Travel Guide | Maui, Hawaii

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All photography by @studioist.

Getting to Maui twice in one year? That’s a deal I’d take any day.

Hawaii is a location that is on everyone’s bucket list—its sandy beaches, diverse and beautiful landscape, tropical food, and laid-back vibe—make it a must-see destination.

Now Hawaii is one of the most remote destinations on Earth so if you make the trip, you will want to make sure you have at least 2 weeks set aside to explore a couple of its islands. Each island offers something unique to visitors—an island for adventurers, city folks, nature lovers, beach babes, and more.

Out of the ones I have visited, I would argue that Maui is the most romantic. Full of beautiful beaches, in fact Maui has more beaches than any other of the Hawaiian Islands, fabulous restaurants, and green valleys.

Besides the obvious words like tropical and beautiful that come to mind when describing Maui, another word comes to mind—unexpected. Maui has unexpected gems around every corner. Drive 30 minutes in one direction and hike in beautiful lush, rainforests with waterfalls. Drive 30 minutes another way and find yourself Upcountry overlooking the valley and misty rolling hills. Drive another 30 minutes and find yourself in the historic capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, complete with huge Banyan trees and breathtaking sunset views.

As the second largest Hawaiian island, most of the population is concentrated around a few areas so it’s easy to take a short drive and find a secluded beach to relax on. It’s also small enough to drive around, which you should definitely do because hidden gems are scattered all over the “Valley Isle.”

The locals are friendly and simply enjoying their island lifestyle. I feel like the constant flow of tourists would be annoying, but their main industry on the island is tourism—service, transportation, retail, etc so I suppose they appreciate it since its their livelihood.

There’s a saying, “Maui no ka oi,” which in English means "Maui is the best," and I wholeheartedly agree.

Now to make planning a bit easier, I've divided what to do and see, where to eat and play into areas of the island. If you can swing it I woudl recommend visiting all these areas as they are so different, it's almost hard to believe they are on the same island.

Also check out our 7 Day Itinerary for Maui to explore the best of the island in a week.

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WHAT TO DO

Relax in the funky, bohemian surf town of Pa’ia
Pronounced pah-ee-ah, visiting this North Side town is a must while on Maui. It’s the perfect place to experience local island life. Packed with tons of great beauty boutiques, art galleries and tasty restaurants. Plus it’s the windsurfing capital of the world and the last town on the road to Hana.

See Sunbathing Honu (Sea Turtles) on Ho’okipa Beach
Address: Mile Marker #8.8, Hana Hwy, Paia, HI 96779
Watch wind/kite surfers take on the waves + check out the Hawaiian honu (sea turtles) unbathing on the far right end of the beach. Not recommended for general swimming since the waves can be quite rough.

WHERE TO STAY

Nalu Kai Lodge
@nalukailodge | Address: 18 Nalu Pl, Paia, HI 96779

If you’re looking for a lower-key, non-resort vibe for your time on the island, consider the North Shore town of Pa’ia! This trendy, bohemian town is filled with colorful boutiques, delicious restaurants, and even a long sandy beach. It’s closer to the airport than Wailea and feels more like what you would expect from a tropical island.

Right in the heart of town is the Nalu Kai Lodge. Walking distance to all the shops and restaurants, this hotel is cozy, has a friendly and accommodating staff, and provides all the amenities for a relaxing time.

They also have a few off-site premises. We stayed in the Bamboo Gate Main House, which was like staying in an Airbnb. We had 3 bedrooms, a living room, yard, parking, and a full kitchen.

The warm breezes blew through our windows at night lulling us to sleep and the stray rooster in the neighborhood woke us up each morning. Very peaceful and serene.

FOOD & DRINK

Visit Mana Foods
Address: 49 Baldwin Avenue, Paia, HI 96779
Do you like organic/gluten-free/dairy-free/vegan grocery options? Then Mana Foods is the place for you! It’s amazing how much deliciousness is packed into this small, local market. They also have a great hot bar for a quick bite to-go.

