A trip to Maui allows you to enjoy fun in the sun while learning all about Hawaiian culture, landscapes, and so much more. Made from two interconnected shield volcanoes, this stunning island offers picturesque views from every angle plus exciting activities for all ages. The food is out of this world delicious, too, especially if you seek out all the island classics. Ready to make the most of your trip? Use this guide to learn everything you need to know before visiting Maui.
All About Maui
Well-known as the second-largest Hawaiian island, Maui offers more than 700 square miles of land to explore. The majority of the hotels, restaurants, and attractions lie between the two shield volcanoes and all along the coast. Well-preserved parklands make up the rest of the island, allowing you to get away from it all while exploring the beauty of paradise.
Each year, more than three million visitors arrive in Maui ready to hit the beach and explore the island from end to end. The number of tourists landing on the island peaks in the summer months, and then again in the winter season. Since the climate remains absolutely pleasant, if not outright gorgeous, year-round, there’s really no bad time to visit. Rough surf in the winter months can make the ocean beaches a no-go at times, however.
With over 120 miles of coastline to explore across Maui, it’s best to visit during the summer if you’re looking forward to enjoying the sand and surf to the fullest. Otherwise, you can look forward to seeing the humpback whales spending time in the Auau Channel in the winter. Or simply enjoy all the wonderful things to do in Kahului, Lahaina, Kihei, and all the other major cities on the island.
Although the beaches get the most attention, other popular landmarks in Maui include:
- Hana Highway
- Maui Arts & Cultural Center
- Historic Makawao Town
- Haleakala Highway
- Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center
- Kahekili Highway
- Maui Tropical Plantation
- Leilani Farm Sanctuary
- Maui Raceway Park
- Ocean Science Discovery Center
The easiest way to see all the amazing landmarks inland and along the coast is by joining an adventure tour. Many top-notch companies offer guided tours by ATV, bus, boat, and helicopter. You can also find hiking tours that take you deep into the national parklands and forest reserves.
Most Popular Things to Do
While visiting Maui, you can spend time along the coast, explore all the parklands, or stay in town. Many visitors end up splitting their time between all these areas to fully enjoy all the island experiences.
When you want to enjoy oceanside fun, you have about 80 beaches to choose from, all of which have their own unique aesthetic. In South Maui, you can lounge on the jet-black sands and explore cave pools, blowholes, and sea arches at Waianapanapa State Park.
For truly unique views, visit Kaihalulu Beach, which is better known as Red Sand Beach. The vivid crimson sands come from the nearby cinder cone that formed around the vents of the volcano. Want to enjoy classic golden sands, crystal clear water, and lava rocks galore? Just go on over to Kapalua Beach in West Maui.
The beaches vary not just in the color of their sand, but also in their weather, surf conditions, wildlife, and so much more. So, get to know all the beaches you plan to visit and abide by all the local safety warnings. If you want inside info on each beach, sign up for guided snorkeling tours, surf lessons, and other group activities.
Exploring all the parklands across the island demands just as much care whether you’re traveling on foot, horseback, or ATV. While on the eastern side of the island, consider checking out the Hana Forest Reserve, Kula Forest Reserve, or Haleakala National Park. To the west, you can visit the West Maui Forest Reserve and all its surrounding parklands.
If you prefer to stay in town, you might want to:
- Sample local sweet treats on the Maui Chocolate Tours
- Watch the Old Lahaina Luau while dining on Hawaiian classics
- Get the full tour and tasting experience at the Maui Brewing Company
- Play a round or two of golf on any of the stunning Maui golf courses
- Hang out with the ultra-cute goats at the Surfing Goat Dairy
The sky is the limit in what you can do while visiting Maui. Just reflect on all your favorite activities, and then set out to cross all the top items off your bucket list. In between all your adventures, be sure to stop by the locally owned and operated eateries, bars, and shave ice shacks to fuel up for more fun.
Getting to Maui
To arrive in beautiful Maui, just buy plane tickets from your major airline of choice, like Alaska, Delta, or United. The total cost of your tickets will depend on your departure location, travel date, and flight type.
