Maui Travel Guide Contents
Some say that Maui is shaped like an hourglass or figure 8, others compare it to woman’s body with narrow waist. National travel magazines praise it as “The World’s Best Island”, and the locals coined the phrase Maui No Ka Oi, meaning Maui Is The Best.
Maui has two distinct volcanic parts, connected by a valley, hence the nick name “The Valley Isle”. The smaller part – West Maui – was formed an estimated 1.7 million years ago, the volcanic activity is extinct, the mountains are eroded and have lush green ridges and deep valleys. One of the wettest places on Earth is located in these mountains, while the West Shore enjoys sunny weather and plenitude of beaches with world-famous Kaanapali Beach.
East Maui is much larger with majestic dormant volcano Haleakala dominating the landscape. Haleakala means House Of The Sun; here climbed Hawaiian demigod Maui to capture the sun, to force it to move slower and to lengthen the day. It’s to Maui we owe the creation of Hawaii, which he pulled out of the ocean island by island. East Maui is almost twice as young as West Maui, and Haleakala is almost twice as high at 10,023 feet (3,055 m). From the Jaws surf break in the north to Road to Hana in the east and to beaches of the sunny South Shore, also called the Gold Coast, there is plenty to do and see for everyone in East Maui.
Maui has sister islands, which together comprise Maui County: Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe. They greatly attribute to enchanting views from Maui coastline. You can take a ferry to visit Lanai from Lahaina in the West Maui. A crescent-shaped old volcanic crater of Molokini, between Maui and Kahoolawe, is one of the best diving and snorkeling spots in the world.
How to Get to Maui
Everybody flies to Maui, except folks taking ferry from Lanai or from a cruise. All mainland and international flights arrive to Kahului Airport (OGG) – Maui’s main airport. Two other airports – Kapalua Airport (JHM) in West Maui and Hana Airport (HNM) in East Maui – are served by commuter planes from other islands, air taxis and general aviation. Many airlines offer direct flights to Maui as well as flights with a stop in Honolulu, Oahu.
The budget-friendly Southwest Airlines recently announced plans to launch new flights between four California cities to four largest Hawaiian islands – Big Island, Maui, Oahu and Kauai – by the end of 2018.
Where to Stay in Maui
Maui is often divided in 6 regions, that differ by geography, climate and activities. Here is your Maui Travel Guide quick orientation to those areas.
South Maui or South Shore stretches from Maalaea to Makena along the coast lined with variety of calm swimmable beaches. This is the driest and sunniest part of Maui, a popular tourist destination. Vacation condos abound, especially in Kihei. Wailea and Makena boast a number of luxury lodging options, golf courses and stunning beaches. Here you’ll find largest beach on Maui – Makena Beach or Big Beach.
West Maui or West Shore is the next driest and sunniest area, more touristy than South Shore. Lahaina is the main port for multiple ocean excursions, its charming Front Street bustling with galleries, restaurants and nightclubs. World-famous Kaanapali beach is home to many resorts and Whalers Village Shopping Mall. And Kapalua is famous for scenic beaches, chic hotels and championship golf courses.
Activities and Attractions
It’s just our Maui Travel Guide opinion of course, but if we were asked to recommend the ultimate must-see places on Maui, we would name Haleakala, Molokini and Road to Hana, in that order. Those three nature marvels are unique to Maui, and there are different ways to see them, depending on your physical abilities and preferences. We also highly recommend visiting Iao Valley State Park because of its natural beauty and great historical importance. Make sure to include leisure activities into your itinerary to unwind and loosen up.
Haleakala National Park
Check Haleakala Park’s official website for all latest developments, including road closures, their calendar of events, free admission days, and rules for military free passes. The park is huge, but most people come to the Haleakala’s summit to watch sunrise or to bike down it’s gentle slopes. May companies offer those tours. We like Skyline Hawaii guided tours. You might want to schedule this trip for your first days in Maui. Coming from the mainland you will be a few hours ahead of the local time, and it will be much easier to leave at 2 am for the early tour. It’s really cold at sunrise at the summit, you can never have enough layers!
