I've been lucky enough to have family that lives in Wailea on the island of Maui, Hawaii. I've grown up making memories on this island and the past couple years I have documented both the new and old experiences that my family shares here, and now I can share those experiences with you. So, from somewhat of a local, here is what you can't miss in Maui.
What you need to know before you go:
1. You will need a rental car. Unless you only want to see Wailea, which is super walkable/bike-able, but that would be boring.
2. Wear REEF SAFE sunscreen! Maui is as beautiful as it is sacred and the environment is why it is so special. Please help keep it that way! Most major sunscreen brands, including Banana Boat, Sun Bum, Hawaiian Tropic (ironic, huh?), and Coppertone are not reef safe, despite what the label says.
3. Local Hawaiians are not particularly fond of tourists right now, and for good reason. Conservation is very difficult with so many visitors that do not respect the land, historical landmarks, or their public safety restrictions. Should you go to Hawaii, please respect the Hawaiian people by following all LNT practices, looking into their history, and supporting petitions for adding Green Taxes for travelers. If you have the time you could also find plenty of volunteer opportunities on any of the islands.
Must Visit (non-beach destinations):
Now that I've given you the talk, here's what you must see on the island of Maui:
1. La Perouse Bay Trail (near Wailea)
When my brother and I were kids we used to call this the "goat trail." This trail is an easy 2.5 mile trek with amazing views of the ocean (and often surfers), lava rock, and a forested section that often is home to wild goats!
2. Ohai Trail in Wailuku
Located along Highway 340 (which is a beautiful drive) is one of the most amazing little hikes I've ever taken. The lush, rolling hills give way to a beautiful view of the ocean halfway through and is an easy way to see some amazing views. It also is not very popular.
3: Highway 340
If you're going to the location above or to the Blowhole, take the time to do this drive.
4. Kula (upcountry) and the Lavender Farm
There's plenty to do in Maui's upcountry, including checking out Surfing Goat Dairy (if you want to try some amazing goat cheese) or trying out paragliding (which I hope to do next trip), but my favorite thing to do up here is go to the Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm. This place is similar to a botanic garden, with every different kind of lavender and other plants clearly marked, and their gift shop has amazing little items to take home or eat while you're there. Not to mention it all smells amazing.
5. Leilani Farm Sanctuary in Haiku
My mother is vegan and wanted to meet other vegans on the island the last time we were visiting Maui, and this place did not disappoint. The owner, Laurelee, is so passionate about all of the animals that she has rescued and gets so excited when other people want to come and take a tour. On this tour, you will be able to hug chickens and turkeys (who I have learned really love cuddles), pet goats and deer, and say hi to all the cats walking around the property. Even if you don't want to hug a chicken, the property is lush and gorgeous.
6. Pa'ia and Nakalele Blowhole
Pa'ia is one of the cutest towns I've ever been to. They have amazing food (Cafe des Amis is my personal favorite: crepes!), a very sweet little health food market, and a great space to sit and watch windsurfers at Ho’okipa Beach (and pet some cows). Nakalele Blowhole, a popular destination for tourists, is also very close by and worth a quick visit.
Because did you even go to Hawaii if you didn't go to the beach? Here are my favorites:
1: Paako Cave
Please don't tell the locals that I told you about this one. This beach is very small and quite easy to find turtles around here!
2. Wailea Beach
A classic! This beach is quite touristy as it is right next to all the huge hotels but it is large and lovely with small waves and good sun all day. If you get hungry, the Four Seasons right behind the beach has great lunch foods and smoothies, and during sunset the Wailea Beach Path is an easy, lovely walk along this oceanfront.
3. Big Beach
The title describes exactly how large these waves are. If you are a good swimmer, love to boogie board, or just want a day on the sand this is the place to be. I, personally, am not a great swimmer so I tend to only go here for a sunset walk along the beach. This is also a popular destination for locals.
4. Po’olenalena Beach
A locals spot that doesn't get very busy (but parking is super limited, so best to get there early) and has nice waves. This is my favorite one by far.
The Road to Hana
The best part about Maui, in my opinion, is this road. The drive on its own is an adventure, with one lane bridges every couple miles and views of waterfalls all over the place. But the best part of this road is that every mile or so there is an amazing destination that you can hike or visit. To see what's available mile by mile, click here, but otherwise take my word for it and go to these locations (in order by mile marker):
Mile Marker 2: Twin Falls
This area tends to be very crowded but is worth the easy hike to see and swim in the waterfall.
Mile Marker 6: Bamboo Forest Hike / Na’ili’ili-haele Falls
This hike is very dangerous when slippery or when rainy, so please be warned. That being said, walking through the overgrown bamboo is magical, and the trail dumps you out at a gorgeous waterfall by the end.
Note: please check that it is open before trying to go here. I has had temporary closures quite often lately.
Mile Marker 10: Garden of Eden Arboretum
This was my favorite stop last time we drove along this road. This is a lush botanic garden stop with views of waterfalls and amazing plants.
Mile Marker 19.6: Upper Waikani Falls / Three Bears Falls
This stop is a great swimming spot, and nicknamed "Three Bears" because there are three waterfalls at the end of a short trail. (Photo taken by my father because I was busy diving in).
Mile Marker 32: Wai’anapanapa State Park and Black Sand Beach
This volcanic park is a beautiful place to picnic and walk along black sand beaches.
The amount of photos that I have of my food from this island is insane. Most of the places that we love to eat at are in Wailea since that is where we tend to stay, but a couple others are worth the drive. Also apologies for the phone photos in this section.
1. Ko (Wailea) $$$
This place is expensive but so worth it. I have never had a bad meal here and the way they prepare their fish is amazing. This is also a great stop for vegans!
2. Pita Paradise (Wailea) $ - $$
This place is great and has fresh fish and fun specials every day. If you order something vegetarian/vegan or go during happy hour it can be really inexpensive too.
3. Honolulu Coffee Shop (Wailea) $
Inexpensive breakfast foods or mid-day snacks (acai bowls, baked goods, smoothies, etc) in the middle of a nice shopping center.
4. Monkey Pod (Wailea) $
Go during happy hour! Food is cheap, the wait staff is so kind, and their food and drinks are amazing. My family is obsessed with their soups and poke.
5. Cuatro (Wailea) $$
This place can get pricey, but it's worth it for the fish and rice dishes. Plus, the owner and staff are so kind and never forget a face. One thing to note: you must bring your own wine if you want to drink here.
6. Joy's Place (Wailea) $
Go here for super cheap sandwiches during your lunch break.
7. Spago (Wailea) $$$$
Although I would much rather go to Ko for a more fancy meal, this place is still great and serves good food and breads.
8. Cafe des Amis (Pa'ia) $
CREPES! Need I say more?
Apologies for my horrible phone photos, but they were such pretty meals I had to share:
All in all...
This place holds a special place in my heart and I'm so excited to hopefully help some people enjoy this place as much as I have. Enjoy!