Ultimate Guide to Maui: Best Hotels, Beaches, Restaurants and Things to Do

  • There's no shortage of things to do on Maui, the second largest of the Hawaiian islands. Here are our recommendations for the best hotels, restaurants, beaches and things to do on Maui.

  • Best Maui Hotels: The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
    Best Maui Hotels: The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
    The Ritz-Carlton, KapaluaLori Barbely
  • In Hawaiian, Kapalua means "arms embracing the sea" and The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua does just that as the resort embraces guests into its natural surroundings. Located on Maui's west shore within 22,000-acre Kapalua Resort, one of Hawaii's largest nature preserves with two marine sanctuaries, the resort celebrates the environment and the culture of the island. Swanky suites, high-end dining and poolside cabanas round out the resort's offerings.

  • Best Maui Hotels: Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa
    Best Maui Hotels: Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa
    Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and SpaCourtesy Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa
  • Would you believe there are penguins on Maui? The Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa is the only hotel in Hawaii with a penguin habitat. The African penguin thrives in tropical weather and the birds make their home in the hotel's lobby, where guests can watch them splash and swim. The oceanfront hotel is located on Kaanapali Beach and offers a spa and activities like lei making and art tours. It's also convenient to snorkeling at Black Rock and shopping in Lahaina.

  • Best Maui Hotels: Travasaa Hana Maui
    Best Maui Hotels: Travasaa Hana Maui
    Travasaa Hana Maui ResortCourtesy Travasaa Hana Maui
  • At the end of the long drive to Hana, the last thing you'll want to do is turn around and head back to central Maui. A night at Travassa Hana will help melt away the driving stress of the day. Located on the eastern coast of Maui, the resort prides itself on having no clocks, TVs or radios, creating a no-rush, no-worries atmosphere. Learn the art of Hawaiian bamboo pole fishing, take a smoothie mixology class where you can peddle the resort's "blender bike" to spin up your smoothie, or enjoy relaxing yoga and a Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage.

  • Best Maui Hotels: Grand Wailea Resort
    Best Maui Hotels: Grand Wailea Resort
    Grand Wailea ResortCourtesy Grand Wailea Resort
  • With the world's first water elevator, rope swings, caves, waterfalls and a plethora of pools (nine to be exact), Maui's Grand Wailea Resort raises the bar on family fun. The resort on Maui's southwest shore may cater to the kiddie crowd, but if you crave something quieter, check out the 5,000 square foot adults only Hibiscus pool, take a pilates lesson on the lawn, enjoy a relaxing couples massage in an outdoor hale. Top off your day with dinner a deux at Humuhumunukunukuapuaa, the resort's signature restaurant, named for the tongue-twisting state fish.

  • Best Maui Hotels: The Paia Inn
    Best Maui Hotels: The Paia Inn
    The Paia InnCourtesy The Paia Inn
  • Located in Paia Town on Maui's north shore, the five-room Paia Inn is a hidden gem. The boutique hotel makes an ideal jumping off point for the Road to Hana, watching the sunrise at Haleakala and exploring nearby Hookipa Beach. Just don't expect luxurious amenities. You won't find chilled towels by the pool — heck, you won't even find a pool — but if you prefer a local and laid-back vibe, the inn is a perfect, no-frills fit.

  • Best Maui Beaches: D.T. Fleming Beach
    Best Maui Beaches: D.T. Fleming Beach
    D.T. Fleming BeachLori Barbely
  • This Maui beach offers ample parking, picnic tables, barbecue grills, restrooms, outdoor showers and a lifeguard station, making this west shore strand suitable for families. Though it serves as the main beach for nearby The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua resort, the beach's size makes it easy to find your own patch of sand, and the Ironwood trees that line the back of the beach are perfect for those than prefer a little shade. In the winter, the beach is popular with surfers thanks to the large swells.

  • Best Maui Beaches: Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach
    Best Maui Beaches: Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach
    Kaihalulu Red Sand BeachZach Stovall
  • It's not easy to find (which makes it a popular spot for nudists) but Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach in Hana is a picturesque spot made of red and black lava cinders. Go early to find parking and leave the kiddos at home — the tricky trail to the beach is narrow and steep. Having to wear sturdy shoes for the hike is worth it: the lava rock wall creates a protected cove for snorkeling, while the unique sand color is the perfect backdrop for selfies.

