Maui No Ka Oi. You’ll hear this local boast many times. And, indeed, visitors think Maui’s the best too. About 2.7 million of them came last year. Maui has topped the Conde Nast Traveler’s list of Best Islands in the U.S. for more than two decades in a row.
No wonder. Maui’s gifts are many — 81 beaches, four manicured resorts, 14 golf courses, a 10,000-foot volcano, half the world’s population of humpback whales and more than 750 species of reef fish. Vacationers play on, under and over the sea. They hike, bike, shop and explore cultural sites. Museums, historic churches, funky towns and farms all beckon for attention. We’re covering all of Maui Nui, which includes Moloka‘i and Lana‘i, as well as Hawaii’s second largest island.
Before you buy your airline tickets for Maui, check out the destination basics section on this Bindu Trips site. They tell you things to know before you book and buy, help you plan where to go and give you the backstory behind what you’ll see.
We’ll tell you how to make smart choices with a Vacation Planner 101, giving you the low-down on various island areas, where to stay to meet your budget and interests and how to get from point A to B.
Then we’ll get to Maui basics, as in beaches that rim the island like a string of pearls. The itinerary gives a rundown on the island’s sandy strands and coves of West, South and East Maui, as well as Moloka‘i and Lana‘i. We’ll tell you the best beaches for snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing, Boogie boarding, walking or just stretching out on the sand.
The Road to Hana details one of the earth’s legendary drives. The itinerary provides practical hints about what to take with you, and clues about where to stop for waterfalls, short hikes, a hidden churchyard with a celebrity’s grave and just drop-dead gorgeous views.
Some people think the trip of a lifetime is biking down Haleakala. Not up to that white-knuckle ride? We’ll show you lots of ways to enjoy this 10,000-foot mountain that makes up half of Maui and dominates the view from many places on the island.
===> See the RELATED links below to explore more local content.
Want to meet locals? One of the best ways is visit the many agricultural attractions that have opened for visitors. Down on the Farm takes you from a pineapple plantation to a goat dairy, winery, and an organic farm where you’ll pick the lettuce for lunch. At another farm, sit on the lanai and taste soursop, jackfruit, liliko‘i and other delicious things you’ve never heard of back in Toledo. And you’ll taste the results of Maui’s farm-to-fork movement.
We’ll help you appreciate the hula and ‘ukulele and search for traces of the ancient Polynesians who first settled here in the Maui at Its Most Hawaiian itinerary.
Of all the Hawaiian Islands, Maui may offer the most variety. You can windsurf at Kanaha Beach, golf at Kapalua’s famed Plantation Course, attend the King Kamehameha Day parade in Lahaina, or dine on Peter Merriman’s Keahole lobster. But take time to just “be” on Maui. Feel the soft air settle on your shoulders like a cashmere shawl. Watch the sunset from Lahaina’s seawall dazzles in a blaze of orange, gold and magenta. And as the sun drops below the horizon, you’ll cheer along with others watching.
Maybe it’s for the sun, or just for the sheer joy of being on Maui.
Maui at its Most Hawaiian … finding authentic culture should be a no-brainer
Maui Down on the Farm … where farm-to-fork dining begins
Maui For Families … multi-generational repeat visitors love this friendly island
Maui For First Timers … getting started with Maui trip planning
Maui Mountain High on Haleakala … adventure and awe in the ‘House of the Sun’
Maui’s Beach Scene … walk, swim, surf on 81 beaches
Maui’s Road to Hana … a famed bucket-list drive for the ages
When to go to Maui? Anytime, of course. You can hardly hit a “wrong” time to visit this beautiful island, though some seasons are likely to have a bit better weather or perhaps be less crowded. And you might want to time a visit to coincide with one of Maui’s colorful festivals.
The average high and low temperatures vary only by about six degrees year-round. Rainfall has more variation with the heaviest falling December through March, and driest months June through September. Where you stay on Maui is much more important in predicting rainfall.
Packing is always easy for Maui. Even the most high profile restaurants are casual. You’ll never need thick fleece or woolens. A swimming suit and a few T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops will take you through a Maui vacation.
The basic information sections here will give you details for everything you need to know about visiting Maui and what to bring, or even better, leave at home.
Most Maui visitors spend a week on a vacation package, those on cruise ships probably a day or two. Maui lovers wish it were a lifetime. But a week should be enough to explore well the area where you are staying, and take day trips to one or two other spots. A week will even give you the chance to spend a day on Lana‘i or Moloka‘i via ferry. The ferry trip itself makes this worth considering.
Travelers on a vacation package will be staying in one location, likely West Maui between Kapalua and Ka‘anapali, or South Maui between Ma‘alaea Bay, Kihei and Wailea-Makena.
Independent travelers may choose to stay in two locations to fully explore them. I sometimes split a week between South and West Maui, or between one of them and Hana. I’ve done the same with Maui and Lana‘i or Moloka‘i. But never more than two places in one week. Maui isn’t a large island, but the roads climb mountains or hug a curving coastline and traffic is often heavy. You don’t want to spend all of your time driving.
And if you’re splitting your vacation between two islands, it takes time to get from one to the other. If you choose to fly, you may have to transfer through Honolulu since direct air service between Maui and its sister islands is somewhat limited. This is easily a half-day of travel. A ferry can be the better option, though be aware that the channel between the islands can get choppy in the late afternoon. I wouldn’t even try three islands in a week.
If you’re a cruise ship passenger on Maui for only a day, pick one destination, maybe the Road to Hana or Haleakala and explore it well, or one activity, golf or snorkeling. Save the rest of Maui Nui for your return trip.
The busiest time to travel to Maui is during winter and through the spring and again in summer, approximately between mid-December and August. Visitors from the U.S. mainland and Canada arrive by the planeload, seeking sunshine and a tropical escape from cold weather back home. During the summer, families take advantage of school vacations to come to the island. Hotel rates are generally higher during peak season, and the Christmas to New Year’s holiday period and spring break weeks are even more expensive. But even in high season there are deals to be had during slower times. Early January is one of the slowest times on Maui and room rates will reflect this. February also may see a visitor dip. The winter is whale season, a big incentive to come besides the warm weather, but be aware, winter and early spring tend to be Maui’s rainiest and coolest months, so not every day is a beach day.
Summer is the other high season for travel to Hawaii, when mainland families take vacations during the school holidays. The summer travel season extends from the Memorial Day holiday weekend in late May through the Labor Day holiday weekend in early September. Travel dips slightly during early June, then picks up again for the rest of the summer until mid-August, when kids head back to school.
