Maui Travel Guide

Tim and I went to Maui for the second time. It continues to be our favorite of the islands we’ve visited (Oahu, Kauai, Maui), and I feel so strongly about it!

Stay in Kihei if you can. It’s mostly people from Seattle and Canada, so I really felt at home. (Hehe.) There are tons of great restaurants and beaches within walking distance, and it’s the least rainy part of the island. We have rented condos both time (once through AirBnB and once on Hotels.com) and wouldn’t do it any other way.

Food & Drink:

  • Three’s Bar & Grill: I had the ramen the first time we visited and it was not amazing, but the poke bowls were fabulous. I appreciate craft cocktails, too, and they had some options with local ingredients! Wine drinkers, they have a longer list here. (Just don’t expect local wines unless you want sugar.)

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  • South Shore Tiki Lounge: The classic mai tai with the Myer’s Rum upgrade was delicious — and strong! We went here every single day on our second trip. Also, the Surf’s Up pizza was pretty good and hits the spot after boogie boarding. It’s no Neapolitan, but it’s fresh and hearty.
  • Ohana: Probably the biggest surprise of the trip, this place didn’t seem that spectacular from the outside but was a great dinner! We got the dynamite poke bowl, the kalua pork spring rolls, and the Cubano sandwich prepared with kalua pork. The Cubano wasn’t as good as the real deal from FL or Cuba, but the pork was still awesome. They also have cool craft cocktails. All great!
  • Kihei Caffe: We ate here every single morning on both trips! The pork fried rice with eggs over-easy can’t be beat. I also loved the breakfast plate of eggs, bacon, potatoes, and a biscuit. Their bacon is something special. I didn’t try the cinnamon rolls ever, but they looked incredible. It’s cash only, so prepare accordingly or use the ATM in house.
  • Paia Fish Market: There’s one in Paia and one near the Banyan Tree in Lahaina, but the one in Kihei is the one we visited. I get plates with the daily catch. Always fresh, always good.
  • What Ales You: Decent beer spot. They have wine, too, in case someone doesn’t want beer. They had live music when we went, which I enjoyed!
  • Nalu’s South Shore Grill: I got the ahi BLT, which was amazing!

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  • Ululani’s Shave Ice: Get a scoop of ice cream on the bottom under your shave ice! Definitely the best, creamiest shave ice — don’t settle for less.
  • Mama’s Fish House: I’m sure you’ve heard of this by now. It’s not in Kihei but instead near Paia (North Shore) and truly was as fantastic as everyone says. The menu shares the name of the fisher(wo)man or the ship that caught the fish. We started with the three-fish sashimi ($32) which was AMAZING, and then both got the Opah with avocado, tomato, quinoa ($58). I also got the Mai Tai, which was a little coconutty — I really liked it. Arrive early or plan to stay after to take in the beautiful views and snap a couple pictures.
  • Cafe O’Lei: I mainly went here because of the clever name. But it’s just a pretty average restaurant with pretty fun passionfruit mojitos that are worth the trip.

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  • Maui Brewing Co: You can make your own flights with any number of tastes! And the food was actually good — maybe up there with the best we’ve had in Maui. Elevated pub fare. Loved it.
Beaches/views
  • Makena / Big Beach: The obvious choice, recommended by many. The lifeguards stressed how dangerous the waves were, and we almost didn’t go in, but eventually we started boogie boarding and did not feel in danger whatsoever. So, I guess go at your own risk and know your ability level. At the least, take chairs and a book and enjoy the expanse. We saw a bunch of whales here!

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  • Maluaka: This was our favorite of the beaches we visited! Solid waves, beautiful and unobstructed sunset views, and minimally populated when we visited. I snorkeled here, too, and saw a LOT of eels.
  • Kamaole I, II, III: These are three sequential beach areas in the Kihei area. Kam II has snorkeling.
  • Ho’okipa Bay / Lookout: Gorgeous views just east of Mama’s Fish House, we saw TONS of turtles swimming here!
  • Lahaina Banyan Court: One of the biggest Banyan trees alive today. They live so long because their notorious dangling roots strangle other trees around them. They have multiple trunks, too — crazy! Nearby is more gorgeous ocean.
  • Olowalu Beach: Great snorkeling! Not as good for casual beachgoing as the sand is very rocky.

