This post was originally published in December 2015 and was most recently updated on January 5, 2024.
Mike and I have done a lot of traveling together, and it's impossible to pick a favorite destination. But our favorite place to return to? That's Maui.
We love Maui's natural beauty, diverse landscapes, culture, beaches, and sunsets. Since our first trip in 2012, we've returned in 2015, 2019, and 2023. Here's a guide to my favorite places to eat, see, and stay—many of which we've found ourselves returning to again and again.
Favorite places to eat on Maui
Businesses are listed in alphabetical order within each category.
Da Kitchen (Kihei) serves a menu of Hawaiian specialties including spam musubi, plate lunches, and saimin. The Hawaiian plate, which includes kalua pork, pork lau lau, lomi salmon, white rice, and potato macaroni salad, is the perfect way to taste several Hawaiian dishes and is big enough to split. I don't typically eat meat, but I always make an exception for the kalua pork.
Flatbread Company (Pā'ia) is a Northeast U.S. based chain, but the menu at their Hawaii location reflects local tastes and ingredients, with pizza toppings like kalua pork, mango barbecue sauce, and macadamia nut pesto. Many of the vegetables and dairy products are sourced locally. I appreciate that several of the pizzas are vegetarian, and we loved the bold flavors of the Coevolution pie, which features with olives, rosemary, onions, goat cheese, and peppers.
Hana Farms (Hāna) operates a farm stand with locally grown produce, gift items, baked goods, and coffee (I love their enormous aloha cookies loaded with chocolate and macadamia nuts), plus an adjacent restaurant with a menu of pizzas and salads. The wood-fired pizzas are quite large and can be shared, and are loaded with Maui-grown produce and meat, with many ingredients grown in-house. I especially enjoyed the ulu (breadfruit) and pesto pizza.
Snacks & dessert
Aunty Sandy's Banana Bread (Ke'anae Peninsula) is a popular stop on the Road to Hāna. The food stand sells freshly-made loaves of banana bread, smoothies, coffee, plus some snacks and lunch items. The banana bread is amazing—incredibly moist and flavorful, it's so much better than anything I've tasted on the mainland. Buy an extra loaf for later!
Ululani's Shave Ice (multiple locations) offers about 50 different syrup flavors made with fruit purees and juices—if you can't decide, there's a long list of recommended combinations. Best of all, they'll add more syrup if you come across any white spots. You can pick your own flavors, or try one of the recommended combinations. My favorites are the Sunset Beach (passion orange, mango, and guava) and the Local Motion (li hing mui, mango, and pineapple). For more of my shave ice recommendations, check out this post.
Favorite things to do on Maui
In August 2023, a devastating wildfire killed 100 people and destroyed much of the West Maui city of Lahaina. Some areas of West Maui have since reopened, but Lahaina is still rebuilding and as of January 2024 remains closed to tourism. Consult the Hawaii Tourism Authority for updates.
Kahekili Highway, officially known as Hawaii Route 340, features truly amazing views. The narrow, winding road has a similar feel to the Road to Hāna, but the rugged landscape is completely different from the lush rainforest of Maui's more famous drive. Since the Kahekili Highway is shorter and there aren't as many stops as the Road to Hāna, you can easily complete the drive in a half day.
Honolua Bay has some of the best snorkeling on Maui, with colorful coral formations and diverse, plentiful fish. Note that the beach is very rocky, and facilities are limited to portable toilets—this is a beach for getting into the water to snorkel instead of lounging around.
ʻĪao Valley State Monument features lush rainforest and the ʻĪao Needle, a rock feature that towers 1,200 feet above the valley floor. There is also a 0.6 mile-long paved hiking trail, small botanical garden, and interpretive signs about Hawaiian culture and history. Advance reservations are required for out-of-state residents and can be made online.
Mākena State Park is home to the 1.5 mile-long, white sand Oneloa Beach, often referred to as Big Beach. It's one of our favorite spots in Hawaii thanks to the scenic views of the Molokini Crater and Kaho'olawe (the smallest Hawaiian island), and it's a great place to lounge around and watch the sunset. The shore break can be very dangerous, so obey all posted signs and lifeguard instructions. Keep in mind that facilities are limited to portable toilets and there isn't any drinking water.
PacWhale Eco-Adventures offers whale watching, snorkeling, and sunset cruise excursions, with all of the profits supporting the Pacific Whale Foundation’s research, education, and conservation programs. We loved the Lāna‘i Snorkel & Dolphin Watch tour we took in November 2023—the coral reef off the island of Lāna‘i is beautiful and not as busy as other snorkel tour destinations, and we spotted dolphins and humpback whales. Tours are laid back but do have a more educational tone than similar excursions we've taken, which we really appreciated. Due to the Lahaina fire, excursions have been departing from Ma'alaea Harbor. Check the PacWhale Eco-Adventures website for the most up-to-date information.
Expeditions Lanai Passenger Ferry operates a route between Ma'alaea Harbor on Maui and Manele Harbor on Lāna‘i, a small, sparsely-populated island off Maui's western coast. We enjoyed visiting Lāna‘i in 2019 for the opportunity to escape the crowds and enjoy the excellent snorkeling. There are two trips per day between Maui and Lāna‘i, and the voyage offers scenic views of the Lāna‘i coastline—if possible get a seat on the top deck.
Once you're on Lāna‘i, Hulopoʻe Beach Park is a 5-minute walk from the ferry dock. There are bathrooms, showers, drinking water, and picnic tables available, and the snorkeling is the best I've experienced in Hawaii, with impressive coral formations and a large variety of fish. There's a small general store by the ferry dock, but I recommend bringing food with you for a picnic lunch, as well as sunscreen, snorkeling equipment, and beach gear. Since ferry service has been impacted by the Lahaina fire, check the Expeditions Lanai Passenger Ferry website for the most up-to-date information.
