With its sparkling, sandy beaches and lush, rain forested Road to Hana, Maui is one of my favorite Hawaiian islands. (But I also love Kauai!) Island life here feels both relaxed and upscale, depending upon whether you’re scrambling through a bamboo forest or sipping sunset cocktails at one of the many local resorts. Your Maui itinerary should include a little bit of both!
Here’s what to do if you have just 3 days, what to do with 5 days, and how to spend a full week in Maui…
- Maui Itinerary
- Maui 3 Day Itinerary
- Maui 5 Day Itinerary
- Maui 7 Day Itinerary
- Maui Itineraries You Should Steal
Maui 3 Day Itinerary
With only three days in Maui, spend two days at the beach on the west coast and one day driving the famous Road to Hana on the other side of the island.
Stay in Kihei all three days. This oceanfront penthouse delivers breezy panoramic ocean views from every room! It’s the perfect backdrop for epic sunsets from your lanai.
Guest review:“Turtles, whales, and more! From the lanai we could see turtles down below and whales farther out. Sunsets are amazing. Easy to just spend the days on the beautiful lanai.”
—Betty Lou L., Feb 2021
Day 1: Enjoy South Maui Beaches
Kihei makes the perfect base for a short trip to Maui because it’s a quick drive south to Wailea and north to Lahaina, Kaanapali, and Kapalua in West Maui.
There are oodles of great beaches here for snorkeling and swimming. Kama’ole Beaches I, II, and III are nice options if you’re staying in Kihei
Or head to South Maui. Big Beach is gorgeous. Makena Landing, near swank Wailea, is a wonderful spot to see sunbathing Hawaiian green sea turtles. But please keep your distance.
Maui is in danger of being loved too much. It’s illegal to disturb wildlife or take coral. Please leave no trace of your visit to protect this treasure for future generations.
Best Place to Stay in Maui
There are 5 main areas to choose from for your base here: South Maui, West Maui, along the Road to Hana (east), Central Maui or upcountry. See map below.
My top picks for Maui condos and resorts—by area—are here.
Here are even more options for two very popular areas to stay in South and West Maui:
• Best vacation rentals in Kihei
• Best vacation rentals in Lahaina
The best way to find the perfect spot for snorkeling is to ask your local dive shop if you’re renting gear. They understand weather and wind patterns on the island and can offer great advice with free maps since conditions change. A great snorkeling spot one day may not be so hot the next day.
I also love the 5 Palms in Kihei. (Reserve ahead for sunset drinks or prepare to be disappointed.) We watched whales breech just outside the window!
Monkeypod Kitchen (which also has locations in Ka’Anapali and Wailea up north) makes a delicious spot for dinner and also serves inventive cocktails.
Day 2: Head to West Maui
West Maui hosts even more luxury resorts and golfing than Wailea in South Maui. While there are plenty of nice beaches here, you’ll notice a scenic and dramatic rocky coastline that’s distinct from points south as well.
Be aware that it’s about a one hour drive (and that’s without rush hour local traffic) on the narrow, one-land road between Kihei and Kapalua near the top of the island.
Shoppers will enjoy the cute boutiques in Lahaina. If you stop in Lahaina, be sure to visit the ancient banyan tree at the corner of Front and Canal Streets. It’s the oldest living banyan tree on Maui and is huge!
Are you all packed for Maui? Click here to download a printable Maui packing list with 31 essential items you’ll need.
There are lots of great hikes in West Maui. In fact, an easy, flat hike with a big pay-off is the Kapalua Coastal Trail, a spectacular two-mile trail that meanders along the ocean’s edge and through a bird sanctuary behind the nearby resorts. Waves crash against the black lava rock. Don’t miss it!
For dinner or sunset drinks, head to nearby Merriman’s. The oceanview terrace offers stunning views. (Skip it if it’s a windy day though as the wind can really barrel through there and they usually close the outdoor dining area, which, in my opinion, is the main draw here.)
Otherwise, this is the perfect evening for a luau. Check out the Te Au Moana Luau at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort. It’s an oceanside luau show that includes a three-course Hawaiian dinner, and a fire knife performance.
