A Guide to Maui

After visiting Maui more times than I can count and exploring just about all that this piece of paradise has to offer, I could argue with anyone that Maui is the best Hawaiian island. If you’re planning to visit or just want to learn more about the turtle-shaped island, check out this guide to Maui!

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I spent this last week in Maui with my friend Lauren, who graciously took me as her plus one to a work-sponsored trip she won through a sales contest for being in the top 5% of sales reps in the company (way to go, Lauren!). Shout out to Indeed.com for an incredible week at the Andaz Resort we will never forget! Though I was inspired to write this guide from this trip, my love for Maui began when I first started visiting with my grandparents growing up. Throughout the week, I was reminded of the years of memories I have with them here and how lucky I am to have such incredible, adventurous grandparents who can keep up with five crazy grandchildren! (G&G, I know you’re reading this, so THANK YOU for opening my eyes to Hawai’i at such a young age and exposing me to all that Maui has to offer on every trip we’ve taken. I love you!)

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This must be where I get it from (my grandma):

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Maui has so much to offer, it cannot be possibly explained all at once, so I have broken it up into different areas with photos from this trip as well as others from my professional camera Google images :).

The airport (and only Costco) is located in Kahului, which is at the “neck” of the turtle-shaped island. Most tourists stay on the west side of the island in Ka’anapali, or on the south side in Wailea. Both areas have a totally different feel and have lots to offer.

Wailea is home to some of the most upscale resorts on the island, which have all the amenities you could ever need on a vacation. I’m sure some people don’t even leave their resort! The Grand Wailea is perhaps the most famous of the hotels on Maui, and is a lavish, over-the-town to stay here, and if you ever get a chance to stay at the Grand Wailea, be prepared to spend a pretty penny, but also have an incredible vacation! There is an ocean front path connecting all of the resorts in Wailea, which is popular for runners and those just looking for a relaxing walk. Just a few resorts up the road is the Andaz Maui, where we stayed this week. Here are a few pictures from this picturesque hotel:

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Kihei is another great spot on the south side, where many locals and people trying to avoid resorts go. There are spots for beginner surf lessons, plenty of local restaurants, and public beaches many of the locals go to. Kihei is more commercialized than some of the resort areas, but it’s also much less expensive (I paid $5 for a Bloody Mary at a restaurant in Kihei that would’ve cost me $17 at our hotel). Here is a picture from “The Cove”, the beginner’s surf spot we went to this trip:

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Ma’alea Harbor is where many of the snorkel tours and sunset cruises begin and is home to the famous Maui Ocean Center. Though it is a pretty central spot on the island, I’d only really recommend heading there for a snorkel tour to Molokini Crater:

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Lahaina is a famous harbor with lots of history, a giant Banyan tree, gourmet restaurants, shops, and even a movie theater. If you’re staying in Ka’anapali, this is the place you’ll most likely go to dinner and go shopping. I’ve done everything from mini golf, to getting a toe ring, to shopping at the Lahaina Cannery Mall, but there’s always more to check out in Lahaina. Kimo’s, Leilani’s on the Beach, Lahaina Fish Co., and the Aloha Mixed Plate are some of my favorite restaurants in Lahaina.

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Ka’anapali is a long strip of picturesque beach scattered with five-star resorts and time shares. There are tons of restaurants, shops at the Whaler’s Village, water activities, and awesome hotel pools with water slides and swim up bars. I grew up going to the Maui Ocean Club by Marriott, which I highly recommend, but all of the hotels in Ka’anapali are fantastic and are frequent wedding destinations. If you’re looking for fun activities, you can go jet skiing, parasailing, snorkeling, cliff jumping, surfing, boogie boarding, banana boating/tubing, and much more, all on one fantastic beach. Even if you aren’t staying in Ka’anapali, it is definitely worth checking out for a day!

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Napili is a few miles north of Ka’anapali, and is one of my favorite spots on Maui. I’ve stayed at Napili Point condos several times growing up, which is a great alternative if you are looking to get away from resorts and to truly unwind. Turtle Bay, directly in front of Napili Point, is perfect for snorkeling, and there are plenty of less-frequented beaches in the area, as well as a small gazebo restaurant on the beach with the best macadamia nut pancakes you will ever have!

