- Western and Southern Maui is busier and much more developed than Kauai
- The East coast of Maui, accessed by the road to Hana, is lush, tropical, and remote
- We stayed in the Lahaina / Kaanapali area on the West coast
- Maui has outstanding beaches along its West coast and in the South
- There’s great snorkeling practically everywhere, even directly off the beach
- Molikini Crater is known to have the clearest water for snorkeling or scuba
- Haleakala National Park should be on everyone’s Must-See list
After spending the previous 5 days in Kauai, we were sad to leave but excited to see Maui on the next part of our Hawaii vacation. We flew on Hawaiian Airlines, which has multiple inexpensive flights daily between the islands of Hawaii. We arrived at Kahului Airport in the evening, picked up our rental car, and checked in to the condo at Kuleana Resorts that we rented on AirBnB for the next 4 nights in Napili-Honokoawai, located on the west side of the island just north of Lahaina and Kaanapali.
After a good night’s rest, we hopped on the local bus and made our way to the famous Kaanapali Beach. This beach is long and beautiful, with lots of restaurants and shops nearby at Whalers Village. We liked the north end of the beach the most, near Black Rock at The Sheraton, where I went cliff jumping and snorkeling.
After a great day at the beach, we came back to the resort, checked out the small beach there and swam with sea turtles! There were LOTS of them chomping away on the sea grass for dinner. We snorkeled around them and they didn’t seem to be bothered. Day 1 in Maui and we had already snorkeled with sea turtles!
On our second day, we headed to Ma’alaea on the Southwest of the island for our snorkel cruise to Molikini, a sunken crater that offers outstanding underwater visibility in its clear water. Unfortunately, the seas were rough that day, so we couldn’t go to Molikini, a major bummer, but we still found some decent snorkeling from the boat just off shore in Ma’alaea Bay. We’ll have to try Molikini again next time!
After our snorkel cruise, we went back to the condo, freshened up and went to the famous Old Lahaina Lu’au. Toursity, I know, but we had to do it! At $105/person, it isn’t cheap, but that includes an open bar and a buffet of Hawaiian staples like kalua pork, laulau, chicken long rice, poke ‘ahi, etc. The lu’au food was outstanding and the show was great.
We spent the entire third day on the road to Hana, where there’s so many waterfalls to see that you may actually get waterfall fatigue by the end of the day! There are also a few unique beaches, my favorite of which was the black sand Pa’iloa Beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park. I actually wish that we had spent a night at the Travaasa Hana resort ($$$$) so that we could have spent two days in this area because there’s so much to see. As gorgeous as this drive was, we were surprised to find that it was also terrifying. The road is very narrow and has frequent hair pin turns, sometimes with cars flying by you (or seemingly at you) on the opposite side of the road. It’s still a drive that I think you should take, but just be prepared for some white knuckle driving and take it slow!
Past Hana on the Southeast of the island is ‘Ohe’0 Gulch, AKA 7 Sacred Pools, a series of waterfalls and a great place for a swim. Nearby is the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls, a 4 mile round trip hike that passes a few waterfalls and goes through a really cool bamboo forest. We loved this hike but had to hustle because it was getting late in the day.
After the hike, it was late, way later than we planned to be out there, so we drove back the way we came on the road to Hana in the dark, making that drive twice as scary. When we visited in 2015, driving an entire loop around the Southeast of the island and was discouraged because Route 31 was apparently a very rough road for cars to drive on but I’ve heard that it’s now in better condition.
On our fourth and final day in Maui, and our tenth day being in Hawaii, we spent the entire day just relaxing at the resort. After our long day on the Road to Hana, we needed the rest and relaxation. After a BBQ by the beach, we ended our trip with a drive 10,000 feet up to Haleakala National Park in the center of Maui. The crater is best known for its sunrise, but sunrise is always a gamble, and waking up super early on vacation sucks, so we went for sunset and it was absolutely spectacular. You’ll feel like you’re on another planet here, and there are lots of hiking options at the summit.
If we had more time (and energy) in Maui, I would’ve liked to spend time in Wailea and other parts in the South, as it sounds like a gorgeous area. From North to South, Kama’ole Beach, Keawakapu Beach, Wailea Beach, Palauea Beach, Po’olenalena Beach, Makena Beach, and Big Beach especially are highly recommended in Maui Revealed – The Ultimate Guidebook.
I also would’ve liked to see the sights in the North-West of Maui, like Kahekili Beach, Napili Bay, Dragon’s Teeth at Makalua-puna Point, the Nakalele Blowhole, Olivine Pools.
There’s no question, I’ll come back to Hawaii. The only question is whether to explore the parts of Kauai and Maui that I didn’t make it to, or go the islands I haven’t been to yet, like Oahu and Big Island. Either way, Hawaii is a magical place to visit!