Swaying palm trees. White sand beaches. Warm banana bread. Juicy pineapples. The chillest of vibes. Maui, Hawaii is a dream destination, and although we’ve been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for almost 10 years – where a trip to Hawaii is a feasible weekend trip – we’d yet to visit until this summer.
All I can say is … what the heck is wrong with us?! We’ve WASTED the last 10 years of our lives not visiting Maui every chance we can get!
Although we only had 3 days to spend in Maui, we fell head over heels for the entire island – and we didn’t even get to see half of it. We’ll be back again and again. I think we could spend years exploring Hawaii, learning about its culture and history, eating its delicious food, and swimming in its warm waters, and never get tired of it.
So if you’re considering taking advantage of an inexpensive flight deal (we hopped on one of the new Southwest routes from Oakland) and taking a quick trip to Maui, we wholeheartedly support you! Our Maui itinerary and travel guide includes everything you’ll need to know for your trip. Let’s get to it!
Table of Contents
Psst: Planning a trip to Hawaii? We have a few other posts to help you prepare for your trip!
- The Ultimate Beach Vacation Packing List (for Curvy Girls)
- The Best Women’s Travel Shoes: 4 Tried & Tested Pairs
- The Ultimate Travel Beauty & Makeup Guide (for backpackers)
FAQs About Visiting Maui
We had a lot of questions before our trip to Maui. Like, how much shave ice can a person eat before their brain is permanently frozen? (The limit does not exist.) And, can Jeremy pull off a puka shell necklace? (No.) And, am I allowed to throw up the shaka sign un-ironically? (Yes.)
Is 3 days in Maui enough?
We decided to take a 3 day trip for our first visit to Maui not because we didn’t want to stay longer, but because it’s SO much less expensive to visit this way With the new and inexpensive tickets to Hawaii on Southwest Airlines, the 5-hour flight from Oakland to Maui is actually doable as a weekend trip, so we took full advantage.
But was our trip long enough? Well, here’s the thing: 3 days in Maui is enough to adjust to island time, fall in love with Maui, do a few must-see highlights, eat a bunch of yummy food, and then … oh, it’s time to go home already?? Really?!
3 days in Maui is like an appetizer. A teaser. It will absolutely make you want to go to Maui again. But it’s also a LOT less pricey than a full week! Maui is a fairly expensive destination, and it may end up being more doable to spend a few 3-day weekends in Maui over the course of a few years rather than a full week. At least, that’s our plan. Besides, saying “we’re spending the weekend in Maui” sounds really fancy and super cool, right??
Our verdict: 3 days in Maui is enough to hit the highlights and it’s a lot easier on the wallet, but you’re going to want to go back for sure.
Where to stay in Maui?
We’ve arranged our Maui itinerary with Kihei in mind as the best place to base yourself during your trip.
During our trip we were based in Lahaina, a cute little town on the far western edge of Maui. But we based ourselves there because we had a free place to stay, not because of any strategic reason. And while Lahaina is super cute and close to the port where we caught our snorkeling tour boat, we found ourselves wishing we were actually staying in Kihei.
Kihei is more centrally located, just as beautiful, closer to some of the food spots we found ourselves visiting again and again, and has a few absolutely stunning beaches nearby! Plus, there are a ton of hotel options. We’ll definitely be staying in Kihei on our next trip!
- Maui Travel Tip: To keep costs down, we recommend checking out AirBnB’s in Maui or searching for hotel deals in Maui using HotelsCombined.
Do you need a car in Maui?
Yes, you absolutely need a car in Maui! The island is quite spread out and rural – there’s no downtown to speak of, and it’s not walkable. Renting a car will not only help you see as much of the island as possible, but it will allow you to do one of our favorite activities in Maui, the Road to Hana!
- Maui Travel Tip: To get the best deal possible, we recommend booking a car with RentalCars.com!
- Maui Travel Tip #2: We turned on this Hawaiian Music Spotify playlist and listened to it during our entire trip! It was the perfect musical setting to the stunning scenery rolling past our windows.
What’s the best time of year to visit Maui?
