The Ultimate Maui Travel Guide
Planning a vacation to Maui, Hawaii and looking for the best Maui recommendations for where to stay, where to eat, what to see and what to do on the island? You came to the right place! I’ve been vacationing on Maui about once a year ever since I was a little girl, and it is one of my favorite destinations in the world – whether you’re traveling on a Maui honeymoon, a romantic getaway, a Hawaii babymoon, a family trip, or a destination wedding.
Maui is often thought of as the most luxurious, and resortey, of the Hawaiian islands. Resortey and luxe?? SIGN ME UP. As you guys could probably guess by now (especially if you follow me on instagram) that means Maui is my favorite island to visit in Hawaii. The gorgeous coastline, dazzling beaches, waterfalls, volcanoes & rain forests make it one of the most naturally beautiful islands in the world. But it’s the five-star resorts, the world-class service, and the fresh, island food that keep us all coming back year after year. Here are all my go-to Maui recommendations to make the most of your vacation on the Valley Isle.
Where to Stay in Maui
Most of the luxury resorts on Maui are congregated among three areas – Wailea, Ka’anapali, and Kapalua.
Wailea is considered “South Maui” and is thought of as the dryest area on the island. It is serene, luxe, and beautiful. Kaanapali, on West Maui, also tends to be dry and is home to Lahaina (an adorable town full of shopping and restaurants) and Kaanapali (a resort-filled stretch of beach that is the most bustling, exciting area on the island). Kapalua, a bit further up from Kaanapali, has more of a Wailea feel, but since it is at the base of the mountains, it can be subject to wind and rain more so than other areas on the island. I generally recommend people to stay in either Kaanapali if they’re looking for lots of action, beautiful snorkeling, and lots to do or Wailea if they’re looking for more of a retreat, a quieter end to the island, and some of the best luxury resorts on the island.
Wailea vs. Kaanapali
Kaanapali and Wailea are both resort areas in Maui that are home to beautiful resorts! I honestly like staying in both areas when I travel to Maui, and if you have a week or more in Maui, you should definitely consider doing both! The benefit to Wailea over Kaanapali is it is a bit closer to things like the Road to Hana, the Haleakala Volcano, and Paia/Mama’s Fish House. The benefit to Kaanapali is there are more resorts (so prices tend to be a bit less, and you can usually find deals) and it is closer to Lahaina – a happening town of cute restaurants and bars. There’s more to do around Kaanapali, whereas Wailea can sometimes seem like its own world (but there’s nothing wrong with that!).
Where to stay in Wailea, Maui
$$$$$ The best luxury hotels in Wailea:
The Four Seasons Maui is one of Hawaii’s most beautiful – and exclusive – resorts and is hands down my choice of where to stay for luxury in Maui. I love this hotel so much that it’s where i’m planning my wedding for next year! We couldn’t think of a more perfect place, and are so excited to have all of our loved ones there with us.
Though it feels luxe at every corner (and is tranquil and exclusive) it’s not as quiet and still as many Four Seasons tend to be, but rather has an upbeat vacation vibe that attracts a crowd of young couples, groups of friends, babymooners, and families with small children. This resort caters to those wanting impeccable service, understated elegance, and delicious dining on the most beautiful stretch of Maui, and as such has long been a favorite Hawaiian getaway for celebrities, actors, singers and athletes. Almost every A-lister has stayed here.
Complimentary resort services outside many in-room amenities include poolside snacks, free kona coffee each morning in the lobby and at the gym (their free coffee is SOOOO GOOD! Seriously puts any other coffee to shame) , an intro SCUBA clinic, outrigger canoeing (even for beginners!), paddleboarding, a well-equipped fitness center with an ocean view (complete with Peloton bikes!), beautiful pool cabanas, and a complimentary resort car and driver to take you anywhere you want in Wailea (golfing, shopping, restaurants, etc). With all that taken care of (and NO resort fee – the only resort in Wailea not to have one!), you’ll be in vacation heaven.
