Top 10 Frequently Asked Maui Vacation Questions
1. When is the best time to visit?
That's a bit of a trick question because there isn't a lot of difference between Maui's summer weather (average temp. 85 degrees) and Maui's winter weather (average temp. 78 degrees). The high season is winter (mid-Dec through April) because most people are trying to escape their snowy cold weather. High season means high prices and more crowds. Summer brings hoards of families and bratty kids (not that your kids are brats, I'm talking about those other kids). While the weather is consistently perfect in Summer the beaches, restaurants and attractions are more crowded and the Road to Hana can get busier than an Los Angeles freeway during rush hour.
This means the "best times" to visit are Spring (April, May) and Fall (September to November). Great weather, lower rates, and fewer crowds makes for a perfect start to a perfect vacation.
2. Where should I stay?
Listen to me on this. If you are a first time visitor then head over to one of the big resorts on Ka'anipali. You'll find the Maui you're looking for with the big pools, the endless mai-tai's, and plenty of aloha spirit. Yes, it's a bit touristy but first timers will love it here.
If you want to be close to the action but not in the middle of the crowds then head to North Kaanapali (north of the Sheraton) where you'll still find great resorts and some budget friendly options but without the crowded beaches.
Going south you move away from the top tourist attractions and restaurants, meaning you'll be doing a lot more driving if you want to experience the entire island. Kehei is popular with families due to the large number of condos and further south is Wailea, a luxurious area where you'll find the top destination resorts such as theFour Seasons Maui or Grand Wailea. Here's a basic map of Maui to help you get your bearings.
3. Is the Road to Hana worth my time? It takes a freaking full day!
The Road to Hana can either be one of your favorite memories or a mai-tai inducing nightmare depending on how you approach it. I usually hate it when people tell me cliche things like "it's not the destination, it's the journey" but in this case it's absolutely true. Start your day early and make sure you have the Road to Hana CD that tells you where to stop to find all the secret waterfalls - seriously, you will not find them without the guide.
Start early, pack a lunch, wear your swimming suit with tennis shoes, and take your time. You can't see it all so pick some key places you want to stop at and skip the ones with the big crowds. And here's a tip - plan out your day so that on the way back you can stop for dinner at Mama's Fish House, an essential Maui dining experience.
4. What should I pack?
Biggest Maui mistake is thinking you need to go shopping for all sorts of cool Hawaiian outfits and shoes and whatever before you arrive. The reality is that you'll most likely end up wearing a swimming suit with a shirt or coverup on top, flip flops (they call them "slippa's" in Hawaii), and sunscreen. Dining is casual, even at the most expensive restaurants, and most men wear shorts and a short sleeve shirt and women a sundress or something equally comfortable. Put those slacks and sports jacket away, forget about fancy dresses and heels, you won't need them.
When you get to Maui you'll find plenty of discount t-shirts at the ABC store (you'll know what I mean when you get there) so don't go overboard bringing too much stuff. If you can't fit a weeks worth of clothes into a carry on, you've over-packed.
5. What are the top things to do on Maui?
Number one, get yourself into that water (and I don't mean the pool at the resort). Maui's water temperature fluctuates between 77 and 82 degrees, perfect to cool down on a hot Summer day but not too chilly to want to stay in for a long time. There's some amazing snorkel spots around the island and they're probably NOT right outside your hotel so ask around and go explore.
Other key attractions are visiting Haleakala volcano at sunrise (do it early in your stay to take advantage of the time zone difference if you are coming from the US), driving the Road to Hana, and seeing the touristy sights of Lahaina. You can also hike the Iao Needle park, take a sunsetcruise, snorkel the molokini crater and swim with turtles in Turtle Town. See all the top attractions in my Activities Guide.
6. Should I go to a Luau?
Yes. No. Yes. Maybe? A luau is basically a dinner show so make sure you pick one that has both a good show AND good food. It's not hard to do as there really are only a handful of luau's that meet this criteria and I'll show you which ones in my Luau Reviews. You'll find a lot of discount luau's if you sit through a "fractional ownership" presentation but be wary - most of them are not very good. An authentic luau is expensive but when was the last time you got to feast on a whole pig roasted in the ground?
7. I'm on a budget. How do I stretch my Maui dollars?
Maui on a budget can be done. Start with going off-season (Spring or Fall) and you'll be surprised how affordable some of those big name resorts can get. A big part of the budget is food so pick one splurge restaurant and for the rest stick with local food joints (and local Hawaiian food). For activities, avoid the non-essentials like biking down the volcano or taking a zip line and spend your time snorkeling or exploring. If cocktails are your style then head over to an ABC store to pick up a bottle of your favorite spirit and skip the expensive bar scene and kick back on the beach.
Catch a Free Sunset and Dine on the Beach
Don't overlook the simple pleasures of picking up some prepared food at Foodland Market and dining on the beach as the sun goes down. (Tip: Foodland is the place to get fresh "poke", raw fish marinated in soy and sesame oil that's incredible flavorful.) A rotisserie chicken with some SPAM Musubi might be the best meal you'll have on your island vacation.
8. Where do I find the Best Things to Eat on Maui?
For the best food on Maui you need to get away from the resort and get some local food. Hawaiian plate lunch is essential good eats and cheaper than a chain restaurant burger.
Of course, ocean view dining is everywhere on the island but choose wisely as some are not worth the price.
To find the best places and things to eat on Maui go to my Restaurant Reviews section where you'll find the complete list of Maui's Best Restaurants.
9. Will I see molten lava spewing out of a volcano?
Unlike the volcano on Big Island, there's no hot lava coming out of Haleakala. But don't think for a second that it's less impressive. Unlike anything you've ever seen, Haleakala looks like something on the moon with swirling colors that makes the setting look more like a two dimensional painting than a park you can hike into. Hike? Yes, you can do that but most people just get there early to watch the sunrise or take a tour where you can ride the 27 mile journey back down on a bicycle. Whatever you decide, don't miss the Haleakala volcano.
10. Basic Maui Map: Can I drive around the entire island?
No. Some will tell you yes and on a map it looks almost reasonable, but unless you like a terrifying and life threatening drive I would avoid it. Most rental car companies prohibit you from driving in certain areas, meaning if you break down you are on your own. But breaking down isn't the issue, it's the drive itself.
Going north past Kapalua is beautiful but quickly turns into narrow roads that will have you clutching your steering wheel in terror, especially when a car starts coming down the hill towards you on a road that is clearly not wide enough for two. Drive to the Nakalele blowhole, perhaps a bit more, but as soon as the road starts looking scary it's time to turn around.
On the other side of the island it's tempting to keep going hast Hana and loop around the Southeastern side of the island but that drive is scarier than giving Charlie Manson a lift. I'm not kidding, you do this drive and your wife will kill you if you don't kill your entire family in the process.