This summer, we did a week-long trip to the island of Maui in Hawaii. It was actually my first time in Hawaii, and we chose Maui because of all the wonderful things people say – that Maui is a such a beautiful island. And it was so true because everywhere you go, it’s just scenic all around here. Haleakala and Road to Hana are probably the most famous destination for visitors, and my personal favorite was just driving around the island, where both mountains and the vast ocean meet, and all worries vanish in front of that beauty.
Helpful Tips for the Trip:
- When to visit: Maui is the perfect spot to visit year-round. However, during peak travel weeks, it can get really expensive (for example, prices can double or even triple during the week of Christmas). Therefore, I would avoid those peak days. We went in August, and it wasn’t too crowded at all.
- Weather: The weather on Maui is at a comfortable temperature year-round, with the exception at higher altitudes (such as Haleakala) where you definitely need a jacket at night as it can get extremely cold.
- Where to stay: The west side of the island tends to have the best weather so most people choose to stay in either the Kihei, Lahaina or Kaanapali area. We stayed at the Plantation Inn in Lahaina, which is a lovely local establishment featuring a beautiful pool and a lavish, fresh breakfast every morning.
- Getting around: The best way to get around the island is by car. Unless you plan on only staying at a resort and not move around too much, definitely consider renting a car and picking it up at the airport. If you are renting a car, consider going for a smaller/compact car as the roads can get very narrow on parts of the island.
- Services: On Maui, you will be very close to nature. The island isn’t as commercialized as Oahu. The flip side to that is that things like supermarkets, pharmacies and hospitals are less accessible, and restaurants tend to be concentrated in select areas, so definitely be mindful of that.
- Stocking up on supplies: Therefore, as you land at the Kahalui airport, definitely stop by at the Walmart (located right next to the airport) to stock up on all the supplies you need for the trip, such as sunscreen, snacks, etc. This is the only Walmart on the island and is the best place to grab all the things you need at a fair price.
- Road to Hana: If you are planning on visiting the Road to Hana, definitely plan out your route in advance to save time. Some spots require advanced reservations (such as the blank sand beach), and some other spots can get crowded really fast. The weather on this part of the island is also unpredictable, so be definitely be prepared for rainy weather, and drive safe!
- Luau show: A lūʻau is a traditional Hawaiian buffet feast accompanied by performances including music and dance. It’s quite the thing to see when you are in Hawaii. If you are interested in seeing a Luʻau show, try to book in advance as the popular seats can sell out months before, such as the Old Lahaina Luau, which is one of the best rated spots on the island.
- Tour discounts: If you are interested in booking activities such as snorkeling tours, ziplining, whale watching, sunset cruise and so on, but also want to look for promotions, along the streets of Lahaina are many booths offering discounted tickets to these tours. You can talk to the salespeople at these booths and check out the discounted prices. The caveat is that these steep discounts come with a condition where you have to attend a 2-hour sales presentation (where they usually try to sell you a vacation package). Be warned that these are presentations are usually scams, but they will still honor the promised discounts if you attend. We didn’t feel great about this experience, but we did get at least 50% off our ziplining tour and Luau tickets.
About this Itinerary
This is a 7 day trip on the island of Maui. However, we did decide to include a day trip out to Oahu as we really wanted to visit the famous Kualoa Ranch (where Jurassic World was filmed). Either way, there are actually so many things to do & see on Maui that 7 days isn’t nearly enough. We managed to squeeze in a lot over the days, but as you will see in this post, there are lots of activities that I wish we had more time for.
Besides the day trip to Oahu, each day of this trip is spent on one part of the island, as mapped below:
- Day 0: Arrival & Prep
- Day 1: West Maui
- Day 2: Upcountry Maui / Haleakala
- Day 3: East Maui / Road to Hana
- Day 4: Lahaina / Activities & Tours
- Day 5: South Maui
- Day 6: Day Trip to Oahu / Honolulu / Kualoa Ranch
- Day 7: Central & North Maui
Day 0: Arrival & Prep
Upon flying into the Kahului Airport (fun fact, the airport’s code is actually OGG, named after a former Hawaiian Airlines pilot, James Hogg), you can pick up the rental car and stop by the Walmart next door to stock up on any supplies you need for the week.