Tickets for non-stop flights during the peak travel season will cost the most, no matter where you’re coming from. To save money, you can push your vacation into the off-season and allow one to two layovers.
Unless you’re traveling on commuter flights, you’ll land at Kahului Airport. As Maui’s main airport, it’s always plenty busy. In fact, more than 2,600 passengers arrive there each day. So, plan to get there early for your flights and expect a bit of a wait while getting through security, collecting your baggage, and everything in between.
When flying in and out of Maui, it’s important to remember:
- The airport has a limit of two checked bags per traveler
- You can only carry on one personal item, like a purse, backpack, or laptop bag
- All bags must weigh less than 50 pounds while flying domestically
Also, remember to have your fresh pineapples, tropical plants, and other agricultural souvenirs shipped back home. Otherwise, you’ll need to show proof that you’re an approved exporter or your items will get confiscated by customs.
You have many high-quality lodging options while visiting Maui, including:
- Bed and breakfasts
- Beach houses
All the major cities and coastal towns have lodging options for your consideration. Near the Waihee Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge, you can find many beachside cottage rentals. Or you can stay in the lush acacia koa forest by renting a cabin near the Haupaakea Peak.
If you prefer an all-inclusive vacation with luxury rooms plus access to onsite restaurants, spas, golf courses, and other attractions, choose a resort instead. You have many awesome options all over the island, including the:
- Hyatt Regency Maui Report and Spa
- Montage Kapalua Bay
- Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
- Kaanapali Beach Club
- The Ritz-Carlton Maui
- Royal Lahaina Resort
- Hotel Wailea
To find your ideal accommodations, think about where you’ll likely spend most of your time while visiting the island. Then, look for your preferred accommodation type in that area.
Each section of the island has a wide range of lodging options, making it easy to find convenient accommodations that suit your preferences and budget. For the best rates, book your accommodations well ahead of time. And consider bundling your lodging with your plane tickets and rental car.
While visiting Maui, you can travel across the island by taxi, shuttle, or tour bus from companies like:
- Maui Express Shuttle & Tours
- CB Taxi Maui
- West Maui Taxi
- Hana Tours of Maui
- Hop On Hop Off Hula Hula Hopper
The Kahului Airport offers a shuttle service at the counter in the baggage claim area. They will take you to your hotel without any reservations needed. At the end of your visit, you can call for a ride back to the airport as well.
If you want to travel across the island on public transportation, the Maui Bus is the way to go. The bus starts running around 6:30 am and goes until 10 pm in most areas. The 14 routes only go across the west and central parts of the island, however. So, you’re out of luck if you want to head east.
By getting a ride around town, you can skip worries about navigating through traffic, finding parking, and fueling up your vehicle. You might experience delays during peak travel periods, however, causing you to miss out on key activities during your visit.
If you’d like to hit the road at your own convenience, consider renting a car while you’re in town. All you have to do is sign up for a car rental upon arriving at the Kahului Airport. Then, at the end of your trip, you can drop it back off at the airport before catching your flight home.
You have your choice of coupes, sedans, and SUVs, but it’s best to go with the smallest car that will work for your needs. Many venues have street parking only, after all, so it’ll be easier to find open spots while piloting a coupe. If you’re going to spend a lot of time surfing, paddleboarding, and kayaking, on the other hand, get a vehicle that will easily haul your rental gear.
Whether you’re getting a ride or driving your rental car, always aim to leave early for your engagements. Traffic can get backed up fast, especially along the major thoroughfares like Kula Highway, Maui Veterans Highway, and Hana Highway.
For that reason, it’s often best to group up your activities in a way that limits drive times. You can then work many additional stops in your day without worrying about using up all your time on the road.
Hospitals and Other Care Centers
As you go on all your Maui adventures, there’s always a chance of illness or injury arising. When that happens, you’re only a short drive away from quality hospitals and other medical centers. If you’re experiencing a medical emergency, don’t hesitate to call 911 for an ambulance.
The only hospitals on the island with 24-hour emergency rooms are:
Kula Hospital: 100 Keokea Place, Kula, Hawaii 96790
Maui Memorial Medical Center: 221 Mahalani Street, Wailuku, Hawaii 96793
In most cases, Kula Hospital will stabilize patients, and then transfer them to Maui Memorial. So, it’s best to go straight there if you are well enough to travel the extra distance.
