The Complete Maui Vacation Guide
Filed under: Maui, Maui Activities, Most Popular Questions, Prices, Vacation Planning
So you are planning a vacation to Maui! This is the Complete Maui Vacation Guide, which is the online version of of my free ebook,
Plan Your Best Vacation to Maui Ever; Where to Stay and What to do on Maui.
Topics in this guide
- My Favorites on Maui
- Best Weather on Maui
- Best Hotels in Maui
- Best Overall, Oceanfront, and Luxury Hotels on Maui
- Best Family Hotels in Maui
- Best Budget-Priced Hotels on Maui
- Best Romantic Hotels and Hotels for Weddings On Maui
- Bidding on Hawaii Travel Priceline, Deep Discount, Expedia, Hotwire
- So How Should I Bid on Hawaii Travel?
- Most Fun, Must-Do, Activities and Things to Do on Maui
- My Favorite Inexpensive or Free Activities on Maui
- Best Ways I like to Save Money on Maui
- Best Maui Beaches and Must-See Beaches on Maui
So you’re planning a vacation to Maui –
Congratulations! You are going to have SUCH FUN! First, you’ll be flying in to Kahalui (OGG), and you may be able to find a direct flight from your city or at least the west coast of the U.S. Mainland into Kahalui. A few airlines do this these days. If not, your airline will probably schedule your connecting flight from Honolulu for you.
Also check out Hawaiian for great rates to Hawaii.
My favorite areas:
Kaanapali, Lahaina and Wailea. Kaanapali is a three mile long golden sand beach north of Lahaina. And Lahaina is a main town on Maui – lots of fun shopping, dining, sights to see and nightlife. Wailea has beautiful white sand beaches in South Maui where it’s almost always sunny and less windy than northward
My favorite hotel:
Hands down, the Wailea Marriott is my top choice because it’s a wonderful place for children, especially with the kids’ pool playground structure and its small and large slides (and I always travel with my little boy and my big (45 year old) boy.
My favorite luau:
Maui has more than a few fantastic luau, but the best is possibly to the Old Lahaina Luau.The multiple award-winning production tells the story of the Hawaiians through chant, music and hula. The food is superb (Emeril hosts shows from here even) and includes traditional luau food as well as modern Hawaiian delights like mango chicken. This is a hands-down favorite luau of locals and visitors. Check out the photos and menu at their site.
My favorite activity:
Viewing and playing at the waterfalls we can hike into from the Road to Hana; A perfect vacation activity because it’s exciting and new and each waterfall is different from the last. The best guide to this drive (and all of Maui) is the Maui Revealed Book.
I also thoroughly enjoy most boating activities, especially big catamarans or cruising boats that will keep an eye out for whales and dolphins.
My favorite guidebook:
Maui is an island that offers exceptionally good weather. While the weather changes dramatically depending on the area of the island, it is generally between 75 and 85 degrees F all year long. Passing showers means 5 minutes of (warm!) rain and then 1 to 5 hours of Sun. We never give up on what we are doing for a passing shower.
The South and West Maui are usually hot and dry, while greener East and North Maui gets more rain and cooling trade winds. In the winter months, you may see snow on the top of Haleakala (the volcanic mountain).
Maui’s coastal waters are inviting year round too. The water temperature averages 75°F, about 10 degrees warmer than Southern California coastal waters in the summer. During Hawaii’s summer, South and West Maui coastal waters often hover around 85°F, the temperature of a heated swimming-pool. Nice!
These are the best hotels in all of Maui, in my opinion.
If you consistently find higher prices than what I have found, maybe prices are up due to high season or some other reason. You find the best fares during the off-peak season, late September through the first week of June. And exception to this is fares go up around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, as well the days closely surrounding them and Spring Break.
You may find lower prices by bidding at Priceline and using Hotwire.com. This is all detailed below the tables. All listed prices are based on double occupancy. If you find lower prices than I’ve listed here, don’t question it, just book it! 🙂
- Hale Napili, $160 at the website
- Napili Kai Beach Resort, $243 at website
- Hololani Oceanfront Condos, $220 at website
- Mauian on Napili Bay, $185 at website
Many of these hotels don’t list with Expedia and Priceline. If you call them directly for reservations, be sure to ask “Do you have any discounts that could bring my rate down?” You could get a “Yes” and a better rate off the bat.
I also highly recommend bidding on Priceline. Many of these smaller operations do not sell rooms to Priceline, and so if you are bidding on Priceline you will normally get something like a resort or a 2 to 4 star hotel. Remember, you can’t pick your hotel if you bid, just your desired star level.
