, 377, and 378) is the road that leads to Pukalani and Makawao in upcountry Maui and takes you to the summit of Haleakala.
Be aware that most locals refer to the roads not by number but by name, and will likely not understand if you ask for a road by number. For example you would never hear someone refer to Piilani highway as "route 31" or "highway 31."
Lahaina Kaanapali Railroad
Also called the Sugar Cane Train, the Lahaina Kaanapali Railroad is both an attraction and a means to travel (slowly) between the Kaanapali resort area and Lahaina Town. The official Lahaina Kaanapali Railroad web site offers more information as well as discounted tickets.
Haleakala National Park offers alpine wilderness and stunning views of Maui and beyond (from the summit you can see five of the eight main islands, more than are visible from anywhere else in Hawaii). Two entrances, one from Highway 36 and one from Highway 37, go to separate parts of the park.
Wainapanapa State Park [dead link] has black sand beach, sea arch, sea caves, a small blowhole to see. In Hana at end of Wai‘anapanapa Road off Hana Highway (Highway 360), 52.8 miles (85 km) (3 hour drive) east of Kahului Airport.
Iao Valley State Monument [dead link]is very green. You can climb up 0.6 miles (1 km) on paved trail to a view of the ocean, Iao Needle, etc. or climb down to a garden, stream, etc. From Kahului go west on ‘Iao Valley Road (Highway 32) through Wailuku to the end of the road.
- Mount Haleakala Sunrise Bike Tour: Plan this for one of your first mornings in Hawaii. The bus will pick you up at your hotel around 3 AM and drive you up the mountain where you will watch a spectacular sunrise and take a guided bike tour down. This is a MUST DO. For more experienced bikers, there are also companies that you can rent a bike from and do an unguided tour. Stop at the food trucks along the way for breakfast!
There are many trails on Maui including a couple of trails in Iao Valley State Monument [dead link] and several in Haleakala National Park. The upper part of Haleakala National Park bears no resemblance to the lower. The crater at the summit, some 19 square miles, draws millions of visitors each year. Hike within it on miles of trails past cinder cones and lava caves or you can stroll from roadside turnouts to sky-high overlooks. The drive to the top is the steepest in the world and along Haleakala's slopes are eight biological zones, designated as an International Biosphere Reserve.
Canoeing and kayaking
In Hawaii a canoe is an ocean-going outrigger. They also have double hull canoes that are a bit like catamarans. There are canoe clubs that will sometimes take out visitors for a reasonable donation.
Many businesses would be happy to introduce you to kayaking.
- Kelii's Kayak Tours.
- Maui Eco Tours.
- Maui Kayaks.
- South Pacific Kayaks and Outfitters.
- Tri Paddle Maui.
Choose from 14 courses (several of which are ranked at or near the top of the “world’s best” lists) designed by noted course architects and golfing luminaries such as Arnold Palmer and Ben Crenshaw.
- Makena North, 5415 Makena Alanui, Makena, ☎ . open from sunrise to sunset daily. Natural beauty, challenging course design and great putting greens - Golf Digest lists Makena consistently at the top of its resort rankings in Hawaii.
- Wailea Gold, 100 Wailea Golf Club Drive, ☎ . The most demanding of the three courses - 128 white sand bunkers protect the lush fairways and fast greens. Hailed as one of the world’s best designed courses by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler in the magazine’s first golf resorts poll.
- Wailea Emerald, 100 Wailea Golf Club Drive, ☎ . Numerous vistas of the Pacific Ocean and Mt. Haleakala. Lots of short fun holes and reachable par 5's.
- Kapalua Bay, 300 Kapalua Drive, Kapalua, toll-free: . Uninterrupted views of the Pacific and gentle rolling fairways. Par 72.
- The Dunes at Maui Lani, 1333 Maui Lani Parkway, Kahului, ☎ . Clever hole designs and rugged terrain. Golf Digest named the Dunes at Maui Lani one of the four "Best-Kept Secret" golf courses in America when it opened in late 1989.
There are many luaus in Maui, which feature Polynesian singing and dancing. Most feature buffet dinners. Here are some of the best known.
There are mountain bike trails in Makawao State Forest.
A number of shore diving sites are accessible from Maui's west and south-facing shores. Visit WWII wreck sites of the Helldiver Dive Bomber or the Tank and Landing Craft. Other wrecks include St. Anthony's Wreck off Mokapu Beach in Wailea and the Carthaginian Sailing Ship along the West Maui coast. Several operators offer day trips to the south shore of Lanai.
- Molokini Crater. a crescent shaped islet located about 3 miles off Maui's southwestern coast. Access is by boat only, and charter boats operate out of Lahaina, Ma'alaea Harbor and Kihei. The diversity of fishes and other marine life within the MLCD (Marine Life Conservation District) is among the most impressive in the state.
This can be one of the most affordable activities on Maui. Some favorite spots include:
- The cove south of Black Rock near the Sheraton Resort at Kaanapali Beach.
- "Turtle Town" near the south end of Makena Road in Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve, which is south of Kihei and Wailea. Great variety of coral and fish and occasionally large turtles. Keep driving until you reach a small rustic parking lot on the right that has two outhouses on its left side and a temporary building on its right side. Follow the trail from the ocean side of the parking lot along the water to the left until you get to a small cove with a lava shore and a tiny black sand beach.
- South of Kamaole Beach Park III in Kihei.
- Ulua Beach in Wailea-Makena south of Kihei.