If you’re not seriously ill or injured, you might want to visit an urgent care center instead. You have many options along the Honoapiilani Highway in West Maui, including Minit Medical Urgent Care Clinic. Other urgent care centers on the island include Urgent Care Wailea Makena in South Maui and Kross Island Prompt Care in Kihei.
When dental emergencies arise, go to the Maui Dental Group in Kihei. Although they may not fully repair the problem in just one visit, they will help eliminate infection and reduce pain. You can then return to your regular dentist once you get home to complete the repairs.
Where to Shop for All Your Essentials
You’re never far away from grocery stores, malls, and many other retail venues while visiting Maui. For groceries, you can visit Safeway, Whole Foods, and other big chains. Or you can support locals by shopping at mom-and-pop shops, like Foodland Super Market, Richards Market, and Island Gourmet Markets.
If you’d like to save money by buying in bulk, travel up to Costco in Kahului. The local farmer’s markets also offer excellent deals on fresh local produce, ready-made foods, and artisan goods. Every corner of the island has its own farmers markets running throughout the week.
On Saturday from 7 am to 12 pm, go to the Upcountry Farmers Market at Pukalani Longs Drugs at Kulamalu. All day on Monday and Thursday, you can hit up the Ono Organic Farms Farmers Market along the Hana Highway in East Maui. That’s just the start, too. There’s at least one farmer’s market open every day of the week across the island.
When you want to shop for a little of everything, visit the shopping centers, such as:
- Whalers Village: 2435 Kaanapali Parkway, Lahaina, Hawaii 96761
- The Shops at Wailea: 3750 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea, Hawaii 96753
- Queen Kaahumanu Center: 275 West Kaahumanu Avenue, Kahului, Hawaii 96732
- Azeka Shopping Center: 1279-1280 South Kihei Road, Kihei, Hawaii 96753
- Lahaina Cannery Mall: 1221 HI-30, Lahaina, Hawaii 96761
To get stellar deals, put the Maui Swap Meet on your itinerary. At this Saturday morning flea market, you can find clothing, shoes, jewelry, and other amazing goods to give as gifts or keep as souvenirs.
Key Safety Considerations
As with all the Hawaiian Islands, Maui is a relatively safe place to travel on your own or with friends and family. To make it even safer, keep all of the following top safety considerations in mind while going on your adventures.
Beach adventures are a must while visiting Maui. Unfortunately, even on the calmest of days, the ocean is wholly unpredictable. You never know when a big wave will sneak up and crash into the shore. On top of that, the conditions can change at a moment’s notice, transforming calm surf into rough waves.
Although you cannot predict what the ocean will do throughout the day, every trip to the beach should start with a look at the current conditions. The Maui Beach Safety website closely monitors conditions at every major point around the island and updates its pages in real time. You can also check the weather for signs of rain and windstorms rolling into the area.
If you want to take your safety to the next level, invest in an emergency weather radio and tune it to Station KBA99 or WWG75. The National Weather Service will send out alerts about serious storms and other adverse weather conditions as they hit their radar.
Even on nice days, only enter the water when visiting beaches with lifeguards, such as:
- Kamaole Beach Parks
- Hanakaoo Beach
- Kanaha Beach Park
- Hookipa Beach Park
- DT Fleming Beach Park
- HA Baldwin Beach Park
Only on Fridays through the summer months, you can find lifeguards at Hana Bay as well.
Whether you’re going out into the water or standing on the sandy shores, remember to never turn your back to the ocean. Also, read all signs in the vicinity and heed their warnings.
Spend time watching the water for signs of rough conditions and other problems. If you notice any issues, go to another beach or skip swimming for the day. And above all else, if you’re ever in doubt about your safety, don’t go out into the water or otherwise continue your beachside activities.
The miles of hiking trails across all the parklands in Maui give you the opportunity to fully appreciate the beauty of paradise. Hiking excursions across the island range from 10-minute loops to multi-day trips. So, you really need to know what you’re getting into before you go. You’ll want to get a map, and then study your preferred trails plus the others in its midst.
