The Printable Maui Guide on this webpage gives you the most important things you need to know for your Maui Vacation all in one place. It condenses SOME of the information from the other approximately 700 pages of this website, into a single paper that you can read here online, or you can print out to take with you to Maui for reference.
After looking through this material, I suggest that you print it out to study at home or to take with you to Maui. But don’t hit the Print button! Instead, click this link to Subscribe to my monthly Maui newsletter where you’ll be sent a link to download both the 300-page Maui Guide and my printable Maui PDF guide. It will then open in PDF format, and you can print it out in about 86 pages from there. If you have any problem opening the file, and you don’t have the free Adobe Acrobat Reader program on your computer, click here to get Adobe Reader.
Once you print this out, don’t leave home without it!
For more details about Maui hotels, condos, car rentals, restaurants, things to do, weddings, honeymoons, weather, maps, webcams, photos, and more, use the menu tabs at the TOP of this page to go to any of the other sections of this Maui website. Or visit our homepage for Maui Hawaii.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
When to go
Overview of Maui
Agents and Visitors Bureaus
Frequent Flyer Points
View from the plane
Sections of Maui
Condo or hotel?
Hotel & condo suggestions
Major hotels (table of facts)
Tours & activities
Views of whales and of other islands
Why you should tell them where you heard about them
Other stuff you need to know
Your first day on Maui
Road to Hana
Grand Wailea Hotel
Hyatt Regency Hotel
Maui Ocean Center
The last lava flow
Free things to do
Cheap things to do
Rainy day activities
What to do with the kids
A Hawaiian Experience
The very best restaurants on Maui
Moderate priced restaurants
Restaurants with good sunset views
Weddings on Maui
Some quotes about Maui
All the Hawaiian islands you can visit
A little geology
We now have a free monthly Maui email newsletter to keep you up to date on Maui. It covers hotels, condos, restaurants, attractions, sights, activities, and news about Maui. Sign up to get it by email every month.
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MAUI IS THE BEST
Maui is the best. The best place in the world. I have been to Maui over 30 times and now live there for part of each year. This paper contains my suggestions to help you get the most out of your trip to paradise. Here you will find loads of helpful hints about the many wonderful sights and activities and restaurants and hotels and condos on Maui.
You can read or print the latest version of this Maui info paper, as well as find over 850 additional pages of other Maui information, plus numerous photos, on this web site, which is at mauihawaii.org.
Print out this entire paper in Maui PDF format by subscribing to my Maui newsletter. Use it to help plan your trip, and take it to Maui for reference. Make copies for friends going to Maui, or tell them to read it at mauihawaii.org. Don’t leave home without it!
by clicking there on the tabs for the subjects you want to read more about, such as Hotels-Condos (reviews of specific hotels and condos with photos of their rooms and pools), Restaurants (reviews with menu lists and photos of the food), Things to Do (activities and sightseeing and attractions including comparisons of companies offering whale watches, luaus, guided van tours, snorkeling, helicopters, and much more), Car Rentals (tips on getting good deals), Flights (how to search for the best airfares), Golf (all the courses on Maui discussed), Weather (including charts of temperatures for each month), Webcams, Weddings and Honeymoons, and many more.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GO TO MAUI:
It’s ALWAYS a good time to go to Maui.
- In the winter, there is more chance of rain on Maui than at other times of the year. But this is still the best time to go to Maui because you can escape from the terrible winter weather back home. And it usually only rains for a couple of hours, once or twice per week. There are parts of Maui that get more rain (such as Hana and Kapalua), and parts that get less rain (such as Wailea). But Kaanapali Beach, my favorite part of Maui, does not get much rain either, and an hour or two of rain sure beats a week or two of snow back home. And winter is the only time to see the whales.
- Christmas to New Year is the most crowded time and the most expensive time to go to Maui. Hotels can charge their highest prices this week because they are usually completely filled with families traveling during the time school is out.
- Summer is the hottest time on Maui, and the least rainy. It’s a good time for many families to bring the kids while school is out.
- Spring and fall are the least crowded times to go to Maui, so you can get the best package deals on hotels and condos, the easiest time getting into any restaurant, and the least traffic on the roads.
For a detailed chart showing the temperature and rainfall for each month of the year on Maui, see the Maui Weather page of my Maui Vacations website.
OVERVIEW OF MAUI:
Maui is composed of two half‑islands (east and west), joined by a wide valley. Maui is 48 miles long and 26 miles wide, or six miles at the narrowest point of the valley between the bays (728 square miles). The population is 155,000 residents, plus 42,000 tourists. The largest city is Kahului (population 20,000). Maui is the second-largest Hawaiian island. Over 2 million tourists come to Maui each year. The airport you will come in at is in Kahului (airport code letters OGG), in the northeast corner of the central valley. Check out my tips for finding the best prices on air tickets to Maui.
The Hyatt Regency, Westin, Sheraton, Kaanapali Beach, Royal Lahaina, Maui Kaanapali Villas, and several other hotels and condos are on Kaanapali Beach, north of the town of Lahaina, on the west side of WEST Maui. Three of those hotels are much older than the others, and so are less expensive but also much less luxurious: Royal Lahaina opened in 1962, Maui Kaanapali Villas in 1963, and Kaanapali Beach Hotel opened in 1964. The Ritz Carlton Kapalua is about 20 minutes north of Kaanapali Beach.
The Wailea Beach Resort Marriott, Andaz, Grand Wailea, Four Seasons, and Fairmont Kea Lani are the main hotels in the Wailea area, which is the other popular modern hotel section and is in the southwest part of the east half of Maui (often called SOUTH Maui).
The above two paragraphs list hotels, but there are also many very good condos to stay at on both sides of Maui (west and south). So if you prefer a condo over a hotel, see the “Hotels & Condos” tab of this Maui Vacations website for detailed information about many condo choices, including photos of specific hotels and condos buildings, rooms, pools, and beaches.
The roads you will drive on (between airport and hotels and restaurants) are excellent, modern, well‑maintained and well‑marked. The drive from the Kahului Airport to your Kaanapali Beach hotel is 30 miles and takes 50 minutes. If you are staying at one of the Wailea hotels, the drive from the airport is about 18 miles and takes about 30 minutes. The driving distance between the two main resort areas, Kaanapali and Wailea, is 36 miles and takes about one hour. Sometimes heavy traffic can make those times much longer. There are only a few main roads on Maui, so it’s easy to follow the map you get from your car rental agency, and you will learn your way around.
TRAVEL AGENTS AND VISITORS BUREAU AND MAP:
See your travel agent or shop the internet, for package deals that may include airfare and hotel and/or rental car. Compare those package prices with the price you can get by booking directly with the hotel or condo and with the airline. You can also check discount Maui hotel prices.
For suggested travel agents who specialize in Maui and are very knowledgeable about Maui, see section 2 of my article about how to reserve a Maui hotel or condo.
To reserve your own activities for your Maui visit (luau, boats, tours, helicopter, whale-watch, horseback, etc.) or to get info about discounts on those activities, see Maui Activities.
While on Maui, stop in for info at the Lahaina Visitors Center, in the old courthouse behind the Banyan Tree in Lahaina. It’s open every day 9-5. Phone 808-667-9193.
To find out what special events will be going on during the dates you will be on Maui, see:
- Events calendar on Jon’s Maui Info
- Lahaina Events Hotline recording 1-888-310-1117
- Lahaina Town Action Committee www.visitlahaina.com/events
- Kaanapali Beach Association www.kaanapaliresort.com
- Maui Arts and Cultural Center www.mauiarts.org
For schedules of free entertainment in the two tourist shopping centers in the two main resort areas:
- Whalers Village www.whalersvillage.com
- Shops at Wailea www.shopsatwailea.com
YOU NEED A CAR:
Be sure to reserve a rental car before you go. You will need a car to get around on Maui. Ask about AAA discount or AARP discount on your car rental, if you belong to AAA or AARP. Check online or ask your travel agent about hotel or condo packages that may include a rental car. For lots of tips on how to get the best price on a rental car in Hawaii (or anyplace) see my Maui Car Rental Deals page.
THE VIEW FROM THE PLANE:
On the flight from the mainland to Hawaii, 50 minutes before landing time, look for the Hawaiian Islands out the left side of the plane. First, you’ll see the Big Island, then Maui. If you are flying to Oahu, then fifteen minutes later, see Oahu on the right side of the plane. Waikiki Beach is on the right just before landing. If you are stopping off in Honolulu, also see the brief section about Oahu on about the third page from the end of this paper. And speaking of that long and cramped and boring flight from home to Hawaii, always remember this: getting to Hawaii may not be a lot of fun but the hassle will fade to a distant memory when you wake up in paradise the next morning.
WHERE TO STAY ON MAUI
WHICH SIDE OF MAUI TO STAY ON:
There are two major resort areas on Maui – West, and South. The west side includes Lahaina, Kaanapali, Honokowai, Kahana, Napili, and Kapalua. The south side includes Wailea and Kihei. I prefer the west (Kaanapali) side because it is more beautiful (lush green mountains), and is very close to Lahaina (fun historic tourist town and boat harbor). However, Wailea has the advantage of slightly less rain in the winter and is a quieter area than Kaanapali because the major hotels are not quite as close together.
Just north of Kaanapali, there are many smaller condo complexes in Honokowai, Kahana, and Napili. They are less expensive than staying right on Kaanapali Beach, but they are not within walking distance of the big resort hotels and shopping, and some of them do not have air conditioning. Kihei is the major condo area on the south side. Kihei has many family restaurants. Instead of luxury resorts like in Kaanapali and Wailea, Kihei has less expensive condos, and some of those are not air-conditioned. These condos are mostly across the street from the beach, and that street tends to be congested with heavy traffic. Traffic can also be congested and extremely slow getting between the west side (Lahaina) and the central part of Maui.
What’s the difference between the west side and the south side of Maui?
I share details to help you decide whether to stay on the west side or the south side of Maui.
CONDO OR HOTEL:
There are about 15 major hotels, and more than 100 condos, for you to pick from on Maui. The advantages of a hotel are include:
- consistent quality of rooms
- more elaborate grounds and pools
- shops and restaurants in the building
- more service (such as room service and bellman service).
The advantages of a condo include:
- more living space
- larger rooms
- kitchen for you to do some of your own cooking
- usually lower prices.
Bear in mind that the quality of condo rooms varies widely, both from one condo building to another and from one unit to another within the same condo building.
In addition, some of the cheaper condos do not have air conditioning or daily maid service, so be sure to ask about that. Most condos will not let you reserve a specific room to be sure you are getting one of the nicer units.
If you’re staying in a condo and would like your groceries ready and waiting for you the day you arrive, see Maui grocery delivery information.
SOME HOTEL & CONDO SUGGESTIONS:
Do not pay “rack rate” (= list price) at any hotel or condo on Maui, or anyplace else! Always ask the hotel or condo for discounts, seasonal specials, weekend rates, holiday rates, AAA discounts, AARP discounts, and any other lower rates. Check with the hotel itself (calling directly to the hotel on Maui), as well as through the hotel chain’s national toll-free phone number. Check that hotel’s (or that hotel chain’s) web site for discounts. Join the hotel chain’s Frequent Guest program (usually free, like airlines’ Frequent Flyer programs), and ask about discounts for members of that program. Ask about package plans that include hotel and rental car and airfare.
