Top things to see and do in Maui; Our Maui itinerary

Earlier this month we were finally able to take our much anticipated trip to Hawaii. On this trip, we decided to visit the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Oahu, but we both agreed that our time on Maui was our favorite. Below I share our six-day Maui itinerary and an overview of the top things to see and do in Maui.

Haleakala Crater/National Park on Maui
Haleakala Crater/National Park on Maui

Day One – Arrival in Maui

If you are coming from the U.S., you will likely arrive in Maui in the late afternoon or early evening. And you will probably be pretty tired. Because we were traveling from Cleveland- which is in the Eastern Time Zone- it was a six-hour time difference in Maui. That meant that even though we got up at 3:30am to catch our 5:30am flight (with a connection in Dallas) and had been traveling for 15 hours, it was only 12:30pm when we arrived at the Kahului Airport. 

Because of this, I recommend not planning anything other than maybe an early dinner reservation for your first day on the island. We had a 4:45pm dinner reservation at Leilani’s on the Beach. It wasn’t anything special. I would recommend eating at the Hula Grill or HuiHui if you are staying in a Kaanapali Beach Resort as we did. They both have live music and hula and are highly rated. Unfortunately I just didn’t make reservations far enough in advance for these in-demand restaurants.

We stayed at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa on Kaanapali Beach which was very nice. After arriving at our hotel, we unpacked a bit and freshened up. We then explored the resort and beach a bit before walking to the Whaler’s Village Shopping area. We had dinner at Leilani’s and then headed back to our hotel because we were pretty exhausted. 

Day Two – Road to Hana

On your first full day in Maui, it’s pretty easy to start the day early because of the time difference. So we planned to visit the Road to Hana on our first full day because it is recommended that you start your drive around 7am (and the start of the drive is about an hour away from the Kaanapali Beach resorts). We were up around 4:30am which gave us plenty of time to get ready for the day, eat breakfast, and drive to the start of the road to Hana.

The Road to Hana is simply that- a road. It just happens to be a very narrow, winding road along the island’s northeastern most coast that is primarily made of steep cliffs. As a result, the 64-mile road is somewhat treacherous and has 46 one-lane bridges and 620 curves. But along this nerve-wracking route are some of the most beautiful views on the island. We saw numerous waterfalls, coastal overlooks, native vegetation, and a bamboo forest. 

If you plan to travel the road to Hana, I recommend renting an economy or midsize car. I wouldn’t want to drive it in an over-sized SUV. There are also several companies who offer tours if you just want to sit back and enjoy the ride. Most people drive out and back in one day, but you can also choose to stay in Hana overnight so that you have a bit more time to explore. There are two major stops along the Hana Highway where you can get food and then several more in Hana town itself. I’ll post another blog post with our suggestions and experiences at various stops on the Road to Hana, but know that you can’t visit Maui without traversing this amazing route.

Day Three – Haleakala Crater and National Park

The Haleakala Crater was actually our favorite part of our trip. This dormant volcano makes you feel like you are on a different planet. You will have to pay $30 to enter the national park (unless you already did so the day before when visiting the other side of the park and the Oheo Gulch at the end of the road to Hana). You drive to the top of this volcano via a 10-mile zig-zagging road that takes about an hour from the very bottom. There are several different lookouts that you can stop at on the way and then two stops in the Summitt District with beautiful views and hiking trails.

While the Puu Ulaula Overlook at the very top of the summit has amazing views of the island, our favorite stop was at the nearby visitor’s center parking lot. There you can take a short, steep hike to see a stunning view of the crater and all of its amazing color and majesty. It is also from this stop that you can hike on the Sliding Sands Trail. While the entire trail is 11 miles, most people hike in about a mile and then turn around and hike back out. Doing this hike gives you a greater appreciation for the scope and beauty of this crater.

Because the summit of Haleakala is 10,000 feet above sea level, you will want to bring lots of water and some snacks for your visit. You will also want to make sure that you have sufficient sun protection. We found that the reef-safe sunscreen available in Hawaii is not as effective as the sunscreen that we typically use at home. Even though we applied sunscreen and wore wide-brimmed hats, I unfortunately got a bit of sunburn on my arms and shoulders. Brian escaped mostly unscathed because he was wearing a long-sleeved hiking shirt.

