As a midwesterner, traveling to Maui seemed elusive – a nine-hour flight to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Upon moving to San Jose, Hawaii suddenly looked like a reality – a direct five-hour flight to an ocean that’s now more familiar to me than the Atlantic. Why Maui? When deciding between Hawaiian islands, I wanted a trip that seemed like a quintessential vacation, full of activities and food options.
For west coasters, booking an Alaskan Airline’s direct flight is a breeze. Assess your travel and credit card points before purchasing. You might be able to use your points for your trip; we did. Booking morning flights to the island will allow you to spend half a day enjoying the beach and relaxing. Most hotels will allow you to drop your bags off if your room is not ready.
Renting a Car
To explore different areas of the island, rent a car. Driving is quite easy, but parking can be difficult at times. If you do not rent a car, you will limit where and what you can do. If staying in Lahaina or Ka’anapali, the drive to the airport, Wailea, or Haleakalā National Park takes an hour. Hotel Parking can be a bit of a challenge, but most places offer valet if the self-parking lots are full.
Where To Stay
Ka’anapali Beach (west side of the island) and Wailea Beach (south side) are the two most popular areas for hotels – Marriott, Westin, Sheridan, etc. The beaches are beautiful, and each neighborhood has plenty of food options. The west side of Maui receives quite a lot of rain; however, during my stay, I had seven days of sunny skies.
The Westin Maui Resort & Spa in Ka’anapali is a family-friendly hotel featuring four pools and a beautiful beach. The adult-only pool is a quiet, relaxing space to read a book and enjoy a cocktail. Opting for mountain views of your hotel can save you $100/night. The mountain is stunning, and you will not be spending that much time in your room. Whalers Village is right next to the hotels at Ka’anapali Beach. This retail area includes a few restaurants – Hula Grill and Leilani’s On The Beach – a food court and shopping area. These extra food options are handy after a full day of exploring or for quick, cheap breakfast choices.
7-Days in Maui Itinerary
The island offers several fun excursions and activities. Plan on one activity a day – doubling up can be exhausting. The island hosts plenty of food destinations. As you do an activity in one part of the island, explore the local food options around it. Lahaina is always a great spot to stop for food.
Day 1: Arrival and Downtown Lahaina
Before checking into the hotel, stop in historic Lahaina for lunch. It’s not that busy during the day, and you can either pick up some tacos at Shark Pit Social or stop by the food trucks. Kusina Ni Jayboy offers a wide assortment of Filipino food, and I had the best pork belly of my life – crispy, juicy, and savory pork belly loco moco. The meals are large so that you can split an order. Lahainaluna Cafe is a great place to grab lunch or a very casual dinner; the soba noodles, brussels sprouts, and tacos are all must-haves. When you eat at any of those places, you can stay downtown Lahaina, and watch the sunset from the sidewalk. After your meal, head to your hotel to check in and sit on the beach. Ka’anapali is full of places where you can rent paddleboards, surfboards, kayaks, and snorkels.
Day 2: Kayaking, Wailea Beach, and South Side of Maui
Drive to Wailea Beach for a kayak trip. Several companies offer kayaking tours of Makena Bay, which allow you to snorkel as well as whale watch. We booked a Makena/Wailea Explore Eco Adventure through Maui Kayaks, but I would not recommend it. Our guide didn’t want to work that day, and our four-hour trip was only 2.5 hours. After the trip, I wrote them and expressed my dismay, and they handled it accordingly. However, I really would have liked to kayak for four hours, and this was the only part of our trip that I would not recommend. I would try another company.
After kayaking, drive up towards Wailea Beach and grab lunch at Coconut’s Fish Cafe and lemonade at Aloha Wow Wow Lemonade. Coconut Fish Cafe is a chain restaurant, but the casual environment and fresh food is a perfect pairing after a long day of kayaking. Drive back to Wailea Beach and walk around The Grand Wailea Hotel. After recharging, drive through Makena State Park to view the volcanic rock from the last eruption. The road is narrow, but the drive is quite beautiful. Drive along the roadway until you arrive at Secret Cove Beach, where you can see the mix of lava rock and sand. The drive includes numerous food stands to grab a fresh coconut beverage or a hot dog!
