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Hawaii Travel Guide

Best Places to Visit in Maui

   Maui:  Overview   Description   When to Go   Where to Stay    Best Places to Visit in Maui      







People who visit Maui think of the island in terms of sun, sand, surf, volcanoes, tropical rainforest and as a low-key, relaxing place to stay. The island offers great golf, exciting scuba, whale watching (in season), magnificent scenery and a host of explorations that will be unlike anything you find at home. You will find a number of fun things to do in Maui, but the majority of your time will be spent sunning, swimming, diving, golfing and on other relaxing outdoor activities. 

Maui is very popular as a honeymoon vacation spot and for good reason.  Whether your hotel is luxurious or just cozy, your stay long or short, it is Maui that adds a "certain something" that makes this one of the most popular vacation spots in America.

Maui manages to overlook its development and retains the atmosphere of an earlier and simpler time.   We believe that you will find a vacation in Maui a restful and rewarding experience.  We recommend that first time visitors to Hawai'i, take in Oahu and one other island during their first trip. Doing so will add a few days to your vacation, but we think you will be glad you did. Plan on spending three or four days in Oahu and a week in Maui.

Be sure to get yourself in the right frame of mind before your visit. You will not be touring any museums of note, attending shows by internationally renowned entertainers, caught in hour long traffic jams on freeways or standing in long lines for attractions. The nights are much quieter than in Waikiki or Honolulu, although you can find great bars and fantastic restaurants. In fact, you will probably spend a great deal of time at your resort hotel, enjoying its location and amenities. When you do wander out of a look at something new, it is likely to be one of the attractions we describe below, which are unique and enjoyable. So get ready to kick back and begin to act like a Hawai'ian. Get in tune with your environment, enjoy Hawai'i for the paradise that it still is and don’t be in a rush to see how the business is doing. Its doing fine. How are you doing?

We have created a detailed map of Maui .  Click on the map symbol in the text to see a detailed map showing the location of the attraction in Maui. The base map is provided by Google and we use it to show the location of important towns and attractions across the island.  The map can be used to create routes, although we think that these are most useful for determining distances and driving time.  Local road conditions may vary, so always ask local advice before you leave for your outing.


















Description     Top of Page

So what does the term  "dormant  volcano" mean?

Haleakala last erupted around 1790 and it would not be unusual for it to erupt again. Although volcanic activity in Hawai'i is currently  centered on south side of The Big Island, Maui's  dormant Haleakala could erupt in the future.

Volcanoes awaken slowly and there would be  seismic warnings far in advance of significant volcanic activity.











  Maui Leeward West

Click for the monthly temperature and precipitation totals for Kapalua, Maui

Click for the montly precipitation and rainfall totals for Lahaina, Hawaii


click for the montly precipitation and temperatures in Makena, Hawaii





Click for the monthly precipitation and rainfall totals in Hana, Hawaii









Maui is known for its tourism and agriculture, which drive the economy in this piece of paradise. The most visible agriculture is based on sugarcane, pineapple, Maui onions, sweet potatoes, Macadamia nuts and strawberries. Not that these aren’t big business, but when you run into them, they seem to blend into the environment.

As with all of the Hawai'ian Islands, Maui was formed by volcanic activity. Its shape today is the result of two large volcanic cones. Volcanoes in Hawai'i are called “shield volcanoes” that build-up from the ocean floor as rounded domes, due to the highly fluid nature of their lava flows.

If you look at the map of Maui above, it may suggest to you the caricature of a crouching person with their knees folded under them. If you can hold that image for a minute, the “head” of the island is an older, highly eroded volcanic cone, while the body consists of the enormous Haleakala volcano, as well as  the lava flows and debris from its past eruptions. Haleakala is over 10,000 feet high, but it extends over 25,000 feet above the ocean floor (making it the earth's largest dormant volcano). The two volcanoes are joined by a narrow valley that marks the junction of their volcanic flows. The lava from the two volcanoes eventually decomposed and created fertile soil that has combined with the local climate to create a tropical paradise. Haleakala is a dormant but not extinct volcano. Its last eruption was in the mid-eighteenth century and one of the lava flows from that episode carried into the ocean south of Makena .

It is the edges of Maui that attract most visitors. The island’s 130 miles of shoreline host some of the world’s finest beaches. Of course, the major resorts discovered this long ago and Maui’s western coast features the island's two main areas for vacationing.


