Maui is beloved because it successfully offers a little bit of everything. From five-star, oceanside luxury resorts to backcountry cabins atop a 10,000-foot volcano, Maui can offer you both extremes and everything in the middle.
Its range is even more impressive when you consider the island is home to less than 200,000 people. The second-largest landmass in the chain, much of Maui’s appeal comes from its natural landscape and biodiversity, including its two massive volcanoes, protected marine sanctuaries, whale breeding grounds, and remote, wild jungles.
According to tourism statistics, the typical length of stay on Maui is about eight days (pre-covid), the most of any Hawaiian Island. While you can certainly explore the island faster than that, a week would set a proper pace. Our itinerary is not meant to be viewed as complete or exhaustive – please, pursue your own specific interests as you wish – but we hope our sample can be useful as a template and introduction to the main areas and attractions on Maui, should you wish to dive in and take a bite of each.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
- Day 1: Arrival
- Day 2: Explore Your Home Base
- Day 3: Pāʻia, Hoʻokipa, the Road to Hana, Kīpahulu
- Day 4: Day on the Water
- Day 5: Wailea and La Perouse Bay
- Day 6: Haleakalā and Upcountry Maui
- Day 7: Kaʻanapali, Kapalua, Kihei, or Wailea
- Day 8: Last Adventures and Depart
We wish you a good time on Maui, and ask that you help protect the island by respecting all of its ecological, cultural, and historical offerings. Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints.
Day 1: Arrival
In most cases, you’ll arrive in Maui in the afternoon or evening, ready for some rest after a long travel day.
Grab your rental car at the Kahului Airport. There are shuttles from the airports to the hotels (such as Robert’s Hawaii), so if you prefer, you could go that route the first day and then rent a car later, on the days you intend to use it (many hotels have car rental locations nearby). Either way, Maui is spread out, so if you plan to adventure, you’ll need wheels to explore.
Upon landing, make your way to your respective hotel. The major hubs of the island are Lāhainā, Kīhei, Kaʻanapali, Wailea, Kapalua, and Pāʻia, among others (if you’re having trouble deciding where to stay, see our Introduction to Maui).
Take a moment to breathe, and take in your surroundings. You’ve just arrived on the “Valley Island,” named for the flat saddle that connects the two giant volcanoes, Haleakalā and the West Maui Mountains. If you arrive before dark, go for a walk on the beach, and if your arrival corresponds with the sunset, even better. Settle in for your first meal in Hawaiʻi – we suggest either fresh seafood or a classic Hawaiian dish, like Kalua pork. Use this evening to refresh and unwind after the long day of travel.
Day 2: Beach Day/Explore Your Home Base
With jetlag, you’ll probably wake up early on day 2. Don’t resist. The beach is a beautiful, calm place in the morning, and it was made for coffee-in-hand strolls before breakfast. If you happen to wake up before the sunrise, even better. The colors in the sky at dawn are just as beautiful as they are during the sunset at night.
Today is all about adjusting to Maui’s slower pace and getting to know your hub. Whether its Kaʻanapali, Lāhainā, Kīhei, Pāʻia, or Wailea, there are world-class beaches to check out within minutes of your hotel or rental (see our guide to Maui’s beaches). You could browse local restaurants and shops, go on a snorkel, kayak, or stand-up paddle outing, or simply enjoy the offshore scenery with a relaxing, do-nothing beach day.
If you have specific interests, you can use this day to pursue them as well, such as golf, horseback riding, or other land activities (see our guide to land activities here).
For dinner, we recommend kicking off the trip with a local seafood restaurant. Try a local institution like Pāʻia Fish Co. or Mamaʻs Fishhouse, or simply ask around (no matter where you’re located, you’re never far from a seafood restaurant on Maui). Rest up and get to bed early. Tomorrow will be a longer, more active day.