That leaves very few months for off-season travel to Maui, a destination that stays reasonably busy year-round. You may find the best travel deals during the hot, dry, and windless months of September and October. Though rarely touching Hawaii, Pacific hurricanes blow in from Asia during the fall. The other, briefer shoulder seasons for Hawaii travel are between November and mid-December and from mid-April through May, when the weather is milder and cooler, though slightly wetter. For more information and advice about Maui’s weather and climate, click here.
Of course, there are exceptions to the general trends described above. Some hotels and resorts, as well as many vacation rentals, condominium complexes, bed-and-breakfasts, and campgrounds, are now charging the same rates year-round. Airfares go up and down throughout the year, and at almost any time you may find good deals, depending on airline fare sales, new routes and carriers, etc. The only time when airfares and accommodation and car-rental rates all rise simultaneously is during holiday periods like Christmas to New Year’s and around Easter in March or April. Things get so busy then that many hotels charge triple and book up a year in advance, flights are expensive and overbooked, and rental cars sell out completely.
Maui’s climate is generally subtropical with two seasons, one warmer and drier from spring through fall, and the wetter cooler months from late fall through spring. But because of Maui’s mountains and strong northeast tradewinds, its microclimates vary widely. You can travel from arid Kaupo to humid Hana in less that an hour, but you might think you’re on a different planet. Haleakala creates a rain shadow that stretches all the way to Lana‘i. In general, location on the island matters more than time of year in determining the weather.
Elevation matters, too. The Haleakala crater is dry as a desert, while its windward slopes get doused almost daily.
Temperature tends to be more constant, both from season to season and day to night.
Winter average highs are around 78 degrees, and summer near 85 degrees.
Nighttime temperatures rarely drop under low 60s. Tradewinds keep things cool and the humidity more tolerable. When they drop, as happens in early fall, the temperature soars.
Even though rainfall totals are higher in winter months, almost every day brings a shower or few drops of rain. But these brief showers also reward you with
rainbows and lots of clouds for interesting photographs.
Most resorts post a daily weather prediction. The Maui News has a good summary for various parts of the island. Online checkout the national weather service. http://www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl/pages/EM/?county=Maui
Maui’s Top 10 Annual Events
January: Hyundai Tournament of Champions (golf) at Plantation Course Kapalua
February (second week): Whale Tales Festival
February: Chinese New Year Celebration, Lahaina
March/April: Celebration of the Arts Kapalua
June: Ka Hula Piko, Moloka‘i
June: Kapalua Wine and Food Festival
June: Kamehameha Day Pa‘u Parade, Lahaina
June: Maui Film Festival at Wailea
June/August: Obon Festival
October: Halloween, Lahaina
National & State Holidays
January 1: New Year’s Day
January (third Monday): Martin Luther King Jr. Day
February (third Monday): Presidents Day
March 26: Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Day
March/April: Good Friday (two days before Easter Sunday)
May (last Monday): Memorial Day
June 11: King Kamehameha I Day
July 4: Independence Day
August 21: Statehood Day
September (first Monday): Labor Day
November (first Tuesday, in even-numbered years): Election Day
November 11: Veterans Day
November (fourth Thursday): Thanksgiving Day
December 25: Christmas
Hawaii is located in the Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone (HAST or UTC-10). To check the local time in Hawaii, click here.
Note that Hawaii does not observe Daylight Savings Time (DST), unlike most of the rest of the U.S.A.
All you will need are a swimsuit, shorts/T-shirt and flip-flops. And the shorts can be your oldest pair. Well, maybe this is a stretch, but Maui is very casual and the climate is kind, so you don’t need much. If your condo has a washer and dryer, you need even less.
In general, plan for warm, moderately humid weather. The jeans you wear for travel may be too hot for Maui. Think thin cotton and linen.
Let your activities determine your packing list.
Cover-up, especially for a resort or poolside restaurant
Hat or cap
Extras for activities:
Closed-toe shoes for hiking, ziplines or horseback riding
Long pants for same activities
Reef shoes for rocky beaches, though avoid putting feet on coral
Rash guard for snorkeling or surfing, though T-shirt works
Collared shirt for golf course
Light rain jacket
Same as daytime basics for most situations
Dress or skirt/top for women at posh restaurants
Collared shirt for men
Shawl or light sweater, especially for winter evenings
Aloha shirt, if you don’t have one, buy one
Camera to capture Maui’s beauty
People love Maui. It has the highest occupancy rate of any Hawaiian Island, reaching about 85 percent last year. That rate will certainly kindle envy in any tourist destination.
Maui is also the most expensive of any Hawaiian Island. Average 2015 room rates hovered around $350 per night, a budget busting figure for many people. But this is average. There are many reasonable condos with rates at about $150 and even lower if it’s not the Christmas-New Year’s period, or June through August. And then of course, there are the astronomical rates for a suite at the post POSH resorts at Wailea, Kapalua or Lana‘i.
Meals at high profile restaurants generally run the same as they might in San Francisco, or even slightly less. But you can eat very, very well and have more contact with locals at a cafe in Kahului, a Kihei Thai restaurant or a barbecue setup in a Hana front yard.
The sections listed here will tell you what to expect about Maui costs, and how to plan to stay, drive, shop and eat comfortably within your budget on Maui.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $10 to $25 per person
$$$ => Tickets over $25 per person
$ => Rooms less than $150 for a double room
$$ => Rooms $150 to $300 for a double room
$$$ => Rooms over $300 for a double room
$ => Up to $15 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$ => $15 to $30 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$$ => Over $30 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $10 to $50 per person
$$$ => Tickets over $50 per person
Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.
But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.
Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.
That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.
Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.
There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ‘em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill. There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.
Money Saving Tip: Costco, because of its behemoth size and price negotiating power, offers great low prices for most major car rental companies. Yes, you need to purchase an annual Costco membership first, but it more than pays for itself with what you’ll save with a typical week’s car rental (i.e. searches turn up a mid-size car through Costco for $225 and a comparable car through another aggregator for $325.)
Did You Know: Budget Car Rental offers drivers residing at the same address (i.e. unmarried partners or BFFs) complimentary extra driver coverage. Other car rental companies charge upwards of $10/day. By the way, when renting in California, there are no additional driver fees by law.
Hopefully, your trip to (or within) the U.S. goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?
Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.
Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation: About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.
Medical: Health services in the U.S. are expensive for the uninsured. This is a major reason to consider purchasing insurance. Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.
Trip Interruption: For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.
Travel Delay: Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.
Baggage: Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.
Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If you’re traveling to a hurricane-prone area during hurricane season, for example, you’ll probably want some coverage “just in case” … no matter what.
Your English language skills are also an important factor. Insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.
How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework; check around.
The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregator sites like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).
