Maui Travel Guide PART 1: Tips, Recommendations, and more!

FAQ, Tips, Info, Personal

April 19, 2019

We recently vacationed in one of our favorite places in the world, the Hawaiian island of Maui. This was our second time on the island and if we weren’t sure if we loved it before (spoiler alert: we loved it from the moment we arrived), then this trip sealed the deal. Maui is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and I hope that everyone gets to visit at some point in their lives. It really is paradise!

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw my millions of Insta stories I posted all throughout our trip! I’m sorry if I went overboard :-/ Haha! I posted for you all to see, but mostly it was for my own memories. I like having the events throughout each day documented so that I can go back and re-live those memories any time I want.

I have lost count of how many people have messaged me asking for tips and recommendations for vacationing on Maui, so naturally I decided the best way to do things is to blog about it!

I’m going to share some tips and recommendations for what Will and I consider to be the perfect Maui vacation with a semi-recap of our trip. I also included our itinerary/an itinerary suggestion at the end of this blog for those of you who asked for that!

Ya’ll, this blog is JAM PACKED full of all the information I could possibly think of to help you guys have the best trip to Maui ever! Get ready… this is a big blog! And it’s only PART 1! :-D

A quick disclaimer: These tips and recommendations are based on what WE find to be a great vacation… also, we travel without kids, so our vacations might look a little different from those of you who would be traveling with kids. We know that our style of travel and what we find enjoyable/relaxing may completely differ from what many people enjoy, so take our tips and recommendations with a grain of salt and tweak them to fit YOUR preferences and YOUR family! :)

Second disclaimer: All of the photos taken except the whale watching photos and Haleakala sunrise photos were taken and edited on my iphone! I may be a photographer, but I sure as heck was not going to be responsible for carrying around a heavy, expensive camera on our hikes, etc. My main goal was to document the moments and my iphone did a fine job of that :)

Go for a full week (or more!) if you can!

You’re spending alot of money to fly out there, so make the most of it! Our first trip to Maui was less than 3 full days, and even though we experienced alot in a short amount of time, we were exhausted by the end of it and we experienced only a tiny fraction of what we experienced this time around. We stayed a full week this time and STILL used up every minute with things still left over that we ran out of time to do. If you stay for a full week, you’ll have enough time to do everything on my recommendations list on this blog! :-D

Book the shortest duration flight you can find/book a flight that arrives early in the day.

This might be a no brainer, but it’s still worth mentioning! If you book a flight that arrives earlier in the day, then guess what?! You have even more time to enjoy the island! You’ll get a little tired/go to bed earlier in the day anyways because of the time difference, so you might as well take advantage of every second you can and arrive early. For our first trip, we arrived around lunchtime and were able to do all of this on our arrival day: completely unpacked our luggage, took showers, walked around our B&B, drove down to the beach to do an hour long photoshoot, and then went to grab dinner afterwards. Not too shabby for our first day considering we had just traveled for 13 hours!

Go to bed early on arrival day and get started early on your first full day.

This also may be a no brainer, but I recommend planning to head to bed a little early on that first night. For us, we got in bed around 8pm and woke up naturally around 4-5am (still got a solid 8+ hours of sleep, so yay!).  Here in Alabama, it was a 5 hour time difference, so we knew our bodies would be waking up a little earlier than we normally would. Since we know our bodies will wake up a little earlier, especially on the first full day, we recommend taking full advantage of those early morning hours and planning an activity that would be good to start early in the day for your first full day.

For our first trip, we got started on the Road to Hana early on our first full day (which I’ll talk about later). For this trip, we started with a sunrise photoshoot, followed by the Road to Hana. It’s a good idea to get an early start on the Road to Hana if that’s something you’re planning on doing, so I think this would be a great thing to do on your first day!

(views of West Maui…breakfast at sunrise on our lanai)

 

Don’t rule out staying somewhere other than right on the beach.

I know, I know. When you think of Maui, you think of laying on the beach under a palm tree drinking a mai tai out of a pineapple. And while that sounds amazing and can be what your trip entails, Maui is SO SO SO much more than that! Don’t limit yourself to only being on the beach the whole time! Maui is filled with experiences beyond it’s beautiful beaches. So if you’re up for the challenge, try looking for places to stay perhaps up the mountain a little bit. A place like Art and Lynnette’s bed and Breakfast in Kula (right next door to the Kula Botanical Garden and just down the street from a lavender farm!). Trust me when I tell you that you don’t get to wake up to views like this very often.