For more details about selecting the best hotel or condo for your stay on Maui (including PHOTOS of hotel and condo rooms, buildings, pools, and beaches), see my Maui Hotels & Condos section.
These are my favorite places to stay on Maui
The webpage link listed for each of these has more details including pictures of that specific hotel or condo.
Hyatt Regency Maui (808) 661-1234
Best hotel on Kaanapali Beach (my favorite area), with beautiful grounds and great location. Art and rare birds in the lobbies, waterfalls in the pools, rope bridge, children’s play pool, daily buffet breakfast, and more.
Grand Wailea (808) 875-1234
Best hotel on Maui, with nearly all ocean-view rooms, good service, and super elaborate pools and water slides. Very expensive.
Kaanapali Alii (808) 667-1400
Large luxury condo suites (one or two bedrooms) in a great location on Kaanapali Beach. These condos are expensive, but you get about 1500 square feet in a one-bedroom and about 1800 square feet in a two-bedroom condo.
Honua Kai (808) 662-2800
New large luxury condo buildings on the beach about a mile north of the main Kaanapali resort area.
Other excellent choices:
Sheraton (808) 661-0031
Hotel at Black Rock on Kaanapali Beach. More quiet, but less elaborate pools and so less fun for kids, than the Hyatt and Westin in that same area. The Sheraton also has more expensive parking than some other Maui hotels and a $50 per night charge if you need to add a rollaway bed in your room. Some of the lanais are very small and don’t have space for more than one chair. Some of the rooms & bathrooms are small, and some rooms have only an armoire instead of a closet.
Westin Maui (808) 667-2525
Beautiful hotel with elaborate pools. Right in the middle of Kaanapali Beach. Rooms are smaller than at the Hyatt or Sheraton. Rooms in the Ocean Tower building are smaller, so ask for a room in the Beach Tower building. Note: this is NOT the same place as the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas, which is a new timeshare at a different location.
Whaler (808) 661-4861
Condo buildings on Kaanapali Beach. A little less expensive and a little less luxurious than Kaanapali Alii. Adjacent to Whalers Village shopping center.
Four Seasons (808) 874-8000
Quiet luxury hotel in Wailea. Great service. Very expensive.
Andaz (808) 879-1234
Completely rebuilt in 2013 from the former Renaissance. Beautiful and ultra-modern.
Ritz Carlton (808) 669-6200
Quiet, elegant luxury hotel a few miles north of Kaanapali, but not on the beach, and more likely to be cloudy or get some rain.
Mahana (808) 661-8751
One of the very few condo buildings where every room is oceanfront, so views are terrific. Studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom condos (including full kitchens), but no stores or restaurants in the building. Beach and pool are small and simple. About a ten-minute drive from the main Kaanapali resort area or 15 minutes from Lahaina.
Fairmont Kea Lani (808) 875-4100
Well-appointed all-suites hotel in Wailea.
If you want someplace less expensive than those above, there are dozens of other good condos and hotels to choose from. They are less luxurious, or older, or not in as good locations, as those listed above. But they offer good value, and best of all, you are still on Maui!
Here are just a few of the possibilities:
Kaanapali Beach Hotel (808) 661-0011 or toll-free 1-800-262-8450
Same great location as the Sheraton, right on Kaanapali Beach, but about half the price of the Sheraton because it’s much older. Wonderful friendly service. Free shows. Hawaiian atmosphere and décor.
Maui Kaanapali Villas (808) 667-7791 or Aston toll-free 1-800-922-7866
Another way to spend less money and still be near Kaanapali Beach. It’s on the other side of the Black Rock hill from the main Kaanapali Beach hotels, so a longer walk to all of the resorts, shopping, and restaurants. But its beach is less crowded, and they have both hotel rooms and condo units available. Built-in 1963, so older than the more expensive resorts like the Hyatt.
Major hotels (listed from south to north)
|Name||Location||Year Opened||# Rooms||Phone (808)||Comments|
|Fairmont Kea Lani||Wailea||1991||450||875-4100||Unusual appearance, all suites|
|Four Seasons||Wailea||1990||380||874-8000||Elegant quiet luxury|
|Grand Wailea||Wailea||1991||787||875-1234||Fantastic grounds & pools|
|Wailea Beach||Wailea||1976||546||879-1922||Wailea Marriott|
|Hyatt Regency||Kaanapali||1980||815||661-1234||Best hotel on Kaanapali Beach|
|Westin||Kaanapali||1987||761||667-2525||Elaborate pools, small rooms|
|Kaanapali Beach||Kaanapali||1964||430||661-0011||Very Hawaiian|
|Sheraton||Kaanapali||1963||510||661-0031||At Black Rock|
|Royal Lahaina||Kaanapali||1962||540||661-3611||Old but renovated|
|Kaanapali Villas||Kaanapali||1963||266||667-7791||Both hotel and condo units|
|Ritz Carlton||Kapalua||1992||463||669-6200||Elegant luxury, poor location|
THE FIRST THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Weather in the resort areas of Maui (Wailea and Kaanapali) is warm all year round. Winter high around 81; low around 64; ocean water 75. Summer high about 88, low about 69, ocean water 79. The most rain is in December and January, while the least rain is in June through September. When it rains in the resort areas of Maui, it sometimes only lasts 15 minutes, though it can rain all day in the winter. However, the weather can be completely different on another section of the same island: each island has a windward side that gets most of the rain. On the chance that you might get a rainy day, you could bring a small umbrella or light raincoat. Call 866-944-5025 for Maui weather. If it is raining in your hotel area on Kaanapali Beach and you want to find a sunny beach, try going to Kamaole III Beach in the south part of Kihei, where it rains much less. If it is raining even in Kihei and Wailea, go further south to Big Beach (Makena Beach Park) where it practically never rains. (Notice the cactuses beside the road.)
The sun is intense here at about 21‑degree latitude (similar to the latitude of Mexico City), so use at least a 15‑rated sunscreen on all exposed skin every day, even if you’re just going shopping or exploring.
DRESS (WHAT TO WEAR):
Dress is very informal resort clothes everyplace. Guys do not need a tie or jacket in even the fanciest restaurants (but slacks and a shirt with a collar are advisable).
TOURS & ACTIVITIES:
When booking your own tour & activity reservations, you’ll get the best price and ensure early booking by reserving with Activity Authority.
For information about each of the major activity choices, plus discounts and advance reservations for the activities for your Maui visit (luau, boats, tours, helicopter, whale-watch, snorkel, spas, horseback, etc.), see the Maui Activities section.
When considering which tour company to use for tours that go by van, such as the ride to the top of Haleakala or the ride to Hana (if you don’t want to drive them yourself), bear this in mind: cheaper tours often use bigger vans with more people on your tour. If you pay more, you can usually get a smaller van with a smaller tour group, so you get more personalized service. Temptation Tours has comfortable vans with only 6-8 people, so it is more luxurious but more expensive. Polynesian Adventure has 25-passenger vans and is often the cheapest of the Maui tour companies.
When you are in the city of Lahaina, there are activity‑sales booths on the main street (Front Street) where you will be shopping, but be sure to avoid the “discount” tour sellers who require you to attend a time-share sales presentation. Do NOT attend any time-share sales presentation under any circumstances! For more about why to avoid timeshare sales presentations, see the question “Why do you tell people to avoid timeshare presentations?” my Maui FAQ page.
I know it’s disappointing, but nobody will greet you with a lei on your arrival unless you have paid for it in advance as part of your tour package, or if you go to one of the fancier resorts. So buy a lei for yourself. They are available in shops at the airport (the most expensive place to buy anything), less expensive at grocery stores (any Safeway or Times Market), and even cheaper at Wal-Mart and Target and Costco (all near the airport).
Make your fresh flower leis last longer by asking for a plastic bag to put them in overnight when you buy them. Each night, soak the lei in cold water for 30 minutes, shake off the excess water, then put it in a plastic bag, blow the bag up with air, and tie it shut. If there is a refrigerator in your room, put the lei in the plastic bag (tied shut) in the refrigerator. If you don’t have a refrigerator, put a couple of ice cubes in the plastic bag with the lei overnight. If you couldn’t get a plastic bag when you bought the leis, soak them in cold water in the sink in your hotel room overnight (add a couple of ice cubes).
THE VIEW OF WHALES AND ISLANDS:
Stand on the beach in the back of your hotel or condo and watch for whales (winter only). You may see a “blow” that looks like a gray puff lasting only a couple seconds; or you may see a black hump briefly surface, followed immediately by a split tail diving back into the water. Learn more about how to go Maui whale watching. From Wailea, Kaanapali, or Kihei, you are looking west. If you are on Kaanapali Beach, the island you see straight out is Lanai, about nine miles away, formerly covered with Dole pineapple plantations, now having two luxury hotels. The island you see far to your right, is Molokai, about 25 miles away, a mostly undeveloped island with two hotels, mule rides, and a former leprosy colony. If you could see through the far‑left tip of Molokai, Honolulu (on the island of Oahu) would be 85 miles away from Kaanapali Beach, to the west‑northwest. If you are at a Wailea hotel, instead of Kaanapali Beach, then the larger of the two islands you see is Kahoolawe (used by the U.S. Navy for bombing practice from 1941 to 1990), and the tinier island you see just two and a half miles away is Molokini, a crescent sliver of the top edge of an old volcano crater. You are 2,397 miles from the west coast of the mainland United States.
WHY YOU SHOULD TELL THEM WHERE YOU HEARD ABOUT THEM:
When you go to restaurants, sights, shows, or shops, that you heard about on this web site, you can get the best service by telling them you heard about them on Jon’s Maui Vacations website. Why? Because you only go there once, but the readers of this website represent many Maui visitors. The people in these restaurants and other businesses know that I will hear about the kind of service they give you. They know that I will only continue to recommend them if they give great service to the people who read about them here and who report their experiences back to me by email. So tell your waiter or waitress, tell the person at the check-in stand in the restaurant, tell the person who answers the phone when you call to make your reservation, tell the manager or chef at the restaurant if you see him/her, tell the guide on your boat or van tour, tell the salesperson at the shop, tell the person who collects your money at the show, tell the person where you pay admission to the sights, tell them all! Tell them you heard about them on Jon’s Maui Vacations website.
I do not accept any money to make my web pages about any restaurants, hotels, or attractions. I only mention places I know from my own experience and the experiences of people like you who tell me about your trip to Maui. I write these pages because I love Maui and I want you to have the best possible experience there.
If you write about your Maui trip or hotel or condo on Facebook or TripAdvisor or other websites, please mention that you got helpful information to plan your trip from Jon’s Maui Vacations website at mauihawaii.org. I also appreciate you telling your friends about Jon’s Maui Vacations website.
OTHER STUFF YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Hawaiian words and place‑names:
There are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet (A E I O U H K L M N P W). Actually there are two more sort-of letters in the Hawaiian alphabet: the okina (which looks like an apostrophe and creates a guttural break in the pronunciation of a word) and the kahako (symbolized by a straight line over any vowel, which elongates the vowel). Usually there are no silent letters, so pronounce every letter in each word.
If you get tired of nature and want to see a theater play or concert, call 808-242-7469 for the schedule at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Kahului (shows in the 1200-seat Castle Theater) or see their website www.mauiarts.org.
