Top 10 Things to Do in Maui

Maui

The Valley Isle

Maui is not nearly as large as the Big Island, nor is it as small as Lanai, as bustling as Oahu or as quiet as Kauai. For many Hawaii vacationers, Maui’s just right – offering a taste of just about everything the Aloha State has to offer, from impressive wildlife to intriguing history and culture.

While on a visit here, you can shimmy alongside professional hula dancers, golf along coastal fairways, snorkel alongside five different types of sea turtles or simply lounge along some of Hawaii's most notable beaches.Wherever your plans take you, be sure to let Maui’s culture captivate you.

Top 10 Things to Do in Maui

Learn About the Creatures of Hawaii's Waters

Learn About the Creatures of Hawaii's Waters

It can be easy to become mesmerized by Maui's multicolored beaches, verdant hiking trails and breathtaking sunsets, but don't forget about the world that lives beneath the surrounding Pacific Ocean floor. According to travelers, setting aside a morning or afternoon to explore Maui's underwater creatures is an unforgettable experience.With the help of a snorkel or scuba mask, you'll see a bevy of colorful fish, sea turtles and intricate coral formations around the island's reefs.

Most tours, which span several hours, provide snorkeling gear and a meal to passengers, as well as underwater camera equipment rentals. Visit the individual websites of each company for more specific information.

If you find yourself facing a rainy day on the island, consider spending some time at the Maui Ocean Center. This facility was created to cultivate visitors' interest in learning about Hawaii's underwater ecosystems.The vast Maui Ocean Center offers a variety of ways to get up close and personal with the island's nautical residents, including touch pools and a tunnel beneath the 750,000-gallon Open Ocean exhibit (which houses more than 2,000 fish). While here, you can catch a glimpse of everything from stingrays to sea turtles to sharks.

Recent visitors described the aquarium as small, but charming. Many travelers were especially impressed with the Open Ocean tunnel. And for reviewers who had snorkeled around the island, the aquarium provided a more in-depth education into the animals they had spotted underneath the water's surface.

You'll find the Maui Ocean Center in Ma'alaea along the southwest coast of the island. The facility is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission costs around $27.95 for adults and $19.95 for children ages 3 to 12. There are also family packages and additional activities, such as behind-the-scenes tours, available for an extra charge.You can reach the Maui Ocean Center by car from the Honoapiilani Highway (Route 30); you can also take the No. 20 bus from Lahaina and Kahului or the Nos. 10 or 15 buses from the Piilani Village Shopping Center just north of Wailea (the No. 10 also runs to Kahului).

Experience the Road to Hana

Experience the Road to Hana

We can't say enough about doing the Road to Hana.

To find excellent views of Maui's beautiful coastline, all you need to do is drive. The Road to Hana is a scenic highway (Highway 360) that twists through the lush rainforest and past the cascading Maui waterfalls that line the island's eastern shore. Most people start their trip in Kahului (home to Maui's main airport) with the intention of motoring 55 miles to Hana.

The trip isn't always easy: The route often surprises unfamiliar drivers with hairpin turns. But those who decide to step on the gas aren't sorry they did. Despite all the hype and mental preparation, travelers are regularly surprised by the drive's beauty.

The Road to Hana might seem short, but traveling it will most likely take all day given the number of scenic lookouts and other places to see in Maui. Those who have driven the Road to Hana highly recommend taking your time and stopping as often as possible. Reviewers also recommend starting your drive early in the morning, as the road grows congested as the day progresses.

There are several notable photo opportunities along the way, including the Twin Falls around the 2-mile marker (driving from Kahului to Hana); and the Wailea Overlook or Waikani Falls around the 21-mile marker. Waianapanapa State Park and Hookipa Beach are two of the best beaches in maui. Since the trip will take you awhile, pack snacks and a cooler with drinks.

Also, some travelers note that the winding route can wreak havoc on those prone to motion sickness – make sure to take it slow and allow for plenty of time outside the car. There is no cost to drive along the highway.

