Maui is a true tropical paradise packed with incredible beaches, warm clear seas teeming with life, lush green foliage, Fantastic bars and restaurants, and a myriad of things to do and sights to see. But before you can plan all that you need to work out where the best place to stay on Maui, Hawaii is for YOU.
Our Guide on Where to stay in Maui, Hawaii is designed to give you the information you need to best decide what area of Maui would suit you best, both in terms of Experience and Budget. Nowhere on Maui is going to be “cheap” but some places are cheaper and more affordable than others. Some hotels are frivolously expensive but also offer a whole lot in terms of luxury.
West Maui or South Maui
The island has two large tourist centers West Maui and South Maui. Most tourists will opt for one of those. And for a first visit, we definitely recommend these areas. Even Seasoned travelers normally spend most of their time in either West or South Maui. As these are the Tourist Hotspots with the majority of things to do, hotels, restaurants, and beaches.
We have included a section further down for some of the more Niche or different areas of Maui. Should you really not want to stay in the tourist areas. However, we would more recommend just a night or two in these areas rather than a full stay. A night in Hana is especially rewarding.
Both West and South Maui have a similarly broad range of accommodation and amenities. From high-end luxury to “budget” Condo complexes and a plethora of bars restaurants and excursion operators. They both have their pro’s and cons but really both are excellent bases, the take-home message has to be where ever you choose you will have a fantastic trip, but there will still be a perfect location for you. So let’s try and find out where that place is?
First, we will look at the pros and cons before taking a look at the different towns and resort areas in each.
- More Scenic – Feels more remote with more dramatic mountain backdrops
- Incredible Beaches and Ocean Quality – The water quality is superb and the beaches pristine. Ocean life is abundant and surf is normally low making for great snorkeling.
- All Amenities within a small area – No need to leave the area other than for certain activities
- Wide choice of accommodation – Style and Prices, from budget Condos to high-end luxury
- Further from Airport and some island attraction – Although marginally
- More Susceptible to Rain – Especially the far north resorts
- Traffic – the Honoapiilani Highway has some of the worst traffic on the island (outside of Kahalui) and can back up badly making travel in and out of the resort long and tedious if you need to leave
- Kihei offers the cheapest accommodation – But has a budget resort feel
- Wailea very high-end luxury – Location of choice for the Celebrity Elites!
- Best Weather – Almost always sunny, rarely rains
- Closest to Airport and some Island Attractions – Marginally
- A high concentration of Restaurants and Amenities – Everything you might need all in one place
- Wailea can be very expensive – Although there are affordable options
- Ocean Quality can be poor – especially in North Kihei, Full explanation below.
- Beaches not as perfect as West Maui – Although they are still beautiful, they re just not quite “West Maui Beautiful!”
Each of the two regions, West and South Maui are made up of several neighborhoods each with their own features and charms. Again there is no one perfect location they all have their up and downsides, so let’s try and get under the skin to see which resort area would suit you best.
West Maui Resort Areas
To get to West Maui’s Resorts you will take the Stunning Highway 30, or Honoapiilani Highway. This Coastal road starts at the Malea Port and hugs the Ocean with views of Lanai and Molokai on the oceanside (Makai) and the jaw-dropping West Maui Mountains on the Mountainside (Mauka) of the road. If this is your first experience of Maui, as it was ours many years ago, prepare to fall in love…
As you travel north up the Highway the first Resort location you hit is Lahaina, then Kaanapali, Napili-Honokowai/Kahana, Napili Bay, and finally Kapalua. After this, the road continues to a few other wonderful bays beaches and overlooks before getting very narrow and beyond the rental agreement of your hire car. It’s worth exploring past Kapalua, but there is nowhere to stay.
West Maui Beaches
For many the local beach is one of the most important factors in any hotel, being steps away from golden sands and amazing snorkeling is a priority. So we have a full guide of all of West Maui’s best Beaches and Snorkelling Sites
Time from Airport 30-35 Mins (warning at rush hour this can double or triple!)