You can reserve your spot at Te Au Moana Luau here.
Day 3: Drive the Epic Road to Hana
The Hana Highway is a 64 mile long stretch of absolutely stunning highway on the east side of Maui connecting Kahului (where the airport is) to the town of Hanna at the eastern tip of the island.
It’s the most famous drive in all of Hawaii. So you gotta go! This narrow road winds over 59 bridges through lush, tropical foliage with breathtaking views of sheer cliffs, turquoise ocean, waterfalls galore, and black sand beaches. Rumor is that there are 620 curves on this road!
It’s quite easy and safe to drive but it might not be for you if you or someone in your group has a fear of heights.
This drive is all about the journey. Not the destination. If you do this as a day trip, plan on a half day driving to Hana and a half-day back, spending no time in Hana itself.
Grab a coffee in cute little Paia and head out. Recommended stops (but you may not have time for all of them in a single day) include:
• Twin Falls (mile marker 2),
• rainbow Eucalyptus grove (mile marker 7),
• Ho’okipa Beach Park (mile marker 9) to watch the windsurfers,
• Maui Garden of Eden (mile 10) and
• Wai’anapanapa State Park (mile marker 32) for the black sand beach.
Please know your limits and respect the power of the wilderness here. There are frequently flash floods in this area that have required rescues of hikers.
The bamboo forest here is beautiful but it’s also the #1 rescue spot on the Road to Hana. In fact, it’s recently been officially closed. So be smart, be safe, and avoid a helicopter rescue.
And that’s it! That wraps up your three days in Maui. If one of those days involves flying to the island or home, you could move Day 3 for your Road to Hana tour to Day 2 and spend just a half day in South or West Maui to accommodate airport time.
Maui 5 Day Itinerary
If you have two additional days, add a Molokini snorkel tour and visit to Haleakala National Park to your itinerary above.
Stay in Kihei or Lahaina. This luxury two-bedroom oceanfront home in Lahaina is steps from the water’s edge so you can hang your beach hammock from the perfectly spaced coconut trees!
Guest review: “Amazing home in a perfect location. It was so great that we extended our trip twice and ended up staying 2 weeks. It was incredible to have the beach right there, and Lahaina was our favorite town in Maui. We will definitely be back!”
Check prices and availability on the Lahaina oceanfront condo here.
Day 4: Snorkel Molokini Crater
Molokini Crater is an extinct volcanic crater just off the coast of Maui and the snorkeling is epic! Even if you have some members of your group that aren’t really into snorkeling, they’ll love this day out on the boat.
Since the wind often kicks up in the afternoon, I recommend booking a morning half day Molokini tour for calmer water and a better experience.
I highly recommend skipping the huge, crowded boats in favor of choosing a more intimate tour experience on a catamaran. Many of the day cruises
to Molokini leave from Maalea Harbor just north of Kihei so plan drive time accordingly from wherever you’re staying.
Day 5: Drive and Hike in Haleakala National Park
Maui’s Haleakala National Park is essentially a national park that is also a dormant volcano. It’s more than 33,000 acres of wilderness that you’ll access via countless switchbacks as you climb through clouds to this impressive peak. Expect the drive up to take almost two hours form Kihei.
Haleakala is best known to Maui tourists as a bucket list destination to view early morning sunrises. But just like many good things in life never last, this experience is a victim of its own success.
The sheer volume of people determined to catch sunrise at Haleakala summit has led to a ticket reservation system through the national park’s website, if you can believe it. And that means sharing that beautiful pink moment with hordes of other tourists.
Instead, consider heading up here at a more reasonable hour—say, mid-morning—exploring the park and enjoying a hike—and then watching the sunset instead. The experience will be so much more rewarding with far fewer crowds.
Fair warning though: This area can be pretty socked in by clouds. I’ve struck out on two out of two attempts myself. So check the weather if you’ll be embarking on a long drive to get here. Clouds are great for sunset; a solid fog bank is not.