The best times of the year to visit Maui are April through May and September through November. Although the weather in Maui is warm and wonderful all year long, during those months there are both fewer crowds and rain is less likely.
That said, we ignored that sage advice and visited Maui in June, and we have no complaints!
What foods (and drinks) do you need to try in Maui?
Y’all. Maui. Has. AMAZING. Food. Seriously, 99% of our trip was just driving to different spots and eating. Here are the absolute musts:
- Shave Ice: The best on the island is at Ululani’s! There’s often a line, but it’s WELL worth the wait.
- Moco Loco: A Hawaiian specialty that you’ll see on breakfast menus all over Maui. The traditional loco moco is a pile of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy.
- Kalua Pork: The most succulent, delicious pulled pork you will ever eat.
- Poke: There’s no way I can write about poke without it sounding kinda gross, so just trust us on this one. Try a bowl at Eskimo Candy in Kihei or pick a bowl up to go from any Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors. (yes, it’s a liquor store, yes, it’s kinda weird, yes, their poke is BOMB).
- Banana Bread: Fluffy, sweet banana goodness. Get it at Aunt Sandy’s on the Road to Hana.
- Fresh Maui Gold Pineapples: The world’s best pineapple, or so they say! Pick one up at a zillion spots all over the island and ask for it sliced to go.
- Guava Chiffon Cake & Pineapple Bread: these are the only two we didn’t get a chance to try and we’re super salty about it. We’ve heard you can find them at just about any bakery. If anyone has any recommendations, please let us know, we really want a good excuse to go back!
What to Pack for Maui
We’re not going to tell you exactly how many dresses or pairs or shorts to pack (we trust you can figure that out on your own) BUT we do have some suggestions for must-have Maui essentials. Throw these in your carry-on suitcase (this is our favorite!) and you’ll be all set.
Looking for more beachy packing tips? We’ve got a super detailed beach vacation packing list post!
- Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Going into the ocean? You need to wear reef-safe sunscreen. Unless you hate coral, fish, and also all of human life. Reef-safe sunscreen is designed to biodegrade and not harm ocean life. Regular sunscreen bleaches coral and ensures humanity’s swift death from climate change. So please, for the love of society’s inevitable collapse, wear reef-safe sunscreen if you’re going into the ocean! As a fun bonus incentive, it’s actually required by law in Hawaii. Here’s a full-sized bottle and here’s a travel-sized bottle for carry-on luggage.
- Mineral Sunscreen: This is the least harmful type of sunscreen, according to science. It’s better both for your body and for the environment.
- Rash Guard: Since you’ll be snorkeling and swimming and generally spending a lot of time with your bare back facing the harsh sun, I highly recommend bringing along a rash guard, which is specially designed for swimming in saltwater. There are even swim leggings made from swimwear material, which is perfect because my butt is always the first thing to burn when I’m snorkeling. This cuts down on the amount of sunscreen you need, which is a win/win since I hate wearing sunscreen and it’s not great for marine life!
- Travel Towel: There is absolutely no guarantee that the towels at your hotel are going to fit around your waist. Frankly, they rarely fit around my left thigh. So just to be safe, I always bring my own travel-friendly, lightweight, quick-drying travel towel!
- Snorkel Stuff: Although the snorkel tour we suggest in this Maui itinerary provided us with excellent snorkel gear, there are a few spots in our itinerary where you might want to snorkel on your own! Throw a snorkel mask and a little bottle of anti-fog spray in your suitcase, just in case.
- Travel Clothesline: Newsflash: your hotel’s moist, dark bathroom is the absolute WORST place to hang your clothing up to dry. Instead, hang this tiny travel clothesline up somewhere that gets plenty of airflow and sun – like on a curtain rod in front of the window! Your wet swimsuit and travel towel will be dry in no time.
- Beach Tote: I’m a backpack girl, but that doesn’t cut it on the beach. A good beach tote will do more than just hold all of your stuff: it will also repel sand, zip closed so you can lock it while you swim, and even keep your lunch cold in a detachable cooler. Yes, for real.