While driving in your rented car, flip through the stations to find Hawaiian music to listen to on the radio. Try FM 91.5, 93.5, 102.3, or 105.1, and AM 900.
Do not use the road around the north side of West Maui to get from the airport to your hotel in Kapalua, Napili, Kahana, or Kaanapali, even though your GPS may tell you that is the shortest route. It is a very narrow and difficult and dangerous winding mountain road. You must instead use the road around the south side of West Maui.
Two munchies to try on Maui:
- Kitchen‑Cooked brand Maui Potato Chips
- Taro Chips (like Potato Chips)
Do not take the discount tour offers from Maui timeshare vendors. They put you through a convincing-sounding sales talk, to try to sell you extremely overpriced timeshares.
SIGHTS, ACTIVITIES, THINGS TO DO:
Below is information on some of the best sights to see and things to do on Maui. Most of these are free or very low-cost. For more details these and many more things to see and do on Maui.
The “Maui Activities” link on that page will take you to details about luaus, whale watching, snorkeling, tours, golf, helicopters, spas, bumper boats, horseback riding, Segway rides, ATV rides, dinner cruises, submarine rides, surfing lessons, parasailing, fishing, theater, ziplines, biking down the volcano, and more.
The “Maui Attractions and Sightseeing” link on that page will take you to details about Lahaina town, Haleakala crater, the road to Hana, lavender farm, Iao Valley, lobbies and art in hotels, aquarium, banyan tree, gardens, last lava flow, Makawao town, hiking, Kealia boardwalk and wildlife refuge, giant Buddha, Hookipa big waves windsurfers, surfing goat dairy, museums, art galleries, a marine sanctuary, parks, and more.
Other links on that page will take you to details about kids’ activities, shopping, beaches, events calendar, and more.
YOUR FIRST DAY ON MAUI
Pick up free brochures about activities, sights, tours, restaurants, etc., in brochure racks at the airport (in the baggage claim area), in your hotel lobby, at shopping centers (Outlets of Maui in Lahaina, Kahana Gateway, Azeka Place in Kihei, outside Foodland or Safeway, or others), or on the streets of Lahaina or Kihei. These great brochures, such as Maui Gold, This Week Maui, 101 Things to Do, and Maui Activities & Attractions, are full of coupons and information about Maui activities.
Stock up on soda, chips, sunscreen, beach chairs, and other essentials at Safeway grocery store (Lahaina Cannery or Piilani Village Kihei), Times Market (Honokowai Marketplace or Kihei), Wal-Mart or Target or Costco (Kahului, near the airport), Longs Drugstore (Lahaina Cannery or Kihei or Kahului), ABC (many shopping areas), or Whalers General Store (in many strip malls). My wife and I did a price check on a dozen common items and found grocery store prices on Maui are an average of 40% higher than in Michigan.
When I think of Maui I think of scenery. But when most people think of Maui, they think of beaches. Here’s what you need to know: All beaches in Hawaii are public. You can, and should, try out several beaches while you are on Maui. Don’t only go to the beach in front of your own hotel or condo. Each beach is different and each beach is beautiful. Here are some beaches I suggest.
Kapalua Beach was rated as the most beautiful beach in the world a few years ago. That was before they built expensive condos that block some of the views, but Kapalua Bay is still worth seeing. Kapalua means two borders (or more figuratively “arms embracing the sea”) which refers to the fingers of lava that reach out on both sides of this bay and block the strong waves from disturbing swimmers.
Kaanapali Beach is the “in place” to be on Maui, the place where the action is. Three great resort hotels (Sheraton, Westin, Hyatt), one very good older hotel (Kaanapali Beach Hotel), two major condos (Kaanapali Alii, Whaler), a shopping center (Whalers Village with three very good restaurants, Hula Grill, Leilani’s, and Monkeypod Kitchen) are located on this beach. There’s a great snorkel spot at Black Rock (in front of the Sheraton). There are booths to rent all sorts of water equipment, and you can even get some boat tours on catamarans that pick you up right on the beach. Kaanapali Beach is my favorite place to stay on Maui.
Baby Beach has much calmer waters than most other beaches because an offshore breakwater blocks many of the big waves from reaching the shore. This makes it a good place for children to go in the ocean, though even here they, of course, need adult supervision. Baby Beach is in the north part of Lahaina.
Olowalu is a popular snorkeling beach. It’s south of Lahaina on Route 30, at Mile Marker 14.
Kamaole III Beach is the best beach in Kihei. Kihei is a town crowded with condos, most of which are across the street from the beaches, rather than being ocean-front. It’s a good place for families on a budget that does not allow staying at the big resort hotels. More about the three Kamaole Beaches in Kihei, including pictures.
Keawakapu Beach is a less crowded beach where Kihei meets Wailea.
Big Beach is also called Makena Beach or Oneloa Beach. You’ve got to see it, because this beautiful area is the last large undeveloped beach on the sunny side of Maui. It’s ¾ of a mile long, with not one hotel or condo in sight. It’s south of all the Wailea hotels.
Ho’okipa Beach Park is the place to watch windsurfing. (The waves are too rough for swimming.) It’s on Route 36 just past the town of Paia, on the north shore.
Never leave anything of value in your car or on the beach, since theft from beaches and rental cars does occur. Most Maui beaches have no lifeguards. Whether they are present or not, swimming in the ocean can be dangerous. You could drown. You could get cut by coral. Something could bite you. Swim at your own risk. (My lawyer made me say that.)
ROAD TO HANA (ONE DAY)
The road to Hana, and the crater at the top of Haleakala, are the two most famous sights of Maui. You can drive the road to Hana yourself, or take a tour in a van. It is a long and difficult drive on a narrow winding mountain road. If you prefer to have a tour van take you, you can sign up at your hotel or at any tour booth to take the all‑day ride to and from Hana. Whether on your own or on a tour, you will see the gorgeous scenery of the rainforest, including many beautiful waterfalls of various shapes and sizes along the mountainsides. If you drive yourself, leave your hotel by 8 A.M., and take a picnic lunch. If you are staying on West Maui, I recommend the “Hana Box Lunch” which you can get at CJ’s Deli in the Fairway Shops just outside of Kaanapali (667-0968). Allow six hours to get to Hana (with stops to see scenery), and three hours to return (without stops). It’s 81 miles from Kaanapali; the hard part (the Hana Road) has 617 curves and 56 one‑lane bridges. If you are prone to motion sickness, do not read (not even the map) in your car or tour van. You must drive back from Hana the same way you came, NOT by the unpaved desolate southern route. Hana itself is just a quaint small village, isolated from the rest of Maui by the mountain road. There is nothing much to do there. The point of this trip is the sights on the road to Hana, rather than Hana itself.
On the way to Hana, just past Mile Marker 16, turn left at the sign to Keanae, for close-up views of waves on lava rocks. Stop near the end of that peninsula to pick up a couple of loaves of the world’s best banana bread, at Aunty Sandy’s Keanae Landing Fruit Stand.
If you have extra time, you can drive another 40 minutes beyond Hana to the beautiful Pools of Ohe’o, also called Ohe’o Gulch and Palikea Stream. (This area was formerly called the Seven Sacred Pools, but there are more than seven and they are not sacred, since that was just a marketing term made up by a Hana hotel worker in the 1950s.) There are several lovely waterfalls cascading into the series of natural pools, working their way down the mountain slope. A little further beyond here is Charles Lindbergh’s grave at Palapalo Hoomau Church, but it is not visible from the road and is difficult to find.
If you drive to Hana (rather than taking a van tour), be SURE to take along the excellent “Hana CD Guide.” Get it at the Hana Picnics store at 333 Dairy Road, across the street from the Shell station in Kahului, which you will pass on your way to the start of your trip to Hana. This is an audio CD that tells you what to see along the way. You play the CD in your car while you drive to Hana. You will see twice as many wonderful sights if you take this guide recording along. Another excellent CD to play on this trip is called R2H. Most other Hana CD’s, other than those specific two, are not nearly as good.
The day before you drive to Hana, call the Maui police at 808-244-6400 (or the Hana Branch at 808-248-8311) to find out whether there will be major road construction delays on the road to Hana.
LAHAINA (ONE DAY)
If you haven’t spent a day in Lahaina, you haven’t really been to Maui. From Kaanapali Beach, turn right onto the main road, drive for eight minutes (four miles), and go into Lahaina on the right. From Wailea or Kihei, take Route 31 north to the central valley, then Route 310 across the southern edge of the valley, then Route 30 west and north to Lahaina (about 50 minutes drive from Wailea, but certainly worth the trip).
Lahaina is an old whaling port and tourist town loaded with many shops and restaurants, plus a busy little boat harbor and lots of historical buildings. Spend the day walking through Lahaina, shopping, and snacking. Rest under the giant Banyan tree (planted in 1873) at the south end of the shopping strip. Stop in at the Lahaina Visitors Center in the Old Courthouse behind the Banyan Tree. See the Pioneer Inn, the original Lahaina hotel, in use since the whaling days of the last century. (The ten rooms at the Pioneer Inn were the only accommodations in West Maui until the first hotel on Kaanapali Beach was built in 1962.) Buy a Maui T-shirt. Visit Dan’s Greenhouse (upstairs, across Front Street from the Banyan Tree) to see the live parrots, piglets, and plants for sale. In my experience, the most interesting shops to see are on Front Street, but the best prices are off of Front street. I found the most choices of souvenirs, Hawaiian clothing, candy, and other items at Hilo Hattie’s (667-7911) in the Outlets of Maui shopping center (at the north end of the shopping area).
Have lunch and dinner in Lahaina. For the best dinner food in Lahaina, I recommend Honu or Mala, next door to each other at 1295 Front Street, behind the Safeway grocery store. Also good (but crowded) for lunch or dinner is Kimo’s restaurant, which is on the more central part of Front Street. If you’re looking for something less expensive, I suggest Lahaina Pizza Company or Penne Pasta. Lists of menu items, and photos of the food, see some of the west Maui restaurants I’ve personally reviewed.
IAO VALLEY (HALF OR FULL DAY)
The Iao Needle is a 2,250-foot tall rock formation surrounded by lush green mountains, in the center of the west half of Maui. The road into the Iao Valley begins in the center of downtown Wailuku. Take an umbrella, since there is often a light steady drizzle there. Walk along the path from the parking lot. There are great views from the top of the walkway, and a lovely stream at the bottom of the walkway. There is a fee for parking within the park.
There are two sights to see on the road to Iao Valley, before or after you go to the Iao Needle. I am listing them below in the order you would find them on your way OUT of the Iao Valley.
Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens — garden and architectural displays from eight cultures that contributed to modern Maui: Chinese, Japanese, New England, Portuguese, Native Hawaiian, Korean, Puerto Rican, and Filipino. Free. Open 7 AM to 7 PM.
Bailey House Museum (phone 244-3326) run by the Maui Historical Society. Ancient Hawaiian artifacts, plus displays about the missionary times of the 1800s on Maui. Could be boring if you are not into this aspect of history. Admission charge. Open 10-4 Monday-Saturday. On the right side, just before you re-enter downtown Wailuku.
