Wife to my high school sweetheart, boy mama to sweet baby boy Macrae, and two fur babies Shiloh and Milo, a full time high school history teacher, and overall enthusiast for life. Avid podcast listener, iced coffee drinker, and organized chaos manager. My passion is to encourage and inspire. To cultivate an intentional life, a life full of joy and an abundance of grace.
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Some of my ALL time favorite blog posts to write are TRAVEL posts, simply because as I am writing I feel as if I get to relive the trip ALL over again and it is absolutely the best dang thing! And for this Maui Travel Guide I absolutely would LOVE to relive it all over again!
Additionally, I hope that this Maui Travel Guide, as well as all my other travel recaps OR lists OR stories provide an inspiration to you and create a vision that fuels a passion and fire in your heart to get out, explore, and make moments that become the best memories.
And for my family and I these best moments most often are the result of family vacations. The kind of vacations that consist of quality family time and endless laughs (as well as full bellies) and this past year our annual family vacation took a trip way west, to islands in the middle of the Pacific, to a place that I have renamed as actual heaven on earth. To Maui, real-life paradise.
The Carson’s took on Hawaii. And it was the absolute best! I will be sharing later this week the recap of our trip as well as best places to eat in Maui AND an exclusive travel guide for a Hawaiian vacation, so please stay tuned for those as they will be live this week. (You are always welcome and encouraged to subscribe) to my Blog to never miss a post!)
Anyways, back to what you came here for. Speaking of you, THANK YOU for taking the time out of your day to find this and read it, it truly means the world to me that you are here. As I put my heart and soul into my posts and just know that every view is absolutely treasured, so thank you!
Now, for real this time, what you came here for and it’s in the format of a list because you know how I roll. So here you go, your Maui Travel Guide…the top twenty things to see and do in Maui.
The beaches of Maui are by far some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. So when in Maui, be absolutely sure to spend as much time as you possibly can enjoying the sand and the stunning panoramic views. With islands out on the horizon and mountain vistas behind you.. you will certainly find yourself in serenity.
If you only splurge on one thing on this list, PLEASE splurge on a Hawaiian luau. There are several options, we as family (and when I say family, I should honestly say my sweet momma because she put a lot of the heart behind our trip) and it’s where my heart for planning and creating content for travel comes from, truth be told.
Anyways, after her extensive research, she decided on the Feast at Lele for our luau because of not only its reviews, but its smaller crowds and more intimate feel.
And the luau itself was by far one of the most cherished moments of the trip. The luau itself begins at 6:00pm when the doors open. Upon arrival, one receives a Man Tai (yum) and is crowded with a lei. The views are breathtakingly gorgeous.
The families are assigned tables ahead of time, allowing you to sit with the group you came with and we were escorted to our table where we received all the fancy drinks and an entire five-course meal of traditional Hawaiian, Tahitian, Samoan, and New Zealand food.
While the courses are being delivered AND enjoyed, a beautiful show is performed that pays tribute to the beautiful history and culture of the Pacific islands.
You absolutely need to add a Hawaiian luau at the Feast at Lele on your list for your Maui Travel Guide.
We stayed on West Maui which is an ideal destination because of its direction facing west. Meaning every single night we had the blessing of watching the sunset. Additionally, these sunsets in Maui were the most stunning of any sunsets I have ever seen!
It is an absolute necessity on your trip to Hawaii to watch as many sunsets as you possibly can. Furthermore, there is more than one way to enjoy the sunset. Pack a small cooler and take your beverages of choice to a nearby beach park and enjoy a picnic in the sand. OR dine at a beach-front restaurant with killer views (see more down the list at #17). OR spend a causal night in and enjoy the sunset from the view of your lanai. Either way, you will absolutely enjoy the kaleidoscope of colors that is a Hawaiian sunset.
Ever since I was eight and created my bucket list, I knew that I wanted to learn how to surf in Hawaii. Just my imagination from a child envisioned me learning how to hang ten in the Hawaiian surf. There are several different options of surf lessons. We had our reservations with Maui Surfer Girls which I could not sparkly highly enough of.
Our reservations were at 10:30 and they took place at the most pristine beach park right alongside the major highway. The views were stunning. Only three of the six in the group signed up for the surf lessons, so the rest of the group packed a cooler and brought chairs and enjoyed the view by the shore.
The lesson was a total of two hours. The first thirty minutes were spent on land learning the fundamentals and basic techniques before getting out in the water.
The instructors were so helpful and informative, as well as super encouraging. They took us out one by one to the waves, while the rest of us waited in the channel. And let me tell you it was the MOST fun thing I think I have ever done.