Day 3: Pāʻia, Hoʻokipa, the Road to Hana, Kīpahulu
After breakfast, prepare your daypack with plenty of water, sunscreen, close-toed shoes, and snacks. Plan to be out for the majority of the day.
Today you’ll experience the infamous Road to Hana, the all-day stop-and-go scenic drive around Maui’s north shore and east coast. Along the way you’ll have the chance to check out Pāʻia, a surfer-hippie town; Hoʻokipa, a surf spot with tall sea cliffs; and Kīpahulu, another part of Haleakalā National Park.
There are limitless things to see and do along this journey, so before going, you should read our guide to the Road to Hana, which explains how to approach the day.
We recommend doing this journey early in the trip so that you have the chance to put it off if the weather doesn’t cooperate. The eastern (windwardside) of Maui gets a lot of rain, so it’s best to have multiple days to attempt it.
Day 4: Day on the Water
After a long day in and out of the car yesterday, it’s time to get away from land completely and experience why Maui’s Auʻau Channel is so beloved. In winter, more than 10,000 humpback whales come into the channel to give birth, offering some of the most guaranteed, up-close-and-personal whale watching in all the world.
But even when the whales aren’t there, the Auʻau channel is still a playground. Surrounded by multiple offshore islands, including Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi, boat rides in the channel are extremely scenic. Snorkel tours to Molokini, Lānaʻi, and various other sites around Maui are available any time of year. Boat tours come in all shapes and sizes, from large catamarans that hold a 100-plus people to zodiacs that fit less than a dozen. Shop around for the best fit, but keep in mind, almost all boats leave from either Lāhainā or Maalaea Harbor. For help deciding which tour to take, see our guide to snorkeling on Maui.
If you prefer non-motorized sports, consider a cultural-based active adventure from a company like Hawaiian Paddle Sports. Or, you can take surf lessons at the beginner breaks that are found throughout Lāhainā and Kīhei. For help trip planning, see our guide to Maui’s water activities, including the surf scene.
Chances are, after a day in the sun on the water, you will be pleasantly tired come sunset. Plan on an early dinner tonight.
Day 5: Ahihi-Kinau, Makena, and La Perouse Bay (South Shore)
Start slow with an early-morning walk or swim at your beach of choice. If you really want to get after it, sneak in an hour surf, paddle, or kayak before breakfast.
After breakfast, rent snorkeling gear for the day from a surf shop in your hub or from the activities desk at your hotel. Then, hop in the car and make your way to the far south shore of Maui for a day of beach hopping, snorkeling, and mild hiking. Bring sunscreen, water, snacks, close-toed shoes, and, if you want, a picnic lunch.
The Ahihi-Kinau Natural Reserve Area contains more than 800 acres of underwater protection to its reefs, lava tubes, and biological diversity. It’s a great, family-friendly place to snorkel. Other excellent snorkel locations on the south shore include Maluaka Beach and Five Graves. You can learn more in our guide to snorkeling on Maui, where we break down each snorkeling spot.
Makena Beach is a long, white sand beach operated as a state park. It is one of the more undeveloped beaches on Maui, without any high rises or condo buildings at its back. Instead, you’ll see the green hillsides of the old cinder cones. Families with kids will want to stop by to check it out, perhaps for a picnic lunch.
If you keep driving south, the road will eventually end at La Perouse Bay. It was formed when Haleakalā’s eruption reached the sea, estimated to be sometime around 1790. Walking paths through the lava fields combine geological intrigue with panoramic ocean views (be sure to wear close-toed shoes), and when it’s calm, you can snorkel in its smaller coves and bays.
Day 6: Haleakalā and Upcountry Maui
Today will be focused on exploring Haleakalā Volcano, which rises up more than 10,000 feet above sea level. It will also take you through some of the towns that make up “Upcountry Maui,” that is, the farm-focused belt that thrives on Haleakalā’s fertile slopes.
Good to know: we have written a complete guide on how you can best visit Haleakalā.