WEST MAUI (FULL DAY)
On your way back from the Iao Needle, turn right from the main road (just south of Maui Tropical Plantation), to drive uphill into the Waikapu golf courses. The view from the clubhouse area is beautiful and includes the entire central valley of Maui, plus both the north (Kahului) and south (Maalaea) bays. The clubhouse is an interesting building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. If the road to that Waikapu clubhouse at the top is closed, you can get most of the same view from the adjacent Kahili (formerly Sandalwood) golf clubhouse, or just from the road leading to the Sandalwood clubhouse.
Drive south along the main road after leaving the Iao Needle or Waikapu golf courses. Stop at the whale watching lookout point along the side of the road just after you get back to the ocean area. (Be very careful to watch the traffic when pulling in or out of this lookout area.) Look for whales (winter only). On an exceptionally clear day, you can see the snow-capped peak of one of the two mountains on the Big Island of Hawaii (120 miles away) in the distant haze, behind the southern tip of Maui, from that scenic lookout. As you continue your drive toward Lahaina and Kaanapali, you will wind around the mountain on the south coast of West Maui. Notice the old Lahaina Road, above the current road, demarcated by an old stone wall. The current road you are driving on was built in 1951. Continue along the road around the south edge of west Maui, and watch for rainbows (in the late afternoon) in fields and valleys on the right side (opposite from the ocean side of the road). The flat-topped piles of rocks you see in the fields on the mountainside of the road here are just stacks of rocks that workers made when they cleared the fields.
If you haven’t already seen Lahaina, read the section about it above and stop off there now. Otherwise, pass Lahaina, continue 5‑10 minutes, and turn left into the Kaanapali Beach area. There are several hotels in a row, starting with the Hyatt Regency on the south end. Walkthrough the Hyatt grounds to see the Oriental art, live birds, and pools with waterfalls (more about the Hyatt below). Next, take a stroll down the beach to see the great pools in the back of the Marriott timeshare, and then the spectacular multi‑level pools and waterfalls in the back of the Westin Hotel. All beaches in Hawaii are public, so you don’t have to be staying at any of these hotels to spend an hour or a day walking along the beautiful Kaanapali beach and seeing the islands of Lanai (straight out) and Molokai (on the far right) across the ocean, plus the poolsides of all the hotels. Shop at the Whalers Village shopping center in the middle of this row of hotels. Good places for lunch or dinner in Whalers Village Shopping Center are Hula Grill, Leilani’s, and Monkeypod Kitchen. Continue your walk to the Sheraton Hotel at Black Rock, where the snorkelers are watching the fish and vice versa.
It is possible to drive all the way around West Maui because the road is paved all the way. However, I do not recommend driving the northern coast, because the winding mountain road is VERY narrow there, is dangerous to drive, and can also be blocked by falling rocks or by rain. It takes one hour and 22 minutes to drive 34 miles from Kaanapali to Wailuku via the northern route, or just 35 minutes to drive the 24 miles from Kaanapali to Wailuku via the normal excellent roads of the southern route (assuming no traffic congestion).
WHALE WATCHING (HALF DAY, WINTER ONLY)
The humpback whales start arriving in Hawaii at the end of November, and most are gone by the middle of April. The number of whales is at their peak from January through March (especially during February). During those months, you can see whales almost every day from your hotel lanai (balcony) if you have a good ocean view. There are about 22,000 humpback whales in the North Pacific Ocean, about 12,000 of them come to Maui at some time during the winter, and about 5000 are around Maui and the nearby islands at any one time in the peak months of winter (the highest number are here in February). As of 2015, the number of whales that come to Hawaii in the winter was increasing by 5% per year. Humpback whales come to Maui every winter, and so should we!
For a chance at a closer look, ask at your hotel or at an activity sales booth, to find out the most convenient time and place to go out on a boat to see whales blowing and jumping in the ocean. Boats leave from Lahaina and from Maalaea. For more info about whale watch boats, including a comparison of some of the companies that offer that activity, see the Maui Whale Watch page in the Activities section.
People often ask me where they can “swim with the dolphins.” The answer is not on Maui. Your best chance is at Sea Life Park or at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental hotel, both on the island of Oahu. They also offer dolphin encounters at the Hilton Waikoloa Hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii. On Maui, you can take a boat ride out into the ocean, where you might see dolphins, and occasionally you can see them from the shore. But you won’t get to swim with them.
SNORKELING (HALF DAY)
Rent your snorkel gear at Boss Frog’s or Maui Dive Shop, for about half the price they charge at the big hotels. Several branch stores of each are all over Maui, mostly at small shopping centers. If you’ve never snorkeled, ask about lessons at your hotel or from a snorkel boat tour company. A good place for your first snorkel is by Black Rock, next to the Sheraton Hotel. (Park at Whalers Village shopping center half a mile away, cheaper than parking at the Sheraton.) A good place to take children for their first snorkel is Baby Beach, in Lahaina, because the water is usually calm at that beach. (Baby Beach is in the north part of Lahaina. Enter from Ala Moana Street by the Jodo Mission.) Other top snorkel spots on Maui are Mile Marker 14 (just south of Olowalu), Kapalua Bay, Honolua Bay, Makena Landing, and (a boat ride away) the island of Molokini. There are risks to snorkeling, as with any ocean activity, but it’s great fun.
If you want help with your snorkeling, and a boat ride and food too, you can take a half-day snorkel cruise. You can get on a catamaran right on Kaanapali Beach (or Lahaina Harbor or Maalaea Harbor), sail for an hour or so, and stop off at a couple of good snorkel spots that are deeper and have more fish than you would see snorkeling from shore.
One of the more exciting ways to go snorkeling, and your closest option when staying in South Maui, is a rafting trip with Redline Rafting. They leave from Kihei Boat Ramp, which is the closest departure point to Molokini Crater. They take you to Molokini as well as Turtle Town. During whale season, this is also a preferred boat because you’re closer to the water and in a smaller group. Every seat has a view of whales!
More info, and a comparison of several of the companies offering snorkel cruises, is on the Maui Snorkeling page in the Activities section.
HALEAKALA CRATER (HALF OR FULL DAY)
Haleakala (elevation 10,023 feet) is the mountain that makes up all of the east half of Maui. The crater at the top of this volcano is one of Maui’s most incredible sights.
The view at the top of Haleakala is beautiful at any time of the day, so you don’t have to go only at sunrise. You’ll see the multicolored volcano crater and the views of Maui’s central valley. It is much colder at this elevation than at the beach, so take along heavy clothes, a sweater, coat, scarf, gloves, etc. Call 808-572-4400 for Haleakala National Park info. Park admission $25 per car. Free ranger talks in the summit building at 9:30, 10:30, and 11:30 AM.
The crater is seven and a half miles long, two and a half miles wide, and 3000 feet deep. You will look down on the clouds, and see the “Big Island” of Hawaii in the distance across the ocean. (The left mountain is Mauna Kea 80 miles away, and the right mountain is Mauna Loa 100 miles away.) Haleakala volcano last erupted in 1790, but that was from the south side and not from the top of the volcano.
If you want to make an all-day trip to Haleakala, take along a picnic lunch. If you are staying on West Maui, I recommend the “Hana Box Lunch” which you can get at CJ’s Deli in the Fairway Shops just outside of Kaanapali (808-667-0968). Eat that lunch at the Lavender Garden in Upcountry along the way up. There are no stores beyond about halfway up the mountain.
On the way up or down from the crater, stop at the pull-over lookout points for glorious views of Maui’s central valley. At the top, park in all three parking lots and get out for each of the different views of the crater from each vantage point. On the way out of the park, stop at Hosmer Grove (just outside of the National Park entrance) for a walk through a beautiful small forest.
Sunrise on Haleakala:
Book a tour to the top of Haleakala with Skyline Hawaii, leaving between 2 and 3 A.M.! You will ride in the dark up to the top of this huge dormant volcano that makes up the bulk of east Maui. On your way up to the top for sunrise, stop at one of the several pullover lookout points about halfway up, and look at the beautiful stars in the pitch dark skies. Wear heavy sweaters, winter coats, scarf, gloves, hat, and every warm piece of clothing you have because the temperature two miles up is 30 to 40 degrees at sunrise, there is no heat in the observation building, and you will be out in the cold for about two hours. Also take along the blanket from your hotel room, to wrap yourself in. (You can drive up there yourself, but I don’t recommend the unfamiliar mountain road in the dark. It’s 64 miles from Kaanapali Beach and takes about 2½ hours. If you decide to drive up yourself for sunrise, you need an advance online reservation.) At the top, before sunrise, it is darker than you ever saw, and you will see more stars than you have ever seen. Sunrise is indescribably beautiful, with the sky slowly turning various colors, and the sun coming up over the ocean and clouds and volcano crater below you. After sunrise, your tour may stop at a couple of observation points around the crater. Then you drive down the mountain in daylight and get great views of the central Maui valley below. When you get back to your hotel, go back to sleep until mid‑afternoon. There is a small chance of overcast clouds at the top of Haleakala that could ruin the view some days. If you are from the east coast or the midwest, you might want to plan this sunrise trip to Haleakala for your first or second morning on Maui, when you will find yourself waking up very early because of the time-zone change.
UPCOUNTRY (FULL DAY)
“Upcountry” is the part of Maui on the valley side of Haleakala. It includes a few small towns (Makawao, Pukalani, Haliimaile, Kula), gardens, ranches, the beginning of the road to the summit, and incredible views of the central valley of Maui. Because of the elevation, it is a little cooler in Upcountry than at the beach. It takes about an hour to drive to Upcountry from the resort areas of Kaanapali or Wailea.
Makawao is a small paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town with several shops, and small art galleries highlighting local artists. See glass blowing 10:30-4:00 most days at Hot Island Glass at 3620 Baldwin Avenue (call 808-572-4527 to confirm). You can eat at Casanova’s Italian Restaurant (808-572-0220) or the Makawao Steak House (808-572-8711).
The best food in Upcountry is at the Haliimaile General Store (808-572-2666). It’s open for both lunch and dinner weekdays, but only for dinner on weekends. There is also good food at the Kula Lodge (808-878-1535), halfway up the mountain, and you get a great view of the central valley from there.
The Kula Botanical Garden (808-878-1715) costs $10 and is open from 9 AM to 4 PM every day. It has a one-hour stroll through a garden with some flowers and a great variety of plants plus a few birds and a koi fishpond.
As you continue driving further through Upcountry, stop for a cinnamon roll at Grandma’s Coffee House in Keokea. Then pass the Ulupalakua Ranch, and stop at the Tedeschi Vineyards (808-878-6058) for a free tour and wine tasting. (Tours twice a day, at 10:30 and 1:30.) www.mauiwine.com
After you look at the view down to Wailea and Kihei from the Tedeschi Vineyard, it’s time to turn around and go back the way you came. (If you continue around the south side of Haleakala, you will get to a section with no paved road. Do not drive there.)
GRAND WAILEA HOTEL
If money is no object, you should stay a few days at the Grand Wailea Resort (875-1234). This spectacular hotel, opened in 1991, has facilities superior to any of the other wonderful hotels on Maui. Your experience begins with a lei greeting, free drink, and personal introduction upon your arrival for check-in. The building and grounds are gorgeous, filled with art and flowers. Most of the 787 rooms have ocean views. The multiple connecting pools have slides and water elevator and caves like you will find no place else. The 1,200 employees are friendly and anxious to please you. If you don’t want to spend the money to stay at this resort, at least take a walk around the grounds and see it. (No, you can’t use the pools if you are not staying at this hotel.)
