Maui is an extraordinarily diverse island. In only 735 square miles, you can find 10 out of 14 microclimates on the planet. Surprisingly, the people on Maui are just as motley as the climates. Each town on the island houses its own unique vibe and specific culture, so whether you’re looking for arid, dry beaches where you can bask in the sun and party with friends all hours of the day, or fantasizing about swimming in clear freshwater pools under a thundering waterfall in the verdant rainforest with hippies, Maui can offer a unique experience of paradise so multifarious that you can feel like you’re visiting 10 different islands on one vacation. From mauka to makai (the mountains to the sea), all the different areas to stay on the Valley Isle are nothing short of amazing, but depending on your interests and the way you’d like to spend your time in paradise, we’ll break down five of the most popular areas on Maui for tourists to help you decide which destination will check off the most items on your vacation bucket list.
West Maui was developed with the first major resort areas on the island over 50 years ago, and remains the island’s most popular tourist destination to date. Thanks to the consistently sunny and dry climate year round, West Maui is perfect for a beach getaway. There’s an extensive variety of accommodation options, so whether you’re looking for an all-inclusive resort or a condo vacation rental you can temporarily call home, you are likely to find the perfect fit for your family in West Maui.
West Maui has been built up with a lot of entertainment options for tourists. You can spend a day leisurely browsing the shops on Front Street in Lahaina before hitting Down the Hatch at the Wharf Center for live music, food and happy hour cocktails. Many of the water excursions like whale watching, dinner cruises and snorkel trips leave from the Lahaina Harbor, so if that’s something you and your family plan to take advantage of, it’s convenient to stay close by to that departure point.
There are several beginner surf breaks and top notch snorkeling on the award winning Ka’anapali Beach and Puu Kekaa (Black Rock), which is perfect for active travelers who want to experience the thrill of the ocean.
Driving a little further north west up the coast from Lahaina, you’ll find Honolua Bay, a Marine Life Conservation District surrounded by majestic looming cliffs. To reach the untouched bay, you’ll take a scenic hike from the main road down to the rocky shores. The bay is large, requiring a half mile swim if you want to explore the whole area. Because of the surrounding cliff faces, the water remains generally calm even when the trade winds are blowing. On this magnificent reef, you’ll see a wide variety of fish, turtles and healthy coral cover.
Hyatt Residence Club Maui, on Ka’anapali Beach
If you’re someone who wants luxury living with all the comforts of home, Hyatt Residence Club Maui is the perfect WestSide destination. According to their website, this gorgeous beachfront property houses 131 “one-, two- and three-bedroom villas with large private lanais, stunning ocean views, gourmet kitchens with stainless steel appliances, and modern spa-like bathrooms.” You and your family can spend hours lounging along the resort’s 1,800 feet of white sand beach, with intermittent trips to the infinity edge relaxation pool, family pool and a children’s zero entry pool. There’s a 24-hour workout center with cardio machines and weights to keep up your wellness routine in the midst of paradise, just before you check out the resort’s enthralling Drums of the Pacific luau against an electric Maui sunset.
Westin Maui Resort and Spa offers the perfect balance of adventure and relaxation for the whole family on your Maui getaway. Set against the stunning backdrop of lush volcanic mountains, and a few short steps from the glittering water of the Pacific Ocean, Westin Maui Resort and Spa has an abundance of on-property activities like daily beach yoga, outrigger canoeing and lei making. If exploring off-site is more your speed, the resort offers shuttle service to nearby Maui attractions. You can satiate your senses with the flavors of local cuisine at one of their five restaurants, featuring outdoor seating with unparalleled scenery of the ‘aina (land). Their newly remodeled Hōkūpa‘a tower, features the Lānai, which according to their website is an “exclusive venue for extraordinary cultural experiences. These artfully designed activities help [you] experience the cultural practices and traditions of Hawaii while [you] visit Ka'anapali Beach.” If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to take advantage of the daily activities and night camp at the kid’s club (hello, date night!), koi fish feeding and resort movie nights.