Visit the Iao Valley State Park

Visit the Iao Valley State Park

Iao Valley State Park offers visitors the chance to admire something other than the beach. This 4,000-acre, 10-mile-long park in Central Maui boasts a verdant landscape and striking rock features – the most famous of which is the Iao Needle. Rising roughly 1,200 feet into the air, the Iao Needle (known in Hawaiian as "Kuka Emoku") was formed by erosion and is now dressed in the island's tropical foliage, leading it to appear green.

In addition to the stunning landscape, Iao Valley visitors will be exposed to the park's legendary history: It was here that Maui's tribal army lost to the forces of King Kamehameha I during the Battle of Kepaniwai in 1790. It was the victory at this battle that allowed King Kamehameha to unite the entire Hawaiian archipelago under his rule.

Iao Valley State Park features numerous hiking trails, many of them leading to or offering excellent views of the Iao Needle. The most popular path is the 0.6-mile Iao Needle Lookout Trail and Ethnobotanical Loop, a paved walkway that leads straight to the iconic rock formation and through a botanical garden.

Even if you don't plan on exploring beyond the Iao Needle Lookout Trail, travelers recommend bringing plenty of water; although the park has restrooms (located at the beginning of the Lookout Trail), there is no drinking water or other refreshments offered on the grounds.

Here are some highlights to Iao Valley:

  • The Iao Valley Needle

Rising 1,200 feet from the valley floor, the Iao Needle (Kūkae-moku) is one of Maui’s most iconic landmarks. This lava remnant is taller than the Eiffel Tower and was once used as a lookout for Maui warriors during periods of warfare.

Today, visitors can take a short hike on the Iao Needle Lookout Trail and climb 133 steps to the top for a stunning panorama of the Iao Valley and Wailuku. Because the needle is sometimes covered in clouds, we suggest heading out early in the day for the best views.

  • Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens

Also located within Iao Valley State Park are the Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens, a beautiful collection of memorial gardens and displays that celebrate the different cultures who played a role in Hawaii’s history.

Guests can enjoy strolling among waterfalls and ponds fed by the Iao stream and view traditional homes of people who came from Portugal, China, New England, Japan, and the Philippines.

  • Hawaii Nature Center

Since its establishment in 1981, the Hawaii Nature Center has worked to educate visitors about the importance of appreciating and preserving the environment and has locations on Oahu as well as the Iao Valley.

Here, guests can enjoy a wide variety of interactive exhibits and programs including weekend activities, nature excursions, rainforest walks, and environmental restoration projects that focus on connecting with the natural beauty of Hawaii.

Tour Haleakala National Park

Tour Haleakala National Park

Every year, more than a million tourists visit Haleakala National Park, home to the world's largest dormant volcano. The entire park occupies 30,000 acres of land in Upcountry Maui, though most visitors focus on a few specific areas of the park. Of course, there's the mountain: Haleakala's summit stands more than 10,000 feet above sea level (in fact, you can see it from any point on the island).

Travelers recommend planning your visit to the summit in the morning to see the sunrise (keep in mind you'll have to make reservations online in advance). A fairly winding road (Route 378) will lead you to the top. No matter when you visit, be sure to wear warm layers. The air up top is thin and chilly, according to past visitors.

Once you reach the top of Haleakala, you can keep going down into the mouth of the volcano. The Haleakala Crater measures 19 square miles and offers a stark glimpse into Hawaii's early beginnings. Trails into the crater will lead you past a desert-like landscape, making for unique photo opportunities. But don't limit yourself to just the volcano.

The park's most popular trail, Pipiwai, is actually at sea level, meandering 4 miles (round-trip) along Maui's southeast coast to the Waimoku Falls and the Pools of 'Ohe'o. The hike takes three to five hours to complete, but you'll walk away with some stunning photos. Note: The Pools of 'Ohe'o in the park's Kipahulu District are closed due to rockslide concerns.

Haleakala National Park is located in southern Maui and welcomes visitors 24 hours a day. If you're driving to the park, set aside several hours for the journey (it's about three hours from Wailea). There is no public transportation to or in the park, but several operators offer tours to and from the park; if you're not driving, consult your hotel concierge for your recommendations.