HYATT REGENCY HOTEL (ONE MORNING)
If you are staying in a hotel on Kaanapali Beach, you are within a mile of the Hyatt. If you are staying in Wailea, you have to drive 36 miles to Kaanapali Beach. It’s worth the trip to see the Hyatt and the other Kaanapali resorts, and to see the nearby town of Lahaina.
Wander around this beautiful hotel (opened in 1980) and see the large swimming pools with the bar behind waterfall, penguins, and parrots in the lobby, swans behind the restaurant, flamingos and flowers, and exotic plants outback and expensive oriental art all over the place.
MAUI OCEAN CENTER
This excellent Maui aquarium opened in 1998 at the south end of Maui’s central valley. It takes about two hours to tour the exhibits about Maui’s sea life, including live fish, sharks, turtles, rays, and others. Also good Seascape Restaurant for lunch. Call 270-7000 for information.
I don’t play golf, so I have no personal experience with the sixteen beautiful (and expensive) golf courses on Maui. However, friends of mine who play golf say that the best golf course on Maui is the Plantation Course at Kapalua. They say second-best is the Bay Course, also at Kapalua. A close third best is the Makena course. Some friends prefer the Kaanapali golf courses because they are not as challenging. There are also much less expensive Maui golf courses in the non-tourist areas.
There is less rain in Wailea and Makena than in Kapalua and Kaanapali. So if it is too windy or too rainy to play golf at the Kapalua courses, you may find better weather by driving 60 minutes (from Kaanapali) to play the Makena course, or one of the three Wailea courses (Emerald is the most scenic and prettiest, compared to the Blue and Gold).
You must have reservations at all of these popular courses, especially for the early morning tee times. You can make reservations for the Kapalua courses up to 25 days in advance, by calling (808) 669-8044. Call early in the morning for the best choices, since they start answering the phone at 6 AM Hawaii time. If you’re playing at the Wailea courses, the phone number for reservations is (808) 875-5111; and for Makena it’s (808) 879-3344 (reserve those tee times up to 30 days in advance).
You don’t have to stay in a Kapalua hotel to play golf at the Kapalua courses, or in Wailea to play the Wailea courses: you can stay anyplace and play golf anyplace. However, you do get a discount on golf at the course affiliated with the hotel you stay at. Another way to get a lower price on golf is to start in the mid-afternoon instead of in the morning.
THE LAST LAVA FLOW
If you drive south on Route 31, past the condos of Kihei and the resorts of Wailea, past Big Beach, the road becomes narrow. Soon thereafter, you will find the road takes you over Maui’s last lava flow. In this eerie landscape, you can see the lava that flowed down from part-way up this side of Haleakala volcano in 1790. If you get out of your car, be careful, as you can fall and injure yourself on the sharp lava rocks. (This flow did not come from the top of the crater, which last erupted 650 years previously.) If you continue a little farther, the road ends at La Perouse Bay.
If you enjoy horseback riding, there’s Lahaina Stables, Mendes ranch, and Ironwood Ranch on the west side, Makena Stables and Triple L Ranch on the south side, and more choices in other parts of Maui. Info about Maui horseback rides in various parts of the island, including a comparison of some companies offering those rides, is on the Horseback Riding page.
This garden in Upcountry opened in 2002. It’s out of the way so you won’t find it without knowing where to look. Nanea ao Kula (Serenity of Kula) is a former protea farm that Alii Chang turned into a lavender garden from which they produce numerous products containing lavender. You can tour this lovely garden, with its gorgeous views of the central valley of Maui, on your own, or with a guide. There is a small admission fee. They have a 30-minute walking tour, or a lavender tea with lavender lecture and tour, or a longer lavender luncheon, with lecture and tour, so call and ask about the schedule. They do try to sell you their lavender products at the end of the tour. Phone 878-3004.
I don’t usually hike, but my wife and I did do part of the hike on the Lahaina Pali Trail in 1999. This is a 5-mile hike over the West Maui mountains. We only walked the first half mile uphill, and then turned around and came back down. It is a beautiful hike, with wonderful views of the mountains and the ocean. Like us, you can do as much or as little of it as you like. To get to the start of this trail, look for a small dirt parking lot just off the main road (Honoapiilani Highway), just past Mile Marker 11 (just past an emergency call box, just past the first section of wire fencing screen on the side of the mountain), on your way from the Lahaina-Kaanapali area toward the central valley of Maui.
Check out other suggested Maui hikes.
There are books about hiking on Maui at all of the bookstores on Maui. Two of the best are Hiking Maui, The Valley Isle, by Robert Smith, and Maui Trailblazer by Jerry & Janine Sprout. You can get either of them before you go, at major bookstores, or by ordering it online.
LUAU (ONE EVENING)
There are several Hawaiian luau dinner shows available any evening. The food is interesting; the show has various Polynesian island dancers and music. Every tourist should go to one luau during their visit to Hawaii.
Places to call to ask about luaus:
- Old Lahaina Luau
- Royal Lahaina Hotel
- Hyatt Regency Hotel
- Feast at Lele
- Grand Wailea
- Wailea Beach Marriott
The Old Lahaina Luau (my wife’s favorite) is the most authentically Hawaiian, has the most beautiful oceanfront setting, has the most comfortable chairs (if you don’t choose to sit on the ground), has Hawaiian music, and has less touristy music than a hotel luau. It is at 1251 Front Street in the north part of Lahaina, across from the Lahaina Cannery Mall. Space for 440 guests and often sold out, so call far in advance for the best seats. More expensive than the hotel luaus, and generally not discounted like the hotel ones.
My personal favorite luau is at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, because it is showier, with the Hawaiian music that all we tourists love. Kids often like the Hyatt luau because it has fire dancers and is less serious than the Old Lahaina Luau. I also like the luau at the Royal Lahaina Hotel. It has a good combination of authentic and touristy music and dance, with a beautiful sunset backdrop.
At the Old Lahaina Luau, and at the Feast at Lele, you are assigned to a reserved seat when you make your reservation, so the further in advance you buy your ticket, the closer you will sit to the stage. For most other luaus, there are no reserved seats, so the earlier you arrive that evening, the closer to the stage you can choose to sit.
More info about these and other luaus is on the Maui Luau page in the Activities.
Where’s the best place to pick up those souvenirs you’ve just GOT to take home?
- For the most fun shopping: lots of small stores on Front Street in Lahaina.
- For the most choices in one store: Hilo Hattie (Lahaina).
- For the lowest prices: Wal-Mart in Kahului.
For Hawaiian music CD’s, there are some at Hilo Hattie and a much larger selection at Barnes and Noble bookstore in Kahului. But the best prices are at Wal-Mart in Kahului. Learn more about Maui shopping.
Five main shopping areas and one store I suggest:
Front Street in Lahaina
Little tourist shops for T‑shirts and souvenirs and art
Whalers Village on Kaanapali Beach 661-4567
Nicer tourist shops and restaurants.
Good souvenir shirt choices at Crazy Shirt.
www.whalersvillage.com for the monthly activity calendar of free shows
The Shops at Wailea 879-1991
Upscale shops and restaurants in a beautiful modern open-air mall
The Cannery on the main road outside the north edge of Lahaina
Modern enclosed mall
Regular stores, tourist shops, restaurants, Long’s Drugstore, and Safeway 24-hour supermarket
Queen Kaahumanu Center in Kahului 877-4325
Sears and Macy’s and about 90 other stores
The biggest shopping center on Maui
Where Maui residents (not just tourists) shop
Hilo Hattie in Lahaina (667-7911)
There is one store on Maui that deserves its own special mention. Hilo Hattie may be tacky, but it’s got good selections on all the clothes and souvenirs that you want to bring home from Maui. You will be astounded at the selection of aloha shirts, dresses, costume jewelry, trinkets, candies, nuts, souvenirs, and other Hawaiian-themed STUFF.
FREE THINGS TO DO
HULA SHOWS AT SHOPPING CENTERS
Several shopping centers have free hula shows once or twice per week. Call for days and times:
SINGERS SUNDAY AT KAANAPALI BEACH HOTEL
Sunday mornings behind the buffet brunch room, outside and in the back of the Kaanapali Beach hotel, sit at the round tables and listen to live music.
HAWAIIAN CULTURAL TALK AT RITZ-CARLTON HOTEL
Fridays at 10 AM, see a video about the Hawaiian people, with a discussion by Hawaiian Cultural Advisor Clifford Naeole, called “Sense of Place.” Call him at the Ritz 669-6200 to verify day and time.
KEALIA POND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Walk around these quiet and peaceful wetlands in the south part of Maui’s central valley, looking at the birds and maybe some turtles. Enter at mile marker 6 on Maui Veterans Highway (route 311) (formerly called Mokulele Highway), just north of North Kihei Road (route 310). Daytime only; closed weekends. Call 875-1582 for further information.
HULA SHOW AT KAANAPALI BEACH HOTEL
Most days at 6:30 PM. Call 661-0011 for information. You can watch this show free from some seats around the edges of the audience, or you can sit at the tables in the center of the audience. There is no charge to sit at the tables, but the waitress will expect you to order drinks or snacks if you sit there.
SHUTTLE BUS (some free and others cost $2)
- Whalers Village – Kahana – Napili
- Kaanapali Resort Trolley
(Ask for schedule at your hotel)
SIT UNDER THE BANYAN TREE
In Lahaina, relax and watch the tourists and the locals. Meet artists there some weekends from 9 AM to 5 PM.
OLD COURTHOUSE BUILDING
In Lahaina, behind Banyan Tree. Includes Lahaina Visitors Center (open every day 9-5), art gallery, and old jail.
Friday night is art night in Lahaina. That evening, or any day, walk through the numerous galleries there. The Lahaina Visitors Center (in the Old Courthouse behind the Banyan Tree) has a flyer with a map of Lahaina’s art galleries with names of the artists featured in each.
WOW = Wailea On Wednesdays. Wednesday evening, or any day, see the art in galleries at the Shops at Wailea shopping center.
Schaefer International Gallery at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Kahului is free and open 11 AM to 5 PM daily, with rotating art exhibits.
You can also see beautiful art in the major hotels in the resort areas of Wailea, Kaanapali, and Kapalua. The best is the art at the Four Seasons hotel in Wailea.
A few of Maui’s museums are free: Printing Museum at Lahainaluna High School in Lahaina, Hale Paahao (Irons House) on Prison Street in Lahaina, Lahaina Heritage Museum in the Old Lahaina Courthouse.
Watch for rainbows over the ocean the first two hours after sunrise, and in the mountains the last two hours before sunset. They are most likely on days with some mist in the air, or days with light rain showers when the sun is visible in the opposite direction from where you look for the rainbows. They are most commonly seen from West Maui (the Kaanapali side of the island).
For a beautiful sight, watch a nearly-full moon setting into the ocean, in a dark sky, with white moonlight reflected across the ocean towards you. The only time you can see this, is 1-3 days before a full moon, at 1-3 hours before sunrise. Look in the western sky, at about the same position that the sun has been setting. (On the day of a full moon, and in the next few days, the moon sets in daylight, and so you do not get the beautiful effect that you get by seeing it set in the dark, before sunrise, on the last few days before the full moon.) A couple of days before full moon, wake up 20 minutes before the time the moon is due to set, to get this view. You can find out the date of the full moon, and the time of moonset and sunrise, from home before you leave, by going to http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/MoonPhase.php (for the date of the full moon) and to
http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.php (for the time of moonset on any date). If you refuse to get up around 4 AM for the above spectacle, or if you are not on Maui at the right time just before the full moon, then you can get a partial similar view by watching a first-quarter moon set into the ocean around midnight. Check the above websites for date of the first quarter moon phase, and what time the moon will set for a couple of days before and after that date.