Surfing itself was so COOL and just so rewarding. And the views of the world around us as we waited for it to be our turn were incredible. We even spotted a few friends, sea turtles along the way. Ah, seriously surfing was the best and I cannot wait for the next opportunity to go again!
Something we did not get to do, unfortunately, but if you go, please indulge in Hawaiian Shave Ice for me. The shop that has the best reviews and that all the locals tell you to go to closes at 6:00pm, therefore you must plan ahead and be willing to indulge in shave ice before dinner, which there is absolutely nothing wrong with by the way). Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice is an absolute must while vacationing on the island.
Life is a journey, not a destination.Ralph Waldo Emerson
This could not be more true driving the Road to Hana. A beautiful 64 mile drive from the town of Kahului to Hana. The drive itself is absolutely gorgeous, but the stops along the way are what makes it worthwhile.
From gardens, to beaches, to scenic overlooks, hikes, and waterfalls, there really is so much to explore along the Hana Highway. Lava rock, black sand beaches, markets, and fruit stands, you definitely want to spend as much time as you can on the Road to Hana.
**Helpful TIP** – many people flock to the highway early in the morning, therefore roads can be crowded, and it can be easy to get stuck in traffic. We actually left around noon and found that we avoided most traffic and were still able to take our time, stopping at the stops that we wanted to, all while taking in the absolute beautiful sights of Hana.
So many options to choose from. Beach parks are everywhere. In fact, every beach in Maui is public. Even if you are a hotel, you are not allowed to own the beach property itself, as it belongs to everyone. Therefore, it is very easy to find plenty of quality beach to choose from to enjoy your day.
And the beach parks themselves all range with different amenities. Some allow camping, while others do not. Either way, you can be sure to enjoy the best of the best beaches I have ever seen.
Some of the outstanding beach parks worth mentioning include:
The BEST meal I have ever eaten. Oh my goodness! Yes, it’s expensive, but it is worth every penny, and some even say it is one of the Top Ten restaurants in all of the United States. So YES, eat here!
But, if you are planning on going to Maui, call Mama’s Fish House to make your reservations immediately after your make your hotel reservations. It books up quickly.
We went for lunch on Wednesday at 11:00 am as that was the only thing available for us. The lunch menu prices are slightly less expensive as well, so that is an option for those more budget conscientious.
Either way, GO. And enjoy the fact that the service is exceptional and the food beyond anything else I have ever had in my life. I am pretty positive that every single plate in our group was completely clear, licked clean afterwards. So, so delicious.
Also the view outside of the restaurant is beautiful, so plan to arrive early or hang out later for some beautiful pictures.
One of the first stops that you can stop at as you begin your journey along the Road to Hana. Right after Mama’s Fish House, the Ho’okipa Beach Park is a beautiful place to hang out, enjoy the beach, pack a picnic, OR just watch the surfers and wind-surfers! A beautiful panoramic view, and beautiful rocks to climb on to watch the surf break. Absolutely stunning.
Hawaii loves food trucks. And so do I. We saved this for our last night in Hawaii, unintentionally, actually. The restaurant we planned on going to was closed, so instead we pulled into a food truck park located directly near our resort and were pleasantly surprised by the amazing food.
In a park that had about ten different food trucks, we choose Thai food and had delicious Pad Thai, while enjoying the beauty of Hawaii, on our last night of vacation.
Did you even go to Hawaii if you did not hike to waterfall and swim in its pool? No, apparently not. But don’t worry, we absolutely went to Hawaii and this waterfall hike and swim was ranked as one of the top things I have ever done. (Next to surfing and sky-diving).
So real quick note, the guide book that we read said that the first step of the hike to get to these falls is more than just a giant step. You definitely had to hold on to the guardrail of the road, while tip-toeing on rocks to climb underneath the highway to get the falls. (But, absolutely WORTH IT!) Just please, please be careful! And wear hiking shoes or chacos, or tennis shoes please!
Anyways, after a quick hike you arrive at the beautiful falls and climb on in! Enjoy swimming underneath the falls, climbing on the rocks, soaking up the cold and refreshing, fresh water, all while looking up and taking in the beauty of it all.
So many options along the Road to Hana to stop and enjoy a beautiful hike. Just be sure that you have plenty of water, snacks, and your phone with you in case you get lost!
Most hikes will also lead to a waterfall with a swimming pool, therefore be sure to pack appropriately. I would recommend just wearing your swimsuit under athletic clothes for the convenience.
In fact here is a list of 10 great hikes to take while on Maui.
This was along the road to Hana. And when you reach Waianapanapa State Park at Mile 32 along the highway, not only are you only TWO miles away from your destination, you also have arrived at one of Maui’s most beautiful destinations. So definitely pay attention to #13 on this Maui Travel Guide as you will want to pay a visit to this serene park.