  • Best Maui Beaches: Big Beach
    Best Maui Beaches: Big Beach
    Big BeachShutterstock
  • Big Makena Beach, also knowns as Big Beach or Oneloa Beach, is one of the island's longest strands. Located on south Maui, far from the resorts, the beach can accommodate large crowds and has plenty of parking. Restrooms are available and food trucks are frequently on hand for a midday meal. The north end of Big Beach is bordered by the Puu Olai cinder cone. Just on the other side of the cone, nude sun bathers gather on Little Beach, which requires a bit of a trek to visit.

  • Best Maui Beaches: Kaanapali Beach
    Best Maui Beaches: Kaanapali Beach
    Kaanapali BeachShutterstock
  • A wide crescent of white sand stretching for 3 miles along Maui's western shore, Kaanapali Beach is home to Black Rock, known in Hawaiian as Puu Kekaa. The beach fronts a popular strip of hotels and restaurants, and while the beach does get crowded, it's large enough that you can find your own space. By day, Black Rock is home to crystal-clear snorkeling with frequent turtle sightings. At sunset, the nightly Cliff Dive Ceremony at Black Rock features a ceremonial tiki torch lighting, Hawaiian chanting, blowing of the conch shell and a flower lei offering made to ancestors. The spectacle culminates with a diver taking the plunge off Black Rock into the ocean.

  • Best Maui Beaches: Pailoa Beach
    Best Maui Beaches: Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach
    Pailoa BeachShutterstock
  • Located in Waianapanapa State Park along the Road to Hana, Pailoa Beach may not be the best beach on Maui for swimming, but the postcard views featuring jagged black lava rock shoreline contrasted with the vivid blue ocean make up for it. (Waianapanapa means "glistening fresh water" in Hawaiian.) We suggest enjoying the scenery only, as the surf can be strong, jellyfish are frequent and the black "sand" is mostly small black rocks.

  • Best Things to Do in Maui: Sunrise at Haleakala
    Things to Do in Maui: Sunrise at Haleakala
    Sunrise at HaleakalaShutterstock
  • You're going to have to get up early. Really early. But of all the early morning wake up calls we've experienced, we all agree that watching the sunrise at Haleakala is well worth the ridiculously early alarm. Haleakala means "house of the rising sun," and there's no better place to watch the sunrise than atop this dormant volcano. Gas up your rental car the night before and plan more time than you need to drive up the switchback road to the summit. And pack a parka because it's shockingly chilly at the summit in the predawn hours. Didn't bring a coat? Hotel blankets are perfect for bundling up, just be sure to return them to your room so you don't get hit with surprise charges at check out.

  • Best Things to Do in Maui: Drive the Road to Hana
    Things to Do in Maui: Road to Hana
    Road to HanaZach Stovall
  • Though Hana is only 52 miles from Kahului and the drive can be made in two hours with no stops, the Road to Hana is truly about the journey. Rent a car — make it a convertible or jeep for a fun, top-down experience — and plan to spend the day making your way along the Hana Highway. Get an early start and stop in Paia to gas up and stock up on water and snacks. Share the driving as you snake your way through the 620 curves and 59 bridges along the way. Be sure to pack swim gear, sneakers, sunscreen, bug spray, and your camera to explore waterfalls, beaches, rainforests and panoramic views along the way.

  • Best Things to Do in Maui: Snorkel with Sea Turtles
    Things to Do in Maui: Snorkel with Sea Turtles
    Sea turtles are abundant in Maui's watersShutterstock
  • There's something special about snorkeling with sea turtles, and Maui offers plentiful opportunities to see these majestic creatures. Turtles feed on sea plants, which are typically found near lava rocks in the ocean. This is why spots like Black Rock in Kaanapali, Napili Bay and Kihei's Kamaole 3 have frequent sightings. Grab your fins and your GoPro to snap some underwater shots and wait in the water near the rocky outcroppings to see them. And we know it's tempting, but please don't feed, chase or touch the turtles or any other marine life.

