Planning your trip to Maui, Hawaii!

All of the Hawaiian Islands are so beautiful, but so diverse! Though I live in Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, I travel frequently to the outer islands for work and fun! I’ve been lucky enough to visit Maui dozens and dozens of times. When I think of the Valley Isle, I think of bougie resorts, upscale dining, and of course epic beaches and lush waterfalls. Maui, as a whole, is way more chill than Honolulu and Waikiki, but still has everything you need and an endless variety of lodging and dining options. Planning your trip to Maui? Read on…

Though the island seems small at first glance, Maui is actually large enough that driving distances must be considered. Plus traffic moves slowly. So I’m breaking this post up into sections organized by the area of the island.

But! First things first! When visiting Maui, or any of the islands, please remember to respect the land, the locals, and the sea life. Hawaii is an incredibly special place, and deserves to be treated as such. A few basics:

• Practice aloha! This word is so much more than a greeting. It’s also love, peace, and compassion
• Be kind to the people you meet and remember that Hawaii is native Hawaiians’ home! We are all lucky to be here!
• Leave no trace. Be sure to clean up after yourself and leave things as you found them, if not better. (i.e. pick up that piece of trash on the beach, even if it’s not yours.)
• Don’t trespass past signs (kapu = forbidden), barricades, or on private property
• Try to avoid geotagging specific locations on Instagram. Places that were once sacred and private are becoming overrun due to social media. If you find a special spot, tag it more discreetly using simply “Maui,” the name of the closest town, or something vague
• Use reef safe sunscreen
• Never touch, approach, chase, or feed wildlife, such as sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals, dolphins or whales
• Shop small and support local when you can

, Updated January 2024
As most are aware, devastating fires spread across parts of Maui August 8-11, 2023. The coastal town of Lahaina was hit especially hard causing mass destruction and tragic loss of life. There was a lot of conflicting news and information on social media immediately following the disaster about whether or not tourists should continue to visit Maui. I am not native Hawaii, nor am I resident of the island of Maui, so I am not a person to speak on the proper protocol in this situation. That being said, from what I’ve heard from neighbors, friends, and fellow business owners who reside on Maui, is that Maui is open; Lahaina is closed. Please do your own research and if you do visit Maui, understand what the people of Maui have endured (the fires may be over, the effects are long lasting), and please travel with extra compassion and aloha! It’s especially important, now more than ever, to support the local people and their businesses. Do not attempt to visit areas that are closed or kapu (private).

South Shore (Kihei & Wailea)

Hotel Wailea
Four Seasons Maui at Wailea
Fairmont Kea Lani

Ka’ana Kitchen – My go-to for a special dinner, located inside the Andaz resort
Morimoto – Another spot at Andaz. Modern Japanese
– often recommended as the best dinner spot on Maui. In the Fairmont Kea Lani
Spago – For a fancy night out at the Four Seasons
The Birdcage Bar – Sunset views, cool vibes and unique cocktails within the Wailea Hotel
Monkeypod – Good happy hour! My fav place to get a Mai Tai
Lineage – Delish food and drinks in Wailea
Maui Brewing – Multiple locations, but their Kihei brewery headquarters is the best!
Three’s Bar and Grill – Great happy hour and really good Bloody Mary’s
Coconut’s Fish Cafe – Casual, counter place with THE BEST 17-ingredient fish tacos
Kihei Caffe – Great breakfast spot and worth the wait! Once you order at the counter, food comes quickly
Hawaiian Moons – Organic and natural foods grocer with lots of to-go deli options
South Shore Tiki Lounge – For cocktails and a little bit of Tiki flair
Ululani’s – My favorite shave ice on Maui. Multiple locations

• Enjoy a beach day at Big Beach (and be sure to hike over to Little Beach, an unofficial nude beach)
• Rent a SUP or surf board from Maui Wave Riders
• Whale watch (winter only) with Pacific Whale Foundation
• Take a boat snorkel tour to Molokini Crater
• Rent your own gear in Kihei and snorkel at La Perouse Bay
• If you don’t have the budget to stay at the Andaz, you can still rent a cabana or do a day pass with ResortPass to use their incredible pools
Planning your trip to Maui? Advice from a Hawaii local!

