Maui – Overview, Visit Planning and Tips

We visited Maui at Dec. 2020, during the Covid 19 pandemic, for 8 days.

This was our first visit at Maui, and we love it.

This blog is all about Maui visit Overview, Planning what to do and high level Tips.

Before diving into the details here are few picture from our Maui highlights, more pictures are in the blog below and additional at the end, many more pictures in each blog post.























On top of the “classic” and expected Hawaiian warm weather and beach’s activities, Maui has a lot more to offer for people that like nature, hiking, adventures and more.

 

Maui offers many relaxing sand beaches; wave surfing at all levels (including schools) and coral snorkeling experience. You can combine a half day trip to a in-land nature destination with half day beach activity or you have few recommended options to dedicate a full day for day trip.

During your Maui stay you can visit the top of the 10,000f Haleakalā National Park mountain, hike the amazing Pīpīwai Trail, drive the “Road to Hana” with it countless waterfalls and pools or spend some time at remote beaches …


 

Important note:

I do not cover in my blogs aspects like hotel/resorts recommendations, restaurants, touristic places or shopping.

I also do not cover some unique tourist attractions like surf schools or surfing locations, diving, ATV, horses, guided tours, boat tours, evening activities and shows, …

I focus on nature, outdoor activity, hiking and places you can visit.

 

 

Driving:

It is highly recommended to have a rental car for the duration of your visit. You will need the car to get to your hotel, visiting nearby beaches or even longer day-trip to Maui attractions.


 

Main roads:

Maui Island shape is like the figure 8 on its side with 2 large non-active volcano mountains in both west and east sections and a large valley between them.

The roads at the island are mainly located at the edge of the mountains following the ocean coastline. The road in the main valley, between towns and the leading to the two popular tourist areas (Lahaina and Kihei) are good.

Other roads in the island can be narrow, winding and twisting with one lane bridges so take this into consideration when planning your driving and trips.

 

Driving to Lahaina: When you are heading to Lahaina take the south hwy 30, it looks longer but is a lot faster and safer than hwy 340.

hwy 340 on the North West Maui is not recommended for driving because it is narrow and winding (overall drivable) so unless you have specific attraction on that road (there are few) I will not recommend using it.

 

The road to Hana is well-known Maui road starching along the north east island coastline. it is winding, narrow with single lane bridges so it will take you around 2 hr without any stop. There are many places to see and visit on that road.

 

The south road to the east section of the island (hwy 37 & 31) can be traveled and add unique experience to your Maui visit but is less recommended if you want to reach Hana (no need for 4x4 cars). Take into consideration that road 31 section is not so much maintained, winding and narrow turns and partly note paved (read more in: Maui - The road on the back side of Haleakala (hwy 31) blog).

 


You can divide Maui into 6 island “sections”

- Kahului

- Lahaina and the North West beaches

- Kihei and Wailea south west beaches

- The Road to Hana - The North East island coastline

- The Back Side of Haleakala

- Haleakala Mountain


Map:


Kahului:

This is the island main city and the airport. There are hotels in the city, mainly near the large protected harbor, but Kahului is not being considered as a main tourist town.

For most of us, after landing and taking the rental car (at the airport or at Kahului) we will drive to our hotel/resort destination, probably in Lahaina or Kihei. You will pass through Kahului only on your trips visiting Maui attractions.

There are few large sandy beaches for advanced surfers near the airport coastline east of the city.

 

Another famous attraction in this area is the Iao Historic and state park, located at the deep gorge of the Iao river. This is the home to iconic Iao rock needle, high mountains, standing wall cliffs covered with lush jungle vegetation.

Link to the relevant blog




 

Lahaina and the North West beaches:

This is one of the two attractive tourist location in Maui, you can find here many large hotels and resorts as also smaller less pricey places.

It offers all what you can expect from Hawaiian vacation location. This area of Maui has less rain and overall a warmer weather, long sandy calm beaches, small bays and cove that offer snorkeling opportunities and beginner and intermediate surfing beaches.

The 10 miles stretch from Lahaina to the north beaches is one starch of hotels and resorts; has many restaurants and all other facilities you may need as a tourist.

Link to the relevant blog







 

 

Kihei and Wailea south west beaches:

I did not visit this section of the island so I will not cover it in my Maui blogs.

This area offers many hotels and resorts accommodation options, long sandy beaches and snorkeling opportunities as other tourist attractions.

 

 

The Road to Hana - The North East island coastline:

This famous road will take all the way to the town of Hana and beyond on the north east side of the island.

Although not long, 45 miles from Paia to Hana, it is winding, narrow with single lane bridges so it will take you around 2 hr without any stop.

This road is going through the windy and rainy side of the island, you will drive through lush green jungle, no matter what the weather forecast is showing come prepared for rain showers.

There are many things to see and visit along the road, many waterfalls and swimming pools, beautiful beaches and jungle hikes.

Unusually most are visiting this road as a long day trip where you stop on selected attractions along your way to Hana and at the afternoon driving without any stops back to the hotel.

