THE ULTIMATE MAUI TRAVEL GUIDE
I’m so happy to finally be sharing a Maui travel guide on here! Last year I was lucky enough to go to Maui three times, so it’s high time I got a travel itinerary for this amazing island up on the blog. I receive a lot of questions about things to do and best places to eat in Maui, and this guide covers all of my recommendations. The Valley Isle is probably one of my favorite places in the world (definitely one of my favorite places in the U.S.). It’s just so special and I feel so good when I’m there. It’s never enough time and when ever I have to leave I always wish I could stay longer. This travel guide is chock full of activities and things to do in Maui, but of course part of enjoying a paradise like the Hawaiian islands is just relaxing on the beach or at the pool with a tropical drink in hand. So if you’re planning a trip to Maui, feel free to take bits and pieces, or single days from this itinerary and make it your own! Sprinkle in days of total rest and relaxation in between days of adventuring however you feel like. It’s your vacation, after all.
Also, sometimes I receive messages from people trying to choose between a trip to Kauai or Maui, so if you’re interested, my Kauai Travel Guide is here. Of course my opinion is that you should go to both and decide for yourself which is your favorite, because they are both incredible. 🙂
- Where to stay. People always ask me where to stay in Maui. The two most popular areas for tourists are Kaanapali and Wailea.
- Helicopter ride with Air Maui. We did a helicopter ride over the West Maui Mountains and Molokai and it was freaking awesome! Definitely recommend doing the doors-off chopper. It’s thrilling and you don’t have to worry about any glares from windows when you’re enjoying the views or snapping pictures.
- Lunch at Tinroof. Since we were in Kahului for the helicopter ride, we stopped at Tinroof for lunch. It’s a mom and pop that works closely with local farmers and fishermen for their food. We had their mochiko chicken, which is their specialty and the chicken is marinated over night and then fried in a mochiko batter. The miso sauce and aioli on top are the finishing touches that make it super delicious.
- Slaughterhouse Beach. We made our way back to Kaanapali and went to hang out at one of my beaches over on the west side of the island. Slaughterhouse Beach can have awesome snorkeling (I’ve seen dozens of humongous sea turtles there), but it can also be super rough with giant waves and surfers. On the day we went it was crazy rough and there was no way we’d be able to snorkel, so we just relaxed on the beach.
- Dinner at Star Noodle. For dinner we went over to Star Noodle, which is a super popular spot in Kaanapali. We had reservations, but for people who didn’t the wait was two hours!
Maui Travel Guide – Day 2
- Hike at Waihe’e Ridge Trail. When we were on our helicopter ride we flew over the Waihe’e Ridge Trail, and our pilot mentioned that it was one of his favorite hikes on the island. Since the West Maui Mountains were so spectacular by air, we decided to come back and get a view of them on a hike. It’s about two miles to the top of the ridge, so four miles round trip, and fairly steep. Also be careful about hiking here if it’s going to be raining—things got super slick and muddy quickly and it was especially tricky coming back down on the slippery slope. If you’re looking for a different hike, the Iao Needle Trail or the Kapalua Coastal Trail are also both very beautiful.
- Shave ice at Ululani’s. Ululani’s is my favorite shave ice place on Maui! They have several spots on the island including Kahului and Lahaina. Since I’m a coconut gal, their Haleakala flavor combo is my fav, but honestly all of their flavors are delicious.
- Poke bowls from Tamura’s. I looove to grab poke bowls from Tamura’s! It’s a liquor store, but it also has a poke bar where you can sample their different pokes. Their sunrise and hamachi pokes are my fav. We picked up a couple poke bowls for dinner and had them out on the lanai while we watched the sun set.
- Pie from Leoda’s Pie Shop. On our way back to Kaanapali after hiking earlier in the day, we stopped by Leoda’s Pie Shop. We always pass this place across the street from Olowalu and I’d been wanting to try it. Omg their pies are sooo yummy. The coconut cream pie was bomb, and the chocolate macadamia nut pie was also fantastic. Next time I want to try their key lime pie and their haupia chocolate pie. Yum!!
Maui Travel Guide – Day 3
- Horseback riding with Mendes Ranch. Omied had never been horseback riding before so I really wanted to get him up on a horse! We ended up heading back towards the Waihe’e Ridge Trail, where Mendes Ranch is located just across the street. The trail guides were great and made sure everyone felt super comfortable on their horses—even first timers like Omied. My horse’s name was Bailey and she was the sweetest angel. The views were stunning and we had so much fun on our ride. Even though we had a huge down pour and got totally soaked, it made for a beautiful rainbow.
- Pupus and dinner on the deck. We spent the rest of our late afternoon and evening relaxing on our condo’s lanai, watching whales breach. January is just the beginning of whale season, and February is when things really heat up. It is so incredible to see this huge creatures slapping their fins and breaching out of the water. If you’re lucky enough to be in Maui during whale season, definitely go on a whale watching boat trip! I absolutely recommend doing it with a fast raft/zodiac, rather than on a big whale watching boat. You zip around a lot faster, which means more time with the whales. Ultimate Whale Watch is a good one from Lahaina. But anyways, back to pupus on the deck! Staying in a condo means you get to grill up and enjoy Maui’s incredible fish! In Kaanapali, Safeway is the best for fish for grilling, like mahi mahi or ono. Omied perfectly grilled up some mahi mahi and we made fish tacos that were seriously amazing. For sashimi-grade blocks of ahi tuna, we like to go to Foodland. Pro tip when you’re looking for ahi tuna for sashimi: try to find the block that is the brightest, ruby red, with the least amount of white-ish fibers.