If you’re determined to see the sun rise here, consider making Haleakala National Park the very first day of your Maui itinerary. If you’re arriving from the continental United States, the time change will mean you’re up quite early anyway, making that two hour drive less exhausting.
Where to stay near Haleakala: As I said, you can easily drive here as a day trip from Kihei, but if you’re looking for more time in this beautiful area, head to the Haleakala Princess Estate.
This unique property on 3.5 acres of tropical gardens offers impressive view of both coasts on the island.
Guest review: “Superb! A fabulous cottage, gorgeous grounds and in a beautiful setting.” —Kim N., Jan. 2020
And that’s your five days in Maui itinerary! With more time, keep reading.
Maui 7 Day Itinerary
Where to stay: Stay in Kihei or Lahaina. Then move to Hana.
With an additional two days on Maui, I recommend you base in Kihei or Lahaina for four or five days and then spend the last two or three days on the Road to Hana or in Hana itself.
If you visit Haleakala on day 5, moving to Hana that night makes perfect sense. And it’s easy to get to the airport in Kalihui for the flight home at the end of your trip. (Although it’s just as easy if you’re coming from Kihei. It’s a relatively small island!)
Staying the night here means you’ll enjoy a whole extra day to explore the area around Hana after the day trippers have gone home.
Be sure to check out the “Seven Sacred Pools”, or Oheo Gulch. These are seven swimming holes connected by waterfalls and hidden within a dense bamboo forest.
My top pick for couples: A romantic, luxurious, and eco-friendly Hawaiian dream temple in near the beginning of the Road to Hana. It’s rated as one of the top 7 places to go glamping in Hawaii. You’ve got to see it to believe it!
Guest review: ““In our 50 years together, my husband (retired pilot) and I have traveled the world…but THIS place…OMG THIS place is ‘it’. It was all divine, magical.” —Mike & Lilian, Georgia
So what should you do with your two additional days?
You could most definitely explore more of the fabulous beaches on island. You came here for sun and surf, right?
If you’re staying in Lahaina or north of there, explore the northwestern tip of the island and check out Ka’anapali Beach, Honolua Bay, Kapalua Bay, and Olowalu (south of Lahaina).
If you’re staying in Kihei or southwest Maui, spend time at Makena Beach State Park (if you haven’t yet), Palauea (White Rock, a local’s beach), Oneuli Beach (a “secret” beach), or Kamaole Beaches 1,2, and 3 near Kihei.
Or head out on additional hikes.
If you’ve had enough beach time, here are other ideas:
Day 6: Take a Helicopter Tour
If you’ve ever dreamed of a helicopter tour, this is the time to finally indulge your fantasy! Imagine watching hidden waterfalls rush down lush green cliffs at eye level as you dip and soar over jungled valleys. Look for spinner dolphins and whale flukes far below you in the turquoise sea.
Some helicopter tours explore the West Maui mountains while others head to the east side of the island for rain forested Hana. It’s totally up to you!
This is a great way to see the real Hawaii, as your flight will be narrated by a local pilot. Always be sure to check the safety record of the tour you book.
Check price and availability on this popular West Maui helicopter tour here.
Day 7: Go Whale Watching or Explore Io Valley
If you are visiting Maui in winter—December to March—you’ve absolutely got to spend a day whale watching. (Siden note: Maui also makes one of the best November vacations in the U.S. due to offseason deals but unfortunately you’ll just miss the whales.)
The Auau Channel (not far from Lahaina) is where the action is here. On our January trip, it was whale soup out there!
I can’t say enough wonderful things about our half-day tour experience with Pac Whale Eco Adventures on Maui. There was a naturalist who taught us how to spot whales on the horizon.
We learned all about how whales behave, their migration and breeding behaviors, and lifespan. Highly recommended.
Also, you can feel good about spending your tourism dollar with Pac Whale Eco Adventures as this company is a not-for-profit group. All profits support the conservation and research of the Pacific Whale Foundation.
Io Valley State Park is a lush 4,000 acre park in central Maui. In fact, it’s the wettest part of the island!