If you’ve got the desire, it’s possible to watch the sunrise from the summit of Haleakalā. Several tour operators offer the experience, some combining it with other offerings, like biking down Haleakalā. These tours require a very early meeting – typically around 3 a.m. – and so it is not for the faint of heart. If you decide to drive up on your own for sunrise, you’ll need to reserve a permit in advance.
Driving yourself to the top of Haleakalā is easy and straightforward. Follow the 37-mile Haleakalā Highway through its many twists and turns until you reach the summit. Notice how the terrain changes from agriculture and ranch land to forests and then, finally, to simply grass or rock as you climb above treeline. It’s helpful to read about the road and its terrain beforehand, so you can understand what you’re looking at. The drive is not far in terms of distance, but with the turns, views, and tendency for people to drive slow, you should expect the drive to take at least two hours or more.
At the summit, there’s a small Visitor Center but no services (only restrooms). The views from the summit into the volcano’s crater are what you came for, so enjoy the walking paths and overlooks. It will be significantly colder at the summit than down at sea level – sometimes as much as a 50-degree difference – so be sure to bring a jacket, layers, long pants, and closed toed shoes. There are trailheads at the summit, including the Sliding Sands Trail, that we encourage you to explore. Remember that you’ll need to carry all your water and snacks along with you.
Another way to explore Haleakalā is via a stargazing tour, which begin before sunset and guide you through the Park and its night sky.
On your way back down the volcano, consider passing through one of the UpCountry Maui towns, such as Makawao, the home of Maui’s paniolo (cowboy) culture, or Kula, a fertile farm region. Both have small, locally-run restaurants and cafes.
By the time you get all the way back down to sea level, it will probably be late afternoon. Return to your local beach or find a waterfront restaurant for happy hour.
Day 7: ʻĪao Valley and Lūʻau
ʻĪao Valley is one of the most dramatically scenic places on Maui, and it also has a lot of history to go along with its natural beauty, meaning it has something to offer everyone of all abilities. The valley was the site of one of the bloodiest battles in Hawaiian history, fought between the armies of Hawaiʻi Island and Maui (Kamehameha and his army from Hawaiʻi Island were victorious). The battle was so bloody that they say the river ran red that day.
The main attraction within ʻĪao Valley State Park is the ʻĪao Needle. It rises more than 1,200 feet above the valley floor, or 2250 feet above sea level, and has many cultural tales tied to it. Before going, you should read up on the history. There are several paved walking paths in the park, as well as hiking trails and access points to the river, where many locals come to swim.
Overall, you won’t need more than an hour at ʻĪao Valley, so don’t plan on an entire day. Consider visiting early in the morning before it gets crowded. Then, check out the nearby, budding town of Wailuku – perhaps you can stop by one of its coffee shops on your way in or out of ʻĪao Valley.
Use the afternoon to jump on a tour, schedule a tee time, visit another town, or even take another trip out on the water. Consider visiting Pāʻia, Lāhainā, Kaʻanapali, Kīhei, Wailea, or Upcountry Maui if you haven’t already.
Since it’s your last official night, you may want to go out with a bang. We recommend scheduling a lūʻau for tonight. It’s a great way to put an exclamation point on your trip by feasting on a Hawaiian buffet, watching the sunset, and enjoying the cultural stories and dancing of Polynesian Culture. For more info on lūʻaus, see our guide to Maui’s land activities.
Day 8: Last Adventures and Depart
In many cases, your flight back to the mainland will be late at night, meaning you can take advantage of your final day in full. The morning is a great place to tie up any loose ends you may have leftover from your trip – sneak in that last half day tour, take a final surf or snorkel, go shopping in Lahaina for souvenirs, or simply relax on the beach.
There are no goodbyes in Hawai‘i, so before you leave, you’ll want to learn the Hawaiian saying, “A hui hou,” which means, “until we meet again.”