If you have pre-existing health conditions: Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.
Credit card insurance: If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.
The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.
For more information, visit the US Travel InsuranceAssociation.
The U.S. dollar fluctuates against other world currencies, but its value has steadily risen since early 2015. For current exchange rates, click here.
U.S. dollars come in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills. They are all the same size and color, so non-Americans have an understandably tricky time telling them apart. The $2 bill is in circulation but rarely seen.
Coins in wide circulation include the penny (one cent), nickel (five cents), dime (ten cents) and quarter (25 cents). The 50-cent and one-dollar coins are seen occasionally.
Smaller businesses may not accept $50 or $100 bills, so have twenties or smaller bills in hand. ATMs usually dispense $20 bills.
If you get money from an ATM machine, you may incur charges (often $2 or $3 per transaction). Check with your bank before you leave home to find out which, if any, U.S. banks will allow you to get cash without an extra charge. Many grocery stores, gas stations and major retail outlets let you get a limited amount of “cash back” when paying for your goods — this is an easy way to get cash while on the go. Bank of Hawaii has several branches on Maui.
Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout the U.S.
Don’t forget to call your debit and/or credit card company before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary. This goes for U.S. residents traveling out of state. If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card denied/declined when you try to use it in a destination far from home. You should also call your company immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card — which doesn’t make sense if it is lost or stolen. So make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access.
Recently, companies have been issuing cards with embedded chips that prevent counterfeit fraud. Banks and merchants that don’t offer the chip-and-PIN technology are beginning to be held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details on your specific cards.
If you are an international visitor, you will probably have a small percentage transaction fee for each credit card charge. It’s typically about 3 %. Sometimes using your debit card at an ATM is the best strategy for changing money.
Tipping is a cost you must build into the budget for any U.S. travel experience, whether urban or rural. Tipping is most relevant to dining out and hotel stays, but other costs should also be taken in to consideration. General guidelines include:
For excellent service, plan to tip 20% on the total bill, before taxes. For less-than-stellar service, 10-15% is customary, as an imperfect experience is often not solely the responsibility of the server. In many states, servers work for below minimum wage and live mostly on tips, so consider the ramifications of your tipping decisions.
To complicate matters, many restaurants in the major metropolitan areas — New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco — are moving to a no-tipping model in which service is included. The verdict isn’t yet in on whether this new model will stick, so be sure you understand the tipping policy at each restaurant you visit.
Oh, and one more complication: Sometimes a tip is automatically included, usually for groups of six or more people. But at least it will be itemized in plain sight on the bill, if you look closely for it.
Most bell staff receive $1 to $2 per bag they assist with; if someone carts all of your bags up to your room, expect to tip $5 to $10.
Tips for housekeeping are also good form. The rule of thumb is $2 to $3 per day and about $5 per day in higher-end properties.
At properties with concierge services, consider tipping concierge staff who assist you in planning activities, making reservations or acquiring tickets around $10 to $20 per day. Concierge staff do not normally expect a tip for simply orienting you with driving directions or public transportation info. Car valet staff expect $2 when returning your car. Spa employees (massage therapists, aestheticians, etc.) usually see 20% tips on their services, whether performed at the spa or in your room.
Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between $10 and $40 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, bug repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery and drug stores will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.
Sales Taxes, Lodging Taxes & Resort Fees
In Hawaii, the combined total for state and local taxes on all retail goods and services varies from 4% to 4.7%, depending on where you are. In general, resort areas may have higher taxes than towns do. Taxes are not usually included in display prices, unless otherwise stated.
Lodging tax, or transient accommodations tax, is 9.25% on Maui. Coupled with the state GET or excise tax, it totals 13.41%. This tax applies whether you are staying at a private vacation rental, a bed-and-breakfast, or a full-fledged hotel. Taxes are not usually stated up front in the advertised room rate. Neither are the mandatory nightly “resort fees” being charged by an increasing number of hotels. Sometimes this fee covers internet access, parking, and a few incidentals, while at other times it’s merely a surcharge for amenities that should be free. This is used widely on Maui, and runs from about $10 to $35 nightly. Beware that third-party booking agents, especially online, often don’t include resort fees in their reservation charges, so you may be unhappily surprised by the final bill when you check out.
Two modes of transportation will fulfill your Maui needs. The airplane to get there and the rental car to get around. And should you be taking in Maui Nui, you’ll need a ferry and/or commuter airplane.
This section details information you’ll need to plan ahead and make sure that your transportation needs are adequate for your activities.
While airplane and rental car are what most Maui visitors choose, there are some alternatives, such as shuttles and buses. Those are covered as well.
Not forgotten are the wheels for recreation — bicycles, mopeds, motorcycles and Segways. We tell you how to find them. They add to the fun on Maui.
The Hawaiian Islands are one of the most isolated land masses in the world, so you will have to take to the air or cruise ship to get here.
Most visitors arrive on Maui by air, sometimes with a Honolulu stop, but often non-stop from North America’s West Coast to the main airport at Kahului (OGG) officially Maui International Airport. International carriers often arrive as a stop en route to Asia or the mainland, or as an added hop from Honolulu on a flight that serves the islands.
Almost 20 U.S. and international airlines serve Kahului from North America or Asia. Smaller, regional airlines connect the islands of Maui Nui, or other Hawaiian Islands. Hawaiian, United, American, Delta, Alaska and Air Canada are the main carriers from North America.
Maui has other small airports at Kapalua/West Maui (JHM) and Hana (HMN). If you fly to Hana, you’ll miss driving the famous Road to Hana, but some people would prefer the short air hop to the twists and turns of the road as it clings to the coast around handlands. Maui’s smaller airports offer short hops between islands or within Maui. Lana‘i (LNY) has an airport near Lana‘i City and Moloka‘i (MKK) has two, the main one at Ho‘olehua not far from the main town of Kaunakakai and the other at Kalaupapa (LUP) for visits to the National Historic Site and to people who live in the settlement. The Lana‘i and Moloka‘i airports largely have flights connecting to Honolulu. A fewer number connect other Hawaiian Islands.
A relatively small number of Maui visitors come by cruise ship, though at least a few times a week you will see a cruise ship docked at Kahului or Lahaina. And even smaller number come by private yacht.
Maui’s main airport at Kahului on the northern edge of Central Maui has good highway connections to the resort areas of South Maui and West Maui. It’s a modern airport with air-conditioned gate areas and main concourse. But happily the baggage claim area is open to the air so you’ll begin to feel Maui’s soft breezes. The Lana‘i and Moloka‘i open-air shed-like airports will remind you of what the one at Kahului used to be like.