Best for Visiting
Lahaina is the main town of West Maui and serves as the HUB for most of the other resort areas. It’s a busy and Vibrant town, possibly too busy at times. We don’t normally recommend staying in Lahaina itself it’s more a place to come to enjoy an evening out or do some shopping. Its busy Habour is the location for most of West Maui’s Ocean-based Excursions and activities.
Lahania has a large number of restaurants and bars including a few chain brands. It also has two large supermarkets perfect for stocking up for evenings on the Lanai. If your Hotel or Condos offer BBQ’s Here is where to get your Steaks!
There is a lot to see and do in the town but we prefer a less built-up quieter resort. The beaches are not the best either!
Tiki Beach Hostel – One of the cheapest places to stay on the island the Tiki Beach hostel offers super cheap accommodation, far from luxury but a great backpacker’s choice!
Time from Airport 35-40 Mins (warning at rush hour this can double or triple!)
Best for Luxury Resorts
Kaanapali see’s the introduction of highrise luxury resort complexes. Situated along Black Rock Beach and Airport Beach are a number of large luxurious hotel and condo resort complexes. These offer a good range of price points with something to suit most people.
The large central focal point of Black Rock Splits the two beach areas in two and offers fantastic snorkeling with a large array of fish, turtles and sea life. Watch out for (or Join) the cliff jumpers though. And make sure you check out for the evening Cliff diving ceremony at sunset, provided (free) by the Sheraton Hotel.
The beach walk also offers many restaurants and bars for people to enjoy. While often part of different hotels they are open for all. They are often at the high-end price-wise but look out for happy hours and soak up the incredible setting.
While Kaanapali’s resort offers a luxurious feel and the beach and water quality are off the scale, the area does have a built-up feel to it. The high rise buildings, while not on the Waikiki scale, do detract a little from the tropical paradise feeling. The area is also highly manicured. It has a manmade feel rather than natural which suite some people more than others.
There is a huge amount of accommodation available however and this is easily one of the most popular resort areas in West Maui.
Kaanapali Alii – Lush Tropical grounds nestled on the stunning Kaanapali Beach give this luxury hotel a real remote and relaxed atmosphere. Situated a fair way from Black Rock and the Center of the resort the beach takes on a semi-private vibe with the majority of beachgoers heading towards the central part of the resort.
Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa – The Shereton has pride of place in Kaanapali and is one of the most revered hotels however we find, despite the fantastic location wonderful grounds and sumptuous rooms the resort does not quite live up to its billing. We could not leave it out though as it is the centerpiece of the whole resort area.
Aston at the Whaler on Kaanapali Beach – A Large resort with a prime location and stunning ocean views. Sitting on the lanai watching the sun dip into the ocean will haunt your dreams for years to come.
Aston Maui Kaanapali Villas – Situated on mays beach the other side of Black Rock gives this budget-friendly resort its price tag, but we love May’s Beach and find this side of the Rock more peaceful and natural, and the ocean here is nearly always calm, clear and filled with sealife!
Time from Airport 40-50 Mins (warning at rush hour this can double or triple!)
Best for Budget Resorts
As we continue up the coast we reach Napili-Honokowai, however, most people can’t or won’t pronounce that that so the area has become known as Kahana. Similar to Kaanapali only with a more budget feel and slightly more wallet-friendly prices the area still offers a lot. The hotels give way to highrise Condo complex’s and many are privately owned. Giving this area a more homely feel.
The Bars and restaurants also have a more budget feel about them and prices are better. However, there are still stunning beaches, wonderful mountain backdrops and all the major trappings of a Hawaiian Vacation but much cheaper prices. It lacks a luxury feel but this is not necessarily a bad thing.
The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas Kaanapali – Luxurious and Spacious Villas by the coast
Hololani Resort, Kahana – Apartment complex with stunning ocean views, great for families, apartments sleep up to 6 people
Royal Kahana Maui by Outrigger – Basic Oceanfront High rise Condo Complex with stunning views.