If you arrive during the day time and want some good food to start off the trip, check out Kahalui Food Trucks, which is a 4 minute drive from the airport. This is nice park with a variety of local food trucks, ranging from ramen to poke to Thai food and to bbq. We were able to stop by and get some delicious plant-based food from Earth Aloha Eats, as well as jack up on some caffeine from Kraken Coffee.
Another great spot to pick up food near the airport is Tinroof. It’s also take out only but has the best pork belly bowls and crispy chicken noodles. Be prepared for a small line here, although the wait is certainly worth it!
Day 1: West Maui
Start of the day by visiting the Nakalele Point and Nakalele Blowhole. The drive here is absolutely scenic and is a great way to settle into the Maui landscape. Park at the top of the cliff and descend for about 20 minutes down the path to see the blowhole, which is constantly erupting and shooting up between lava formations. You can keep going forward to see the Nakalele Point Lighthouse against the backdrop of the ocean. Definitely wear sneakers or hiking shoes as the rocks can be very rough on the feet. Also, be sure to wear sunscreen – even if it’s windy and cool, we still got severely sunburned from spending time out here!
Dragon’s Teeth Trail
Next, take a quick drive over to the Dragon’s Teeth Access Trail, which leads you to Makaluapuna Point, the Kapalua Labyrinth, and Dragon’s Pointe all the way at the end. This is one of my favorite spots as the rocks formations look really unique as the name suggests. The path isn’t steep and is a relatively relaxing walk, however, if you want to go to the end point, the rocks can get very wet and slippery, so I highly recommend wearing hiking shoes. The Dragon’s Teeth access trail is also located right by the Ritz Carlton property, so you can also spend some time exploring the nice grounds and check out the restaurants here. Other lunch options nearby include the Sea House restaurant and The Gazebo, both of which offer beautiful scenic views of the ocean.
Napili Bay Beach
Next, finally get some beach time in by spending the afternoon at Napili Bay Beach. This such a relaxing and beautiful beach. It’s not overcrowded, and has the softest sands and nice, gentle waves. If you want something fun to do, rent a boogie board (or a surfboard and everything else you want) from the nearby Water Works Sports. As the sun sets and the waves become stronger, join the group of people boogie boarding and ride with the wave.
Wrap up the day by unwinding at Whaler’s Village, a large, open-air shopping complex. It’s really relaxing to hangout here, do some shopping, grab some dinner from the food court and relax.
Day 2: Haleaka National Park
This is a day dedicated to exploring the upcountry part of Haleakala Nation Park, home to the dormant Haleakalā Volcano. Here, you can get views of mars-like red deserts, craters and rock gardens, as well as see clouds flow beneath your feet. It’s truly a wonder of the world.
Preparing for the Day
Before heading up the mountain, make sure you bring a jacket as it will get quite cold up the high altitude. Also, be sure to grab food and fill up gas, as there are no restaurants or gas stations within the park area. On the way there, you can stop by La Provence, a bistro/bakery with delicious French eats, or Kula Lodge Restaurant, a mountain lodge offering spectacular views from its deck.
The Heleakala Park Pass costs $30.00 per private vehicle and is valid for 3 days. You can purchase the pass as you enter the park. Keep in mind that they only took credit cards and no cash.
Hosmer Grove Trail
If you are starting the day early, stop by the Hosmer Grove Loop Trail. This is a short trail (0.4 miles) through the woods where you can spot some native Hawaiian birds. There’s also a campground and plenty of picnic areas if you want to spend some time relaxing here.
Next, drive up over to the Halemau’u Trailhead. This is hands-down my favorite trail from the entire trip. When you arrive and park your car, you can already see the clouds beneath you feet. The trails are quiet and absolutely beautiful. It leads you down to a spot where you can get a complete view of the crater.
After reaching the crater, I recommend continuing down a bit more so you can literally walk within the clouds and explore all the colorful plantation. There’s a cliff where you can get even better views. Overall, it was about 3 miles to the crater and back. Due to the steepness of the hike, I would say it’s a moderate one.