With 23 oceanfront acres built adjacent to the culturally significant Puu Kekaa (Black Rock), Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa is a spectacular location to dive into meaningful union with nature and deeply intentional healing. From their famous nightly lele kawa (cliff diving) rituals to decadent spa treatments and floating between waterfalls on their popular lazy river with a colorful poolside cocktail in hand, there’s no shortage of ways to fill your days with fun and inspiration on this peaceful, immense property. According to their website, “The Sheraton Adventure Club offers a plethora of daily activities for various ages such as outrigger canoe tours, pilates and yoga classes, Hawaiian arts and crafts, hula dancing and more.”
The Southside of Maui is not quite as well-known and popular for tourists as the West Side, but it’s just as sweet a location, if not sweeter! The desert climate of South Maui means it’s drier and sunnier than any other location on the Valley Isle, so you’re more likely to consistently score perfect beach weather. The beaches there are generally less crowded and more accessible (hello, extra parking spots), and offer first-rate snorkeling with turtles, whale watching and some of the most spectacular sunset views on Maui .
Traveling south from Kihei, you’ll come to Wailea Beach, one of the best beaches on Maui. Known for its 5 crescent shaped bays, soft white sand and a total area that is three times the size of Waikiki, Wailea radiates luxury, tranquility and privacy unlike any other location on Maui. The calm waters and scenic views of Molokini, Kaho’olawe and Lana’i make this a wonderful swimming and stand up paddle boarding location for families and couples.
If you continue traveling South till you can’t drive any more, you’ll find the famous La Perouse Bay, the last South Maui beach reachable by car. Located in the marine protected ‘Ahi Kina'u Natural Area Reserve, you can reach this bay by driving past all the resorts in Wailea to the southernmost tip of the single lane road. This is a local favorite and a perfect spot for experienced snorkelers, as you’ll need time and strong swimming technique to venture past the often-choppy waves to the reef. However, once you get to the reef, it’s more than worth it. You can see a beautiful coral head and schools of tropical fish. Dolphins can be spotted all around the coast as this is a protected area for them.
Nature and culture unite on 40 acres of tropical landscape at The Grand Wailea. As stated on their website, this “resort offers a tropical oceanfront paradise featuring luxurious accommodations, award-winning cuisine, Hawai'i's largest private art collection, locally inspired spa treatments, nine extraordinary pools, and championship golf and tennis nearby.” On top of being one of the most luxurious resorts on Maui, The Grand Wailea holds environmental sustainability at the core of everything they do by implementing solid-waste reduction and energy-saving measures that includes sourcing almost 75% of their produce from local farms, recycling green waste and cooking oil, and planting drought-resistant native plants to conserve water. When you stay at The Grand Wailea, you’re not only treating yourself to an opulent retreat, but you’re giving back to the ‘aina (land) at the same time.
The Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort is a lavish hotel located on 15 lush acres of Wailea Beach. With award-winning farm to table cuisine, direct access to the famous snorkeling on Mokapu Beach and their sleek and architecturally stylish rooms with tropical views, you’re sure to enjoy a tranquil respite from day to day life. Relaxation and comfort unite with their first-class amenities. You can spend the day lounging around one of their five different pools, refresh your spirit in the morning at one of their wellness activities like beachside yoga and meditation, and explore exotic Polynesian culture and history at the most romantic and authentic luau on Maui, The Feast at Mokapu.
The Fairmont Kea Lani is the best luxury beach resort on South Maui. Located at the end of Wailea in an exclusive ocean-front community, you can relax in their sparkling pools under swaying coconut and date palms, tee-off at one of the nearby award-winning championship golf courses, and get lost in the tranquil turquoise waters lapping against their white sand beach. With an array of spacious suites and villas just steps from the Pacific Ocean, you can greet the day with the sound of Hawaiian chants at dawn, indulge in several complimentary resort wellness activities like Barre and aqua aerobics, and close your day in paradise accompanied by the sacred sound of pū (conch) against a spectacular sunset.
