During our trip to Hawaii, we chose to island hop between two because of the accessibility and cost. Flights were cheap to fly one way between and we were able to get a return out from Maui to the mainland at the same price it would have cost to fly home from arrival point of Honolulu.
So with that, we decided to spend a handful of our days visiting the third most populated Hawaiian island and home to some of the most beautiful sights. We only spent 4 of our 10 days here and though it felt like the right amount of time for us, we highly recommend a few more to fully take in all Maui has to offer.
Planning a trip to Hawaii and don't know where to start? Here's our suggested itinerary for a perfect week in paradise - based off things we did, and how we would have planned it for things we didn't get to do!
Day 1 - Day at the Beach & Luau
Follow our lead and do what we did on arrival! It's tested and true!
After a day of traveling, it's best to readjust and use a day for some R&R. We also loved it because it gives us a chance to use the amenities of the resort we're staying at.
Your first day in Maui would be best spent relaxing poolside, visiting its beach, using hotel amenities and the like. Save up all that energy for the rest of your trip. This is what you came for, isn't it?!
That down time will also help you gear up for a luau, which we hands down say is a must do. Old Lahaina Luau came HIGHLY recommended but is also high in demand. We lucked out and got seats at it! How? We got waitlisted for two months and then once in Hawaii got a call about an opening, so we took it! It couldn't have worked out better. Just in case, we booked a back up choice (fully refundable) and advise you do the same too! Bur start looking early!
Old Lahaina Luau was amazing - from arrival where you are greeted by ukulele being played and fresh flowers being handed out. Once you're checked in and in your respective line, you’re led in and presented to a host who will give everyone in your party fresh flower leis and Mai Tai for the adults (and juice for kids). You are led to your table where you are provided an explanation of the evening, pointed in the direction of activities (and the bar), and then given time to settle in. We went straight for the entertainment and learned how to hula, taught about Hawaiian instruments & their significance, and then played yard games where tattoos were won! Drinks were served unlimited and while we sipped and waited for the show, we were also given the chance to see the pig being dug from the ground.
At that point we were ushered to our seats and introduced to our server. We were booked a traditional table, which if in good shape to be seated on the floor, we say take! You're at the closest spot to the stage for prime view and also given a unique way to enjoy the meal. Our table was on the end of the half circle as well, which gave the kids a chance to run around nearby. The buffet was explained to us, once again all-you-can-eat and we were one of the first allowed to be served, as we had "prime seats". A live band and dancers entertained while we ate as part of the pre-show entertainment, but you already felt immersed in it all. The show started soon after the sun set and we watched with dessert and coffee, served at the table.
And the show itself? It was absolutely fantastic! It went through the story of Hawaii in dance and introduced to us the different cultures and stories that make up its history. Our kids loved it too, completely engaged in all of it, and participating when they could (in their own form of dance). The whole experience was about 3 hours long but felt like it could have gone on all night - it was fixating and didn't feel overdone at any point. If you have an opportunity to do a luau, do it, but if you had one to do, we would hands down choose Old Lahaina Luau all over again!
Day 2 - South Maui
Take your second day on the island to sleep in again, especially after the feast you just had at your luau. Use today to explore South Maui, lined with resorts followed by million dollar homes.
The true show down here though is getting to the furthest point to see the lava fields. What an experience to drive through the rough roads and see molten rock lining either side. The end of the drive will bring you to Hoapili Trail. Park a little farther from the ocean as the tides will surprise, but jump out of the car, take a hike and explore! The waves here are massive & impressive and everything you thought Hawaii would be! It is sure to not disappoint.
On the way back up, make a stop at Makena Beach. The waters are great for snorkeling on top of being picturesque. Grab a picnic lunch from a local food truck and spend the rest of the day at the beach.
If you're feeling like one more stop of local flair before leaving the area, visit Maui Brewing Company for some delicious (try anything garnished with pienapple)!
Day 3 - Haleakala & Central Maui
If Haleakala isn't on your list of things to do, then look it up and put it on there. The dormant volcano is home to the most beautiful spot on earth for a sunrise. But you have to work to get there.
First of all, you NEED a ticket to get to the mountain that early in the morning; you can reserve your car pass for a $1 fee on the National Parks website up to 2 months in advance. If you checked and they are sold out, check again 2 days before at 4pm HST as they will release more tickets. After that, do not show up as you will not get in without a reservation.
Next, pack appropriately. Yes, you're going to Hawaii so bathing suits and shorts galore, but that will not help you at Haleakala. You're 10,000 feet up at Maui's highest point and it gets really cold here. It was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit when we were there, but it was said to get in negative temperatures too with random weather conditions. So come prepared! We had flown into Seattle so had pants and sweaters from our stop there, but also packed lined rain jacket (that came in good use in Washington State as well). If you're still fearing cold, nothing some towels and a comforter from your hotel room can't help! And pack ahead, because once you're up here, you really don't have another option to layer.
Finally, you have to get up early. Like really early. For us, it was 2:30am to leave our hotel in Lahaina by 3am and be at the base of Haleakala by about 4am. There you will pay an entrance fee of $25 per car and have to show your reservation; keep your receipt though as it will get you into Haleakala State Park again (and you will go again). We got to the top around 5:15am and with just enough time to spare before the sunrise. The drive was incredible with every star in the sky showing off and then the painted sky starting to light against the dark night. We recommend skipping the crowd literally crowding around the guard rails near the ranger station and make the short hike up to the peak, about a quarter of a mile. Yes, its a little strain this early, and this cold, and with this much less oxygen. But with the small group gathered up there in comparison, its so worth it! This is absolutely one of those moments you won't ever forget.