You'll find three visitor centers: The Park Headquarter Visitors Center sits near the northern corner of the park along the road to the summit, the Haleakala Visitor Center can be found near the top of the mountain and the Kipahulu Visitor Center sits along the southeast portion of the park (at the head of the Pipiwai trail).

Here are some highlights to Haleakala National Park:

  • Wilderness Experience

If you are prepared for a hike, the Wilderness is open to you. You may choose to spend a few hours enjoying the solitude and open space on a day hike, or you may want to plan an overnight backpack trip where you can share a temporary home with the Hawaiian species that thrive here.

  • Encounter With Native Hawaii

Have you ever seen a native Hawaiian honeycreeper? Heard the haunting call of a Hawaiian dark-rumped petrel? Noticed the thin pink lines on the creamy petals of the nohoana (Hawaiian Geranium)?

Been surrounded by a truly Hawaiian ecosystem? A visit to the Summit Area may provide you with these experiences and many more.

  • Tropical Adventure/Brush with History

Streams, waterfalls, rocky coastlines, and lush vegetation greet you when you arrive in the Kīpahulu Area of the park. But the attentive visitor will notice that aside from the natural beauty, there are many layers of history to experience here where Hawaiians have interacted with the land for hundreds of years.

  • Explosion of Stars

Have you seen the Milky Way? Have you seen it so bright that you swear you could reach out and touch it? The summit of Haleakalā is one of the best places in the world to observe the night sky.

The park is open 24-hours a day so you can experience the wonder of a clear, high-elevation sky. Don't forget to dress for freezing temperatures!

Catch a Wave

Catch a Wave

Legends about surfing are found in the earliest stories of ancient Hawai‘i. In about A.D. 400, a form of belly boarding on small wooden planks was introduced to the islands. Later, Tahitian explorers brought their tradition of riding waves with canoes. The ingenious Hawaiians merged the two techniques to create the sport of surfing.

Today, the fascination with this “SPORT OF KINGS” is as alive as ever, and Maui, with its array of beaches, clear waters and year-round surf, attracts an endless stream of surfers.

Ukumehame Beach State Park in West Maui and Kalama Beach Park in South Maui offer world-class surfing.

Maui also plays host to JAWS, home to some of the biggest rideable waves mother ocean has to offer. Local surfers also call Jaws by the native name of the bay where it is located—PE‘AHI. Big waves at Jaws are hard to predict and should be attempted only by world-class surfers.

Learning how to surf is a rewarding adventure. There are lessons, camps, and clinics for those who want to give it a try. Students generally begin their training riding soft long boards and are introduced to the necessary surfing fundamentals, safety and ocean awareness in a land lesson before entering the small surf. Lessons are fully supervised, and most schools offer beginner, intermediate and advanced lessons.

Watch the Sunrise at Haleakala

Watch the Sunrise at Haleakala

Rising 10,023 feet above Maui’s coastal areas is the massive shield volcano Haleakala. This sleeping giant is enormously popular and easily accessible for visitors; in fact, it has become a ritual for those staying on the island to rise before dawn, and trek to the mountaintop in the chilly darkness to watch the sun make its way across the morning horizon.

To help protect the natural and cultural resources at Haleakala National Park, a new reservation system has been put in place for sunrise viewings at the park.

Hawaiian legend goes that the Demigod Maui traveled to the very spot modern-day visitors do to wait for the sun to rise. However, Maui wasn’t looking to capture a stunning nature shot; rather, he was waiting to lasso the sun and slow its progress over the island because his mother, Hina, complained that her kapa cloth would not dry properly.

As the myth goes, Maui’s lasso hit its target, and it was only after the great yellow orb promised to travel more slowly through the sky that Maui loosened his rope.

Haleakala has been inactive since 1790, when two minor flows occurred on the southwest rift zone near La Perouse Bay. The great basin below the summit, commonly called a crater, is 3,000 feet deep, 7.5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, and is actually an “erosional depression” where water, wind and possibly glaciers once cut into the mountain.

Later, new lava flows partially filled the basin, leaving cinder cones to mark their eruptions. Pu‘u O Maui, the tallest cinder cone, reaches 500 feet from the basin floor.