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The Road to Hana is one of the most famous drives in all of Hawai’i and is one of the best experiences you’ll have on Maui. The 64 mile long road is extremely narrow and windy, but leads to the Seven Pools, the iconic swim spot at ‘Ohe’o Gulch that you cannot miss. There is also a black sand beach on the way, and what seems like a never ending rainforest with all kinds of plants and wildlife. Whether you’re looking for a gorgeous road trip, amazing photo spots, swimming, cave exploring or checking out old churches, the Road to Hana has it all. If you can’t stay overnight, this is definitely an all day trip, and I recommend leaving as early as possible, preferably by 8:00 a.m., to avoid being out there in the dark (which has happened to me before!). Take a picnic lunch and enjoy the amazing east side of Maui! This website lists some of the top stops on the Road to Hana, so definitely check it out if you go :).

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Upcountry is an often forgotten, but amazing part of the island that I cannot leave out. Most tourists don’t get a chance to explore upcountry, but there are so many great places to check out! Luckily, I have a friend, Ella, who is from Makawao, and when I visited a few years ago, took me out to some local spots I would’ve never found on my own. Check it out if you can!

Here are a few recommended beaches on Maui:

  • Makena Beach (Big Beach)
  • Ka’anapali Beach
  • Honolua Bay
  • Olowalu Beach
  • Kapalua Bay (my personal favorite for a relaxing day)

Photo from a trip with my grandparents in 2010:

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There are tons more; these are just a few!

Other activities on Maui:

Zip Lining– Skyline Eco Adventures: there is a regular tour and a zip n’ dip, which we did this trip (pictures below) and was fantastic! They have awesome guides and it’s very easy to sign up with them (here is their website). You can also go ATV riding here, which looked super fun! Crucial tip if you decide to go: you will get VERY dirty, so make sure to wear old shoes, preferably not white, and clothes you don’t care too much about because the red dirt gets everywhere! Also, if you do the zip n’ dip tour and decide to attempt a flip off the dock, make sure not to do a back flop (me: not pictured) :).

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Bike down Haleakala at sunrise: this 23 mile road is probably the best bike ride you will ever take! I did this once with my grandparents and it was unforgettable. Here are the websites for two popular companies: Bike Maui and  Adventure Maui.

Golfing in Kapalua: I don’t personally golf, but if you do and are looking for a great spot, Kapalua is one of the best!

Snorkel tour to Molokini or Lana’i: I have done several tours to both of these spots and a few others, and it is an absolute must in Maui! I recommend taking a morning tour if you can because the water can get choppy in the afternoon. Several companies run tours, like Four Winds and Pride of Maui, but your hotel concierge can also recommend some good ones and maybe even get you a deal. Here are some pictures from the Four Winds trip we did this trip:

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Fancy dinner: The Plantation House at the Kapalua Resort is one you can’t miss if you’re looking for a romantic and/or splurge dinner. Make a reservation for sunset and you will not regret it!

Luau: You can’t go to Hawaii and not go to a luau! The Grand Wailea Luau is a splurge, but was so worth it on this trip (pictures below). There are several other great ones, like the Old Lahaina Luau, so be sure to do some research and make a reservation in advance through your concierge. Typically, they roast pigs on site, have fire dancers, hula performances, share a bit about Maui’s history, and much more. Here is the unveiling of the pig from this trip:

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Helicopter Tour: there are many companies out there that do awesome tours around the island. This is definitely a big splurge activity, but is worth doing once in your life!

Hike the Iao Needle: Located in central Maui, the Iao Needle is a 1,200 foot landmark surrounded by lush rainforest. Leave early in the morning to avoid the fog and see amazing views of the island!

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And last, but not least… you MUST get famous Maui shave ice! Available pretty much everywhere on the island, this refreshing treat will make your day :). (Just don’t dump it upside down like I did the first time I had it!)

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If Maui isn’t already on your bucket list, add it now! I promise you won’t regret it :). Aloha!

Did I miss anything?! Let me know if you have anything to add in the comments section!

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4 comments

  1. Okay, how about this plan for your future? You work for Zeiss Ophthalmic Solutions in Austin for six months out of the year and you spend the other six traveling and writing guides. Your Guide to Maui would motivate anyone to hop on a plane heading to the Island today. The great photos and your descriptions took me right back to all the places we love. May your soul always soar Brooke. We love you always!

  2. I guess I missed a few things on our several trips to Maui, but we hit most of them. We loved it! What a wonderful guide. you really could be a travel writer if you wanted to be. Obviously a woman of many talents!!

  3. What a great article! I go to Maui every year and still have some of these items on my bucket list (especially eating at the gazebo!) Last year I jumped off of Black Rock- which is alot higher when you get up there lol.

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