West Shore (Lahaina & Ka’anapali)

Hyatt Regency Maui
Montage Kapalua Bay
Ritz Carlton

Cane & Canoe – Upscale dinner spot within the Montage
Japengo – For a whole dining experience, inside the Hyatt Regency
Merriman’s – Make reservations for sunset cocktails on the large, outdoor lanai. If you’re there in the winter months, you’ll likely see whales!
Sea House – I love this place for sunset happy hour! Be sure the request the corner of the bar, or lanai
Gazebo – Very famous breakfast spot, line to be seated can be long. I’ve actually never been here, but it’s on my list. Let me know if you go and it’s good!
Moku Roots – Veg and health focused counter spot
Leoda’s – Made famous for their pies. If you’re staying on the West Side, stop by to grab to-go items for your hotel room

The following are currently closed, but have indicated they may reopen in the future. You can check their websites for updates, and many have donation options for their employees – a great way to donate directly to people impacted by the fires.
Mala Tavern – Good for brunch, lunch or dinner. Right on the water. They often have live music OPENING FEBRUARY, 1, 2024
Lahaina Grill – For a fancier dinner
Pacifico – Another spot for a fancier dinner
Star Noodle – Be sure to make reservations for this Food Network favorite
Down the Hatch – They have good food, but I come here if I want late night pupus or drinks at the bar. Largely outdoors. Featured on Diners, Drive-In’s, and Dives
Local Boys – yummy shave ice

• Visit Ironwood Beach (can be windy)
• Hike the Kapalua Coastal Trail
• View Dragon’s Teeth and the Nakalele Blowhole
• Wade in the Olivine Pools (use extreme caution, watch the waves, and know if rocks are wet, chances are rouge waves can hit at any moment)
• Cliff jump and snorkel at Black Rock on Ka’anapali Beach
• Hike the Waihe’e Ridge Trail

North Shore (Paia)

The Paia Inn

Mama’s Fish House – A Maui staple. Famous for a reason. Reservations required 3-6 months in advance!
Vana Paia – Good sushi and great cocktails
Cafe Mambo – I’ve tried a lot of Bloody Mary’s on Maui, but Cafe Mambo makes my fav. This is the spot for breakfast or brunch on the North Shore
Cafe Des Amis – So many yummy sweet or savory crepe options
Paia Fish Market – Multiple locations (including my home island). Really yummy, but casual seafood
Surfclub Tacos – If you’re craving tacos!
Choice Health Bar – Counter service spot for healthy but delish options
Mana Foods – Organic grocery store with many to-go options
Coconut Glenn’s – This is the only spot on my list outside of Paia. Along the Hana Highway, mile marker 27 1/2. Super good coconut based ice cream. Glenn is super nice too!

• Watch the local windsurfers at Baldwin Beach
• See sea turtles (from a respectable distance! Never touch or feed!) at Ho’okipa Beach
• Travel the Road to Hana! Though short in miles by mainland standards, it will take you all day because there are endless things to see and do! Do your research ahead of time so you know your top priorities. My favorite stops are Twin Falls, Garden of Eden Arboretum, Chings Pond, Three Bears, and Wai’anapanapa State Park. Now we’re getting into East Maui territory, but once you hit Hana, I highly recommend continuing the drive (vs turning back) if your rental car agreement allows you to do so. If you do, be sure to stop at the Venus Pool, and the ‘Ohe’o Gulch (aka Seven Sacred Pools). From there, if you have time, hike the Pipiwai Trail (though a magical bamboo forest) to Waimoku Falls. If you happen to pass it while it’s open, check out the General Store in Kaupo.
• Wander around in Paia (it’s small and walkable) and visit all the cute local shops and boutiques
Planning your trip to Maui? Advice from a Hawaii local!

Up Country (Makawao, Kula)

Nuka – Japanese food with a focus on local and simple ingredients
Hali’i Maile – Maui’s original farm to table restaurant
Restaurant Marlow – Cute spot with great Italian food
The Farmacy – Heatlhy and organic counter service spot
Joy’s Place Live – Healthy options and fresh juices, to go
Komodo Store and Bakery – Yummy spot for pastries, donuts, malasadas

• Visit Haleakala Crater at sunrise (requires reservations) or sunset
• Visit Maui Wine (try the pineapple blanc)
• Hike in the Makawao Forest
• Visit Ali’i Kula lavender farm
• Visit (and support!) the Leilani Farm Sanctuary
• Taste Maui’s own Ocean Organic Vodka at their Distillery
• Wander around in Makawao (it’s small and walkable) and visit the cute boutiques like Holoholo Surf and Driftwood

Central (Kahului)

Tin Roof – local flavors from a local Hawaiian chef. He even has a cookbook!
Cafe O’Lei (formerly Mill House) – For a special dinner out!
Fork & Salad – Counter service spot with healthy bowls and salads
Broth / Alive & Well – counter service spot. This is always my first stop when I land (as it’s close to airport). I like to stock up on fresh juice for my stay

• Hike in the Iao Valley
• Do a doors-off helicopter tour!
Planning your trip to Maui? Advice from a Hawaii local!