If you’re planning to hop on a plane and head to paradise (a.k.a. Hawaii), here are some things I recommend you do based on our trip to Maui, Hawaii in April 2019.
Maui, Hawaii gets approximately three million visitors a year. It is the second-largest island in Hawaii and has repeatedly been named the best island in the U.S. It’s also often referred to as ‘Nō Ka ʻOi’ which means ‘It’s the best!’ and you know what? It is!
This visit to Maui was the first time I’d ever been to the Hawaiian islands! We fell in love with Maui and think we made a pretty good dent in island exploration (but of course, couldn’t do everything in just six days!)
Keep on scrollin’ for tips on where to stay, what to eat, and things to do during your visit to Maui!
Travel Guide: 7 Things To Do and Where to Stay in Maui, Hawaii
(plus other Useful Tips)
Before we get into things to do, let’s talk about where to stay!
Where to Stay in Maui, Hawaii
There are a few key areas on the island you can stay:
For our first visit to Maui, we wanted quick and easy access to the beach so we chose to stay on the west coast of the island, along the popular Ka’anapali Beach area. The stunning Ka’anapali Beach stretches for three miles and is lined with resort after resort after resort. It was actually Hawaii’s first planned resort strip, and today features multiple hotels and condo/hotels that step right off onto the beach. It’s extremely convenient. White sand, beautiful blue-sometimes teal water, and the quickest beach access makes Ka’anapali Beach a wonderful place to stay in Maui (especially I would say, for your first visit!)
Ka’anapali is also very close to historic Lahaina town, which used to be the capital of Hawaii ages and ages ago. Lahaina would also be a nice little place for you to stay, full of shops, restaurants, a dock for easy access to water adventures, and has even been named one of the ‘Top Ten Greatest Streets’ in America. Lahaina is also where you’ll find the most ‘Maui nightlife’ if you’re looking for that, because of its concentration of restaurants (though you should be able to find some nightlife in Paia or Kihei too).
We found Ka’anapali/Lahaina to be a nice home base for our trip to Maui, with drives out to the other regions of the island not taking too much time. That’s how we approached our trip, some beach time followed by day-time exploration of a different area of Maui (or we would start with day-time exploration and end with beach time). It’s worth noting that some days in Ka’anapali did get quite windy and there would be sprinkles of rain almost every day, so something to keep in mind for that area of the island however the rain is really not hard or long enough to ruin your plans—just drizzles that would start and stop quite quickly every so often throughout the day.
Kahului in Central Maui is right by the airport so that is convenient. Paia, Kula and Makawao in Upcountry are smaller, slower-pace places to stay (if you’re looking for that vibe). Wailea is what we’d call ‘the rich region’ lol—you can tell as soon as you get to it that you’ve entered a fancier area of Maui! While Kihei is the sunniest and driest area of the island.
Hotel or Condo? Which should you stay at in Maui?
During our trip planning, we read that a lot of people who ‘do’ Hawaii, do it in a rented home or condo. You can AirBnB or Vrbo to find a rental place to stay, or you can select a hotel or a condo hotel (which is essentially a condo but they have a hotel concierge desk and clean your room for you). We looked at a fair bit of AirBnBs and Vrbos and weighed cost, comfort, convenience (and proximity to beach).
But we have done AirBnBs in past trips and in general, prefer the comfort and convenience of having someone clean up after us (lol). Knowing also that staying in a home with a kitchen to cook up your own Hawaiian dinners was such a Hawaiian thing to do, we decided we would split our stay into both hotel and condo!
Where we stayed in Maui:
Note: we received media rates for our stays at both hotels.
We loved our stays at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel and Aston at the Whaler on Ka’anapali Beach Condo!! They both offered something different that we were glad we got to experience during our first trip ever to Maui.
Ka’anapali Beach Hotel
The Ka’anapali Beach Hotel is one of Maui’s oldest hotels, one of the originals on the Ka’anapali strip, and considered one of the most ‘authentic’ Hawaiian hotel experiences you can get on the island.
As ‘Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel,’ Ka’anapali Beach features what you’d likely consider traditional Hawaiian decor, and it offers a bunch of activities aimed at sharing Hawaiian culture with guests. There are ukelele classes, hula dance classes, kapa (cloth making), lei making, ʻŌlelo (Hawaiian language lessons), Moʻolelo (storytelling), and more! All of these are included in your hotel stay (save for a few, that ask for a small charge to cover cost of materials).
KBH is comprised of a few standalone buildings that circle a gorgeous courtyard, pool, and Tiki Terrace Restaurant, just a few steps from the beach. The courtyard really is gorgeous and features a ton of very Hawaiian trees, flowers and plants including Hawaii’s most popular flower the beautiful plumeria.
The restaurant and grab-and-go plus Tiki Bar is convenient. There are also nightly (free) entertainment at the restaurant. And KBH has also got a beach rental shack where you can grab snorkel, boogie board and other water adventure and beach equipment.