While it’s very nice to arrive non-stop from the mainland to Kahului, get in the rental car and start your vacation, making the Honolulu stop give you see the chance to see more of Hawai‘i from the air. It’s a great landscape, with rugged green islands rimmed with pale sand or black lava rock set like gems in the sea. The colors of the sea range from pale aqua at the shore to medium blue to deep sapphire. Enjoy it. The flights are brief.
Final alert: You are subject to inspection for agricultural products when arriving in Hawaii and when leaving for the U.S. mainland. On arriving flights, you will be given a form to fill out declaring any agriculture products. This includes fruit snacks you may have brought on the airplane. The little beagles that roam around baggage claim with inspectors may suddenly stop and yip at stray bananas or oranges in backpacks.
When you leave Maui you must put your checked baggage through the U.S. Department of Agriculture X-ray machines before you check in. An official will mark your bag with a sticker. Do not make the mistake of going directly to the airline check-in counter only to be turned back to agriculture inspection.
Most visitors rent a car, the ground transportation mode of choice on Maui. Even better than a sedan or SUV is a convertible or Jeep. Driving from one section of the island to the other is a popular day trip. You’ll need wheels to get to distant beaches, restaurants, shops and daily activities. Most vacation packages include car rental with air arrangements and lodging.
All of the major car rental companies are located at Kahului Airport. Each car rental company has a counter and shuttle buses that leave from a docking area near baggage claim. It’s a short drive to the rental car lots just at the edge of the airport property. Check-in desks are there, and lines are often long around noon when flights arrive from the West Coast. Do reserve your car before arriving on Maui. Rental cars can be in short supply, especially at holidays or other busy times on the island.
Car rental rates start at about $26 per day if you rent by the week. About double that for less days. At holiday periods, expect to pay $100 per day or more. Hawaii levies a $4.50 per day tax on rental cars. Complete insurance coverage will add to the basic rate.
Maui has discount car rental agencies, including Hawaii Car Rentals, Discount Hawaii Car Rental and Hawaii Drive-O. Kayak, Expedia and other agencies offer discounted car rentals, as well as the link on your airline website. If you’re a Costco member, you can use their discount coupons.
Moloka‘i has Alamo at the airport and two local agencies, Molokai Rental and Island Kine. On Lana‘i you may rent a Jeep from Dollar at the service station in Lana‘i City. There are also a few local rentals and a Hummer service. You may also arrange to get your Jeep at the Expeditions Ferry dock. The island has only 30 miles of paved road. Most of the interesting sites lay beyond the asphalt so you must have a four-wheel drive to get around. Four Seasons Resorts have provided shuttle service from the Lana‘i Airport and between the hotels. The Manele Bay Hotel opened in early 2016, though the Lodge at Koele is still closed for the renovation project.
Some people prefer not to rent a car, or not for every day on Maui. Large resorts have car rental available through the concierge. In some isolated areas such as Hana, you might rent a car for a day or two, but rely on the resort transportation to Hamoa Beach or other areas. Ka‘anapali Beach has a shuttle between hotels. Many activitiy companies do resort pick-ups, so you don’t need your own car.
Caution: Maui has long had problems with theft of items left in a car, even luggage in a locked trunk. Always empty your car and lock it, since your rental contract may not cover any theft damage from an unlocked car. Jeeps and convertibles are fun, but items left inside can be seen more easily and are more accessible to thieves.
Shuttle services connect Maui’s airports with resorts and towns. There now are now several, up from only one a few years ago. Among the most active are Go Shuttle, Roberts Hawaii, SpeediShuttle, Hawaii Executive Shuttle and V.I.P. TransMaui. Roberts Hawaii has long offered tours on Maui. Some resorts, including the Westin, Sheraton and Hyatt properties at Ka‘anapali Beach, will make shuttle arrangements for guests. But a shuttle may have multiple stops and take more time that driving your own car.
Of course, if you want private door-to-door pampering, Maui has limousine and private car services. Among them are Christopher Luxury Sedan, Baron’s and Carey
Taxi companies seem to be a bit ephemeral on Maui, coming and going, though they do exist. But don’t expect a long line of them waiting at the airport. And, yes, you can tap your Uber app when you need a ride.
The Maui Bus Public Transit System serves all of the island well for $2 a ride. If you’re at a West Maui resort and want to go to Lahaina for a popular event, such as Kamehameha Day parade, parking can be tight. Then it makes sense to hop on the Maui bus.
Ka‘anapali Beach has its own shuttle that connects the resorts and Whalers Village. Moloka‘i does have a free public bus, but it’s largely for island residents though they won’t turn you away.
You may want to spend time time on Moloka‘i or Lana‘i as well as Maui. This may be for a single day of exploring, snorkeling or golf, or several overnights. The most convenient way to go to either of these islands is by ferry from Lahaina. Though flights between islands exist, most of them go through Honolulu, which can take a half day.
Expeditions Ferry provides round-trip service between Lahaina and Manele Harbor on Lana‘i five times daily. It’s very popular with people who go over for a round at Manele Golf Course. (Koele Golf Course is currently closed.) Hulopo‘e Bay rates high with snorkelers, and the island offers remote beaches, unusual rock formations, Hawaiian village sites and a shipwreck. On the crossing, you may see spinner dolphins, sting rays and humpback whales December through March. Expeditions Ferry offers packages with these activities. The trip takes about 45 minutes; fares start at $30 for adults. Afternoon crossings can be choppy.
Guests staying at the Four Seasons Resorts at Manele Bay or Koele also use the ferries. The Manele Bay Hotel has just reopened after an extensive renovation.
Molokai Ferry operates Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays though that may change seasonally. The single daily ferry leaves Lahaina at 6 a.m and returns from Kaunakakai Harbor at 5 p.m. Extra runs may be made on days when high school sports teams have games on either island. Travel is aboard the Maui Princess. The company also offers guided tours of Moloka‘i or a rental car/ferry package for those wishing to explore on their own. Fare is $62.89 adults for the ferry only. Rental cars add about $145 for the day. The trip takes almost two hours and expect chop at the 5 p.m. crossing.
Bikes and scooters
And don’t forget wheels rented for recreation — motor cycles, scooters, bikes and Segways. Bike (the noisy kind) riders might pick a Harley or a dual sport bike over a convertible for the Road to Hana, or join a group to tackle Haleakala. For Harleys only, check out the dealership (Maui Harley-Davidson) in Kahului or Lahaina. Aloha Motorsports in Lahaina and Kihei offers motorcycles and scooters. Eaglerider offers pick-up from resorts. Maui Moto Adventures and Maui Dual organize group rides up Haleakala. Rates run from about $100-$200 per day.