Just up the road from Wailea lies Kihei, a sprawling beach town on Maui’s southside. With an abundance of places to eat and affordable accommodations, Kihei is one of the most exciting towns on Maui. Warm, sunny weather year round and multiple beaches with calm, shallow coves and an easy-going vibe makes this the perfect location for families and solo travelers who want to try watersports on Maui.
There’s no shortage of activities to fill your day Kihei. From morning surf lessons at some of the best beginner surf breaks in Hawaii, lunchtime shopping on South Kihei Road, and getting lost in the nightlife at the “Barmuda Triangle” bars and restaurants, you’re certain to find your groove in this sunny beachfront town.
If you’re looking to cool off during your busy day in paradise, make sure to visit Gus’ Shave Ice, aka “Gus the Bus,” for the best shave ice on Maui located around Kamaole Beach Park II. Parked on Alanui Ke Alii Drive, you’ll find this colorful ‘64 VW Bus serving the taste of aloha with their delicious locally-made 100% sugarcane syrups and all-fruit shave ice.
Located at the “gateway to Wailea,” Days Inn by Windham sits serenely on the south edge of Kihei on Keawakapu Beach. Voted Maui’s most romantic beach, you can step outside your front door directly into the sand for incredible views of Haleakala and the neighboring islands floating peacefully in the distance as you grab a front row seat for an electric Maui sunset. This hotel’s incredible location provides beachfront snorkeling in the crystal clear waters that miraculously stay 78 degrees year round, while being equidistant to other Kihei and Wailea attractions. This 100% smoke-free hotel has an on-site exercise facility, clean rooms and a location that can’t be beat.
Maui Coast Hotel is Kihei’s premiere full service hotel. Located in the heart of all the action in Kihei, you can stroll across the street to one of Maui’s most beautiful beaches, and bask in the sun on the award-winning white sand of Kamaole Beach Park I. Maui Coast Hotel is one of the most environmentally-friendly accommodations in Kihei with high-efficiency solar power and water conservation programs. With resort-style amenities and an around-the-clock attentive staff, you can spend the day indulging your senses in their outdoor swimming pool, sundeck and state-of-the-art fitness center. When you get hungry, stop in ‘ami ami Bar and Grill or Kamaole Beachside Cafe for classic island pupus (small bites) and fresh, locally sourced beef and fish specialities.
Steps away from the golden sands of Kamaole Beach Park II is Aston at the Maui Banyan vacation rentals. A convenient condominium complex with easy-access to many of Maui’s top attractions, the Aston at the Maui Banyan offers the best of beach living with resort-amenities, two swimming pools, two jet spas, barbecue grills, and a tennis court. It’s the perfect south Maui location for families to call home.
Maui’s north shore is pure magic. Less developed, less crowded and less popular than the tourist destinations on the West and South shores of Maui, the north shore has cooler temperatures, verdant rainforests and a rich cultural history. North Shore, comprised of Spreckelsville, Paia, Haiku and Makawao is a largely residential area with huge celebrity homes on multi-acre lots next door to multi-generational Hawaiian homesteads. There are strict zoning laws on the northshore that restrict pretty much all development on ocean-front properties and much of the inland, so you won’t find the big hotels and resorts that are common in the other heavily populated tourist areas of Maui. Most of the accommodations come in the form of vacation rentals and a few boutique hotels, so your time upcountry is bound to feel more intimate and authentically unique.
The eccentric north shore beachfront town of Paia is one of the most laid-back and unique destinations on Maui. You can spend your day hobnobbing with hippies and big wave surfers while drinking hot kava cocktails and ecstatic dancing to Grateful Dead cover bands on the street. Or you can easily spend a day strolling up and down a multitude of mom and pop boutiques that house everything from designer swimsuits, crystals blessed by shamans and gourmet vegan gelato. After your trip through town, you can walk across the street to Baldwin Beach Park, where depending on the cove you covet, you can stumble upon drum circles, family picnics and babies floating with their mama’s in a tranquil reef.