The slumbering volcano— whose name literally means “HOUSE OF THE SUN” in Hawaiian—is the centerpiece of a 30,058-30,058-acre park that extends from Haleakala’s summit to Kipahulu Valley on the Hana coast. A place of legends and intriguing biological diversity, the park attracts more than one million visitors a year, and offers plenty of alternatives to a sunrise vigil in a well-populated crowd.

Call the National Weather Service (866-944-5025) for an update on the day’s forecast. A recorded message will give you information on sunrise and sunset times, as well as viewing conditions at the summit. Temperatures at the peak typically range from 32 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, but occasionally dip below zero.

Explore Molokini’s Waters

Explore Molokini’s Waters

Set your gaze to the ocean horizon on Maui’s south shore, and there, about 3 miles off in the distance, you’ll spot the half-sunken cinder cone Molokini, a world-class snorkel and dive location that can be reached only by boat.

Tours depart daily from Lahaina, Kihei and Ma‘alaea harbors for the short trip to this resource-laden wonderland. Molokini’s crescent shape acts as a fortress that provides protection from waves and powerful currents. And its status as a marine life and bird conservation district gives shelter to approximately 250 species of fish, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

Most days the water is crystal clear, with more than 100 feet of visibility. Expect to see humpback whales in the winter months, as well as green sea turtles, monk seals, eagle rays, sharks, rainbow-colored fish and fascinating lava formations any other day of the year.

The island itself is off limits to humans, and no fishing is allowed in the immediate area. Guides will insist that you do not feed the marine life or approach endangered sea turtles or seals.

TIP: The backside of the crater, where the crowds tend to thin out, and the back wall drops sharply to depths of 300 feet, is a great spot to bond with nature. At the center is a lush reef with excellent viewing. Another favorite destination is Turtle Town, which is (you guessed it) home to a large colony of green sea turtles.

Most boat companies make a party out of a trip to Molokini. They carry snorkeling and diving gear, provide instruction and offer breakfast or lunch, and sometimes a bar. You can cruise aboard a catamaran, a powered raft or a sailboat.

Drift Along the Ocean by Moonlight

Drift Along the Ocean by Moonlight

Cruises are synonymous with Hawaii's inevitable sense of romance, and you’re in luck, because sundown boat excursions are abundant on the Magic Isle. Whether you and your loved one crave cocktails on a catamaran or a romantic, candlelit dinner on a private yacht, you’ll find a moonlit trip tailored to your desired level of romance and relaxation.

You’d be surprised by what comes out to play in Maui’s tide pools when the moon is up. This is the kingdom of brittle stars, urchins, octopi, shrimp, snails and juvenile fish—nocturnal species that have developed unique characteristics, like stalked eyes for night vision.

A great way to get acquainted with these absorbing sea critters is to sign up for the Pacific Whale Foundation’s popular full-moon tide pool exploration program. Advance reservations are required. Visit pacificwhale.org for details.

You don’t need any special equipment to explore a tide pool. Because tide pools serve as nurseries for young reef fish, it’s ecologically unwise to collect these fish for the fun of it. It’s smart, however, to wear reef shoes or some sort of foot protection, because the exposed lava rock is often slippery and sharp.

Don’t walk in tide pools or touch their inhabitants, because you may harm or frighten away the creatures that live there. A flashlight will come in handy.

Dine at One of Maui's Great Restaurants

Dine at One of Maui's Great Restaurants

Maui is Hawaii's dining epicenter, with a restaurant for every taste. Maui has attracted enthusiastic chefs who make national headlines using fresh local produce from Upcountry farmers. From lavish hotel dining rooms to lunch counters serving plate lunches, Maui's eateries are pleasing and diverse.

Going out to dinner demands tough choices. Maui restaurants consume more than 40 pages in the phone book, and Maui's chefs are world-renowned for their culinary creativity. What type of restaurant? Seafood or sushi? Pasta or poi? Chinese or Japanese? Caribbean or Thai? Mexican, Italian or Vietnamese? The pride of the island, Hawaii Regional Cuisine, is served at many award-winning restaurants. Where should you eat? South shore or west? Central Maui or Upcountry?