The only thing to note for your stay at KBH is that the building we stayed in was one of their oldest, so it didn’t include an elevator. It was just a few stories though, and the steps are slanted so it made the walk up and down pretty easy, even for my parents, but just something to note when booking, if you’d rather have a room with elevator access, ask for it specifically! A bonus to the building we stayed in though was the gorgeous ocean view from the west windows. We paused in awe every time we walked up or down and passed the window!
The Ka’anapali Beach Hotel is extremely charming and a great introduction hotel to our Hawaiian islands experience! That it was so close to the beach was a huge perk!
Aston at the Whaler on Ka’anapali Beach
The Aston at the Whaler condo features two 12-story condo towers overlooking Ka’anapali Beach and a beautiful courtyard with koi pond (that you can attend feedings for each morning!) We absolutely loved our stay at this gorgeous condo-hotel. If you can spring for the premium suite with ocean view, it’s incredibly worth it—we had incredible views of ocean and island, spacious rooms and a full kitchen to cook meals in, plus access to a swimming pool (for condo guests only) that was still literally just steps from the ocean.
Whereas KBH had a lot of traditional decor and charm you’ve likely imagined Hawaii to have, based on pop culture, movies, and TV, the Aston at the Whaler felt like more of a modern condo / hotel experience.
The 2-bedroom Ocean View premium suite at the Aston at the Whaler is easily in our Top 3 nicest rooms we’ve ever stayed in, on any of our travels, period! And we liked the convenience and comfort of it being a condo that still had hotel amenities.
Depending on what you’re looking for in your Hawaii/Maui experience, we’d definitely recommend a hotel and condo split, or at least an AirBnB/Vrbo then hotel split, especially if it’s your first time, so you can get a true feel for which you prefer. However if you’re more likely to cook meals at home than spend money eating out, a condo / rental may be a better option for you!
What to Do in Maui, Hawaii
1. Spend a beach day (or two or three) at Ka’anapali Beach
Ka’anapali Beach is seriously a spectacular strip in Maui, perfect for swimming, water sports, and lazing about. We bought a cheap snorkel set and inflatable pool float from the nearby Whaler’s Village ABC Store and had a blast in the water. We also rented boogie boards from KBH’s rental shack and floated in with the waves. You can head to Black Rock, a popular spot along this beach for cliff jumping and snorkelling. You can also book a boat or canoe tour along this beach. Walk along Whaler’s Village boardwalk and visit their shops and restaurants. And if you just wanted to do nothing at all, this beach is amazing for that as well! Lay down a towel or a chair in the sand and sunbathe the day away.
2. Visit Olowalu
Olowalu is a community just a little south of Lahaina that is home to quite possibly the most famous fruit stand and pie shop on the island of Maui, AND a strip of gorgeous canopy trees. The brief stretch of road near Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop is beautiful! You must stop in and have pie, then grab all the spam musubi flavours from Olowalu General Store and finally pick up macadamia nuts and fruit from Olowalu Juice Stand. All three of these spots are located side by side just off the Honoapiilani Highway (Hwy 30).
— Linda Hoang 💕 (@lindork) June 5, 2019
It’s a great place to spend a bit of time, and if you’re staying in Lahaina or Ka’anapali, you have to drive by it on your way to anywhere, so you could actually end up making spam and pie stops each day, all trip long!
3. Find and photograph Instagrammable Walls
I do it wherever I travel and Maui was no exception! There are actually a ton of gorgeous Instagrammable Wall/murals in the Wailuku area of Maui near Kahului (central Maui). Finding and photographing Instagrammable Walls is a great way to explore the island and capture memories / landmarks specific to the area. It also forces you to get out into the different neighbourhoods (even though you could just stay on the beach all trip long and have. a grand time lol).
4. Walk historic Front Street in Lahaina
Lahaina is a historic whaling village in West Maui near Ka’anapali Beach, today home to a bunch of shops, restaurants and galleries. Lahaina is where you would set sail on whale watching excursions, do a day trip to the island of Lanai, and visit one of America’s largest Banyan trees.
This is a lovely little walkable downtown, where many choose to book sunset reservations at restaurants overlooking the ocean. Parking here, however, is extremely at a premium so you may be circling for some time, and depending on when you go, the sidewalk fills up fast with crowds!
5. Eat all the local food—spam, seafood, loco moco and more!
Gosh, the food in Maui is amazing!! One of my favourite things to do during our trip was eat as much local Hawaiian cuisine as possible. You’ve got to try the Loco Moco at Joey’s Kitchen, Poke from Foodland, Tamura’s or even Safeway, Plate Launches from Ono Kau Kau, Hawaiian Shave Ice from Ululani’s, ALL THE SPAM wherever you can get it, and so much more! One of my favourite Maui memories is sitting out on the condo balcony, watching the waves crash in, while eating ahi tuna poke! Another favourite Maui memory is having spam musubi by the pool (and before bedtime! lol). A truly delicious food highlight was feasting at Lineage Restaurant in Wailea. I’ve blogged separately about all of these dishes and more in my other Maui Travel Guide!