Activities

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  • Snorkeling – Guided: We went on the Four Winds II out to Molokini Crater, one of the most high-visibility snorkeling locations in the state! We saw several whales and got decently close to “Target Island,” where the US gov tested bombs for 50 years. It was so gorgeous and totally recommended. Bonus: the tour company provides free beer, wine, juice, water, and soda throughout the trip. You can also buy lunch for $8, which I totally recommend because you have the option if you want it, but it’s not so pricy that you’ll be upset if you skip it and get a good lunch before/after. We did the afternoon tour, which normally goes to Coral Gardens due to the tempestuous winds on the way to Molokini, but weather cooperated for us. We’ve done it twice now, and the second time I did SNUBA (sort of like scuba but not as complex/deep) which I don’t regret.
  • Snorkeling – DIY: Rental equipment is so cheap! Go to Boss Frog’s. They gave us a map with recommended locations, plus they gave us tons of discount cards for local restaurants and a number to call if we had questions. So kind! Even better, they offer full-face masks, which are so much better than in-mouth snorkels.
  • Boogie Boarding: Tim and I are surprisingly avid boogie boarders. We aren’t good but we are tireless and really enjoy it. Plus, it lets us justify that third mai tai at South Shore Tiki Lounge.
  • Hike: We did the East Maui Waterfall & Rainforest Hike with Hike Maui. It was very informative and gorgeous! It’s not physically exerting, so if you are an avid real hiker, try the gorgeous Haleakala hike (which only runs on specific days, which is why we didn’t get to do it!).

  • Road to Hana: I’m sure everyone has told you to do this already. We took a guided trip with Dynamic Tours. I wouldn’t say I regret it by any means, but I do think it’s extremely overrated. Yes, I know that a guided trip doesn’t allow you to allot your time the way that you would if you did it yourself. But we saw what we saw, and it was beautiful, but it really wasn’t better than the insane Jurassic Park views of Kauai, or the crystal waters of the Caribbean. Do it if you want to, but I’m here to say you don’t have to.
  • Pineapple Tours: I always insist on snorkeling lots, so I made sure Tim got to choose something that he wanted to do. This 2-hour event was filled with a lot of pineapple straight from the fields, and a very energetic tour guide who was maybe a little too energetic for me. Afterward, we tasted spirits at Hali’imaile Distillery next door, which limits you to only 3 tastings (seriously, you cannot convince them to do otherwise) which was a big disappointment. We didn’t buy anything and it wasn’t great, but I would check out one of the other distilleries next time.
  • Tip: If you want to do something early-morning, try doing it on your first full day on the island. It’s two hours behind the Pacific Time Zone (5 behind the Eastern!) so it’ll be easier to wake up early.
  • Killing time: It’s no secret Tim and I love to play games. We brought two games with us — Uno and Roll For It — that we played on our balcony while watching the sunset and enjoying a can from Maui Brewing. We also played verbal games on our walks to and from the restaurants and bars at night. One that we love is “Convergence,” in which both people think of a random word — ANY word — and say it on the count of three. Imagine hearing this in synch: “One, two, three, DOG!” “One, two, three, UMBRELLA!” You’d then need to think of some other word that you think has common ground with Dog and Umbrella. Maybe you think “collar” or “booties” or “raincoat” or maybe your first thought is “stuffed animal” or maybe it’s “palm tree” because that’s what first came to you! Then you count to three and both say your new word. You keep repeating this until you finally say the same word. It’s extremely exciting when you do, and it’s a great way to pass the time. Another verbal game is what we call “First and Last.” Pick a category — say, musicians and bands — and then say a name. “Beatles.” Then the next person has to think of a word that BEGINS with the LAST letter of “Beatles.” So the game might go like this: “Beatles. Sublime. Everclear. Rolling Stones. Shirley Bassey. Yellowcard. Darkness.” and so on. One of the best things about Hawaii is the slow, relaxed pace. These dumb little games always symbolize to me that we have lots of free time to unwind. Have fun!