It's been said many times. Maui no ka 'oi. Maui is the best. Any resident of Maui—in fact, many people in Hawaii—will tell you this. But don't just take an islander's word for it. Ask the tony readership of Conde Nast Traveler, whose Reader's Choice Poll named Maui the Best Island in the World twelve out of the last thirteen years, and the Best Pacific Island for sixteen straight years. Truly, Maui's charm is universal.
And when you consider what Maui has to offer travelers, is it any wonder? Quintessential Maui experiences include seeing the sunrise from the summit of Haleakala, sunning on the beaches in Kaanapali and Kihei, driving the Road to Hana through lush rainforest, and watching humpback whales during the winter in the waters off Maui. What more could anyone ask for?
Maui has a population of about 150,000 people, about the same as the Big Island but in a fraction of the area. Shaped like a figure eight (or a lopsided dumbbell), Haleakala takes up the lion's share of the east side of the island, while the West Maui Mountains, the remnant of an extinct volcano, is on the west. The area between the two volcanoes gives the island its nickname: The Valley Isle.
- Hana - The town at the end of the Highway to Hana. An isolated community on Maui's eastern tip surrounded by dense rainforests.
- Kaanapali - Long stretch of beach that has many of luxury resorts on the west side of Maui.
- Kahului - The commercial and transportation center, with Maui's two largest malls, the main airport and a deep-water port.
- Kapalua - Kapalua showcases championship golf courses, ten miles of pristine shoreline and luxury accommodations.
- Kihei - Condos and beaches on the south-west coast, but cheaper and less luxurious than Kaanapali.
- Kula - Ranches and just to the south is the only winery on Maui, Tedeschi Vineyards.
- Lahaina - Old whaling port and now the main tourist center.
- Makawao - Community in upcountry Maui.
- Paia - Small town with world renowned beaches for windsurfing and surfing.
- Pukalani - Community in upcountry Maui.
- Wailea and Makena - Master-planned resort areas located just south of Kihei.
- Wailuku - Seat of the county government, home to several historic buildings listed on both state and gateway to the Iao Needle.
Kahului Airport (IATA: OGG) is the main airport for the island of Maui, and the second largest commercial airport in the state. It is a secondary hub for Hawaiian Airlines, which provides interisland service to Kahului from the other major airports in the state. Several major U.S. airlines also provide non-stop service to Maui from the West Coast and beyond. Kahlului airport can be reached non-stop from Anchorage, Dallas, Hana, Hilo, Honolulu, Hoolehua, Kamuela, Kapalua, Lanai City, Lihue, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver .
To get to Lahaina and Kaanapali, where most major hotels are located, exit the airport and follow route 380 to its junction with route 30, and turn left on route 30 toward Lahaina. For Kihei and Wailea, follow the above instructions and turn left on route 31 about a mile from the route 380 junction.
When departing from Kahului Airport for the U.S. Mainland, all baggage must be inspected by Hawaii State Department of Agriculture inspectors at the airport. Be advised that fresh fruits (with the exception of pineapples and treated papayas) are prohibited from leaving the islands to prevent the spread of fruit flies. Remember that this inspection occurs before you get to your gate, so you won't be able to enjoy your last fruit while waiting for your departing flight.
While Maui has a basic public transportation system, many places are not accessible by bus, and most visitors rent a car. Fortunately, renting a car in Hawaii is much cheaper than anywhere else in the United States. The resort areas around Kihei, Wailea and Lahaina also have a trolley that connects the towns with nearby shopping and attractions.
- Honoapiilani Highway (Route 30) is the road to Lahaina, Kaanapali, and Kapalua; it runs between West Maui and Wailuku around majestic cliffs and along white sand beaches.
- Hana Highway (Routes 36 and 360), the "road to Hana," traces Maui's north coast from Kahului to the village of Hana on the eastern shore. Winding along steep, forested mountainsides, in many places the road narrows to only a single lane. Although the road to Hana is only 56 miles long, it turns and winds so continuously that the whole journey takes three hours one-way.
- Haleakala Highway (Routes 37, 377, and 378) is the road that leads to Pukalani and Makawao in upcountry Maui and takes you to the summit of Haleakala.
Lahaina Kanaapali Railroad
Also called the Sugar Cane Train, the Lahaina Kanaapali Railroad is both an attraction and a means to travel between the Kannapali resort area and Lahaina Town. The official Lahaina Kanaapali Railroad web site offers more information as well as discounted tickets.
Humpback Whales breed off the coast of Maui from about December to March. Whalewatching cruises make frequent trips, though more often the whales are easily visible from shore.