Many people make reservations to visit the summit for sunrise. If you are interested in doing this, you must secure a reservation 60 days in advance of your trip. We decided not to visit for sunrise because it is very crowded and cold and there are no guarantees that the weather will cooperate. You may, as many do, arrive at 3am only to see the sunrise view obscured by clouds and mist.

Day Four – Snorkel trip to Molokini Crater

Maui is supposed to have some of the best snorkeling in the world. And one of the best snorkel spots on Maui is the Molokini Crater. This small, crescent moon-shaped island is located about three miles from the island’s southwestern coast. So, at the recommendation of our guidebook, we booked a snorkel tour on a catamaran with Trilogy Maui. The tour we booked included stops at the Molokini Crater and Turtle Town along with cinnamon buns for breakfast and a BBQ chicken lunch.

The weather was a bit rough on the day of our excursion but we were excited to see some turtles and lots of amazing tropical fish. Lunch was better than expected and alcoholic beverages were included. The tour started at 7am and lasted about five and a half hours. 

Because we had reservations at Merriman’s Kapalua that evening, we returned to the hotel to shower and change, but if you wanted to enjoy the water a bit more, I would recommend visiting Makena Beach in the afternoon. This was the largest beach we encountered on Maui and it wasn’t very crowded. There is also supposed to be some good snorkeling there. 

Day Five – ‘Iao Valley State Park and Lahaina

Haleakala is actually one of two volcanoes on the island of Maui. While it is very difficult to get access to the summit of this second volcano,  Mauna Kahalawai, a visit to the ‘Iao Valley State Park on the southeast side of the summit is worth a visit. The Iao Valley State Park is an important historical site in Hawaiian history and is home to the ‘Iao Needle, a narrow rock formation caused by erosion. In Hawaiian culture, it is known as the phallic stone of Kanaloa, the god of the ocean.

Here, there is a short hike up to a lookout point and some side trails to a large stream and small waterfall. There is also a small garden. Because this is one of the wettest places in the world, the steps can be wet. Make sure you have appropriate footwear.

After spending a bit of time at the ‘Iao Valley, we spent the afternoon visiting the small town of Lahaina. This historic whaling village is probably most known for its iconic Banyan tree in the city center. Lahaina is on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to several historic buildings. A walk along Front Street is a must. One side of the street is made up of shops and art galleries and the other is a walkway overlooking the beach and sea beyond. We picked up most of our Maui souvenirs on our visit to Lahaina. My favorite stores included Sand People (where we purchased some locally made pearl jewelry) and Moonbow Tropics (where we purchased two Hawaiian shirts). 

After enjoying lunch and shopping in Lahaina, we returned to our hotel to shower and change before attending the Old Lahaina Luau. This luau was really amazing with beautiful costumes and music and great food. I really enjoyed trying the traditional Hawaiian courses but the main course (which included portions of mahi mahi, beef, and chicken) was also delicious. 

Day Six – Wailea Beach and Makena Beach

On our final day on Maui, we decided to explore the southwestern part of the island. We first visited Makena Beach. This beach was much larger than any beach we had seen on Maui. It’s a short walk from the parking lot to a massive and beautiful beach. We then visited Wailea Beach which we found small and crowded before grabbing lunch at a restaurant in the Shops at Wailea. From there, we headed to the airport for our flight to Oahu.

Additional Attractions

If we had had more time, I think that I would have planned to visit the Maui Pineapple Farm and take a pineapple plantation tour. The Maui Ocean Center is also highly recommended. I also wish I had allowed for a bit more time to enjoy the resort amenities and restaurants. We were happy to watch the cliff diving ceremony on Black Rock but didn’t really make enough time to enjoy the resort pools, hot tubs, or spa. 

Have you visited Maui before? What are your favorite attractions on Maui? 

I anticipate having multiple posts about our trip to Hawaii and specifically to Maui in the near future. In the meantime, if you are looking for travel inspiration, you might want to check out my posts on Norwegian Cruise Line or the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

I am so glad you visited us at Jack and Bax. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter (sign up available either on the right sidebar or at the bottom of the page). And please follow me on Instagram and Facebook so that you don’t miss any of my upcoming projects!

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