We stayed here on our first trip and loved it so much that we planned this trip’s dates around the availability of this place. Not even kidding! We love it that much and we highly recommend it to all of our friends!!

This bed and breakfast is in a central location on the island and was a quick 30 minute drive down to the beach, the airport, etc. When we travel, we prefer to experience the place with as much of a “local” vibe as possible, so we almost always try to avoid high rises and condominiums, if we can. We love feeling like we live in the location, so we often do AirBNBs and try to eat locally every chance we get.

Which brings me to my next tip….

EAT LOCAL!

You can have Olive Garden and Chick-Fil-A back home, so don’t waste your meals on things you can get 5 minutes away from your house. Maui is an INCREDIBLE food scene and has so many places that have been named top restaurants in the U.S. and featured in national publications and even on shows like Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Any time we travel, we try really hard to eat local as much as we can. So you won’t see us at a chain restaurant very often. I’ll talk more about the places we ate at on this trip on PART 2 of this blog… and BOY do I have some great food recommendations for you guys!

(Paia Bowls)

Bring some cash.

It’s important to bring cash because there will be some places that only take cash/request a tip. You don’t want to be caught not tipping when you’re supposed to or trying to grab a delicious plate of BBQ at a food truck only to find that they only take cash. PLUS, if you are trying to stay on a budget, using only your cash for your purchases will help you keep track of that!

Go in March!

Even though we’ve only been to Maui in May and in March, I feel like March was just SUCH a perfect time to go! It’s the end of Maui’s “rainy” season. The temperatures averaged highs of 78-80 degrees every day, which was perfect! Not too cold, not too hot. AND, you are in peak whale season! What could be better?! Just from our experience and after talking with some locals, March seems to be a really really great time to visit, so that’s what I recommend!  *Side Note: I know that with Spring Break being in March, that could mean there is an issue with crowds. But if you’re not staying in a super touristy place (like if you stay at an AirBNB more inland *wink wink*), then the crowds aren’t even really a factor… they weren’t a problem for us at all!

Explore as much of the island as you can!

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Maui is SO much more than just a place to sit on pretty beaches. Though that is certainly a perk to this island (it boasts some of the prettiest beaches in the world!), please don’t let your visit only be that! Maui has so much to offer and it would be a shame to miss out on it! We recommend driving all around, doing the Road to Hana (which I’ll talk about next!), hiking in Iao Valley, visiting Maui Brewing Co., Maui Wine, and Surfing Goat Dairy. You can visit the Botanical Garden, Nakalele blowhole (with a heart shaped rock beside it). You can hike through a bamboo forest to see a 400 foot waterfall. You can see the sun rise from above the clouds at 10,000 feet on top of a dormant volcano. And SO SO much more! Don’t just sit on the beach or stay at or around your resort the whole time. Get out and explore!

Drive the Road to Hana.

The Road to Hana is one of my favorite things about Maui. It is such a unique experience involving so many different experiences, if that makes sense. Along the Road to Hana, you’ll see beaches (including black sand beaches and red sand beaches), jaw dropping cliffs, waterfalls, gardens, blues and greens and turquoises that will blow your mind. You can hike all kinds of trails including the Pipiwai trail (with the bamboo forest) and try all kinds of delicious snacks (coconut ice cream, fresh coconut water in a coconut carved right in front of you, BBQ, shave ice, fresh fruit, and so much more!). You can swim *under a water fall (*you actually aren’t suppose to swim under them for safety reasons, but you can swim around them, which is just as cool!). You can sit on the beach with your lunch and watch surfers on the waves. It is just an all around incredible experience that we HIGHLY recommend everyone do!!

You can google more about the Road to Hana, but in a nutshell, it is a twisty/turny 64 mile stretch spanning the North and East side of the island. Its a long drive, but totally worth it with stops along the entire drive (so it doesn’t feel very long). It’s about 3-4 hours without any stops… but plan for upwards of 8 hours because the whole point is to make stops. Much of the drive is on 2 to 1.5 car width roads, sometimes even getting as narrow as 1 car width. But don’t worry, it’s not as challenging as you might think. Many tourists and locals drive this road every day and it’s safe… that being said, they do recommend driving back BEFORE sunset so that you’re not driving the twisty 1 car width parts after dark.

*DISCLAIMER: The Road to Hana is a very twisty road that might make some people carsick… especially in the back seat. That being said, you’re driving fairly slow for most of it, so it’s not that bad, in my opinion — and I can tend to get a little headachy/carsick on twisty roads. I recommend taking some motion sickness medicine (or all natural ginger medicine) or getting those pressure point wrist bands, which I actually have worn every time we’ve done this drive and I haven’t gotten carsick.

