Updated: Jun 11
Approximately 10,000 humpback whales migrate to Maui each year.
Table of Contents
10 things you should not miss on Maui
[4.0 mile out & back; 1,610 Elevation Gain; Rated moderate]
We did this hike on our last day in Maui and wow, did we end our trip on a high note! This was our favorite hike in Maui and ranks very highly as one of our all-time favorite hikes. What makes it so special? The incredible scenery (or shall we say EPIC VIEWS!)
Tip: you want to get to the parking lot of this hike no later than 9am for several reasons. First, the parking lot is very small and fills up very early. The overflow parking for this hike is a mile down the road, which will add unnecessary mileage and elevation to your hike. Second, the visibility at the summit of Lanilili Mountain is much clearer in the morning. It would be a shame to experience this hike without witnessing the expansive views made visible from the elevation you climbed.
The first 0.7 miles takes you through beautiful Maui forest after hiking up a short-paved hill through farmland. As always, stay on the hiking trail at all times. While the hiking path is open to the public, much of the surrounding land is private and should not be trespassed on. When in the forest, be sure to take a break at switchbacks and gaze out into the landscapes. There are many hidden waterfalls on this hike that most people miss!
Also Read: 2 Week Hawaii Itinerary
After the first 0.7 miles, the forest opens up into a lush, spectacular valley. Helicopters fly through this valley to give people tours of the views you have just accomplished by foot. However, the journey has just begun and you have another 1.3 miles of elevation gain to the summit. This stretch is absolutely jaw dropping.
We have never seen such a combination of vibrant green vegetation contrasting the picturesque blue waters of the ocean. On a clear day with high visibility, this hike is truly awe inspiring. Even if you are intimidated by the elevation gain, go as far as you are able. You will certainly find every moment well worth the hike!
J&L Recommended: Must Do on Maui
[3.5 Miles; 137 Feet Elevation Gain; Out & Back; Rated Easy]
This path allows for a nice and easy stroll through the resorts of Wailea and the beautiful beaches of South Maui. Taking you from Makapu Beach to Polo Beach, Wailea Beach Path is the perfect way to stretch your legs after a day of relaxing on the beach. Keep your eyes peeled for sea turtles, dolphins, and whales!
Also Read: Top 7 Beaches of Maui
This is a magnificent lookout along the Honoapiilani Hwy that offers the ideal vantage point to view miles and miles of ocean. This is a popular lookout for humpback whales (in winter months) so you can test your luck when traveling to and from Lahaina. Approximately 10,000 humpback whales migrate to Maui each year, so your odds of seeing a whale may be higher than you think!
J&L Recommended: Great Picture Lookout
[3.6 Miles; 141 Feet Elevation Gain; Out & Back; Rated Moderate]
This area of Maui is a hidden gem that we consider a must-do in order to truly appreciate the vast Maui terrain. The southern-most end of Makena Rd takes you through the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve, which from our perspective, should have been called the Mars Area Reserve because that is exactly what it felt like we were driving through.
With lava rock as far as the eye can see, we already started to anticipate what the Hoapili Trail had in store for us. Makena Rd ends at a gravel parking lot which is public for those coming to admire the Lava Fields and La Perouse Bay. Dolphins frequently swim through this bay if you get here around 7am!
The Hoapili Trail begins from the parking area and winds through the breathtaking lava rocks along the coast. Be sure to wear suitable, close-toed shoes that will provide the right amount of support for hiking on rocks. As you wind through this beautiful terrain, admire the crashing waves, blowholes, and coral washed up along the pathway. Keep your eyes peeled for the lava goats! (not their actual name, but they blend in with the lava rocks so well, it is what we decided to name them). Do as much or as little of this trail as your time and ability allows, it is well worth the efforts for such a unique experience!
J&L Recommended: Unique Experience
[2.5 Miles; 209 Feet Elevation Gain; Out & Back; Rated Easy]
We recommend starting this trail on its southern end by Kapalua Bay Beach. Get here early in the morning to find public parking along Lower Honoapi'ilani Rd and grab your snorkel gear! Kapalua Bay Beach was our favorite snorkel spot on Maui. From the second we put our heads under water, we saw a sea turtle swim directly in front of our eyes. Kapalua Bay Beach is in a protected bay that allows for great swimming and snorkeling alike.
