Aloha, and welcome to our Maui Tourism Guide, everything you need to know for an incredible visit to Maui, Hawaii.
Maui known as the Valley Isle is one of Hawaii’s real gems. The second-largest of the islands it is teeming with things to do and places to see. Known as the Honeymoon Capital of America, the island’s tourism leans heavily on relaxing and romantic endeavors. But that is far from all the island has to offer. The Incredibly diverse landscape offers just about every imaginable climate you can think off, Apart from maybe the Arctic.
From dense lush rainforest to Arid dry desert, High Mountain to the Ancient cloud forest. Deep valleys to rolling plains, and coral beaches to temperate farmland. It is an incredible mix of microclimates that means there is always something to see and do if you can drag yourself away from the beach.
Maui’s Coastline strikes a different note to most Hawaiian islands. The 3 Islands of Molokai, Lanai, and Kaho‘olawe form a large natural channel where the waters are shallower and calmer, less exposed to the large swells generated by the open Pacific. This also lends perfectly to the incredible views from the shore, where you have another island to admire rather than just the endless ocean.
Really we absolutely love Maui and while we hope you won’t tell the other islands, we think it’s our favorite.
Things to Do
“What is there to do in Hawaii other than sitting on a beach?”
The first time we heard this quote we were quite taken aback. Hawaii’s reputation as a true tropical paradise has lead to a reputation of it being nothing but beaches and Cocktails. Nothing could be further from the truth and Maui is teeming with sights and attractions for all interests and tastes. It would take a lifetime to experience everything Maui has to offer, we are doing our best, however.
Of Course, Sitting on a beach is a wonderful thing in itself so check out our Ultimate Maui Beach Guide
Sunrise On Top of a Volcano – Haleakala
The Mighty Haleakala is one of the tallest Mountains in the world when measured from the seafloor, and at 10,000 + ft. is still impressively high even when measured from sea level. From its summit, everything takes on a new light, the thin and clear atmosphere allows you to see all of Maui like never before. Sunrise is especially incredible and some find the experience almost spiritual.
Crowds gather on the summit, which is reached by a well-paved road, to witness the dawning of a new day, which from the crystal clear air at this altitude emits colors and scenes that really stir the soul. It makes the 3 am alarm call and the near-freezing temperature up there well worth the effort.
Arrive while it is still dark and experience the most phenomenal view of the night’s sky imaginable with the Milky way clearly visible smeared across the Dark Sky!.
Everyone who visits Hawaii should experience a luau at least once, despite the clichéd nature. And Maui offers some very good offerings in most areas of the island. Most offer an open bar along with an all you can eat buffet and fantastic after-dinner show. While prices are not cheap you do get a lot for your money and it’s something you have to experience once.
Snorkeling / Diving
Ocean conditions around Maui lead to some incredible snorkeling locations. Coral reefs cover most of the shoreline and marine life is abundant. Even heavily commercialized areas with large hotels have reefs out front rich in fish, turtles and other sea creatures.
Diving on Maui is, well OK. The biggest problem is diving off Maui is not really that much better than Snorkeling. You may be a bit closer to the wildlife but you are not seeing anything you can’t from the surface. Really this is more a testament to the quality of snorkeling than diving. It’s not that the diving is bad. That said. Diving FROM Maui offers some of the best diving in the world!
If that sounds contradictory well that’s simply because you don’t have to dive Maui’s coast from Maui, the shores of the more remote islands of Molokai and Lanai are within easy sail, along with the islet Molokini. And these offer some of the best dive sites imaginable. Lanai offers an incredible abundance of reef’s and reef creatures, while Molokai’s reefs teem with life, while it’s stunning “Back wall” offers the chance to see large pelagic species cruising by in the super clear water, while octopus and giant moray hide in the walls endless nooks and crannies. Molokai’s diving is a little more Niche, and only a few operators make the crossing. But you are rewarded with mind-blowing Reefs that appear completely untouched. Oh and the chance to see Schooling Hammerhead Sharks!
The waters of the Maui Channel are truly blissful but don’t take our word for it, or the word of the millions who vacation here every year. Instead, listen to the opinion of a creature that could literally vacation anywhere in the northern Pacific but chooses to SWIM all the way to Maui for its holiday!
Every winter a large population of Humpback Whales spend their winters in the Channel that separates Maui from Lanai, Molokai, and Kaho‘olawe. This makes Maui one of the best locations in the world for Whale Watching. From November to April Whale watching trips head out to get you close to these majestic mammoths. Normally combined with a bit of snorkeling these are great trips for the whole family.
