Welcome to my article on the beautiful Maui! I’m Jessie – the girl behind @jessies__journeys. I grew up in good ol’ Stockton, California. Much of my upbringing was spent in a gymnastics facility, as I was a competitive gymnast until my junior year of high school. Weekends were spent traveling for competitions and sometimes I got to compete in Hawaii!
I think that is what sparked my interest in travel because I thrived on being on-the-go. I was always packing my gymnastics bag heading from one place to the next. The pressure that came with being a competitive gymnast made it harder to enjoy such locations. Nevertheless, I actually enjoyed the non-stop hustle and bustle that came with gymnastics.
After finishing my undergraduate degree, I made the move to Seattle in pursuit of a masters degree. It was this relocation to the Pacific Northwest that led me to fall in love with adventure. Ultimately, it led to what I call my “healthy addiction”. Once I finished my masters degree and entered the corporate world, I felt like I had nothing but time on my hands.
I was so used to juggling a million things at once that for the first time in my life I struggled to find things to fill my time. In true Pacific Northwest fashion, I tried out a hike or two and the outdoors quickly became my safe space – the place that made me feel most alive! It was this newfound love that inspired my recent trips and pushed me to visit US national parks.
Two Weeks in the Beautiful Maui
I have had the pleasure of visiting Hawaii a few times now. I view it as a place that I can go back to time and time again because there is just so much to see and do. Hawaii has everything I love: beautiful beaches, lush jungle, epic hikes and plenty of activities to fill up my adventure cup. I visited Maui as a kid and didn’t remember much, so I wanted to go back.
We actually had our trip to Maui planned for April, 2020 but this was right in the middle of when the world was shutting down due to COVID-19. So we rescheduled the trip for October, 2020 hoping that the pandemic would have been over by then. Ultimately, we pushed the trip out again until April, 2021. We wanted to fully enjoy Maui and this date was a lot more suitable.
It was definitely worth the wait and provided me with extra time to plan the trip. Sometimes the anticipation of a trip is half the fun and I do really enjoy the panning process. We spent two weeks in Maui and I would probably argue that it was the best two weeks of my life! I am still having Maui withdrawals. I’m glad I have so many photos to look back on fondly.
I traveled with my boyfriend, Luke. Originally I wanted to go for a month but we compromised and met in the middle. Because we had a decent amount of time, I think we were able to see most of the island. Some of our favorite experiences included the Trilogy snorkel cruise to Lanai, sunrise viewing at the Haleakala Crater and taking the amazing Road to Hana.
My Favorite Place in Maui: The Road to Hana
The entire island of Maui is a dream vacation destination, but I think the Road to Hana was my favorite place. However, it wasn’t specifically Hana that was my favorite place, rather the whole journey to get there. This road is an adventure seekers paradise – the scenery changes so vastly over such a short period of time.
There are incredible beaches (including a red sand and black sand beach), waterfalls you can swim in, arboretums with huge rainbow eucalyptus trees, hiking trails and swimming holes. It truly is something you likely have never experienced. The road is a bit intimidating and sketchy in parts, so I encourage readers to do their own research beforehand. If you are comfortable, I recommend dedicating an entire day for the Road to Hana.
8 Best Things To Do in Maui
The most amazing thing about Maui is that some of the best things on the island are free. For example, the hiking is free, the beaches are free, and you can enjoy and experience a lot of the island without splashing heaps of money around. Below are my top eight favorite adventures on the island.
- Immerse Yourself in the Iao Valley: A lush valley in west Maui that features tall mossy peaks and streams. This was the perfect spot for me to immerse myself in the Maui jungles. Highly recommended!
- Hike the Waihee Ridge Trail: One of the most scenic hiking trails on the island of Maui. The views were incredible! You get to see 360 degree views of the ocean and expansive green ridges along this four mile hike.
- Snorkel at Kapalua Bay: Our favorite snorkeling spot was Kapalua Bay Beach. The waves were calm and the fish swam really close to the shore. This is a great beginners beach to go snorkeling in Maui.
- Experience the Honolua Forest: This was one of the most beautiful sights in Maui. You walk through an enchanted forest with large mossy trails. The trail leads to Honolua Bay – another great spot for snorkeling.
- Visit Haleakala Crater for Sunrise/Sunset: If you want to experience being above the clouds, you have to watch the sunrise at Haleakala. Tickets are hard to come by, so if you are unable to snag them, drive up Haleakala Crater for sunset. Not tickets are required for sunset other than a national park pass or day pass, both of which are easy to get.
- Go Beach Hopping in Maui: This seems like a given but I strongly encourage visitors to explore a handful of different beaches. There are so many great beaches on the island and they all have different things to offer. Our favorite swimming beach was May’s Beach in Kaanapali and our favorite sunset beach was Secret Cove Beach in Wailea.