From here, continue north on the coastal trail and wander along the many footpaths of the Ironwood Cliffs. Make your way to Oneloa Beach and admire some morning surfers catching waves. This beach is spectacular and secluded. The left third of the beach has a sandy bottom and is good for swimming. Alltrails has you turning around after Oneloa Beach, however, we recommend you keep going along Lower Honoapiilani Rd to D.T. Fleming Beach. D.T. Fleming Beach is yet another gorgeous swimming beach and a wonderful place to admire the beautiful Maui views. The second reason to continue on to D.T. Fleming Beach is for the Dragon's Teeth Access Trail mentioned below.
Also Read: Top 8 Snorkel Beaches on Maui
[0.6 Miles; 65 Feet Elevation Gain; Out & Back; Rated Easy]
The Dragon's Teeth Access Trail is an off-shoot of the Kapalua Coastal Trail. It is in fact open to the public, however, the signs near the start of the trail warning of private property are in reference to the neighboring resort/golf course. Stay on the trail leading to Dragon's Pointe and you will not be trespassing. The trail leads to Kapalua Labyrinth & Hawaiian ancient ruins which can be viewed at a distance. The lava rocks surrounding this point are absolutely amazing with jagged shapes that give this trail its name. Take caution and keep away from the edge of the cliffs, especially when wet. This off-shoot of the Kapalua Coastal Trail was certainly a highlight and led to some magnificent views!
J&L Recommended: Unique Experience
Maui Day Trips
Haleakala means "House of the Sun" in Hawaiian and is home to one of the world's largest volcanic craters. While there are many different ways to experience Haleakala National Park, we have outlined our favorite way to experience it in our perfect day trip guide to Haleakala National Park.
8. Road to Hana
One of the most popular things to do in Maui is drive the "Road to Hana". With winding turns, lush vegetation, and vibrant waterfalls, there is so much to explore over these 40+ miles of breathtaking highway. Although Hana Highway has become a popular road for tourists to drive, it is certainly not a "tourist attraction". There are minimal signs for stops, waterfalls, or viewpoints. Most of the incredible stops along the Road to Hana truly are hidden without knowing where to look. Our Road to Hana Day Trip Guide outlines the must-visit stops along this spectacular road!
Headed to Maui for surf and sand? How about to witness the beauty below sea level? There are many beautiful and secluded beaches on Maui that make for ideal snorkeling. However, one of the biggest factors in finding good snorkeling is going during low tide when the waters are calm and fish scavenging. Discover the best snorkel beaches of Maui or book a day trip tour below!
Also Read: Top 8 Snorkel Beaches of Maui
Prefer a Guided Tour?
10. Tropical Beaches
As you might imagine heading to a tropical island, there are many beaches on Maui! With incredible beaches on both the south side and west sides of Maui, this guide outlines the nicest beaches, calmest waters, & secluded hideaways you may want to consider.
Also Read: Top 7 Beaches of Maui
What food is Maui famous for?
Going to a Luau in Hawaii is much more than just experiencing dinner and a show, it is experiencing a part of Hawaiian culture. Luaus date back to the early 1800's and are a feast accompanied by hula dancers and story tellers. There are many luaus to choose from in Maui, however, we chose to experience the Old Lahaina Luau as it is the most authentic luau on the island. With an open premium bar and all-you-can-eat fresh local foods such as poi, Laulau, Lomilomi, salmon, poke, and Kalau pig, this meal is one you will never forget.
Throughout the night you will be able to witness beautiful traditional dances told through century-old stories. The hula dancers and performers provide wonderful entertainment throughout the night and when choosing traditional seating, you get to have the closest seating to this spectacular show! Although this meal was much more than we would usually spend for dinner, we found the Old Lahaina Luau to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that was well worth every penny. Due to the popularity of this Luau, we recommend booking at least three months in advance to secure a table.
Tip: Purchase tickets at least 3 months in advance. Selecting "traditional seating" provides the closest seating to the show!
DTH is recommended by Guy Fieri in Diners Drive-ins & Dives and featured in Yelp's Top 100 US Restaurants 2022. We have to say, Down the Hatch is worth the hype with their open-air dining, daily live music, adult shaved ice from Breakwall Shaved Ice ($5 during happy hour) and delicious seafood items fresh off the grill.