West and South Maui have restaurants that range from informal seaside fish houses to swank, candle-lit dining rooms with swans gliding by in a lagoon. Oceanfront dining is a Maui signature.

In Wailea, innovative cuisine showcasing freshly caught seafood is graciously served by attentive staff in an open-air dining room perfumed by sea air and flowering trees, while somewhere nearby, live violin music accompanies excellent Italian fare in a romantic al fresco oceanfront setting.

In Pa'ia, on a cove where an outrigger canoe at sunset evokes thoughts of Gauguin, excellent seafood from the hooks of local fishermen comes in exotic and savory preparations.In central Maui and Kihei, time-honored mom-and-pop restaurants and some of the best ethnic eateries in Hawaii offer top values for family-style dining. If upscale aloha shirt is the dress norm in Wailea, in Central Maui, it's Formica-style casual. Noodle shops, Vietnamese pho, Mexican, Chinese, and American diner fare are among the Central Maui offerings.

One Maui hotspot in Kahului draws diners from all over the island for its Latin fare and live entertainment and the best li hing mui margaritas in the world, while another serves up wiener schnitzels and super-sized salads in a cozy beer garden.Much of the movement called Hawaii Regional Cuisine, Hawaii's culinary sensation, originated on Maui. While some of the founding members of HRC are Maui chefs, today the leaders include a broader group of Maui's finest practitioners in the culinary arts. Hawaii Regional Cuisine is a marriage of the culinary techniques of East and West, wok and whisk.

The use of fresh island vegetables, fruit and seafood in multicultural techniques results in award-winning dishes that have attracted nationwide attention. Fish pried off the hook that day can appear on a plate with a mango beurre blanc. Freshly picked passion fruit morphs into a zesty lilikoi chiffon pie.

Maui basil and tender baby sprouts elevate the simplest dishes to gourmet fare.

See Maui in the Air

See Maui in the Air

Helicopter flightseeing excursions can take you over the West Maui Mountains, Haleakala Crater, or the island of Molokai. This is a beautiful, thrilling way to see the island, and the only way to see some of its most dramatic areas and waterfalls. Tour prices usually include a DVD of your trip so you can relive the experience at home.

Prices run from about $175 for a half-hour rain-forest tour to more than $400 for a 90-minute experience that includes a mid flight landing at an exclusive remote site, where you can enjoy refreshments along with the view. Generally the 45- to 50-minute flights are the best value; discounts may be available online or, if you’re willing to chance it, by calling at the last minute.

Tour operators come under sharp scrutiny for passenger safety and equipment maintenance. Don’t be shy; ask about a company’s safety record, flight paths, age of equipment, and level of operator experience. Generally, though, if it's still in business, it's doing something right.

Travel Tips to Maui: Everything You Need to Know

verything You Need to Know

Best Times to Visit Maui

The best times to visit Maui are April through May and September through November. The spring and fall shoulder seasons provide the pleasant weather Hawaii vacationers seek without the high rates and heavy crowds that accompany the summer and winter. However, if you're into surfing, you'll want to travel in the winter for the best conditions – just book as early as possible to get a discounted rate.

Meanwhile, if you're traveling with kids, you may want to splurge for a summer trip as that's when the waters are calmest.

Best Months to Visit

  • December-March

Maui sees large numbers of snowbirds flying the chilly coop during the winter months. Those who visit Maui in the winter are willing to shell out the high airfare costs and room rates for a taste of the island's 80-degree weather.

At this time of year, the waters around popular sites like Hookipa Beach are too rough for swimming but just right for catching a wave. This is also a prime time for whale watching.

  • April-May (BEST TIME TO VISIT)

Average springtime temperatures remain in the 80s, but Maui has long since said goodbye to the winter tourists. And because the summer crowds have yet to arrive, finding deals on airfare and lodging can be relatively easy.

The island also puts on several notable festivals in March and April, making this a good time to learn more about Maui's culture.