- Sand Repelling Beach Mat: I hate sand SO MUCH and this mat is made with magical sand-repelling qualities. If sand doesn’t make you want to go live in an igloo forever, you can always just use your towel as a mat instead!
- Adorable Swimsuit Cover-Up: I know they’re supposed to go over your swimsuit or whatever, but I wore this everywhere, along with my beloved rose gold heart-shaped sunglasses.
- Wear-Anywhere Sandals: In Maui, you need a pair of sandals that’s down for a day at the beach, a long hike, scrambling on sharp lava rock, AND a romantic evening out. Luckily, my favorite pair has been up to every challenge I’ve thrown at them for the past 10 years (er, to clarify: I’m on pair #4 of the same style, but still).
- Cute Bathing Suit: I literally have this suit in 3 different colors. It’s amazing. It’s perfect. It’s a freakin’ steal! Pick one up in every color from Amazon! If it’s not your style, I recommend browsing Swimsuits For All, which sells adorable suits for sizes 10-34. Even just looking at their models makes me feel all curvy and beautiful. Here, take a look:
Maui 3-Day Itinerary
Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty. What are you actually going to be doing on your Maui itinerary? We’ve got all the details. Ready, set …
Day One: Snorkeling Day Trip
You’ll be spending your first day in Maui relaxing on a boat soaking up the sun and in the water admiring the stunning coral reefs surrounding Maui!
Note: Both breakfast and lunch are included in the tour we recommend, although if you struggle to operate a motor vehicle without caffeine like we do, it might be a good idea to bring along a box of our favorite boujie travel-friendly instant coffee.
Snorkel Day Trip to Molokini
First thing in the morning, head to Maalaea Harbour for a snorkel tour with Pacific Eco Adventures! We chose this tour company for a few reasons: first and foremost, they’re actually a non-profit organization. All the proceeds of your tour go towards marine research & conservation!
As part of their eco-friendly mission, their tours are also environmentally friendly and make an effort to reduce waste and educate tourists about their impact on marine life. We love supporting organizations that make a positive impact!
- Not a snorkeler? There are several other tour options with Pacific Eco Adventures, like their WhaleWatch Plus Tour – whale sightings are guaranteed or you get to go again!
Another reason we chose Pacific Eco Adventures is for their Wild Side Tour. Many of the snorkel tours you’ll find in Maui (especially the more inexpensive tours) are enormous groups on enormous, yacht-sized boats – you’ll be snorkeling in a crowd of over 100 people. That’s a recipe for chaos, long lines, overwhelm, and terrified, hiding wildlife, and we wanted to avoid it as much as possible.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Wild Side Tour is capped at 38, and you’ll be on a much smaller boat capable of navigating into some of the lesser-seen snorkel spots in Maui. Another difference between this tour and the bigger, more typical tours is that no two tours are the same, because each day your experienced guides will decide where to take you based on the weather and wind conditions. During our tour, our badass all-female crew took us into Molokini and around the back, and even we did a blue-water swim through the deepest, most pristinely blue water I’ve ever seen!
- Maui Travel Tip: Two important notes if you book this tour. Firstly: You will definitely need to book this tour in advance. Secondly: the Wild Side tour is intermediate, so if this is your first time snorkeling, we recommend you book the Honolua Bay Snorkel Sail trip or the Molokini & Turtle Arches tour instead. It’s more relaxed, you’ll probably see turtles and dolphins, and the Molokini tour is on a catamaran with a waterslide – heck yea!
Lunch is included on your snorkel tour, so after you arrive back on the island, spend some time relaxing and unwinding (read: napping) after a long day in the sun.
Dinner at Sansei
When you’re feeling rejuvenated, head to dinner at Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar. Maui has some of the best sushi outside of Japan, and Sansei is the spot to try it!
We recommend going for Happy Hour – you’ll still need a reservation, but it’s much less crowded and a little cheaper. Be sure to try the Foie-Gras Nigiri Sushi Roll. It’s as ridiculously indulgent as it sounds but SO GOOD!
