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10 Must-Read Maui Travel Tips for First-Timers

10 Must-Read Maui Travel Tips for First-Timers

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Are you visiting Maui for the first time? Check out these amazing Maui travel tips for first-timers that will save you stress!
This list of Maui travel tips was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Maui is one of my personal favorite places to visit in the world. I’ve visited Hawaii more than 40 times and about 1/3 of those Hawaii trips involved time on Maui.

Since I love Maui so much, I figured I should write up some of my top Maui tips and tricks that I’ve learned from traveling there SO many times over the years.

I hope this post helps you plan your perfect Maui family vacation!

Traveling to Maui Tips For an Awesome Trip

Planning Your Maui Visit

Planning your trip to Maui is super exciting! When you’re thinking about visiting Maui, the best time to visit Maui is really important.

Best Time to Visit Maui

The best time to visit Maui is usually from April to May and from September to November. During these months, the weather is really nice and there aren’t as many tourists. This means you can enjoy the beaches and activities without big crowds.

Image of Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland with an I Survived the Road to Hana sign on Maui
Check the weather before driving the famous Road to Hana. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Personally, I like to visit in May because the weather is usually fabulous and it’s right between Spring Break and summer vacation.

Also, you might find better deals on hotels and flights compared to the busy winter and summer seasons. So, planning your trip in these months can make your Maui vacation even better!

How Many Days in Maui?

If you’re wondering how many days to spend in Maui for your first trip, a good rule is at least one week. This gives you enough time to see the island’s top spots without rushing.

You can spend a couple of days exploring the Road to Hana, where you’ll see amazing waterfalls and beaches. Set aside a day for a snorkeling trip to see colorful fish. Don’t forget to relax on Maui’s beautiful beaches too!

With a week, you can also try different Hawaiian foods and maybe even learn to surf. A week in Maui will give you a mix of adventure and relaxation!

Where to Stay in Maui

Ka’anapali, on Maui’s West Shore, is one of the best areas to stay on Maui. It’s about 40 minutes from Kahului Airport but sometimes can take much longer, especially if there’s traffic. We were once stuck for 12 hours because of a brush fire that closed the highway.

The West Shore is great if you want a relaxing Hawaiian vacation at a resort. But, if exploring Maui is your plan, consider staying in Kihei. It’s central and has great condos.

Wailea is one of the most popular places to stay on Maui.

For luxury stays, Wailea is perfect. It’s home to 5-star resorts and amazing luaus, and it’s only 25 minutes from the airport. Wailea is popular with celebrities and has lots of activities like snorkeling, surfing, golfing, and kayaking. You can also enjoy stunning Maui sunsets there.

If you’re on a budget, Kihei has many vacation properties to choose from, making it an ideal spot for your Maui trip.

Getting Around Maui

When you visit Maui, or any Hawaiian island, it’s a good idea to rent a car. A lot of the fun things to do in Maui need you to drive there, and there aren’t many buses or trains around.

Also, not many tours will pick you up from where you’re staying, unlike in Waikiki.

A cool tip is to get the Maui Shaka App. It’s like having a tour guide in your car! It tells you about the places you drive by. Plus, it’s not too expensive and you can explore at your own speed.

For families, it’s smart to bring your own car seat. You know it fits your kid and they’ll be comfy in it.

Having your own rental car means you can decide how long to stay in places without having to plan everything in advance.

A great place to rent a car in Maui is Discount Hawaii Car Rental. They have good deals from big car rental companies. It’s where my family books our Maui rental car.

Taxis and Ubers

Public transportation on Maui isn’t as robust as on Oahu. You can get taxis and Ubers to take you to/from the airport, but they might not be as easy to get around town.

Popular Maui Day Trips

Road to Hana

Many people don’t realize how long it takes to drive the Road to Hana in Maui. The road is twisty with narrow bridges, and often people drive slowly because they’re not used to it.