Day 3: Bike Riding, Paia, and Haleakalā National Park
After a long day of exploring the south side of the island, you might want to take the next day a big easier. Drive up to Ka’anapali and visit Slappy Cakes of breakfast. The waitlist could be long, but if you sit at the bar, the wait, if any, is less. Hawaiian pancakes and Slappy Moco are two large, delicious meals.
Drive to Paia – a small, northern town. As you get closer to the town, traffic and parking become horrendous due to the small roads. Paia’s outskirts hold several paid parking options. Grab smoothies at Hana Picnic Lunch Company and walk over to Lower Paia Beach Park. This non-touristy beach features high waves and a low-key beach. If you head to this beach, make sure you have everything you need – towels, toys, sunscreen, food. It’s just a simple beach with magnificent waves.
After a few hours at the beach, drive to Haleakalā National Park to watch the sunset. Make sure to pack lots of warm clothes. The summit is 10,000+ feet. As you go up the mountain, you’ll stop at checkpoints to see the vast geography.
If you want to do this day differently, reserve bikes at Haleakalā Bike Co in the morning, so that you can bike down the mountain. Then, stop at Paia no the way back before going home to Lahaina. Regardless of your day, stop by Leoda’s on your way back to Lahaina. Leoda’s features a wide assortment of tasty savory and sweet pies that are the perfect ending to a day. Eat inside or take them to go!
Day 4: Ziplining, Kapalua, and Napili Beach
Traveling north of Lahaina and Ka’anapali, the roads become less touristy and resemble something similar to northern California. If you visit Maui, you must sign-up for Kapalua Ziplines 7-line tour. This zip lining experience is one of the best in the country and a perfect half-day activity. Guides Spud and Posse add to the great experience.
After zip lining, you will want to grab something to eat. Fortunately, you can find several different food trucks at the scenic lookouts as you drive north to Napili Beach. Stop at El Taco Borracho for a delicious lunch, then drive further north to check out Napili Beach, Oneloa Bay, and Honokahua Bay.
For us, we found this day exhausting, so we opted to eat at Hula Grill in Whalers Village. We had reservations at The Mill House but opted to go someplace closer.
Day 5: Snorkeling in Molokini
Book a catamaran to take you to Molokini, a sunken volcano located offer the south coast of the island. Sail Maui provides an excellent excursion that includes breakfast and lunch, plus about 1.5-2 hours of snorkeling. The crater is full of sea-life and a must-have location for good snorkeling.
Snorkeling might leave you quite exhausted, so I would recommend heading back to your hotel for a beach day and some recharging.
For fresh and elaborate sushi, visit Miso Phat in Lahaina. Order you meal for takeout, as the location and service leave a lot to be desired. Instead, picnic at Kahana Village Beach as you watch the sunset.
Day 6: Paddleboarding and Relaxing in Ka’anapali
Enjoy your last full day at Ka’anapali Beach. Stop by The Gazebo for your second breakfast of pancakes. They don’t take reservations, but you can call ahead and place your order for carry out. Otherwise, you will be waiting 1-2 hours! Order paddleboards, kayaks and snorkeling gear. If staying at a hotel on the beach, most have cabanas that you can rent for the day. Towards the north side of Ka’anapali Beach is a little cliff where tourists were jumping. You can easily spend a half-day paddleboarding.
In the evening, return to Lahaina for juicy bbq wings and pizza at Prison Street Pizza. Eat inside or outside, depending on the weather.
Day 7: Returning Home
Based on your departure flight, you still might have half a day to explore. Stop by Whalers Village for some last minute shopping, or take a relaxing brunch at Da Kitchen near the airport.
What To Pack
With this itinerary, keep things casual and straightforward. Tevas, running shoes, a hat, and a backpack are must-haves for all members of your party. Leisurewear will get you pretty much everywhere on the island. At dinner, you might go to a fancier restaurant, but it’s still casual – skirts, polos, sandals.
What I Read
I love reading books set in the location I’m traveling, and I managed to read three while there and am still finishing up my fourth. Each book provided a unique insight into the island politics and history from their various narratives:
- Joan Didion’s Democracy
- Gaellen Quinn’s The Last Aloha
- Kaui Hart Hemming’s The Descendents
- James Michener’s Hawaii (still reading, super long)
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Have you been to Maui before? Is it on your list of places to visit?