If you drive a little further north up the coast, you’ll hit Ho’okipa Beach Park, which is perhaps the most renowned wind surfing spot on earth. Several lookouts above the beach provide amazing vantage points to watch world-class and local surfers display exceptional feats of athleticism. Although swimming areas on the beach are limited due to a strong rip tide and several surf breaks, across the wide stretch of sand lining this beach, you’ll find stunning tide pools that offer calm conditions to safely wade in, or just to walk across and look for different fish and marine life living peacefully in the pools. The tide pools at Ho’okipa are a favorite spot for local families to take their keiki (young children) to swim and play, making this one of the best beaches for kids on Maui. On the east side of the beach is a protected sea turtle nesting area where you can see as many as 50 turtles at a time serenely basking on the warm shores.
Driving East through the valley, you’ll come to the ranching town of Makawao. You can enjoy perusing all the local boutiques and commissaries in town, or if you continue to travel up the mountain to 2,500 feet above sea level you’ll reach the Makawao Forest Reserve. This lesser-known rainforest has phenomenal hiking and mountain biking trails lined with fragrant eucalyptus trees, white ginger flowers and unparalleled views of the island and ocean below.
Maui Trade Winds is located on two-acres of private property in the north shore town of Haiku. Only 10 minutes away from Ho’okipa Beach Park and the world-famous and winner of the “Best Fish Restaurant in America,” Mama’s Fish House, this incredible property offers private air conditioned suites and cottages perfect for a romantic getaway or healing retreat. Away from tourist crowds, you can relax in your private jacuzzi as you watch the sunrise over Haleakala Volcano and the sunset over the West Maui Mountains.
If the healing powers of Mother Maui are calling to you, there’s no better place to connect with yourself than at the raw beauty of Lumeria Maui Retreat Center, located between Paia and Makawao. With 24 private guest rooms for retreat participants and students, you can fully immerse yourself in educational offerings catering to personal growth and wellbeing while being submerged in a peaceful, tropical setting. The Wooden Crate, Lumeria’s onsite restaurant, serves nourishing farm-to-table cuisine and their in-house spa, The Wellness Spa at Lumeria, provides a variety of first-class massage and bodywork treatments and classes in healing arts.
Pali Uli Gardens is part of Hale Akua Garden Farm, located 20 minutes north of Paia in Huelo. This spectacular property has two private homes to rent, The Cliff House and The Waterfall House. You will have complete privacy overlooking a 150 foot waterfall and 30 miles of untouched coastline stretching all the way to Hana. Amidst the unparalleled beauty of the farm, you’ll also have access to certified organic products grown and raised fresh on the land, and classes in horticulture that can easily translate into sustainable home gardening practices.
Typically referred to by locals as “town,” Central Maui is the homebase for two major towns on the island, Kahului and Wailuku. Kahului will undoubtedly be your first stop on the island as it houses the major airport on Maui and several chain stores, like Costco and Target, where you can stock up on affordable provisions before heading to your accommodations. Due West of Kahului, at the foot of the West Maui Mountains, is the charming town of Wailuku, where you’ll find local coffee shops, art galleries and farm-to-table restaurants. Kahului has a lot of industrialization and is not the most picturesque location on Maui, but it has some beachfront hotels and if you don’t plan to stay on the island very long, it’s a good option. Old Wailuku Town has cheaper accommodations than Kahului and you’ll get a sense of visiting “Old Hawaii” while observing local life on Maui.