The experience only gets better once you head here between 2-5pm for their daily happy hour. Enjoy some Hawaiian cocktails like their Lava Flow, Mai Tai, or Pina Colada. You will not be able to leave without trying their famous Lava Lava Shrimp or Lobster and Crab Grilled Cheese.
J&L Recommended: Amazing Happy Hour
3. Kihei Caffe
[Kihei & Lahaina]
A Hawaiian-style diner serving a variety of breakfast options. The Kihei Caffe may have an intimidating line wrapping around the building, however, it moves fast with their efficient counter-ordering style and is well worth the wait. Try their traditional Loco Moco, which is white rice topped with hamburger (can substitute for pork), fried egg, and brown gravy. You cannot go wrong with any of their breakfast options, however, when in Hawaii we recommend sampling some traditional Hawaiian favorites!
Try: the Hawaiian traditional Loco Moco!
Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish that is typically eaten as a snack on its own, however, poke bowls (poke served over rice) are becoming a very popular way to eat this traditional dish. Poke is raw ahi tuna or octopus cut into bite-sized pieces and seasoned. Maui Fish'n Chips is a classic place to grab a poke bowl and watch the sunset across the street at Kamaole Beach Park I. If you are not one for raw fish, Maui Fish'n Chips also has delicious teriyaki bowls as well!
[Lahaina, Kihei, Kahului, Wailuku, Paia]
Did you really go to Hawaii if you didn't have shaved ice? Shaved ice has been a cooling treat for Hawaiians since the early 20th century. Ululani's takes it one step further and provides a gourmet treat with over 50 specialty flavors and premium ingredients. With the amount of awards given to Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice, they truly are a contender for the best tasting shave ice experience possible. Taste the difference for yourself!
Also Read: 11 Best Restaurants of Maui
Where to find craft brews on Maui
Located in four different locations around Hawaii (Kihei location is roughly 30 min from Makawao), Maui Brewing Company is our favorite brewery on Hawaii. With a delicious variety of craft brews and tasty food to pair, Maui Brewing Company is a perfect way to end your day on Maui. If you are looking to learn more about the beer making process, you may consider booking one of their production facility tours or advanced beer tasting lessons during your stay. Our personal favorite brew was their Coconut Hiwa Porter [6% ABV; 30 IBU] brewed with coconut and containing hints of mocha. Visit during their daily happy hour [3:30-5:30pm] for $1 off house beers, $3 off craft cocktails, $10 pizzas, & 50% off select apps!
J&L Recommended: Coconut Hiwa Porter 6% ABV; 30 IBU
[Lahaina & Wailea]
Waikiki Brewing Company is based out of Honolulu but has a locations on Maui in both Lahaina and Wailea. We enjoyed dining at the Lahaina location due to its magnificent patio along the oceanfront.
The Jalapeño Mouth caught our attention right away due to its experimental nature. Brewed with fresh jalapeños in the bail, this brew gives off a green chili aroma and leaves a heat-flavored after taste. A beer unlike anything we have tried before and so well made, it keeps you wanting more.
J&L Recommended: Jalapeño Mouth - Chili/Chile Beer, 5.36% ABV 30 IBU
Located in Kula (roughly 20 minutes from Makawao) enjoy the 80-acre organic farm with incredible views from the slopes of Haleakala. For those 21 and older, take a farm tour and distillery tasting ($14.40/adult) to learn about their sustainable farming and sugar cane varieties. Enjoy their café (The Point) for food and drinks before or after your tour and experience incredible views of the Maui countryside.
Farm Tour & Distillery Tasting Tickets: $14.40/Adult
A quaint little coffee stand located downtown Makawao. Their delicious coffee is affordable, and is the perfect place to re-energize after a day of exploring Haleakala. The lines may get long due to their popularity, however, you can also order online for pickup!
We recommend trying their honey cream latte with mafia milk (mafia milk is made from cashews, coconuts, dates, vanilla, maple syrup, sea salt and filtered water) or their coconut cold brew.
5. Lava Java
This charming coffee shop in Kihei is located across from the beach and serves delicious Hawaiian coffee. Lava Java serves a variety of hot and cold coffee beverage. Our personal favorite was the Granita which is a frozen frosty mocha. These frosty drinks are an ideal way to stay refreshed in the Maui sun and re-energize for a day full of adventurous activities. Stop by Lava Java for your next morning beach stroll and you will not be disappointed!
