Whether you’re planning a honeymoon, an anniversary celebration, or a family trip with the kids, Maui is an awesome destination!
Since it was our first time traveling to Hawaii, I decided to consult an expert, Megan Taylor with Epperly Travel (who also happens to be a past bride) was my first call. We discussed each of the islands and what they had to offer. We wanted the tropical look you envision when you think of Hawaii, complete with beautiful beaches, but also were hoping for an area with good food, nice resorts, and plenty of things to do. While I heard great things about the beauty of Kahwai, it is a little less developed, so we went with Maui, which seemed to have everything we were looking for. Once we were set on going to Maui I started doing more detailed planning, and a friend recommended the book “Maui Reveled”, it has a ton of great info, and will save you a lot of online searching! Here are my top tips for where to stay, how to get around, what to do, and where to eat while in Maui, along with some of my favorite pictures from the trip!
Where to stay in Maui
There are a number of beautiful resorts to choose from in Maui. At the suggestion of our travel agent we went with the Andaz. If you’re going with a resort, the best options will be in the Wailea area.
The Andaz is one of the newest, and had a modern look, good amenities, and nice beach front property (as seen in the picture above) with chairs and umbrellas (only bummer is the bar does not deliver drinks down to the beach, just to the pools). They did offer an adults only pool, which was nice since we were traveling without our daughter on this trip. All of the pools were very nice, and not crowded at all, which I heard can be an issue at the Grand Wailea. The staff was helpful, and service was great, just be prepared to pay top dollar to drink and eat! Average drink cost was $16-18. We decided to hit an outside store for some snacks along with wine and beer we could keep in the room. The Andaz did offer Paddle boarding classes, along with movie nights and outdoor yoga, etc…which was nice, but we were busy doing other things during the day, and didn’t take advantage of most of them. Also be prepared to pay daily “resort fees” at all of the hotels, it’s not optional, and basically a way to just get more money, but make the daily hotel rate look lower.
Due to the high resort fees, and overall pricing, on our next trip I would consider checking out Airbnb or other sources for renting a house to see what other options are out there. Of course then you would have to get to and from the beach, bring your own food and drinks, and miss out on the fancy chairs and umbrellas, but it would probably be a good way to save some money if your trying to stick to a tighter budget.
How to get around Maui
We rented a convertible from National Car rental (shout-out to them for the upgrade to the Mercedes). The convertible was a fun way to explore Maui while driving from place to place. I will say Maui was more spread out than I realized, and to get to many of the restaurants or activities we were doing, it was often a 30-45 Min drive. Having a car at our disposal, did make it a lot easier to get around, but it does mean getting stuck with the daily parking fees at the resort. Uber was available most days when we checked, and many of the hotels do have limited car services that can help you get to nearby places. Depending on where you stay, there may also be a few options in walking distance.
Where to eat in Maui-
This is a place everybody told us we had to go! You do need reservations, try and get them a few weeks out to ensure you can get the day and time you want. I was able to get one within a week or so, but it was a super late dinner. If you can’t get a reservation, you can also try walking in and waiting for a spot up at the bar (you can order off of the full menu there). The bartenders were really cool, full of fun stories about the island and the people who have been there. The drinks were great, the bread and butter is amazing, and the fish I had was excellent. The area around the restaurant is also cool, so bring your camera for taking pics while waiting for your table.
Other favorite restaurants
Monkey Pod Kitchen, in Wailea, the gnocchi was amazing! Morimoto, a Japanese restaurant with a sushi bar, from a celebrity chef , Masaharu Morimoto. The sushi was yummy, but my favorite thing on the menu was hands down the calamari salad. For breakfast the Ka’ana Kitchen in our hotel had an awesome buffet, which was included in our stay thanks to booking with Epperly travel. After having such a big breakfast we often didn’t even need lunch! We did try Ka’ana Kitchen for dinner one night, and while the food was very fresh farm to table concept, with an innovative menu, it didn’t end up being one of our favorites. They do have an impressive wine list, but be prepared to splurge!
For the full Hawaiian experience you should try and get into one of the Luaus. I heard great things about the Old Lahaina Laua, but that was booked up, so we went to the Feast of Lele instead. The food came out in courses, and while we didn’t like everything, there was something from each course we both enjoyed. The entertainment and music is fun, and the view of the beach at sunset is spectacular!
Things to do in Maui
Sunrise and bike trip down Mt. Haleakala-
The view of the sun rising from the top of Mt is amazing, and totally worth getting up for. I recommend booking this on the first night or two you are in Maui (if you are coming from a more Eastern time zone) so when the alarm goes off at 2:30am, it feels more like 8:30am, which isn’t so crazy! You still may need a nap later in the day, but the experience will have been worth it. A couple of warnings, this bike ride is no joke, you start about 7,000 feet up, it’s all downhill, lots of turns, and cars are using the same road as you are. The views are amazing, but you need to keep your eyes on the road, to make sure you don’t end up as part of the scenery. Because of the dangers involved, I would suggest going with a reputable company, that stays with you the whole time. We had a great experience with Bike it Maui. They had all the gear we needed, were good at preparing us for what to expect and how to deal with it, and the best part is their van rides behind you so he blocks cars from zooming around you. Without the van in the back, cars would be just a foot or two away from you the whole way down, and when your going 30 miles an hour, downhill with turns that’s just an accident waiting to happen. You don’t have to peddle, so it’s not difficult, but being comfortable on a bike is super important. Also, at sunrise on teh top of teh mountain it can be quite cold, even so layer up, and bring a hat and gloves. You can take off layers as you go down.