At Waianapanapa State Park, there are so many things to do. You can have a beach day and swim in the surf (but please be careful as the currents are very strong), you can explore a sea cave, walk along the black sand beaches (So, so pretty and cool) Basically the sand consists of black stone as a result of a volcanic eruption long ago.
Additionally, you can go on a hike up to the top of the cliff and watch (and even get soaked) as the giant waves crash into the cliffs and spray everyone in the way! So, so fun! Just be sure to watch your footing, but the view is absolutely worth it!
Something else that we did not get to do, but we had the ability to walk down to the hotel next to us, the Westin, and rent paddle boards $55 for the hour. And if we had another day, I most definitely would have done so.
One really important thing to note is that in the morning the water is so calm, making it prime time to explore via paddle-board. So if you have the opportunity, I strongly would recommend doing it (coming from the girl who wishes she had!)
This is really a MUST-DO. When I travel, I try to eat the local foods to really enjoy and appreciate the place I am at. So absolutely, seafood is a must. And the seafood that is on the menu changes based on the season that you are traveling in.
However, you can be sure, no matter what season you are in, the seafood will be fresh, full of the richest flavor AND caught by the local fisherman earlier that morning (or that week) and that is something special.
Another place worth noting to enjoy fresh, local seafood is The Fish Market. We didn’t make it to dine here, but it absolutely is worth mentioning as a stop for delicious food!
Who doesn’t love to shop? Well, maybe me (kidding) the only reason I say this is because my suitcase weighed a good 55 pounds on our flight out of ATL to Maui and thankfully the sweet Delta attendant helped me out and let is pass, or else I would have been dumping half my wardrobe at the gate.
Anyways, my momma and I are the shoppers and we absolutely enjoyed walking around the local shops, checking out the boutiques, local jewelers, and picked up ourselves ornaments, magnets, and the classic Hawaiian t-shirt. You know, the classics of travel souvenirs.
If you really enjoy shopping, be sure to head to the streets of Paia before 6:00pm as that is when almost all of the shops closed. The shops of Lanai are also great to walk through and close a lot later at 9:00pm.
Another great place full of great shops is located right next to the Hula Grill at Whaler’s Village. In addition to shopping, they have lots of fun activities for kids, as well as movie nights planned all the way through the summer!
As mentioned in #3, with sunsets as spectacular as they are in Hawaii, you are absolutely sure that you want to watch as many as possible. Therefore, it is critical to enjoy dinner with a view as often as possible while vacationing in Maui. Two of the best meals with the most serene view included Duke’s and the Hula Grill. Mama’s Fish House also had the most picturesque view that we enjoyed for lunch.
Duke’s was actually located on the property of our resort which was so convenient. The entrees were absolutely delicious and I enjoyed a very tasty Banana-Leaf steamed island fish & shrimp. There are other locations beyond the Maui location, so definitely be sure to check out to see if there is location near you!
The Hula Grill also had an exceptional view. The food was also really good, however we had the best fish of our entire lives the day before at Mama’s Fish House, so our expectations were extremely high! Also, the Hula Grill made their own in-house chili vinaigrette that complimented the bread and it was SO tasty.
Another feature that I absolutely loved about Hawaii, everything is all locally produced. The fish is caught by local fisherman and the fruits and vegetables used to compliment the entree are all farmed by local farmers. Love that the local community is completely connected and supportive of one another.
While walking through the town of Lanai (not to be confused with the name for the patio, the lanai) there were so many sweet shops. One of our favorite things to do was to look through the local art galleries that displayed absolutely beautiful artwork of local artists.
The pieces were absolutely beautiful with so much detail portraying the beautiful landscapes and life of the island. This is something you definitely do not want to miss while in Maui.
It is fitting that as a history and human geography teacher, I am fascinated by exploring the local towns and taking in all the history and the culture. And walking through Lanai and Paia were no exception. These towns are both so unique, yet full of distinguished character. From the restaurants, to the art galleries, to the shops, there truly is something for everyone. So enjoy the shopping and find yourself a souvenir or two to take home with you once you leave!
The best part about Maui (besides the sheer, overwhelming beauty of the island) is that there is SO MUCH TO DO. You can curate your own agenda based on the things that you love. Whether that means take a helicopter tour, go snorkeling, scuba diving or a jeep tour. Do something that challenges you to go beyond your own zone of comfort and appreciate the adventure.
It’s not until we let go of what makes us feel comfortable and safe that we find our truest self, in the heart and the thrill of the adventure.
Thanks for reading sweet friends, I hope that you have the opportunity to travel to Maui in your lifetime and when you do, this Maui Travel Guide has all of things to see and do while you are there!
Like what you read? Check out other travel guides to some of our other favorite places.