- Ice cream from Island Cream Co. This place serves up a mix between gelato and ice cream and has all of the Hawaiian flavors you could dream of, plus traditional ones too. I got the chocolate caramel turtle with a scoop of coconut (I know, again with the coconut! I like what I like) and it was the best sweet treat to end our night on.
Maui Travel Guide – Day 4
- Snorkeling at Molokini with Kai Kanani. I hadn’t been snorkeling at the Molokini crater for over a decade so it was so fun to head out there with Kai Kananai. We saw a lot of whales on our way out there, which just makes my heart sing. They are just the coolest. Fun fact that I think is just incredible: The males sing their whale song and they all sing the same song together as they’re migrating. The following year when they are migrating again, they all pick up the song where they left off. Amazing, right?? I also love that if you dive down just 10 feet or so, you can hear the whales singing! I always think of Dory in Finding Nemo. 😂 The water was so clear and beautiful out at Molokini. The captain and crew were wonderful, and we had the best time out with them!
- Big Beach. Big Beach is probably my favorite beach on the island for just relaxing. The sand is soft and white and the water is so turquoise and gorgeous. It’s super close to the beach where Kai Kanani picks up and drops off, so we went over there after our snorkeling trip to hang out and read.
- Dinner and drinks at Ka’ana Kitchen. Since we were in Wailea, we met up with friends for dinner at the Andaz Maui’s beautiful Ka’ana Kitchen. Be sure to request a table outside for gorgeous views of their multiple infinity pools, the ocean, and Molokini. Their cocktails were delicious and I loved their ahi tuna dishes.
Maui Travel Guide – Day 5
- Brunch at Gazebo Restaurant. This little restaurant is super duper popular and they don’t take reservations. But if you go on a random weekday, your wait shouldn’t be too bad. Be sure to get the macadamia nut pancakes with coconut syrup. It’s legit the best.
- Snorkeling at Honolua Bay. Honolua Bay is another favorite snorkeling spot of mine on the west side of the island. I love that you walk through a beautiful, lush jungle to get to the beach. It’s pretty protected and usually calm enough for snorkeling. I like to venture off to the right of the cove where there is beautiful reef. We almost always spot sea turtles here and this time saw at least a dozen.
- Lunch at Monkeypod. Snorkeling always works up a huge appetite, so we went over to Whaler’s Village to try Monkeypod, which just recently opened there. They have really great eats at affordable (for Maui) prices. And their mai tai is the best on the island! I’m not really a mai tai kinda girl (because pina coladas, duh), but the creamsicle foam that they add to the top of their mai tais really does it for me. Hula Grill or Leilani’s are also great choices for casual but yummy restaurants at Whaler’s Village, but we were excited to check out a new spot.
- Black Rock Beach. Since Monkeypod is right by the beach, we strolled along and found a spot at Black Rock to take in the sunset.
Maui Travel Guide – Day 6
- Road to Hana. The Road to Hana is one of those things that people are pretty torn on. While it does take you to some serene, beautiful places, it’s a very long drive (especially if you are based in Kaanapali, on the opposite side of the island), and it’s also very windy. But I say you should find out for yourself! You don’t have to do the whole road or see everything; in fact most guides will recommend you pick and choose a few destinations along the way rather than trying to cram everything in. A few favorites of mine are the twin falls, black sand beach, Wailua falls, and the bamboo forest. If you make it all the way to the end, go to Maui Tropical Plantation for dinner.
- Honokowai Okazuya. If you don’t do the whole road to Hana (or don’t stop for dinner), grab Hawaiian plates from Honokawai Okazuya when you’re back in Kaanapali. My favorites are any of the mahi mahi dishes, the katsu don, or the chicken teriyaki. So good.
Maui Travel Guide – Day 7
- Lunch at Mama’s Fish House. Mama’s is known for being one of the best (if not THE bet) restaurants on Maui. The setting on the beach is absolutely stunning, and their freshly caught fish is to die for. They even have opakapaka (pink snapper) on the menu right now which I rarely see restaurants serve these days, and it’s my favorite Hawaiian fish. Definitely make reservations weeks in advance for this one.
- Hike and sunset at Haleakala. Haleakala crater is pretty mind blowing to see. You can hike down a bit (or all the way if you’re feeling super adventurous), and just admire how it looks more like Mars than Earth. Real go-getters will go to watch the sunrise over Haleakala, which I’m sure is amazing, but I’m more of a sleep in and watch the sunset kind gal.
- Sansei Sushi. Sansei is another favorite restaurant of mine on Maui. They have a location in Kihei and Kapalua. A couple of my must-have dishes there are the panko-crusted ahi sashimi and the crab ramen with truffle broth. Seriously drooling right now thinking about those dishes!
That’s it for my Maui travel guide! Did I miss anything? I’m always looking for new spots to check out in Maui, whether it’s a new hike or a restaurant, so email me if you think of anything else!