Wait, hold up: before you keep reading, go NOW and make a reservation. Yes, even if your trip is 6 months in the future. You need to book your table HELLA in advance – honestly, that’s the case for most of the spots in this itinerary, so don’t sleep on those reservations!
Bonus: Dessert at Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop
Listen: just because you had dinner somewhere absolutely delicious doesn’t mean you can’t also save room for dessert somewhere else. Besides, you only have 3 days in Maui, which means EVERY MEAL COUNTS. And the pie at Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop is well worth the 30-minute drive to Lahaina!
We ate here an embarrassing number of times during our stay, so we can tell you with too much experience that Chocolate Macadamia Nut is insane (there’s SALTED CARAMEL in it) and so is Pineapple Macadamia Nut (there are BERRIES in it).
- Maui Travel Tip: If you’re on a tight budget or aren’t feeling a boujie dinner, Leoda’s has a fantastic menu for dinner, so this would be our pick for an alternate option to Sansei.
Day Two: Road to Hana
If you’re feeling tired from yesterday’s snorkeling adventure, good news! All you have to do today is sit in a car. Well, mostly. You’ll be spending the day driving the Road to Hana, which can be as adventurous or relaxed as you like!
- Note: Lots of people seem to think the Road to Hana is scary or dangerous. It is absolutely not, and I say this as someone who is constantly terrified in a car. It’s about the same level of excitement as Highway One in California – a very well-maintained, wide, neatly paved road with lots of curves and stunning views. Not scary at all!
The full Road to Hana is an epic adventure that will take all day long – and that’s with very few stops. Lots of folks recommend staying the night in Hana so you’re able to take your time and hit every stop you like.
But because our 3-day trip was so short, we couldn’t do that. We also know that we, as people, are both incapable of waking up early, and are terribly prone to anxiety when under pressure or in a hurry. So we made the decision to only drive half of the Road to Hana. And honestly, it was the PERFECT decision for us!
Because we knew we’d have plenty of time to turn around and drive back at our own leisure, we were able to take our time at every single stop along the way, which was fantastic. We left the second half of the drive for our next trip to Maui.
- Road to Hana Tip: If you’re an early riser or don’t mind driving back in the dark, you can absolutely do the full Road to Hana in one day! Our friends at A Passion and a Passport have a fantastic guide to the Road to Hana which we consulted before our trip.
- Road to Hana Tip #2: We’ve heard really good things about this app, which guides you through the Road to Hana with helpful, humorous, and informative audio navigation along the way, all tied to your GPS. It’s like having a guide in the car with you!
Here are the highlights and must-sees for the first half of the Road to Hana.
Road to Hana Half Day
Our first stop on the Road to Hana was Ho’okipa Beach Park in Paia. We dipped our toes in the ocean, looked for turtles, sipped a cold coconut on the beach, and bought a beautiful necklace made of carefully dried native seeds from a local artist selling out of the back of her van, which is more legit than it sounds.
If you’re wearing your bathing suit, this is the perfect place to dive in for a swim or snorkel! Keep an eye out for turtles – they’re often seen here.
Our next stop was Twin Falls, a beautiful farm known for – as the name suggests – two stunning waterfalls! There is both swimming and cliff jumping here, so be sure to bring your suit.
We also recommend trying a couple of treats from the food truck at the entrance of the farm (full disclosure: we literally ate or drank something at every single stop on the Road to Hana, and you should too). The banana and pineapple popsicle with a sugarcane popsicle stick was delicious and perfectly refreshing!
Our third stop was Huleo Lookout. We heard this little yellow shack is the best place on the Road to Hana to get Shave Ice, and it absolutely did not disappoint! There are also fresh Maui Gold pineapples for sale here – the perfect road trip snack on a road trip full of nothing but snacks.
We took our shave ice behind the shack to the lookout, where we found a picnic table with two snoozing cats and an absolutely stunning view.
- Road to Hana Tip: We asked an employee whether picnics are allowed here, and they confirmed that yes, anyone can roll up with a picnic lunch. So we recommend bringing your lunch and eating here! If you have a cooler handy, you can pick up incredible fresh poke at Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors. That said, we did so much snacking at the stops along the road that we didn’t have room for actual lunch. Popsicles and shave ice count, though, right??