Time from Airport 50-55 Mins (warning at rush hour this can double or triple!)
Best for Escaping
From Napili Bay onwards the local building regulations outlaw any buildings over two stories high. This gives Napili bay and it’s neighbor Kapalua Bay and much less built-up feel. You start to really feel you are in paradise. The beach made up of deep soft coral sand, lapped by the warm clear sea filled with fish, turtles, and octopus really helps melt away the real world.
The Downside to this is the Condo Complexes that line the bay are a long way from hotels. You are far more left to fend for yourselves. Some people prefer this as it feels more like a home away from home. But those looking for a fully catered do-nothing vacation may not find the thought of cooking and cleaning for yourselves very appealing.
There are fewer restaurants and amenities here and it’s getting to the point where we would say a car is essential. The Small beautiful bay is also very popular and so does get crowded. And rain is more frequent this far around the Island as we move out the rain shadow. Still, rain is infrequent and short-lived.
The famous Gazebo restaurant sits on the headland and serves stonking breakfasts (order to go!) to enjoy while taking in the incredible views and even Whales during the season. You can then take a swim with the Sea turtles who live in the bay next door (short walk) but come round to Napili to feed.
The Downsides are outweighed by the stunning beauty. The bay in the evening is utterly peaceful and tranquil and the perfect place to let the gentle ocean waves lull you to sleep. This is one of our favorite parts of Hawaii and feels like a complete and utter paradise.
Napili Kai – an incredible resort right by the beach allowing for an authentic barefoot experience. Kick off the shoes and leave them off for your entire vacation, unless you leave the resort.
The Hale Napili – Small Condo complex right on the beach offering relaxed Hawaiian homestyle living.
Napili Shores Maui by Outrigger – Beautiful grounds and envious oceanfront location with simply stunning views over to Molokai, a little slice of paradise, and home to the world-famous Gazeebo Restaurant!
Time from Airport 55-60 Mins (warning at rush hour this can double or triple!)
Best for Relaxing
Kapalua Bay sits next door to Napili and most of what can be said about Napili applies to Kapalua. Kapalua has a slightly more upmarket feel with more private homes and some 5-star hotels.
Merriman’s Restaraunt sits proudly on the headland between the two Bays offering a fantastic setting for a sunset meal. Several Courses line the highlands offering some of the most stunning views from the green anywhere in the world. At this far end of the island, things get really peaceful but the West Maui Mountains do drop quite a bit of rain, to keep things lush, and the wind can be pretty stiff as the Trade winds wrap around the island. Any rain will be short-lived and soon replaced by stunning blue skies and a fresh scent!
The Golf course at the North end of Kapalua marks the end of the built-up areas of West Maui. From here on Rugged nature takes over. There is still plenty to see and do beyond however in terms of accommodation, we are done.
Ritz-Carlton Kapalua – Remote, peaceful, and ultra-high-end luxury the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua is the perfect place to get away from everything!
Montage Kapalua Bay – Overlooking the bay this high-end resort offers high-end luxury and staggeringly beautiful views from your Lanai. With Direct Beach access and stunning grounds, you will want for nothing at the Montage.
Sitting in the rain shadow of Haleakala South Maui enjoys very little rain and warm sunny days year-round. Showers become more frequent the further south you go but the resort areas occupy the drier parts and get most of their water from irrigation, not rainfall.
South Maui’s position on the Island puts in the Rain Shadow of Haleakala, Meaning it gets very little rain The weather most days of the year is warm and sunny. As you head south, rain showers increase slightly but they remain infrequent. Only large rain systems moving in over the islands cause any significant rain in this part of Hawaii.
The Resort area begins on the outskirts of Kihei and continues almost unbroken following the coast until Makena. shortly after there the road passes the (extinct) Lava field then La Perouse Bay before the road ends. The road continues as a trail only.
