Nicknamed “The Valley Isle” due to the great basin that lies between its two major volcanoes – Pu'u Kukui on West Maui and Haleakala on East Maui – Hawaii’s second largest island is a paradise where stunning scenery, sleepy towns and action-packed resorts all reside together. Local pride is never too far away with the unofficial motto “Maui no ka oi” or “Maui is the best” and you would be hard-pushed to argue against this. Maui has expertly managed its growing demand with the development of its west and south coasts, and all the trappings that come with lively resorts and championship golf courses. But at the same time it hasn’t forgotten what else it does well, and that is its staggering natural beauty. It’s been careful that one doesn’t infringe on the other; when you’re done with the spa treatments, cocktails, night clubs, golf greens and shopping there’s a whole unspoiled world waiting to be explored. Here, green-flanked mountains slope towards the sparkling seas, waterfalls splash into refreshing pools and deep valleys offer up a taste of good old fashioned Hawaiian culture and adventure.
To really get a grip on the defining qualities that make Maui so unique, it’s worth splitting up the island into its five individual regions: The sunny northwest coast was once the hangout for Hawaiian royalty and the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Today, the lush, verdant slopes of the West Maui Mountains work in tandem with the gorgeous beaches below, a combination that sets the scene for a tropical playground of condos, golf courses and lively resorts that line its golden sands. The hot, sunny South Maui coastline is its major rival competing for sun worshippers and thrill seekers alike. Rain rarely falls here, and temperatures hover around the highly respectable 85°F (30°C) mark throughout the year. The coast here flaunts a stunning stretch of beaches and small towns and plays host to outstanding restaurants, shopping and a number of top golf courses. And if you time your visit right, you’ll get to share your stay with the humpback whales who call in to give birth and spend time with their playful newborn.
Hard as it is may be to tear yourself away from all that lovely coastline, one cannot forget all those acclaimed, pristine vistas we’ve come to associate with the island. Central Maui populates the narrow waist between the two mountain-dominated sections of the island. The region impresses with plenty of off-the-beaten-path treasures such as the Maui Tropical Plantation, the charming historic town of Wailuku and the towering emerald peaks that guard the valley floor of Iao Valley State Park. Clinging to the slopes of Haleakala Crater, the rolling hills and misty mountains of Upcountry Maui unfold as cool breezes bring a welcome respite from the searing temperatures of the island’s coast. Here, small, charming towns, botanical gardens and fertile farms with soaring views scatter the winding roads and fertile slopes. Last up is East Maui and it’s as rewarding as the drive to reach it. The “Road to Hana” with its 600 hairpin bends runs for over 50 miles amongst flowing waterfalls, dramatic cliffs and flowering rainforests. At journey’s end, the small town of Hana awaits with its magical little hamlet of simple homes, quiet gardens and enchanting Hawaiian traditions
Things to do
Nestled beside striking Black Rock, one of the best snorkelling areas on the island, the Sheraton Maui is a large and classy beachfront resort.
Top tips for visiting Maui
1. Diving & snorkelling off Molokini
• Considered among the world’s top diving and snorkelling sites, the tiny island of Molokini, just two miles off Maui’s southern coast is an extinct volcano and revered by underwater enthusiasts for its protected reef, crystal-clear visibility and schools of tropical fish.
• The crater is also popular with birdwatchers who come here to spot seabirds like petrels and shearwaters.
• Several tour companies offer trips here and depart throughout the day from the small boat harbours at Maalaea and Lahaina. Half and full-day tours are offered with snorkelling and diving equipment.
• Do note that the water is generally calmer in the early morning.
2. The Road to Hana
• The Road to Hana is more than just a great drive through a beautiful area of Maui. Most visitors tend to head to and from Hana with a checklist of sights to photograph. Whilst you can do this, it’s best to select a few locations that look the most intriguing, and take your time at each location.
• When you stop to explore, be sure to park well off the road and away from private property.
3. Getting the most from driving to Hana
If you are making the journey on the Road to Hana which you really should if you can, make sure you leave early as the rainforests are particularly magical in the morning light. You can also avoid the afternoon traffic. The journey takes at least three hours each way but you should allow longer to take in the sights so another good reason to leave as early as you can. If you are nervous of negotiating all those scary hair pin bends or don’t want to miss out on all that spectacular Hawaiian scenery, there are tours available. In order to truly experience Hana, it helps to know more about the history and legends of the area. There are legendary stories associated with each spot where Gods have left their mark and historic battles have been fought.
4. Wailea beaches & golf courses
• The town of Wailea prides itself on having some of the most beautiful golf courses in the country. The weather here is just about perfect for any outdoor activity and it is also known for its beautiful beaches. In fact Wailea Beach has been voted the best beach in the United States.
• So if you’re planning on a round of golf on Maui’s south Coast, make sure you allow some time to enjoy its golden sands, stellar shopping and array of fine restaurants.
5. Whale watching in Maui
• The waters of Hawaii welcome thousands of humpback whales during the months of November to May. These gentle giants migrate to this warm Pacific region from Alaskan waters to mate and give birth.
• It’s reckoned that an astonishing 10,000 – 12,000 humpback whales make the long swim to Hawaii each year, travelling from the summer feeding grounds of Alaska.
• The Auau Channel between Maui and Lanai is a great favourite with them due to its relative seclusion. The Kaanapali area is generally regarded as the best spot to watch these incredible mammals.
• January and February are peak viewing season but you can also expect plenty of sightings during the rest of the migration.
• Whales can even be spotted from the roadside but do be alert on the Honoapiilani Highway (Hwy. 30) en route to Lahaina. Drivers ogling whales in the channel between Maui and Lanai often get caught up in the moment and slam on the brakes, causing major hold-ups and even accidents.
6. Maui Tropical Plantation
• A narrated tram tour of Maui Tropical Plantation in Central Maui gives a fascinating insight into the origins and harvest techniques of Hawaii’s commercial fruit crops such as mangoes, guava, papayas, pineapples, coffee and bananas.
• While here, take a break for lunch at the Waikapu Grill which features the local tropical produce in drinks, dishes and desserts.
• One of the must dos of Maui is a visit to Haleakala National Park.
• The best times to visit are for sunrise and sunset, but it can get very chilly at 10,000 feet above sea level so make sure you bring warm clothes.
• Bring food and water with you along with your camera and binoculars if you have them.