For families with children, nothing beats the Grand Wailea. Neighbor to the Four Seasons Resort Maui, Grand Wailea is oceanfront on beautiful Wailea Beach. With 40 acres of property (yes, that’s why they call it ‘Grand’) and 780 guest rooms (!!). The Grand Wailea is one of the biggest, most well-known luxury resorts in Maui, featuring a very-grand pool area that is 2,000-feet-long, with nine (that’s right, NINE!!!) pools, on six different levels, connected by waterslides (yup… kid HEAVEN!). There’s even the world’s only WATER elevator. Your kids will be in their happy place.
The Fairmont Kea Lani is one of the best Maui resorts. It has 450 spacious suites on 22 beachfront acres of property that boasts three pools, four restaurants, a beautiful spa, and some world-class golf. It is one of the few Maui resorts that beautifully balances the art of entertaining families and couples alike, and you’ll see plenty of both at the resort. The Fairmont’s oceanfront villas and suites are some of the largest rooms in Maui, so if you’re coming with a group or looking for a great luxury villa option – these are some of the very best on the island.
With private lanais, a drop-dead-gorgeous infinity pool, and a sleek contemporary feel, the Wailea Beach Resort is one of my favorite picks for hotels in Maui. The rates tend to be decent for Wailea and it’s one of the most beautiful (and new!) properties – in a great location. During the day, you can soak up the sun in their beautiful newly-renovated Makani oceanfront pools which feature cabanas and fire pits. You’ll enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, and sunset mai tais at the Marriott’s new Kapa restaurant and bar ( one of the best happy hour spots in Maui! ) . They also have the Nalu Adventure Pool for families (with the longest resort waterslide in Hawaii).
The Andaz is many people’s favorite hotels on Maui. It has a sleek, young, country-club ambiance and stunning oceanfront views, with 4 infinity pools, 2 restaurants, a full-service spa, and 15 acres on Waikapu Beach. Each Andaz room also comes with its own balcony, perfect for watching those unbeatable Maui sunsets.
Just right on the beach, Wailea Ekahi Village has 34 acres of tropical gardens and 4 outdoor swimming pools. is a great choice for anyone looking for condos and the best value in Wailea! They have 1 and 2 bedroom condos available, as well as studios for solo travelers.
Where to stay in Kaanapali, Maui
This has been one of my favorite resorts my whole life. Located at the end of Ka’anapali beach at Black Rock, the hotel boasts some of the best snorkeling on the island right outside of your hotel room. You can see turtles EVERY day here, as well as a ton of other tropical fish. The pool is dreamy, winding around most of the property, and the hotel staff does everything they can to make your stay memorable, from their luaus and activities to their nightly sunset jumps off of Black Rock (where Hawaiian men jump off of the famous rock and into the ocean for the sunset show!)
Located a couple miles down Kaanapali beach from the Sheraton is the Westin Maui. It just recently underwent a major renovation and is another one of my personal favorites. The Westin has five pools, complete with slides and waterfalls, a golf course, and great oceanfront restaurants. It is easily one of the best family resorts on Maui.
Where to eat in Maui:
On your way to or from the airport: Haleakala Highway Food Trucks
I don’t care when your flight gets in to Maui, your first stop should always be to head to the food truck lot at 591 Haleakala Highway.
It’s only about 5 minutes from the airport, and has DELICIOUS food trucks – my favorites being “Like Poke?” for incredible fresh Hawaiian poke bowls (and poke nachos, yum!) and Mo’Ono Hawaii for acai bowls! There are also other cuisines to choose from as well. It’s always a great first (or last) stop in Maui to or from the airport. And you can get some yummy food at non-resort prices before you get into the resort.