After the hike, drive your way up to the mountain summit. On the way, you can stop at the Lewiwi and Kalahaku Overlooks to get different views of the landscape. The drive from here on will start to get a little scary due to the height. You can park at either the Haleakala Visitor Center or at the Haleakala Observatory. I recommend getting here early – way before sunset, if you want to find a parking spot and beat the crowds. The sunset view from here is an absolutely unforgettable experience. The cloud formations look like an alien landscape of its own, and the colors are ever changing between different shades of blue to pink, until the light fades away and darkness begins to set in.
Be sure to dress warm as it’s freezing up here. I recommend you start driving back down before it’s completely dark. This is so you can get more beautiful views along the winding road down, and also because driving in the dark can be scary!
More about Haleakala
While we didn’t get to do these, a lot of people also choose to star gaze here at night, which is an entirely different experience of its own. Some people also prefer to view the sunrise, in which case you will need a reservation in advance on the website.
A lot of people also make time to do the Keoneheʻeheʻe (Sliding Sands) Trail, which is a 17.6 out-and-back trail entering the caldera of the extinct volcano. It’s an extremely challenging trail between the constant incline, the heat, the cold, the wind and the sheer vastness of space, but it known to be an other-worldly experience, as if you are walking on Mars. A lot of people also only hike a mile or two and turn back – you can do 2.5 miles down to the Ka Lu’u o ka O’o cinder cone, before turning around, but even then it’s quite a trek of its own. However, if you have the time, it’s definitely worth the trip!
Day 3: Road to Hana
If you are not already exhausted from the day before, this is the day to do Road to Hana. Otherwise, I recommend switching up the order and spending a day in between to get some rest in. The Road to Hana is a 64.4-mile-long stretch of highway connecting Kahului to the town of Hana in east Maui. There are so many scenic stops along the road, that a lot would even argue that one day is not enough for the journey. This itinerary is a one-day trip highlighting some of the stops we made, but if you want to experience the full journey, definitely consider staying a night and making a two-day trip out of it.
Before the Trip
As mentioned earlier, plan out your route in advance to save time. Definitely expect to see crowds at most of the stops. The weather on this part of the island is also unpredictable – when we visited, it was unfortunately pouring rain for most of the day, so it’s best if you bring a rain jacket, especially if you plan on hiking. Bring bug spray if you can, as mosquitos are everywhere. Also, be sure to bring your Haleakala park pass with you, as it’s necessary to access the Pipiwai Trail. Last but not least, drive safe! The drive along Hana Highway is probably the scariest I’ve seen in a long time, as the roads are extremely narrow and you have to constantly be prepared to yield to cars coming from the other way.
The first stop we made along the Road to Hana was Twin Falls. The is a family-owned bio-diverse farm known for the beautiful waterfalls. Definitely consider getting here early as parking spots fill up fast really fast with a $10 cash fee (we arrived here at 7:45 am and were barely able to get a parking spot). There is a short walk to the first waterfall, and a longer path to the second one, where lots of people choose to swim in. As many would suggest, this is a great spot for a quick stop, but try not to spend too much time here as there’s a lot more to see along the Road to Hana.
The next stop is the famous Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread stand. This stand sells the freshest and softest banana bread straight from the oven. For $8 you can get a massive piece of warm bread. This place definitely commands a long line but I personally think it was worth the wait.
Wailea Valley State Wayside, Waikani Falls, Hanawi and Makapipi Falls
Along the next stretch of the journey, there are several stops you can make and they can all be very quick ones. Wailua Valley State Wayside provides a stunning lookout spot where you can see waterfalls, the mountain and the ocean all in one view. Upper Waikani Falls is a trio of large waterfalls and a beautiful swimming hole. Hanawi Falls is another series of waterfalls and Makapipi Falls is a large waterfall that passes underneath the bridge. All of the waterfall stops have tricky parking, so be careful and patient when you slow down and look for space.
Nahiku Marketplace and Hāna Farms
On the search for lunch, we first stopped at Nahiku Marketplace. This is a small area with some local artisanal shops and food stands. We saw a coconut stand where a guy was cracking coconuts barehanded, which drew quite an audience.