Walk through the rain forest canopy here and gaze up at the “Io Needle” (Kuka’emoku), a tall lava remnant rising 1200 feet from the valley floor.
There are plenty of hiking trails here, including the easy, paved .6 mile Iao Needle Lookout Trail that will take you through a botanical garden and to the Iao Needle.
Most visitors swing through here in an hour or two so after your visit you can head to nearby Wailuku for a bite to eat or to check out the art galleries and boutiques in town.
Nearby Maui Tropical Plantation features more than 60 acres of tropical fruits so consider a farm tour or coffee tasting adventure here. Then stop on your way back at Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice for a treat.
Maui Itineraries You Should Steal
Whether you’re spending 7 days in Maui or just a long weekend, I hope you’re inspired with plenty of ideas on where to go and what to see.
But if you find yourself unable to roust yourself from Maui’s sugary white sand beaches, and you just don’t make it to Haleakala, go easy on yourself.
The very best kind of vacation—one that’s rejuvenating—is never a checklist of what to see and where to go. So take the Maui trip you need in your life right now and if that’s seven days listening to the waves and swimming in the turquoise ocean, I promise you won’t regret it!
1. How many days do you need in Maui?
A week in Maui is ideal with enough time to range around the island and experience the diverse attractions here. But if you’re island hopping—or only have a long weekend to spare—you can make do with just three days. You might not want to leave though!
Plan to rent a car as it’s the only real way to get around on island. (And reserve well ahead of time or prepare for sticker shock on island.)
2. What should you not miss in Maui?
I’d recommend priorities in this order: Beach and snorkeling time in West Maui, driving the Road to Hana on the east side of the island, and a visit to Haleakala State Park.
If you’re visiting in winter, be sure to book a whale watching excursion. A snorkeling boat trip to Molokini Crater is a bucket list experience. With more than a few days, plan some scenic hikes or add an overnight in Hana.
(Most people do the drive to Hana as a day trip but you’ll have this gorgeous wilderness to yourself if you spend the night.)
Also, Maui has dozens of great food trucks sprinkled around the island. They make a delicious and inexpensive option to high island prices for food…leaving more room in your budget for sunset cocktails.
Don’t miss the pod of food trucks right next to Costco and the airport! It makes a great first or last stop for food on your way to or from Maui.
3. What is the best time to visit Maui?
The best time to go to Maui is whenever you can get there! But seriously, it depends on your goal. The best whale watching happens between mid-December and mid-May.
Be aware that winter is primetime for tourists looking to escape stateside snow. Traffic in Kihei can reflect that. Plus, rainy season is November to March. And summer—when school’s out—can be equally as busy. Dry season is April to October.
Personally, I love to visit in shoulder season, specifically April/May or September/October. In spring and fall, you’ll enjoy warmer weather and warmer ocean temps with far fewer crowds.
4. What should I pack for Maui?
I’ve made all the mistakes so you don’t have to! See my list of 31 essential items to pack for a Maui vacation here.
You can read the complete list above, but a few of my favorite things to bring are a Turkish beach towel (welcome to your new favorite towel), a packable cooler (for beachy picnics), and Keen shoes.
They’ll protect your feet from sharp coral in the surf and keep you from slipping down muddy hillsides. And there can be a lot of mud in Hawaii since it sprinkles on and off most days.
5. What part of Maui is the best to stay?
Most visitors base in West Maui…It’s where you’ll find the best beaches in resorts. Kihei and Lahaina are popular areas to stay as they provide easy access to Maui attractions all over the island. (See “Where to stay in Maui” above for more details.)
If you’re staying a week, consider spending a day or two over on the rainier—and lusher—side of the island on the Road to Hana (or Hana itself.) Or upcountry near Mount Haleakala for a more tourist-free experience.
6. When is the rainy season in Maui?
Dry season in Hawaii is in summer, roughly April to October while rainy season is in winter (November to March). The good news is that Hawaii is always warm, even in the rainy season.
Don’t be too concerned if you check your weather app as you board the plane to Maui and see rain is forecast daily. Even in dry season, showers can blow through. They are brief and create daily rainbows everywhere!
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