The Best Restaurants on Maui:
About 35 mins from Wailea or 45-55 from Kaanapali, Mama’s is the most popular , and awarded, restaurant on Maui – and with good reason. I can say hands down this restaurant is my favorite dinner spot in the world. Secluded on Maui’s North Shore, Mama’s is a bucket list restaurant. It’s upscale, beachfront, and features contemporary Polynesian and Hawaiian food. The menu changes daily, but it’s sure to be the best fish you can get anywhere in the islands. The menu even tells you the name of the fisherman who caught your fish that day! So awesome. Take one sip of Mama’s famous Mai Tai, watch the sun set over the Pacific, feel your fresh caught mahi-mahi melt in your mouth and boom. Welcome to paradise.
Where to eat in Wailea:
Ferraro’s is a super cute outdoor patio restaurant at the FS Maui. It has some of the best Italian on the island, and a great pizza menu available all day. They also have a fab wine list. Order the Four Season’s brand chardonnay or cabernet sauv Iconoclast – you can only get it at their resorts and it’s sooo good.
Even if you’re staying at the resort, make sure you make a reservation to get a good table.
This beachfront Japanese restaurant from Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto is one of the best places to go for a nice japanese meal in Wailea.
Located a 30 minute walk off the beachfront in Wailea (or a 5 minute drive), Monkeypod is a casual favorite for happy hour, lunch, or dinner. Make sure to order a mai tai and always try to make a reservation- they get busy!
With its oceanfront location, it’s hard to beat Sarrento’s for a great Maui dinner. The food is really good (get the chopped salad and any of their seafood or homemade pasta! Yum!)
Nick’s Fishmarket Maui – Fairmont Kea Lani
Some of the best seafood on the island!
JETSET TIP: Go for the happy hour 5-6:30.
Duo – Four Seasons Maui
Duo has some of the best food on the island – I love it the most for their breakfast buffet – which is easily one of the best I’ve ever had. Order the chocolate chip pancakes and thank me later.
The Shops at Wailea
Once you’re in the resort zone of Maui, a short walk from all the resorts in Wailea is a shopping center called the Shops at Wailea – which has a ton of options to choose from for some great off-resort meals.
Cheeseburger is awesome for a casual burger night (I love the one with a grilled pineapple!), and also has a $7.99 breakfast deal – with $6 mimosas and bloody mary’s) each day.
Longhi’s is a local, family owned Hawaiian eatery famous for their fresh seafood and Italian food on a beautiful outdoor patio, and even more famous for their delicious breakfasts Don’t miss out on the cinnamon roll or their french toast. To die for. Happy hour from 3-6 daily.
A great stop for salads, sandwiches, breakfast burritos and prepared foods to go. Open from 6:30am. Breakfast available all day.
Great coffeeshop to get your morning buzz on. Open from 6:30am. On the upper level of the Shops at Wailea.
Where to Eat in Kihei:
We loved this casual sushi spot with some of the best sushi on the island!
Where to eat in Kaanapali:
For something close to your hotel in Kaanapali, you can’t go wrong with Duke’s. And, as hard as it is for a UNC grad to be recommending you to go to a restaurant called “Duke’s”, this place is so good. Duke’s has expanded across Hawaii, so you can find one on pretty much any island you go to. The Maui Duke’s is right on Ka’anapali beach, a perfect beach walk from your hotel away. It’s famous for great fish, and amazing pupus!(pupus is hawaiian for appetizers!)
Located in Kapalua, Merriman’s is always a Maui go-to. Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, or just need an excuse to eat some amazing food and pop some champagne over the Hawaiian coast, Merriman’s is your spot. The sunset view is impossible to beat and the food is fantastic. A little pricey, but great for a special occasion. My favorite pupu? The warm crusted goat cheese with strawberries salad. Ah-mazing. You also can’t go wrong with a little tasting of the kalua pig and maui sweet onion quesadilla- yum. For your entree, you’ll have your choice of fresh seafood or impeccable meats, and don’t forget to save room for their delicious desserts.