Paia Bay Coffee Bar
@paiabaycoffee | Address: 115 Hana Hwy, Paia, HI 96779

Cafe Mambo
@cafemambopaia | Address: 30 Baldwin Ave, Paia, HI 96779
Flavorful, organic dishes in a little venue with an eclectic vibe.
What to Order: Crispy Duck, Mambo Burger + Mambo Nachos

Nuka
@nukamaui | Address: 780 Haiku Rd, Haiku, HI 96708
Technically down the road from Pa’ia in Haiku, this sleek venue specializes in sushi + it’s for real!

Paia Gelato
Address: 99 Hana Hwy #C, Paia, HI 96779
Small shop serving up Italian-style ice creams and smoothies (dairy-free options available)!

WHERE TO SHOP

Some of my favorite stores include Imrie, Lele, Sand + Sea, Pearl and Sassarella.

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When you arrive on the island, you’ll find yourself in Kahului. The “working town” of Maui, it’s full of strip malls, warehouses, shopping centers + big box stores. It may not be the most scenic, but it’s got the staples!

Costco
Address: 540 Haleakala Hwy, Kahului, HI 96732
Your one-stop shop for everything you’ll need during your trip to Maui, especially if you’re traveling with a large group or have an Airbnb (or place with a kitchen).

WHAT TO DO

Maui Swap Meet
Address: University of Hawaii - Maui College at 310 W Kaahumanu Avenue, Kahului, HI 96732
Wander the local artisans, touristy Hawaiian souvenirs, and munch on tasty treats like young coconuts and malasadas, every Saturday from 7 a.m. - 1 p.m. Admission is only 50¢. Yes, you heard me right. It’s a steal for the number of vendors that set up weekly.

FOOD & DRINK

Maui Coffee Roasters
@mauicoffeeroasters | Address: 444 Hana Hwy, Kahului, HI 96732
Colorful, enclitic cafe with local coffees, baked goods and friendly people.

Thai Mee Up Food Truck
@thai_mee_up | Address: 591 Haleakala Hwy, Kahului, HI 96732
Centrally located Thai food that packs a flavor-punch!
What to Order: Cashew Chicken, Pad Thai, Crispy + Garlic Shrimp

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WHAT TO DO

Wailea Coastal Walk
The boardwalk (which is really a cement path) goes along 5 beaches and 5 high-end resorts.

Makena State Park
The South side’s largest beach, great for snorkeling, swimming, sunbathing and sunset viewing. Also check out the black sand beach in the park.

The Shops at Wailea
70+ shops, restaurants, and galleries with live evening entertainment daily. Check out Lappert’s Ice Cream.

WHERE TO STAY

Grand Wailea
@grandwailea | Address: 3850 Wailea Alanui Dr, Wailea, HI 96753

The Grand Wailea is for lack of a better word, grand! Everything about the property gorgeous. Guests are welcomed to the open-air lobby with flower and nut leis, escorted through the check-in process and they know it are relaxing on the beach.

Unlike the majority of the major resorts on the South side of the island, the Grand Wailea is a beachfront property. You can walk straight out of the hotel to the pool area and beyond to a sandy beach on the Pacific Ocean.

And then for the kids, or in our case-kids at heart, the pool area consists of 9 pools connected by a 2,000-foot long lazy river with waterfalls, rapids, a rope swing, and a sandy-bottom lagoon. There’s even hot tub grottos and a swim-up bar for the adults.

There are several restaurants and cafes scattered across the property, amongst the beautiful gardens. Each evening around sunset, tiki torches are lit around the property which only enhances the tropical and tranquil vibe of the hotel.

The workout facility is state-of-the-art, clean, and open 24/7. Gotta get that beach bod on, right?

As with all major resorts, some things around the property need a little updating, but nothing that affected our stay. We had an absolutely ahh-mazing time and are already itching to go back!

