By Courtney Turner
When’s the best time to come to Maui? This question can spark a debate, with one side advocating, come in the winter to see the big waves (Jaws!) and the humpback whales. But some of us who live here, say hmmm… maybe winter isn’t the best time to come to Maui. Truth be told, Maui is great all year round – the weather is warm, the beaches are sunny, the water is perfect, whether you come in January or August. The long answer is, it depends on who you are and what you expect.
Before reading further, note this is a devil’s advocate, tongue in cheek post. I’m not here to bash the tourist industry. I benefit from the tourist industry. If y’all want to board a plane tomorrow, come over and spend money, go for it! We LOVE you to spend money on Maui. But some of you may have certain expectations for your vacation and I would hate for you to be disappointed.
Winter on Maui is the high season for tourism. It makes sense, right? When it’s cold and nasty in Michigan, Maine, or Alberta, you want to go somewhere warm and sunny. So does everyone else. Even the humpback whales come to Maui for the winter. There is higher demand for hotels, condos, and rental cars – and there is some great whale watching.
High season on Maui starts from around mid-December to the end of Easter or Spring Break and this current high season is the busiest it’s been since the recession in 2008.
9 Reasons to Avoid Maui in the Winter
1. There’s no room at the inn.
Hotels are full, condos are full, even overpriced little termite-eaten shacks are booked up. If you haven’t reserved in advance, you might find something if you are willing to move 2-3 times in a week and/or spend a lot of time looking on the internet. If you are fussy and want a really nice place to stay last minute, like a luxury beachfront condo for your family, you may be out of luck.
2. Room rates are higher.
It’s the law of supply and demand. Expect to pay 10-20% more for hotel rooms, condos, or vacation rentals during high season. These higher rates apply even if you book a year in advance, or in the summer to come to Maui in the winter. The rates automatically go up for high season.
3. Higher car prices, or no cars.
Car rental prices skyrocket during high season. Some of you may end up paying nearly as much for a car (especially with add-ons like car seats, extra driver fees) as you will for accommodations, especially if you wait last-minute to book your car. Don’t tell me you waited till you arrived to Maui to rent a car! Did I mention, the rental companies are sold out of minivans this week? Wait, there’s one left that they’re holding (one that you can’t reserve ahead of time) but you can pay $2000/week to rent it plus taxes. Bend over and bring your own KY.
4. Everything takes longer to do.
It’s more crowded and busy, so there’s more traffic from the airport, the gas lines at Costco are busy even late at night, it takes longer to park at the beach. Grocery shopping takes longer, because there are more people in the store. But hey, you know all about traffic, doing that 90 minute commute each way, in a blizzard! Traffic schmaffic.
5. It’s already booked.
You wanted to go to the Old Lahaina Luau, do a zipline, or have dinner at Mama’s Fish House. Forget it. Unless you booked well in advance, some of the more popular activities and restaurants do not have room for you. Oh well, there’s always the beach!
6. Less courtesy and less aloha.
The aloha spirit is a little overworked during high season. Servers in restaurants have less time to chit chat or as we say, “talk story” because they have to hustle. If you want a late check out from your hotel or condo, you probably won’t get it because it’s so busy that the next people check in at 3 pm, and the cleaners are knocking at your door. In industry terms, we call this a “back to back” reservation. The little courtesies that happen more frequently when Maui is less busy include free courtesy late check outs, or free courtesy early check ins. In the winter, those of us who work in the tourism industry have less time to give you information and share our aloha. We do our best, but if we act frazzled, this is why.
7. Slower internet! Whaa-aat?
Yes, the internet is slower here. It’s slow to begin with, but during high season, that is when I hear all the complaints all day about how fricking slow the wifi is. Why is it so slow? The infrastructure for cable internet wasn’t that big to begin with, now add thousands (or tens of thousands) of more visitors each day, and the network, especially in resort areas, bogs down. Just not enough bandwidth for everyone. So internet is spotty and slow and sporadic. Hey, remember, you didn’t come to Maui for fast wifi! So get back on the beach, bake in the sun, and stop yer’ complaining!
8. It’s out of stock.
Your favorite flavor of Ben and Jerry’s just sold out. You like a certain type of OJ, oops, there was a sale at Safeway, and you can have the off-brand OJ you don’t like. Whatever sale is running that week, chances are the shelves will be empty. Or you can visit all the grocery stores in the area looking for the right flavor of ice cream and pay a lot more money. I was just looking for club soda at the Safeway in Kihei and the shelves were empty. It wasn’t even on sale. Darn that high season empty shelf syndrome!
9. There’s a spot on my carpet!
Sometimes, with all those “back to back” reservations, the cleaners are in a big rush to clean the next unit or room, so maybe your condo isn’t as clean as you’d like it to be. Maybe there’s a spot on your carpet, or greasy oven knob, or the sheets need to be replaced. The ceiling fan has dust, and the AC is super loud because the maintenance guys haven’t had time yet to fix it, since they have more jobs to take care of, since there are more people on the island. Maybe there’s a dead bug in the bathroom that the cleaners didn’t remove. Oops!
Did I scare you off? Naaah, you’re probably thinking, these Maui folks are a bunch of sissies who have never seen snow, much less shoveled out their cars from under 6 feet. A little inconvenience here and there is not gonna scare you off. Not in the dead of winter when your pale pasty skin is so white, it glows in the dark, and they’re gonna name a new star after you. Did I mention this is a devil’s advocate, tongue in cheek, post?
The key to coming to Maui in the winter is to PLAN, plan in advance, and be prepared so you’re not bummed out when a few inconveniences happen. But hey, if there’s a midnight sale on airline flights, I’m not gonna blame you for high-tailing it to Maui on the next flight tomorrow. I’d do it too. It’s in our best interest to make you want to come to Maui and spend all your money. But we’re not cold hearted. We also want you to have an awesome vacation so you come back again and again.