Even if you’re only planning on going on a short trail, always pack extra water, snacks, and clothes. Also, bring a poncho or at least a large plastic bag in case it starts raining hard while you’re out. Bring a whistle as well in case you get lost and need to signal your location to rescuers. A flashlight can help, too, plus it’ll serve you well if you get caught on the trail after dark.
In addition, you should always check the weather before you leave your hotel and ensure that you’re well dressed for the conditions. Keep monitoring the weather while walking the trails and keep your emergency weather radio tuned to the right channel.
While exploring each trail, always remember to:
- Always stay on the clearly marked paths to avoid getting lost
- Skip the unnecessary risks, like climbing on waterfalls
- Never separate from the other people in your group
- Don’t bother the plants and wildlife or leave any waste behind
In addition, always let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Plus, never hike alone.
If you do end up getting lost while hiking, stay put and attempt to call for help. Trying to find your way back to safety often ends up backfiring, so just listen for people nearby and use your whistle to tell them where to find you.
While in town, you can enjoy all the best restaurants, entertainment venues, and other attractions at your leisure. All along the way, pay close attention to your surroundings to stay out of trouble. The local crime rate is relatively low, but there’s always a chance of something happening.
To avoid problems, it’s wise to employ smart safety practices, like:
- Skip spending time in isolated areas and walking down dark pathways
- Keep your valuables in a hotel safe or carry them instead of leaving them in the car
- Lock up your hotel room while you’re out on the town and while sleeping at night
- Leave an area if the crowd gets rowdy or otherwise feels unsafe to you
- Trust your gut and back out on any activities that leave you feeling uncertain
Other than that, you’ll want to use common sense to stay safe on all your in-town adventures. Call for a ride if you’re intoxicated, cross the road at marked crosswalks, and always wear sunblock. On that last note, choose a high-quality, reef-safe 50+ SPF sunblock and slather it on generously every two hours.
How to Show Your Respect
On all your island travels, aim to show great respect to the land and its people. Start by serving as a steward of the land while visiting the beach, hiking the trails, and taking in all the scenic views.
Well-known as the tradition of “Malama ka’aina i ke kai,” caring for the land and ocean means:
- Staying a respectful distance away from all wildlife, including monk seals and sea turtles
- Avoiding standing on the coral reef or directly touching any of its structures at all
- Never taking any lava rocks, seashells, or other natural resources from the island
- Staying on the trails to avoid disrupting nature and to keep from getting lost
- Only wearing reef-safe sunscreen and using locally made bug spray
Also, remember to only visit public beaches and parks, so you don’t accidentally trespass on public land. Look for signs that say, “Kapu,” or do not enter, to avoid places deemed off-limits.
As you explore the island, leave every area better than you found it. To do that, pack out what you pack in plus any other trash you find. Stash a couple of trash bags in your pack, so you’re always ready to clean up on the fly.
To truly honor the island, you must show respect to the locals and their customs. Start by going beyond using “aloha” as a friendly greeting and adopting it as a way of life. Show plenty of aloha wherever you go with big smiles, kind words, and a generous spirit.
Also, offer a genuine “mahalo,” or thank you, whenever someone does something nice for you on your travels. If you get quality service at a restaurant, tour, or other attraction, leave a generous tip in addition to offering your thanks.
If you have a chance to visit any friends or family on the island, grab a nice gift before you arrive. Also, remember to take off your shoes before entering their home as is custom on the island.
Honoring the “kapuna,” or elders, is a must as well. Hold open doors, offer to give up your seat, or otherwise provide respectful assistance to your elders as you see fit. If any individuals decline your offer, respect their response, and simply move on with your day.
When it comes to respecting the culture, remember to always accept any leis gifted to you. And wear them proudly around the person who gave you such a nice gift. If you have a chance to learn how to hula dance, do so with pride and take it seriously while still having fun with it.
If you have the opportunity to visit sacred sites, maintain a solemn, respectful demeanor. Quietly walk through the site while observing the surroundings in silence or speaking in hushed tones. Do not move any stones, flowers, or other items in the landscape or you could disrupt the ambiance of the site.