Mopeds and any kind of scooter are fun for riding up and down the coastal roads and for the adventurous, going to Kahakuloa on northwest Maui. Check out Kihei Moped and Maui Scooter Shack in Kihei, and Aloha Motorsports in Lahaina. Island Motion delivers to you almost anywhere. Rental runs about $50 per day.
And then, there are the Segway riders who cruise silently under the banyan tree on Maui. Segway Maui offers tours in Lahaina and Iao Valley. Tours range from 30 minutes to three hours, and start at $45.
Most resorts have human pedal-powered bikes. If you renting your own, check out West Maui Cycles, South Maui Bicycles and Go Cycling Maui. Crater Cycles rents mountain bikes, as well as Haleakala Bike Company. It’s fun to ride along the shoreline roads, or on Upcountry lanes. The trip up Haleakala, from Paia to the 10,000-foot summit, is one of the most challenging bike rides in the world.
Maui has one transportation hub, Kahului. It’s home to the Kahului Airport where most inbound passengers arrive. When you leave the airport in your rental car or shuttle, you come to the intersection of Hana Highway (HI 36) and Dairy Road (HI 380). Almost anyone arriving on Maui, or going from one side of the island to the other goes through these four corners in Kahului.
The geography of the island is such that to get from Kahului, Wailuku, the North Shore or East Maui to the main resort areas of West Maui and South Maui, you have to funnel through the isthmus separating the two parts of the island.
Lahaina is something of a hub for West Maui in that it’s the only real town, but it’s not really a transportation hub. Makawao is something of an Upcountry town hub. Kula is too spread out. Even South Maui doesn’t have a hub. Starting in Kihei, you’ll drive along its spine on Kihei Road and Wailea Alanui to Makena, but there’s no spokes or rim.
On Moloka‘i, Kaunakakai is probably more of a transportation hub than Ho‘olehua where the airport is located. You have to shop in Kaunakakai. It’s home to Hotel Molokai, the island’s only full-service lodging, and island drivers filter though here between east and west on the island with no traffic lights. Maunaloa on the island’s west side was something of a hub for ranch workers, where the stop signs say “Whoa,” but it’s very quiet these days.
Lana‘i City could be considered a hub for this small island since the airport is here, and should you rent a Jeep, it will be done here. The Cook Island pines lining the main roads into town give it a somewhat stately aura, but it’s hard to think of the collection of small plantation era stores, cafes and galleries as a hub. But that’s Lana‘i’s appeal.
Discounts for Maui ground transportation exist, but sometimes what appears to be a good deal isn’t. For car rental, check links from your airline booking, and other international services, such as Expedia or Kayak. Costco members might do well through its travel services. Or check local agencies, such as Hawaii Car Rentals, Discount Hawaii Car Rental and Hawaii Drive-O.
Check the stands at Kahului Airport baggage claim area with free advertising booklets. They have numerous coupons for activities and services, as well as advertised discounts.
Maui has activity agents on every corner in Lahaina and Kihei and in most resort lobbies. They adverte discounts on everything from bicycles to luaus, snorkel trips and ferry packages to Lana’i and Moloka’i. Some of this may be real, but often you’ll pay just about as much as booking directly. Using an agent does offer the convenience of one-stop shopping, instead of booking everything separately yourself. But buyer beware.
And stay away from the really deeply discounted tours, excursions and activities, unless you’re willing to go through a lengthy time-share presentation. It’s the price you pay for the $29 luau.
You’ll frequently see a sign advertising “Kama‘aina rates.” Sorry this isn’t for you. A kama‘aina is someone who lives on the island.
Maui is much more than a beach destination, though it can’t really be beat on that score. Although it’s part of the United States, it’s also geographically distinct — a Pacific island located about 2,5000 miles from the nearest major landmass. And Maui’s population is probably more culturally diverse than anywhere in the United States.
Los Angeles meets Tokyo is the way some people describe this mix of people and cultures. When you ask any Hawaiian about his or her ethnic background, almost everyone mentions at least two races or nationalities, perhaps Native Hawaiian and Japanese, or Filipino and Caucasian. Native Hawaiians came first with the migrations from Polynesia. Much of their culture remains, though influenced by everything that has come since.
You could spend a vacation on Maui sitting around a pool drinking mai tais with occasional excursions to the beach or to shop, but you could do the same in Newport Beach or East Hampton. Your vacation will be much richer for looking, listening and taking in the music, dance and cuisine from Pacific Island and Asian cultures, blended with the mainland ways of doing things and attitudes.
As much as you can, engage Maui residents. They’ll tell you about their “aunties” and “uncles” and the great time they had throw-net fishing. They’re telling story and including you.
The Hawaiian Islands had a dramatic birth. They started life at “hot spots” on the ocean floor in the mid-Pacific. Molten rock or magma from deep bubbled out, cooling into lava and eventually reaching the water’s surface. The bubbling continued, a volcano grew and then an island.
Gradually the earth’s crust moved on, and another island was formed and then another, until a 1,600-mile archipelago stretched across the mid-Pacific. The eight largest and newest of these islands make up today’s State of Hawai‘i.
No wonder volcano goddess Pele plays an important role in Hawaiian mythology.
For eons, the islands stood uninhabited and unnamed. Then, about the seventh century A.D., possibly earlier, a double-hulled canoe, propelled with bark-cloth sails and oarsmen, beached, probably on the Big Island, more recently called Hawai‘i Island. The people on board probably came from the Marquesa Islands. They brought with them taro, ulu (breadfruit), sugarcane, pigs, dogs, and chickens. About 1000 to 1200 AD, another wave of Polynesians came from Tahiti. Their hierarchical class system with the ali‘i (rulers) at the top became the basis for Hawaiian culture.
Hawaiian tribal chiefs ruled parts or whole islands. Islands were divided into ahupua‘a, usually pie-shaped areas of land stretching from the mountains to the sea. Groups of families took responsibility for each ahupua‘a in a social system that thrived for hundreds of years.
The first European, Captain James Cook, arrived in the late 1779. After contact, venereal disease, small pox, measles and influenza decimated the population. Other Europeans and Americans began to come to what was then known as the Sandwich Islands. By 1810, Kamehameha I of Hawai‘i Island consolidated his power over the islands by conquest and treaty. At times Lahaina served as the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
By far the greatest cultural change was the arrival of missionaries in the 1820s. The whalers arrived about the same time and Lahaina became the whaling capital of the Pacific. Gradually the Hawaiians sold off their land, and “foreign” or haole settlers developed the plantation system.