Time from Airport 15-20 Mins
Best for Budget Resorts and Condo’s
Kihei Represents Maui’s budget offering. We mentioned earlier that cheap in Maui is not necessarily cheap. Just cheaper. There is not much in Maui that is truly cheap. Kehei offers a good shot at being reasonably affordable for most. The area has a large number of hotels and Condo complexes for most budgets.
At the south end of Kihei, the water quality is less perfect than you would expect in Hawaii. Allegedly some farming runoff causes the water to be less clear than you may like. The beaches and coastal views are largely unaffected but snorkeling or swimming in this area is far below the standard elsewhere on the island. If snorkeling from your Hotel/Condo is of utmost importance then this is not the place for you. Excellent snorkeling beaches are available further south in Kihei, Wailea, or Makena, but you will need to travel. The further south you go in Kihei the better the issue gets and as you reach Kamaole I Beach it has cleared up together.
For many people, the less than perfect water will not be a big issue and Kihei has many satisfied visitors year after year. Kihei act’s as a hub for the district with shops, restaurants, and many amenities available here. Almost anything you could want can be found here.
The overall feel of the area is very touristy and cheap. There is a touch of tackiness about it and you definitely feel as if you are in a cheaper tourist resort compared to the other locations. Down by the ocean, this melts away somewhat and the three Kameole Beaches are some of the best in the state. While it definitely feels cheap this is offset by the fact it really is and you can get dome great bargains on condo’s and holiday lets. Don’t be too put off as cheap and touristy in Hawaii means something very different to other parts of the world, this is budget paradise!
All our hotel recommendations are wt the southern end of Kihei, nearer Wailea and situated on the stunning Kamaole Beaches so you are guaranteed great ocean aces!
Kihei is the king of budget accommodation on Maui and as such we just focus on Budget offerings here
Castle Kamaole Sands – Situated just across from Kamaole III Beach Park, one of the finest beaches on the island. This is getting as cheap as hotels come in Maui and the Apartments are not super high-end. They are clean comfortable and perfectly situated tough.
Days Inn Maui – Wow a Days Inn, everyone’s dream vacation hotel! However, this one is a little bit special. We have never stayed in a Days inn that occupies such a phenomenal location. Oceanfront with wonderful sea views it really is that little bit of budget paradise! It is far from the high-end luxury that many expect in Maui but is definitely priced that way and it is practically in Wailea, right on the beach and that is all the REALLY matters in Maui.
Time from Airport 20-25 Mins
Best for Celebrities
As you begin to leave Kihei the area takes a turn for the upmarket. Things become lusher and more manicured, you get the feeling of arriving in a privileged gated community, only in Paradise. It’s all very pleasant indeed.
Wailea is the home of the high-cost luxury resorts of Maui. large seafront hotel complexes command envious positions along the coast, and staying in one of these is the definition of Hawaiian luxury. Expect well-appointed rooms, Lush manicured gardens with spectacular pools with stunning sea views. It doesn’t come cheap though. You will also find many high-end restaurants and bars amongst the Hotels. A fabulous beach path traverses the seafront connecting the multitude of beaches all offering beautiful waters and fabulous snorkeling.
Wailea doesn’t have to be super expensive. There are several options for lover budgets. Hotels set back from the seafront are often cheaper but still excellent. And the boundary between Wailea and Kihei is pretty blurred at times. Some hotels on the border are classed a Kihei and priced as Kihei but are practically Wailea. You are not going to get the full experience but you still get the same incredible coastline, beaches, and restaurants as the celebrity elite.
Wailea is the Hawaiian playground of the rich and famous. Most of those fantastic Hawaii Selfies you see on Instagram are taken here. It’s also the holiday home to many of Hollywood’s elite such as Oprah and Clint Eastwood. The area is eerily quiet at times and the shopping malls can feel deserted, probably as most people have their feet in the sand and a cocktail in their hands.
Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa, A Waldorf Astoria Resort – When we talk of Ultra High-Ed Luxury hotels the Grand Wailea is the very embodiment of this! From the second you pull up to the stunning lobby everything in the Waldorf is lavish and over the top. The rooms themselves are a little basic for the price tag at the bottom end but the more expensive rooms hit the high notes we expect.