  • June-August

Temperatures may be warm on the mainland, but travelers can't resist Maui in the summer. This is when the island sees a large influx of families – the arrival of summertime brings with it less forceful currents, making swimming conditions better for younger beach bums.

The island also boasts a full social calendar with summer events celebrating everything from food to movies to music.

  • September-November (BEST TIME TO VISIT)

Trips along the Road to Hana are especially scenic at this time of year, and since there are fewer tourists than there are in summer and winter, traffic might not be as much of an issue along the route. During the fall, temperatures remain in the 80s, though challenging currents make their way back to shore.

Like in the spring, flight and hotel deals abound; book several weeks in advance for the lowest rates.

Best Way Getting Around Maui

The best way to get around Maui is by car, particularly if you're planning on exploring large swaths of the island. Maui features a fairly comprehensive set of roadways, so finding your way around shouldn't be too difficult. There are also several public transportation options – including a bus system and hotel shuttles – but these won't always be a dependable option for wide exploration.

You can easily rent a set of wheels upon arriving at Maui's main flight terminal, Kahului Airport (OGG), located on the island's northern coast in Central Maui. You'll find two other airports on Maui: The Kapalua Airport (JHM) is located on the north coast of West Maui, while Hana Airport (HNM) sits in East Maui.

There are direct flights to Kahului from several mainland airports (including Phoenix and Los Angeles), but both Kapalua and Hana are usually only used for inter-island transfers. If you're flying from the mainland's East Coast, you may find it easier (and cheaper) to book a trip that schedules a layover in one of the West Coast airports that offer direct flights to the Kapalua Airport (versus flying into Honolulu and taking an inter-island flight to Maui).

  • Car (Best Way to Get Around)

Renting a car is the best option if you're looking to see more of Maui than your hotel and the beach. Like in many other states, Hawaii requires you to be at least 25 years old to rent a vehicle. Also, since Hawaii is a no-fault state, you might want to spring for collision insurance (if your personal car insurance doesn't cover you).

Although the island features several prominent highways, local routes are often labeled in Hawaiian, which can be confusing to those looking to get off the beaten path. You may want to rent a car with a GPS system to help you find your way.

Also, drivers visiting from busier parts of the country should be prepared to tone down the road rage: Hawaiians do not use their horns unless they are in imminent danger.You will find a variety of rental agencies at the Kahului and Kapalua airports.

  • Bus

There are 13 public bus routes spanning the west, south and central parts of the island. The Nos. 1, 2, 5, 6, 10, 23, 35 and 40 all originate in Kahului, servicing the surrounding areas, as well as points south, east and west. You'll also find six lines operating along the southern and western coasts, but the westernmost point serviced by the bus system is Makawao in Upcountry Maui.

(You will need a car to reach eastern points of interest, such as Hana.) A single ride will cost $2, and day passes are available for $4. Buses run seven days a week starting around 5:30 a.m. and ending around 11 p.m., depending on the route.

  • Taxi

You'll see more taxis at the airport than you will around the island, but should you need a cab, your hotel can call one to take you to a restaurant, attraction or shopping area.

However, you should do your best to avoid relying on cabs for long-distance travel: The standard rate on the island is $3 per mile, so the meter will add up quickly. The ride-sharing service Uber also operates in Maui.

  • Shuttle

Many hotels and resorts – especially those in popular tourist areas like Wailea and West Maui — offer complimentary shuttle services to and from the airport as well as to nearby attractions and shopping areas.

If you don't feel like exploring Maui on your own, this is a very economical way to get around. Check with your hotel when booking to see what type of shuttle service it provides.

  • Ferry

Inter-island ferry services operate out of the Lahaina Harbor. From here, you can catch a ferry to the Manele harbor on nearby Lanai several times a day with Expeditions Lanai – the first ferry departs Lahaina at 6:45 a.m., while the final return boat leaves Lanai at 6:45 p.m.

Round-trip fares cost $60 for adults and $40 for children (one-way trips cost $30 and $20, respectfully).

Maui Places To Stay

All over Maui, you will be able to find many luxury hotels and beach resorts, which can be priced expensively. Thus, it will be helpful if you know how much you can spend for accommodations early on, especially if you are traveling on a limited budget.

