Table of Contents
- 1 My 25 Favorite Things to do Maui (Lahaina, Kihei) – Understand
- 2 My 25 Favorite Things to do Maui (Lahaina, Kihei) – Get Around
- 3 My 25 Favorite Things to do Maui (Lahaina, Kihei) – Safety
- 4 My 25 Favorite Things to do Maui (Lahaina, Kihei) – Sights
- 5 My 25 Favorite Things to do Maui (Lahaina, Kihei) – Eat & Drink
My 25 Favorite Things to do Maui (Lahaina, Kihei) – Understand
Maui is home to great beaches and one of the tallest craters on the Hawaiian islands. Maui has built a reputation for upscale tourism in Lahaina and Wailea, but also misses the modern city environment that Honolulu provides on the nearby island.
Maui is more touristy, but still has some decidedly great food to offer if you know where to look, and it’s big enough to keep you entertained for ten days if you choose to see the whole island.
Maui impresses with a superbly maintained beach walk along Kaanapali Beach.
It’s close to the whaling capital of Lahaina, which still has a surprisingly worldly atmosphere. Wailea has the best weather, though, and the lagoon is just striking. The Grand Wailea and the Andaz Maui are the best places to stay in the area.
My 25 Favorite Things to do Maui (Lahaina, Kihei) – Get Around
Most of Maui’s sights are spread out and a rental car is a must unless you restrict yourself to the resort areas in Wailea and Lahaina, where you can Uber easily from place to place (as parking might be expensive).
My 25 Favorite Things to do Maui (Lahaina, Kihei) – Safety
Besides the rare shark attack, centipedes will be the only hazard to watch out for. Crime is not an issue on the island.
My 25 Favorite Things to do Maui (Lahaina, Kihei) – Sights
Drive to Hana
The round-trip from Kahului to Hana (or Kihei to Hana) shows up as a couple of hours on Google Maps but it’s likely to take you longer for the 50-odd miles; there are many opportunities for hikes and waterfalls and the Black Sand Beach in Hana is striking too.
So get up before sunrise or plan a day or two in Hana, which is the most original Hawaiian town. That does not mean there are no tourists, but it feels a bit closer to what it could look like without all the resorts.
If you plan to use your rental car along the outer edge of Highway 31 (behind the volcano), you might be given evil eyes from the rental car company, but it seems pretty safe to me as long as the road isn’t washed out from a major storm.
Haleakala is a rather calm volcano with only minimal eruptions over the last 100 years. In fact, the ‘caldera’ at the top of the mountain is merely a depression and not the result of a major eruption.
The drive up to the crater is on a winding two-lane road and you are well advised to take it slow (most people in front of you will do that anyways). Plan a whole day and get up as early as possible for the sunrise views (it’s also the time with the least clouds).
Temperatures don’t come out of the 60s most days and the UV is intense, so pack accordingly and with extra water. The crater makes for a great daytime hike. I would not recommend the bike tours down the mountains, though. I’m an avid mountain hiker but it is a long way downhill on often not so well-maintained bikes. It’s cold initially and given the small road that has a lot of traffic it’s not exactly an ideal way to start a day – but YMMV.
Even if you are not staying in the area, drive out to Wailea Beach, which is a wonderful big lagoon and often has the most gentle surf on the island. It’s a great place to snorkel (though it does not have as many fish as other beaches).
On the other end of the island is Kapalua Bay – a magnificent beach that is well-hidden from the road. It’s part of the equally impressive Ritz Carlton Maui property, but (as all beaches in Hawaii) is freely accessible to the public. The beach is protected well, so the surf should be gentle and there is often plenty of sea life to be seen.
Napili Beach is another excellent snorkel beach (really??) on the western shores of Maui, just north of the Kaanapali resort monstrosities. Turtles like to frequent this beach more than any other.
Lahaina has retained some of its spirit as a whaling capital, where sailors came in from all parts of the world for the profitable trade back in 1830-1860. It’s now a full-fledged tourist attraction, but the Banyan Tree and the Old Lahaina Prison are beautiful and see much smaller crowds.
Hawaii is famous for its expensive Kona coffee, but Maui has its own coffee farms. Stop by Piliani Kope Farm to explore.
