Imagine the fine sand beaches, the tropical rainforest, a volcano that looks like you were standing on the moon and the valleys that gives you the impression you’re in France. No other island on Hawaii is so versatile such as Maui.
That’s why it’s my favorite island and the reason why I dedicate this contribution to the special land. And I’m not the only one. For over 15 years, the readers of the travel magazine “Condé Nast Traveler” choose Maui to be the best island. May it be the dreamlike beaches and sunsets or the numerous natural wonders, Maui is definitely worth a visit.
Long ago the harbor city Lahaina was the capital of Hawaii before the regency was relocated to Honolulu in 1845. The history of the island’s emergence becomes clear when you look at its topography. In the west, the 1.764 m (5.787 ft) high Puu Kukuiof rises for about two million years.
Its counterpart in the east is by far younger and much higher: the Haleakala forms the largest part of Maui with 3.055 m (10.023 ft) height. Both volcanoes are connected by Central Maui, a fertile valley that also forms the narrowest point of the island. Not even 15 km (9 mi) separate Kahului Harbor in the north from Maalaea Bay in the south.
Besides the breathtaking and diverse landscape of Maui, the numerous water sport activities are another wealth of the island. While in the southwest of the island beautiful beaches attract the visitors, in the northwest divers, snorkelers and surfers populate the beaches. Especially the North Shore is a popular spot for adventurous surfers since there are one of the biggest waves during the winter months.
Now that you’ve learned a little bit about Maui, let’s get to the most important part: best travel time, how to get to Maui and the best things to see, do and eat as well as the best spot to stay. Let’s go!
Best travel time
Maui only has two seasons: a warm and dry summer and a mild and wet winter. While summer starts from April to October, winter is from November to March. During the summer months you can expect pleasantly warm weather with average temperatures from 25-30°C (77-86°F). Maui’s winter starts with occasional storms and temperatures from 20-25°C (68-77°F). Ocean temperatures are always nice and warm. Although it can rain sometimes during the winter months, I recommend traveling to Maui from December to March. It’s low season and prices are lower than during peak season.
My boyfriend and I traveled to Maui in February and we only had one hour of rain and this was in the rainforest. So rainy season is really no problem at all. Also you should know that there are two different types of weather on Maui throughout the year. While the western side is dry most of the year, the south-eastern side of Maui (where the rainforest is) has lots of rainy days. But usually tourists are staying on the western side like we did.
How to get to Maui
First of all, we stayed 5 full days on Maui. It doesn’t sound like much and it definitely isn’t. But most of you do island hopping and stay around the same days on one island. Of course you can probably spend two weeks on Maui. However, even in just 5 days, it’s possible to see the most amazing places Maui has to offer.
Our travel route started in Munich, Germany. From there we flew straight to San Francisco and then to San Diego. In the Californian city we spent 4 days to get used to the time zone (9 hours time difference from Germany). From there we could flew straight to Kahului Airport (OGG), the international airport on Maui. The flight is about 6 hours from California and was operated by Hawaiian Airlines. On our way back we flew with Alaska Airlines. So there are several airlines that fly non-stop from California.
Unfortunately, we missed our flight to our last stop San Diego, because we stood 2.5 hours in the security queue. So here’s my tip: if you don’t have a direct flight, but a first layover in an American city as a foreigner, plan enough time so you won’t miss your flight to Maui.
If you come from far away (US eastcoast or Asia), the best and cheapest option is to fly into Honolulu International Airport (HNL). From there it’s just a 30-minute flight to Maui. If you fly in from Honolulu, you have the possibilities to fly to one of the two other airports: Kapalua Airport (JHM) in West Maui and Hana Airport (HNM) in East Maui. If your hotel is closer to one of these airports, it’s better to fly to either one so you don’t have a long way to your accommodation in the end.
Travel Insurance for Maui
If you’re still looking for a travel insurance – which you should if you plan to do lots of activities – with World Nomads you can find it. You can book insurances for any kind of vacation. Wether it is a diving tour or a surf trip, a travel insurance will save you lots of money in case of an accident. So I highly recommend it – especially when traveling to Maui. Just use the search boxes below to find the best options.
What to see & do on Maui
One of the number-one highlights on Maui is the Haleakala. It’s not just the largest inactive volcano in the world, but also covers more than 75% of the island of Maui. Proud 3.055 m (10.023 ft.) high, its amber slopes are visible from every point of the island. So it’s impossible to miss it! A very touristic thing is to visit the volcano in the early morning to watch the sunrise. There are several tours to get up there (typical costs for sunrise tour: 300$ in high season).
