If you’re coming to Maui for the first time, many people choose to stay in the more populated, tourist-friendly areas of the island. However, if you’re thinking about returning to Maui, consider staying in another part of the island to better experience all areas of Maui!
Where You Should Stay on Maui:
West Maui (Lahaina, Kaanapali, Napili, Kahana, Kapalua)
Pros: No matter where you stay in West Maui, you are close to restaurants, shopping, grocery stores, nice beaches, and nightlife. If you like being in the mix of things, West Maui is a great option. Plus, some of the most beautiful beaches on the island, in my opinion, are in this area. Watch the surfers at Honolua Bay and visit the Nakelele Blowhole for Maui day adventures that won’t put a dent in your gas tank. Convenient for tours departing from Lahaina Harbor.
Cons: Since this side is such a popular place for visitors, the streets are always fairly crowded. Expect the beaches and the restaurants to be full. Also, while driving the entire Road to Hana in a day is possible, it will add time to your day when starting from the West side. If you plan on seeing all parts of the island, this isn’t the most convenient area to stay, but nonetheless a popular choice because nearby beaches are gorgeous and there’s a lot to choose from when it comes to restaurants and shopping.
Major Events: Chinese New Year Celebration (February), Whale & Ocean Arts Festival (March), Banyan Tree Birthday (April), Maui Onion Festival (May), Festival of Canoes (May), King Kamehameha Day Parade (June), Kapalua Wine and Food Festival (June), 4th of July, Hula Festival (August), Taste of Lahaina (September), Lahaina Plantation Days (October), Aloha Festivals (October), Lahaina Halloween, Lighting of the Banyan Tree (December), Maui Friday Town Parties (2nd Friday of every month in Lahaina)
Recommended Accommodation: The ilikahi is located in the heart of Lahaina Town, which makes it perfect for walking everywhere worth visiting. Restaurants, bars, beaches, shopping, surf and art galleries are all at your finger tips. Visit the ilikahi or call them at (808) 662-8780.
North/Upcountry Maui (Paia, Haiku, Pukalani, Makawao, Kula)
Pros: Pay attention, nature lovers and surfers. If you like cool breezes, sprawling pastures, botanical gardens, high elevation views, and lush, tropical scenery, you and upcountry will totally hit it off. While you’ll find no major resorts or chain hotels in this region, you can choose from private cottage/condo rentals and B&Bs that focus on relaxation and privacy. Great local restaurants, shops, art galleries and a close proximity to great surfing, windsurfing, and the Road to Hana and Haleakala.
Cons: If you’re looking forward to partying the night away on Maui, that will be nearly impossible to do while staying in upcountry. Everything shuts down here fairly early, and depending on how far upcountry you are, it might take a bit of driving to get to a beach that offers relaxed snorkeling and swimming, especially since this side of Maui gets its fair share of large waves and wind. Also, if you have lots of activities planned in West Maui (luau, snorkeling, whale watching), this is not a convenient area to get there quickly.
Major Events: Haiku Ho’olaule’a & Flower Festival (April), Upcountry Fair (June), Rodeo & Paniolo Parade (July), Fall Harvest Festival (October), Maui Friday Town Parties (3rd Friday of every month in Makawao.)
Recommended Accommodation: Nalu Kai Lodge is conveniently located in the heart of Paia Town. You can walk to the restaurants, shopping, and beach all within a 2 minute walk. Visit the Nalu Kai Lodge or call them at (808) 385-4344.
East Maui (Keanae, Hana, Kipahulu)
Pros: If you’re looking to experience the remote beauty of Maui first-hand, a trip to Hana is a must. While most people spend no more than a few minutes here before driving on or turning around, consider staying here for at least a few days to really get the full effect. Relaxing, peaceful, and immersed in the best that mother nature has to offer, Hana offers great options for outdoor camping, rugged cabins, cozy B&Bs and even one stunning resort, the Travaasa. Close proximity to red, black and golden sand beaches, waterfalls, hiking, bamboo forests and natural pools.
Cons: Once you’re here, you’re here. There is no running back to Costco because you forgot hot dog buns or sunscreen. There are relatively few options for eating out and most places close shortly after the sun goes down. Hana is a place that requires you to relax and entertain yourself outdoors, so if that’s not your cup of tea, we suggest staying elsewhere.
Major Events: East Maui Taro Festival (April), Aloha Festivals (October)
Recommended Accommodation: Travaasa Hana Experiential Resort is an incredible property along the coastline and encompassing much of the land considered to be Hana Town. They have some of the more plush rooms and cottages, as well as an award winning spa. Visit Travaasa or call them at (888)820-1043.
South Maui (Maalaea, Kihei, Wailea, Makena)
Pros: Enjoy the sunshine and laid-back vibe of Kihei and its several beaches before having a low-key meal at one of the many BYOB restaurants in the area. Kihei also has great budget condo rental and hotel options if you’re looking for something besides the big five star resort destinations, which you’ll find plenty of in Wailea. Great area for shopping, restaurants, and a convenient for tours departing from Ma’alaea Harbor or South Kihei Boat Ramp. Makena also happens to have my very favorite beach on the island!
Cons: Once again, expect this side of the island to be fairly busy. Also, since Kihei is the driest part of the island, you’ll have pretty consistent sunshine and warm weather. If cool breezes and lush plant-life is your thing, this might not be the place for you.
Major Events: World Whale Day (February), May Day is Lei Day (May), Maui Film Festival (June), Taste of Wailea (June), Wailea Wine & Food Festival (December), Maui Friday Town Parties (4th Friday of every month in Kihei)
Central Maui (Wailuku, Waiehu, Waihee, Waikapu, Kahului)
Pros: If you can find a hotel, B&B or condo rental near Iao Valley and the West Maui mountains, this is a really beautiful area of the island. Because it rains often, the surroundings are lush and green. You’re also in a convenient spot to make trips to North, South and upcountry Maui. Wailuku in particular has a few quaint, charming areas of town that are perfect if you’re looking for a small-town feel with cozy cafes and mom and pop shops. If you’re on a budget and just want somewhere to sleep while you’re out exploring, this can be a good option since most of the hostels on the island are found in Wailuku.
Cons: Since this area is by far the most industrial part of the island, it may not be what you picture when you think of Hawaiian paradise. The beaches on this side aren’t great for swimming or relaxing due to rough winds and there are very little options for accommodations outside of private rentals, hostels and small hotels. For those of you who are looking for a true “island” experience, central Maui probably isn’t your best bet.
Major Events: Art Maui (March), Maui County Agricultural Festival (April), Maui Brewers Festival (May), Maui Classical Music Festival (May), Slack Key Guitar Festival (June), Maui Fair (September), Ku Mai Ka Hula Competition (September), Maui ‘Ukulele Festival (October), First Light Academy Film Screenings (December), Maui Arts & Cultural Center (shows and concerts year-round), Maui Friday Town Parties (1st Friday of every month in Wailuku)
We hope this information gives you some helpful options for your next trip to Maui!
Many of the photos were taken by Maui photographer Natalie Brown.