Look up at Maui’s clear skies any night, and see more stars and a different perspective than at home.
If you are willing to spend money for a closer look, there are astronomy programs with a telescope on the roof of the Hyatt every night for $30, call 661-1234 or see their web site at www.maui.hyatt.com
Or if you would like a longer astronomy tour with better views and more personal attention see www.mauistargazing.com.
Huge rock formation and surrounding valley scenery in the middle of the West Maui Mountains (parking fee). Also Heritage Gardens on the road into Iao Valley.
A beautiful small forest of wide variety of trees (pine, spruce, cedar, and eucalyptus imported from all over the world). At the 7000-foot elevation, just below the entrance to Haleakala National Park. Camping and hiking, but can be chilly.
Tour of Maui’s only winery and wine tasting at certain times each day. In Upcountry. Call 878-6058
In Olowalu. Ask directions at the General Store. About a mile walk back into the fields, to see ancient rock carvings on a cliff.
WATCH THE WHALES
About 5000 humpback whales are around Maui at any one time during the peak time in mid-winter. Watch them from the beach or from your lanai. January through March are the main months when you can see whales every day.
WHALE LECTURES AND FILMS
The Ocean Science Discovery Center is run by the Pacific Whale Foundation in the Maalaea Harbor Village, the shopping center adjacent to the aquarium. Call 1-800-942-5311 for the current schedule of free lectures. Also free talks about whales in Kihei at Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
WATCH THE MAUI VISITORS CHANNEL
Cable TV channel 7 has constant information about things to see, places to go, restaurants, etc.
PICK UP BROCHURES
This Week in Maui, Maui Gold, 101 Things to Do, and others available on racks in hotels and shopping centers.
SEE DIFFERENT BEACHES
Use the book of maps from your car rental company to drive around and see Maui beaches on different parts of the island.
PLAYGROUNDS FOR KIDS
Kamaole and Kalama Parks (both in Kihei) have free swings, slides, and jungle gyms.
GIANT BUDDHA STATUE
Lahaina Jodo Mission has the largest Buddha statue outside of Japan. In the north part of Lahaina, (near the “Jesus coming soon” sign) turn off of Front street (toward the ocean) onto Ala Moana street, and immediately bear left, and look for the sign “Lahaina Jodo Mission.”
TOURS IN THE HYATT
Sign up at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Kaanapali Beach, for their free Art & Garden Tour and Wildlife Tour. Call 661-1234 for tour times and days.
SEE THE FARMERS’ MARKET
Mornings (7-11 AM) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in Honokowai, a couple miles north of Kaanapali.
All-day (8 AM – 4 PM) Monday-Friday in Kihei (at 61 S Kihei Road)
Fruits, vegetables, flowers, bread, jam, all often fresher and cheaper than at the grocery store. And they have free taste samples too! Details at Maui Farmers Markets.
WATCH THE SUNSET
It looks different each night, and it looks different from each vantage point. Watch the sunset from a different place each evening: from your hotel or condo, from a sunset-view restaurant, from the corner of Front Street and Papalaua in Lahaina, from S-turns park in Kahana, from Olowalu (just north of the Olowalu General Store), from Kaanapali Beach, from one of the three Kamaole beach parks in Kihei, from Wailea Beach, from the hills of Kapalua, from the top of Haleakala.
On June 21 (the longest day) the sun rises at 5:46 AM and sets at 7:11 PM. On December 21 (the shortest day) the sun rises at 6:59 AM and sets at 5:51 PM. However, depending on where you are watching from, the sun may rise later or set earlier if it is rising or setting behind a mountain or behind Lanai (an island about nine miles away). In addition, the sun rises earlier and sets later when viewed from the top of Haleakala, the tallest mountain on Maui, two miles up.
HISTORICAL SIGHTS OF LAHAINA
Take the self-guided walking tour. Pick up a free “Maui Historical Walking Guide” booklet in the Lahaina Visitors Center in the old courthouse behind the banyan tree.
TAKE A WALK ON THE BEACH
All beaches in Hawaii are free and public.
See this page for where when and how:
WATCH THE SURFERS
Watch them riding the big waves in the afternoon, off Hookipa Park on the north shore, two miles past Paia.
WATCH GLASS BLOWING
See glass blowing most days at any of several places on Maui described at Maui Glass.
WAIANAPANAPA STATE PARK
Four miles before Hana. Includes a black sand beach and some trails to explore.
TOUR REAL ESTATE
Look for signs announcing “Open House” at condos and homes all over Maui. Wander in and chat with the real estate agents about condos for sale. Dream about owning a condo on Maui someday. (Do NOT attend any Time Share sales presentations. Do NOT even consider looking at any Time Share property.)
CHEAP THINGS TO DO
MAUI SWAP MEET (50 cents admission)
The only bargains on Maui (T-shirts, jewelry, flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables, hand-painted shirts and dresses, and an amazing variety of other STUFF) are at the Maui Swap Meet, at Maui College in Kahului, Saturdays, 7 AM – 1 PM It’s been going on every week since 1981. 200 vendors and thousands of customers (60% locals and 40% tourists) show up here each Saturday morning, so they know this is the place for a good deal.
Crafts and clothes for sale, usually at good prices, at Maui craft fairs in Lahaina and Kihei.
Buy the Maui News newspaper and read about restaurants, movies, entertainment, or even Maui politics.
WATCH A POLO MATCH
At Haleakala ranch. April through July only. Phone 572-4915 for information.
RAINY DAY ACTIVITIES
But what about when it rains in Maui?
- Shop at Maui’s largest shopping center, Queen Kaahumanu Center, in Kahului (ask at your hotel for directions)
(When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.)
- Lahaina Cannery Mall shopping and sometimes free hula shows
- Tour the insides of hotels in Wailea and Kaanapali
- Numerous art galleries in Lahaina
- Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Mill Museum on Puunene in Kahului
- Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center in Upcountry
- Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Kahului
- Leisurely lunch and dinner at any of the restaurants listed in the restaurant section below
- Ask at your hotel about the nearest health club or spa for exercise or relaxation
- Rainy day movies: rent a video at your hotel or condo desk (or ask them for the location of the nearest video rental store); go to a movie at the Wharf center across from Banyan Tree in Lahaina (249-2222), Queen Kaahumanu Center (873-3137 in Kahului), or Maui’s newest (1999) and biggest and most modern theater which is the Maui Mall Megaplex (249-2222 in Kahului).
WHAT TO DO WITH THE KIDS
You brought your children along to Maui. Now, what are you going to do to keep them happy and entertained?
- Maui Ocean Center (aquarium) in Maalaea 270-7000
- Hike in the park in Iao Valley
- Bumper boats, miniature golf, rock wall climbing, trampoline, all at Maui Golf and Sports Park
- Snorkel (if they are old enough and well-supervised)
- Baby Beach in Lahaina (if they are too young for the waves at other beaches)
- See a different beach every day
- Free hula shows at Lahaina Cannery Mall 661-5304
- Take them to one of Maui’s best Luaus.
- Dan’s Greenhouse 661-8412 – Upstairs across from the banyan tree on Front Street in Lahaina. Live birds and other animals and plants for sale.
- Under the Banyan Tree in Lahaina – Younger kids just like running around here. Older kids like seeing the people as well as the giant tree.
- Hyatt Regency Hotel on Kaanapali Beach 661-1234- See the penguins, parrots, flamingos and swans.
- Glass blowing at any of several galleries on Maui.
- Swap Meet 244-3100 – Great bargains and lots of choices of fun stuff to buy (in Kahului on Saturday mornings).
- Hilo Hattie Lahaina 667-7911 – Variety of kids clothes and souvenirs.
Dining ideas with the kids (more info in restaurant section below):
- Make their own pancakes in fun shapes at Slappy Cakes 419-6600
- Family breakfast, lunch or dinner at CJ’s Deli & Diner 667-0968
- Carryout from Honokowai Okazuya 665-0512
- Zippy’s local food in Kahului 856-7599
- Fun family lunch or dinner at Bubba Gump 661-3111
- Round Table Pizza Kaanapali 662-0777 Kihei 874-8485
- Maui Tacos (good fast food) Napili 665-0222 or Kihei 879-5005
DON’T JUST EXPERIENCE HAWAII, HAVE A HAWAIIAN EXPERIENCE
If you would like to make this more than just a vacation, or if you have been to Hawaii before and are looking for something different to make this visit even more special, then don’t just experience Hawaii: have a Hawaiian experience. Catch the Aloha Spirit. Learn about the Hawaiian people, land, and culture.
The Aloha Spirit is the natural kindness and friendliness of the Hawaiian people. Aloha doesn’t mean hello and goodbye. Aloha means love. The people of Hawaii use the word Aloha when others would say hello or goodbye because they are expressing their love of all people. The people of Hawaii are the most warm and friendly people I have ever met. They are kind and polite. They are happy to see you and to help you. They don’t push in line or act rudely or toot their horn or cut you off in traffic. They take their time, take it easy, relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. Return that attitude and behavior toward the people you meet on Maui. While you are visiting their island, catch the Aloha Spirit. Learn a little about their ways and their lifestyle. Take that spirit home with you. When you are back home, and you are taking the time to be kind to everyone you meet, remember that you learned about this Aloha Spirit during your visit to Hawaii. In this way, your Hawaiian experience will last the rest of your life.
Before you come to Maui, read a little about the history of this land and people, such as the book “A Concise History of the Hawaiian Islands” by Dr. Phil Barnes. While you are on Maui, learn about the people and about this wonderful land in which they live. Attend the cultural talk by Clifford Naeole at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua. (It’s free to everyone on Fridays at 10:00 AM, but call him at the Ritz 669-6200 to verify day and time.) Pick up the free “Maui Historical Walking Guide” booklet at brochure racks or at the Lahaina Visitor Center behind the Banyan tree, and read it as you walk to each of the historical sites in the old whaling town of Lahaina and elsewhere on the island. Take a guided walking tour of one of Maui’s towns (Makawao, Paia, Kihei or Lahaina) from Local Tastes of Maui. Take the self-guided Kaanapali Beach history tour (Google search for Kaanapali Historical Trails or call 661-3271). Learn about the ocean environment at the Maui Ocean Center in Maalaea (270-7000). Use the words aloha (greetings or love) and mahalo (thank you) at least 5 times every day, and try to learn a dozen additional Hawaiian words (aina = the land, alii = royalty, anuenue = rainbow, hale = house, honu = turtle, mauka = toward the mountains, makai = toward the ocean, keiki = children, kokua = cooperation, ohana = family, ono = delicious, pau = finished). When you buy souvenirs, look for things that are made on Maui. When you go to a restaurant, order a local fish instead of a steak or burger. At local restaurants and grocery stores, sample more local foods such as guava juice, pog, Maui chips, lomi-lomi salmon, shave ice, Kona coffee, Maui onions, plate lunch, kalua pig, poke, saimin, and maybe even poi. Try the “Native Hawaiian Diet” dinner (fern salad, steamed fish in lau lau, poi) at the Tiki Terrace at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel (661-0011). During whale season (winter) stop off at the whale-watching lookout near Maalaea, and learn from the guide at the Pacific Whale Foundation van about humpback whales. If you do the things in this paragraph, you’ll come home with a far better understanding of Hawaii than the usual tourist. Your family will have a wonderful new respect for Hawaii and its people. But even in this land so different from home, remember that back home is “on the mainland” and not “back in the states.”
