Maui is by far the greatest vacation Nick & I have ever been on and we cannot wait to go back again!
Get ready – this will definitely be the longest post I’ve ever done. There is SO much to talk about, so I divided it up into the following sections (feel free to skip through): budget, where to stay, where to eat, where to go, what to do. Our favorite activities on the island, best restaurants, best beaches to chill at, best beaches for snorkeling, and the best adventure spots – in our opinion – are all included!
Before we get started: I highly recommend flying Hawaiian. We flew with them from San Francisco and we got a free meal, free wine, and extra leg room (paid a little more but SO worth it). They also have movies available. It was awesome.
OKAY HERE WE GO
section 1: what to budget
These amounts will obviously differ if you’re planning to eat out less/more, but here’s what we did:
- Flights: $1,696.40 (book Hawaiian for your flight to the island from the mainland & pay a little extra for extra comfort – you will not regret it!)
- Car rental for 9 days: $480.90 (if you’re under 25, I suggest buying AAA if you don’t have it – that waives the extra insurance fee)
- Gas: $30 (we paid a little extra for the car to be returned without a full tank)
- Groceries: $350 (shop at Safeway -it’s the cheapest)
- Eating out: $870 (WE LOVE FOOD)
- Activities: $336 (golf, dinner cruise, etc.)
- Souvenirs: $262 (for us and family)
The best part about Hawaii is that a lot of the greatest things to do are free! Beaches, snorkeling,
section 2: where to stay
We stayed in Kihei, which is in Central Maui, just 20 minutes from Kahului, where the airport is. I highly suggest staying in an AirBnb or VRBO and not a hotel. Especially if you don’t love being around a lot of people and are looking for a quiet getaway. We stayed at the Kihei Resort and it was incredible.
A lot of people stay in Wailea, but it was a little too touristy for us. I like the option of being able to drive to touristy areas and shop or go to restaurants, but not so much staying around a lot of people.
Kalepolepo Beach Park – right across the street from our condo. A really quiet beach with gorgeous sunsets…
section 3: where to eat
1. Kihei Caffe
That weird thing on the left is a Loco Moco – a traditional Hawaiian dish that’s basically rice, hamburger, fried egg, and gravy. Apparently it’s really popular, but I just thought it looked gross.
The bar doesn’t serve food itself, but they have different food trucks every night. These fish tacos and Nick’s pulled pork are from Big Beach BBQ. I’ve never had fish tacos before but WOW. Fresh mango slaw on top and pretty much everything is served with fresh pineapple, of course!
This place was magical, seriously. We sat right on the beach and stayed until close chatting with the staff. If you go and you see a hostess with amazing arm tattoos, her name is Farinn – tell her I say hi.
Shrimp, homemade gnocchi and scallops – and salmon with shrimp, scallops, parmesan risotto and asparagus. I’m salivating just typing this..
This is definitely a must visit on Maui. It’s one of the only two oceanfront restaurants on the island and we didn’t go to the other one (5 Palms), but it was right next door, so we basically had the exact same view. Had we planned a bigger food budget, we might have gone to the 5 Palms, but the food at Sarento’s was so great we didn’t really need anything else.
Okay, sad story. After we did Road to Hana (scroll down for details), we got home and Nick had a fever and terrible sore throat. He also had gotten hives earlier in the week from sunscreen. He’s allergic to one of the ingredients – I’m pretty sure it’s oxybenzone, but he’ll say he’s not sure which one if you ask him. So we had to stop to get some medicine and band aids for me (my Chacos gave me such bad blisters on my feet it looked like a tiger bit them). We were both way too tired to think about making food, so we went back and forth about someone delivering but didn’t want to pay the delivery fee. I ended up ordering spaghetti and salad from this place and picked it up. I was nervous it would suck, but it was incredible! Simple pasta, not soggy even though it was to go. If you’re looking for a quick, basic meal, this was bomb.
Holy crap, this coffee shop. All white, modern, and so freaking cute. They have insanely great baked goods, too.
A few more because I can’t help myself and we ate dinner out every single night…
6. South Shore Tiki Lounge – Awesome pizza (and weird pizza) plus amazing Mai Thais!
7. Three’s Bar and Grill – Great happy hour, free seating at the bar – we met two hilarious couples here that we sat and talked to for hours! So much fun. Really good nachos, too!
Lahaina is about 40 minutes north of Kihei along the coast. It’s another touristy area that has a lot of shops and restaurant options! One tip about Lahaina: don’t drive either way during rush hour. There’s only one road in and out – it can get terribly backed up.
