Leah's Guide to Doing Almost Nothing in Maui
My husband and I recently took a trip to Maui to celebrate our 2-year wedding anniversary. We had each been there before, but we were excited to go back and experience it together.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the Big Island, Kauai and Maui in the past. Although each island has a lot to offer, Maui was the clear winner for me. I love being able to do absolutely nothing all day, or hop in the car to see unforgettable sights. One day we could relax on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and the next we could spend hours driving the Road to Hana. (All that time in the car actually sounds like torture to me, but it’s nice to have the option.)
To top it off, Maui boasts some world class restaurants and decent nightlife, making it one of my favorite vacation spots. If you’re going to island hop, don’t rush it – make sure you have enough time on each island to really take it all in.
Where to stay
My favorite place to stay in Maui is Wailea. Home to the Four Seasons and Grand Wailea Resorts, it’s a more upscale part of the island, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. There are tons of affordable vacation rentals from which to choose, especially if you’re willing to sacrifice ocean views. We stayed at the Grand Champion Villas, a quiet condo complex on the golf course with two pools and pretty surroundings.
You’d think that the weather is consistent throughout Maui, but I find that this southern part of the island has better, more predictable weather. I have also stayed on the northwestern shore of Maui, which offers a ton of lodging and dining options, but the weather is more prone to rain, and the waves are much rougher.
Although the island seems small, you can do a lot of driving when you visit Maui, and a rental car is definitely recommended. Road to Hana aside, even if you choose to visit a few sights or restaurants during your stay, plan to be in the car for a while. Most of the roads are winding, two-lane highways, so driving takes much longer than expected (and radio stations leave a little to be desired).
If you have a little extra budget, go for the convertible. It will make those long-ish drives more exciting (unless you’re a girl, in which case it will make the drives much more annoying).
What I can say for sure, though, is that all the drives were worth it – the scenery does not disappoint.
What to do
Not surprisingly, Maui is home to some beautiful beaches, each with its own unique vibe. Another great perk about visiting Maui is that the beaches are all public. You can march right into some of the fanciest hotels on the island and park your chairs right on their beaches. (You’d have to pay for the use of their chairs and umbrellas, but if you stay in a vacation rental, chances are you’ll have your own to use.)
My favorite beaches include:
- Big Beach – one of the best known beaches on the island with fun (and sometimes scary) waves
- Polo Beach – much easier waves for children and beginner boogie-boarders
- Ulua Beach – great for a morning stroll
- Secret Cove – a very small, secluded beach that can be difficult to find
Although we didn’t set out to do a ton on this vacation, Haleakala was on the top of my list. We woke up at 3am on our first morning (while we were still jet-lagged so it wasn’t too painful) to drive to the peak of the volcano in time for sunrise. Everything I read said it would be freezing, so thank goodness we packed 2 sweatshirts. At 10,000 feet elevation with the wind whipping past in the dark, it was frigid – but totally worth it. How many times can you say you saw the sun rise over the clouds?
We also made a quick drive to the Iao Valley. It’s a bit out of the way but worth it for some great photos. This small park has some of the lushest greenery I’ve ever seen.
If you enjoy snorkeling, I’d recommend a trip out to Molokini. You can also rent snorkel equipment and snorkel at any of the beaches. The water is so clear you have a good chance of seeing something, possibly even sea turtles!
Head to Lahaina to get out of the water for a bit. It’s a fun boardwalk-type town with tons of shops and restaurants. This is also a good spot for some nightlife. A lot of places close early (you’re on island time here), but Lahaina has some fun bars that stay open a little later.
Where to Eat
While we didn’t set out to DO a ton on Maui, we definitely set out to EAT a ton. Here are some of my favorites:
- Mama’s Fish House – This is a Maui classic in a beautiful setting. It is definitely pricey but worth a splurge. Make reservations ahead of time, and go for the macadamia-nut crusted mahi mahi.
- Bubba’s Shrimp & Dog Shack – not to be confused with the terribly touristy Bubba Gump Shrimp found at the nation’s finest airports, this was a food trailer near the beach serving gourmet hot dogs and sausage (we tried the pineapple and pork).
- Kula Bistro – We stumbled on this small café at the foot of Haleakala, and it remains one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever eaten. Hawaiian fried rice and white chocolate macadamia nut pancakes cannot be beat.
- Sansei Sushi – if you head up to the northwest coast, check out this restaurant for some seriously fresh sushi.
If you have your heart set on a luau I’d recommend Old Lahaina, but don’t set your expectations too high on the food – it’s more about the show. We chose to skip it this time in favor of better meals.
Wailea has a ton of good restaurants, but many of them are expensive chains that are also available on the mainland. If you’re looking for cheaper options, head over to nearby Kihei.
This recent trip ranks up there as one of our favorites, second only to our honeymoon. It was one of the most beautiful, most relaxing, and most fun vacations we’ve ever had and I’d go back again and again.
Story and Photos by Leah McGarry