Aloha! Heading to Maui, or debating on which Hawaiian island to jet off to? Here’s why you should choose Maui, including a detailed 7-day itinerary covering everything from where to stay, what to see, and what you must know before you go!
A little background on how we ended up in Maui: After many months of hoping that our belated European honeymoon could happen, border openings didn’t seem promising for the dates we wanted to go. My husband and I decided to continue to hold off on Europe, and opt for a destination we felt more confident in.
We got an incredible deal on flights (we paid less around $300 RT for each of us – thanks Scott’s Cheap Flights!) for early October, to celebrate both our anniversary and my 30th birthday!
Before we left, we researched the current restrictions on Maui, and uploaded our flight information, vaccine cards to travel.hawaii.gov. The website also requires a health assessment to be taken 24 hours before traveling, but they do not send you a reminder to do this. Be sure to set a calendar reminder for this.
We flew from Austin to San Diego, where Southwest Airlines had set up a station to check all passengers’ vaccine cards or negative test results, and gave everyone a wristband to show once we landed in Maui — airport code OGG. The process was really simple and made everything easy!
Restaurants in Maui require masks in common areas, as well as proof of vaccination (now including a booster) in order to dine indoors, so be sure to keep your card on you at all times.
*Disclaimer: Our travel experience was in October 2021, and rules/restrictions may have changed. Please check the current processes prior to traveling.
WHERE TO STAY:
After doing a TON of research on the various areas of Maui, including AirBnBs, boutique hotels, and resorts, we decided to stay at Mana Kai Maui in Kihei. The resort’s location was perfect, whereas most AirBnBs were farther from the beaches and had hefty cleaning fees.
Kihei is the southernmost point of the island, which sees somewhat warmer weather than other parts of Maui — a huge plus!
Even though Mana Kai Maui is not all-inclusive (Maui doesn’t have these), the amenities at the resort offered everything we needed, including beachfront access, a saltwater pool, on-site restaurant, general store, kayak and snorkel rentals, and a yoga studio.
We did leave the resort for a few excursions and meals, but if we had wanted to stay put the whole time, we could have. Kihei is home to many locals, but does have quite a bit of nearby restaurants and shopping – some of which is walkable from the resort.
Our room was a one bedroom “condo”, which included a full kitchen and large balcony with an incredible view of the ocean. The kitchen was stocked with pots, pans, silverware, etc., which made making snacks and breakfasts very convenient.
Watching the sunrise with coffee in-hand has never looked so good.
Other areas on Maui that we considered staying were:
–Lahaina – a historic whaling village with a Southern feel, with upscale shops, restaurants, and art galleries.
If we ever go back to Maui, we will stay in one of these areas for a different experience!
WHAT TO DO:
One thing that I loved about Maui was that there were enough activities to keep us entertained, but not so many that we didn’t have time to relax. I’m a go-go-go person, and try to squeeze in every last thing on vacations. Thankfully, my husband is a normal person and enjoys relaxing, so we balance each other out well!
Here’s a list of the activities we did:
Te Au Moana Luau at The Wailea Beach Marriott Resort | Tickets must be purchased for the luau well in advance. The dinner, show, and entire experience was very unique and entertaining, however, we wouldn’t do it again. I’ve spoken to friends who feel differently, and said that they book a luau every single time they go to Hawaii, so to each their own!
Lana’i Coast Maui Sail and Snorkel Trip | Who doesn’t love a good boat day? Seeing dolphins as we anchored, and swimming with several different kinds of fish while we snorkeled was amazing! The water was pretty choppy on the way back, so take note in case you get seasick. Bring PLENTY of sunscreen and be sure to hydrate!
Maui Famous Full Circle Road to Hana Waterfalls & Lunch | This was by far my favorite activity of the trip, and one of the most fun tours I’ve ever been on. Our guide was extremely knowledgable, and flexible with what we wanted to see/do along the way. We made stops for the famous banana bread at Aunt Sandy’s (don’t miss out on the pulled pork sandwiches, either), to swim in a waterfall and at Honokalani Beach – the best black sand beach on Maui, for fresh coconut water at a remote stand in the jungle, and more! Do not leave Maui without doing this tour!
The only thing we didn’t do that I wish we had, is visit Haleakalā National Park. The climb to the top of the dormant volcano is supposed to be amazing, but we ultimately decided that we needed another relaxing day. If you do decide to visit the park, be sure to dress warm!
