Maui, also known as the valley isle, has it all. Offering the best snorkel spots, waterfall havens, divine sunsets, and my favorite beach town in all of Hawai`i, you will not be disappointed. Clay and I have had the pleasure of taking two, three-day trips to Maui; the first focusing on East Maui with Clay’s cousin, Shannon, and his girlfriend, Caitlyn, last November. We had an action-packed trip in an attempt to explore the best of Maui! Clay and I enjoyed a second long-weekend on Maui just two weeks ago; this time focusing on West Maui and enjoying a more relaxed staycation in the beautiful Lahaina. On our inter-island sailing trip, we enjoyed a day’s layover in Honolua Bay, which is one of the best snorkeling spots on the island. The combination of these trips and experiences makes for the perfect seven days on the Valley Isle!
The Road to Hana
Spend a full day on Maui exploring the Road to Hana. With this being a popular destination, the expression “the earlybird gets the worm” holds true. Wake up bright and early and spend the day swimming at the base of waterfalls, eating banana bread, and exploring east Maui. (Our Air B and B in Haiku provided the perfect location for East Maui exploring.)
Tip: Despite what rental car companies say, complete the loop and drive the South Hana Highway. The topography is stunningly unique and beautifully impressive!
Snorkel Molokini Crater and Drive Up Haleakala for Sunset
Experiencing Molokini crater is a half-day, morning expedition – allowing plenty of time to explore more in the afternoon. Combining these two must-do’s is a great way to make the most of your time on Maui. In the early morning, make the drive to Maalaea and the Pacific Whale Foundation. With plenty of snorkeling adventures for beginners and veteran ocean-goers, you won’t be disappointed. Clay, Shannon, Caitlyn, and I were thrilled to snorkel at both Turtle Town and Molokini Crater. We couldn’t have been happier with our experience as ocean conditions were perfect. We got the opportunity to do a drift-snorkel from point A to point B in the clearest water just offshore of this stunning caldera.
With your snorkel adventure ending mid-day, pack up and head towards Haleakala. Despite being a short 45 miles away, the twists and turns take time as you weave your way above the clouds. Be prepared for the cold, as the wind and high altitude is bone-chilling. (Hawaii has made Clay and me weak to the cold, but nonetheless it is chilly!) We spent enough time at the summit to enjoy the views and snap some photos before descending Haleakala and enjoying another stunning sunset on the way back to sea level.
Tip: Book the Molokini Wild Side Eco-Adventure, and pack your puffy for Haleakala!
Visit the famed Peahi (Jaws), Make a pit stop in Paia, and explore Iao Valley
In the north-central area of Maui is Peahi, also known as Jaws. This is a world-famous surf break, a BIG wave surf break, that attracts surfers from all over the world in the winter months. With a short drive down a dirt road, this is a cool spot to check out regardless if these famed massive waves are breaking.
Just twenty minutes from Peahi is Paia – a fun, funky, small beach town with great food, shops, souvenirs, and a bohemian beach feel. Check out the Paia Fish Market for fresh grinds at great prices. And save room for dessert – gelato is everywhere!
A half hour’s drive west of Paia is Iao Valley. This sacred place in Hawaiian culture is a deep, lush valley. Take a short walk up to the observation platform and read about the history and the landscape along the way. Check out the winding trails by the stream and explore Maui’s lush jungle!
Tip: Once you ascend the short paved walkway, there is a dirt path just beyond the metal railing. Explore with caution, but this well-marked trail will offer stunning, off-the-beaten-path views of the Iao Needle.
Drive the West Maui Loop
The West Maui loop is a less-crowded version of the Road to Hana. Although there are fewer waterfall stops, the valleys are equally, if not more impressive. You’ll find an amazing snorkel spot at Honolua Bay where I swam with the largest sea turtle to date. A short, easy hike will take you down to the beautiful Olivine Pools. The scenery alone is reason enough to drive this loop.
The town of Lahaina is my favorite beach town in all of the Hawaiian islands. With Front Street providing plentiful restaurants and bars, live music can be found nightly. Art galleries, boutiques, and eateries decorate this lively street. This old whaling town was actually the center of the global whaling industry in the 19th century, and so has a quaint, historic feel to it. (The Charleston of Hawaii, anyone?!) Welcome to the land of sunsets.
Lahaina is a wonderful place to use as home-base as you explore West Maui and enjoy some rest and relaxation after actively exploring the island’s volcanoes, waterfalls, and caldera.
Take a day trip to Makena Beach and enjoy both Big Beach and Little Beach. Just an hour’s drive away, Makena beach is ranked the best beach on Maui with its crescent shape, fine sand, and stunning views. Enjoy a day in the sun and make your way back to Lahaina in time for another famous sunset, Mai Tai, and night of live music.
Kaanapali Beach is just several miles up the road from Lahaina. Be sure to bring your snorkel gear and check out Black Rock. Clay and I enjoyed a swim with a Spotted Eagle Ray in the crystal clear water just offshore this famed beach.
Tip: Park at the Whalers Village for easy, accessible parking to Kaanapali. With any small purchase at the shops you can get your parking ticket validated.
One of Lahaina’s famous restaurants includes Fleetwood’s on Front Street, owned by the drummer of Fleetwood Mac: Mick Fleetwood. Be sure to make a rooftop reservation in time to catch the sunset – enjoy the golden hour and those valley views.
Foodies and beer connoisseurs; be sure to make a stop at Maui Brewing for fresh, local beer and some of our favorites!
Lastly, make some time to relax, indulge, have no agenda, and stroll the streets. Check out the quaint little beaches just around the corner. You’ve made the most of Maui!
Tip: Look for Air B and B’s or VRBO’s within walking distance from Front Street. Clay and I had the most wonderful stay with Mike at his condo in Aina Nalu. With a choice of pools and grilling areas, a hot tub, and pool-side lounge areas all within a 5 minute walk to Front Street, we were thrilled!