Maui For First Timers

Photo by Carol Fowler

Getting started with Maui trip planning

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Maui is a relatively small island but it can still be confusing for first timers to plan their vacation. Maui is about 48 miles long and 26 miles at its widest point. So figuring out where to choose a home base ought to be easy. Right? Perhaps not if you don’t know the island.

Understanding the Lay of the Land

First think of Maui as a lopsided figure 8. It has two main tourist areas along beaches on each half of the island. On West Maui, which is as much north as west, the developed strip runs from Kapalua to Lahaina, on South Maui from Ma‘alaea Bay to Makena. These are both the drier side of the island and it’s where most tourists stay.

Central Maui, where the two main towns and airport are located, separates the halves of the “8.”  Upcountry  covers the flanks of Haleakala volcano with farms and scattered small communities. And, on East Maui, after the long twisting drive, there’s Hana considered a gem and Maui’s quiet corner.

Since we’re covering Maui Nui, you may opt for other islands, Lana‘i and Moloka‘i.  But they don’t have as many choices, so picking a place to stay is easier.

Types of Lodging on Maui

Where you choose to stay is more than a place to dry your swimming suit. It’s home base for the beach, golf course, restaurants and dazzling sunsets. So pick a location where you think you’ll spend most of your time. And plan day trips for the other areas.

Then decide if you’d like a full-service resort hotel or a condo or vacation rental with kitchen facilities and probably more room. Families tend to go for condos, couples and young singles for the resort hotels.

Reviews of resort hotels, condos and restaurants appear on this website. You will find links directly to the properties. Many condo units are rented directly by the owners, on sites such as VRBO, even in buildings run with management companies. Many travelers swear by them, but it’s a case of buyer beware. With no one on site responsible, it can be difficult to deal with problems.

Some condos have strong management policies and upkeep and décor are controlled by the management company. In other cases, even in the largest complexes, this is done by the individual owner, so quality can vary widely within a single complex.

Maui is a popular island. About 2.6 million people come here every year. So, reserve early, especially for popular times around the holidays, spring break and summer vacations. This includes not only the hotel, condo or inn, but for tee times, zip-lines, whale watching, organized snorkel trips or scuba diving, biking Haleakala, luaus and high profile restaurants.

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Towns and Resort Areas

Maui has about 11,600 hotel rooms, and about 6,000 condo and time-share units. Less plentiful, but appealing for character and sometimes quirkiness, are the small inns or BandBs that you might find in Wailuku, Lahaina, Hana, Pa‘ia and Makawao. These also tend to be quieter spots. Maui is an expensive island, but the sheer numbers of rooms available means there is a match for most budgets.

You’ll hear most about three large resort developments on West and South Maui: Kapalua, Ka‘anapali and Wailea. Expect luxury hotels, upscale condos, manicured lawns, designer golf courses, celebrity chef restaurants and glitzy shops.

Large condo complexes also are concentrated around Ka‘anapali and at Kihei. But tucked in between, you’ll find quieter, more small-scale properties, such as around Napili and Ma‘alaea bays and North Kihei and Makena.

At A Glance

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