Maui is so good for the soul. Every time I visit, I come home feeling infinitely more refreshed, restored, and happy. This gorgeous island is the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure, epic nature views, and warm, aloha spirit, that make it my top pick for a quick tropical getaway !
I've recently had a few friends ask me for recommendations on the island, so I've compiled a list of good eats, accommodations, and excursions to know before you go.
Snorkel and Sail
With ocean temperatures averaging around 80º year round, a trip to Maui wouldn't be complete without an adventurous snorkel excursion. You can certainly rent gear from your hotel and get in some fun snorkel right off the coasts of your local beach, but I also recommend booking a proper tour - as they will take you to all the best spots, with their local knowledge of turtle breeding areas / whale sightings, in addition to safety information like strong tides, etc.
Hands down, the tour to use is Sail Trilogy. I've done FOUR different tours with them now - and every one of them has been one of the highlights of my trip. The crews are laid-back and hilarious, and you'll find nothing but glowing 5-star reviews on Yelp. Mornings kick off with warm cinnamon buns (a family recipe), and the rest of the day you're kept well-fed and entertained. Excursions with Trilogy are equal parts adventurous and relaxing, and always end with a good beer, breeze, and view as you sail leisurely back to port.
My two favorite tours were out to Molokini Crater, which is prized for its crystal-clear waters and variety of tropical fish, and the Kaanapali Snorkel - where on my last trip I swam with 5-6 turtles a few feet away from me (in addition to fish and whale sightings.) If you're feeling a little less active, they also offer sunset sails to enjoy the ocean in a more relaxed fashion, with some stunning views of the island.
Road to Hana
Everyone should drive the road to Hana at some point - a nature-filled route on the east side of the island filled with tropical waterfalls, scenic hikes and bays. There's a great site HERE with many of the best sites along the route; I recommend picking out 4-5 that most interest you instead of trying to stop at every marker you see on the road. A couple of my highlights include the easy hike to Twin Falls, and swimming in the Seven Sacred Pools at the end of the route. I also love the stand with the local banana bread and coconut sweets !
The road to Hana is a full-day excursion, and with winding roads and afternoon traffic - it can be pretty tiring. The part that makes the drive particularly long is that instead of completing a loop around the island, most people turn around and go back the same way they came. From the west side of the island (Wailea, Kaanapali, Lahaina, etc.), it's a good 3 hour drive each way. The tricky part is past Hana, where roads become unpaved and rocky, and rental car companies request that you turn around to avoid vehicle damage or getting stuck. Most people abide by those rules and turn around at Hana; we rented a larger, more off-road vehicle and ventured on to complete the loop and cut driving time. We didn't think it was that bad; there were only a few areas that were truly unpaved and narrow, though we would be more concerned if the region had recently experienced flooding. Some locals suggested yet another path to us - which was going backwards and starting at the back route (unpaved roads), so you begin the "Road To Hana" where everyone else finishes and the markers are all relatively empty and uncrowded. Whatever route you decide upon, I recommend getting a good night's rest before, an early start in the morning, and allowing for a rest day after !
Kapalua Bay Coastal Trail
Before every trip I always compile a long list of potential hiking trails for us to explore, though once we're there I'd much rather laze on the beach or float in the ocean ! Our last trip we settled on the Kapalua Bay Coastal Trail, which was described as "being so leisurely, you can 'hike' it in your flip flops."
The trail is 3.5 miles round trip and relatively flat and easy (much of it is on boardwalk or gravel,) with gorgeous coastal views the entire way. Trail access begins at Kapalua Bay Beach and ends at DT Fleming Beach. After our hike we lunched at the Ritz Carlton's Burger Shack, with incredible views and the tastiest milkshake you'll find on the island !
Maui is not only a great place to relax, but also an amazing place to adventure ! In addition to snorkels and hikes, there are a ton more sporty activities at your disposal. A few years ago, I had fun ziplining; rocketing high over canyons with scenic ocean views was a great, safe adrenaline rush ! The only people who might want to avoid it are those with bad knees and ankles, as the landings can be rough. Other popular Maui activities include taking up a surf lesson, helicopter tours, and bike riding at sunrise down Haleakala Volcano.