J&L Recommended: Best Coffee on Maui
Planning Your Trip
What are the travel guidelines for visiting Hawaii during COVID-19?
With travel restrictions constantly changing, we recommend you visit the state of Hawaii's COVID-19 portal for the most up-to-date information.
Also Read: Kauai Hawaii Complete Guide
Suggested Duration On Maui
In order to complete our suggested hikes & day trips, we recommend spending at least one week on Maui
J&L Recommended: At Least 1 Week
When to go to Maui
To take advantage of the pleasant weather while experiencing a minimal amount of tourists, we would say the best time to visit Maui is on the shoulder seasons of April-May and September-November. The beauty of Maui is that there are comfortable temperatures year-round, however, rain is much more frequent in the winter. The heaviest tourist season are winter (for whale watching) and summer (least amount of rainfall), however, you may get the best of both worlds with minimal crowds by going to Maui in the spring or fall.
J&L Recommended: April - May & September - November
What side of Maui is best to stay on?
There are two main resort-areas of Maui: Kaanapali (west Maui) & Wailea (south Maui). While you certainly do not have to stay in a resort to enjoy your time on Maui, these resort towns are the two main areas people prefer to book their lodging due to its proximity to towns, restaurants, and beautiful beaches. However, for more affordable lodging that leads to an authentic Hawaiian experience, you may consider booking an Airbnb/VRBO at the neighboring towns or Lahaina (west Maui) or Kihei (south Maui).
Once you decide your preference of resort vs. vacation rental, it still leaves the question of which side of Maui is best to stay on? There is no correct answer, however, we have outlined some of the pros and cons of each area to help you make an informed decision.
West Maui Pros:
Close proximity to the quaint and historic town of Lahaina, home to traditional Luau's, beautiful beaches, harbors, and a massive Banyan tree located in the town square.
More dining & shopping options
Close proximity to some of Maui's best beaches, Kaanapali Beach and Black Rocks Beach
West Maui Cons:
It rains more frequently on the west side of Maui. Due to the trade winds, it could be raining in one town on Maui, but not the neighboring town. Weather is variable and most periods of rain do not last very long. Use the Interactive Rainfall Atlas of Hawaii for a better understanding of where rain is frequent on the island.
A slightly farther distance for day-trips to Road to Hana (50 min) and Haleakala (1 hour 45 min)
South Maui Pros:
It rains much less frequently on the south side of Maui. Use the Interactive Rainfall Atlas of Hawaii for a better understanding of where rain is frequent on the island.
A slightly closer distance for day-trips to the start of Road to Hana (35 min) and Haleakala (1 hour 30 min)
Close proximity to some of Maui's best beaches, Wailea Beach, Keawakapu Beach, Makena Beach, & Kamaole Beach Park I (our personal favorite).
South Maui Cons:
Less dining & shopping options, however, with that comes a more relaxing environment.
Less history with less quaint towns as south Maui is a more recently developed area.
After deciding which side of the island meets your preferences, search for a great deal on Maui hotels during your travel dates below!
Weighing the pros and cons above, we decided to stay in Kihei on the south side of Maui. We stayed in a wonderful VRBO right across from Kamaole Beach Park II and found our location to be perfect for a 9-day trip on Maui. We took day-trips to Lahaina/Kaanapali when the weather was nice and enjoyed the relaxing/less touristy beaches located right outside our door. We also recommend you check Booking.com for hotel deals in the area you chose to stay.
J&L Recommended Location: Wonderful VRBO in Kihei
Getting Around Maui
What is the best way to get around Maui?
The best way to get around Maui is by car. If you are planning to visit multiple areas of the island, the best thing to do would be to rent a car. Depending on the activities you plan on doing on the island, a SUV or truck may be your preference due to less maintained roads. However, if your plan is to visit the popular attractions and parks of Maui, a sedan will suffice.
Is there cellular service in Maui?
There is cellular service within most towns of Maui. However, be prepared for limited to no cellular service when hiking in Maui's parks. SAFETY TIP: learn how to download interactive maps to your phone that can give you driving, walking, & biking directions even without cellular service! Visit our Exclusive Content to learn more.