West Maui

West Maui includes Kapalua, Napali, Kahana, Kaanapali and Lahaina and is the island's most popular vacation area. The numerous resorts and spectacular beaches arc north from Lahaina  ending near the sensational Ritz Carlton at Kapalua  (and the D.T Fleming Beach, often regarded as  the best beach in the U.S.).  Most of the locations mentioned in this section are shown on our detailed map of Maui that can be found here .  This prime vacation area is also known as Maui Leeward West. The golf courses in this area are legendary for their beauty and difficulty.  Regardless of your skill level you will enjoying playing here, so don't miss the chance.

South Maui

Although most of us would consider the section of Maui from Maalaea to Makena part of West Maui, it is called South Maui by the locals. It includes the resort areas of Kihei and Wailea and extends south to the less-developed Makena.  Wailea is the new growth area of the island and it is increasing in popularity yearly .  Although Kaanapali still lays claim to the title “most popular resort area”, Wailea is starting to give it a real run for the island's tourism crown.  Of course, golf is king here too, so take your clubs and be prepared for those memorable drives, pitches and putts that keep you coming back.

East Maui

The eastern section of the island (East Maui) is dominated by the Haleakala volcano and its enormous National Park, an area most often referred to as the Upcountry. In addition, East Maui includes Hana and other villages on the eastern coast of Maui .  We cover Haleakala and Hana with separate reports, since they offer a great deal to see and do.  Haleakala is not a resort area and does not provide lodging other than the kind that involves tents and campfires.  Hana is pleasant place to stay, but is remote and out of the way.  If you are looking for a mix of activities on your vacation,  West or South Maui  will be more capable of meeting your needs for diversity than the area of East Maui.

Central Maui

Central Maui, a small area to the east of West Maui includes the county capital of Wailuku and the island’s commercial center of Kahului , which hosts the island’s main airport and it is the port for cruise ships. There is a modest airport at Hana that is limited to smaller aircraft.  Kahului does not attract much tourist traffic, although some wander the area around Wailuku, which is to the west and in the center of the island.  We cover all of the attractions in Maui in our section Best Places to Visit in Maui .

When should we go?

The “rainy” season is December to March (check out the links to our climate charts shown above in the left margin).  Although storms are more common in winter, it does not seem to change anybody’s travel plans since this period is also the peak tourist season. It is the best time of year for professional quality surfing, luxurious vegetation and whale watching. There is a secondary peak tourist season in summer, when it is both drier and warmer than in winter, but this one reflects school being out and is when most families can stay in Maui long enough to make it worth the flight. The lowest prices for rooms are usually found during the “shoulder seasons” of April/May and September/October. In our book, Maui is a great place to visit whenever you can get there.

A sunset in Wailea.  We're sure that some of them are just average, but the one's we have seen have beens spectacular.

Where should we stay?

Our opinion doesn't matter, the answer to the question depends on how much you want to spend and what you want to spend it on. There are a variety of resorts and hotels on the island and your main consideration should be whether you are looking for a place to relax and cocoon away from the world, or are looking for adventure and exploration.

Choose the location based on geography, amenities, price or the combination of these three that are important to you.  We think you will have a great vacation wherever you stay.  After all, Maui has been rated one of the best islands in the world for vacation for 12 successive years by a leading travel magazine.

There are hotels and resorts with various prices scattered around the island, but we suggest that you stay in either West or South Maui. Both areas have much to offer and each has numerous golf courses for that duffer in the group. Be warned that while most of the courses are spectacular, they are very challenging.

Looking across the pineapple fields towards the West Coast and Lahaina
Looking over the pineapple field towards Lahaina

In West Maui, Kapalua on the Northern tip of the island, offers great beaches (including D.T. Fleming - Kapalua Beach named the best beach in the U.S. by various "authorities") and championship golf courses (The Bay, The Village and The Plantation) and fantastic resorts. The area also offers access to two nearby nature reserves.

Also in West Maui, Kaanapali is a world famous resort area that offers great beaches Kaanapali Beach is another of Maui's beaches that lands on most top 10 lists of U.S. Beaches) and the famous Kaanapali Golf Courses (North and South).

In South Maui. Wailea is the heart of the south coast resort area offering great beaches (Wailea Beach is another of the perennial top 10 U.S. Beaches and (is this starting to sound monotonous)).  Terrific golf can be found at the Wailea Blue Course, the Wailea Gold Course or the Wailea Emerald Course.

If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index or Googling ThereArePlaces.

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A scene near Kihea on Maui's South Coast.



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