Oh, just editing these pictures makes me miss Maui so much. *sigh* After our three days in Oahu on spring break we island hopped to Maui for another four days of bliss. “Maui No Ka Oi” in Hawaiian means “Maui is the best” and it’s a phrase tossed around by Maui residents a lot – they take pride in the beauty and community of their island.
We love Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island too, each has its own unique beauty, yet we find ourselves returning to Maui the most because for us it offers everything we want to do, see, and taste when in Hawaii.
Here’s a glimpse of our four days in Maui and some of the favorite places we’ve come to love over the years in this beautiful destination.
I say the same thing each time we arrive in Kahului in Maui: “this is my favorite airport in the entire world!” There are two main places the tourists stay, and where most of the hotels are: the Ka’anapali/Lahaina area on the west side or down south in Kihei/Wailea (however there are plenty of accommodations all over the island). We prefer Kihei the most because it’s a kick-back super casual community and we enjoy hanging out on those beaches best.
We always take a day trip up to the Ka’anapali area for shopping and a great lunch on the beach – it’s a tradition to buy Matt a new Hawaiian shirt on each visit and there is some great shopping at Whaler’s Village – an open air mall with boutiques specializing in local apparel and accessories. Matt loves to collect maps so he always ends up searching around at the Antique Map shop too.
The beach in Ka’anapali is so beautiful, and you can find a lot of water activities and sport fishing in the area, we’ve gone fishing and parasailing here before (but not this trip).
There are two great places to eat on the beach, Leilani’s and Hula Grill where you can sit with your toes in the sand, they’re right next to each other and both serve great island style food and mai tais, and the Hula Pie at Leilani’s is died-an-gone-to-Maui divine!
In the evenings we like to head to Lahaina, the old fishing town that’s packed with shops, restaurants, and people – be sure visit the gigantic 135+ year old Banyan tree in the heart of town too.
Lahaina stays awake and filled with nightlife as afternoon turns to evening which is fun – the torches come out and the lanterns are lit – it’s great to explore for a few hours, especially if you’re an art lover since there are so many galleries here in town.
Any first time visitor to Hawaii must attend a traditional luau for a feast and entertainment and the Old Lahaina Luau is one of the very best. We experienced it years ago, but I popped in to see the setup once again on this most recent visit, before all the attendees arrived.
One misty afternoon, we took a whale watching trip from the Maalaea Harbor – the humpback whales come to Maui to have their babies and you can see them in the waters December through April – it’s unbelieveable to see them popping up around the boat, oh hello massive ocean creature!
The Maui Ocean Center and aquarium is also in Maalaea – we skipped it this time, but it’s another place worthy of a few hours, especially with kids.
On our last day, we took a drive north to a favorite little windsurfer town of Paia. We always stop at the Paia Fish Market for the freshest fish sandwiches. It’s a cool little hippie style town you have to pass through on the road to Hana, with cute shops and art galleries, and it’s worth strolling around to walk off lunch.
Mama’s Fish House is a famous restaurant and island hot spot just past Paia, they serve amazing (but pricey) appetizers and dishes, and you can’t beat the view of the coastline and the windsurfers.
About twenty minutes past Paia town (about ten minutes past Mama’s on the road to Hana) is a really great stop: Twin Falls. This is an easy but adventurous hike to several waterfalls and you’ll pass plenty of island foliage along the way.
Take a swim here, it’s so much fun !
There’s a little fruit stand at the entrance/exit to Twin Falls where you can grab a pineapple smoothie and coconut candy for when you get back on the road, highly recommended!
The last day is always the saddest! Here are some other favorite Maui experiences from previous trips:
1) Driving up to the Haleakala volcano, hiking into the crater at the National Park, and watching the sunset in the freezing cold – bring jackets and blankets! (There are also “bike the Volcano” sunrise excursions too.)
2) Driving the road to Hana and visiting all the waterfalls, beaches, bamboo forest, and then swimming in the “sacred pools”. We stayed out in Hana for a night on a previous trip which broke up the journey and made the long drive more enjoyable for us. (The locals say make the trip around the other side of the island but the rental car companies don’t like it so they don’t tell you about it!)
3) Parasailing at Ka’anapali Beach – I did with my oldest daughter when she was 12, we have such great pictures of that.
4) Visiting the upcountry and the small towns where many locals live, also shopping the stores and specialty shops.
5) Snorkeling in Makena among the rocky coastline and in other little hidden beaches on the island.
6) Taking a boat trip to Molokini for supreme snorkeling – there are tons of tropical fish to see out there in the deep blue waters.
7) Strolling the grounds of the fancy resort hotels in Wailea – also browsing the shops there too!
Favorite places to eat: Sansei in Kihei (also Kapalua) for unique and super tasty sushi (we went twice) and the Lahaina Grill for a splurge (totally amazing food) – also Ululani’s in Lahaina for shave ice! The Coconut’s Fish Cafe in Kihei has excellent fish tacos and sandwiches, and the best mai tais are at MonkeyPod in Wailea -but watch out, they’re strong!
Mostly, we really enjoyed simply taking beach chairs and towels across the street from where we stayed in Kihei to play for an hour or two in the morning or late afternoon.
You could spend a month in Maui and not do or see it all, but the thing you don’t want to miss each night is the sunset, no matter where you are. Crowds of residents and tourists pause and gather to witness the sun disappear over the horizon – even the sand on the beach reflects the color of the sky as the day ends.
Fellow Maui lovers and residents, what are your favorite not-to-miss spots on the island?