Link to the relevant blog



 

 

The Back Side of Haleakala

The less traveled road on the “other” side of the Haleakala mountain (hwy 31).

This is in part unmaintained road with some bad driving conditions. Most of the people taking the Road to Hana do not use this road to drive back home because it’s “bad reputation” but I did not find it so bad.


Visit Oheo Gulch park section and hike Pipiwai Trail, the best trail in Maui

Link to the relevant blog



 

Check if it is open and if yes I recommend taking this road (hwy 31) on your way back to the hotel.

Start the drive at Oheo Gulch where you have at least 1 hr of light before sunset so you can enjoy the road and drive it safely.

I drove this road at the afternoon after my hike at Oheo Gulch, the drive alone, without many stops along the way, is more than worth it and is listed as one of my Maui experience highlights.

Link to the relevant blog




 

Haleakala Mountain:

Haleakala volcano mountain towering 10,000 feet above sea level and above the clouds, it is Maui's highest point and one of must visit recommendation.

All the high area of the mountain is declared as a National Park. You can hike into the huge desert like and colorful volcano opening, viewing points above the clouds and if you are coming at the right time unforgettable sunset or sunrise experience.

Link to the relevant blog



 

 

My list of Must Do things at Maui:

·         Snorkeling together with sea-turtlesat one of the many beaches that provide excellent snorkeling experience.

·         Drive the Road to Hana.

·         Hike the Pipiwai Trail at Oheo Gulch (Haleakala National Park), probably the best hike in Maui.

·         Visit Mtn. Haleakala NP at sunriseor sunset, hike it crater.

·         Whale watching tours (at winter)

 


 

Few Tips:

·         After arriving Maui, you will probably have jetlag at the first few days, use it to your advantage:

o   If you are planning to visit mountain Haleakala at sunrise, day after your arrival is the perfect day. You need to wake up early and drive 2 hours before sunrise to be at the top of the mountain on time

IMPORTANT NOTE: you must have prior reservation for sunrise park entrance (on-line at the park website)!

o   You can always have your morning hike/jog at sunrise, discover more beaches when they are still empty. Another activity can be hiking Kapalua Coastal Trail at the west north shores.

o   The road to Hana is also an option, it is highly recommended to start this daytrip as early as you can. I’m not sure the first day after your arrival is ideal for this instance driving day, probably preferred to do it on a later day.

·         Make sure that your hotel room has a full kitchen and a place to eat in the room. Not only that this will reduce your overall trip cost (everything in Hawaii is expensive) but also will enable you to be flexible with your dining options. This is especially important during the “Corona restaurant limitations” where many places are closed to dine-in.

·         If you are staying at some resort, check if there is an external barbeque (usually near the pool), it is much nicer and faster to prepare your meet over there than inside the kitchen.

·         There is a Costco just near the airport, good to buy supply right after your arrival. Try not to over-buy, you can find large supermarkets with everything you need in any town or tourist location.

·         You can buy boogie, surfing boards and snorkeling gear at Costco. If not, there are places that are renting such equipment.

·         First time we used the Gypsy guide app that is dedicated to the Road to Hana, I recommend using it (https://gypsyguide.com/). There is app that you will download to your phone that cover all Maui, I’m sure it is also good.

·         For most cases, the beaches in Maui have public access and restrooms, need to look for the right public parking place and find the trail to the beach.

·         It looks like there is a problem of smash-and-grab car break-ins, especially at tourist attractions places where you leave your car on the main road. Always take your valuables with you and leave the car without any “attractive” items (like bags).

·         The ocean corals are being killed and damaged by sunscreen, please use environmentally safe (mineral based) sunscreens.

·         As in any other place, google map is the way to reach your destination. Do remember that in some places you will not have a reception so set your destination and driving instructions before leaving.

·         The only place I saw were you need to question google map recommendation is if you set Oheo Gulch site as your final destination (official end of the Road to Hana). In most cases it will recommend you using hwy 31, the back side “problematic” road (see the blog about it). You probably want to use the Road to Hana drive (hwy 360).

·         There are options to have overnight campground at Maui, I will not cover this aspect in my blogs.

·         When hiking jungle trails, especially in the rainy sections of the island: wear good shoes as the trail can get muddy after rain and walking with flipflops can be difficult and slippery.

·         No matter what the weather at your hotel is bring light rain gear with you, it can always rain at the east north side of the island.

·         Many are renting jeeps or other 4x4 vehicle; not sure it is needed, not many real opportunities to drive off-road. If you are driving with your roof off be prepared for rain showers, especially at the Road to Hana.

·         Bring with you a mosquito repellant for jungle trails.

·         Be aware, when it heavily rains (high at the mountains) you can be surprised by flash flooding when visiting rivers and waterfall.

 

 

Things we did not do:

·         We did not sail and snorkel at Molokini Crater

·         Learning how to surf

·         Boat sale or kayak to watch wales up close

·         We did not go to Hawaiian luau feast and evening entertainment

 


Pictures:
















































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