If you want a relaxing sit-down spot and some delicious pizza, Hāna Farms is the place to go. This is an open-air eatery located under a large tent, with string lights and lovely decor. The paniolo pizza and freshly made lilikoi (passion fruit) soda were so fresh and delicious. Next to the restaurant is also marketplace where you can buy some fresh produce and Hāna-made products.
Hana Lava Tube
The next stop is Hana Lava Tube. Created by underground lava rivers, this is a rocky cave where you get learn about the geology and history of the lave tube. At the entrance, there is a cash fee of $15 which includes access to the cave an a flashlight that will help you navigate. It’s a quick 30 – 40 minute walk to and back from the cave, during which there is a lot of educational content and some beautiful openings where light shines through, revealing the lush greens.
Blank Sand Beach / Kaihalulu (Red Sand) Beach
The next stop on the list is the Blank Sand beach and the Sea Cave, where as the name suggests, the sand is black, making the beach a rarity and a must-see. However, an advance reservation is required, so we regrettably weren’t able to visit. If you do want to go and are able to plan in advance, be sure to reserve a spot at the Waiʻānapanapa State Park here.
If you still want to see colored sand, check out Kaihalulu Beach, which is accessible to the public via a steep trail down. The sand here is in the shade of dark red, forming a beautiful contrast against the turquoise water. Parking is tricky, but if you are patient enough, spots will open up along the road.
Pipiwai Trail and Waimoku Falls
The Pipiwai Trail stretches through a bamboo forest and leads to the grand Waimoku Falls. For many, this is the highlight of Road to Hana, and if you want to do this trail, I recommend getting here by 3 – 4 pm to allow enough time for the hike. While driving here, if you have time, you can also check out Wailua Falls and Venus Ponds on the way.
The Pipiwai Trail area is actually part of Haleakala National Park, so the same park pass will give you access here. The trail starts near the parking lot; it’s 4 miles total (2 miles each way) with some steep inclination. The first stretch through the woods leads you to the massive Banyan Tree, after which is a calming walk through the Bamboo Forest, and the final stretch takes you upward to the grand Waimoku Falls. The waterfall is a great reward for finishing the hike. Overall, the hike can take at least two hours, and due to the steepness, I wouldn’t say it’s an easy hike. Parts of the hike can get really muddy, so be prepared for that!
If you have time afterwards, finish off the trip with a quick stop at the nearby Ohe’o Gulch, also known as the Seven Sacred Pools. It’s home to many waterfalls, bamboo forest, plunges and incredible ocean views.
The Journey Back
At this point, it’s time to begin the drive back. However, the trip isn’t over! The drive back to the west side of the island is honestly the most beautiful drive I’ve ever seen. There’s a long, beautiful and winding road along the coast (like those perfect ones you would often see in car commercials or K-drama endings); vast valleys and rocky terrains; cows and goats hanging out and living their best lives; the beautiful pastel blue ocean merging with the sky and becoming one.
Day 4: South Maui
After the long Road to Hana day-trip, today is a relaxing day exploring the south side of the island, including the lava fields and beautiful beaches of Kihei.
Lava Fields, Mary’s Trumpets, Hoapili Trail
On the southern tip of the island, there’s a whole stretch of trails by the ocean that takes you along the sharp rocks, the splashing waves and the endless lava fields. You can park your car at Lava Fields and make your way down towards the southern tip.
As you walk along the ocean, spend some time admiring the strong, turquoise waves splashing up against the rocks on your right, and the piles of lava fields to your left. It took us about 20 minutes to make it to May’s Trumpets. During our walk, we also spotted black goats trodding around and doing their thing, which was a pleasant surprise!
After reaching May’s Trumpets, we decided to turn back around. However, you can continue walking for about another mile along the Hoapili Trail until you reach Hanomanioa Light. During the walk, you get to admire Maui from different vantage points, and the terrain beneath your feet varies between rocks, loose and hard sand. Be sure to bring plenty of water and wear hiking shoes.
