If you’re here, I hope it’s because you’re either planning a trip to Maui or at least considering it! It is a beautiful island that consistently lands on the top 20 lists for islands across the entire globe and there is a good reason why. In one trip you can experience the beauty of a culture that is truly special, volcanoes, coral reefs, sapphire blue waters, luxury, chill vibes and amazing food.
So, here is my guide for what to do in Maui to really nail the best vacation possible! If you’re in the process of planning, this will be valuable!
What I’ll cover (bullets)
- The Island
- Top Cities
- Where to eat
- Where to drink
- Where to stay
Regardless of where you stay, I recommend exploring different areas of the island, so I would recommend renting a car. For the most part, driving and getting around is pretty easy and you’ll be happy you have the freedom to explore. The island is not that large and you can get from west Maui to south Maui (such as Lahaina to Wailea) in about an hour.
The other thing about Maui, particularly if you live in the US, is that while you feel like you are somewhere very exotic because of the landscape, you’ll also recognize the conveniences of home like having Target and grocery stores you can run to. While prices may be a little higher in Maui (everything has to be brought in since it’s an island) it’s nice to know it’s OK if you forgot something. It’s honestly a little strange driving through the lush tropical landscape and then stumbling upon a strip mall with Office Depot. 🙂
Here are some of the most visited and famous cities on the island with a little bit about the personality.
- Wailea – Posh resort area of the island with 5 star resorts; breathtaking views right on the water
- Kihei – Wailea’s more budget-friendly residential neighbor in a great location with good vacation rental options; Several public beaches
- Hana – The more rustic and underdeveloped part of the island up the mountain; full of gorgeous landscapes like waterfalls and black sand beaches
- Paia – Small laid-back town with a hippie-like vibe that in more recent years has gotten more restaurants and boutiques to add to the artsy personality of the area
- Lahaina – Old whaling village that has now turned into a great shopping and dining area with gorgeous sunsets from dinner spots
- Kaanapali – Beach area near Lahaina with lots of large high-rise style resorts; Has a vibe of 1960s Hawaii as this was one of the original resort areas
To get a sense for how best to spend your time on the island, here is a list of some of the best things to do on Maui:
- Relax on the Beach (duh)
- Explore nature parks (waterfalls, bamboo forests, volcanoes!) – particularly on the Road to Hana! (read here for more detail)
- Experience Hawaiian culture and feast with a luau
- Snorkel and cruise the waters by boat
- View out-of-this-world sunsets
- Shop in Lahaina
- Eat tons of fresh fish and just enjoy dining out in general
Read on here for more specific recommendations on the top epic Maui attractions!
Where to Eat
Mama’s is famous as one of the long-standing but trendy places to eat. It has a distinct island and Hawaiian vibe to it (almost like something out of the 1960’s Tiki scene) with their claim to fame being the quality of their fresh fish. You definitely need a reservation here, so all ahead! Also, it is pricey, but to many it is well worth it! I did enjoy my time here and thought the restaurant had great charm, but it was very expensive.
Paia Fish Market is a laid-back taco joint with Maui brews and amazing fish tacos. It’s a local chain that has a location in Paia (original) plus Kihei and Lahaina.
Amazing Japanese/sushi restaurant by the famous Chef Morimoto. It’s expensive, but the quality of the sushi is excellent. It’s located in the Andaz Maui in Wailea and has really pretty sunset views. Even if you just go for sunset, sashimi and a cocktail, it’s worth it!
This really special place is in the Grand Wailea under thatched roofs on a lagoon. The ambiance is really pretty and it’s named after the official state fish of Hawaii! Try pronouncing that one! This one, again, is pricey, but it’s great for a special occasion.
Beautiful open-air restaurant with great views and great food! Has won awards and is considered an upscale place.
Also an award-winning restaurant, this one uses all local ingredients and has an impressive wine list for the wine-lovers out there.
There are also tons of places on Front Street in Lahaina. Take a walk before dinner rush time and see which one suits your personality and then put your name in to come back for dinner!
Where to Drink
Local brewery with a tasting pub in Kihei.
Awesome little Tiki Lounge in Kihei Kalama Village. Total local place where you can get a MaiTai or a Painkiller!
Where to Stay
The main areas people tend to stay are between Wailea, Kaanapali and Kihei. In Wailea, you can stay at a beautiful 5-Star resort that is usually on a large sprawling oceanfront property and at night it will be quiet. Some of my favorites are the Andaz Maui, Grand Wailea and Marriott Wailea Beach Resort.
In Kaanapali, there is a mix of luxury and mid-level resort options and it is closer to nightlife options, but there is a little less natural beauty and quietness than you’ll find in Wailea. The hotels also are a bit closer together dotting the coast in that area than they are in Wailea.
In Kihei, you can find AirBNBs you can rent in residential areas with public beaches, close to little bars and restaurants that the locals will go to. Kihei will be your budget option and the best option for renting a house. I’ve done this and while it was less of a “luxury” stay, we saved a ton of money and we had a great time visiting the public beaches and Wailea Beach. We took the money we saved and visited some of the better restaurants instead!
You honestly can’t go wrong with a trip to Maui. Have a great time and comment with any questions! To get more specifics on the top attractions in Maui, read on here.
For other destination inspiration, check out some other wanderlust-inducing destination guides!