While you're up here too, make it a point to get your kids their Junior Ranger badges. Not familiar with the program? Certain National Parks around the US offer booklets and activities for kids to complete while visiting the parks. Once complete, find a ranger, review your activities and receive an official badge after a swearing in ceremony. It has definitely been a hit for the kids during our trips and a fun activity to find while we're visiting the parks around our nation!
Once you finish you're visit and make your way down, make a stop at Alii Kula Lavender Farm. Check out the incredible views of Maui's coast you get from this quaint location and check out the gardens and aromatic surroundings. You'll also be lucky to see hang gliders landing nearby. This stop was definitely a welcomed detour to stretch our leg before making the rest of the trek down.
Once you're back at ground level, make your way around Central Maui. Your goal is to get to Iao Valley State Park to see Iao Needle. This historic spot is where King Kamehameha defeated Maui's army to bring the Hawaiian islands together. Up for more hiking while you're in the area? Take the Waihee Ridge Trail for mountain views and lots of green.
After the big morning you've had, it should definitely be rewarded with some relaxation. The island of Maui definitely has a slower vibe than Honolulu did, so take full advantage of your time here and take this time to relax before your next big day ahead!
Day 4 - Road to Hana
This is why you took another afternoon off. Because today is another big day of exploring through one of the most magnificent highways you'll ever get to drive. But be warned, Hana is not for the faint of stomach or heart!
You should once again start early to make sure you hit all the stops (or as many as you care to see). We made it the city of Paia at 630 to start our journey to Hana. Our arrival time was met with no traffic, albeit a little too early as some of our stops were closed. So we decided to skirt through with the final destination of the Pools at 'O'heo (Seven Sacred Pools) as our goal.
Along the way you'll have several stops you can make, so its recommended to download an audio guide to help map your trip. We instead chose to read up on recommendations and use the Roadtrippers app to map out stops. Some of the highlights include:
A little further in and you’re finally at the Pools of ‘O’heo. Here you're going to want to show your receipt from Haleakala again, because since its the same state park, your entry yesterday paid for your visit today too (total of 3 consecutive days). Park, take a look around and get ready to make your way toward 'O'heo Gulch for some of the most incredible views you'll get all trip. The hike is 4-miles round trip and though it sounds tedious, it is worth it. You will get a walk through a bamboo forest like nothing you've seen before and you will end up at a breathtakingly massive waterfall. Just pack lots of water and make sure your hike gets you enough time to get back, as you want to leave Hana before sunset (it took us about 2 hours of our trip just to stop here).
You're going to make your way back through Hana the same way you came in, unless you feel adventurous and want to leave south. Most car rentals companies do not make concessions for you driving there though, as the roads are unpaved and conditions can be treacherous (so heed this warning before you go). For us, we wanted to take the ride back a little slower and take the sights. And Hana definitely had a different light to it with the sun setting on the opposite side of the mountain. It made the drive back so serene and special since we had a different appreciation for it after seeing it all.
Day 5 - Paia & Haleakala Sunset
If you didn't get the chance to check out the town of Paia, make your way back today. This "North Shore" town has the same vibe as that in Oahu and is definitely worth a laid back visit. Spend the day checking out the local's beaches or shopping through downtown. After you've worked up an appetite, stop at Paia Fish Market for lunch (the fish tacos were great) and then top off with shave ice dessert at Ululani's Shave Ice. Make your shave ice a Snow Cap (mixed with sweetened condensed milk) and with Li Hing Mui. The combination was amazing!
Once you finish and if you're up for one more adventure head back up Haleakala. Since you have more daylight hours on your hands, spend the day exploring and finding hikes through this national park. Your goal though is to make it to the summit for the sunset. If you missed out on getting sunrise tickets or you just want more, we've heard that sunset is just as beautiful (with the moon rising in the east). For us though, had we had the time we would've definitely gone back to see this spectacle, especially since we had the park admission and would've loved the once-in-a-lifetime experience ... again!
Day 6 - Western Maui Beaches
Hit the beach!
What a perfect way to top your stay than to spend more time visiting all that Maui is known for, especially after all the exploring you've done.
Start with breakfast at Aloha Mixed Plate - the outdoor restaurant is only made more beautiful by the accents of Molokai and Lanai in the distance. The drinks are picture perfect (accented in fresh flowers) and the food is equally delish. Try the Loco Moco for a traditional Hawaiian dish!
Nakalele Blowhole should be your first stop after, take the hike to the blowhole though the journey will be more impressive than the destination. The famed heart shaped rock is also found here, so have fun looking for it on your hike down. And take in the beauty of this location.
Next up, spend time visiting some of west Maui's beaches - each gorgeous in their own right! Our favorites were:
While in Napili, make a stop for lunch at the famed restaurant The Gazebo. Limited in seating with a breakfast line hours long, this is a great lunch stop right before it closes at two in the afternoon. Order the fried rice, but only half portion to split. The size was generous enough to serve 2!
Visit Whaler's Village or Lahaina Center for shopping once you've finished your day on the west coast.
However you plan it, Maui is a place to find more of a mix of laidback fun! There was less of a rush to get things done and more to see the middle of the action. Hawaii is definitely a world all it’s own!