Fun Fact: The hotel was used for the film Just Go With It! If you haven’t seen it, get on that because it is one of our faves!

Andaz Maui @andazmaui | Address: 3550 Wailea Alanui Dr, Wailea, HI 96753

This stylish resort exudes luxury. Crossing the lush-lined water bridge at the entrance instantly transports you and your stress away.

The simple, modern decor sets it apart from the other high-end resort properties in Wailea.

Though the property is not beachfront like its neighbor, the cascading levels of infinity pools provide unobstructed ocean views.

All beaches on Maui are public so the beach in front of the Grand Wailea is only a short walk along the coastal boardwalk, or shorter drive away if you are set on some toes-in-the-sand time.

The Andaz also featured several gourmet restaurants including one of our favorites, Morimoto Maui.

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FOOD & DRINK

Honolulu Coffee Company
@honolulucoffee | Address: 3750 Wailea Alanui Dr #25-EW, Kihei, HI 96753
What to Order:

Bistro Molokini at the Grand Wailea
Address: 3850 Wailea Alanui Dr, Kihei, HI 96753
Light, locally-sourced fair in a casual atmosphere with gluten-free + vegetarian options identified on the menu.
What to Order: Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, Crispy Calamari, Local Wild Arugula Salad, Hawaiian Fish Tacos, and Mushroom Pizza

Morimoto Maui at The Andaz
@morimotomaui | Address: 3550 Wailea Alanui Dr, Kihei, HI 96753
Ocean views AND Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s signature Japanese-American cuisine, need we say more?! In fact, yes just one more—restaurant brewed soy sauce.
What to order: Spicy King Crab, Pork Gyoza, Ishi Yaki Buri Bop (yellowtail on rice cooked table side in a hot stone bowl), Edamame, Mahuro (tuna sashimi), shrimp tempura roll, spicy yellowtail roll, and spicy tuna roll

MonkeyPod
@monkeypodkitchen | Address: 10 Wailea Gateway Place, Kihei, HI 96753
Local, fresh cuisine with a great selection of cocktails and beers.
What to Order: Pumpkin Patch Ravioli, Big Island Goat Cheese Bruschetta, Waipoli Farm Organic Mixed Greens, and Pete’s Fresh Fish & Chips

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This is the sunniest, driest area of Maui + where you’ll find long sandy beaches with clear views of the islands of Lana’i, Molokini, and Kahoolawe.

WHAT TO DO

Kama’ole Beach Park
Three stretches of beach in Kihei known as Kam I (best for snorkeling), Kam II (less crowded, but rocky-er) + Kam III (best for boogie boarding).

Cove Beach Park You're in Hawaii so it's time to learn to surf. The Cove has consistent waves that crash in the shallows so it's great for beginners. Plus the park makes a great place to watch people learn to surf if you're not interested in it yourself.

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FOOD & DRINK

FOR BREAKFAST:

Brekkie Bowls Maui
@brekkiebowls | Address: 300 Ohukai Rd B1-101, Kihei, HI 96753
Cutest trailer for build-your-own acai & pitaya bowls and smoothies. What to Order: Acai bowl with toppings + add almond butter, chia seeds, and Goji berries

Kihei Caffe
@kiheicaffe | Address: 1945 S Kihei Rd, Kihei, HI 96753
Don't be discouraged by the line out the door! It moves quickly and is worth the wait. This fast-casual cafe is a not-so-hidden-gem offering large portions of delicious breakfast and lunch at affordable prices. Cash only, though there is an ATM iside the door.
What to Order: Banana Macadamia Nut Waffle or French Toast, Cinnamon Roll, and Pork Fried Rice with Scrambled Eggs

FOR LUNCH:

Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade
@wowwowlemonade | Address: 1279 S Kihei Rd #309, Kihei, HI 96753 in Azeka Mauka Plaza
Humble lemonade stand turned island favorite, serving drinks with the freshest, locally sourced fruits.
What to Order: Acai bowl (they have several versions), Ginger Pineapple Lemonade, Li Hing Mui Lemonade, Local Lilikoi Lemonade

Coconut’s Fish Cafe
@coconutsfishcafe | Address: 1279 S Kihei Rd, Kihei, HI 96753 + 2463 S Kihei Rd, Kihei, HI 96753
Ohana-run, family-friendly favorite with surfboard tables, serving food with the aloha spirit. Plus they take allergies seriously so just let them know of any when you order.
What to Order: Coconut Shrimp + Mac-Nut Crusted Ahi

South Maui Fish Company
Address: 22 Alahehe Place, Kihei, HI 96753
Dishes focused on the freshest, sustainably caught fish daily.
What to Order: Tacos + Fish Plates with their daily catch is their speciality!

Local Boys Shave Ice
Address: 1941 S Kihei road, Kihei, HI 96753 in the Kihei Kalama Village
Hawaiian shave ice at it’s finest across from a park. Grab some and enjoy on a walk.

FOR DINNER:

Nutcharee’s Authentic Thai Food
Address: 1280 S Kihei Rd #124, Kihei, HI 96753
Nestled in the corner of a shopping center, this hidden gem delivers affordable, huge portions of tasty Thai food. Plus gluten-free, vegan by request, and spicy items are identified on the menu. Hooray!
What to Order: Tom Kha (ginger coconut soup), Crab meat fried rice, Panang Curry, Pumpkin Curry

Maui Brick Oven
@mauibrickoven | Address: 1215 S Kihei Road, Kihei, Hi 96753
Gluten-free restaurant specializing in pizza + dessert.
What to Order: Pizza, Striped Marlin Fish n’ Chips + Chocolate Molten Lava Cake

Cafe O’Lei
@cafeolei_maui | Address: 2439 S Kihei Rd #201A, Kihei, HI 96753
Seasonal dishes, good value, and crowd-pleasing variety.
What to Order: Roasted Japanese Eggplant & Quinoa, Asian style Braised Short Rib, and Baked Pacific Seafood Bouillabaisse

 
 

You’ve seen the golden beaches so head upcountry to see the rolling hills and misty mountains.

WHAT TO DO

Upcountry Farmer’s Market
Address: 55 Kiopaa St, Makawao, HI 96768
The freshest fruit and veggies, homemade bread, kombachas (!!!), coffee, juices and more. Saturdays 7 a.m. - 11 a.m., rain or shine.

Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm
Address: 1100 Waipoli Rd, Kula, HI 96790
Learn about the history of the property on a tour or simply roam the fragrant countryside while taking in the views. Lavender on Maui is at its height in July and August. If you’re visiting in the off-season, I’m not sure the admission price would be worth it.

FOOD & DRINK

La Provence
Address: 3158 Lower Kula Rd, Kula, HI 96790
A French chef settled upcountry and now sells authentic parties like croissants and pain au chocolat. Limit qty 3 of 1 item per group (no matter your group size). First-come, first-serve.

Surfing Goat Dairy
@surfinggoatdairy | Address: 3651 Omaopio Road, Kula, HI 96790
Producers of gourmet goat cheeses and delectable goat truffles! You can grab a sampling platter for lunch or book a tour for a in-depth experience of the farm. Free admission. Paid tours.

 
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Known as “Lele” for short, the former capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom + historic center of the whaling trade, is now full of galleries, shops, and restaurants.

WHAT TO DO

Old Town Lahaina
Pick up a free map at the courthouse and take a self-guided walking tour of this historic town.

Front Street
A completely walkable street lined with colorful shops, galleries, and restaurants, Lahaina’s Front Street is a charming place to spend an afternoon exploring.

Visit one of the largest Banyan trees in the U.S.
Located in Lahaina Banyan Court at the south end of town and it’s incredible!