  • Best Things to Do in Maui: Alii Kula Lavender Farm
    Things to Do in Maui: Alii Kula Lavender Farm
    Alii Kula Lavender FarmLori Barbely
  • A sweet-smelling diversion on the slopes of Haleakala, the nearly 14-acre Alii Kula Lavender Farm is home to approximately 45 varieties of lavender and some 55,000 lavender plants. While lavender is not native to Maui, it thrives in Kula's Mediterranean-like climate. Daily guided tours of this working farm are available and you can even pre-order a picnic lunch, complete with a lavender-infused dessert, to enjoy among the plants. Stop in the store before you leave and snag some lavender-flavored coffee or a lavender travel candle.

  • Best Things to Do in Maui: Surfing Goat Dairy
    Things to do in Maui: Surfing Goat Dairy
    Surfing Goat DairyLori Barbely
  • Quirky and offbeat, Surfing Goat Dairy is one of our favorite things to do in Maui. Located in Kula on the slopes of Haleakala, this working dairy farm has been producing award-winning goat cheese for more than nine years. Tour the farm, feed the goats and sample the goods. With fun flavors like Mango Supreme and Purple Rain, which features Maui lavender, this is like no other goat cheese you've tasted. It's easy to overindulge but be sure to save some room for their signature Chocolate Goat Cheese Truffles. You won't be sorry.

  • Best Maui Restaurants: Aunty Sandy's Banana Bread Stand
    Best Maui Restaurants: Aunty Sandy's Banana Bread Stand
    Aunty Sandy's Banana BreadLori Barbely
  • The Road to Hana is long and winding and the waterfall hikes along the way make for hungry work. The solution? Aunty Sandy's Banana Bread. Established in 1995, Aunty's stand is located on the Keanae peninsula around mile marker 16. Today the business is run by her daughter, Tammy, and serves up warm banana bread, fruit smoothies, burgers and sandwiches for hungry Hana-bound customers.

  • Best Maui Restaurants: Sam Sato's
    Best Maui Restaurants: Sam Sato's
    Sam Sato's Dry MeinLori Barbely
  • No, your GPS has not led you astray. Sam Sato's is in the middle of a business industrial park in Wailuku, which means you'll be rubbing elbows with locals looking for a tasty, cheap meal. Beyond its unique location, you should be prepared for two things: to pay in cash and to wait in line. The dry mein is worth the wait: A bowl of seasoned saimin-like noodles is served alongside a bowl of broth for dipping. Slurp till your heart's content, then top your meal off with manju, a traditional Japanese pastry, or one of the restaurant's popular fruit turnovers.

  • Best Maui Restaurants: Haliimaile General Store
    Best Maui Restaurants: Haliimaile General Store
    Sashimi Napoleon from the Haliimaile General StoreLori Barbely
  • Once a camp store for pineapple plantation workers, Haliimaile General Store was taken over by Chef Bev Gannon, who retained the name and reimagined the space as a restaurant. Tucked among pineapple fields on the lower slopes of Haleakala, HGS features American food with Asian flair. Paniolo ribs, yuzu-kabayaki glazed salmon and even a take on Hawaii's classic plate lunch are all staple menu items, but the Sashimi Napoleon, featuring sashimi ahi and edamame hummus, is a fan favorite.

  • Best Maui Restaurants: Kula Lodge & Restaurant
    Best Maui Restaurants: Kula Lodge & Restaurant
    Banana Macadamia Nut PancakesShutterstock
  • Nestled on the slopes of Haleakala, Kula Lodge & Restaurant is the ideal stopping point for breakfast after watching the sun rise. The pre-dawn hours on Haleakala can be surprisingly chilly, so a strong cup of coffee and a serving of Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes topped with coconut syrup are the perfect breakfast to fill you up — and warm you up — before you head back to your resort.

  • Must-Try Maui Food: Shaka Pops
    Must-Eat Maui Food: Shaka Pops
    POG (passionfruit, orange, guava) popsicle from Shaka PopsLori Barbely
  • Handmade in small batches with fresh ingredients, Shaka Pops are fruity, frozen treats that are the perfect complement to a Maui beach day. With flavors like Pineapple Ginger, Maui Mocha and Mango Habanero, these gourmet ice pops use local produce and are lightly sweetened using natural cane sugar. Pops can be found in many locations on Maui including Foodland grocery stores, Whaler's General Store and even a mobile stand near the Hana Ranch Store.