Hawaii's second largest island, Maui arguably lives up to its boastful slogan "Maui no ka 'oi" ("Maui is the best"). Its diverse natural landscape includes the most miles of swimmable beach of any Hawaiian island, the world's largest dormant volcano, and a variety of microclimates that range from desert to jungle (and temperatures that plunge below freezing at its highest elevations). The island is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts: There's windsurfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, road and mountain biking, and, along the state's scenic Hana Highway in East Maui, hiking trails, waterfalls, natural pools, and remote beaches. Maui is not only for the active and rugged, though; there's plenty of opportunity for beach-, golf-, pool-, and spa-centric vacations along miles of beachfront development. It offers an equally wide range of accommodations: stereotypical beachfront resorts; condo and time-share properties; and secluded, rustic hotels in undeveloped areas. Maui's most obvious shortcoming is its lack of an urban center: It doesn't have a metropolis that comes close to Honolulu in size, population, or urban culture, and even its most lively town, Lahaina, generally shuts down by what locals jokingly refer to as "Maui midnight" -- 10 p.m. But it has more nightlife, entertainment, and shopping than Kauai and the Big Island, Hawaii's other popular island destinations.
Maui's size and diversity can be overwhelming, but most accommodations are fairly concentrated within South and West Maui. Both face the island's western coast, which receives the most consistently sunny, dry, and least windy weather -- and has some of the most pleasant swimming beaches on the island. It's also ideal for watching the island's famously beautiful sunsets; resorts and restaurants are nearly all oriented for views of the sun dipping below the ocean horizon.
South Maui is the island's most upscale area in general, and the one with the most consistent weather. Wailea is its central resort area and home to some of Maui's best-known, high-end resorts, including the Four Seasons Maui, Fairmont Kea Lani, and Grand Wailea. While it's hard to find a property in Wailea with less than 300 rooms, or one that charges less than $400 a night, nearby Kihei, just north of Wailea, offers plenty of lower-priced alternatives. Kihei budget options, like the Maui Hill and the Maui Coast Hotel, feature far fewer rooms and amenities than those in Wailea, and are across the street from the beach, rather than directly on it.
West Maui encompasses several areas, but the biggest is Sheraton Maui, located in front of the area's historic Black Rock, where a nightly torch-lighting and dive ceremony takes place, and the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, which has a unique Hawaiian cultural program and a tiki bar that offers the best resort nightlife. South of Kaanapali is Lahaina, a touristy, bustling town with the best nightlife on Maui, though lodging here is limited and not on the beach. To the north of Kaanapali are more remote resorts in Kapalua and Napili, notably, the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua -- a top Maui resort in a secluded locale with more unpredictable weather than most areas on the island., Hawaii's first master-planned resort town. Built on converted sugarcane fields in the 1960s, its impressive lineup of several-hundred-room resorts is stacked along four miles of uninterrupted beach, and each contains its own complex of pools, restaurants, and amenities. Standouts include the
East Maui is home to Hawaii's best-known scenic drive: Hotel Hana, is also one of the only options in East Maui. It offers unplugged luxury in rooms and cottages without TVs or radios and sits on a beautifully secluded, oceanside perch., a twisting, often one-lane coastal highway that's as dizzyingly difficult to drive as it is gorgeous. The lush, undeveloped east coast is full of natural landmarks like waterfalls, secluded beaches, and natural pools. Accommodations are nearly nonexistent; the island's most unique lodging,
June - Aug.; Dec. - March; school vacation periods
June 1-Nov. 30