But it’s not for long sleepers. Depending on your hotel location, you have to get up at 2am to get on the peak before the sunrise, because it takes about 2 hours from the Lahaina area. An alternative is seeing the sunset. It’s as beautiful as watching the sunrise and you benefit from less tourists. My boyfriend and I wanted to do the sunset tour, but it was too expensive for us (typical costs for sunset tour: 350$ in high season).
But we were lucky. One of our Uber drivers said, he does private tours and can take us up there for about 200$. His name was Jamie and we can highly recommend him. He gave us helpful tips and he even took us to the Ho’okipa Beach on our way back. If you also want to save some bucks, send him a message: +1 (808) 214-0884.
If you rent your own car, make sure you will make a confirmed reservation two months in advance. It’s only necessary for the sunrise tour. For the sunset tour, you don’t need any reservations. The entrance fee for the Haleakala National Park is 25$, which everyone with a vehicle has to pay. Although it can get pretty warm on Maui, bring warm clothes if you plan a tour to the Haleakala. The volcano is very high, so it can get snowy there sometimes. But with a thick jacket, long pants and a head you will be fine.
Road to Hana
The Road to Hana is a route that should be on everyone’s bucket list when visiting Maui. Hana was once an important Hawaiian settlement and scene of bloody battles. In addition, Queen Ka’ahumanu, the favorite wife of Kamehameha I, was born there in 1768.
Today, Hana is a popular sleepy ranch town, which visitors from all over the world visit daily. I recommend booking a tour to experience the nature at its finest. Otherwise you will be too busy driving. Because the Road to Hana passes cascading waterfalls, breathtaking vistas and 59 bridges around 620 adventurous curves. Also, a part of the way is not allowed to be driven with a rented car (which car rentals don’t tell you). So it’s better to book a tour.
But one of the highlights was the Black Sand Beach. We had an hour to enjoy this beautiful beach with fascinating black sand. From there we drove straight to lunch. And after that we visited the famous Kailua Falls and made our way back through the Kipahulu Valley. All in all, it was a great tour with an awesome tour driver who gave us inside stories about celebrities and the locals. So one thing is for sure: no visit to Maui would be completed without visiting the Road to Hana.
“Merciless sun” means the Hawaiian name of the ancient whaling and plantation town of Lahaina on the west coast. Merciless is also the tourist marketing of the town and the north adjacent city Ka’anapali Beach, where the large hotels string together. Nevertheless, the place has retained its charm. So you can find old wooden houses along the shopping mile “Front Street” and an always bustling harbor. Especially if you see the sunset from the beach, the promenade or one of the restaurants, you will fall in love with this charming little town.
It was the sun and the beautiful location at the foot of the West Maui Mountains that once caused King Kamehameha I. to transfer his farm to Lahaina. Later, the city became the most important whaling port in the Pacific. After 1860, however, the whaling went back and Lahaina fell into a deep sleep, from which it was only the modern tourism that woke it up again.
Nowadays, you can visit the picturesque harbor, the Front Street, the Banyan Court, which is the oldest tree of Maui and the Kamehameha Ili Park where you can try your surfing skills as a beginner.
The best time to do whale watching is from November to March (peak season is February though), which is also the best travel time. During this period, the animals swim year after year from Alaska waters to the coast of Maui for their annual winter migration. That’s why you can watch so many of them in their natural environment. But don’t worry. The boats are not allowed to get closer than 100 yards, unless the whales swim by themselves to the boat.
You want to know more about whales? Then I can recommend the website Maui Whale Watching. They provide you with all the details and can probably answer any questions you have about whales.
Snorkeling at Lana’i
One of the things you shouldn’t miss out when you’re on Maui is snorkeling. While the Molokini Crater is a popular snorkeling spot, I would rather recommend snorkeling at the neighbor island Lana’i. Unlike the Molokini Crater you still find live corals and a variety of different fish species at Lana’i. Also you avoid many tourist boats and hundreds of people snorkeling there, too.
And on our way back we even had the chance to watch the whales from near. They got so close that it was even better than on our whale watching tour. So if you want to save money, book the snorkeling tour at Lana’i. Then you get both snorkeling and whale watching, which is an amazing experience and which was one of our highlights on our Maui itinerary.
Oneloa Beach is much bigger than Ka’opala, but also not a tourist magnet. It’s close to the Honokahua Bay which is a popular spot for surfers. Here the waves can get really high. So due to the closeness to the Honokahua Bay, you will notice that the ocean is rough at the Oneloa Beach as well. But still it’s a wonderful beach where you can enjoy the waves or watching surfers. When we got there we were so lucky, because the beach was almost empty.