6. Take the Road to Hana
Driving the Road to Hana is often recommended as one of the number one things to do in Maui, Hawaii. This scenic highway (Hana Highway) takes you through a lush, tropical rainforest, to the small town of Hana in east Maui, and there are many different sights and stops along the way.
If you are taking the Road to Hana, you most certainly need to dedicate at least a day to it.
Many people will also plan their itineraries so they stay overnight in and around the Hana area, so you don’t feel too rushed during your road trip.
The views along this highway will wow you! There are also restaurants, food stands, black sand beaches, waterfalls and little attractions all along the road. Personally though, Mike and I felt very nauseous for most of our drive along the Road to Hana and the roads are so windy, narrow, and with so much traffic that it wasn’t the most relaxing part of our Maui vacation, but if you’ve never been before, it’s absolutely something you must do!
Be sure to read my Travel Guide and watch my Video Blog about the Road to Hana for more tips to plan your trip!
7. Take in a Luau
What comes to mind when you first think of Hawaii? Likely, hula dancers and a luau. The luau is a super traditional Hawaiian party that features food and entertainment. The food is usually a Kalua roast pig, and the entertainment is usually Hawaiian music and hula dancing. The history of the luau is really cool—in ancient Hawaii, men and women weren’t allowed to eat together, but in the 1800s, King Kamehameha II abolished this rule and to celebrate men and women being allowed to eat together again, a big party (the first luau!) was held.
There are many luaus offered in Maui, including a popular one along Front Street in Lahaina, or the one we went to the Myths of Maui Luau at the Royal Lahaina Resort—which is also Maui’s longest-running Luau! Luaus are all-you-can-eat and include an Open Bar. That, plus the entertainment, history and culture make luaus something you should definitely do.
Other Things To Know About Travelling to Maui
- Renting a car is a must in Maui if you plan on going anywhere. Unless you’re planning on just staying at your little section of beach the entire trip, you’ll need a vehicle to get around to different regions of the island. A popular rental vehicle in Maui is a jeep! It can feel very Jurassic Park-like, lol. We found the traffic to not be too bad in Maui (the busiest was honestly along the Road to Hana) but we have been told it really depends on time of day (so if you can avoid driving during rush hours, that’s advisable).
- Watch for flight deals! We got an incredible round trip deal for $380 total through a flight deal website YEGDeals.com. There is also a YYCDeals.com and actually maybe a version for lots of major cities across Canada (if you’re Canadian, but I’m sure there are. great flight deals from the U.S. too!)
- While you may get a great deal on the flight, your accommodations is where you should plan to be spending a good chunk of your change. Our hotel and condo stay in Maui (even with media rates) was one of the priciest we’ve ever paid for accommodations on any of our travels. And we were told by many people who have been to Maui that that’s just the case, lol. But you can find some savings depending on time of year you’re booking, whether close proximity to beach isn’t as high on your list, and we also learned that if you are able to split rooms by 4+ people then the costs do come down a fair bit. You can get some really nice suites at reasonable rates if you plan group Hawaii trips! Also, try to book pretty early because depending on. time of year, accommodations in Maui will book up fast!
- While you may not save much on accommodations, you can still plan to save money in other areas, like cooking some meals at your rental kitchen, finding Happy Hour deals at restaurants, or getting cheaper alcohol at the grocery stores, for instance. I would also have happily eaten cheap spam musubi for snacks to tide me over in the mornings over going to breakfast or lunch, if I wasn’t also on a mission to eat all the Hawaiian food lol.
- There is almost nothing to do at the Maui Airport so do NOT go there sooner than you need to. Many airlines don’t open check-in until 3 hours before the flight as well, so depending on when your flight leaves, literally, do anything else than go to the airport early. They also for some reason don’t really have any chairs/benches in the airport before you go through security so seating can be a premium too.
We had a magical Maui vacation and there was still so much we didn’t get a chance to do! We absolutely cannot wait to get back to Hawaii and explore more of what this island and others have to offer.
I hope this post gives you some ideas on what to do, eat, and where to stay on your visit to Maui, plus some other practical travelling advice.
If you have more Maui questions that I haven’t touched on in this post (or my other Maui Travel Guides), feel free to send me an email or ask me on social media!
P.S. I definitely wanted to put together a video blog to accompany this post but have simply run out of time (lol). I may edit this post later this summer to include a video as well so you can really get a feel for Maui!
Be sure to check out my other Maui Travel Guides:
- Guide to Instagrammable Walls of Maui, Hawaii
- 12 Local Foods to Eat in Maui, Hawaii
- Know Before You Go: Tips for Taking the Road to Hana, Maui, Hawaii