- Drive the Famous Road to Hana: If you are visiting Maui this is a must! The Road to Hana refers to a 64-mile long stretch of road that takes you to the small town of Hana in east Maui. It’s definitely the journey of this drive and not necessarily the destination that makes it such an incredible experience. The road features 620 curves and 46 one-lane bridges. Some of my favorite places in Maui were located on this drive.
- Swim in a Maui Waterfall: There is something really special about the waterfalls on this island and you can swim in lots of them! Most of the falls are located on the Road to Hana. For example, Twin Falls is located at the beginning of the road and makes for a great swimming spot!
Favorite Memory from Visiting Maui
My favorite memory from our trip to Maui was experiencing marine life! During our snorkel cruise, we spotted a pod of dolphins and they swam near the boat for quite a long way. Dolphins are my favorite animal and I had never seen so many at one time. It was such a special experience!
The following day we were snorkeling and swam with a handful of turtles as well. I was so excited to swim close to turtles. Luckily, I had my GoPro with me – so I caught a really good video of them. I have watched the video probably 50 times since we have been home. If you are lucky enough to see turtles in Maui, be sure to keep your distance and never touch them.
People, Culture & Food of Maui
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to meet many locals during our visit. All the people I conversed with were relatively new to the island, likely choosing to retire in Maui. As a visitor, it’s important to be mindful that the locals are protective of their land and rightfully so. They want visitors to treat the island as their own, by helping to preserve the Hawaiian land. That being said, the locals are typically very friendly, accepting and affectionate.
In terms of the food, I loved the cuisine of Maui! We have a decent food scene in Seattle and so I went to Maui with quite high expectations. A lot of planning I did for this trip involved restaurant reservations because dining is still only at 30% capacity on the island due to the pandemic. If fine dining is important to you when visiting Maui, I highly recommend planning ahead and booking reservations weeks before you go.
We ate fresh fish almost every single day in Maui. I loved the Mahi Mahi and even had a bit of Poke that I really enjoyed. My favorite restaurants were Mama’s Fish House and Fleetwood’s on Front Street. I have an entire blog post dedicated to the food scene in Maui on my website and I go into depth on each restaurant. So I recommend reading that for more info.
Where to Stay on the Island
We split our time in Maui between two different destinations on the island, Kihei (south) and Kaanapali (west). We really enjoyed having these two different experiences. Even though we had a rental car, it still takes quite a bit of time to drive around the island. So depending on your activities and the type of Maui experience you want, choosing your location is important.
We are more budget travelers in terms of accommodation and we stayed in condos. If you are wanting to stay in a condo then Vrbo and Airbnb are great options (and likely the most affordable). Accommodation in Maui can get pretty pricey. Even the condos can be expensive, so keep that in mind.
Based on our experience, I recommend staying in Wailea/Kihei or Kaanapali. A lot of Maui’s best food scene is in Lahaina. Therefore, staying in Kaanapali was convenient because it was about a five or ten minute drive to all the great restaurants. We also loved the beaches near Kaanapali.
If you are wanting to splurge on a fancy hotel, the town of Wailea is a great option. Wailea/Kihei is also more central to a lot of the activities we did. We enjoyed being in that part of the island. For accommodation in Wailea, I have heard nothing but great things! Grand Wailea, Andaz and Four Seasons all look amazing. For Kaanapali, The Westin is a fantastic option. Just remember that these bigger hotels are going to cost a shiny penny!
Need to Know Before you Go
I think my first tip is to not feel the need to book every single excursion or over plan your trip, and this is coming from a type A planner. I think it’s good to go to the island with a list of things you want to see and do, but part of experiencing the Hawaiian culture is to go with the flow. So I think a loose plan is better than a strict plan. This allows you to adjust your itinerary based on the weather or how you are feeling in the moment.
My second tip is to really explore the island. Sometimes it’s easy to just visit the beach closest to your hotel. But there are hidden gems all throughout the island. There are so many beautiful things to see just from driving around. Challenge yourself to check out different beaches across the island.
Because of COVID-19, traveling to Maui is more difficult right now and the rules keep changing. Because of this, it’s imperative to keep up with the rules and guidelines for Maui County Covid-19 Travel Information. When we visited in April, we had to present negative COVID test results from a Maui trusted partner that were taken 72 hours before our flight. I have read that they are now COVID testing people when they land in Maui as well.
My final tip is to book your rental car in advance. The island is experiencing a huge shortage of cars which is causing the rate of rental cars to skyrocket! This is because they shipped a large number of cars off the island when the pandemic hit. I recommend renting a car when visiting Maui, so be sure to book as soon as you know your travel dates.