Attention! If you are not taking a tour and are driving to see sunrise in your own car, make an advanced reservation! All cars, entering the park from 3 am to 7 am, need a confirmed reservation.
Molokini is a crescent-shaped partially sunken volcanic crate. Marine life flocks into its sheltered waters, creating a natural aquarium that is quite safe for humans too! Considered the best snorkeling spot in Maui and on the Best 10 list of scuba diving sites in the world, it merits a visit. Trilogy Tours to Molokini are everyone’s favorite!
According to Hawaiian lore, Molokini was a beautiful woman and one of countless victims of Pele – the fierce goddess of fire. Pele was in love with a man, who fell in love with Molokini. Pele’s revenge was lightning fast. The body of the woman became the Molokini islet, and her head – the Red Hill (Pu’u Olai) about 2.5 miles across Molokini, in Makena State park.
Road to Hana
Whether you choose to drive Road to Hana yourself or take a guided tour, it will be one of the most memorable experiences of your Maui vacation. Learn about many of the best Road to Hana stops or follow Shaka Guide Classic Road to Hana Driving Tour, which will guide you to 9 waterfalls, 10 vistas and 6 hikes on Road to Hana. To help you decide whether you want to embark on this adventure, and what options will work best for you, read some Yelp reviews, both positive and negative.
about 5-6 hours (depending where you start). Plan to get dinner somewhere amazing in Kihei afterwards.
Book a massage with an experienced massage therapist, or reserve a student clinic session at a reduced rate. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Maui Luaus to make a better decision which Maui luau to attend. Visit a spa, go on a sunset cruise, or create a work of art to always remind you of Maui.
Consider an unhurried drive to the summit of Haleakala in the afternoon. It’s not as crowded as at the sunrise time and warmer at 10,023 feet altitude. Watching the sunset at Haleakala and then stargazing can be a mesmerizing experience, much different from watching the sunset at the sea level.
In some condominium resorts there is an activity desk on-site. For example, Kamaole Sands Resort in Maui, has an activity desk near the pool. On your first full day in the resort, you can attend a free island orientation with complimentary breakfast to learn about Maui and available activities. You can comfortably talk to a travel agent and select your excursions while watching your kids enjoying the pool.
Transportation in Maui
For independent and active travelers, Maui Travel Guide recommends renting a car. All the major car rental companies are located near Kahului Airport (OGG). There are also local companies offering older cars at budget prices. For comparison an sample quotes, check out The Cheapest Maui Car Rental for a Larger Car. Soak in the aloha spirit, drive slowly, be respectful, let locals pass, and enjoy the views.
Turo.com lets you rent a car from local private car owners. They might have great deals for your dates.
Variety of taxi companies serve the island. Just google “taxi in maui” for a few phone numbers.
Maui Taxi Reviews on Yelp
Public Transportation on Maui
13 bus routes are operated by Roberts Hawaii 7 days a week, including holidays. For route maps, bus schedules and rules, visit Maui Bus Public Transit System official website.
But using public transportation always involves some advance planning and additional waiting times.
Turtle Trucks Electric Shuttle
Clean open-air electric vehicles came to South Shore! Turtle tracks ot turtles are street legal on roads that have speed limits of up to 35 mph. They operate on South Kihei Road, and provide service to Wailea. Call, text, or wave them down!
Visit Turtle Tracks Shuttle Service to get the phone numbers.
Getting Travel Protection
You never plan to cancel your trip or get sick on vacation, but circumstances can change any time. When you book a vacation rental in Maui, you save double or triple over what you pay for a hotel room, but the cancellation policy is usually strict. The best way to protect your lodging costs is to buy a travel insurance. It will reimburse your money in many different qualifying cases: having to cancel because of a medical condition, any unfortunate event during vacations, etc. A few travel insurance companies Maui Travel Guide recommends:
Make sure you sign a contract with the vacation rental owner, so you can submit it to the insurance when you file a claim for reimbursement.
Packing for Your Maui Trip
We prepared an extensive and all-inclusive Hawaii Packing List, that can be personalized according to your desires. With Maui Travel Guide’s 5 printable checklists you will be quickly packed and on your way!
Getting Help in Case of Emergency
Check the following links for official and updated contact information.