One of the best parts about living in Maui is when people come to visit us. I always look forward to having friends and family come to stay. I grew up here on Maui far away from family and many of them have never visited before. When they do decide to visit it is exciting to talk to them about what things they want to do and see while they are here. Today I want to give you some insight on my tops tips I share with family friends, especially if it is their first trip here. I am answering all of the most asked questions in my top ten important things to know before visiting Maui.
1. Which airport should you fly into?
I want to mention this tip especially as I had friends fly into our Kapalua Airport, which is on the West side. It worked out because they were staying on that side but most visitors fly into our Kahului Aiport located in central Maui, the airport code is OGG. There is also an airport in Hana which is on the remote east side of the island. Always remember to double check the airport before you book even when you use a travel agent. It could end up being a long drive if you are staying on the opposite side of the island.
2. How long should you stay?
I always recommend ten days if you have the time. A week is long enough but you might not be able to do everything and can end up feeling a little rushed towards the end. Ten days gives you a little down time in the middle to allow you to rest or do things that you really enjoyed again. Most people do hit the ground running once they land as there is a lot to do and see here. However you could feel like you need a vacation from your vacation if you are going going going your entire trip.
3. Where should you stay?
Most visitors stay on the South Side which is Kihei and Wailea or the weest side which is Lahaina, Kāʻanapali, Kahana and Kapalua (there are a few other towns but those are the main places). If you want what I would call a typical Hawaiian vacation with lots of beach time I would recommend either the South or West Side. Most of the hotels, resorts and condos are going to be located on these sides. If you want the best of both worlds in regards to beach time and exploring other sides I would say stay on the South side. It is more accessible to the other sides of the island. The west side really is it’s own little world but if you are into just staying on one side for most of your trip I would stay on the West Side. However if you are most adventurous and want o experience a different side of Maui then definitely look into the North Shore, Upcountry Maui and Hana, which is the most remote area. You can find some unique Inns, Bed and Breakfast’s or an Airbnb. There are not any hotels on these sides a part from the Hana Hotel on the East side. Also if you are here during off season download the Hotel Tonight app for great deals on hotels (don’t forget to use code NABERNARDY for $25 off).
4. Do you need to rent a car?
You will definitely want to rent a car when you visit. Taking an uber, lyft or taxi is not a cost effective way to get around the island and is best for shorter trips if you are staying on the South or West side. There is a Maui bus but the routes are very awkward and it is not the fasted way to get around. I highly recommend renting from Kihei Rent A Car. They have new models and rent their older models at a reduced rate. Make sure you contact them right when you know your dates because they do book up fast.
5. Can you drive the entire island in a day?
Yes you can but I feel like this question stems from can you experience the whole island in a day. Maui is the second largest Hawaiian island at 727 mi² but there is not one road that takes you around the entire island. Therefore I suggest dedicating certain days to different sides of the island. Give yourself some time to explore upcountry Maui, have a few all day beach days on the South Side, and a day or even two to explore the East Side.
6. Sides of the Island
I’ve already touched on this but there are different sides of the island. You will fly into Central Maui which is the starting point to head out to every side of the island. You can head to the North Shore by way of Hana Highway and stop in the cute beach town of Paia. Or you can take Haleaklala Highway to Upcountry Maui and check out the historic town of Makawao, where I grew up for their third Friday town party. Mokulele Highway will take you to South Kihei road along the ocean to Kihei Town, which is home to some of the most beautiful beaches like my favorite spot Makena. To experience the iconic Front Street take Honoapi’ilani Highway out to Lahaina and check out their second Friday town party.
7. Not just beaches
When friends and family come to visit I usually ask them what they want to do before they come so I can get better idea. While I love to be spontaneous when traveling it is also nice to have some sort of a plan. Some visitors just want to go to the beach and others who want the best of both worlds. There are tons of amazing hikes here, like the Waihe’e Ridge Trail and the stunning trails Polipoli, and I would recommend having a general plan before arriving. There is a lot to do here and depending on how long your trip is you want to make sure you are able to experience your top picks. For example going up to see the sunrise at the summit of Haleakalā is incredible but it is important to factor in that you have to get up super early and don’t forget to make reservations. A trip to Hana Town is also amazing but just make sure you set aside the days to go so you can take in all of the beauty East Side Maui has to offer. If you need more insights on places to see check out this Maui Travel Guide.
8. Is driving out to Hana worth it?
On the note of Hana I want to specifically touch on some important tips. While it is a must-see spot it is also not for everyone because of the long a windy drive out there. You can have an incredible time just exploring the road that is filled with waterfalls if a long windy drive is not your thing. The coast is still really beautiful and there is a lot to see without taking the whole drive out there. A great stop about 45 minutes in is the Garden of Eden. If it sounds right up your alley leave early as you can see a lot in a day. However if you have the time, ie booked a ten day trip, I would recommend camping, booking an Airbnb or staying at the only Hana Hotel if you can swing it.
9. What do locals eat?
I have a funny story that I shared in my video about visiting Maui, which you can check out here. There is a term called Plate Lunch, which if you don’t already know, consists of a main entree item, white rice, mac salad and corn. This is the staple meal not only on Maui but here in Hawaii. I would suggest checking out DaKitchen to get your fix, they have a few vegetarian items and salads as well.
There is a term here in Hawaii which you may have heard, it is the word Aloha. It means love but honestly it has even more of a deeper meaning than that. When you visit the islands locals will greet you with a hug and a kiss. This is to welcome you to the island and to help you feel more relaxed and at home. The culture here is really focused on embracing people as family and we want you to feel at peace when you visit.
I hope you found all my ten important tips to visiting Maui helpful. If you have any further questions please let me know in the comments. Be sure to also check out my Youtube Channel for more Maui Travel Guides which you can subscribe to here.
Have a wonderful time on Maui!
Lots of Aloha,
Nadia xo Wanderful Mama