If … scratch that… WHEN you do the Road to Hana, you have to download the Shaka Tour Guide app!!!

We 100% recommend that you pay the $10 to get this app. I promise it’ll be worth every single penny! It makes the drive so interesting, informative, and fun! You don’t miss a single must see spot, which is super helpful on this drive! You have your own personal tour guide for just $10! Not too shabby!

***There isn’t really any service on the Road to Hana, so remember to download the app and the tour ahead of time!  ALSO, don’t forget to bring your phone charger for your rental car!

Allow 2 days for the Road to Hana (they don’t have to be consecutive).

This is something that we didn’t have time for on our first trip, but made sure we made time for this trip! From here on out, we will always allow 2 different days for this drive. Why? Because there is so much to see and do that you’ll likely run out of time to do it all if you try to do it in one day. Since it’s recommended that you start heading back before sunset, you really need to plan on turning around and heading back by late afternoon to ensure you have enough time to avoid driving the road after dark.

We recommend starting the Road to Hana early in the morning to be driving through the town of Paia, which is at the start of the Road to Hana, by about 7am. Enjoy the lush greenery on the drive and the fun stops the app suggests you make. There is so much to see, so relax and enjoy!

If you stop at alot of the stops at the beginning-halfway in the trip, you will likely run out of time to do the 4 mile Pipiwai Trail (bamboo forest/400ft waterfall) at the end — which we highly recommend! But that’s ok! Because you’re splitting the Road to Hana up into 2 different trips/days, you can save that trail for day 2! So don’t stress and don’t put off visiting stops you might want to visit early and even halfway through the trip. 

On your second day of the Road to Hana (remember, you don’t have to do the 2 days consecutively) try not to stop at too many spots early on in the drive since you’ve already stopped at those. Save your stopping for towards the end. We drove all the way to the end and did the Pipiwai Trail (Quick tip: Be sure to wear comfortable shoes that don’t give you blisters and bring a light rain jacket in case it starts to sprinkle on you in the jungle, like it did for us!) After doing that trail, we started our drive back towards Paia and made more stops on our way back. We were able to really take our time and enjoy the stops on the drive once we knew we had done the long/furthest hike on our list. It was perfect! This is how we will do the Road to Hana from now on.

Watch the sun rise on the summit of Haleakala.

This is a MUST, in my humble opinion. A once in a lifetime experience. Yes, watching the sun rise means you have to wake up well before the sunrise. And yes, if you aren’t staying up on the mountain (another huge perk to staying at Art and Lynnette’s B&B in Kula!!!), your drive will likely be around 2 hours from most other touristy parts of the island, but even still, it’s worth it!!  Luckily for us, because we are already staying up the mountain a little bit, it’s less than a 1 hour drive for us to get to the top, which is a big perk to staying at the B&B in Kula.

You will need to plan in advance for watching the sun rise because they have limited parking at the summit. Luckily, it’s only $1 to reserve your spot (plus another $25 at the gate when you get there).

*QUICK TIP: You can actually reserve a spot (again, for just $1) for multiple days if you would like to have flexibility to decide which day you want to do it once you are on Maui. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend doing that willy nilly just because you are taking a spot from someone else if you don’t show up, so I guess I recommend this only in certain situations. We weren’t certain of a few things in our schedule, which is why we booked it for 2 different days to give us a little more flexibility.

You can find more information and make your reservations to watch the sun rise HERE. *You can also watch the sun SET as well. We haven’t done that yet, but we hear it’s really amazing too! 

Do a whale watching tour!

If you are visiting during whale season (approx. December-May), you MUST do a whale watching tour! We checked this bucket list item off my list and I couldn’t have loved every second of it more! If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that we got to see a whale breach and it was MAGIC! More than I could’ve hoped for! We toured with the Pacific Whale Foundation, which I was more than happy to support. Obviously, every tour doesn’t get to see a whale breach, but they do guarantee that you’ll see whales or you get to go again for free. So that’s a pretty great deal!
“Whale sightings are guaranteed or go again free on another whalewatch of equal or lesser value within one year. We are proud of our 97% sighting success rate.”

 

I would hesitate before driving West Maui’s North shore…

There aren’t many things that I would tell people NOT to do on Maui (other than DON’T stay at your hotel the whole time and DON’T only eat at chain restaurants), but when it comes to West Maui’s North shore, I might skip this one… unless you’re into feeling terrified for your life. Haha!