The next stop is Makena Cove. This a little hidden beach spot, where you have to park on the street and climb over some rocks to get to. However, the cove is such a hidden gem – the shiny turquoise water, the perfect white sand and palm trees are all so beautiful that the scene looks like it’s straight out of paradise. It’s so beautiful that it made my heart melt. This is a great place to take some photos, but be careful of the waves as you can get wet easily.
Word’s Best Fish Tacos
On the search for a late lunch, we decided to visit the nearby Jazzy’s Kitchen Mexican foodtruck. We were skeptical at first because we weren’t particularly looking for Mexican food in Maui, and the food truck was randomly parked along the road where there was nothing else. However, there was a sign outside claiming “World’s Best Fish Tacos,” and the food truck did not disappoint. Those were some of the best fish tacos I’ve ever had. The fish tasted so fresh and tender, and the mango salsa was absolutely delicious. If this food truck is open during your visit, definitely give it a shot.
The rest of the day is spent relaxing in the Kihei area. You can check out the Kamaole beach parks and get some shaved iced at Ululani’s. Some of the great restaurants in the area include Nalu’s South Shore Grill and Three’s Bar & Grill, both of which are excellent places for delicious Hawaiian cuisine.
Day 5: Lahaina and Activity Day
This is another relatively relaxing and flexible day exploring the lovely streets of Lahaina and doing some activities if you are up for it! If you want to do a water activity or tour, definitely try to book in advance. Some of these tours can take up most of the day, so plan accordingly.
Once known as Lele, which means “relentless sun” in Hawaiian, Lāhainā is a historic town that has been transformed into a Maui hotspot with dozens of art galleries, unique souvenir shops and bustling restaurants. It also used to be the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom in the early 19th century, as well as a historic whaling village.
Here, stroll through the streets and explore the area. For history, you can visit the Baldwin House Museum and sit under Maui’s oldest living Banyan Tree. For shopping, there are lots of cute souvenir shops along the streets, ranging from the standard souvenirs to handmade embroidery to coffee beans to ukuleles. For food, check out Down the Hatch – a casual airy eatery offering fresh seafood and delicious cocktails; Cool Cat Cafe – a solid burger joint in a 1950s diner setting; Paia Fishmarket – a popular place where you can customize your plate and choose how you like your seafood to be served.
If you are looking for a slightly more upscale and romantic experience, enjoy a nice dinner at Fleetwood’s on Front St. or Kimo’s Maui, both of which offer beautiful views of the ocean and sometimes live music. We dined in at Fleetwood’s on a Wednesday evening and it wasn’t too busy at all – we were able to get a window seat that looks right at the ocean as the sun was setting. The ambiance was exceptional.
Water & Land Activities
If you stick around Lahaina, by the Lahaina Harbor there is a whole line-up of water activities vendors, such as whale watching, cruising, parasailing and snorkeling. I recommend booking a tour online in advance, or go inquire at the booth first to see what availabilities they have.
Of course, there are lots of excellent places to do water activities on the other parts of the island. Another hot spot for activities is the Kihei area. You can explore the Mokolini Crater via a snorkeling tour out of the many providers, try out a Group Surf Lesson, or do a clear Kayak and Snorkeling Adventure. The options are endless!
If you want some land activities, there’s paragliding at Paraglide Maui, and ziplining at Maui Zipline and North Shore Zipline. There is a also a really cool bike tour with Maui Sunriders that I really wanted to do but didn’t have enough time for. You can also go to the driving range or even do a full round of golf at Kaanapali Golf Courses. Just make sure you allow plenty of time for the activity of your choice.
Day 6: Day Trip to Kualoa Ranch
About Kualoa Ranch
Kualoa Ranch is a massive natural reserve consisting of beautiful valleys and views of the ocean. It has also been the location for more than 70 movies and TV shows, including Lost, Godzilla, Jumanji and Jurassic Park. Because of all amazing views and fun things to do here, we decided to make a day just to visit Kualoa Ranch. If you are planning on visiting as well, I recommend picking one of their many official tours and secure a booking in advance. Kualoa Ranch offers so many activities, such as the UTV raptor tour, the Hollywood movie sites tour, Jurassic Valley zipline, Horseback walking tour, e-bike tour and the Malama Experience. We ended up booking the 2 Hour UTV Raptor Tour.