People were needed to harvest the sugarcane and pineapple, so immigrants from China, Japan, the Philippines and Portugal poured in and gave Maui its multi-cultural flavor. By the late 1800s with the Hawaiian ruling dynasties weakened and U,S. presence strengthened, the U.S. annexed Hawai’i as a territory.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor led to martial law during World War II. Hawai‘i became the 50th U.S. state in 1959. By the early 1960s, the jet planes started arriving and the tourist boom was on. Tourism now drives the Maui economy. Where agriculture survives is in small boutique farms that have given rise to the farm-to-fork, and grain-to-glass movements, some of the hottest trends on Maui.
In the midst of these changes, what became of the Hawaiians? Like other groups in the state, Hawaiian racial identify was blurred because of widespread intermarriage. A majority of Hawaiian residents claim more than one racial identity. Today Native Hawaiians they are the smallest of the state’s ethnic groups and have some of the highest rates of poverty and health problems.
But there has been some resurgence of native culture. Since the 1970s a Hawaiian Renaissance movement aims to reinvigorate the culture and restore pride, dignity and authority in being an island native. Renewed interest in the Hawaiian language has led to immersion schools. Mostly though, the Hawaiian Renaissance is meant to reinvigorate the culture and restore pride and dignity in being an island native.
Culture means two things on Maui. With a capital “C” it refers to the heritage of the multi-ethnic people who live here and, more narrowly in lower case, to the visual arts, dance, music and theater scene. Both kinds of culture merge, especially in the music, dance and art that you’ll experience on Maui.
The best way to find any kind of culture is to open your eyes and ears. Whether you’re around the Four Seasons pool, a Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel lobby, on Lahaina’s Front Street or Queen Ka‘ahumanu Mall in Kahului, you’ll hear slack key guitar and the ‘ukulele. Hula happens on every hotel terrace at sunset, shopping centers or on the grass in a park. Or it may be a Chinese lion dance or Philippine tinikling (bamboo dance). A luau may be the best example of combined history, dance and music of Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.
Maui’s prime formal arts venue is the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului that attracts mainland touring musicians and singers, as well as Hawaiian artists. It holds a fine art gallery. Slack key, ‘ukulele and falsetto singing festivals here attract crowds and are a chance to mix with locals.
The Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center offers an extensive series of classes and has a fine gallery with rotating exhibits. It’s housed in a 1917 plantation home that once belonged to the Baldwin family. Two history museums, the Baldwin and Bailey house museums, are converted missionary homes. The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, also in a home, covers the history of sugarcane growing on Maui and the many people who made that happen. The R.W. Meyer Sugar Mill does the same on Moloka‘i, and pineapple gets its due at the Lana‘i Culture & Heritage Center.
Art galleries are never more than steps away. Some of them feature famous names, and others have numerous paintings and prints of palm trees and vibrant sunsets, the sort that remind people of their vacations in a tropical place. Local artists display pottery, jewelry, weaving and paintings in hotel lobbies, particularly on Aloha Fridays. Sometimes they set up under Lahaina’s banyan tree.
For movies on the big screen you’ll head to the malls, Maui Mall or Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center in Kahului, or the Wharf Center in Lahaina. Maui Film Festival is set under the stars at Wailea, as well as the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
Maui’s history from its volcanic birth to the present day is captured in ‘Ulalena, that combines theatrical spectacle and throbbing rock music at Old Lahaina Center. Nearby is the ever-popular Warren & Annabelle’s, a kind of cocktail hour magic show.
Along with a swimsuit and camera, you should bring an attitude to Maui, to all of Hawai‘i. Or maybe it’s to bring no attitude at all, but just absorb what the people project, especially the spirit of aloha.
It means many things — love, compassion, mercy, friendliness, sympathy, pity. Hawaiians will tell you that it means welcoming visitors to their island as if opening their homes and hearts. Another aspect is tolerance. For almost two centuries this has been a mixed society. Not that it’s perfect, nor that prejudice doesn’t exist, but when the plantation workers can start their own company, as happened at Maui Gold, and when Hawaiian boys have become celebrity chefs, you know
things are changing. Maui’s (and Hawai‘i’s) diversity serves as a model for what the entire U.S. and much of Europe are becoming.
Aloha’s root words are sometimes translated as “exchanging breath of life,” and it’s what Hawaiians practice every day, as surely as their lungs take in air.
And be open to the Hawaiian sense of spirituality. Hawaiians have a word for it, mana. Mana inhabits things, giving them an aliveness and special power. Rocks may have mana. Trees and fish have mana. Listen to what people say, especially when someone talks to you, in Kamaole Park, under the banyan tree in Lahaina or at Hasegawa General Store in Hana. Hawaiians love to talk story.
They respect and take responsibility for the land. Kuleana is their word for that. When you hike with Lawrence Kalainia Kamani Aki to the Halawa Valley, you don’t just blunder into the forest. You stand with him as he chants permission from the land before entering. It will raise chicken skin. That’s what Hawaiians call goosebumps.
Think fusion with a capital “F.” Maui’s ethnic mix of people shaped its international Pan-Pacific cuisine with ideas they brought from Japan, China, Korea, the Philippines and Portugal. Mix it all up with some Mainland thinking and island ingredients and techniques and you get Hawaiian plate lunch.
The lu‘au with kalua pig, lomi lomi (salmon), poi and haupia (coconut pudding) was the way Hawaiians feasted long before this menu became a staple of the tourist agenda.
About two decades ago, Hawaii Regional Cuisine arrived on the scene and revolutionized island dining. Instead of grilled mahi mahi and a wedge of Mainland lettuce with bottled dressing, you’ll find poached Keahole lobster with lilikoi beurre blanc and salad of pohole, the Maui word for fiddlehead fern.
Fish stars on almost every Maui menu. In many restaurants, the diner may choose from the day’s catch, and match it to a preparation and sauce. The simplest preparation is often the best. Some restaurants even identify the person who caught the fish, and the specific spot on the ocean where it was found.
Hawaiian Regional Cuisine and the interest in locally sourced fish, fruits and vegetables, have led to the farm-to-fork movement, Maui’s latest food trend. It’s especially prevalent in upscale resort restaurants where the food is often arranged like a still life on the plate. Treat yourself to one of these celebration-worthy restaurants at least once during your Maui stay.
A further extension is the grain-to-glass spin-off, which you’ll note with the arrival of Ocean Organic Vodka and Maui-made rum from Hali‘imaile Distilling and Haleakala Distlillers.
No one wants to dine elaborately every day. You’ll find burgers, tacos and Hawaiian plate lunch in tiny, hole-in-the-wall places where locals dine, as well as in tourist strip malls and resort enclaves.
