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 the Hawaiian people’s 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, barricades or on private (kapu) 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

South Shore (Kihei & Wailea)

Hotel Wailea
Four Seasons Maui at Wailea

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

• 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 to snorkel at Molokini Crater
• Snorkel at La Perouse Bay
Planning your trip to Maui? Advice from a Hawaii local!

West Shore (Lahaina & Ka’anapali)

Hyatt Regency Maui

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!
Local Boys – yummy shave ice
Star Noodle – Be sure to make reservations for this Food Network favorite
Lahaina Grill – For a fancier dinner
Pacifico – Another spot for a fancier dinner
Sea House – I love this place for sunset happy hour! Be sure the request the corner of the bar, or lanai
Japengo – For a whole dining experience, inside the Ka’anapali Resort
Mala Tavern – Good for brunch, lunch or dinner. Right on the water. They often have live music
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

• 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!
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
Mana Foods – Organic grocery store with many to-go options
Paia Fish Market – Multiple locations (including my home island). Really yummy, but casual seafood
Vana Paia – Good sushi and great cocktails
Surfclub Tacos – If you’re craving tacos!
Choice Health Bar – Counter service spot for healthy but delish 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.
Planning your trip to Maui? Advice from a Hawaii local!

Up Country (Makawao, Kula)

The Farmacy – Heatlhy and organic counter service spot
Nuka – Japanese food with a focus on local and simple ingredients
Komodo Store and Bakery – Yummy spot for pastries, donuts, malasadas
Joy’s Place Live – Handcrafted health foods and drinks
Hali’i Maile – Maui’s original farm to table restaurant

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

Central (Kahului)

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

Hike in the Iao Valley
Planning your trip to Maui? Advice from a Hawaii local!