Haleakala National Park offers alpine wilderness and stunning views of Maui and beyond (from the summit you can see five of the eight main islands, more than are visible from anywhere else in Hawaii).
Wainapanapa State Park has black sand beach, sea arch, sea caves, a small blowhole to see.
Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
Many tour boats run out to the spectacular volcanic atoll Molokini a few miles offshore, known for terrific visibility. There are also plenty of beaches, especially in the west and northwest, where you can simply wade in and get to excellent snorkeling spots just offshore. Black Rock (at the north end of Kaanapali Beach) is one such place. There are several local shops where you can rent snorkel gear by the day or week. Remember that the sea turtles are protected by both state and federal laws. It is illegal to harass turtles and turtle nests. This includes touching and chasing the sea turtles.
[Editorial note: Most of the bikes seen on these trips are not true "mountain bikes" these are actually usually more like old fashioned cruiser bikes. Note also that as of January 2008, the commercial tour operators are banned from bike tours in the national park after a 65 year old woman steered across the road into an oncoming van. This was only the 3rd death in over 20 years of these bike tours. The operators are still operating, and may provide van tours of the national park area to allow one to see the upper 3500 ft of elevation that is in the national park. There should be a decision in early March 2008 as to the future of the ban on commercial bike tours. NOTE: Individuals may still ride in the park. ]
Many different companies lead mountain bike trips down Mt. Haleakala. If you can ride a bicycle, you can do this. It's a 26 mile trip, but you only have to pedal for about a quarter mile. Generally, there are trips that start with watching the sun rise at the top of Haleakala, then trips that start later in the morning. Be aware that for the sunrise trips, you'll probably end up leaving your hotel at 2AM, or even earlier if you're staying in the Lahaina or Kapalua area. It takes some time to drive to the top of the mountain, get everyone equipped, etc. Your tour group will probably lend you some type of jacket and gloves, but plan on being cold while you're waiting for nature's show -- the overnight temperature will probably be in the 40s or 30s. Many find the 10,000-foot summit's view of the pre-dawn colors and ensuing sunrise breathtaking enough to justify the early start and the cold. Others beg to differ, advising visitors to get a good night's sleep and take the later trip. For those excited about the sunrise, a fair warning: cloud density at the mountaintop can be hard to predict, so you may not see as far as you might like.
Most Rental companies will also rent you a bike, a bike rack, and some gear so you can ride Haleakala at your own pace (assuming you have someone willing to drive you to the top). This is a great option if you're a speed demon but not without certain dangers. Riding down Skyline, the trail head of which is located beyond a cattle grate just below the summit of Haleakala (but above the visitor center) off a side road that leads to the observatory, is an exhilarating scream down a fire road covered with lava chips, shifting sand, and unforgiving hard-packed dirt, very technical and very fast. A fall will definitely remove some skin, at the very least. Single track trails exist as well: one is Mamane, the trail head of which can be found about half-way down Skyline on your right. Do not ride a bike below the Waipoli access road. Doing so will be a violation of park rules (posted signs are fairly hard to miss) and will also be no fun at all as the trails are simply too small and difficult and you will just have to climb back up to the access road to leave the park anyway. And it will very likely be cold and you will very likely be soaked (think: cloud-forest), so don't do it. Once you hit Waipoli simply ride out of the park with Haleakala on your right and the ocean below on your left. Getting stuck on Haleakala after dark can be very hazardous as it often freezes. Riding down the paved road like the packaged tourists do is much safer and easier, of course, but maybe not quite so much fun.
Also, it's hunting season year-round on Haleakala, so try not to let yourself be confused with a wild boar.
Hikers are drawn to Haleakala National Park. One good route starts from the visitor center near the top to dormant volcanic cinder cones; the trail head is 8/10 mile past mile marker 7 on highway 340. There's also a fantastic hike in Makamakaole Valley on the north west coast called "13 Crossings" which traverses a stream 13 times. On the way, you'll see a bamboo forest and after 1 hour a series of waterfalls that can be navigated by way of a harrowing unmaintained climbing rope that will take you up over 75 feet to a true adventure hike. Other notable hiking considerations should include: Makawao Forest Preserve, Honolua Ridge Arboretum, Swinging Bridges (Waihee Valley), Waihee Ridge trail, Waianapanapa to Hana, Oheo Gulch to Waimoku Falls, Pali Lahaina trail, ect. Awapuhi Adventures is an eco-adventure company that specializes in private, all-inclusive adventures geared toward ecological awareness and leaving the path-less-traveled, less trampled. The Maui Trailblazer guidebook also is a comprehensive resource for the cultural history and detailed directions to all of the island's trails.