Road to Hana
The town of Hana is nestled on the backside of Haleakala well away from, well anything. To reach this little gem of a town you need to take the Hana Highway. 64 miles of twisting tight tarmac that winds through the dense ancient rainforest (literally out of Jurassic Park) over bridges, spectacular coastline, and past incredible waterfalls. Whether you take a tour or drive it yourself the Road to Hana is a highlight of any trip.
Hawaiian cuisine is a wonderful blend of foods and tastes that is quite likely like nothing you have tasted before. A reliance on clean fresh ingredients blended with pacific rim influences creates a cuisine that is as delicious as it is healthy. Fresh seafood, traditional Island fare, and incredible fruit and deserts mean you will be sure to come home pining for the incredible tastes you left behind.
Being Isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years has led to a unique ecosystem on the Hawaiian Islands. Unfortunately, the few decades of human occupation of the islands have had devastating effects on this unique ecosystem. The good news is in recent years we have realized the damage we are causing and are now far better at having a low impact on the island’s nature. So Wildlife and Nature are in abundance on all the islands of the chain.
Being incredibly remote the animal life is fairly limited. Only creatures that have managed to hitch a ride somehow have got a foothold on the islands. There have been quite a few critters that have only hitched a ride more recently such as rabbits, deer, and goats. Even the abundant reptile life, lizard snakes, frogs, etc. are all introduced in the last few hundred years. The islands are so remote even birdlife has struggled to make it to the islands and there are relatively few species actually endemic to the islands, especially since the arrival of humans has wiped out a lot of the more fragile species.
The Majority of the island is covered with lush green foliage making Maui a genuine tropical paradise. However, Maui’s topography makes for many varied ecosystems all with very different plant species thriving. There is dense tropical jungle, Open Grassy Farmland, Desolate desert plains, even ancient cloud forest so old and isolated it’s vigorously protected and most visitors are unlikely to experience them.
While the large distances and high seas have been a hindrance to land animals getting to Hawaii Sea Life has had a much less troublesome time of it. Marine life is abundant. Sea Turtles, abundant colorful tropical fish, Seals, Whales, Dolphins, Octopus, Urchins, and coral. The seas are completely alive, whether you are snorkeling, diving or just viewing from the shore there is always something to see in the beautiful Oceans of Maui.
Every November – April is Whale season and large numbers of Humpback whales make Maui their overwinter resting place.
the vast majority of visitors spend their trips in either West Maui or South Maui. While there are other options these are best suited for brief visits rather than a base. The majority of people stay at either West or South Maui and for a first-time visit, this is defiantly our recommendation.
West Maui is technically the area comprising of the West Maui Mountains, the smaller of the two landmasses that make up Maui. However, in this context, it is referring to the built-up areas on the west coast of the mountains. West Maui is furthest from the airport at Kahului and tends to be fairly upmarket and expensive. The beaches and reefs are out of this world and the weather is normally hot and sunny all day with short showers throughout the day increasing the further north you head.
Resorts Begin at Lahaina and continue northward in the following order:
West Maui’s Main town, less of a resort area and more a proper town with shops restraint’s and bars lining its Main street (front street). There are few hotels in town but most people treat Lahaina as a place to visit from the more resort led areas.
Many Excursions and activities, especially ocean-based activities are based here and the town as an active harbor. Many great evenings have been enjoyed in Lahaina.
Home of West Maui’s luxury High rise resorts. The Stunning golden beachfront is punctured by Black Rock a lava formation home to some of the islands best snorkeling. While resorts are not cheap they offer the utmost luxury with many bars and restaurants along the beachfront.
Napili – Honokawai
A bit of a mouth full this more budget beach resort area offers much of what Kaanapali offers but at more modest prices. Hotels are beachfront but less well-appointed but still a fantastic place for a resort stay.
Moving up the coast sees the end of High rise. Local regulations limit buildings to 2 stories. And so the hotels transform into condo complexes. More pleasing to the eye as the tree line begins to be more visible. The beach at Napili Bay is a real paradise. Home of the famous Gazebo breakfast, relax on the super-soft coral sand as the warm waters lap the beach.
Turtles are aplenty here with the adjoining bay home to a stunning number of large sea turtles. You can easily Snorkel with them there or wait as the often swim round to draw a crowd as they feed in Napili Bay.