You’ll have the most luck with getting low bids accepted on Priceline when the hotels are hurting for visitors, but try anytime. You could really get some good deals.
Most of the following are condos and include full kitchens, private washer/dryer, pool and barbecue. The “Best Prices” are based on Expedia, Priceline (lowest prices without bidding) and the hotel’s site.
- Hololani, $140 at website
- Kihei Kai Nani, $103 at website
- Koa Lagoon, $170 at website
- Lokelani, $129 at website
- Mauian on Napili Bay, $140 at website
- Napili Village, $139 at website
- Puamana Vacation Homes, $155 at MauiVacationRentals.net
Shopping for travel reservations through Expedia, Priceline, and Hotwire is a great way to save money on hotels and sometimes even flights to Hawaii. You can often get even better prices than ones in the charts. I have personally bid and got $55 at the Royal Kona Resort and $120 at the Waikoloa Marriott. My friend got $110 at the Waikoloa Hilton and $85 at the Hapuna Prince. (All of these hotels are on the Big Island.) And I know someone who bid and received a round trip flight from San Francisco to Honolulu for $250. These are good deals!
Oh, and don’t forget car rentals. You can get great deals on car rentals by bidding.
The only issue with bidding for hotels is that you won’t know what hotel you get until you are locked in to paying for it. You just specify a certain star level or class of hotel.
And the only issue with bidding for flights is that you won’t be able to specify an exact time, but they do tell you it will be sometime between x morning hour and x evening hour, so not too bad. I have a friend who got a roundtrip flight Los Angeles to Honolulu for $179 through Hotwire.
At Hotwire you can get their regular low rates while specifying your hotel, airline/flight time and car model, but to give you the deep discounts Hotwire gets from their partners that they’re not allowed to publicize, you won’t know the names until after you reserve. As mentioned above though, you can choose general times, star rating on hotels, size of car, etc.
I like to decide on a hotel I like, then find out what its star level is. Then on Priceline, I go directly to naming my own price, and during the process Priceline will tell you what the average price is for that star level. I then bid half of that.
The Priceline website will have a ticker of recently accepted rates in the area you are searching for that is helpful.
An awesome resource is the bidding for travel forum. If you scroll down on the home page you’ll see three Hawaii forums, based on which islands you are planning to visit. People bid, and then come here and post their accepted and rejected rates.
I have heard that the posted “median retail prices” at Priceline are sometimes inaccurate. I don’t worry about this in Hawaii because I am so familiar with what the hotels cost here. You, however, may want to check prices on the website of a few hotels that are the same star level as you want. You can then try to bid 50% of that.
Rental Cars –
$15 a day is a good place to start, and check the recent winning bids on Priceline.
I like to bid 50% of whatever the going rate is and then bid up in $50 increments if that is refused.
This is my personal favorites list of the most exciting and fun things to do on Maui:
- Atlantis Submarine Tours, This is the one featured on National Geographic. Maui’s tour takes you down to view a natural coral reef with fish galore, as well as a sunken replica of a 19th century supply vessel. Atlantis Submarine Tour.
- Haleakala Bike Ride Down a Volcano, Ride up in a van (maybe catch the sunrise too!) and coast down the western 13 slope of the world’s largest resting volcano. Ages 12 and up. I like Maui Downhill.
- Haleakala Horseback Riding, If you want to tour Haleakala Crater but not on foot and you’re into horseback riding, I recommend Pony Express Tours. They are the favorite Hawaiian stable of Maui Revealed Guide and a nice family business.
- Snorkel Tours of Molokini Crater and Turtle Towns (where turtles congregate at at a given time), I like Fair Winds II and Pacific Whale Foundation tours the best. Maui Kayak Tours are also good. Prices:
- Whale Watching, The humpbacks congregate around Maui from December through April, playing, mating and nursing their babies. For the most educational and whale-friendly tour, go with Pacific Whale Foundation They’re good fun too!
- Surf Lessons, Try the Goofy Foot Maui Surf School. You’re guaranteed to stand up and ride a wave or your money back. They also have good rental rates and are adding stand-up paddle lessons. Check out the fun video on their site.
- Take a Day Cruise to Molokai or Lanai, Take the Molokai Ferry to the “most Hawaiian island” or the Lanai Ferry to Hawaii’s 13-mile-wide “most secluded island.”
- Drive the Road to Hana, If you don’t mind narrow winding roads, this is a must-do. Allow plenty time to pull over at scenic view points (the entire road is scenic, but sometimes you just have to stop and enjoy). Hike to a waterfall or two or three…check out the charming old town of Hana and the famous Oheo Gulch Pools (aka Seven Sacred Pools). About.com has a lengthy photo tour of the Hana Hwy. Read Hawaii State’s guide on Hiking Safety.
