Ask a local which Hawaiian Island is the best, and you'll likely hear the Hawaiian phrase “Maui no ka oi,” or “Maui is the best,” and it's hard to disagree if you love the ocean, world-class dining and lush tropical foliage. Greener than the volcanic Big Island but more developed than rural Kauai, Maui combines the best of both: special scenery and accommodations for those who simply wish to kick back, and action-packed activities for thrill-seekers with a taste for adventure. Snorkel in the mornings; taste the sea at mid-day with specialties like crab, shrimp, mahi mahi or swordfish; and round off your day with a leisurely stroll along the island's sandy shores.
Most visitors to Maui stay on the leeward, or western side, of the island. Split between the northwestern regions of Lahaina and Kapalua and the southern hubs of Kihei and Wailea, this is where you'll find the majority of the island's hotels, restaurants, bars and souvenir stores.
When you're dreaming about the quintessential Hawaiian getaway– complete with beachfront living, live music at traditional Tiki bars and moonlit luaus –Kaanapali is the place to be. Located just minutes away from the historic whaling town of Lahaina, it's close to dining, nightlife and shopping hotspots, while still retaining its relaxing beachside vibe. Lining a beach path with direct access to the waterfront, the hotels here are situated on a prime slice of beautiful Kaanapali Beach, one of the most famous in Hawaii.
To get the best bang for your buck, head down south to Kihei where there are affordable accommodations, family-friendly activities and fine white-sand beaches. When you need a break from catching the rays by the ocean, hop in your rental car for an unforgettable island tour–most of Maui's best-known attractions, like Haleakala National Park and Hana Highway, are closer to Kihei than to its northern neighbors.
If money is no object, look even further south to the wealthy resort enclave of Wailea. Some of the most luxurious Maui hotels are located here, along picturesque coconut tree-lined beaches and impeccably-groomed golf courses. Like Kaanapali, Wailea's hotels are connected with a scenic beach path, a great go-to for fine dining and sunset strolls.
From untouched rainforests to pristine beaches and hidden waterfalls, Maui's ever-changing landscape is the ultimate playground for nature lovers, as well as the kind of place to plan your personal version of a dream getaway. Whether your idea of fun is riding a bicycle down the steep side of a dormant volcano, or kicking back with a poolside piña colada at an all-inclusive resort, Maui is the ideal destination. But no matter how you choose to travel, don't miss these highlights:
One of the best reasons to make your way to Central Maui, Iao Valley State Park features incredible views of the Iao Needle, a volcanic rock formation that rises 1,200 feet above dramatic green hills and serene waterfalls.
Home to Haleakala Crater and the highest peak in Maui, a trip to the Haleakala National Park is a great chance to see the otherworldly, cloud-wrapped terrain of the world's largest dormant volcano.
More of an adventure than an attraction, the road to Hana is arguably the most famous highway in all of Hawaii. Winding along Maui's lush windward side, Hana Highway is surrounded by waterfalls, dense jungles and near-perfect views of the ocean.
While it's possible to score direct tickets to Maui's Kahului Airport (OGG), most flights make a stop on the neighbor island of Oahu–home to Hawaii's capital city of Honolulu. From there, you'll need to catch a quick interisland flight. To see the best views of the island from the air, try for a seat on the left side of the plane on your way into Maui, and on the right for your way home.
To get the best deals on Maui hotels and activity packages, come during the low season, which runs from approximately mid-April to mid-June and September to early November. Late summer and the holiday season are busy but worth a splurge if you're craving a stress-free summer vacation or a well-deserved break from hostile winter weather.