The Adjacent Bay to Napili Bay, another idyllic sandy cove with no High-rise hotels. Merriman’s restaurant occupies the envious spot out on the point for incredible sunset drinks. A spectacular golf resort marks the end of the populated area of West Maui, from here on it is rugged nature.
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.
Kihei is Maui’s cheaper budget resort area. The area boasts a large number of hotels and condo complexes along with cheaper restaurants and bars. But remember “Cheap” in Hawaii is a subjective thing!
Kihei’s coast is not particularly idyllic at the northern end, but improved drastically they farther south you head towards Wailea, If snorkeling in front of your resort is important to you then avoid the northern end of Kihei. Great beaches and snorkeling are available within a short drive of any part of Kihei however so if you are happy to drive a couple of miles it would be fine. The coast is still beautiful the water quality is just not quite the standard of the rest of the island.
Wailea is the islands upmarket ultra-high-end resort area. If you have been eyeing celebrity Maui vacation photo’s on Instagram, chances are they are taken here. Driving the road through Kihei the area takes on a whole new manicured demeanor. you realize you have landed in high society.
That said there are more budget options here and a stay in Wailea should be doable for most people looking at Hawaii. You won’t blag a stay in the ultra-high-end hotels but the cheaper end is still very plush. And obviously, you will still benefit from the same incredible beaches and coastline as the elite. Wailea is also home to numerous celebrity holiday homes including Oprah and Clint Eastwood.
Snorkeling right on Wailea’s beaches is remarkable but a few miles down the road it gets even better.
As the island runs out of road the boarding options also dry up, Makena is more residential than resort. Some great beaches and bays to snorkel and swim and frolic. As you continue up the road to nowhere the wild takes over and the road ends a La Perouse bay just after the Newest Lava flow in Maui.
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. But there are other options however they are a little niche.
This laid-back sleepy backwater certainly has a lot of charm, and we love visiting here. The lodging options are limited however and it’s a very resident orientated culture. If you love Paia and know you would love staying here then go for it but newcomers should probably visit here first.
Hana is quiet. Really quiet. Almost cut off from the rest of Maui it’s peaceful existence is shattered late every morning as the day-trippers pile in. The only way to experience the peaceful beauty of Hana is to overnight and see what it’s like after the tourists leave.
Spending a night in Hana completely transforms how you experience a “road to Hana” trip. Book early though accommodation is limited and sells out fast. Don’t expect luxury. But the natural surroundings are luxurious in their own way.
Upcountry – Kula
Upcountry Maui is a unique location, unique in its non-uniqueness. It’s quite easy to forget you are on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific it has a much more Rural mainland look and feels about the place. A stay here would be quite unlike anywhere on the island. It’s a long way from the tropical beach holiday most are looking for.
Kahului is Maui’s major center. But we don’t consider it a tourist location and it’s not where we would base a Stay on Maui. There are options there some of which are ok, but we don’t come to Maui to stay in a built-up city area.
On the whole, the weather in Maui is stale and warm all year round. However due to the position of the island in the middle of the Pacific and it’s mountainous terrain it has many different microclimates and weather can vary drastically during the same day. All that lush greenery that makes Maui so Idyllic has to get its water from somewhere and rain is a daily occurrence on Maui. But it rarely rains everywhere on the island with parts not seeing rain for years at a time. while other parts are some of the wettest on earth. Unsurprisingly tourist locations have sprung up in the areas most prone to good weather. Where rain is nothing more than a good short sprinkling and often at night.
The main message is Sun and good weather can be found most days throughout the year in the tourist areas. To the point, the weather can be almost ignored when choosing a date. Busyness and hotel prices are a far greater concern.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the best way of getting around Maui is in a hire car. Navigation is simple and parking not a major issue. The island Is sparsely built up so land is available for free parking even in towns. On top of this, the Transport network is poor by mainland standards. Really it’s a bus or nothing. The bus network is useable but it’s not a great way to spend your time in paradise.
People looking for a resort-based trip, will find getting to their resorts by either a Taxi or Shuttle reasonable and then rely on tours and excursions for getting out and about on the Island, but really the only way to get out and properly explore the island is with your own car.
The only time we use taxies is when attending Luaus or other trips where drinking will be involved.
You May Also Like:
- Maui Visitors Guide
- Where to Stay on Maui
- What to Eat in Hawaii
- How to Get Around Maui
- What is the Weather Like on Maui
- Things to Do on Maui