Wailea Elua Village, A Destination Residence – This Sprawling oceanfront Lowrise Condo Complex offers everything you need for a super relaxing vacation. Stunning beaches lush grounds, and spacious accommodation with all amenities.
Wailea Grand Champions Villas – at over $200 a night Budget in Wailea has a different meaning. These incredible Villas are a great find though. They are nestled up in hills above Wailea and have breathtaking views. The area is incredibly peaceful and only a short hop down to the beaches and resort amenities. These fantastic Villas give a real taste of what Maui Life is like…be warned!
Time from Airport 30 Mins
Best for Visiting (or living!)
Makena starts to become far more residential and less resort as you continue up the coast. There are still options, especially private rentals but far fewer than Wailea and Kihei. It is still a beautiful area and has some of the best beaches and snorkeling on the island. But there are far fewer provisions for tourists. It is more like a place to explore and visit than base your vacation and many of the island’s nicest residents have homes along the stunning remote coastline.
The further you go the more sparse the buildings and the less touristy things get. The road constantly narrows until there is scarcely room for two cars to pass. Not far after this, you reach the Lava Flow, Maui’s most recent eruption, and finally, the road ends at La Perouse Bay after here it’s a long lonely trail with nothing but rugged raw Nature.
Makena Surf, a Destination Residence – Isolated and remote this hotel is a secluded paradise nestles on some of the best snorkeling beaches in the world!
As said the majority of visitors would stay in the above two areas and certainly for a first visit we would recommend staying in either West or South Maui depending on which is the best fit. Better still consider a split vacation to get the best of both locations!
However, there are other options outside of the tourist hotspots. These are a little bit specialists and lack the usual trappings of a Maui Vacation but have their own unique charms.
Time from Airport 15 Mins
Best for forgetting the real world
This odd little town on the North coast of Maui is a bit of an acquired taste. It is not really geared for tourists. There are a few options but you will need to hunt them out. Really unless you have been to Paia before and KNOW you want to stay there it’s probably best saving it for another time and just visit first. Which is highly recommended.
Paia is a very laid-back hippy style of town and is loved by many. The coast is very different and is exposed to the full force of the Pacific. Lots of dining options including the Famous Mama’s fish house ($$$).
Time from Airport 2-4 Hours
Best for utter peace
Hana is best described as being in the middle of nowhere. But this is exactly its charm. This quiet little village is practically cut off from the rest of the island. So not only is Hawaii the most remote island chain in the world but Hana is even cut off within that. Two roads lead to Hana one is long, winding and in many stretches single lane (really a single lane, not one lane each direction, one lane for BOTH directions!) that winds its way through a dense remote rain forest. And that is the GOOD road. The other is little more than an offroad dirt track that winds through a barren volcanic desert.
Despite this Hana is very busy, during the day as throngs of day-trippers descend on it. Driving the “Road to Hana” is one of the top things to do in Maui. However, once the day-trippers begin their arduous trek home, the town transforms. The Stars come out thanks to Hana’s envious Dark Skies the jungle song begins and utter peace descends on the town.
There isn’t a heap to do but that’s the point. Utter relaxation. Once all the day-trippers have left you are free to explore the quiet relaxed town. Accommodation is fairly sparse and books up quickly. It’s not what you would think of as luxury either, far more homely. But the remote tropical isolation is its own kind of luxury.
For most we don’t really recommend spending your whole Maui Vacation in Hana, it’s isolation is a little much for some. However, a night or two in the town is a unique experience. It also really changes a “Road To Hana” trip. It’s a LONG hard day trying to cram in everything there is to see along the way. Staying in the town allows you to relax on the way in and get up early to explore before all the day-trippers arrive.
It’s worth mentioning Hana is in a rainforest area and as such you will probably experience rain…its called rain forest for a reason. The cloud builds on the slopes f Haleakala and dumps down on the rain-side of the volcano. All that dense greenery comes from somewhere.