But besides the nice area, the beach also strikes with lava formations and a little hiking path from where you have a great view over the beach and the coastline. It might not be a good beach for families with children, but definitely worth a visit for travelers and backpackers.
Unfortunately, we hadn’t had much time to visit Makena Beach, but I’ve heard and read so many good things about it. People say, it’s one of the most beautiful beaches on Maui. So at least, I want to mention it here. It’s also called Big Beach and is located at the southwest coast of the island.
While the beaches around the city Kihei are narrow and crowded, the beaches further south offer fine sand and secluded wideness. Here you would probably find the peace you’re looking for. So if you have enough time, please go and check it out. I’m sure you won’t regret it!
Where to eat on Maui
Since we ate most of the time in Lahaina and Kahana, I can only give you recommendations in these two cities. If you stay in Kahana, you should check out the Maui Brewing Co. It’s Hawaii’s largest craft brewery and serves delicious food – including vegetarian and even vegan dishes.
In Lahaina we enjoyed a great burger and sunset at Cheeseburger in Paradise. It’s an oceanfront restaurant with great burgers and a beautiful view over the ocean. Other restaurants I can recommend are Surfside Pizza Maui, where you get oven fresh pizza as you like it, and the Cool Cat Café, where you also can enjoy delicious burgers.
And if you’re just looking for a little dessert after dinner or a good refreshment, go to Banyan Treats. They are located in the heart of Lahaina and have ice cream to die for. Also try the ice cream sandwiches. They were voted Best Dessert at Lahaina’s Plantation Days. Locally produced and 28 tropical flavors – what else can I say, except yummy!
Last but not least: banana bread. It’s very popular on Maui, so you won’t have a hard time finding it. We loved it and bought a whole bread, which didn’t last long!
Where to stay on Maui
I must say, finding a cheap accommodation wasn’t that easy at all. Maybe it was so expensive, because I searched for it only 2 months in advance. But I guess, Hawaii is just expensive. Luckily, I found a nice resort for my boyfriend and me for a reasonable price. The Kahana Falls Resort is situated 20 minutes north of Lahaina by car and has a little pool and a waterfall, a small fitness room and a 24-hour-reception. Tours can be easily booked by the Island Activities desk. The woman there also gave us great tips of the area and food recommendations. Moreover, they have a welcome get-together for new hotel guests on several days.
The rooms were more like apartments with a little kitchen area. That made it possible to store some food in the fridge and cook something (although we always went out for dinner). The Kahana Falls Resort also has a barbecue area, where you can grill. So no matter how hungry you are, I think you won’t starve at all.
Total price of the trip
As you might have noticed, Hawaii is pretty expensive and not a good destination for backpackers. But still it’s so diverse in nature, that I can only recommend to everyone to go there and experience it yourself. But let’s get to the most important part: how much did we pay for the whole trip, Maui in 5 days?
Our flight from San Diego to Kahului and back costs 300$ per person. As I wrote earlier, it’s cheaper to fly into Honolulu first. But we wanted it more convenient and looked for a direct flight.
The Kahana Falls Resort was about 960$ for the two of us for 5 nights. It was one of the cheapest hotels we could find. But we were quite happy with our choice, because we had everything we needed. For the clean-up we had to pay an extra fee, which wasn’t included in the price we already payed. So all in all, it was about 1020$.
For Uber drives we payed around 100$. We drove with Uber from the airport to our hotel and two times from our resort to Lahaina and back.
The tours were a bit pricey. The Road to Hana tour costs us 180$ per person. The snorkeling adventure around the island Lana’i was about 120$ per person. And the private tour to the Haleakala volcano was 200$ for the two of us plus the entrance fee of 25$ for the vehicle. So for all of our tours we paid about 825$ for both of us.
In addition, we went surfing in Lahaina. We brought our wetsuits so we just had to pay for the board. We only rented one and shared it, which costs us 30$ per day.
That’s it pretty much. As you can see, it was quite of an expensive vacation with a total of 2575$ for two people. So if you plan your trip to one of the beautiful islands of Hawaii, make sure you saved enough money.
Download my Maui checklist
If you would like to have all the information of this post in a short summary, simply download my free accessible checklist here. You will find on it the best things to see and do, food recommendations and where to sleep – all on one sheet. So you can easily print it and take it with you on your big trip to Maui.
Also, I hope you enjoyed this post and you could get helpful information for your next vacation. Let me know in the comments below if you have any further questions or if you have already been to Maui. I would love to hear your experiences.
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