Tips & Tricks – Maui
Updated April 2016: We just got back from our 2nd trip to Maui and discovered some more gems!
Last year we went to Maui for the first time – and pretty much fell in love. It’s totally paradise, folks. <insert 75 million heart emojis here>.
Since then we’ve received a ton of questions from friends, family and random strangers about what we loved – and also, what we didn’t!
If you find yourself itching for a tropical vacation filled to the brim with sunshine and adventure, check out our recos below!
If you’re on the west coast, it’s pretty easy to get a direct flight to Kahului airport on Maui. The question is, how much will it cost? We’ve been pretty lucky with scoring sweet flight deals (with WestJet, too!) and have found that anything under $400 CDN return (incl. tax) is a rockin’ good deal.
We have been traveling to Maui in March/April – and tend to book in December/January. Keep your eye on WestJet seat sales and/or Vancouver Flight Deals & Travel Specials. (I usually first come across the deal via Facebook, but I recommend subscribing to the medium that makes most sense to you – FB/Twitter/email/etc).
- Book a morning flight if possible. You will have more time for the beach once you land (YES!), plus you’ll be able to go to Costco after you arrive (if you arrive in the evening, it’ll be closed and you’ll have to go back the next day!).
- Air Canada flights to Maui are usually on their “Rouge” airplanes. This means no TV’s, no air flow and for the most part, no anything. Make sure to download their app pre-flight (to use their streaming player) and plan accordingly!
- Book your car rental ASAP. Prices only go up the closer you get to your arrival date. If you end up going with Discount Car Rental Hawaii, they have both free cancellation and pay later. So… no harm in booking!
When we’re travelling somewhere new, we always explore a ton. Last year we spent the majority of our time checking out West Maui & South Maui. We loved many areas, but from an accommodation and location perspective, Napili Bay was our fave.
There are plenty of options and finding the “perfect” location really depends on what you’re into (relaxing, hiking, beaching, etc) and your budget.
- Cental Maui:
- Paia: perfect for nature lovers, surfers and those set to explore Haleakala or the Road to Hana
- West Maui:
- Lahaina: perfect for those who love restaurants, shopping and a desire to explore the west coast (note: it’s a cruise ship port!)
- Kaanapali: perfect for those who love large hotels, buffets and basking in the sun with thousands of douchebags (#realtalk!)
- Napili Bay: perfect for those that love to snorkel (protected reef) and are looking for a chill, non-plastic and couple/family-oriented vibe
- South Maui:
- Kihei: perfect for families, sunshine seekers and those looking for a budget condo
- Wailea: perfect for golfers, big spenders and those looking for a 5 star resort
- East Maui:
- Hana: perfect for those who are keen to travel on windy roads to the middle of no where, spend the night, then turn around and head home
- You can find a deal (and a sweet place!) through Booking.com. Most places have free cancellation and pay later. In addition, you can get a genius discount (additional 10% off total cost) if you join their travel rewards programme.
- Make sure you book a place with a kitchen. Whether you plan to make all your meals at “home” or some of them, you will be glad you have one. Eating out in Maui is expensive – and the US exchange rate is currently not in our favour!
- We absolutely *love* the Napili Sunset Beachfront Resort. If you end up staying there and there is just 2 of you (or 2 plus baby), you can save some money by staying in their poolside studio (across the street from the beach). They studios have everything you need – room #201 and #202 both have an ocean-view too!
If you are wanting to treat yourself to a meal out, we highly recommend:
- Choice Health Bar (Lahaina): The Dessert Sunrise acai bowl is unreal. We think about it every day…
- The Gazebo Restaurant (Napili Bay): Their macadamia nut pancakes are incredible. Skip the line by going up to the front and telling the host you’d like to place a takeout order (everyone in line will stare at you as they won’t realize they do takeout). Then order your pancakes (we recommend adding fresh pineapple and coconut cream!), wait 15 mins for them to be ready, and then take them to the beach and enjoy!