The Morning Birdsong is also something you will never forget and louder, but far more magical than any alarm clock!
Travaassa Hana Eco Lodge – Get REALLY back to nature in this ultra-relaxed resort literally miles from anything!
Heavenly Hana Paradise – After a Journey down a nearly impassable dirt track you find a ramshackle but charming house nestled in a clearing in the middle of the jungle. Fruit trees and large tropical plants completely surround you as you seriously wonder if you have the right spot. You have, it’s paradise. Do not expect much from the accommodation, it’s spotlessly clean but very small and a little kitsch, but insanely charming. They also have probably the best showers in the world!
Upcountry – Kula
Time from Airport 25 Mins
Best for an alternative Experience
The Grassy Farmland climate feels a million miles away from what you would expect on a tropical island such as Maui. Up here with the fields, deciduous trees, cattle, and horses you feel like you are in rural mainland America. Not a remote tropical island. The elevation makes the air cooler and really the only clue you are out on a rock in the middle of the ocean is when you catch the view of the rest of the island off to the west.
Due to this, we don’t normally recommend Kula for a first visit. Most people heading to a tropical island want the tropical island experience. However, we certainly advise a visit to the town as the experience is like nowhere else on Maui.
Time from Airport 5 Mins
Best for Essentials
There are hotels and places to Stay in Kahului, but we really don’t advise it. As the Islands main hub, this is definitely a visit only type of place, and even then only really for necessities shopping etc… It is a Vital part of Island life but it’s just not where we want to spend our Vacation.
So where should you Stay?
The first thing to say is simply there isn’t a bad place to stay in Maui, apart from maybe Kahului, So where ever is taking your fancy is probably the right place. While we all would love to stay in one of Wailea and Kaanapali’s big-budget hotel resorts, they can be beyond most peoples budgets.
The good news is the more budget options are still a great offering. Even cheaper condo complexes offer manicured gardens spacious accommodation, pools, and often Outdoor grills that are free to use. It offers a fantastic Outdoor living experience that is hard to find elsewhere. Eating outdoors on your Lanai overlooking the ocean at sunset is the sort of experience that will make you DREAD your return flight! It really is Island living to a Tee!
So once you have decided between west or south Maui simply then look for accommodation that fits your budget and go for it.
Hotel or Condo?
The difference between the two is fairly limited. Condos are fantastic for those who wish to save a little money by cooking the odd meal yourself. Whereas those wanting to definitely eat out every meal will enjoy the “everything provided” nature of the hotel resorts. You won’t find the sort of ultra all-inclusive resort that you would in the Caribbean, but resorts still have everything you need in one place. Not that you shouldn’t venture out. The hotel’s restaurant choice will be fairly limited.
Of course, having a full kitchen doesn’t mean you have to cook and the extra space and homely feel would suit most people. This is the REAL Hawaii to us and the reason we love it so much. The only issue is the condo complexes tend to be a little more down market. They are still beautiful tropical paradises.
Many US Residents own there own Condo on the Island (Lucky *****) and when not using them themselves they rent them out to others using sites such as VBRO.com or HomeAway.com. This method involves A bit more faffing about but gives you the chance to book a Condo for a bit less than through the Condo Complex themselves. It also allows you to get the EXACT condo you want. Booking through the complex means you book a type of condo but the particular one can be hit or miss. By using a site like VBRO.com or HomeAway you choose the EXACT condo. The pictures you see will be the condo you get not a “show” condo.
You will lose a little of the peace of mind you get booking with a complex but with a little due diligence (too good to be true probably is) the risks of falling for a scam are minimal. Follow the Sites guidelines and it’s normally guaranteed. We think it’s it’s well worth it but if the hassle turns you off most condo complexes advertise on hotel aggregators such as booking.com or Expedia.com
Have Your Say
Let us know what your favorite place to Stay in Hawaii is? Have you stayed at any of the locations recommended? What did you think? Let us know if you have any questions or would like and recommendations. We are always happy to help.