Mr. A and I just got home from a two-week half work, half vacation trip to Hawaii. Fourteen days can seem like a lifetime, but the islands have so much more to offer than the beach bumming and tropical drinks I had expected, that our vacation flew. Everyday we experienced perfect weather and a culture so different from our Minnesota norm; the scene never got old. Your options are endless and so far from the all inclusive, stay-put-and-drink-on-the-beach-mentality I’ve experienced with other tropical getaways.Maui is your chance to be adventurous. It still has your amenities and is definitely commercialized, but in many aspects, the landscape is untouched and raw. Dirt paths groomed only by footprints make you feel as if you are the first to discover secret, hidden waterfalls. Vegetation is overgrown and lush everywhere you look. Beaches line nearly the entire coast line and locals live for the ocean and their traditions. They’ve not only shaped their heritage, but it is still so engraved in their daily lives. The Hawaiians approach tourism as an invitation to their cultures and islands rather than accommodation around tourists.
Our first five days were spent on the island of Maui and we planned our vacation so we could try a little of everything. There was so much to do, I couldn’t fit an entire island guide in one post. Our vacation style alternated between extremely touristy things and a doing-as-the-locals- do mentality and while I don’t consider us experts, we definitely did our research and crossed off many of Hawaii must see and dos. Continue reading for some basic information you should know before visiting the island of Maui!
Biggest Tip: Rent a car. Maui is a small enough where if you have a car at your disposal, you can see the entire island. Gas is also not as expensive as one would guess. I think the most we paid was $3.40 a gallon and with a mid sized car, we maybe had to get gas twice in five days. Plus car rides automatically become a sight seeing adventure. Just the drive from one area of the island to the next is breathtaking with the ocean on one side and these vast, cavernous, lush rain forest mountains on the other.
When we went: End of October. I would highly suggest a planning your trip for October. The weather is still perfect, yet it’s the slowest season for tourists. I think we waited to be seated in a restaurant maaayyybe twice our entire vacation. Many beaches we went to felt like our own private beach. We could sign up for tours and shows day of the event with little to no problems. It was quite and relaxed. The only thing we were disappointed to learn upon researching is whale season starts closer to December, but other than that, it was perfect.
Outline of our schedule. Day trips were key to our trip and seeing everything we wanted to see. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and stayed for three nights in Kihei, Maui. During these three days, we explored Kihei, Makena (Southern Maui) and did a day trip to Lahaina (Western Maui). On the third day, we got up mega early and headed for two nights in Paia (Northern Maui). In Paia we did the trip to Mt. Haleakala and dedicated one day to the Road to Hana. These activities also left us time to explore Paia and other parts of Northern Maui.
Stay on either the Southern or Northern part of the Island. It will make the aforementioned day trips easier plus it’s a little less expensive and easier on the wallet.
WHERE WE SLEPT-
Jasmine House Bed and Breakfast (Kihei, Southern Maui): It’s one of those places you walk in and sigh. With high ceilings, breezy curtains, dark hard wood floors and comfortable amenities, it was the sanctuary we needed after a looong day of travel. The Jasmine House is about a 3-4 min. drive up from the main drag in Kihei, tucked in a quaint neighborhood surrounded by hundreds of flowering plants, plumeria trees, fruit trees and a view of the ocean. Every morning, pastries, coffee, fruit and juice arrive at your door step- great for a quick breakfast or even to pack away for a snack on the beach. The hosts provide beach gear, towels and even coolers for you to use as you wish. With easy parking, a pool and grill equipment, it’s a great alternative to the resorts.
Nalu Kai Lodge (Paia, Northern Maui): If character is your thing, not only do I think we could be best friends, this place is for you. It’s chalk full of details (like the hibiscus shaped hand soap made locally from a lavender farmer) and comfortable charm. The rooms while small, have everything you need and are decorated in this vintage island meets beach-y relaxed motif. The grounds have lawn chairs and hammocks for your use as well as limited parking.
Cities Explained. Kahului is where the airport is. There really is nothing noteworthy in Kahului, BUT Iao Valley is only a 20 min. drive from the airport so you may want to plan that trip as the same day when you arrive or depart Maui.
- Lahaina is a very historic town in Western Maui. The area is higher end touristy with resorts and more high end shopping. Defintely the most picturesque of all the little towns we visited. However, in exchange, you do pay a higher price. If you have a family, want to stay put your entire vacation with lots of options close by, or just envision a more relaxed, beach vacation, this would be the best spot for you.
- Kihei/Makena are also touristy with more middle range resorts and hotels, but you won’t pay quite as much here. Still many spots to check out, but not nearly as much shopping. We also noticed the most locals at the restaurants, bars and beaches we visited here. This is a great option if you like the resort style lodging, but do want to get out and see the island a bit.
- Paia was our favorite. I would have stayed here all five nights if I could do it again. It had a cute little main drag with gift shops that weren’t the t-shirt/chatchkey shops you see so many other places, but rather local gift shops that we’re too high priced. The restaurants and bars served awesome food and there wasn’t a chain restaurant in sight. They don’t have many hotels though so make sure you make reservations in advanced if this is on your itinerary.
- Hana is on the very Eastern side of the island. I would not recommend staying here and only visiting if the Road to Hana is on your bucket list.
Weather wise, they seemed all the same (sunny and perfect) except for Hana which is in the rain forest region. Also every single beach you go to in Hawaii is going to be wonderful. Don’t stay in one city over another for the beaches, rather pick based on how much you want to do and how nice of a place you want to stay.
Getting around the island is so easy. The highway system reflects the island mentality. There are no major highways, only two lane roads where the speed limit is 45. Drivers aren’t stressful with road rage, but rather eager to let you cut in front with a “hey it’s ok, you’re cool” hang loose sign out the window. For some of the day trips we did, timing wise, here’s how it mapped out:
- Airport to: Kihei (11 miles, 25 min); Lahaina (25 miles, 40 min); Paia (8 miles, 20 min)
- Kihei to Lahaina: 21 miles, 35 min
- Kihei to Paia: 16 miles, 25 min
- Lahaina to Paia: 30 miles, 55 min
Last piece of advice: Visit Multiple Islands. Really, you really should. You can’t go all the way to Hawaii and only visit one. The flight between Maui and Ohau is about 35 min. and the views fantastic. It’s like a (somewhat) free helicopter ride!
Those are the basics, the 411, what you absolutely should know if you’re planning a trip to Maui. Stay tuned for our official travel guide- where we ate, drank and what we did while we were there!