There are several providers located at the airport. These are not cheap, but they are the best overall view possible and worthwhile. Souvenir videos are provided for an extra nominal fee.
Road to Hana
Take the road trip on Hwy 36 (Hana Hwy) stopping on the road to see waterfalls, lush greenery and beaches. Some of these are not visible from the road, but most are a relatively short hike off the road. A private arboretum and botanical garden (with an entrance fee) called "Garden of Eden" around the 10-mile marker has peacocks, bamboo gardens and view of Puohokamoa Falls. The round-trip will be difficult to complete in one day, so stay over in Hana to break it into two days. Wainapanapa State Park, 2 miles east of Hana, has cabins to offer. There are other private nicer places to stay, also in and around Hana.
The Road to Hana is something that must be experienced at least once in a lifetime. Keep in mind that some of the locals from Hana make the long commute to work in Kahului each day. If you see a local vehicle approaching from behind, pull over and let them pass. By the same token, locals' familiarity with the route can lead them to cut across corners (even blind corners) swerving back into their lane at the last minute, so take corners slowly and watch for oncoming traffic that may have encroached upon your lane. Also, don't trespass! This is something many people do when reading guidebooks like Maui Revealed. If you respect the land and the people, you'll find open arms and acceptance.
As one would expect from a tourist mecca like Maui, there are several areas to find good shopping. Also as one would expect, the prices can be quite inflated. ABC Stores can be found all over Maui and the other Hawaian Islands and offer souvenirs and beach junk (such as sunscreen and straw mats) at potentially lower prices than tourist traps. In Lahaina, a good place to "walk the shops", find Old Lahaina Book Emporium. Kaanapali has Whaler's Village Shops and Restaurants, home to lots of stores and restaurants, including plenty of high-end merchandise such as Coach and Tiffany. PAIA is a small artist and aging hippie colony with a reasonable and varied mix of shops and galleries worth your time, as well as restaurants. It is located just past Mama's Fishhouse Restaurant.
- CJ's Diner.Kaanapali Beach area. Cheap (given its proximity to the Kaanapali mega-resorts) with hearty breakfast and lunch food. Packed lunches with provided coolers and ice are available.
- Plantation House, 669-6299. in the Plantation Course golf clubhouse in Kapalua. The best sunset view on Maui, plus great food, makes this many people's favorite Maui restaurant. Three or four kinds of fresh fish done in your coice of five or six interesting preparations, plus meats, specialty salads, vegetarian entrees (just ask your server), and bananas foster for dessert. Also open for breakfast and lunch.
- Lahaina Store Grille & Oyster Bar, 661-9090. There are several restaurants with ocean views in Lahaina, but this restaurant on a rooftop is the only one that gives you a 360-degree view of both the ocean and the mountains. Food is good but service is slow. If the weather isn't indicating a rooftop experience, the downstairs dining area is covered, offers a great view, and has a slightly more casual menu with appropriately lower prices.
- Io, 661-8422. Next door to PacificO (same owners) in the 505 shopping center in Lahaina. Great beachfront views and wonderful innovative food, including unusual vegetarian presentations.
- David Paul's, 667-5117. No view, and very expensive. a block from the ocean in Lahaina. But the food and service are outstanding.
- Bubba Gump, 661-3111. A theme restaurant based upon its namesake, "Forrest Gump", this restaurant is fun for the whole family (especially if you like shrimp), and a lot cheaper than the above Lahaina restaurants. Right on the ocean in Lahaina.
- Kimo's, 661-4811. A Lahaina classic for decades, Kimo's is on the ocean side of Front Street in the middle of town. Make reservations for dinner if you don't want a long wait.
- Mama's Fish House, on the beach in Paia, . On the expensive side, but one of the best seafood restaurants on the island. The food is excellent, and there are usually nearby windsurfers to watch.
- Maui Tacos, several locations - cheap, good Mexican food specializing in seafood tacos. The atmosphere is not much to speak of (it is in a mini-mall).
- The Old Lahaina Luau, in Lahaina . Regarded as the best and most authentic luau on Maui. The food is amazing and the entertainment is both colorful & visual. The cost is steep (about $100 per person) and reservations suggested.