Image of a Hana lava tube on Maui. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland
There’s a cool lava tube worth exploring in Hana. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

But reaching Hana isn’t the main goal. Hana is a cute, small town, but the real excitement is the journey there. The Road to Hana is famous for its amazing views, like beautiful waterfalls, gardens, lookouts, and secret beaches.

Oh, and the fruit stands are amazing! You’ll find the tastiest Hawaiian banana bread there.

Since there’s so much to see, some folks even stay overnight in Hana to have more time. If driving yourself seems tough, you can always join a tour that takes you through the Road to Hana.

Haleakala National Park

When you go to Maui, try to catch the sunrise at Haleakala on your first day. It’s a stunning sight and a must-do on Maui. Many people feel it’s a really special experience.

Image of Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland at Haleakala Crater at sunrise.
Bundle up if you do the Haleakala sunrise! Photo credit: Julie Wirtz

Because of the time difference from the mainland, you might wake up early anyway. Hawaii is 2-3 hours earlier than the West Coast, so it’s easier to get up for the sunrise.

If you’re staying in Ka’anapali, you’ll need to leave your hotel by 3:30 a.m. to reach the summit in time for the sunrise.

Plan to visit Haleakala on your first or second day in Maui. Remember, it’s really cold up there in the morning. Wear warm clothes, like coats and long pants. You can even take blankets from your hotel to keep cozy.

You can drive up Haleakala yourself (just make a reservation) or join a tour to see the sunrise.

Book Maui Attractions & Tours in Advance

When planning your Maui vacation, it’s smart to book attractions and tours in advance. One must-see spot is the black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park. Remember, you need a reservation to visit this unique place.

If you’re visiting during whale season (usually from December to April), don’t miss a whale-watching tour. These tours give you an up-close look at these majestic creatures. Booking a boat tour or a helicopter tour is also a fantastic way to see Maui’s beauty from different perspectives.

Image of hula dancers at Feast at Mokapu on Maui. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland
I think the Feast at Mokapu is the best Maui luau. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

A luau is a fun and cultural experience you shouldn’t miss. It’s a night of Hawaiian food, music, and dance.

But, it’s best not to book a luau on your first night in Maui, as you might be too tired from your journey. Instead, plan it for a day when you can fully enjoy it.

Lastly, a trip to Haleakala National Park is unforgettable, especially for sunrise or sunset – just make sure to reserve your spot early!

What to Wear in Maui

When packing for Maui, you’ll want to keep it simple and versatile. Here’s a quick Maui packing list to help you out.

For beach days, pack swimsuits, flip-flops, and a cover-up or light t-shirts. Don’t forget a hat and sunglasses to protect you from the sun!

Image of Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland and her mom on Maui
I recommend packing lightweight dresses.

If you’re planning to attend a luau, something colorful and comfortable like a sundress or a Hawaiian shirt with shorts is perfect.

For exploring places like Haleakala National Park, bring comfortable walking shoes, and remember, it can get chilly up there, so a light jacket or sweater is a good idea. Also, include some long pants and a sturdy pair of shoes if you plan on hiking trails.

And, of course, always have sunscreen and a reusable water bottle with you to stay safe and hydrated during your adventures in Maui!

Dining in Maui Tips

Dining on Maui is a tasty adventure! One of the top places to eat is Mama’s Fish House. It’s famous for fresh seafood and amazing ocean views.

For a yummy meal that won’t break the bank, check out Cafe O’Lei. They have delicious dishes that everyone will love. Merriman’s is another great spot, known for its farm-to-table menu and stunning sunsets.

Don’t forget to try Ululani’s Shave Ice for a sweet treat. It’s super popular and perfect for cooling off on a sunny Maui day. These restaurants are just a few reasons why eating out on Maui is so much fun!

What to Eat in Maui

Get ready for some amazing food in Maui! This island is full of delicious Hawaiian dishes that you’ll love.

You have to try poke, a local favorite made with super fresh fish and yummy seasonings. Fish tacos are another must-try, filled with tasty Hawaiian flavors.