WHERE TO STAY
Many guests like staying on the West side of the island near Lahaina and Kaanapali, where you'll find a ton of accessible beaches and hikes, in addition to the most activity, restaurants, and nightlife. People also love Wailea, which is filled with some high-end, world-class resorts. Personally, that region felt a bit sleepy and insular for me, like it would be easier to find a fancy golf course than restaurant outside your hotel !
My husband and I have become regulars at the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas. They have small kitchenettes so you can cook and enjoy breakfast, wine, and sunset on your private balcony, with scenic island and ocean views. There are three pools, a super fun (and seriously underused) waterslide, and beautiful beachfront area, where you can rent canoes and kayaks. Their casual onsite restaurant Auntie's Kitchen has some of my favorite fish tacos on the island, and to sweeten the pot - my husband proposed to me on the resort's beach a few years back :) We've gone for many years as a couple, but this place is also perfect for families. Like much of Maui, they can be a bit pricey - but we really love it here - from the manicured tropical landscaping and balcony ocean views, to the clean, well-designed rooms you would expect from a Westin.
Because we always stay at the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas, most of my food knowledge is centered around Lahaina. I should add that while I've never been, I've consistently heard super amazing things about Mama's Fish House in Paia, where you could stop for dinner on the road back from Hana. Otherwise, here's an assortment of some of my favorite noms from Maui !
Ohana Tacos - Tucked away in a strip mall, Ohana Tacos serves up cheap, delicious Mexican fare. But really, we come here for the amazing fish tacos - which have the most delicious sauce and are my favorite in Maui ! 3600 Lower Honoapiilani Rd, Ste A, Lahaina.
Burger Shack - Nestled on the beachfront of the Ritz Carlton lies Burger Shack, featuring some of the tastiest burgers and most decadent milkshakes on the island. Shaded beneath coconut palms with some of the best dining views I've seen on Maui, this was one of my favorite relaxed, outdoor meals during my last trip. Perfect finish to a hike along the Kapalua Bay Coastal Trail. 1 Ritz Carlton Drive, Lahaina.
Leilani's On The Beach - If you're doing any shopping at Whaler's Village, drop by Leilani's On The Beach for some casual, family-friendly fare with gorgeous ocean views. A focus on grilled fare, seafood, and a classic hula pie for dessert (chocolate cookie crust, macadamia nut ice cream, hot fudge, nuts, and whipped cream.) The only caveat can be long wait times, so make reservations or plan accordingly ! 2435 Kaanapali Parkway, Building J1, Lahaina.
Star Noodle - With its chic, hip design, creative combinations, and attention to fresh ingredients, Star Noodle looks like something you might find in San Francisco or New York. Great selection of house-made noodles and fusion shared plates, with lengthy wait times to match. 286 Kupuohi St, Lahaina.
Japengo - If you're looking for special occasion dining, check out Japengo - featuring an award-winning menu of Asian inspired fare with a Hawaiian influence, and fresh sushi. I love the tropical, open-air design with tiki lamps. 200 Nohea Kai Dr, Lahaina (in the Hyatt Regency.)
Miso Phat - A couple years ago, some locals laughed when we said we loved the sushi at Japengo and said we could get more at Miso Phat for half the price. The casual, quirky restaurant is BYOB, with innovative rolls and flavor combinations, and fresh-caught fish everyday. Our first experience was amazing and one of our favorite meals from the trip ! Our second trip, however, my husband got food poisoning from the nigiri. So you've got a disclaimer here if you want to chance it, this is indeed the joint many locals love, with lines forming out the door. 4310 Lower Honoapiilani Hwy, Ste 111, Lahaina.
The Gazebo - The Gazebo is a casual, open-air breakfast joint overlooking Napili Shores. With friendly service, and sizable portions, most people come here for their famous and decadent macadamia nut pancakes. This place has the longest line you'll probably encounter during your stay, but everyone is pretty relaxed with the balmy weather and picturesque views while you wait. 5315 Lower Honoapiilani Rd, Lahaina.
Hope you make it to Maui, promise it will be the most relaxing, restorative trip you've taken in years !