Use caution to decide when and where to snorkel. Educate yourself about riptides and avoid choppy seas, which could bash you against coral or rocks.
There are several spots on Maui that are recommended for surfing.
Visit a lavender farm
Visit the Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm In the Upcountry region of Maui, nestled on the slopes of Haleakala (House of the Sun). Daily tours and treasure hunts (for a nominal fee) are offered which allow the visitor to learn about both culinary and cosmetic lavenders, grown with interspersed protea plants, a native plant of South Africa, which thrives along with the lavender, in this drought prone region. The Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm espouses the doctrine of sustainable Aloha, and will share more on this with during your visit.
Take the road trip on Hwy 36 (Hana Hwy) stopping on the road to see waterfalls, lush greenery and beaches. Some of these are not visible from the road, but most are a relatively short hike off the road. A private arboretum and botanical garden (with an entrance fee) called "Garden of Eden" around the 10-mile marker has peacocks, bamboo gardens and view of Puohokamoa Falls. The round-trip will be difficult to complete in one day, so stay over in Hana to break it into two days. Wainapanapa State Park, 2 miles (3 km) east of Hana, has cabins to offer. There are other private nicer places to stay, also in and around Hana.
The Road to Hana is something that must be experienced at least once in a lifetime. Keep in mind that some of the locals from Hana make the long commute to work in Kahului each day. If you see a local vehicle approaching from behind, pull over and let them pass. By the same token, locals' familiarity with the route can lead them to cut across corners (even blind corners) swerving back into their lane at the last minute, so take corners slowly and watch for oncoming traffic that may have encroached upon your lane. Also, don't trespass! If you respect the land and the people, you'll find open arms and acceptance.
Note that it is possible to drive all the way around the island by continuing past Hana instead of going back the way you came. Most rental car companies strongly discourage this and state that the rental car contract is voided if you drive there. The road itself is one and two lane and paved virtually the entire way, although in some places the asphalt can be patched and rough, requiring road speeds of 10 mph or less to avoid damaging a normal car's suspension. Off-road vehicles and jeeps will find it fairly easy going. The area is very beautiful, with soaring cliffs and views over the sea and glimpses of the nearby Big Island on the horizon, but it is dry, desolate and remote, with little traffic, no services, and unreliable cell phone service.
Visit Lanai or Molokai
- Whale watching with Pacific Whale Foundation, From Lahaina and Maalaea Harbors, ☎ . Thousands of humpback whales migrate to Hawaii's warm ocean waters each winter. The majority of the whales are found off the coast of Maui. You can see whales from late November through mid-May, but the peak of the season is in February and March. The Pacific Whale Foundation offers 16 whalewatch cruises each day during the winter season, each one staffed by a team of certified marine naturalists. You are guaranteed to see whales or you go again free. All the profits go towards Pacific Whale Foundation's ocean research, education and conservation programs. From $19.95 for a 2-hr cruise, kids under 6 free.
As one would expect from a tourist mecca like Maui, there are several areas to find good shopping. Also as one would expect, the prices can be quite inflated. ABC Stores can be found all over Maui and the other Hawaian Islands and offer souvenirs and beach junk (such as sunscreen and straw mats) at potentially lower prices than tourist traps. In Lahaina, a good place to "walk the shops", find Old Lahaina Book Emporium. Kaanapali has Whaler's Village Shops and Restaurants, home to lots of stores and restaurants, including plenty of high-end merchandise such as Coach and Tiffany. Paia is a small artist and aging hippie colony with a reasonable and varied mix of shops and galleries worth your time, as well as restaurants. It is located just before Mama's Fishhouse Restaurant. A nice open air mall can be found in the Wailea luxury area. On the way you can stop by Kihea at one of two flea market type shopping areas.
Check the Eat section on the pages for the various towns listed under Cities above
Fresh produce is widely available at farmer's markets and road side stands. Banana bread, coconut candy, smoothies and seasonal fruit are all highlights of a drive around Maui.
Check the Drink section on the pages for the various towns listed under Cities above. Also consider the bars at the hotels and resorts, which may have happy hour specials.
Before choosing an accommodation consider where you would like to spend your time. Also consider whether a hotel, resort, condominium or bed-and-breakfast best match your style and budget. Then check the Sleep section for the many towns on the island under Cities above.
In general, the largest and most expensive resorts and hotels are concentrated in two areas, Lahaina-Kaanapali and Kihei-Wailea. Both areas are on the western shore of the island, sheltered from the moisture-bearing trade winds.
Getting from Maui to the other Hawaiian Islands usually involves a short plane flight. If you want to go to Honolulu you will find frequent non-stop service. Most other destinations offer a couple of non-stop flights a day or a stop in, you got it, Honolulu.
Ferries run 5 times a day between Lahaina and the island of Lanai. Each way takes approximately 45 minutes, and costs $25 per person per direction. During high winds the boat ride can be particularly rough, so bring something for seasickness if you don't do well on boats. Cruise ships are also an interesting option.
When leaving Maui for the U.S. Mainland, all baggage must be inspected by U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors at the airport. Be advised that fresh fruits (with the exception of pineapples and treated papayas) are prohibited from leaving the islands to prevent the spread of fruit flies. Consult the U.S. Department of Agriculture for more details. Bags are inspected by X-ray. At Kahului Airport, be prepared to submit to three checkpoints on the way to your Mainland flight: having your checked bags X-rayed for agricultural items in the ticket lobby, the TSA security checkpoint, and inspection of your carry-on baggage for agricultural items on the way to your gate.