Don’t forgot those Maui-only treats: Roselani ice cream, Ululani’s shave ice, Kitch’n Cook’d Maui potato chips, Julia’s banana bread. On Moloka‘i, do a bread run to the back door of Kanemitsu Bakery near midnight, and on Lana‘i order banana pancakes at Blue Ginger Cafe.
Think state-wide and you’ve got to try Spam musubi, sushi made with Spam. Find it in Japanese groceries and okazu-ya, a sort of Asian deli. Check out bakery counters for malasadas, a Portuguese doughnut.
And don’t leave the island without sampling saimin, the rib-sticking soup that was the staple of the field workers 100 years ago. When it came time for lunch, someone heated a big pot of broth. The Japanese workers dumped in red fish cake; Chinese, char sui; Koreans, kim chi; Filipinos, bean sprouts; and the Portuguese, sausage. This is Maui soul food.
About 44 percent of people on Maui profess to belong to some kind of religious group. About half of that group is Catholic, with the rest being Protestant, Mormon, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Islam and other smaller groups. Maui’s ethnic diversity contributes to this religious variety.
Maui has many churches and places of workshop, which welcome visitors whether they belong to the faith or not.
Although not thought of as a separate religion, Native Hawaiian religious practices are integrated into many experiences, including the blessing ceremonies that are part of almost any opening or closing event. A religious chant often starts a lu‘au or might be given before entering a forest on a hike. People who marry on Maui can opt for a Hawaiian ceremony.
Weddings are popular on the islands and Maui clergy lead these ceremonies.
You’ll note the presence of the many small missionary churches. They tell a fascinating story of the early contact period when Congregational and later Catholic missionaries came here from about 1820 onward. It’s often fascinating to go into these churches and look at the hymnals in Hawaiian, see the objects at the front, and just enjoy the quiet atmosphere. The coral stone church at Keanae is a good example.
For Mainland and European visitors, the many Buddhist temples on Maui add another dimension to the variety of religious practices. The Jodo Mission in Lahaina has a very large Buddha on the grounds, and the summer Obon Festival at the Hongwanji Mission attracts local residents and visitors.
Hawaiian place-names sound like music with vowel-rich and rhythmic syllables. The language has 12 letters from the Roman alphabet: a, e, i, o, u, h, k, l, m, n, p, and w. A diacritical mark, an ‘okina, written as a single opening quote, is frequently used in Hawaiian words, usually between vowels. It indicates a glottal stop. For example, pronounced correctly, the word Hawai‘i has a little hiccupping sound between the two “i’s.” These stops give the language its poetic rhythm.
Another diacritical mark, the macron or kahako in Hawaiian, indicates a long and slightly stressed sound and is sometimes used over the vowels a, e, i, o, and u, which doubles the number of vowel sounds and changes the meaning of a word. The ‘okina is used throughout text in this website, though not the macron. And when a business or place name does not use the ‘okina, it’s also omitted here.
Until contact with European and Anglo-Americans, Hawaiian was an oral language. In the late 1800s and first half of the 20th century, it almost disappeared, but with the Hawaiian Renaissance the number of speakers has grown. In 1978 the Hawai‘i State Legislature voted to have Hawaiian and English be the state’s official languages. Maui now has three immersion schools.
Pidgin is a mixture of Hawaiian, English, and the Asian languages brought by immigrants. It’s a shorthand way that people speak among themselves. For example, if you’re addressed as “Brah,” it’s okay to answer in kind, but generally it’s considered rude for tourists to address a Hawaiian in pidgin.
Very long Hawaiian words may daunt the English speaker, but they aren’t as difficult as they might seem. Often syllables are repeated. Even the state fish, humuhumunukunukuapua‘a, consists of two “humus,” two “nukus,” and “apua‘a.” Try it.
The following are frequently used Hawaiian words:
aloha—greeting, farewell, expression of love
brah—“brother” or “friend” in pidgin
haole—Caucasian, white person
hapa—“half”; often refers to a fusion of pop and Hawaiian music
hukilau—“fishing party”or just “party”
hulihuli—to mix or toss, or rotisserie
imu—rock-lined underground oven
ipu—gourd often used as a drum
kama‘aina—longtime island resident
kane—man, or the god Kane
kupuna—elder or senior citizen
lanai—porch or balcony
lauhala—“leaf from hala tree,” used for weaving
lau lau—leaves or leaf-wrapped
lomilomi—a massage with strong pressure, also raw salmon
lü‘au—a feast, also taro leaves
mahalo—thank you (mahalo nui loa means “thank you very much”)
makai—toward the sea
mauka—toward the mountains
poi—the pounded taro root, mixed with small amount of water and eaten with fingers
shaka—gesture with thumb and pinkie extended, other fingers curled; also “great”
tapa (or kapa)—tree bark
taro (or kalo)—plant brought by Polynesians and used for poi
While on Maui, it’s fun and enlightening to read about Maui, or books with a Maui setting. The best source of Maui’s history is with Hawaiian history. Most of these books are available at Maui bookshops and museums stores, or as e-readers.
Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands. Gavan Daws. (University of Hawai’i Press). Outstanding, readable history.
Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai. Gavan Daws. (University of Hawai‘i Press). Excellent account of the newly sainted Damien of Moloka‘i figure, and of the leper colony at Kalaupapa.
The Betrayal of Liliuokalani: Last Queen of Hawaii 1838-1917. Helena G. Allen. (Mutual Publishing). A detailed account of the last days of the Hawaiian kingdom.
Hawaiian Mythology. Martha Beckwith. (University of Hawai‘i Press). Real insights into the complex belief system of Native Hawaiians.
Kamehameha: The Warrior King of Hawai‘i. Susan Morrison. (University of Hawai‘i Press). The woodcuts make this book worth its price.
All About Hawaiian. Schultz, Albert J. (University of Hawai‘i Press). Pocket-size book gives insights into meaning, pronunciation and grammar.
The Hawaiian Shirt: Its Art and History. Steele, H. Thomas. (Abbeville Press) Gorgeous little book about everyone’s favorite souvenir.
Mark Twain’s Letters from Hawaii. (University of Hawai‘i Press,). The great writer claimed he was so smitten with Maui, he didn’t waste any of his five weeks there writing about it. A great love letter to the islands.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s Hawaii. Patricia Jennings and Maria Ausherman. The conjunction of the legendary artist and mythic Hana, where she spent three months in 1939.
Moloka‘i. Alan Brennert. (St. Martin’s Griffin,). A touching account of life at Kalaupapa from the viewpoint of someone with Hansen’s disease.
Hawaii. James Michener. (Random House). A good portion of the long novel is set on Maui, particularly Lahaina. Perhaps the best-know historical novel of the 50th state.