On our first trip to Maui, Will and I decided to drive the North shore route, and while we’re glad we did it, we will probably never do it again. It was mostly 1 car-width twisty roads on the edge of a cliff for miles and miles. Terrifying. We drove about 10 miles an hour for most of the drive — and pretty much held our breath and didn’t talk much for the whole ride. I may or may not have legit feared for our lives on more than one occasion — not because of Will’s driving (he was excellent), but simply because of how close to edge you were forced to drive. Terrifying!!

That being said, the early parts of the drive had some really lovely lookouts. So I might recommend planning on driving as far as Nakalele Blowhole (coming from Lahaina), then turning back around towards town.

Don’t over schedule…leave some wiggle room for spontaneity!

Now, we are all about planning ahead and trying to be smart in business, life, and vacations. While I do think that it might be smart to go ahead and book some of your activities in advance and I also think it’s smart to create a rough schedule for your trip (just to ensure you are planning enough time to do everything you want to do), there is a huge benefit to leaving alot of wiggle room in your plans when you visit Maui.

While you may be tempted to fill up every spare moment (I know I always am!), resist the urge! Leave some intentional chill time so that you can explore, take a nap, go on a spur of the moment hike, book a last minute excursion. The sky is the limit! On our last day at the B&B, we pretty much decided not to do anything. We went to watch the sun rise on Haleakala, then came back to our cottage and ate breakfast, walked around the garden, took naps, read books, etc. It was such a chill “doing nothing” kind of day and it was perfect!

And to further that note….

Add in “rest” days/times every 2 days or so.

Having some rest time sprinkled in every so often will ensure that you don’t over do it and it will give you some flexibility in your schedule. We had the afternoon of our 2nd day as a slower/rest time (the afternoon we spent napping on Makena Beach), we left our entire 4th day open (other than watching the sun rise), and kept our last full day fairly flexible. Having those rest times/days worked out perfectly for us and was exactly what we needed to fully enjoy our trip.

Do a helicopter tour!

We haven’t done a helicopter tour on Maui, but we did do on one Kauai 2 years ago and LOVED IT! Highly recommend doing that! You get an entirely different view of the island that you just can’t get any other way!


Honorable Mentions:

– Iao Valley: A gorgeous spot to visit and you can make it as short or long of a visit as you want! Great for families, individuals, young couples and older couples alike! I think it’d be fun to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy by the creek! This spot is close-ish to Kahului Airport part of the island.

– Honolua Bay: One of our favorite little treasures that we almost drove right past on our first trip to Maui! We like to call it “the jungle trail” because it looks so much like a random little tropical jungle with tall trees, giant leaves, beautiful nature sounds, and a lovely little beach at the end of the short trail. This is another great, easy trail for families, individuals, young couples and older couples too!

– Makena Beach: We loved Makena Beach! We visited this magical beach for the first time this trip and now we consider it a staple for all future trips! This beach is also called Big Beach and it’s located along the South side of the East side of the island. We arrived mid afternoon and stayed until sunset. We found it to be very quite and peaceful, not crowded at all. We enjoyed reading and taking afternoon naps in the shade under a tree before watching the STUNNING sunset with whales surfacing in the distance. It was truly a wonderful experience at a gorgeous, peaceful beach. We highly recommend this spot!

– Ho’okipa Beach: This is a great spot to watch surfers, grab some fresh coconut water/snacks from food trucks, and see sea turtles resting on beach! It’s on the North side of the island kind of central (close-ish to Kahului airport). We think it’s a great spot to just sit and chill.

– Zip Lining: While we haven’t had the chance to go zip lining on Maui yet, we plan to do it on our next trip! We’ve heard nothing but great things about zip lining on Maui, so I’m going to recommend that you look into it! :) If you do it, come back and tell me how it was!

– Garden of Eden on the Road to Hana: The Garden of Eden is something that the Shaka Guide app tells you not to spend time doing (I think because it costs money), but it’s actually something we loved and thought was worth the money! It’s a beautiful, peaceful botanical garden that we highly recommend. We took about 45 minutes just walking around, enjoying the peacocks, the lush botanicals, the gorgeous views. While it isn’t free to get in (I think it was around $15 per adult), we still think it is totally worth the stop — especially if you break the Road to Hana up into 2 different days!

For those who requested it, here is the itinerary we used for this trip and honestly, we would recommend it to anyone!

Our 7 Day Maui Itinerary

Arrival Day: Arrive early-mid afternoon. Get rental car and drive to hotel/AirBNB to unpack, shower, etc. Plan to expore resort/rental, then head to dinner somewhere close. Go to bed early on night one.