Many of the top restaurants on Maui serve a type of food called Pacific Rim Cuisine. This consists of a mixture of Asian and California styles of cooking, stressing seafood. A good choice at many Maui restaurants is “catch of the day.” This is generally a fish with a Hawaiian name, such as Mahi‑Mahi (dolphin‑fish), Uku (gray snapper), Monchong (pomfret), Opakapaka (pink snapper), Ahi (yellow‑fin tuna), or Ono (wahoo, like mackerel).
When you go to restaurants that you heard about here, you can get the best service by telling them you heard about them on Jon’s Maui Vacations website. Why? Because you only go there once, but the readers of this website represent many Maui visitors. The people in these restaurants know that I will hear about the kind of service they give you. They know that I will only continue to recommend them if they give great service to the people who read about them here. So tell your waiter or waitress, tell the person who greets you at the restaurant, tell the person who answers the phone when you call to make your reservation, tell the manager or chef at the restaurant if you see him/her, tell them all! Tell them you heard about them on Jon’s Maui Vacations website.
Many of Maui’s best restaurants in all price ranges are described in more detail, with menu lists and photos of the food, on the Maui Restaurants section.
There are about 350 restaurants on Maui, and I have tried to find the most wonderful of them for you. (It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.) It is a good idea to make reservations a couple of days ahead, especially if you are on Maui during the busiest times of the year (around holidays or school breaks) or if you want to eat supper at the busiest times (7‑8 P.M.). Don’t think a restaurant isn’t good just because it’s in a hotel or shopping center.
Restaurants and other businesses on Maui are opening, closing, and changing every day. I only live there part-time, and unfortunately cannot try every one of these restaurants every year. About 100 restaurants on Maui open, close, or change ownership per year. Therefore, some of the restaurants and other businesses listed on these pages may be gone or may have changed, by the time you get to Maui. Call before you go.
You can save money on your Maui restaurant expenses with the following suggestions:
- Share an entrée (many restaurants have generous portions, enough for two people).
- Have an appetizer as your entrée.
- Cut your entrée in half as soon as you get it, then eat only half of it and take the other half back to the condo to have for dinner the next evening.
- Eat out for lunch instead of dinner.
- Some restaurants have “early bird specials.” Call ahead to ask how much you can save by eating dinner early.
- Carry out dinner from the Honokowai Okazuya & Deli (665-0512) on the west side, or from Eskimo Candy (891-8898) on the south side. The fish entrees here are as good as at many of Maui’s top restaurants, for about half the price.
- If you are staying at a resort hotel that has its own restaurant, ask when you make your hotel reservation whether they have a package that includes free breakfasts.
Here are my favorite Maui restaurants, my opinion of the best ten in each price range:
THE VERY BEST RESTAURANTS ON MAUI
I only have space in this “Printable Guide” to describe my ten favorite restaurants in each of the three price ranges (expensive, moderate, inexpensive). But on the rest of this Maui Vacations website, there are more complete reviews and menu lists and food photos of over 210 Maui restaurants in all price ranges, including more details of the ones listed here and many others.
EXPENSIVE (Fine-Dining) RESTAURANTS:
ROY’S KAANAPALI 669-6999 Kaanapali
At the entrance to Kaanapali, in the golf course clubhouse. In my opinion, the tastiest food on Maui. For great service, ask for the manager, Matty, and tell him Jon and Rosie sent you. Pacific Rim Cuisine. Great chocolate souffle for dessert.
‘AMI’AMI 875-7522 Kihei
In the Maui Coast hotel. Delicious and innovative preparations and presentations, at Maui’s least expensive fine-dining restaurant.
NICK’S FISHMARKET 879-7224 Wailea
In the Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel in Wailea. Excellent service: the best of any restaurant on Maui. Excellent food (great seafood, with some chicken and beef available as well). Even the salad course (their own Maui Wowie salad) made me say “Wow!” Beautiful open-air room. Very expensive.
HULA GRILL 667-6636 OR 661-3894 Kaanapali Beach
In Whalers Village shopping center. Good view of the ocean and sunset. Excellent dinners, including fish and meats, in the main dining area (not the casual area on the sand floor). Very good lunch (salads, pizza, sandwiches).
HALIIMAILE GENERAL STORE 572-2666 Haliimaile
Creative preparations of delicious seafood and meats. In the upcountry area, a one-hour drive from Kaanapali or 45 minutes from Wailea, but worth the trip. Open for both lunch and dinner on weekdays, but weekends are dinner only.
LAHAINA GRILL 667-5117 Lahaina
The food is innovative Pacific Rim cuisine and the service is excellent. A couple of examples of their unusual and beautiful preparations: Reconstructed California Roll (appetizer stack of crab, avocado, and rice); Maui Martini (a salad, not a drink, in a martini glass). It’s in the center of Lahaina, just off Front Street, on Lahainaluna Road. Very expensive.
MORIMOTO MAUI 573-1234 Wailea
Terrific sushi and a long list of other great food that integrates Japanese and Western ingredients.
GANNON’S 875-8080 Wailea
At Gold and Emerald golf courses in Wailea. Great food, beautifully presented, beautiful views.
Spectacular oceanfront setting on one end of Kapalua Bay. The food is excellent and beautiful.
The above are my ten favorite fine-dining (expensive) restaurants on Maui. But there are many more that are also excellent. Reviews, menu lists, and food photos for the above, plus all the rest of the best Maui fine-dining restaurants.
MODERATE PRICED RESTAURANTS:
(Note: These are “moderate” only relative to the even more expensive restaurants in the above section. Compared to back home, these are expensive.)
CAFÉ O’LEI 891-1368 Kihei and 877-0073 Dunes Kahului
Upstairs in the Rainbow Mall at 2439 South Kihei Road, or in the Dunes golf course in the central valley near Kahului. Lunch and dinner. Good variety of seafood, meat, flatbreads, sushi, and more in a beautiful atmosphere.
THREE’S 879-3133 Kihei
In Kihei Kalama Villages at 1945 South Kihei Road. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late-night. Excellent food at moderate prices.
CUATRO 879-1110 Kihei
In Kihei Town Center at 1881 South Kihei Road. Fine-dining dinner at moderate-dining prices.
CASANOVA 572-0220 Makawao
In Makawao (Upcountry). Large servings of delicious pasta, pizza, and Italian entrees. Much lower prices than the restaurants in the resort areas.
LEILANI’S 661‑4495 Kaanapali Beach
In the Whalers Village Shopping Center, on the beach. Good seafood and steaks in the main dining area (dinner only) upstairs. Limited less expensive menu in the more casual bar area (lunch and dinner) downstairs, including my favorite fish tacos.
SANSEI 669-6286 Kapalua
On Office Road near the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Excellent sushi and similar foods. Try their two “Taste of Lahaina Award Winners” Mango Crab Salad Handroll with Peanuts and Thai Vinaigrette or Asian Rock Shrimp Cake with Crusty Chinese Noodles & Ginger-Lime Chili Butter & Cilantro Pesto. Call to ask if they still have their 25% off everything special price for all food ordered between 5:30 and 6:00 PM. (If you go for that Early Bird pricing at 5:30, avoid Sundays and Mondays, when they are extremely crowded with Maui residents getting an even bigger discount.)
KIMO’S 661-4811 Lahaina
On the ocean in Lahaina. Good for lunch or dinner. Several fish choices, prepared several different ways, for dinner. Save room for their famous Hula Pie (a large ice cream dessert specialty). One of the few places that stay open late in Lahaina, often with late-night happy hour and music.
MULLIGAN’S ON THE BLUE 874-1131 Wailea
Irish icon on a golf course. Live entertainment many evenings.
TAVERNA 667-2426 Kapalua
In the Kapalua Activity Center near the Ritz. Italian. Dinner only.
BUBBA GUMP 661-3111 Lahaina
On the ocean side of Front Street in Lahaina, good lunches and dinners, themed after the movie Forest Gump. Lots of tasty shrimp preparations.
The above are my ten favorite moderate-priced restaurants on Maui. But there are many more that are also excellent. Links to reviews, menu lists, and food photos for the above plus all the rest of the best moderately priced Maui restaurants.
ESKIMO CANDY 891-8898 Kihei
Wai Wai Place at the corner of Halekuai. Delicious carry-out, and a few small tables to dine in. Excellent fish lunches and dinners.
PENNE PASTA CAFÉ 661-6633 Lahaina
Small restaurant on Dickenson Street, a couple of blocks back from Front Street, in Lahaina. Lunch and dinner every day. Good variety of pasta, interesting pizzas, plus some salads and sandwiches.
CAFÉ DES AMIS 579-6323 Paia
At 42 Baldwin Avenue in Paia. Small restaurant with large plates of super-tasty Mediterranean and Indian food. From morning through the evening they have crepes, curry wraps, breakfast crepes, salads, Indian curries, and sweet crepes.
GAZEBO 669-5621 Napili
Breakfast and lunch in a little open-air gazebo, on the ocean, behind the Napili Shores condos, in Napili. While you’re waiting in line to get in, walk down a couple steps toward the ocean behind the restaurant, and take a look at the beautiful view of Napili Bay and beach to the right.
CJ’S DELI & DINER 667-0968 Kaanapali
On the main Honoapiilani Highway, in the Fairway Shops (a small strip shopping center just north of the entrance to Kaanapali). Delicious sandwiches, salads, and entrees, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Also, very good carryout box lunches to take along with you on the Road to Hana or for a picnic anyplace on Maui. Get their yummy “Hana Bar” for dessert.
HONOKOWAI OKAZUYA & DELI 665-0512 Honokowai
At 3600 Lower Honoapiilani Road, in a small strip shopping center, a couple of miles north of Kaanapali. Excellent take-out food. Their most expensive fish entrees here are just as good as the much more expensive fish dinners in the most expensive restaurants listed above, even though this place has less atmosphere than McDonalds.
DA KITCHEN 871-7782 Kahului
Delicious giant plate lunches with kalua pork or chicken or beef. Lunch or dinner M-F, lunch Saturday, closed Sunday. In the Triangle Square shopping center near K-Mart in Kahului.
PITA PARADISE 879-7177 Wailea
Uphill from the Shops at Wailea, in the Wailea Gateway Center. Excellent Mediterranean cuisine in a modern setting.
LAHAINA COOLERS 661-7082 Lahaina
On Dickenson Street, a couple blocks back from Front Street, in Lahaina. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Salads, pasta, tropical pizza, tortillas, burgers, fish. Great fish tacos.
THAI CHEF 667-2814 Lahaina and 874-5605 Kihei
Two locations: in the Old Lahaina Shopping Center behind Front Street, and in the Rainbow Mall at 2439 S. Kihei Road. Very tasty, over 80 menu choices, including 19 vegetarian dishes. Same menu lunch & dinner.