- Haleakala National Park, Lots to see and do here – star gazing, hiking, watching the famous sunrise over the crater…
- Kayak the Coastline, Big Kahuna Adventures has kayak rentals in Kihei.
- Visit Lahaina Town, This is the coolest town on Maui in my opinion. Shops, cultural attractions, Banyan Tree Park, good restaraunts, fun nightlife – and of course, Lahaina Harbor sunsets. Check out my article on Lahaina at my site.
- Take a Sunset Stroll on Kaanapali Beach’s Boardwalk, Or take the beach walk anytime of the day. This is a gorgeous beach with pristine, golden sands and crystal clear waters. Check out my Kaanapali photos.
- Explore `Iao Needle Area, First stop at the Kepaniwai Park and Heritage Gardens. Picnic by a stream and learn about Hawaiian plants and culture. Follow the paved path to the `Iao Needle State Monument.
- Walk Wailea’s Beachside Path, The sunsets here are awesome. This is one of my favorite beaches. Crescent shaped, pristine and almost always sunny.
- Hike to the Olowalu Petroglyphs, If you’re into this sort of thing, this is an interesting site. You’ll find the trail at Olowalu Beach (next to the private campground of the same name), just south of Lahaina.
And here’s a list on my site of free things to do on Maui.
Bidding for travel
I like bidding at Priceline for hotels and rental cars and airfare. This can save a lot of money right away.
Hawaii Entertainment Book
For Maui, I always recommend the Hawaii Entertainment book from Entertainment.com.
The book is typically best for Oahu, second best for Maui, and marginal for the Big Island and Kauai.
I review it every year: here’s my review.
Don’t hit all of these unless you are really into beaches. Just pick a few and take your time.
Don’t worry about directions too much. You can see the ocean from almost everywhere, and there are signs designating the beaches. Here’s a link to Google’s Maui Map. And here’s the Hawaii Ocean Safety Map.
The surf conditions in Hawaii somewhat follow the seasons. During Hawaii’s summer (May – October), surf from the south occasionally has high surf conditions. During Hawaii’s winter, surf from the north has higher surf.
Kapalua Beach (West Maui) – Year-round calm swimming thanks to the reef and the rock outcroppings. On a clear day, you can see Molokai. Often found on U.S. and world “best beaches” lists.
Napili Bay Beach (West Maui) – Very pretty white sand beach partially shaded by palm trees. Swimming and snorkeling are good when its calm, most summer days.
Kama`ole Beach Park (South Maui) – This is divided by rock outcroppings into three separate beaches. Kama`ole l has nice picnic areas and good swimming. Kama`ole ll is smaller but also has good swimming. Kama`ole lll is better for body boarding and popular with locals. All have lots of fun family activities – volleyball, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, more.
Makena Beach (South Maui) – Makena Beach – Soft, white sand and amazing blue-green waters make this an incredibly beautiful. When it’s calm, snorkeling and swimming are as fantastic as the view. It’s 2/3 of a mile long but can get crowded. Makena is also called “Big Beach” because just over a small hill (there’s a trail) rests a smaller section of the beach, which is calld “Little Beach.” Watch out for strong currents and high surf. Molokini Crater is just 3 miles off shore.
Honokalani Black Sand Beach (East Maui) – Not save for swimming, but if you are driving the Road to Hana and want to see a beautiful black sand, do stop here. Located in the Wai’anapanapa State Park, this is a gorgeous area with sea caves and arches, blue-green water that has inspired many an artist, and there are fresh water caves to explore. Watch your footing on the trails if you hike around.
Kaanapali (Upper West Maui) – Resorts and hotels line this beach, and it is very popular with locals as well. A long stretch of golden sands with crystal clear waters and just about every ocean activiity you can think of make it worth a visit. Beautiful sunsets too.
Wailea Beach (South Maui) – Very pretty, this almost always sunny white sand beach has a paved path that meanders by the resorts, restaurants and sandy coves. Fun activities here like snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, etc. but can be crowded.
Maui’s beaches are one of the reasons this island is so often voted among or as the best in the world. It has more swimmer-friendly beaches than any other Hawaiian island and many of its beaches have made the national and world “best beach” lists. In all, Maui has 81 accessible beaches and 40 of these have public facilities. The beaches above are just a short list of my favorites, but you may find many more that strike your fancy as you drive along Maui’s coastline.
So that’s it – have a wonderful, wonderful vacation! Maui is an awesome place, and you really can’t go wrong here.