My 25 Favorite Things to do Maui (Lahaina, Kihei) – Eat & Drink
If you are in one of the resorts, you will quickly realize that fresh, healthy, tasty and inexpensive food is not easy to find in Hawaii. However, if you have a rental car and are willing to drive out a bit, food options are pretty good as long as you are willing to pay Manhattan prices.
Would you ever expect the world’s best food truck food to be in a pop-up inside a sushi restaurant inside a strip mall next to a Hawaiian barbecue place?! Well, once you enter the R Social Grill (which started off as the Shark Pit food truck), it quickly becomes clear what a feast you might have. Atmosphere isn’t what this place excels at, but staff would rather die than serve you stale food here. The dedication of everyone here is incredible.
We had the poke bowl (that comes from the sushi restaurant) and the sliders which are a Shark Pit original. Both were magnificent and while I had just eaten at Ono Tacos, I could not stop eating; it was that good and would easily win awards even in the competitive SF food truck space. Come here and be delighted.
Ono Tacos is a food truck at the end of a strip mall parking lot. This raised my expectations for seriously delicious food, but that wasn’t meant to be. The tacos are decent but somehow lacked flavor or kick.
This brewery just behind Ono Tacos was a big surprise, with a relaxed yet modern atmosphere and as many Jenga puzzles as you can ever play in your lifetime. We felt that the beer was just OK, but the atmosphere alone made us want to come back the next day. The staff are super-friendly, too.
This uber-hip coffee shop in a strip mall near Kahului Airport is where the city comes together. Excellent coffee and food, friendly staff and fast WiFi make this place a winner. And did I mention the German movie posters?
Leoda’s is as close as you can get to the Tartine Bakery in Hawaii. The banana cream pie will make your day special; it’s $8.25 but enough for two and memorable.
Star Noodle came recommended for its diverse food – not just noodles – from anyone I asked in town. From fresh poke to fish tacos and, well, noodles, it’s all there. Expect a 30-minute wait and don’t be scared of the surroundings if you visit at night.
Prison Street is – you guessed it – next to Lahaina Prison. This pizza place is the local surfers’ favorite and if you go wearing a t-shirt you are seriously overdressed. The pizza is decent but the atmosphere is uber-relaxed. Speak sloooowly…
Besides its promising name and the location in an old farmhouse with a stunning view, this place is a bit of a disappointment. There are few seats in the shade, the prices here for coffee and cake are high and the WiFi is broken. I also did not like the coffee.
I know what you are about to say – a hotel coffee shop must be terrible. However, Honolulu Coffee in Waikiki brews excellent coffee at the Moana Surfrider and so it does here. The atmosphere isn’t great and the croissants are just criminally high-priced ($8), but the espresso drinks are pretty good.
Cafe Cafe is a new addition to Lahaina, where two Czech brothers have created a European coffee shop. The atmosphere on the shaded patio is lovely and the food is good. Despite its name, though, the coffee isn’t a highlight here.
This Lahaina all-time favorite has become a victim of its own success. The location (right next to the water and a more authentic Lu’au) is superb. The food is original Hawaiian, with lots of barbecue, macaroni salad and rice. It’s not cheap anymore, but the staff are still great.
Judging by the high prices, this fish market is more an eatery than a market for fresh fish. However the quality and preparation of the fish is excellent here and it is a great stop on your way to the Napili or Kapalua beaches.
This isn’t a place you need to go to, but if you are stuck in the Kaanapali resort area, this is better than average. It’s co-owned by Maui Master Chef Peter Merriman and the menu is eclectic. The actual food isn’t as great as it could be, though, and the prices are high.
Again, not a place to go to on its own, but it’s conveniently in the Whalers Village (which is not a great place if you ask me) and next to the excellent beach in front of the Westin Maui. The food is pretty good for this part of the island (though it’s only served until 2PM!) and the coffee is decent.
I used to drive 60 minutes from Lahaina just to have lunch at Coconut’s Fish cafe, to devour the fish tacos. Maybe that was a little excessive, but still, this place is a keeper.
I haven’t been yet, but this new place seems a great addition to the Kihei area in Maui. Get me some poke and sashimi and report back please!
Paia has a number of healthy and inspired eateries. However, many seem to have become victims of their own success, with long lines and high prices fueled by sunrise lovers at Haleakala. Flatbread Pizza seems a welcome exception from this trend.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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