We took a little detour for Aunt Sandy’s Banana Bread For $6.25 we got a beautiful little loaf served hot, right out of the oven. It was perfection. We almost ate the entire thing in one sitting!
- Road to Hana Tip: If you didn’t bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at Huleo Lookout, Aunt Sandy’s has a few menu offerings available for lunch.
This was our chosen halfway spot, so after we satisfied our Banana Bread cravings we turned around and headed back. If you get started around 9am and spend some time swimming in the ocean and at Twin Falls, you’ll be turning around in the mid-afternoon to head back the way you came.
Dinner at Mama’s Fish House
You’ll be passing right by Mama’s Fish House on the way back, which according to everyone who’s ever been to Maui is one of the best places to eat on the island. But because of its popularity, you’ll need a reservation in advance (this is a theme with Maui, we realized).
We made an attempt to roll up and get a walk-in table right when the restaurant was opening for dinner, but no luck: they were completely booked. So, don’t be like us: make a reservation NOW so you can enjoy a delicious, fresh fish dinner with a stunning sunset view!
Day Three: Volcano, Beach, & Luau
For your last day in Maui, you’ll start your day on a high note with an epic sunrise on top of a giant volcano (if you can wake up early, that is). Afterward (or instead of, no judgment) you’ll head into Kihei for breakfast and coffee, and then spend your day relaxing at the beach!
After a long beachy day, you’ll explore the adorable little towns of Kihei and Lahaina, and then enjoy an incredible feast and beautiful sunset while watching a Luau on the beach.
This may be the most Maui perfect day in Maui, like, ever.
Sunrise at Halakea
One of the most unique things to do in Maui is to watch the sunrise from above the clouds on Haleakala. If you wake up before dawn and drive up to the top of the volcano, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most epic, amazing sunrises of your life!
… Or so we hear. We aren’t physically possible of waking up before sunrise, even with our favorite fancy instant coffee waiting for us in the kitchen. We’ve been trying for years and it’s literally never happened once. Not even the promise of a stunning sunrise on top of an epic mountain can lure us, drool-covered, out of our warm, cozy beds. We are terrible travel bloggers.
Thankfully, our friends at The Whimsy Soul have a fantastic and comprehensive guide with everything you need to know!
- Maui Travel Tip: As with every other popular destination on the entire island of Maui you’ll need to make a reservation before you visit. Luckily, it’s only $1! You can make a reservation here.
Breakfast & Coffee
Whether you managed to catch the sunrise or not, at some point after dawn, you’re gonna need breakfast, and the most important meal of the day: coffee! Stop by Akamai Coffee Co. in Kihei for an amazing third-wave cup of brew (coffee snob approved)!
For breakfast, hit up Kihei Cafe for a giant plate of Hawaiin food, served diner style! It’s delicious and budget-friendly – and a great place to check Loco Moco off your must-eat list.
Pack your beach bag and head to Kihei (or nearby) to soak up the sun on one of the many stunning beaches! The best beaches in Kihei are said to be the Kama’ole Beach Parks, a stretch of three beaches all next to each other (Kam I, Kam II and Kam III).
If you head further south down the coast, you’ll drive past a TON of incredible beaches. Here’s a guide to several of them – basically, start driving south and just pull over wherever you like to scope out the beach!
We chose Palauea, a quiet little beach located right next to the Fairmont Hotel. It was absolutely stunning, the water was just right for swimming, and there were hardly any people there, which was absolutely perfect! (Note: there are also no amenities to speak of, and it’s a little hard to find.)
We ended up spending all day at Palauea, but we also wanted to visit Makena Beach as well. It’s located a bit further south and has plenty of space for beach-goers to spread out, plus picnic tables and even food trucks.
Lunch (& Dessert)
After a few glorious hours of swimming and beach-ing, you’ll have an appetite worked up for something cold and fresh. So head to Eskimo Candy for a mind-blowing bowl of poke! We also highly recommend ordering some Coconut Shrimp.