Snorkel and Sailing
The Molokini crater has really crystal clear water which was perfect for snorkeling. There were a good number of fish, but you had to get a little further away from the big groups of people to see them. I heard the early morning boat trip is better because there are less groups of people out, but we didn’t want too many early days on our vacation so we went with eh later departure. We booked with Kai Kanani Sailing Charters (if you book online they give you a discount) , the crew was great, very knowledgeable, and made sure everyone was taken care of and having fun. One benefit of this company is they pick up closer to the crater so you spend a lot less time going to and from, and it picks up close to the hotels in Wailea. Our trip did two stops, the second one was in “turtle town”. The water at this stop was not nearly as clear, so you had to be fairly close to a turtle in order to see it. The waves were rough, so I didn’t last long in the water, but for those that stuck it out, they did end up seeing quite a few turtles by the end of our time there. Lunch and drinks are included, the food was sandwiches and chips, so nothing fancy, but enough to fill you up after spending all the time in the water. And be sure to bring some money to tip the crew:)
Road to Hana
This is another one of those things everyone said we had to do. Luckily our tour guide for the bike trip gave us a bunch of good inside tips on to get the most out of our Road to Hana adventure. First, he suggested we do it in reverse. Most people start near Paia town, so we did the opposite and came at it starting with Hana. If it’s been raining a lot they don’t suggest going this way. The upside, is a lot less traffic, and the views of the water are breathtaking, you get to see the back side of Haleakala mountain. The downside, there are sections that aren’t really paved and only one lane, which is ok when it’s a straight section, but going around corners can be a little stressful, at least it was for me. My husband thought it was fun to drive, I was ready for a drink by the time we were done!
If you go the way we did, there is a great place to stop for coffee and snacks before you get too far into your journey. It’s called “Grandma’s Coffee House“, they have great coffee, and we stocked up on sandwiches and snacks for the long ride. There is also a cute winery nearby, but we didn’t stop since we had a lot of driving ahead. Our first stop was in the Haleakala National park, to explore the Pipiwai Trail. We spent a couple of hours here. It’s a 4 mile round trip hike, where you see some amazing waterfalls, and hike through a bamboo forest. It’s worth doing, but bring water, wear sneakers, and know it’s going to take some time, because parts of the path can be muddy and slippery. The 400 foot waterfall at the end is beautiful to see up close. At the suggestion of others, we did ignore the sign at the very end, and crossed over to get to the base of the waterfall. It felt perfectly safe, but I guess under the wrong weather conditions it might not be. Keep an eye out for rising water. The view was so much better that it felt worth the extra hundred feet and risking getting fined. Because it started raining we didn’t get out that much on the road to Hana. A highlight was when we stopped at Wai’anapanapa State Park to see the black sand beach. It was fun to photograph, and they had some neat above ground caves walk through. The rest of the 39 mile drive back felt long, and we were very ready to get out of the car by the end.
This is a little hippy surfer town, but has a lot of fun shops, and we enjoyed walking around and getting some fun gifts to bring back. We also had a great massage here at a place called Body Therapeutics. It’s really small, but the massage therapist was really great, and a lot less expensive then the spa at our hotel. For a little extra, you can also hire them to come to the resort if you don’t feel like driving over to this side of town. While you are in the area, if you go to the beach just past Mama’s Fish house, you can see a number of the large sea turtles coming to shore at the end of the day. They look a lot like rocks from far way, but are cool to see up close. There was also a lot of surfers and kids playing on the beach, so it was also a good spot for people watching, and killing time until our dinner reservation.
Lastly, while in Maui I encourage you to take time to meet the locals, and of course take lot of pictures! We met so many interesting people on our trip, some who were born and raised there, others who had fascinating stories of what brought them to the area. Dado, the artist below, was one of the locals we got to chat with. He is a pop artist who spent time working with time working with Andy Warhol, before making his way to Maui. He was hanging out at the local gallery, that sells his work, and finishing up a painting of Taylor Swift when we walked by. His Audrey Hepburn painting was one of my favorites.
As for cameras, if you have it, bring something other than just an i phone to document your trip. If you don’t have a digital camera, borrow or rent one. I carried a back pack and took my Nikon D750 with a 50mm or my 24-70mm lens almost everywhere we went, except on the bike trip, where it was in the van that followed us, so I was able to grab and take some pics when we stopped. Go Pro’s are also a great choice, we had ours and got some fun footage while biking down the mountain as well as while snorkeling and hiking.
Maui is such a cool island with so much to do and see. I look forward to going back again someday, but until then, I’ve got my pictures to help remind me of all it’s beauty! All photos shown belong to Bre Sessions Photography and outside of the ones I am in, were all taken my me:)
Thanks for stopping by my blog. Leave a comment and let me know your favorite things to do in Maui, or feel free to ask a question about anything I’ve mentioned above. Happy travels, Bre