Kanaha Beach Park, locally called “Kite Beach,” is one of the premiere windsurfing beaches in the world, and is located right in Kahului near the airport. This 66 acre beach park has excellent conditions for watersports, fishing and swimming. You’ll find a lot of local families picnicking on the large expanse of grassy knolls along the sandy beachfront. You can book private wind or kite surfing lessons from this beach with some of the best instructors on Maui, and spend a day playing in the park with your family.
Located right in the heart of Wailuku is Iao Valley, a sacred Hawaiian valley with dramatic green cliffs, a bubbling freshwater stream and regal swimming pools. Its easy road-side accessibility, paved walking trails and stunning outlooks makes it a popular tourist destination and a natural attraction good for kids and elderly. The main enchantment at the Iao Valley State Park is the Iao Needle (Kuka’emoku), a 1200 foot peak that has been chiseled down to a point by millenia of erosion around it. When the weather conditions are good there are several hiking trails along the Iao Stream that lead to gorgeous swimming pools that you can plunge into. A little ways down the road before entering the state park, you will come across Kepaniwai Park Heritage Gardens, home to a network of gardens dedicated to the diverse cultures of Maui. Hawaiian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino and American missionaries each have a garden designed with unique architecture and landscaping to represent their culture. It is a pleasant place to walk through and eat a picnic before jumping into many of the stream’s accessible swimming pools to cool off from the heat of the day.
The Courtyard Marriott Kahului Airport Hotel is a calm and peaceful place to lay down your bags right after you land. Conveniently located next to the Kahului Airport, they offer free shuttle service to and from the terminals, a 24-hour fitness center and an outdoor pool. This hotel is right in the middle of all the action in Kahului, so if you need to run any errands or simply have a centrally located jumping off point to any of the major Maui attractions, this is the hotel for you.
The Maui Seaside Hotel is a peaceful Hawaiian oasis in the center of Kahului. Located right on the water and minutes from the Kahului Airport, this affordable hotel has direct beach access where you can watch surfers and outrigger canoes in the Kahului Harbor before lounging around their sundeck and pool or playing lawn games with your family around the fire pits.
If you’re looking for a centrally-located good time, Banana Bungalows in Wailuku is a party! With a vibrant, young community of travelers, this hostel offers clean private and dormitory style accommodations, a hot tub, hammocks and bbq grills in their large tropical garden. Within walking distance to Old Wailuku Town, you can walk around the many shops or hop on one of the bus routes adjacent to the hostel to explore several of the attractions in Central Maui and beyond.
Any of the hotels and hostels in central Maui are perfect for the budget traveler.
The best hotel for kids on Maui is Westin Maui Resort and Spa thanks to their amazing kids club, daily activities and swimming pool. However, you really can’t go wrong in any location on West or South Maui as both areas of the island are full of calm beaches and lots of playgrounds and parks.
Ka’anapali and Wailea are the two best places to stay if it’s your first time on Maui. Both towns are stocked with plenty of accommodation options and knowledgeable guides that can direct you to the best attractions on Maui.
The hotels in Wailea are the most peaceful and romantic for couples on the island.
The West and South shores of Maui are consistently sunny and dry with soft white sand and predictable ocean conditions, making them home to the best beaches in Maui.
Yes, but we would recommend only staying one night there, not your entire trip.
This depends entirely on you and what your ideal travel itinerary looks like.
Have a favorite area to stay while vacationing on Maui? Let us know in the comments.
After many years of nomadically bouncing around the world as a yoga instructor (From Nebraska to DC to London to Chicago to New York to Thailand to Maldives to Martha’s Vineyard to Abu Dhabi), I landed in Hawaii 7 years ago. I spent my first two years on Lana’i, but I knew my heart belonged in Maui, so we moved in early 2018 before the birth of our son to lay our official roots. I love the year-round tropical weather and unparalleled aloha spirit from my friends and neighbors. In my free time you can find me practicing yoga near the ocean, spending time with my family on the beach and submerging in the icy cold waters of Iao Valley. Maui is a culturally rich island with beauty at every turn, which makes living and raising my child here an honor.Becca Coren