You can get yourself a map of the entire island and familiarize yourself first on the places of interest you plan on visiting. Each part of Maui has something unique to offer, so make sure you plan your trip ahead, before choosing your accommodations.

Those who are traveling on a considerable budget will have a wealth of options, including world-class hotels, beachfront villas, and popular honeymoon resorts. If you’re looking to save on your accommodations expenses, however, there are rental condo units available, complete with kitchens and fully furnished bedrooms.

If you’re traveling with a large group or with your family, you might want to take a look into these rental units.Since you are allowed to cook in these rental condos, you will be able to generate savings from your food budget. Many people who have been to Maui will tell you how everything is expensive on the island. Going on a trip to the supermarket so you can cook your own meals or prepare snacks for outings will surely translate to huge savings.

Bed and breakfasts are also budget-friendly alternatives to expensive hotels and beach resorts. You can find a good-priced bed and breakfast at Lahaina, where comfortable rooms and bath are offered at great deals.

Money Savers

There are ways to travel to paradise even on a budget.

  • Accommodations: No matter what the season, ask about deals—a free night after three or four or five paid nights, kids stay free, meal credits. Condos are less expensive and bigger than hotel rooms and are perfect for families or groups of friends. If you pass up the ocean view, you'll save money. In September, October, and May, many hotels offer reduced rates.
  • Food: Eat a big breakfast and skip lunch. You'll probably be sightseeing or at the beach anyway. It's easy to get by with a smoothie or fruit and yogurt. If you eat lunch out, go to that high-end restaurant. Lunch will be less expensive. Early evening "happy hour" deals are a great way to save money while sampling the chef’s specialties. If you're staying in a condo, eat in or pack a picnic when you can.
  • Activities: Pick up free publications at the airport and at racks all over the island; many of them are filled with money-saving coupons. Activity desks—there are dozens around Kaanapali and Wailea as well as in Lahaina and Kihei—are good places to check on discounts if you're not booking in advance. However, advance booking will ensure you get the activity you want; sometimes you can save 10% or more if you book on outfitters' websites.

Packing

Probably the most important thing to tuck into your suitcase is sunscreen. There are many tanning oils on the market in Hawaii, including coconut and kukui (the nut from a local tree) oils, but they can cause severe burns. Hats and sunglasses offer important sun protection, too.

Hawaii is casual: sandals, bathing suits, and comfortable, informal cotton clothing are the norm. In summer, synthetic slacks and shirts, although easy to care for, can be uncomfortably warm. The aloha shirt is accepted dress in Hawaii for business and most social occasions.

Shorts are acceptable daytime attire, along with a T-shirt or polo shirt. There’s no need to buy expensive sandals on the mainland—here you can get flip-flops for a couple of bucks and off-brand sandals for $20 or less.

Many golf courses have dress codes requiring a collared shirt. If you’re visiting in winter or planning to visit a high-altitude area, bring a sweater, a light- to medium-weight jacket, or a fleece pullover.

If your vacation plans include an exploration of Maui’s northeastern coast, including Hana and Upcountry Maui, pack a light rain jacket. And if you’ll be exploring Haleakala National Park, make sure you pack appropriately, as weather at the summit can be very cold and windy.

Bring good boots for hiking at Haleakala Crater; sneakers will suffice for most other trails on Maui.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

There are so many things to do on Maui it can often seem overwhelming. Rather than try to cram them into a blur of activities, simply pick a few favorites and focus on those. The Road to Hana and a luau, for example, are both Maui highlights—but trying to do them both in one day is a sure way to sap the enjoyment. Instead, choose one and spend the day savoring it. And don’t forget: the best way to experience all of Maui’s activities is to keep coming back for more.

Traveling to Maui can be an ultimate dream for many. If you are clueless as to what to expect, however, you may not be able to fully enjoy the best of what the island has in store for travelers. A good map and a pocket dictionary of common Hawaiian terms can come in handy anytime. Careful planning will go a long way, and with an island as beautiful as Maui, it’s always fun from beginning to end.