Maui, Hawaii Travel Guide
- Kahului Airport accommodates international and interisland flights, including direct flights from several West Coast cities.
- South Maui offers almost perfect weather -- dry, arid, and near 85 degrees year round.
- A wide variety of beaches for a wide range of activities: swimming, surfing (beginner to expert), windsurfing, snorkeling, and diving
- Clear waters surround most of the island for great snorkeling, sometimes right in front of the resort; incredible snorkel and dive sites, including Molokini Crater, Lanai Cathedrals II, Black Sand Beach, and Makena Landing.
- Condo rentals and time-share properties offer affordable lodging alternatives.
- World-class golf at the Wailea Golf Club, the Kapalua Resort, and the Kaanapali Golf Resort
- Hawaii's most scenic drive, Hana Highway on Maui's undeveloped eastern coast, studded with waterfalls, hidden beaches, and natural pools
- Maui's roads and highways are mostly well marked and easily navigable, although the famous Hana Highway is probably the state's most notoriously difficult to navigate.
- The world's largest dormant volcano is easily accessible at Haleakala National Park -- hundreds of visitors drive to its summit before dawn to watch spectacular sunrises.
- Vibrant nightlife in Lahaina, the island's busiest town
- Hawaii's best whale watching from mid-December to mid-May; boat tours leave daily from Lahaina and whales are sometimes visible from the coast
- State laws prohibit smoking in all public and enclosed spaces, leaving Hawaii virtually smoke-free.
- Flights from the U.S. mainland directly to Maui usually cost $100 to $200 more than flights to Oahu.
- Minimal public transportation; rental cars are a virtual necessity for visiting many Maui attractions.
- Limited budget accommodations (most are condos and time-shares) that almost never dip below $100 per night; conventional budget hotels or resorts are few and far between.
- Most resorts are at least 30 minutes away from Kahului Airport.
- State laws prohibit smoking in all public and enclosed spaces, leaving smokers with next to nowhere to smoke.
- Few mainland chain banks -- expect a lot of $2 ATM charges
- Roads to several of Maui's hallmark sites are difficult to drive, most notably the 37-mile Hana Highway, which requires drivers to navigate some 600 turns and 57 one-lane bridges.
What It's Like
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.
Where To Stay
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 Kaanapali, 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 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.
East Maui is home to Hawaii's best-known scenic drive: Hana Highway, 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, 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.