Day 2: You will likely wake up early because of the time difference, so plan to watch the sunrise or plan a sunrise activity like a sunrise photoshoot, sunrise whale watching tour, etc.

Start driving the Road to Hana passing through the town of Paia by 7am. Stop and get gas (there are no gas stations on the Road to Hana until you get to the town of Hana), grab a quick breakfast/snack for the car/water bottles in Paia. 

Stop for coconut ice cream, shave ice, banana bread, and lunch along the way (see food recommendations in Part 2 of this blog).

You can visit The Garden of Eden, a red sand beach (tons of other beaches too… the options are endless!), hike shorter trails, swim under a waterfall (technically, you’re not supposed to swim under them, so swim around it instead) — if you do this, remember to bring a change of clothes and I also recommend bringing some water shoes to wear when you swim in spots like that. So much to do and see! Have fun with it and don’t rush! 

Like I’ve mentioned before, you need to make sure you’re off the official Road to Hana before it gets dark because it’s not as safe to drive the twisty roads after dark.

You’ll likely be getting back into Paia town around dinner time, so this is the perfect chance for you to go to our FAVORITE, Paia Fish Market, for dinner! After dinner, you may be tired and ready for a shower, so head on back home.

Day 3: Whale watching tour/zip lining/activity in the morning or maybe take this morning to see the sunrise at Haleakala. After morning activities, grab lunch at Maui Brewing Co. (maybe do a tour while you’re there! More on that in Part 2 of this blog), then reserve the rest of the afternoon/evening for relaxing on the beach. We recommend going to Makena Beach, which is a short drive from Maui Brewing Co., and stay for the stunning sunset! **Don’t forget to pack your swimsuit before you leave your resort/AirBNB that morning!

Have dinner at a local spot, then leave the rest of evening free for whatever you want (we’re always tired by 8pm, so we always head back early)

Day 4: Rest day/open day. We recommend this day for more of a chill “do whatever we feel like” day. Perhaps you can start the day seeing the sunrise on Haleakala, have a leisurely breakfast afterwards, the spend the rest of the day on the beach, maybe you can take a quick nap (especially if you saw the sunrise), or perhaps you can go to the botanical garden or lavender farm. The sky is the limit! Regardless of what you do, we do recommend making this day a more flexible restful day! For dinner, consider doing a dining experience, like Maui Chef’s Table (which I’ll tell you more about on Part 2 of this blog).

Day 5: Sunrise at Haleakala (if you haven’t done that yet)… you could also use this day for your second Road to Hana day! If today is your Road to Hana Day 2 day, skip most things early in the drive and try to keep heading down to the end of the drive to hike the 4 mile Pipiwai Trail (remember my tip from earlier about splitting the Road to Hana up into 2 different days).

You could also visit Iao Valley State Park (not on the Road to Hana). This is a super chill, super easy, super gorgeous little park that anyone (little kids and the elderly alike) can easily do in a short amount of time. 

Day 6: If you’re not already staying in Lahaina, day 6 and day 7 are great days to hop over to the West side of the island to enjoy Lahaina! We stayed at a resort on the West side for our last 2 days and it was perfect! There are so many great dining options, tons of incredible art galleries (I was in heaven), fun little shops, boat tours, you name it!  Enjoy all the loveliness that Lahaina has to offer!

Since we were on the West side of the island, we visited Nakalele Bowhole and Honolua Bay on this day, followed by a sunset whale watching dinner cruise out of Lahaina harbor. I’ll talk more about that on Part 2 of this blog!

Day 7: If you did a weeklong trip, this would be your final day *cue the tears…. no really… I may or may not have cried on our last day*. We tend to like to keep our last days as pure relaxation days. We get a cabana and lay out on the beach enjoying mai tais, the breeze, shave ice, and good books. In our opinion, it’s the perfect final day of vacation!  Consider doing the Old Lahaina Luau on your final night (I’ll talk more about that in Part 2!).

OR, if you’d prefer to switch day 6 and day 7, that would work well too! Making day 6 a relaxing day would break up all the activities quite nicely!

There is probably so much more I could add, but that’s all my brain is coming up with right now. If I end up thinking of more, I’ll add an additional sections at the bottom of this blog and note that I added it after I published this. I hope you’ve found everything helpful so far! Leave a comment with any questions or your recommendations. And be sure to share this blog with your friends who may be planning a trip to Maui!

 

Up next on the blog, I’m sharing all of my FOOD tips and recommendations! :-D

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