Get some Dole Whip at Lahaina Ice Cream Parlor
Address: 693 Front Street, Lahaina, Hawaii 96761
The only place on Maui to sell this highly sought-after, world-famous naturally delicious dairy-free frozen dessert. Yum!

Ka’anapali Beach
Wide, long, and sandy beach perfect for swimming or catching some rays.

Watch a West Maui Sunset
The sunsets from here are amazing. Enjoy one from one of the many west side beaches or from the Old Lahaina Luau.

Punakea Palms Coconut Farm
@punakeapalms | Address: 225 Punakea Loop, Lahaina, HI 96761
Learn about coconuts on this beautiful slice of heaven just outside Lahaina. The coconut grove is just over 10 years old which means they are now consistently producing. We spent the afternoon touring the grove, learning about the coconut palm, tasting coconuts' water and meat at different stages of developments, then learn to make our own coconut milk.

Coconut trees are such a valuable crop for so many around the world and every part can be repurposed into something useful. They are truly an amazing plant and if you have the time I would highly recommend booking a tour (it's completely family friendly!) and perhaps packing a picnic and enjoying the view after. Book a tour for an afternoon well spent.

Old Lahaina Luau
@oldlahainaluau | Address: 1251 Front Street, Lahaina, HI 96761
In traditional Polynesian culture, a lu'au — meaning "feast" — marks a happy event so what better way to kick off your vacation enjoying an evening of Hawaiian cuisine, music, dances (that's right, get ready to shake your palm palms!) + history at an authentic island lu’au, complete with ocean views, a west Maui sunset and legendary Hawaiian hospitality. A MUST DO!

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So I know it's not exactly an area, but since it is a major toruist attraction I thought it warranted it's own section.

Hana, the town at the end is not the highlight, as with most things in life it’s the journey not the destination. One of the most scenic drives in the U.S., the Road to Hana is a 45-mile drive with 600 hairpin turns and more than 50 one-lane bridges as you weave along Maui’s coastline through lush rainforests and cascading waterfalls.

There are a ton of spots to stop and explore, but these are must-sees (according to us):

Garden of Eden Arbortetum (check out those rainbow eucalyptus trees) Aunt Sandy’s Halfway to Hana banana bread + Keanae Peninsula Nahuki Marketplace Hana Lava Tube Kahanu Garden Wai’ianapanapa State Park + Pa’iloa (black sand) Beach. Hana Town

Because of the popularity of this drive there are a couple tips that will make your experience, and that of the locals, a little nicer.

  1. If someone comes up on your tail fast, pull over when convenient and allow them to pass. Chances are it’s a local just trying to get on with their day.

  2. Download the Road to Hana Shaka Guide. For less than $10, the audio tour used your phone’s GPS and provides directions, tells Hawaiian stories and histories, all accompanied by island music.

  3. Car break-ins and theft are quite common on the road so keep valuables out of sight or with you during your drive.

  4. Make sure to pack snacks and fill up with gas in Pa’ia as it’s the last town till Hana. However there are some roadside fruit stands. :)

 
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Despite having visited a couple times already, there is always more to explore on this beautiful island. So next time here's what we are looking forward to:

  1. Sunrise at Haleakala + bike tour down — The experience is supposed to be magical. the 3 a.m. wake up call is going to be tough though.
  2. Hiking the Iao Valley — For wedding preparation-related reasons we didn't get to hike the lush forest in West Maui on our most recent trip, but some of our guests did and said the eperience will completely transport you.
 
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n1. More than 12,000 Humpback Whales travel from Alaska to Hawaii each year to breed, birth and nurse their calves. Catch sight of them on the island from mid-November to early-April.

n2. Maui takes awhile to get around because of the slow speed limit and several traffic light hubs, especially around the resort areas so just be patience. You’re on island time now.

n3. Generally items are slightly higher in price—after all you're on an island—but sales tax is one of the lowest in the U.S. at 4-4.5%.