Maui’s towering palms and turquoise-blue Pacific waters bring thousands of visitors to this gorgeous Hawaiian jewel each year. Visitors wander through the lush and brilliant-green jungle, enjoy the cool waterfalls and revel in the island adventure that is Maui. Check out these vacation tips to make the most of your visit to this tropical beauty. If you want to be on aloha time rather than bustling through vacation at a city-dweller’s pace, you have many different opportunities for relaxation and enjoyment on Maui. In fact, if you’d rather go without a car, you can do so fairly easily if your main goal is to hit the beach every day.
All beaches on Maui are public, and there’s no shortage of coastline, but not all of these locations are ideal for access to the best beaches in Maui. For such a small island, the terrain here is highly varied. That means each beach tends to have a bit of its own character. Visitors looking to experience the area’s black sand beach, for example, should carefully note where this sole spot is located before deciding where to stay.
Where To Find A Vacation Rental
The South Maui neighborhood of Kihei is a laid-back place that’s home to a lot of local residents. In addition to being a great place to find affordable lodging and food, Kihei is a fantastic launchpad from which to explore the many beaches on different parts of the island. Kihei’s own Kamaole Beach parks, which are split into parts I, II and III, are easy spots to access from many different hotels and rental houses, but many of the best snorkeling beaches in Maui are just a short drive to the north or south. These include Makena State Park, also known as Big Beach, and Black Rock Beach.
Lahaina is a former whaling village that’s now one of the most crowded tourist towns on the island. Traffic into and out of Lahaina can be a major headache, so if you want to get to explore different beaches by car, you might want to think twice before renting a vacation home in this part of Maui. There are several great beaches in the area, including Baby Beach and Airport Beach, so extensive traveling isn’t necessary to enjoy the tropical splendor if you choose to stay in Lahaina. This is a great place to be if you like feeling close to the action and appreciate the bustling, busy feel of a tourist town with lots of T-shirt shops and cheesy souvenirs. Thanks to its maritime history, Lahaina is a major port on Maui, and most local tour companies launch whale-watching, snorkeling and other boat tours from this location.
East Maui is tucked away from most of the action on other parts of the island, so it has a more remote feel to it. Hana, the main town in this part of the island, is accessible by a famously narrow and winding road that really makes the area special. Traffic on The Road to Hana can also be a major pain during peak tourist seasons, so if you choose to stay here, plan to either spend a day or two elsewhere on Maui or make the most of the beaches that are accessible nearby. Luckily, Hana does boast some incredible beaches, including Waianapanapa State Park, which is home to Maui’s only black sand beach. The only red sand beach in Maui is also located in Hana, though this one, Kaihalulu Beach, is very remote, difficult to find and dangerous to access. That wild character is common on this part of Maui, which is rockier and more rugged than the resort-packed areas farther west.
Kahului is the commercial center of Maui, and it’s also where the airport is located. Even though most of the island’s most famous beaches are elsewhere, there are actually some fantastic places to enjoy surf and sun nearby, especially during weekdays. It’s possible to beat the crowds completely and have a beach experience almost entirely to yourself at Kahului-adjacent spots such as Waihee Beach Park, which happens to include a beautiful reef.
A popular area for luxury resorts and fine dining, Wailea occupies some of the best beach real estate on Maui. Though lodgings here are usually pretty pricy, anyone can come enjoy the white sand beaches of southwest Maui — though hotels might set parking prices pretty high. If you’re aiming for a more luxurious experience, you’ll find plenty of great resort and rental options here. While most of those offer easy access to beaches right within the Wailea area, there are tons of great beaches farther south. Makena State Park is close by Wailea, but going even farther on the road south takes you past the barren lava fields of Haleakala and into rugged territory that’s mostly uninhabited. You may even catch a glimpse of some wild goats on this part of the island, though the coastline is so rough with volcanic rock that beachside relaxation isn’t exactly that comfortable. Makena’s white sand, coral reefs and amazing views offer just that kind of experience for those who want it, though, making Wailea an especially convenient place for Maui visitors looking for a classic Hawaiian beach experience.
What To Do During Your Stay
There’s almost no better way to explore the beauty of the island of Maui than to take a guided tour. Step out of your Maui vacation rental on the beachfront and take off in an Air Maui helicopter to enjoy the sights of this tropical paradise from above. The helicopter hovers over glimmering waterfalls and dips between the jagged ridgelines while you catch a glimpse of humpback whales and stop for a private dinner at sunset. Boat tours also provide an easy way to explore the entire island of Maui, with private excursions available for couples who love sailing or fishing charters that take an entire day. Catch dinner on the deck of a charter boat, or watch the sun setting with brilliant pastel colors over the white sand beaches from guided boat tours.
- Hike the Kapalua Coastal Trail
Outdoor adventure-lovers take to the Kapalua Coastal Trail to enjoy the 1.75-mile walk across the Maui cliffs and through windswept beaches. The Kapalua Coastal Trail and a climb to the Haleakala Crater at Haleakala National Park are two of the biggest outdoor land adventures when it comes to vacationing on the island of Maui. The Haleakala Crater rises into a cinder-coned summit that shines in brilliant shades of oranges, pinks and grays as the sun rises and sets. Vacation cabin rentals are available within the Haleakala National Park, making it easy to catch the sunrise or to watch the stars as they sparkle over the crater.
- Take a Helicopter Tour
To see as much of Maui as possible, take a helicopter tour for a sky-high view. Fly over jungles, waterfalls and the beaches below. The adults enjoy the rides as much as the kids.
- Indulge in Local Cuisine
Hawaii has local fare that includes fresh fish and fresh fruit. Vacationers recommend several restaurants to try. Go to South Maui Fish Company for the fish tacos and Mama’s Fish House for authentic local flavors. Savor the banana bread at Aunt Sandy’s. Hawaii vacation rentals Maui provide ample kitchens and cooking equipment, but you can always let someone else do the cooking. Eating out is part of the fun of vacations and there are no dishes to do.
- Attend a Luau
Several luaus can be found throughout Maui. Learn to hula dance, taste authentic poi and listen to music. This gives you a real feel for the island life and the Polynesian culture.
- Zip Line
The adventurous can head to the heights for some zip lines. Glide across jungles and deserts through canopies of coconut trees, halas and banana trees native to the area.
- Go Whale Watching
Take a boat tour to do some whale watching. The experienced guides know where you’re most likely to see humpback whales in the Lahaina or Maalaea harbors. The best season is from December to March.
The turquoise water is ideal for snorkeling and seeing the aquatic life just beyond your goggles. On any given day you might see sea turtles, manta rays, seals, octopus and sea urchins. Take an underwater camera for extraordinary photo ops.
- Spend Time at the Beach
Maui is blessed with numerous white sandy beaches. Maui house rentals or Maui condo rentals on the beach would be a primo location for your lodging. Check out these three beaches you might want to try. Maluaka Beach is a pristine beach suited to snorkeling, wading and swimming with the convenience of picnic areas and restroom facilities. Oneuli Beach has unique fine-textured, red-colored sand. This is a popular beach for fishing and scuba diving. Watch some serious kite surfing at Kite Beach where some say the sport began.
- Surf’s Up
You can be a spectator or a participant. Watch the surfers on the south or west side of Maui where Mother Nature seems to have designed the waves for surfing. Take a surfing lesson to see firsthand how this sport works.
- Ride in a Sailing Canoe
Sailing canoes used to be transportation for natives to hop from island to island. Tours are offered for visitors to get learn and experience history.