Image of a sandwich at the Mill House on Maui. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland
There’s no shortage of amazing food on Maui! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

And you can’t miss a Hawaiian plate lunch – it’s usually got rice, macaroni salad, and a choice of yummy meat like teriyaki chicken or traditional kalua pork.

These are just some of the super yummy foods you’ll find in Maui that will make your taste buds super happy!

Shopping Tips in Maui

Shopping on Maui is a fun experience! You can find unique Maui souvenirs to remember your trip.

Check out the local farmers markets for fresh fruits and homemade goodies. It’s a great way to taste Maui’s delicious local foods. There’s also the Maui Swap Meet. It’s the perfect place to support local small businesses.

Image of Hawaiian print bags at the Maui Swap Meet. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland
We love finding deals at the Maui Swap Meet. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

For more shopping, head to Whaler’s Village. It’s a cool place with lots of shops and restaurants right by the beach.

Another awesome spot is the Shops at Wailea. It’s a bit fancier and has lots of different stores. Whether you’re looking for cool T-shirts, handmade jewelry, or tasty treats, you’ll find something special in Maui’s markets and shopping centers!

Safety and Awareness in Maui

When you visit Maui, exploring its beautiful hiking trails and driving the famous Hana Highway are must-dos. But remember, safety is key!

Always stay on marked trails and respect private property signs. Maui’s trails can be tricky, so wear proper shoes and carry water.

If you’re renting a car to drive the Hana Highway, drive carefully. This road has lots of curves and one-lane bridges. It’s different from driving in major resort areas or big cities. Always check road conditions and weather reports before heading out.

By being aware and respectful, you can have a safe and fantastic adventure in Maui’s stunning outdoors!

Maui Weather

When you’re planning a trip to Maui, it’s good to know about the weather, especially if you love outdoor activities like hiking. Maui has different areas, each with its own kind of weather.

In East Maui, you’ll find the famous Road to Hana. It’s a rainforest area, so it’s often wet and lush – great for waterfall hikes.

I had to snap a selfie with this tiki on Maui! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

South Maui, including places like Kihei and Wailea, usually has sunny and dry weather, perfect for beach days.

West Maui, where places like Lahaina and Ka’anapali are, also gets lots of sun, making it great for snorkeling and swimming.

The North Shore and central Maui can be windy, which is great for windsurfing.

If you’re heading up to Haleakala National Park, remember it’s way up in the mountains. It can be really cold there, especially early in the morning or late at night, so bring warm clothes.

No matter where you go in Maui, there’s always something amazing to do, rain or shine!

Tips for Maui Travel FAQs

How long will it take to get from Kahului Airport to Wailea or Kaanapali?

Getting from Kahului Airport to Wailea takes about 30 minutes, and it takes around 45 minutes to reach Kaanapali.

Can I visit Haleakala National Park at sunset?

Yes, you can visit Haleakala National Park at sunset, and it’s a beautiful time to see the park!

Is it better to fly into Kahului or Kapalua airport?

Flying into Kahului Airport is generally better because it’s larger and has more flight options. Kapalua Airport is smaller and might be more convenient if you’re staying nearby.

Are there red sand beaches on Maui?

Yes, there are red sand beaches on Maui! One of the most famous is Kaihalulu Beach near Hana, but it’s tricky to access.

Is Iao Valley State Park worth visiting?

Iao Valley State Park is definitely worth visiting! It’s known for its lush scenery and the iconic Iao Needle rock formation.

Visiting Maui for the First Time Wrap-Up

Out of all of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui is a top family vacation spot attracting the most visitors. It’s full of popular attractions like the Road to Hana, Molokini Crater, and Haleakala National Park.

I hope these travel tips help you plan your first trip to Maui!

Looking for more Maui travel resources? Check out the 25 Things to do on Maui with Kids, 10 Best Family Resorts in Maui Worth Booking, Best Luau in Maui? Guide to the Top 11 Maui Luaus, The Perfect 3 Day Maui Itinerary with Kids, Ultimate Guide to Maui with Kids, and A Week in Maui: Itinerary for Families with Toddlers!

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