Best Ways to Resolve Disputes
Despite your best efforts to honor Maui and its people, you could end up in trouble with the locals. You might accidentally end up in an off-limits area, for example, by simply missing a small sign.
If you end up in a dispute, just listen to the other person’s complaints and offer a sincere apology. Take note of your error, so you don’t end up making a similar mistake in the future. Then, thank them for setting you straight and continue on with your day.
In some cases, you may end up in a dispute that’s not easily resolved with an apology. When that happens, you might just have to walk away. If that doesn’t work, you can contact the authorities for assistance.
When you have questions about how to best explore the island while respecting the land, ask a tour guide, museum curator, or even a restaurant owner. You could even ask a friendly local if you have a chance to strike up a conversation with someone on your trip.
Money-Saving Ideas to Use While Visiting Maui
Although it’s easy to go all out while visiting Maui, you can stick to a strict budget and still have a wonderful time. Start saving money right off the bat by choosing the shoulder season for your trip date. By traveling during the fall or spring months, you can save on plane tickets, accommodations, and even transportation. You’ll also get to skip the huge influx of tourists and have more of the island to yourself.
In addition, aim to save big by skipping the restaurant meals for breakfast and lunch. You can get food to eat at your hotel from local grocery stores or save even more at Costco. While getting your bulk goods, ask about the Costco discount cards that let you save money on nearby restaurants and attractions.
If you cannot stand the thought of missing out on local fare, visit restaurants during happy hour for discounts on apps and drinks. With that move, you can sample their most popular menu items while scoping out the service quality and overall ambiance.
Food trucks are another great way to save while still getting your fill of all the Hawaiian classics. For many options in one spot, go to one of the four food truck parks located at:
- Lahaina Food Truck Park: 741 Wainee Street, Lahaina, Hawaii 96761
- Kaanapali Food Truck Park: 130 Kai Malina Parkway, Lahaina, Hawaii 96761
- Costco Food Truck Park 1: 591 Haleakala Highway, Kahului, Hawaii 96732
- Costco Food Truck Park 2: 520 Keolani Place, Kahului, Hawaii 96732
Paid attractions can also eat through your funds faster than you might like. So, avoid that by making beach trips and trail hikes a big part of your trip.
Other free things to do include:
- Attend the Friday Town Parties in Wailuku, Lahaina, Makawao, and Kihei
- See live performances from local musicians at The Shops at Wailea fountain courtyard
- Go to fun community events and festivals held near the huge banyan tree in Lahaina
- Take a long cruise along the Hana Highway and other scenic roadways around the island
- Watch the keiki hula shows and learn how to hula dance at the Lahaina Cannery Mall
- Visit the Outlets of Maui to see amazing Polynesian dance performances each week
- Watch the surfers ride the waves at Hookipa and other popular surfing beaches
Don’t miss the chance to check out the Haleakala sunrise at least once, which is always free if you take the trip without a guide.
Time to Make the Most of Your Maui Adventures
A well-thought-out itinerary will help you make the most of your Maui adventures. Before creating your travel plans, think about what you want to see, do, and eat while visiting the island. Then, find the restaurants and attractions that match up to your preferences.
After that, it’s just a matter of filling up your day with the activities and restaurant visits that’ll make your trip magical. Just be sure to leave a lot of downtime between activities, so you can stick around longer if you want. The extra time might also come in handy if something catches your eye while driving around town.
Don’t forget to avoid losing time to jet lag by:
- Moving your bedtime to match the Hawaii-Aleutian Standard time zone
- Switching your phone, watch, or both to Maui time while flying over
- Getting a big dose of sunshine upon landing on the island
- Planning to hit the hay at around the same time you would at home
If all else fails, you can slip into a warm bath before bed to get ready for timely shuteye. By the time you wake up in the morning, you’ll be ready to hit the road and have a great time.
With all this info in hand, you’re ready to start planning your trip to Maui. Feel free to whip out this guide on the regular for help making the most of your trip. By keeping all the top tips and tricks in mind, you can avoid potential pitfalls and have a fantastic time exploring all the island has to offer.