- Joy’s Place (Kihei): Great place to stop in for lunch before/after adventures at Makena Beach or Molokini. Their wraps, sandwiches, soups and smoothies are all delicious.
- Plan to tackle getting your groceries on day 1 (or day 2!). Our recommendation is to fly into Kahului as early in the day as you can. (If you arrive in the evening, Costco will be closed when you arrive.) Once you pick up your rental car, make two stops before you head to your accommodations:
- Costco in Kahului: Best place to grab coffee (Maui Coffee is better than Kona Coffee), beer, fresh fish/meat, fresh salsa, tortilla chips, and pineapples (just $3 USD!).
- Mana Foods in Paia: The most reasonably priced grocery store we found and as a bonus, it has tons of organic and natural foods. Anything you can’t find at Costco, plus non-bulk, fruits, and veggies, you’ll be able to find at Mana Foods.
- Farmers Market Maui in Honokowai: It’s a store “farmers market” and an absolute gem in West Maui. You can find a ton of dairy-free and gluten-free products there, plus they have a small produce section. Our faves: pineapple salsa, raw cacao energy bites, banana bread, passionfruit cream cheese and pineapple bagels.
- Longs Drugs carries groceries. Random, I know. If you need to grab a thing or two, it’ll be a better (and less expensive!) stop than Safeway.
- Maui Brewing Company is great (the beer, not the food!) – make sure to try their Bikini Blonde and Coconut Porter.
- Best coffee on Maui? Hawaiian Village Coffee (Kahana) and Belle Surf Cafe (Kihei) both rank at the top of our list!
Adventures are endless on Maui. Our recommendations (in no particular order):
- Cycle the West Maui Loop: If you love to ride, the West Maui loop is a must! Where you start will likely depend on where you’re staying. Familiarize yourself with the route (you can go clockwise or counter-clockwise) and regardless of direction, make sure to pop into Lorraine’s for banana bread (and a water bottle refill!).
- If you’re not keen to do the entire 96km loop, you can easily do an out & back. Our recommendation would be to skip the part between Wailuku and Maalaea (Central Maui).
- Renting a road bike can be cheaper than shipping yours over there, especially if you don’t own a bike box/bag (a 7 day rental costs $180 USD). We’ve rented from Boss Frog’s in Lahaina and had a great experience.
- Run the Kapalua Coastal Trail: The out & back trail starts at Kapalua Bay and ends at DT Fleming Beach Park. It’s a mostly flat 5.6km (return) trail that runs alongside the ocean and as you can imagine, the views are absolutely gorgeous.
- If you’re planning on running while on vacation on Maui, make sure to head out early! The sun can be intense and hydration can be challenging at the best of times. Make 6am runs, sunscreen, and a water bottle your best friends.
- Visit a Farmers Market: There are a number of farmers markets on Maui, and they take place at different times/days of the week. A farmers market on a tropical island is always a good decision (#hellomangos), so check out this post for a list of them! Our faves are Napili Bay and the Upcountry.
- Snorkel at Molokini: If you’re keen to explore Molokini intimately (ie. not with drunken tourists), check out Seafire Charters. They’re super chill (and lovely!), they only book small groups and the price is right! Snorkelling at Molokini is an incredible experience. If you’re lucky, you’ll see whales on the way out there too!!
- Snorkel equipment is included in the cost of the tour. If you want to bring your own, they’re totally cool with that too!
- Body Surf at Big Beach: If you head south of Kihei and Wailea, you will eventually hit Big Beach. It’s known for it’s BIG waves. It’s a super fun place to play in the waves – but please be careful, it can be dangerous too! (We don’t recommend it for kids!).
- Tour Maui via Helicopter: Keen to spoil yourself or do something different? A helicopter ride is an incredible experience and Air Maui is hands down the best company to fly with – great reputation and excellent customer service. You can get the best price if you buy through Costco.ca. Bring your camera, but also remember to look out the window and take in the views!
- Catch Sunrise at the Top of Haleakala: It’s an experience!