ULULANI’S HAWAIIAN SHAVE ICE 609-5678 Lahaina and Kihei
Not really a restaurant, but I’m fitting it in here beside my ten favorite low-priced restaurants above. This is a stand with the best shave ice on Maui, at 790 Front Street, in a courtyard near the seawall, in Lahaina, and at 61 South Kihei Road in the north end of Kihei.
The above are my ten favorite inexpensive restaurants on Maui (plus my favorite shave ice). But there are many more that are also excellent. Reviews, menu lists, and food photos for the above plus all the rest of the best inexpensive Maui restaurants.
PLACES FOR GOOD PIZZA
- Prison Street Pizza in Lahaina
- Manoli’s Pizza Company in Wailea
- Round Table Pizza Fairway shops in Kaanapali, and 207 Piikea in Kihei
- Lahaina Pizza Company in Lahaina
- Shaka Pizza, Kihei
- Surfside Pizza in Lahaina
- Pizza Paradiso Honokowai Marketplace in Honokowai
(On the seventh day the chef created brunch):
TIKI TERRACE at KAANAPALI BEACH HOTEL 667-0124 Kaanapali Beach
A huge variety of very good food. Cold foods include 22 kinds of salads, salmon, sushi, fruit, soup, bagels, rolls. Hot foods include carved beef and ham, kalua pork, chicken, mahi (fish), crepes, potatoes, rice, chow mein, waffles, omelet station. Desserts include 20 kinds of pies, cakes, petit fours, and more. No ocean view, but choose to eat at the outdoor tables so you can see and hear the live music.
DAILY BUFFET BREAKFASTS
For a good buffet breakfast or brunch any and every day (not just Sunday), go to any and all of the following. (Try a different one every day. Call ahead to be sure they still have a buffet every day.)
SWAN COURT RESTAURANT IN THE HYATT REGENCY HOTEL 661‑1234 Kaanapali Beach
Daily buffet breakfast, including many hot and cold breakfast items. Beautiful view of swans and waterfalls in pond. Great artwork in the lobbies.
SHERATON HOTEL 661-0031 Kaanapali Beach
Excellent sweet rolls on the cold buffet, eggs and breakfast meats on the hot buffet.
DUO at the FOUR SEASONS 874-8000 Wailea
RITZ CARLTON KAPALUA 669-6200
WAILEA BEACH MARRIOTT 879‑1922
GRAND WAILEA ‑ Grand Dining Room 875‑1234
RESTAURANTS WITH GOOD SUNSET VIEWS:
- Merriman’s 669-6400 Kapalua
- Plantation House 669-6299 Kapalua
- Hula Grill 667-6636 Kaanapali Beach
- Sarento’s on the Beach 875-0001 Wailea
- Pacific O 667-4341 Lahaina
- Mala 667-9394 Lahaina
- Honu 667-9390 Lahaina
- Humu at the Grand Wailea hotel 875-1234 Wailea
- Gannon’s 875-8080 Wailea
- Seahouse at NapiliKai Beach Club 669-1500 Napili
- Bubba Gump 661-3111 Lahaina
- Castaway Café 661-9091 Kaanapali Beach
- Lahaina Fish Company 661-3472 Lahaina
- Kimo’s 661-4811 Lahaina
I’m usually back in my condo by 9:00 P.M., but people younger than me who stay out later have told me that you can have a great time drinking, dancing, and meeting the Maui residents, after that time. Places they have told me are worth checking out:
- Three’s Bar & Grill in Kihei
- Lahaina Coolers in Lahaina
- Longhi’s in Lahaina
- Kimo’s in Lahaina
- Dollie’s in Kahana
ADDITIONAL MAUI INFORMATION:
Suggested books to buy at home before you go:
Driving and Discovering Hawaii: Maui and Molokai by Richard Sullivan (Montgomery Ewing Publishers) has beautiful photos and good maps, to help you drive around to all the best sights on Maui.
For information about the other Hawaiian islands, as well as Maui, I suggest Eyewitness Travel Guide Hawaii (published by DK) for loads of info & maps and color pictures throughout the Hawaiian islands.
NOTE: This Maui Guide contains only a fraction of the information available on the website. See that complete website for many more pages of facts and reviews and photos of many more Maui hotels, condos, restaurants, sights, and activities. For the most up-to-date information about Maui, subscribe to our free email Maui Newsletter, by using the “Maui Newsletter” section at the bottom of any page of the Maui website at www.mauihawaii.org.
If you are planning on getting married on Maui, you can get the information you will need from these sources:
- My own Maui Weddings page.
- Free information booklet and directory from Maui Wedding Planners: Maui Visitors Bureau 1-808-244-3530.
- Free directory of wedding planners from Maui Wedding Association mauiweddingassociation.com
SOME QUOTES ABOUT MAUI
Maui is where people are sent when heaven is overbooked.
Here today, gone to Maui.
You go your way, I’ll go Maui.
The sun’ll come out to Maui.
The more the Mauier.
Eat, drink and be Maui.
Whykiki? (when you can Maui)
I am going to the island of the valley,
To Lahaina, Lahaina Luna.
Where the mountains are green, you will find me.
In Lahaina, Lahaina Luna.
They say that “Maui no ka oi”
And I agree.
Maui no ka oi‑‑‑
It’s the only place for me.
That’s why you’ll find me
Down by the seaside,
Watching the moonlight,
The twinkling starlight,
The golden sunrise,
The evening sunset,
I’m going to Maui tomorrow
To marry Tamara Malone.
Nothing could be finer
Than to live in Lahaina
And make Tamara my own.
I am going to the island of the valley
To live a life of delight.
I’m going to Maui
To marry Tamara tomorrow
Unless I get lucky tonight.
“The loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean”
(Mark Twain, 1866)
“I’d rather live one day in Maui than a month in New York.” (Charles Lindbergh)
MAUI NO KA OI (Maui is the best)
The unofficial motto of Maui, “Maui no ka oi,” was made up by Rev. Samuel Kapu in 1897 when he wrote words to the song “Maui Chimes.”
My feelings about Hawaii mirror those of Mark Twain, who wrote in 1889:
“No alien land in all the world has any deep strong charm for me but that one, no other land could so longingly and so beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done.
“Other things leave me, but it abides; other things change, but it remains the same. For me the balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surfbeat is in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud wrack; I can feel the spirit of its wildland solitudes, I can hear the splash of its brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.”
ISLANDS WE HAVE VISITED
(In order of our preference)
Valley Isle. Built-up enough with hotels and towns with plenty to do, but not crowded with immediately adjacent hotels and solidly packed tourists on the beach like Waikiki. 728 square miles, population 155,000. Had 2.9 million visitors in 2018. About 12% of visitors are from outside the USA. According to an article in the Maui News 1-12-06, 43% of Maui adults were born in Hawaii, 37% in other U.S. states, and 20% in other countries.
More statistics on Maui visitors, from the Annual Visitor Research Report for 2003 from the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism:
- 54% of Maui visitors came only to Maui while 46% also visited other Hawaiian islands.
- 36% were first-time visitors to Maui, 64% were repeat visitors.
- 62% stayed in hotels, 29% in condos, 8% in timeshares, 6% with friends or relatives (some stayed in more than one place so the total is over 100%).
- The busiest month is July, with 51,000 visitors present on an average day. Next busiest are August and June. The least busy month is September, with 33,000 visitors on an average day. Next least busy are October and May. The December average visitor count of 46,000 can be misleading, because there are very few visitors in early December averaged with extremely high visitors during Christmas week (by far the busiest week of the year).
- 38% of U.S. visitors to Maui come from California. Next highest are Washington 7%, Texas 5%, Illinois 4%, New York 3%, Oregon 3%.
- For the 12% of Maui visitors who come from outside the U.S., the most come from Canada, followed by Japan, and then England, Australia, Germany.
Honolulu. Most populated and built up island. Waikiki Beach area (suburb of Honolulu) has several big hotels on each block and crowded beach. Lots of good restaurants and shows and stores. 953,000 residents. Had 5.7 million visitors in 2017. About 42% of visitors are from outside the USA.
Polynesian Culture Center. Pearl Harbor. Ala Moana Shopping Center. Aloha Tower.
Waikiki Beach (on Oahu) has over 100 hotels and condos but is the same size as Kaanapali Beach (on Maui), which has 13 hotels and condos.
You can usually get a magnificent view of Waikiki from your plane if you request to sit on the right side (seat F or K, whichever is by a window) when coming into Honolulu Airport, and on the left side (seat A) when taking off from Honolulu.
Fern Grotto. Beaches, canyons, cliffs, great sights to see. No real cities, but very small towns and large open spaces. Choose a hotel in Lihue or Poipu areas. Population 66,000. Had 1.3 million visitors in 2017.
“The Big Island” ‑ the largest Hawaiian island by far. Two huge dormant volcanic mountains, one of which has snow on top all year round. Some still active volcanic areas. Black sand beach in one area. Big ranches. Cities of Kona on the west (sunny) side of the island, and Hilo on the east (rainy) side. Population 185,000. Had 1.8 million visitors in 2017.
Formerly covered with pineapple plantations. 141 square miles, 3200 inhabitants. Had 64,000 visitors in 2017. Two luxury hotels opened in 1991 (total of 363 rooms): Lodge at Koele and Manele Bay Hotel. Expensive hotels, expensive excellent restaurants in the hotels.
Very few condos and hotels, and no luxury resorts. Nothing to do, and no great restaurants, but some interesting sights to see. Old leper colony. 260 square miles, 7400 residents. Had 58,000 visitors in 2017.
New island. Haven’t really been there yet. Eighteen miles southeast of the Big Island of Hawaii and 3,000 feet below sea level, is a new island being formed by an erupting underwater volcano. In only 50,000 years, this new island will rise above the surface. Better make your reservations soon.
Although Hawaii is best known for its eight main islands (Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kauai, Hawaii, Kahoolawe, Niihau), the state actually includes 132 islands, reefs and shoals that stretch 1,523 miles, from Kure Atoll to underwater seamounts off the southeast coast of the Big Island.
There are 20-40‑minute flights on full‑size jets, from each of the four major islands to each other, every hour or so. Hawaiian Airlines flies Boeing 717’s between the four major islands. To the minor islands (Molokai, Lanai, and others) you have to take a much smaller plane or a boat.
A LITTLE GEOLOGY
The earth’s tectonic plates, moving westward slowly (3 inches per year) over a “hot spot” of lava deep in the ocean, plus millions of years of erosion, account for the fact that the islands on the eastern end of the Hawaiian chain are the largest (newest), while those toward the western end are very tiny (old and eroded). The largest island in Hawaii, on the eastern end of the chain, formed about 300,000 years ago and still enlarging as fresh lava pours into the ocean. The second-largest island is Maui. The newer (eastern) half of Maui is the larger side, called Haleakala volcano, which formed about 750,000 years ago, and last erupted in 1790. The older (western) half of Maui is the smaller side, the West Maui Mountains, which formed 1,300,000 years ago. The next islands, as you move westward along the chain, are smaller because they have had more years to erode. In parentheses is the approximate age of each of these islands, in millions of years: Kahoolawe (1.03), Lanai (1.3), Molokai (1.5), Oahu (3), Kauai (4). Farther west is over a hundred much smaller and older islands, many of them eroded down to sea level or below.
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