Here’s how to spend 7 days in Maui:
-Wake up early after arriving in Maui the night prior and watch the sunrise
-Eat a delicious breakfast at Mana Kai Maui’s 5 Palms Restaurant. Get the crab omelette and thank me later.
-Take a stroll along the beach and soak in the beauty
-Lay on the beach and/or swim. We saw several sea turtles while we were in the water, only about 20 feet from the shore, which was so cool! Note: It is illegal to touch or feed sea turtles.
-Happy hour at Monkeypod Kitchen — we actually ate here for dinner, but really enjoyed their apps. Their HH runs 3:30-5:00 P.M.
-Watch the sunset on the beach
-Spend the day at the beach laying out, snorkeling or kayaking
-Explore a bit of the area, including The Shops at Wailea
-Drive over to the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort for a traditional Hawaiian Luau
-Walk off the delicious meal with a moonlight stroll along the beach
-Sleep in and eat a light breakfast
-Drive to Paia (~25 min) for lunch at Mama’s Fish House. If you enjoy seafood, eating at this family-owned restaurant is an absolute must. Make reservations early, as Mama’s typically books 3-6 months ahead of time!
-Stroll through the boutiques and funky art in Paia
-Head back to Kihei and relax on the beach
-Wake up early and drive to Lahaina (~35 min) to begin your boat day
-Spend the day on the catamaran enjoying the ocean and snorkeling. If you’re lucky, you’ll see dolphins!
-Relax on the beach, or indoors depending on your sunburn level post-boat
-Eat dinner at Maui Thai Bistro – delicious and fairly inexpensive
-Sleep in and eat breakfast
-Head to Lahaina to shop at the boutiques and art galleries on Front Street, and take a picture under the 150-year-old Banyan Tree in the center of town
-Eat a lobster grilled cheese on the patio at Down The Hatch, a casual seafood spot with great local beer and cocktails
-If you’re not completely stuffed, treat yourself to a refreshing Dole Whip at Lappert’s Ice Cream
-Head back to Kihei
-This won’t apply to everyone, but my husband and I decided to have anniversary photos taken, and booked a sunset session with Kaleipua Photo. Our pictures turned out amazing, and this was such a fun, romantic thing to do!
*If you’re short on time, combine days 4 & 5 since they’re both spent mostly in Lahaina. Be sure to bring a change of clothes for after the boat.
-Eat the BEST sushi for dinner at Miso Phat. This gem located in a strip mall was also featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, which we didn’t know until we walked in. What a great food day!
-Wake up early and eat a light breakfast
-Get picked up by your guide or meet at the designated spot to begin the Road to Hana. This tour lasts all day, and is well worth the time and money. We saw and learned so much about Maui that we never would have had we done the drive on our own. Plus, we felt 10x safer having the guide drive us, rather than driving the narrow roads ourselves.
*If you do drive the Road to Hana yourself, note that most rental car companies warn against doing so, and will not cover damages or towing if you break down here. Be sure to ask the company about this if you plan to drive the Road to Hana in a rental. Additionally, be sure to pull over and let locals pass on these narrow roads.
-After the tour, grab a local beer & dinner at Maui Brewing Company
-Take a yoga class at Maui Yoga Path, relax on the beach, and grab gifts for anyone back home (highly recommend banana bread and macadamia nut coffee).
THINGS TO KNOW:
-The time difference can be tough. Fight your jet lag from day one by adjusting to local time. Our flight landed at 8pm, and by the time we got our bags and arrived at the hotel, it was 9:30/10PM so we went right to bed. We woke up pretty early, but didn’t let ourselves nap during the day in an effort to get adjusted to the local time which helped a lot.
-Maui in general is not very walkable, so you will definitely want to rent a car or electric scooter. Depending on which town you’re staying in, certain parts of the town may be walkable, but getting to Lahaina from Kihei or Paia is not.
-Maui is NOT cheap. To be blunt, if you’re going for a beach vacation and aren’t interested in Maui/Hawaii specific things, save money and head to the Caribbean instead. Maui was incredible and I have zero regrets about the money we spent, but it’s a wildly high cost if you mainly want to lounge on the beach.
-Be sure to pack reef-safe sunscreen, water shoes, a cheap pair of sunglasses for the boat and beach (no one wants to lose their prescription sunglasses!), and a light jacket for windy evenings.
-The best time to visit Maui is April-May and September-November for great weather with less crowds
I hope this helps you prepare for your trip to Maui!
Any comments or questions? Please leave them here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org