- The night before you plan to depart for Haleakala, call Maui’s National Weather Service to check the expected forecast and visibility.
- Be prepared for a 3 hour drive (from West Maui) starting at 3am. It’s dark and windy – if you get motion sickness, make sure to take anti-nausea meds.
- Don’t plan on getting to the sunrise 5 mins before it’s supposed to happen! Aim for at least 30 mins ahead of the sunrise, so that you can get a good spot to watch it. That means you’ll be standing in the dark (and the cold!) for a quite awhile. Dress warm – this means winter gear (down jacket, toque, wool things, etc). Regardless of the time of year, it’s surprisingly chilly up there!
- If you’re planning to hike any of the trails, bring trail shoes (or hiking boots!) and an extra set of clothes (the sun will come out and there is lots of dust!). We recommend checking out the Sliding Sands trail.
- Spend the day in the Upcountry: Kula is not as far out as one might think! It’s an easy day trip from West or South Maui. We absolutely loved the Ali’i Lavender Farm (so peaceful & serene!) and exploring the local farms and markets. If you end up at Surfing Goat Dairy, make sure to get the “goat cheese flight.”
- Explore Paia: Paia is a cute beach town with surf-worthy waves, cute restaurants and a chill vibe. It’s well-worth a day-trip! Make sure to pop into Paia Bay Coffee for coffee, Cafe Mambo or Milagros for lunch, and watch the surfers at Ho’okpia Beach Park.
Play in a Bamboo Forest: Haiku is a town just south of Paia and it’s *the* place to play in the bamboo. Plan to spend a couple hours at Na’ili’ili Hael (you can find it between mile marker 6 and 7) – remember to bring your swimsuit and oh yeah, don’t get lost. ;) The most challenging part of the hike is staying on (and finding) the path.
- Road to Hana: We skipped it last year and we don’t plan to go there this year! We’ve been told it’s compared to the “Road to Hell” (and personally, I get super motion sick). If you want to cross it off your bucket list, make sure to pack your anti-nausea meds!
Something we haven’t done yet (but we’re looking forward to doing this year!) is hiking in the West Maui Forest Reserve. The Waihee Ridge Trail and the Iao Valley’s “secret trail” are both on our radar. If you’ve been, let us know your tips! :)
WHAT TO BRING
As a general rule, the less you bring (anywhere), the better. Regardless of that, your trip will be less stressful if you think through your packing list.
- Anything you can avoid buying on Maui: (Again) Maui is expensive, so the more that you can bring from home the better. Example include: sunscreen, aloe (for when your white boyfriend burns himself on day 1), beach clothes (swimsuit, board shorts, rash guards, flip flops), beach towels and beach toys.
- GoPro (or a waterproof camera): They’re a ton of fun – and a must for your ocean adventures (whether it be snorkeling, playing in the waves or SUP’ing).
- Cold weather gear: If you’re headed up to Haleakala for sunrise (or sunset!), it’s totally a must.
- Roam Mobility SIM card: If you have an unlocked phone, you can buy a US SIM card, and then a text/talk/data plan for a few dollars a day.
- Travel Insurance: Make sure you have it, always. It’s also a good idea to get familiar with your plan and ensure you know the 1-800- number, in case of emergency. (We learned this the hard way).
Other things that we love to bring when we travel are: single packs of Vega protein powder, nuun electrolyte tablets (watermelon is my fave!), a hand blender (easy to pack, easy to clean & it’s makes daily smoothies easy!), Saje Wellness hydrating lotion, an AeroPress & hand grinder, our Kobo e-readers and water bottles.
- All of the public pools in Maui are free! Wee!
- If you don’t own a snorkel, you’ll need one! You can rent them pretty much everywhere and they cost $1.50 USD per day. Once you get in the ocean and spot a sea turtle, you’ll be glad you have one!
Much aloha – during your Maui adventure planning, and always too. :)
(And no, no one told me to write this post, or paid me, etc etc. I just wrote it, all on my own (well mostly, Elliot helped too!), for YOU.)