Named for the mythological demi-god of Polynesia who is said to have raised the heavens, snared the sun and discovered fire, Maui is the second most populated and the second largest in the Hawaiian Island Chain.
Ruled by several chiefs since 700 AD and conquered by Kamehameha the Great in the 1700’s, Maui has been the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
It is the location of the oldest school west of the Mississippi and the only county in the Hawaiian Islands that consists of more than one island.
However, for many travelers, the Valley Isle is a destination of dreamy proportions and those who are lucky to have a few glorious days on this magical island should prepare a plan that embraces all of the sights and activities possible.
Here are a few tips for a comfortable and enjoyable Maui experience.
Getting to and from Maui
This island paradise is at least a 5 hour jaunt from anywhere other than the other Hawaiian islands.
Many find that the best time to visit Maui is between mid May and mid-June and after Labor Day and before Thanksgiving.
At this time, the prices are realistic, the crowds are thin, the bargains are bountiful and special events and festivals are an added bonus.
- Plan to arrive on the island in the early afternoon. Maui’s roads are two-lane, coastal and unlighted.
- Book as many things in advance as possible – island time should be relaxation time!
- Never put your swimsuit in checked luggage. If they lose your bags at least you can still go to the beach.
- Put an inexpensive cooler in your rental car. Keep it filled with drinks/water.
You’ll probably need a car to get around Maui. Hire a rental car here.
Things to do in Maui
Maui has one of the best snorkeling experiences of all the Hawaiian islands.
These experiences include being whisked away to the marine conservation district of Molokini where reef fish rule, or the coastal areas of Turtle Town and Coral Gardens where one can enjoy the clear warm waters teeming with colorful coral and turtles.
There are many companies that offer trips but the best for families, seniors and everyone can be found on the Pride of Maui where comfort and amenities come along with boogie boards and snorkel equipment.
Tours include breakfast, a barbeque lunch and even an open bar.
SNUBA or SCUBA are available for an additional charge.
Tips for snorkeling in Maui:
- A Molokini snorkeling tour the day after you arrive can shake off the jet lag.
- Book SCUBA and snorkel trips before you arrive to be sure of a spot.
- Opt for a whale watching / snorkeling combo during the months of January to March.
Experience Maui from a new perspective and swim and snorkel with the marine life at Molokini and Turtle Town. Board a catamaran and cruise to a legendary snorkelling destination. Includes deli lunch. See more here.
Driving the road to Hana
The drive to Hana is one of the must-do things while on the Valley Isle.
A full day of narrow one lane roads, cliff-hugging scenic beauty, tropical rainforests and a parade of dazzling waterfalls make this a very popular activity for visitors and locals alike.
The drive is over 50 miles, 600 curves and 59 bridges of awe inspiring exploration. Discover a terraformed peninsula, black sand beaches, lava tubes and so much more.
Although many opt for self-guided experiences, at a personal pace, the best way to enjoy it is on tour.
Valley Isle Excursions include local guides who provide insight, answer questions and “talk story” all about Maui. The guide expertly drives custom cruising vans, built for the road, that gives the 12 passengers an elevated view through huge windows – perfect for taking pictures!
Tips for the drive to Hana:
- Start early – you don’t want to be driving this road in the dark.
- Let a pro drive – this road has been known to get people carsick and frustrated but a pro knows the tricks to seeing it all.
- Plan for a picnic – there are more picnic spots than places to buy food. Depending on the day and the ocean swell, everything or nothing will be open.
- Always start with a full tank – fuel economy will be poor with no bargains and limited resources for fuel in Hana.
- Bring cash – a little bit of cash will make sampling from roadside stands along the road easier.
Hire a rental car here, even better make it a jeep wrangler because they looked so cool with the Road to Hana scenery. Make it red. Best for your photos.
Road to Hana Tours
Another option, if you did not want to do drive the Road to Hana yourself, is to join a Road to Hana tour through Get Your Guide. You can then sit back and relax and ensure someone else takes you to the best spots.
Surfing, kayaks, outrigger canoes and SUPs
Hawaii is all about hanging at the beach. These beach-launched ocean activities are some of the easiest to do while in Maui.
One can rent and learn on the whim in places like Ka’anapali, Kihei and Kapalua.
Nothing is more ego boosting and enjoyable than getting out on the ocean and learning a new skill, or applying skills to a new locale. Those who prefer to take formal lessons or guided tours can certainly book in advance.
Attend a Luau on Maui
No one denies that this experience is far from the traditional backyard feasts that locals enjoy for birthdays, weddings, graduations and other family gatherings.
But the luau ritual is a unique way to gather for an evening of good food, drink and entertainment that ranges from sweet and slow to fierce and flaming.
There are many ways to luau so pick one that meets your needs and desires.
Laua’s at resorts are popular with those who don’t want to wander far for the evening’s entertainment and can offer anything from the simple to extravagant. While the more traditional ones offer a special locale for a night out.
But all offer a glorious evening under the stars with a gorgeous sunset backdrop and a balmy breeze along with the roasted pork and poi.
Yes, once in a lifetime might be enough, but that one time is certainly not to be missed.
Eating the local food in Maui
The variety of cultures and cuisines in Hawaii make food one of the more interesting and enjoyable pursuits on Maui that range from the quick and inexpensive to the opulent and romantic.
However, there are many unique tastes on Maui that should not be passed up.
Why not try a Maui food tasting tour? Experience the real taste of Maui through culture and history with your very own local expert. Visit 7 local restaurants in the heart of Wailuku, sample 17 authentic Hawaiian dishes and local specialities as you taste locally brewed beers. See more here.
Try these different Maui dishes
- Poke – spiced and seasoned raw tuna.
- Guri Guri – milky frozen sherbet perfect for after the beach.
- Okazuya – all SPAM musubi is okazuya but not all okazuya is SPAM musubi
- Manju – little pastry pies with sweet fillings.
- Saimin – noodles in clear broth topped with green onions, sweet and sour pork and more.
Experiencing culture and arts in Maui
Out of all of Maui’s festivals and celebrations occurring on the island each year, the best and by far the most raucous is Halloween.
People gather along Front Street in Lahaina for an evening of kiddie parades, costume watching, and bar hopping along with lots of frivolity each October.
It’s a grass roots celebration that has been growing like a juggernaut by word of mouth for over 20 years. Today it has become more of a family affair with adults lingering later into the evening.
Some of the more frequent events include Wailuku’s First Friday event every month that includes restaurants, galleries, arts and crafts along with entertainment.
Obon Festival runs through summer along with the Outrigger Canoe Regatta season. All are worth consideration for those who love culture.
Popular annual events on Maui:
- July 4th weekend: Annual Makawao Rodeo.
- Third week in September: Maui County Fair in Kahului.
- September: Maui Festivals of Aloha.
- Front Street Halloween in Lahaina.
An extended stay on Maui
That is about all you will be able to experience during a short break on Maui.
But add on another week and you can see the summit and it’s massive crater with old lava flows, Iao Valley with it’s bloody history, take a raft to find dolphins along the Forbidden coast, go paragliding down a mountain, and explore the local food culture with farm and food tours.
Plan Your Trip to Maui
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