After lunch, head to Ululani’s to try Maui’s best Shave Ice! The main location is in Kihei, and there’s almost always a line (although it’s well worth it). If standing in line grinds your gears, pop over to Lahaina early and hit up the somewhat secret location Hyatt Regency Maui, near the pool.
Every flavor is amazing so you can’t go wrong, but the most popular combinations are the Sunset Beach (guava, mango, and passion orange), the Hawaiian Rainbow (strawberry, pineapple, and vanilla), and the Coconut Lovers (coconut, tigers blood, pina colada, and fresh coconut). And definitely opt for the snowcap, a topping of creamy sweet condensed milk! Because your sugary treat definitely needs MORE SUGAR.
Luau in Lahaina
When you’re fed, dry, and rested (this is the perfect time for a nap!) hop back in the car and head to Lahaina. The little town is adorable and perfectly walkable, so find a spot to park & explore. You’ll want to spent at least an hour wandering before the evening’s real event: a Hawaiian Luau!
There are several Luau options in Hawaii, and after much research and deliberation, we chose the Feast at Lele. This Luau features both food and dancing from several different Polynesian cultures: Hawaii, New Zealand, Samoa, and Tahiti. And by the end of the Luau we wanted to visit them all!
Although we aren’t qualified to personally judge the authenticity of the food or dancing, our research suggested that the Feast at Lele is the most culturally accurate and respectful Luau – even though yes, it’s catered to tourists.
And speaking of catering, the FOOD THOUGH. There are FIVE complete courses of delicious food, and it’s SO good! There’s also an open bar all night long, which we took full advantage of (one benefit to staying in Lahaina: we were walking distance from the Luau). According to our copious research, the best drinks are the lava flow, strawberry pina colada, and banana madness.
We also loved the romantic ambiance of the Feast at Lele. It’s right on the beach and you’ll get to enjoy a stunning sunset as you watch the dancers and listen to the live music. This is the perfect date night spot!
- Maui Travel Tip: if you’re looking for something a little more casual, the Old Lahaina Luau is also said to be one of the best Luaus in Maui. The food is served buffet-style, the open bar ends early, the dancing is more family-friendly, and the tickets are a little cheaper.
Maui Itinerary Summary
Ready to hop the plane and head to Maui? Or maybe you just skipped the last 3k words to jump down here and take a sneak peek? You sly duck, you! Either way, here is our complete Maui itinerary in bite-size summary form.
- Snorkel Tour with awesome non-profit foundation Pacific Eco Adventures. Reserve the Wild Side Tour for intermediate level snorkelers; beginners should book the Honolua Bay Snorkel Sail trip or the Molokini & Turtle Arches tour instead.
- Dinner at Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar. Make a reservation early!
- Dessert at Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop
- Drive the Road to Hana. Be sure to wear a swimsuit & start early if you plan to drive the whole road, or take your time and just go halfway. Download this app to help you along the way!
- Don’t miss Huleo Lookout and Aunt Sandy’s Banana Bread
- Dinner at Mama’s Fish House. Make a reservation early!
- Wake up early to watch the sunrise at Haleakala. Book your spot early!
- Coffee at Akamai Coffee Co.
- Breakfast at Kihei Cafe
- Beach day at one of the amazing beaches near Kihei!
- Lunch at Eskimo Candy
- Shave Ice at Ululani’s
- Luau in Lahaina: the Feast at Lele. Get tickets in advance!
Are you packing up your beach bag and most obnoxious, brightly colored Hawaiian shirts and heading to Maui? Um, can we come with you??
Here are a few more posts to help you plan your trip:
- The Ultimate Beach Vacation Packing List (for Curvy Girls)
- The Best Women’s Travel Shoes: 4 Tried & Tested Pairs
- The Ultimate Travel Beauty & Makeup Guide (for backpackers)
Considering visiting other islands? Our friends at The Family Voyage have a great guide to visiting Hawaii on a budget.
What questions can we answer for you about your upcoming trip to Maui? Drop us a comment below! Until next time, mahalo.
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