Aloha! I count my lucky stars that I’ve been able to explore Hawaii so much. As a flight attendant, travel is a major perk of the job, so it’s a crime not to get around. I love all of Hawaii, but Maui might possibly be my favorite island. Each island has their own vibe though, so really I suppose my favorite island just depends on what I’m in the mood for. But whenever people ask, my initial response is always Maui. Maui is amazing because it has the romantic, quiet beaches, it has epic hikes, snorkeling, whale watching, and an unforgettable highway that should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. But I’ll get to Maui’s Road to Hana in a little bit.
Maui, the Basics
Maui is known for whale watching, rainbows, gorgeous beaches and amazing fresh seafood. To get to Maui, you”ll have to fly into Maui’s Kahului airport, OGG. There are many airlines that service the airport. For those of you who know me, I started off my flight attendant career with the Alaska Airlines air group. This means I’m particularly biased when I recommend flying Alaska Airlines into Hawaii. One of the perks is the welcome to Hawaii complimentary Mai Tai service. Yep, a free Mai Tai to get you ready to arrive in Paradise. That being said, I’ve heard Hawaiian is great, and my friends at Virgin America and Delta have always treated me great well. XOXO
To get around the island (and to fully appreciate it) I whole-heartedly recommend renting a car, preferably a four wheel drive to better navigate the Road to Hana as some roads are not paved. Although it’ll be expensive, I recommend visiting during whale-watching season. Whether I was driving, dining or laying on a beach, I was always seeing whales breach and it was incredible. Check the weather because part of Maui’s magic is that the weather is always changing. One minute it’s raining, the next minute you’re getting sun-kissed and gazing at rainbows. Pack accordingly with a light rain jacket and bug spray never hurts in these climates.
My Favorite Beach
Maui is always on every “Best Beaches” list, whether it’s Conde Nast, Frommers, you name it, Maui will have multiple beaches on that best beach list. Maui has white powder sand, black sand, every shade of stunning sand you can dream of. Some beaches lay in front of fancy resorts and some you can hike to. There’s so many unique beaches and that’s why when I announce my favorite beach, I’m sure I’ll get someone disagreeing with me. Kaanapali is super popular, and very beautiful, but Oneloa, also known as Big Beach, is definitely, hands down my favorite beach on Maui. I’ve been there a few times and it’s usually less busy, and sometimes it even feels like you have the place to yourself. Big Beach is beautiful to just relax, or if you’re feeling active, boogie board or snorkel. I snorkeled here and although sometimes the waves are a bit heavy, I still saw lots of beautiful fish. Most of all, I love the way the beach curves and you can get a great view of it by climbing up a hill to Little Beach. That’s right, climb over a hill and down on the other side is Little Beach, a clothing optional beach 🙂
Visit this Big Beach, because I insist, but don’t forget some of the other famous beaches. Like I mentioned, Kaanapali is probably Maui’s most famous beach. Chances are, if you’re staying in a big hotel on Maui, you might be staying on Kaanapali. Personally, I prefer the Kihei area because there are a lot of things that are walkable and it feels less resort-like and like more of a town. If you’re on honeymoon, go with romantic resort areas on Maui like Kaanapali or Wailea.
A note on snorkeling in Maui: There are many “trips” that you can pay for, but snorkeling is great just about everywhere and you can certainly just go on your own if you bring a snorkel or rent one. The bummer about paying for a snorkel tour is that you’re subject to weather influencing the visibility. Maui water is super clear, but bad weather is bad weather, unfortunately. I have done the Molokini Crater trip and I was very disappointed. The visibility was bad due to wind and on top of that, it was so crowded I didn’t get the feel of being in another world like I usually do when snorkeling. I highly recommend renting or bringing your own snorkel gear and going for a swim whenever the mood strikes you. I used my favorite Maui book, Maui Revealed for all the best snorkeling spots.
My Favorite Place for a Drink
Hint: It’s everything you expect for a romantic, Hawaiian evening
For my birthday, I wanted nothing more than a good view, good sushi, and an amazing cocktail. I got all three at the 5 Palms in Kihei. The 5 Palms is at the Mana Kai resort in Kihei and it rests right on the beach, offering amazing views from both inside and outside the restaurant.
My to-die-for drink is the Lilikoi Martini. When I ordered it, I didn’t know what Lilikoi was exactly, but it sounded Hawaiian so I figured I couldn’t go wrong. I was so right. To this day, it’s my favorite cocktail I’ve had anywhere. It probably didn’t hurt that the sunset I was gazing out at, and the whales breaching in the distance, all made the drink taste even more magical.
The 5 Palms doesn’t disappoint, which makes it very popular and a reservation is absolutely necessary! Trying to walk in? Expect to be turned away or asked to wait for some time. Waiting can stil be fun though because you’ve got a great view. The second time I went to the 5 Palms, I waited about 30 minutes to get in, but was able to watch the whales breaches just off the beach. Amazing. This place isn’t cheap, but it’s not super expensive. Budget wise, I’d say it’s a once-per-trip visit kind of establishment. 😉
The Road To Hana
If you go to Maui for no reason other than to experience the Road To Hana, you must go. The Road to Hana is quite possibly one of my favorite world experiences and it should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. I recommend dedicating at least an entire day (we’re talking set you’re alarm to wake up early) to three days depending on what your travel goals are while on Maui. But what is the Road to Hana? Basically, it’s Hawaii’s answer to California’s Highway 1. Both famous drives cling to rocky cliffs, offering earth-shattering ocean views. What makes the Road to Hanna even more special is that every couple seconds, you’re passing waterfalls. I promise your neck will hurt from taking this drive because on one side you have beautiful ocean vistas, on the other side is jungle and waterfalls galore. The road to Hana is so spectacular, I dedicated a post to it here.
In Summary, Don’t Leave Maui Without…
Eating and drinking as much as you can:
fresh fish (ideally macademia encrusted), Hawaiian shaved ice, tropical drinks, repeat
Driving the road to Hana
Checking out each Maui beach, whether it’s black sand or white powder. Grab a snorkel!
Have you been to Maui? Tell me, what’s your favorite thing to do on the island?
Aloha and Happy Traveling
XOXO The Luv Aviatrix
P.S. Notice how I haven’t put any accommodation recommendations? Let me know if you have any! I’ve always stayed in AirBnBs there and while I’ve had luck everywhere else in the world, I haven’t had success in Maui. Every place I’ve stayed has been lackluster. I even had one host greet me by insulting my shoes. Yep. That happened.
P.P.S. Planning a trip to Maui? Below are my two fav Hawaii/Maui travel books. Please note that these are affiliate links, which mean I get a commission, but I promise, I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Pretty much anyone who’s been to Maui will recommend the book, Maui Revealed 🙂