The amount of seafood we ate on this trip was ridiculous. It was so fresh and delicious and I don’t think seafood will ever taste as good anywhere else.
There’s dark chocolate in the bottom of my cone. Get that – but I suggest getting a cup because my hands were covered in this stuff within about 15 minutes.
section 4: what to do
*TIP: go to the beach from 7am – noon before the trade winds pick up. This isn’t a rumor – Maui gets really windy and you end up with sand in your face if you stay at the beach much later than noon. If you’re anything like us, you’ll also be jet lagged and up at 5:30 am every morning anyway.
- Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve – amazing clarity, schools of fish hang out really close to shore. This is more of a rocky entry, so be careful getting in the water. The drive out here on Makena Road is REALLY cool too – you’re basically driving through a lava field. You’ll park in a large parking lot and then walk out to the “beach”. It’s really rocky as you can see – it’s basically all just lava rocks – so definitely bring shoes!
- Ulua Beach – gorgeous, awesome snorkeling
- Kamaole Beach Park 1, 2, & 3 (Kihei is famous for these beaches)
- Wailea Beach – great snorkeling too, but could be a lot of people if you go during peak season
#1: the turtles and the most fish will be around the reefs, so if you see rocks out in the water at the edges of the beach, this is the best place to go. Also – don’t touch the turtles.
#2: be careful if the waves are rough. I suggest buying flippers/fins – we got ours at Walmart for $20 and they help exponentially with control.
#3: if it rains, don’t go snorkeling the day after. The bacteria in the water raises to the surface and Nick got sick because we didn’t listen to this advice!
Do not go on the Pride of Maui Sunset Dinner Cruise. We might look happy in this photo, but this boat was disgusting. The bathroom doors had to be propped open, I was cold because I was very unprepared, the food was buffet style so it was iffy. I expected something much grander, but Nick was pretty aware this is how it would be. DO NOT RECOMMEND.
Okay I’m not going to say much about this because the pictures are enough. This is the highway along the northern coast of Maui and it was raining while we drove. The highway is curvy and it was pouring aka kinda terrifying but OMG LOOK AT IT:
We stopped on those cliffs, and for this:
Black Rock Beach
This beach is pretty famous on Maui for the snorkeling and the giant rocks people love jumping off of. They’re lava rocks, obviously. And it is really pretty, but I don’t have any pictures because this experience was dreadful for us. We walked around for 30 minutes trying to find the beach. We meandered around the hotels, following signs and carrying our cooler and the snorkeling gear, exhausted from driving for hours around the coast. We finally made it to the beach, starving. The waves were CRAZY which definitely isn’t ideal. Apparently snorkeling there is great, so if you go – walk into the Sheraton and ask them how to get to the beach. Do not walk around proudly thinking you know where you’re going because you do not. I promise.
A perk: on the way back to the car from the beach, it was raining, but we turned the corner onto the golf course and…
I MEAN LOOK AT THAT THING. GOD IS SO COOL.
The Road to Hana (Hana Highway)
*TIP #1: Shaka Guide app: download this on the App Store and let Allen (we named our guide that) tell you all about the best places to stop and the history of the island! It was raining when we were driving again, but it was so worth it! Here’s where we stopped:
1. Ke’anae Arboretum
Gorgeous Rainbow Eucalyptus trees (Sorry that second pic is so blurry – I forgot to take a photo so this is a screenshot of a video)
2. Wailua Iki Falls
It was pouring rain, but it was 80 degrees so we didn’t care about the rain at all.
3. Secret Lava Tube Cave
4. Waikani Falls (3 bears falls)
5. Wai’anapanapa State Park (Black Sand Beach)
6. Kaihalulu – Red Sand Beach
7. Hamoa Beach
8. Wailua Falls
9. Oheo Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools)
10. Manawainui Gulch
And the view of Haleakala from the backside of Hana:
Speaking of Haleakala – we tried to go up there for sunrise (like everyone suggests) but it was so cloudy and raining and FREEZING, so we left. The view on the way down was pretty incredible, though.
If you decide to do this, make sure you make a parking reservation! They won’t let you in from 3 am – 7 am unless you can prove you have a reservation and it’s only $1.50.
Another tip: I suggest you go to Hana within 3 days of going to Haleakala for sunrise because you can show your receipt and use it at the entrance past Hana to get in for free!
Thanks for checking out the highlights of our 10 days in Maui. We had a blast and seriously can’t wait to go back!
Feel free to comment if you have any other questions!