Ho'okipa Beach Park is one of the top spots for surfing in Maui, and the parking lot at the top of a nearby hill gives you the perfect vantage point for watching the surfers' awe-inspiring displays of grace and athleticism.
Pā'ia is a funky, laid-back coastal town known for its art galleries and boutiques—it's a great place to find unique, locally-made souvenirs. There's also a vibrant dining scene, with my favorite spots including Flatbread Company and Ululani's Shave Ice, both mentioned above.
Haleakalā National Park's Summit District feels a world away from the rest of Maui—the stark volcanic landscape looks like a desert planet. Enjoy the stunning views of the volcanic crater and explore the hiking trails, with a range of options for various abilities. Watching the sunrise at the summit is so popular that reservations are required. Keep in mind that the park is remote, without any food or gas available.
Haleakalā National Park also includes the coastal Kīpahulu District, which is located in East Maui and is 12 miles past Hāna.
Surfing Goat Dairy is an agritourism experience where you get to tour the farm, interact with goats, and eat freshly made goat cheese and goat cheese truffles, all while taking the scenic views from the Upcountry. There are several tour options available, from a 20-minute casual walking tour/photo opp to a more in-depth 60-minute evening chore tour where you get to hand-milk a goat. We really enjoyed interacting with the goats, even though we weren't very good at milking!
The Road to Hāna/Hāna Highway is a winding, narrow rainforest road that's a highway only in the technical sense of the term. It's only about 60 miles from the beginning of the Hāna Highway to Hāna, but your drive will take all day—there's a 25 mile per hour speed limit for much of the route, dozens of one-lane bridges, frequent photo stops, detours for hikes, and multiple swimming opportunities. There's no conceivable way to see every stop along the way in one day, so pick the sights that look most interesting, relax, and enjoy the drive. Also, note that some of my favorite stops, including Hamoa Beach, Haleakalā National Park's Kīpahulu District, and Wailua Falls, are actually after Hāna, so keep going! For more tips, read my post about the Road to Hāna.
Favorite places to shop on Maui
Foodland (multiple locations) is so much more than a grocery store—they have a nice selection of budget-friendly souvenirs and gifts, including locally-produced chocolates, jams, and coffee, plus tropical-themed home decor, postcards, and Hawaii-themed reusable bags. For more information, check out my post about grocery shopping in Hawaii.
Hilo Hattie (Kāʻanapali) is a local institution, selling traditional aloha shirts and muu muus made in Hawaii, as well as souvenirs. In addition to their Maui location, they have stores on Oahu, Kaua'i, and the Big Island.
Long's Drug (multiple locations) has a nice selection of made-in-Hawaii food products at reasonable prices, including macadamia nuts, Kona coffee, papaya syrup, and passionfruit jam. Besides Maui, they have locations on Oahu, Kaua'i, and the Big Island.
Favorite Maui tips
Listen to KPOA 93.5 FM for Hawaiian music and hyper-local news like the Maui surf forecast. It's a fun way to connect with the local culture, and you can listen to the online live stream back at home to add some aloha to your day.
Need to take a shower before flying home? Maui Family YMCA in Kahului offers day passes for $10, and the YMCA is only about 10 minutes from the airport. We've done this twice, in 2015 and 2023—the check-in process is easy and the locker rooms are clean and well-appointed.
Favorite places to stay on Maui
Kihei is my favorite location to stay on Maui—it's fairly centrally located, the weather is great, there are lots of beaches, and most accommodations offer ocean views. It also a more lived-in, local feel than the more resort-focused areas of the island.
Sadly, the lovely bed and breakfast we stayed at in 2012 and 2015 has closed due to the owners' retirement.
In 2019, we stayed at a Kihei beachfront condo we rented via VRBO with amazing ocean views, a sandy beach, and a well-stocked kitchen, plus nearby grocery stores and restaurants. The owner was great to work with and it was very clean. When we stayed there the decor and furnishings were a bit dated and worn, and for what it's worth the listing photos haven't been updated since our stay.
In 2023, we opted for a Kihei ocean view condo we rented via Airbnb, which we absolutely adored. It felt like a vacation from our vacation: spacious, sparkling clean, upscale appliances and furnishings, and floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows to appreciate the view. It's also close to grocery stores and restaurants, and the park across the street is a nice place to watch the sunset.
East Maui/North Shore
Since we love the Road to Hāna so much, during our 2023 stay we spent two nights in East Maui and one night on the North Shore. Our East Maui Airbnb in Kīpahulu was a little too rustic and uncomfortable for the price to recommend; next time, we'll opt for a condo in Hāna. For more information about staying in Hāna, check out my post about if it's worth spending the night in Hāna, Maui.
However, we had a great experience renting a room via Airbnb at this bed and breakfast in Haʻikū-Pauwela on the North Shore. Our room with ensuite bathroom evoked a high-quality hotel, and the shared kitchen and living area felt like stepping into the pages of a home decor magazine. A variety of self-serve breakfast items were available, including oatmeal, waffles, yogurt, fruit, eggs, and coffee. The location is especially ideal if you want to maximize your time on the Road to Hāna without overnighting in East Maui.
- 14 Best Stops on the Road to Hana
- Is it worth it to spend the night in Hāna, Maui?
- Kauai: Favorite places to eat, see, and stay
- 7 low-key things I loved about Hilo
- A tourist's guide to grocery shopping in Hawaii
- A guide to Hawaiian shave ice
Further viewing: Relaxing and beautiful Maui, Hawaii Mike made this relaxation video with footage from our 2023 trip.
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