If you are planning a trip to Maui for the first time but not sure what to see there, don't stress, let us help you out. Maui is home to some unique beaches, tropical rainforests, valleys and waterfalls, and it might seem like an overwhelming number of things to do. We have narrowed down some of the best spots on the island and how to tour them, to help you plan your trip efficiently.
The best way to explore the island in 3 days is by having a car. You have to rent a car in Maui if you want to see the most of it and there is no way around it. It is very easy to rent from one of the car rental companies at the airport. Depending on when you are going, it helps to make a reservation in advance.
Where to Stay:
If you prefer resort accommodations, then either West Maui (Lahaina, Ka'anapali) or South Maui (Wailea) are the two main touristy areas. You could find yourself an oceanfront stay, walk to the beaches and have access to some of the most popular and high-end restaurants in Maui. But if you prefer to have a quiet vacation and be surrounded by nature, then either Central Maui (Paia) or East Maui (Keane, Hana) are your best options.
Now lets look at some of the most popular and must visit attractions on the island.
Haleakala Summit Sunrise:
On your first day in Maui it is highly likely that you will be jet lagged and your body alarm goes off way early than you intend to wake up. Instead of forcing yourself back to sleep take advantage of this and head to Haleakala National Park to witness a beautiful "sunrise". No matter where you are staying you will have to drive 2-3 hours to get to Haleakala summit, so check for sunrise times and plan accordingly. Remember that you will be driving in pitch darkness and possibly foggy conditions. Also, the summit is at 10,023 ft above sea level, so go prepared for extremely windy and freezing temperatures. After sunrise you could spend more time exploring the park and hiking many trails.
South Maui Beaches (Wailea-Kihei):
Hawaii has some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world and a few of them are on the island of Maui. After exploring the park, head on to the south side, Wailea-Kihei area, and check out some of the beaches there. Big Beach is one of the dreamiest beaches you will ever see. Wailea Beach and Kamaole Beach are also popular. Be aware of ocean conditions before jumping into the water.
Check out our list of beautiful beaches in Maui.
While you are there, do try out food trucks and restaurants in the area.
Check our post - Where we ate in Maui - for some ideas.
If waking up that early in the morning is not really how you roll, no worries. You could start your day by relaxing at the beaches and then head to Haleakala summit for "sunset". Stay a little longer for the best stargazing experience.
Check out our detailed post - Sunset at Haleakala Summit
Road to Hana:
You can't go to Maui and not do the "Road to Hana" drive. This 53 mile road stretches across 59 bridges and many hairpin bends, and features some unique beaches, waterfalls and gardens. Wai'anapanapa state park (black sand beach), Red sand beach, Seven sacred pools etc. are some of the spots you shouldn't miss. 2 days will allow you to cover every spot on this drive and in a more relaxing manner, but you if have only a day then do some research and pick the spots that interest you.
Check out our detailed post - Road to Hana
Spend this day at the popular Ka'anapali beach and explore Lahaina town. Check out some of the best restaurants and other beaches in the area. Plan for water activities like snorkeling or cliff jumping, if that interests you. Book a "Luau" for the evening, and enjoy a traditional Hawaiian feast with drinks and live entertainment. We recommend Luau at Royal Lahaina Resort for a great ocean front sunset experience.
We have given the above recommendations based on popularity and our personal experiences. But if you are not getting the kick out of it or have more time to spend, then here are some more ideas/suggestions for you to consider.
- Cruise to Molokini Crater for snorkeling.
- Ride a ferry to Lanai and Molokai.
- Whale watching from Lahaina.
- Zipline in Haleakala National Park rainforest.
- Iao Valley State Monument (Partially closed as of 09/2017)
- Maui Ocean Center.
- Submarine tour (if you are not into snorkeling).
Read Next: Where to eat in Maui
Some things to know before going:
- Rent a car to make the most out of your vacation.
- Pick up a map from the airport or your hotel (especially for Road to Hana). GPS may do fine for the rest.
- Different time zone. Hawaii observes HST, which is 3 hrs behind west coast time.
- Choose the things you want to do in advance.
- Some places have open/close timings.
- Hawaii beaches are known to be very rough. Jump in only if you are confident.
- Book a luau in advance.
- Carry some cash for fruit stands.
- Be prepared for rain. And be very prepared for cold weather at Haleakala summit.
- Carry mosquito repellent.
- Definitely take your camera.