- Aloha Mixed Plate, 661-3322. 1285 Front Street in Lahaina . Beach view from a tiki-torch laden deck and very reasonable (on the beach in Lahaina next to the Old Lahaina Luau behind the Lahaina Cannery Mall (apparently owned by and supplied by the same kitchen as the Old Lahaina Luau). Authentic unprententious Hawaiian Cuisine -- service and quality very good for the price (dinner is about $7-$15 per person, the Panko-Breaded Haupia Hawaiian dessert with passionfruit sauce is very good).
- The Gazebo Restaurant, 669-5621. In Napili (North of Kahana). Gorgeous open beach view, inexpensive ($7-$15 per person).Food and service are good. Ideal space to have Sunday brunch (menu sort of limited to American staples but the Denver Omelettes etc. are favorites here). Located inside a holiday resort that looks like apartments.
- Hula Grill. in Ka'anapali. The best family friendly upscale restaurant on the westside. In the heart of Whalers Village local muscians serenade you while you dine on Local fish.
- Paia Fish Market, . This is somewhat of a fast food fish restaurant, but some of the best food on the island. Two people could get the entire meal (potatoes and coleslaw) for one and only the entree for the other. The entire meal will cost less than 20 bucks. The fish quesadilla is amazing!
- Chez Paul, a few miles south of Lahaina, +1 808 661-3848, . An excellent provincial French restaurant. It doesn't look like much from the outside but it is first class by almost any standard and a breath of fresh (traditional) air when compared to the upscale mainland chains that seem to be popping up all over Maui. The combination of a fresh seafood with lucious sauces is irresistable. Be prepared for a great evening with a substantial bill at the end.
- Cafe O'Lei, with 2 locations in both Kihei and Central Maui, +1 808 879-9258, . You'll find excellent island dining with great service and warm atmosphere at Cafe O'Lei. The prices are on the lower end especially when considering neighboring restaurants in Wailea.
- Charley's Restaurant in Paia, +1 808 579-9453. Charley's is a classic Paia restaurant, the service isn't spectacular but don't let that turn you off. The food and atmosphere are well worth it.
- Jacques Bistro, in Paia, +1 808 579-6255. Jacques is a nice outdoor restaurant in Paia that serves great cuisine at good prices for Maui. The chicken curry is excellent, as well as their fresh fish. A great choice for dinner in Paia.
- Hali'maile General Store, +1 808 572-2666. This is a long way from the tourist areas, a few miles inland from Paia, but it's worth it the drive - the food is outstanding. Good for lunch or dinner.
- Honolua Store, ☎ 808-665-9105, . 6am - 9pm. Fresh Maui-grown pineapples including our famous hybrid. Hot breakfasts, local plate lunches, deli and grilled sandwiches, and daily dinner specials served. Dine outside on the plantation days porch, charming setting. Kapalua Resort. Prices - almost everything under $12.
- Cafe Kapalua, ☎ 808-665-8220, . 7am - 6pm. Kapalua Resort. Enjoy healthy house-made soups, fresh salads, wraps and sandwiches, delectable desserts and an impressive selection of micro-brewed beers and vintage wines. Espresso bar.
Many bars up and down the strip of Kihei that provide for a fun nightlife. Be prepared to head to bed early (11 or 12) Not too many places are doing much after that.
- Cafe O'Lei, 2439 S Kihei Rd # 201A, ☎ (808) 891-1368. 10:30-3:00, 5:00-9:00. There are several Cafe O'Leis on Maui and all of them have wonderful food. The food is a high quality and prices are reasonable. The Kihei branch has lunch and dinner hours, and the one at the Dunes at Maui Lani has a breakfast menu.
To get from Maui to the other Hawaiian Islands usually involves a short plane flight. If you want to go to Honolulu you will find frequent non-stop service. Most other destinations offer a couple of non-stop flights a day or a stop in, you got it, Honolulu.
Ferries run 5 times a day between Lahaina and the island of Lanai. Each way takes approximately 45 minutes, and costs $25 per person per direction. During high winds the boat ride can be particularly rough, so bring something for seasickness if you don't do well on boats. Cruise ships are also an interesting option.
When leaving Maui for the U.S. Mainland, all baggage must be inspected by U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors at the airport. Be advised that fresh fruits (with the exception of pineapples and treated papayas) are prohibited from leaving the islands to prevent the spread of fruit flies. Consult the U.S. Department of Agriculture for more details. Bags are inspected by X-ray. At Kahului Airport, be prepared to submit to three checkpoints on the way to your Mainland flight: having your checked bags X-rayed for agricultural items in the ticket lobby, the TSA security checkpoint, and inspection of your carry-on baggage for agricultural items on the way to your gate.