The Shores of Paradise. Shirley Streshinsky. A novel is about the last days of the Hawaiian monarchy with significant sections set on Maui.
Shark Dialogues. Kiana Davenport. Though set on Hawai‘i Island, a good look Hawai’i’s history through contemporary eyes.
The Aloha Quilt. Jennifer Chiaverini. (Simon & Schuster). Part of a series with a quilting background, the novel is set on Maui and reveals the intricacies of Hawaiian quilting.
Murder, She Wrote: Aloha Betrayed. (Penguin). Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain. Everyone’s favorite detective solves a mystery on Maui.
Maui Widow Waltz. JoAnn Bassett. Part of the Aloha Mystery series, a fun read for the lanai.
Maui has a thriving visual arts scene. A number of artists live on the island, particularly around Pa‘ia, Ha‘iku, Hana and Makawao. The beauty of the landscape and the sea, the kind climate and the general ease of living attract them.
Many local artists exhibit in galleries in Lahaina, Makawao, Pa‘ia, Hana and elsewhere. Crafts people also produce some outstanding work, sometimes with fibers, shells and beach glass found on Maui. Hui No‘ea Visual Arts Center, Maui Crafts Guild and Maui Hands feature many of the island artisans. Hana Coast Gallery has a strong array of Maui and Hawai‘i artists and gorgeous furniture and wood turnings. The white-knuckle trip on Kahekili Highway to Turnbull’s Studio and Sculpture Garden brings you to an artist’s workspace in a spectacular setting.
You’ll find work by celebrity artists at prices to match at upscale galleries in Lahaina, Shops at Wailea and NaPua Gallery at the Grand Wailea Resort. A few Maui artists, such as marine painter Robert Lyn Nelson, create work eagerly sought by collectors. Some of them have their own galleries.
Artists display pottery, jewelry, weaving and paintings in hotel lobbies, particularly on Aloha Fridays. Sometimes they set up under Lahaina’s banyan tree. You won’t have to look far to find a painting of a vibrant sunset with palm trees and the ocean. Visiting art galleries, especially on Friday nights when they have open houses with refreshments, is one Lahaina’s top entertainments.
Hollywood hasn’t turned its attention to Maui as much as it has to Kaua‘i or O‘ahu.
Still, some popular films used Maui’s spectacular landscape and shoreline as settings for films. The opening scene of Jurassic Park was filmed along the Hana Highway at Garden of Eden Arboretum and Botanical Garden shoreline. Jurassic Park III was done partly on Moloka‘i. Look closely for Maui settings in The Hulk with Eric Bana, (James Bond film) with Pierce Brosnan and some of the Power Ranger movies. Of course, Moloka‘i: The Story of Father Damien was done on his home island.
The most recent film that captures cultural attitudes and political awareness of contemporary Hawaiian life is The Descendants with George Cloony. It was filmed on O‘ahu and Kaua‘i.
Hawaiian music. Ah, close your eyes wherever you are on Maui, and listen. Along with the soft air, the music is a universal clue that you are on this island, or any other in the Hawai‘i. Before long, you’ll recognize Brother Iz, Keola Beamer, the Brothers Cazimero, or Keali‘i Reichel singing about Hawaiian places and people they love.
Come late afternoon, every resort and hotel terrace and many restaurants have live music and often hula performances. For the cost of a soft drink, or even no drink at all, you can listen.
In the evening, nightspots in Lahaina, Kihei, or Makawao have live music. A lot of what you’ll hear is light rock or pop, but sometimes a slack key or ‘ukelele artist is performing mellow Hawaiian songs. Hawaiian music is featured in concerts, particularly at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Its annual slack key guitar festival attracts hundreds of visitors.
Smaller venues with Hawaiian music programs are often not well-publicized. Watch for flyers posted in Lahaina or other towns, especially on community bulletin boards. One of the best places to hear Hawaiian music is the most improbable, Mulligan’s on the Blue, an Irish pub in a Wailea golf clubhouse.
Hawaiian music has evolved over the years from the ancient chants to today’s hapa style, which combines mainland or Euro pop with Hawaiian sounds. (There is also a well-know music group called HAPA.) Some of the earliest influences on Hawaiian music were Congregational hymns, which added harmony and chording. In the early 1830s, cowboys came from Spain and Mexico brought to round up Kamehameha III’s cattle, brought guitars with gut strings, which Hawaiians quickly adopted. Later Portuguese immigrants brought steel string guitars and ‘ukeleles, which the Hawaiians made their own.
Jazz, blues, Hollywood, and Nashville sounds have added their influences, and in turn, been much influenced by island music. In more recent decades, rock and reggae rhythms have appeared in Hawaiian music, especially in Jawaiian.
No matter the style, Hawaiian musicians make it their own.
You don’t have to scan the dial for good road trip music. Maui has enough music talent to fill a road trip across the Pacific, if that were possible.
So let’s pop in or download something made on Maui.
Masters of Slack Key Guitar, Volumes 1 and 2. George Kahumoku Jr. appears with other musicians on these recordings. You can see him in person (and pick up a CD) at Napili Kai Resort at the slack key show on Wednesday nights.
Keali‘i Reichel, eight collections including Kawaiokalena. The Maui boy often performs at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. Take him along on the road.
Let’s move on to talent from other islands.
Facing Future and other collections. Brother Iz. The late Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole spawned a legend that stretches around the world. His Facing Future album with “Over the Rainbow” is the best-selling Hawaiian album of all time.
Best of the Brothers Cazimero, Volumes I, II and III. The blended voices of Robert and Roland Cazimero bring sweet harmonies to a wide variety of Hawaiian songs. They’ve even performed at Carnegie Hall, but you’ll love them on the Road to Hana.
Pure ‘Ukulele and other collections. Herb Ohta brings sparking technical proficiency to the strings in these interpretations. He records both Hawaiian and contemporary songs, some along with his father, JR Ohta-san, another legendary ‘ukulele artist.
Kolonahe and other collections by Kaeola Beamer. The refreshing breeze one afternoon on Maui inspired Keola Beamer’s latest album. His noted Beamer family ancesters are among Hawaii’s most famed composers, musicians and dancers.
Some of the detailed free maps found at the airport or available from car rental agencies and street stands can prove helpful for driving around Maui or for exploring towns, even if you have a GPS in your car or smart phone. Shops, restaurants, dive and activity services are listed on these maps. Be aware. This is not a summary of those services, but a list of those who pay to be included.
The Maui Visitors Bureau is another good source of information for visiting the island. Though their listings are extensive, again they feature only those who join the bureau. While the MVB is a reputable source, entries on this website are not dependent on payment.