Enjoy breakfast overlooking the white sandy beaches of Hawaii in a beautiful gazebo? Yes please. This breakfast place is soooo cute, casual, has the best view, and is delicious! A little out of the way, overlooking Napili bay, but it’s worth it for the stunning setting. Order the mac nut pancakes and thank me later.
Where to eat in Lahaina
Old town Lahaina is a historic town full of great shops and restaurants, and is a great spot to spend a night or two on your trip.
This beautiful restaurant & bar is owned by Mick Fleetwood of the legendary rock & roll band Fleetwood Mac. Located in historic Lahaina town, the eclectic rock-n-roll decor and casual-yet-chic atmosphere of the rooftop makes it the spot to be in Lahaina, boasting expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and the West Maui Mountains.
While it’s not technically a restaurant, it is easily one of your most memorable meals in Maui. Head to the Old Lahaina Luau for Maui’s best luau experience ( a luau is a must-do for any first-time visitor to Maui!). The BBQ-roasted pig at the luau is some of the best you’ll get on the island, so sit back, enjoy the food, blended drinks, and classic Hawaiian entertainment. Old Lahaina Luau may be a little touristy, but it definitely shouldn’t be missed.
Soak up the sun:
Whether you’re on Maui’s West or South coast, you’ll want to spend your days on the best beaches in Maui. Here are a few of my favorites:
Mokapu & Ulua Beach Parks:
Located right between Andaz and the Wailea Marriott, these two connecting beaches are great for snorkeling and diving! The first beach on the north (right) side, Mokapu, has shallow reefs perfect for snorkelers. The second, Ulua, is well known as a dive spot for beginners.
Wai’anapanapa State Park
Wai’anapanapa State Park is one of Maui’s most beautiful black sand beaches and is one of the best stops on the Road to Hana.
Known to the locals as “Big Beach”, Makena Beach is the largest continuous stretch of beach on the island at over a mile long and over 100 feet wide. It’s gorgeous – and definitely worth a visit!
Located on the south coast of Maui, Wailea Beach is a beautiful golden sand beach that is home to several of the high-end resorts I recommended in this guide – including the Four Seasons and Grand Wailea. Expect to find crystal clear waters and swanky cocktail bars that serve refreshing drinks overlooking the ocean.
Snorkeling in Maui
While there is probably plenty of snorkeling right outside your resort (and you’ll often see turtles!), I recommend doing a snorkel trip to Molokini for the day!
Sunset sailing in Maui
Another fun activity to do in Maui is a sunset sail!
Go to a Luau!
If it’s your first time to Hawaii, a luau is a must! The Grand Luau at the Grand Wailea is a favorite on the island, as is Lahaina’s Royal Lahaiana Luau, or ask your hotel for recommendations!
Maui must-do’s: The best things to do while visiting Maui
The Road to Hana
Famed as one of the most beautiful drives in the world, the Road to Hana is on most travelers’ bucket lists. Once you get to Hana, you’ll be greeted with lush rainforest, dramatic and rugged ocean vistas, countless waterfalls and pools. The only downside? It takes a 52-mile highway stretch with winding and narrow one-lane roads, and 600 turns to get there. Definitely not an activity for those who get carsick!
What is the best season to visit Maui?
On Maui, you get pretty amazing, sunny, warm weather year-round. Locals will tell you the best times to visit are April and May, or October and November since these are the shoulder seasons, and draw fewer crowds, but any time throughout the year is really wonderful. It’s a tropical island – and you always risk a little rain, but it’s a much less rainy island than Kauai. November through March is technically rainy season in Maui, though you don’t get much rain on the Wailea side of Maui.
When can you see whales on Maui?
Whale season in Maui runs from December 15th-May 15th! But even outside these times you may get lucky – there are spottings year round! So bring your binoculars – and consider doing a whale-watching tour if you’re visiting January-April.
Enjoy Maui! xx
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