Getting to Kualoa Ranch
The ranch is located on the northern side of the island of Oahu. If you are coming from Maui like us, the best way to get to Oahu from Maui is by plane. Hawaiian Airlines operates frequent flights between the two islands, and the flight is only 40 minutes tops (it’s over before you know it!) It’s also very affordable, costing us about $80 for a round trip flight per person. We took a 7:45am departure flight and a 7:10pm return flight, which left us just under 12 hours to spend on Oahu.
Without a car, the best ways to get around the island is by Uber or Bus. From the Honolulu airport, in search of a big breakfast, we took an Uber to Kaka’ako, which is a hip area known for its vibrant food scene. It’s a nice place to walk around and explore. From Kaka’ako, we were then able to catch the bus that takes you all the way across the island and drops people off right across from Kualoa Ranch. The ride takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes, costing $3 in cash.
UTV Raptor Tour
Upon arrival, the beautiful and vast mountains will immediately come into view. There is a place to check in for the tour. For the UTV raptor tour, we received safety trainings and were provided with helmets, face coverings and goggles (it gets REALLY dusty out there on the road). We had our own vehicle and followed the tour lead as we drove across the valley. There were several scenic stops where the tour guides talked about the cool history of the reserve, as well as about the Mokoliʻi island that’s viewable from Kualoa. It was such a fun experience and the two hours flew by so fast. I recommend bringing a change of clothes for later as the tour will leave you covered in dust top to bottom.
If you have lots of time after the tour, you can also explore other parts of Oahu such as Diamond Head or some of the beaches. Since our tour ended a bit late and the bus travel time takes so long, we decided to head back to the airport, while stopping by a Marukame Udon location for dinner. We really wish we had more time to spare, but we knew a day trip can only allow so many activities. If you want to explore more of Oahu, definitely consider making an actual trip out of it!
Day 7: Central & North Maui
This is the last full day in Maui, and a day where we explore the central and northern parts of the island. Start the day with a hike through the valleys and end the day with a satisfying Luau feast. I think this is a great conclusion to the trip.
Waihee Ridge Trail
The Waihee Ridge Trail is a 5 mile round-trip trail through a lush forest of kukui, guava, ohia, and ferns. Every turn of the hike offers spectacular views, whether it’s the forest, the waterfalls or the ocean. It’s considered a moderately challenging route, due to the inclination and the muddy terrain.
If you want to pass on the hike, an easier alternative is to visit the Iao Valley State Monument, where you can park and follow a 0.6-mile hike to see the Iao Needle, a 1,200-ft needle-shaped peak. This part was unfortunately closed temporarily when we were there, so definitely monitor their opening status before you visit.
As another alternative, we visited Kepaniwai Park, a heritage garden located right along Iao Valley road. Here, you can have a very relaxing stroll around the temples and lush gardens, or sit at the tables and enjoy a picnic. The views from here is also amazing as the peaks tower among the fog.
There’s no better way to end the trip than feasting at a Luau. We ended up getting a spot at the Myths of Maui, which is an oceanfront luau located within the Royal Lahaina Resort. The venue is really romantic, because it directly faces the ocean and as the evening progresses, the sky changes color from twilight to moonlight, and you can feel the refreshing ocean breeze blow by the beautiful palm trees. Dinner begins at round 6pm with a buffet, open bar and live Hawaiian music.
The actual show begins a bit later, and showcases a series of dance performances that take the audience on a journey through Maui’s history. The show ends with a fire performance, which is for sure the highlight of the evening.
We had so much fun during our 7 days in Maui. It was a mix of ocean views, mountain views, waterfalls, rocks and lava; clouds, sunset and rain; birds, cows and goats; hiking, beaching, UTV-ing and snorkeling; delicious foods such as fresh fish, shaved ice and delicious coffee. As I am compiling my notes, I realize this is perhaps the longest post I’ve written, and yet I feel as if it wasn’t nearly enough to capture the beauty of Maui. I guess we all would just have to see it for ourselves.